Hernandez’s red flags never pointed to murder


As the nonstop developments in the Aaron Hernandez murder case(s) begin to subside, it’s time to broaden the lens and address a topic that has popped up from time to time over the past two weeks.

Should the Patriots have avoided drafting Hernandez in 2010 and/or giving him a long-term, big-money contract in 2012?

Many are suggesting that the Pats screwed the proverbial pooch on this one, that they negligently brought a potential murderer to Massachusetts and, two years later, made him a multi-multi-millionaire.  But there are multi-problems with that logic.

For starters, there really was no indication that Hernandez was anything other than a kid who:  (1) liked to smoke marijuana; and (2) periodically made mischief.  As the folks at CFT pointed out on Saturday, Hernandez was indeed questioned in connection with a shooting nearly six years ago in Gainesville.  But it was perfunctory and brief.  Other Gators were questioned at the time, including safety Reggie Nelson and the Pouncey twins.

The only true red flag that attached to Hernandez from his college days came from an affinity for inhaling the fumes of a plant that, if anything, make the user less likely to commit violence or do anything other than sit around and eat Fritos.  And if there’s a link between smoking pot and murder, there would be a lot more murders.

Whatever was wrong with Hernandez, he supposedly had been rehabilitated by former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who according to the New York Times personally conducted “daily Bible sessions” with Hernandez in order to turn him around.  Meyer presumably vouched for Hernandez to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.  Given the strong friendship between Belichick and Meyer that likely went a long way to persuading Belichick that Hernandez’s talents justified the risk.

Of course, some are now painting the picture that Hernandez entered the NFL with a pair of six-guns strapped to his side and ink on his arms that not-so-cryptically spelled out plans for his future crime sprees.  But where we these “sources” with knowledge of supposed gang ties and other actual or perceived misdeeds or antisocial tendencies when Hernandez emerged as a fourth-round star in his second NFL season?

That would have been the obvious time for scouts, General Managers, and coaches to cover their collective asses by leaking the notion that, even though Hernandez was playing at a very high level, they avoided Hernandez in rounds one through three because he had more problems than marijuana.  But there was nothing — not until after Hernandez was tied to a murder case and scouts and sources and some in the media all began to join in a hands-across-Whoville chorus of I told you so.

Even if Hernandez’s antics had generated real warning signs beyond marijuana, it’s impossible to connect dots from off-field misbehavior to premeditated murder.  It’s far more reasonable (or, as the case may be, far less reckless) to connect a substance-abuse problem (drugs or alcohol) to the potential for accidental death or dismemberment while driving a car.

Murderers come from all walks of life, with no way to prospectively screen for them — unless they’ve actually killed in the past.  For every Aaron Hernandez there’s a Jovan Belcher, who generated no objective evidence to suggest that he would get into serious trouble before he repeatedly shot the mother of his young child and then killed himself in the presence of his coach and G.M.  Ditto for Rae Carruth, who orchestrated the murder of the mother of his unborn son because Carruth apparently didn’t want to pay child support.  The Chiefs and the Panthers saw neither problem coming, because there’s rarely any reason to suspect someone of having the capacity to deliberately kill someone else, regardless of the person’s history.

For the best proof of this, look no farther than O.J. Simpson.  Revered as a player, beloved as a broadcaster, and celebrated as an actor, he would have been the last man anyone would have regarded as the potential murderer of his ex-wife and a stranger who was in the worst possible place at the worst possible time.  (Simpson was acquitted in criminal court, but found legally responsible in civil court for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.)

On one hand, this is an extreme example of how the Modified Patriot Way of buying low — via trades, free agency, and the draft — can go very wrong.  On the other hand, the only way to avoid blame for harboring a potential murderer is to shun any player who has generated at any time any reason to believe that he could do anything wrong as an NFL player.

Even then, there’s still a chance that a player with no red flags will be the next Jovan Belcher, Rae Carruth, or O.J. Simpson.

