It’s the quick, easy term uttered by football coaches who don’t want to deal with players who aren’t deemed to be good enough to justify tolerating other issues that they bring with them to the team. Sometimes, it’s a legitimate excuse for passing on one player and signing another one. Sometimes, it’s a pretext for not signing a player that the coach simply doesn’t want on the team.
Regardless, football coaches don’t want distractions. They know what distractions can do. In the locker room. In the meeting rooms. During press conferences, when players are asking about issues related to their teammates. Anywhere, and everywhere.
Some would say that the aversion to distractions is overstated, given that playing football entails dealing with distractions on every snap. The player, who has an assignment for the play, is physically and mentally distracted by the fact that the player across from him has a dramatically different assignment.
Regardless, football coaches hate distractions. And Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has been a football coach since 1997, rising from the position of assistant strength coach with the Saints to linebackers coach with the Saints and Ravens to defensive coordinator for the Panthers to head coach of the Jaguars to defensive coordinator of the Broncos to head coach of the Raiders to defensive coordinator of the Commanders.
The NFL likes to say (even if the actions defy the words) that non-players are held to a higher standard than players. When it comes to avoiding the distractions that coaches claim to despise, coaches should definitely be held to a higher standard. And yet Del Rio, under the guise of expressing opinions on Twitter and elsewhere, created what became a major distraction.
Whatever the views he espoused, he created a distraction for the football team. That alone justifies raising the question as to whether the relationship between Del Rio and the Commanders should continue.
As mentioned on Sunday, I don’t like the idea of fining Del Rio for expressing his views. However, I can get behind the notion of concluding that the relationship shouldn’t continue simply because Del Rio created a major distraction for an organization that has had far too many of them in recent years.
If we accept as truthful that the effort by coaches to minimize distractions is truly about the issue of distractions and not simply an excuse for giving the cold shoulder to a player the coach simply doesn’t want on the team, a two-time former head coach should know better than anyone that he should be trying to avoid creating any and all distractions for his current team.