They used to be the Bungles. Winning was not something football fans in Cincinnati knew much about. That all stopped when Marvin Lewis was hired as head coach in 2003. Lewis oversaw a steady improvement until last year when they sat on top of the AFC North. Much of this has had to do with Lewis’ player selections. He has brought together a talented group of players and moulded them into a team.
Marvin Lewis took a gamble on a lot them though. The risk was that these guys were not men with character. They had amazing physical skills, but they were avoided by a lot of teams because they were trouble. This is a common practice in the NFL – players often fall down the draft order because of “indiscretions” while they were in college. Professional teams don’t want players who may disrupt the team. Marvin Lewis wasn’t worried about that though. “The most important thing to me when you say the word character is the locker room. The problem is, there’s no way for the outside world to evaluate the kind of character that’s important to players.” But isn’t character the same everywhere? Do twelve arrests of eight players over a calendar year speak of character?
The Bengals missed the playoffs this year. Deltha O’Neal, Reggie McNeal, Matthias Askew, Eric Steinbach, Chris Henry, Frostee Rucker, A.J. Nicholson, and Odell Thurman have all been arrested since the end of last season. Some of them have missed games because of it. Lewis now says, “I’ve realized that you can’t fix everybody. Some people, they just don’t want to be fixed. It’s a fact of life. Sooner or later, these guys filter themselves out of here.” Maybe these people shouldn’t have been filtered in in the first place.
Professional athletes have massive influence over their fans. This influence (power) comes with responsibility. Many of these sports stars don’t handle it well at all. Perhaps we should also be focusing on the coaches and general managers who have the power to tell these negative role models that they have no place in professional sports.
The quotes from this post come from an ESPN Magazine article by David Fleming.