59 responses to “Hernandez’s red flags never pointed to murder

  1. How could you even write this with a straight face? As far as his time at Florida, we learned last year that Urban Meyer had a star system that let his best players get away with almost anything. If anything, we don’t even know the depth of his activities in Gainesville. I would think the vaunted NFL security teams would uncover the unreported truth from his college days.
    Secondly, we read the story of Hernandez threatening Welker so clearly he had issues post-Florida and pre-big contract. Plus, he was still hanging out with shady characters, something the Patriots should’ve discovered in their due diligence process. In truth, the Patriots thought they’d outsmart the market by paying Hernandez early to a potentially below-market deal. That clearly blew up in their face. They deserve the scorn and ridicule for this so please stop giving them passes when you clearly wouldn’t for a team like Detroit.

  2. Oh and OJ Simpson was accused of domestic abuse well before he killed Nicole. That’s the reddest of red flags when it comes to a potential murderer.

  3. I couldn’t have articulated this any better, well done Florio. And this is coming from somebody who hates the Pats.

  4. Mike, this is one of the best articles you have written. A very thoughtful look at a problem that people are responding to in an overly simplistic manner. Kudos.

  5. Let me be the first to peg Tim Tebow as one with this potential. He looks like an upstanding young man, but something about his dirty shoes and the way he tried to succeed as a QB totally set off my Spidey sense, so I called NFL security.

  6. Why was an employee of a public university conductung bible studies with a student he was in a position of authority over? I know Tebow was the real person in charge then but wtf?

  7. Very well said, Florio. It seems this story has just given Pats haters another excuse to pile on, as opposed to objectively understanding that there’s no way they or anyone could have predicted this. They’re blaming the Pats and their fans for not being psychic. The Pats took a chance on a young kid with a troubled past and gave him an opportunity to turn his life around, and the kid blew it. It’s really just that simple.

  8. No red flag points to murder unless he’d had a history with guns and violence, duh. And what’s this about the Pouncey twins ? You left out Percy Harvin but included those two ?

  9. Anyone who claims that if the Pats hadn’t drafted Hernandez that another team wouldn’t have later in the draft is being ridiculous. He had too much talent on the field and it might have been a round or 2 later but someone would have taken him.

  10. Well said. If Hernandez would have been an unrestricted free agent a month ago, how many NFL teams would NOT have offered him a contract?

  11. Looks like at least two NFL teams had suspicions of gang activity…The below is from the National Football Post:

    “Front office sources from two NFL teams have confirmed to National Football Post that their background research on Aaron Hernandez in preparation for the 2010 draft revealed the tight end had hints of gang ties and associations in his past. One of the club officials said that while the gang ties were never completely verified by his organization, the hints and rumors of such were strong enough to steer the front office clear of Hernandez altogether on draft day.”

  12. But they got to know him for years and spent lots of time talking with him. They knew what kind of man he was or they should have. But without the murder charges and him still being around I still think the contract they gave him was a bad choice and it was better to trade him at that point than to give him a huge payday.

    They screwed up by not trading him, they screwed up paying him huge, and they screwed up the worst in not understanding the negative sides of him very well. Just a lazy and failure of a job on effort, coordination, and football logic and decision making from a mngmt perspective. Belichick is just a weak and overrated football strategist, and he always has been.

  13. Thoughtful and well articulated, thank you Florio. I know a lot of fans whom strongly dislike the Patriots are just using this incident to pile on, but this is beyond football. It would be outrageous to blame Baltimore for Ray’s obstruction, or blame Pittsburgh for Ben’s deviance, or blame Dallas for Josh Brent’s intoxication. Things happen that are just out of an organizations control sometimes.

  14. I get why people seem to hate the Pats. But I have changed as I have gotten older, and it is much more fun to try to be as unbias as possible when giving your opinion about something. First off, I am like many and do not like the Pats so much, I am a die hard Broncos fan. But I dont think they are a bunch of cheaters that suck!! Brady is as elite a QB as there is, and Belichek is a brilliant coach, and one day will be remembered as one of the greatest ever. I personally do not blame the Pats for anything that Hernandez chose to do. This comes as a huge surprise to me, and if people would be honest with themselves, they couldnt have predicted murder in his future!!

