As former Titans coach Jeff Fisher tries to bring the same consistency in the standings to St. Louis, he’s well on his way to replicating one of his more overlooked accomplishments in Houston and Tennessee.
Rounding up problem children.
The well-respected coach takes more than his share of chances on players with less-than-respectable character traits. It’s a Machiavellian mindset that trickled down to former Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who has had plenty of dice rolls on bad guys come up craps during his time in Detroit.
Of Fisher’s first draft class in St. Louis, half of the 10 players taken already have found trouble at the NFL level. Second-round cornerback Janoris Jenkins, a known risk who slid out of round one, was suspended by the team for one game last year. Second-round running back Isaiah Pead, who slid to third on the depth chart last season, will miss the first game of the 2013 campaign due to a suspension under the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, a third-round pick in 2013, was arrested for DUI in March. Per one league source, Johnson had been removed from multiple draft boards last year after being suspended from his college team due to an alleged frat-house non-food fight, and for being arrested and Tasered in October 2011 after allegedly resisting arrest.
Receiver Chris Givens, a fourth-round pick, was suspended by the team last year, and guard Rokevious Watkins, a fifth-round pick, recently received a one-game suspension under the league’s substance-abuse policy — which as with Pead implies some sort of legal violation relating to one of the substances covered by the policy.
Also, the team’s two seventh-round picks last year, while staying out of trouble in the NFL, had incidents off the field at lower levels of the sport. Linebacker Aaron Brown was accused of misdemeanor assault while at Hawaii, and running back Daryl Richardson admits that he “got into a little trouble” in high school.
It all creates a strange disconnect for which Fisher rarely is questioned. He’s a member of the league’s Competition Committee, and few in the media ever tie the propensity to pick college players of less-than-ideal character back to Fisher. In contrast, whenever the Seahawks have a guy get suspended, people presume that coach Pete Carroll has responsibility, directly or indirectly, for the situation.
G.M. Les Snead, while not believed to have final control over the roster (especially since Fisher was hired before Snead), also deserves a mention on this point. Snead came from the Falcons, where G.M. Thomas Dimitroff frowns on taking character risks. However, Snead and Fisher have been smiling at their opportunities to get talented players later than they otherwise would have been available, but for the off-field issues.
It continued this year with linebacker Alec Ogletree. Of the board in Dallas and presumably elsewhere, the Rams took him at the bottom of round one despite a suspension at Georgia and a pre-draft DUI.
Our goal isn’t to cause trouble for Fisher or Snead, both of whom we respect and like. But the reality is that they have taken plenty of chances on players with issues unrelated to football ability, and for reasons neither known nor apparent the dynamic rarely has been mentioned, or even noticed, by the media.