Last year, there was talk that the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff had developed a sour taste regarding Tight End Rico Gathers. Whether it was his personality, work ethic or off-field activities, and if those reports are even accurate, it doesn't really matter. History has shown that NFL coaches will tolerate plenty if a player can help them on the field.
Most analysts have Gathers not making the Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. It means the end of a three-year development project that started when Dallas used a 2016 6th-round pick to take the former Baylor basketball player, hoping to convert his size and athleticism into a capable tight end.
If these are Rico's last few months with the Cowboys, don't blame his exit on any personal dislike on the part of the coaches. He will be gone for football reasons.
Do we think Jason Garrett was fond of Greg Hardy, who the Cowboys signed amid scandal in 2015? Do we think he always loved the way Dez Bryant handled himself? And what about all the other players who we knew so little about personally, but Garrett and his staff saw on a daily basis?
If Gathers gets cut, it's because Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz are better than he is. It's because Dallas didn't see enough need or value to keep four tight ends this year after Jason Witten's return.
Of course, the reasons why the coaches may be down on Rico could also be why he hasn't developed enough. If they feel he isn't serious enough about the game, that opinion is largely based on his lack of progress.
Look at what the Cowboys have been willing to deal with the last few years regarding Randy Gregory, who has plenty of personal issues but has worked hard when available. Contrast that with David Irving, whose lack of effort is why Dallas chose to let him walk in free agency.
Even before Garrett's tenure as head coach, Dallas has been willing to business with guys like Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, and Tank Johnson despite known personality issues from previous teams. The Cowboys, like almost any NFL teams, are happy to work with just about anyone who can help them win.
So if we get to final cuts this year and Rico Gathers is released, as expected, don't go down the wrong mental path about why it happened. Don't start blaming Jason Garrett for being unable or unwilling to deal with certain personality types.
It will be about football. It will be because Gathers didn't become good enough of a player.
And after this much time, the blame for that will fall entirely on Rico. He's had more opportunity here than a lot of 6th-round picks get; the Cowboys have clearly been invested in seeing him succeed.
We've all been intrigued at what Rico Gathers could become, especially after some of his big preseason plays. But it appears the experiment is soon to end, and it will certainly be a disappointment.
Just be sure you blame the right person.