  15. Florio, you have made valid points and it’s hard to argue with any of the ones you have made. I wonder, however, if the common thread running throughout the above payers and other trouble-finding men in similar circumstances are: 1) youth and 2) unusual wealth? The youth, mixed with uncommon wealth could have produced young men who haven’t needed to quite work through certain tendencies toward impulsivity, and the wealth, which frequently contributes to immense hubris, a mindset likely to lead to a reluctance to listen to others, and lead to the attitude that since you are “special,” and that rules don’t apply to you quite the way they do to “regular” people. Perhaps, over time, the young men live in a bubble, where entitled behavior takes hold of them, and leads to behaviors both small and obnoxious, and in some case, serious and deadly. Obviously, there is no definitive way to prove any theory, however, it makes me think that the above are possible contributors to many of the outlandish acts that mystify all of us “regular” folks. PS, that “join hands in a Whoville chorus…” quote is very funny!

  16. I don’t see how people can in any way say that Hernandez ended up being a wasted pick. In three years for the Pats, he caught 175 passes, had 2,000 yards, and 18 TDs. That’s far more production than you get from your average 4th round pick TE.

  17. So, what did OJ do? I’m still waiting for him to come out of retirement and be in another Naked Gun movie! Just kidding!

    Good article. It’s sad to see so many of these young men throw their lives away when they have it all.

  18. I’m not a Pats fan by any stretch, but I think this article raises some valid points. In my view, the person to blame for Aaron Hernandez being a soulless, evil psychopath is…Aaron Hernandez. That’s not to say that no other person or institution bears any culpability whatsoever in allowing him to ‘get away with things’, but ultimately AH is the sole person responsible for the crimes he’s committed—er, ALLEGEDLY committed and the havoc he’s wreaked on society.

    And can we please throw out the “but his father died when he was 16!” excuse as well. I know people with far worse childhoods than it sounds like AH had and far less opportunity than we know AH had who still manage to become decent, non-murderous human beings. I know it’s not PC to say this, but a (thankfully small) percentage of our society is just born without a conscience and with no capacity for remorse, and these psychopaths/sociopaths have little to no chance of ever being rehabilitated. They’re also notoriously skilled at concealing just how evil they are until it’s too late.

  19. There are lots of things that would indicate a person’s willingness to kill. Domestic violence, violent crime, killing pet animals for the thrill of it, etc. But Hernandez didn’t do any of those, so you can’t blame the Pats for that.

    But is there were rumors of gang membership, you would think they would have checked into that, especially since he grew up in the northeast, and was rumored to be in a gang in high school.

  20. Apparently, the purported daily Bible sessions Urban administered upon Hernandez at Florida failed to cover the basic Ten Commandments including ‘Thou shall not kill.’

  21. Spot on, every team take a chance on a troubled player. BB and the Pats could have never seen this coming!

    I’m just pissed that this guy represents one of the few really talented NFL players from my home state of CT.

    What a waste…

  22. If all those “I told you so” people knew why didn’t they say it before and not after the fact? It’s like predicting a winner/loser of a game after the game has been played.

  23. So ink all over Hernandez = Bad. But ink all over Kapernick = Good?

    Show me one NFL player without any tattoos and I will show you 15 that do.

    LeBron is covered in ink and he seems like an all around decent person (The Decision aside). I wouldn’t call Iverson a good guy, but he’s not a murderer (yet at least).

    Guess I am saying you can’t judge a book by its cover all the time. Teams should employ a former FBI agent or something to run through background checks and stick with what the experts say.

  24. Even if he goes to jail and never plays again, he was worth the 4th round pick the Pats spent on him as far as his production.

    In fact, I’d go as far as to say a GM would draft a terminally ill player who could give them the production Hernandez did in his few years.

  25. I wonder if “daily bible sessions” means that he saw Tebow every day in practice.

  26. while valid points were made it sure seems like letting the pats off the hook. had it been a handful of other teams they would be continuously raked over the coals for this

  27. Darth Hoody’s next presser should be fun. BTW, why isn’t sports media hounding Urb in Columbus about this? Since Urb is hollier than thou, perhaps he can shed some light into Aaron’s “alleged” behavior.

