Raheem Morris wasn’t the coach and Mark Dominik wasn’t the General Manager when the Buccaneers used a first-round draft pick on cornerback Aqib Talib. (Yes, the great incoming-player oracle Jon Gruden somehow didn’t spot Talib’s character flaws.) But both Morris and Dominik inherited their jobs — and Talib — in early 2009, and some think that they have failed to hold him properly accountable for his actions.
One person who feels that way, strongly, is former Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan. In an interview on WQYK in Tampa (via JoeBucsFan.com), Hovan unloaded on the coach and the front office for enabling Talib’s behavior.
“How many strikes does Aqib get?” Hovan said. “I mean, really? He beats up a taxi driver. He beats — I saw what he did to Torrie Cox by hitting him in the head with a helmet. I have never seen that before in my 15-20 years of playing football. . . . He took his helmet off and he whacked him over the bridge of the nose. He knew what he was doing.”
Hovan later said that Cox needed 20 stitches and that Hovan “could see the bone in Torrie’s nose.”
“[Talib] has been given too much leeway from Raheem Morris because, I guess, Coach Morris [the team’s former defensive backs coach] has favoritism towards him because he played defensive back,” Hovan said. “Again, they are giving this young man way too much leeway. Any other individual would have been cut way before this. But Aqib has so much talent — his talent goes through the ceiling. But you can’t keep having these offseason issues and you can’t keep covering for this kid. They are saying it’s OK for what he is doing and he just pistol whipped somebody in Texas.” [Editor’s note: Allegedly.]
Actually, the trouble for Talib began at the 2008 Rookie Symposium, where he got into a fight. With a teammate.
“I mean, how many times does ownership and management let this kid get off?” Hovan said. “It’s not fair to the other players because you have all these other players following the straight and narrow and you are letting one individual go out and do his own thing? I don’t feel that is acceptable right now. Raheem and Mark Dominik need to address this because they are saying he is bigger than the team right now. . . . [H]ow many times do you let this guy off the hook now? How many times? I mean, how many people does he have to hurt? How many times is he going to get sued? How many times is he going to go to jail before you get it right? Who is going to step in? Is Raheem going to step in? I have not seen Raheem step in.”
Some would say that Talib is simply one example of a broader problem with the Bucs. Like the Bengals have done in the past with much more criticism and scrutiny, the Bucs of late have been taking chances on guys with character questions. And then when the character questions manifest themselves, more often than not another chance is given.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens was the exception, cut by the team after being arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute the night before a home game. But if Stevens had the talent level of Kellen Winslow, it’s possible that an exception would have been made.
Unless and until quality players who find trouble (and valued front-office employees charged with DUI) face serious consequences, the perception could be that the Bucs are doing whatever they have to do to become a consistent winner, even if it means tolerating a few losers.