  28. This is clearly one of the best articles I have seen Mike Florio write, and I’ve read a mountain of his stories. I can’t get enough of stuff like this:

    But there was nothing — not until after Hernandez was tied to a murder case and scouts and sources and some in the media all began to join in a hands-across-Whoville chorus of I told you so.

    Absolutely awesome Florio! I think Its more than past due to hit up PFT for that raise or promotion. Either that or Its time to move on to greener pastures. I bet there would be more than a few companies willing to give you a shot… How about ESPN? Anyway, awesome story!

  29. I’m really am getting sick & tired of these Lefty LaRue libs saying “Oh, he liked to ONLY smoke marijuana” or “Well all the kids nowadays have tattoos…” and yadda yadda yadda when marijuana is an ILLEGAL drug like cocaine or meth while tattoos have always been for the criminal scumbags & fringe element whose value systems have ALWAYS betrayed/spit upon that of our proper American mainstream society so what we’ve learned (or many have always known) is that garbage like Aaron Hernandez is pure garbage and you can just tell that BY LOOKING AT HIM and that judging a book by its cover will be right 99 out of 100 times give or take 1%. Polo shirts & Dockers for all men everywhere is the way to go, T-Shirts & flip/flops sandals should get you sent to a special workers camp on weekends…and weekdays.

  30. Maybe if he wasn’t drafted by a team relatively close to Bristol he would’ve broken ties with his dirtbag friends. Still no excusing his behavior.

    As for the Pats, I don’t think you can fault them for taking a chance on someone with his talent in the fourth round. Everyone was concerned about him being the next Ricky Williams, not the next Rae Carruth. All the Captain Hindsight stuff coming from the media right now is downright ridiculous: no one thought Hernandez would wind up murdering a dude (or three).

  31. Hernandez is immersed in the culture…tats, dope, strip clubs…. murder is not that big a deal in that culture. He just happened to have a lot more to lose than most of his ‘associates’

  32. Still waiting for Wes Welker’s wife to tell us to read the Wikipedia page of Aaron Hernandez.

  33. IF he had no red flags (funny color red, like the color he was wearing when flashing his bloods gang sign in his pictures from before the Pats chose him, but gangs aren’t really known for killing are they?) then why are so many teams, now and then saying they had pulled him completely off their board (both publicly or as an unnamed source, so don’t say they are just trying to get you to believe that their team is good)…

    They knew he wasn’t a choirboy, and took a chance

  34. How did you miss mentioning Ray “killer of 2” Lewis? He is “cut” from the same cloth as Hernandez. They are both scum.

  35. For someone that purports to have insider views of the NFL I am not sure how you can make this argument. While there may not have been screamingly obvious signs, it is hard to believe that with a modest amount of background checks they could have not at least uncovered enough of the things that are being reported or posted on the Internet to avoid giving him $12.5 million of Guaranteed money. More likely they knew and hoped it would not blow up on them somewhere down the road.

  36. Clearly, Hernandez received some very poor training from Urban while at Florida. Urban should have made it abundantly clear to Hernandez that he should only kill on the field and not on and off. Poor training always produces unsatisfactory results. In this case far too many killings off the field.

  37. Just curious but what would be an example of a “red flag pointing to murder”?

  38. Awful article. After reading it, my only conclusion is that you’re playing devils advocate. Given your excellent track record, Im gonna chalk this post up as an “oops.” Just from my perspective as a nobody fan even i knew that Hernandez was a HUGE risk going into the draft and has been considered one since. There were plenty of red flags on him. …..But even if we say weed’s no big deal and we didn’t see this coming from other players such as Rae Carruth and all that other nonsense there’s still one HUGE difference, Roger Goodell. This commissioner has clearly changed the league with his personal conduct penalties. The NFL is a different league now and the Patriots knew this so they deserve all the criticism they get.

  39. Talk about building up a straw man and taking a good hard whack at it…

    Who is out there saying that the Pats should have known that Hernandez was a probable future murderer? The only way, outside of sci-fi, pre-crime, Minority Report stuff to know if a guy is a murderer, is if he actually had a previous history of violent behavior…So, kudos for pointing that out Mike up until his original drafting…

    I think what people are (correctly) pointing out is that there were a number of warning signs with this guy that, if they weren’t so obvious on draft day, should have become more obvious when you re-upped with the guy…At that point, he allegedly did shoot a guy in the face…The backstory is a bit odd there with the guy refusing to press criminal charges…but still…you decided to give a guy a large, multi-year deal WHO SHOT A GUY IN THE FACE (allegedly)…

    Pile that onto all the lower level stuff that Florio already points out and you have an organization that was willing to roll the dice…Many organizations do the same thing…Only difference is that the media would cover it much differently if it was the Bengals, Vikings, Jets, etc…Hoodie and ‘The Patriot Way’ are like that hot restaurant in the 80’s that still survives on the rep of a much different time (like when the Pats actually won Superbowls)…

  40. Oh…and I think this has already been commented on, but…

    How can you in one breaths say that the stuff that Hernandez was doing in college didn’t warrant any additional scrutiny and was just kids being kids…and then point out in the very next breath, that Meyer felt it necessary to spend 1:1 time with the kid (prayers, etc) to make sure he stayed on the straight and narrow? Either he is just pulling pranks or he is a head case with serious enough issues for the head coach of the a major freaking college sports program to provide individual attention to ensure the kid doesn’t do something bad…

    If you want to argue that Meyer thought he prayed the bad out of him…and Hoodie believed that…well…just another bad call by Hoodie in recent years…

  41. So, it’s the Patriots fault because they took a chance in the NFL draft. They took a chance that many teams have taken and continue to take. Well, I suggest that the Arizona Cardinals release Tyrann Matheiu immediately. He’s not worth the risk, and no team should sign him because he may do something wrong based on his past. And any team that signs him will be responsible. Not really, I was just making a point to show how completely silly it is to try to blame this on the Patriots or the Commissioner. The Commissioner’s personal conduct policy is a good thing for the league, but you liberal airheads can’t comprehend that individuals need to be held responsible for their actions. Their actions aren’t the responsibility of others. And, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of the people trying to blame this on the Patriots organization are Saints fans who still can’t comprehend that people involved with the Saints organization did wrong and were caught and punished. Those Saints fans still want to blame somebody else for everything that went wrong. Well, the members of the Saints organization that did wrong were held responsible, and in this current situation Aaron Hernandez alledgedly did wrong, and if he’s found guilty he will be held accountable. Quit trying to blame the Commissioner and other people for someone e;se’s actions.

  42. Didnt Belcher have mental issues? OJ acquitted”(I still think his son did it and he covered for him), Rae Carruth was selfish and most likely a womanizer like OJ.

    …but Hernandez was a gangster where part of the M.O is murkin fools. Totally different animal. Sounds like he had the whole NCAA and NFL scared.

  43. Until we get a Pre-Crime unit up and running that can accurately predict crimes in the future, these things are going to happen. For the most part, these kids have been entitled and treated special the second they flashed above average skills. Now they have multi million dollar contracts and all the benes that come with it… toss in some gangsta friends from the old neighborhood and stuff is going to happen.

  44. >>>So, it’s the Patriots fault because they took a chance in the NFL draft. They took a chance that many teams have taken and continue to take. Well, I suggest that the Arizona Cardinals release Tyrann Matheiu immediately. He’s not worth the risk, and no team should sign him because he may do something wrong based on his past. And any team that signs him will be responsible. Not really, I was just making a point to show how completely silly it is to try to blame this on the Patriots or the Commissioner.

    Who is saying it’s the Pat’s fault? Pat’s are only responsible for deciding to draft and pay the guy a ton of cash…That’s $$$ they are now on the hook for (although they will obviously fight to get as much back as possible)…

    Obviously all teams take chances on bad actors…For some reason, Hoodie and the crew up in Foxborough like to come off holier than thou with the “Patriot Way” and all that…so there is a bit of schadenfreude that we all take enjoyment in when the Pats get knocked off that moral high ground a bit…

    Still, I wil give them kudos for acting as quickly as they did on cutting ties when everything came to light…not all teams make that right call so quickly (see: Falcons, Ravens)…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.