As news broke of a domestic violence accusation against Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott this weekend, the hatred and judgement started to flow.
Of course, some judgement and disgust can come with good reason. We all understand (or at least we should) how serious and malicious any form of domestic violence is. And with the recent incidents involving NFL players, it was right for all of us to take pause and wonder how bad this may have been.
The judgement and hatred I am referring to, however, is against the Dallas Cowboys as an organization, not against an individual player.
Dallas has a history of, let’s say, misconduct around their team. Since the day Jerry Jones purchased the Cowboys he and this team have been involved in a constant media circus. From the handling of Tom Landry’s termination, to the handling of the Jimmy Johnson situation, to the party-loving, mischievous, and sometimes criminal Cowboys of the early 1990’s, to recent failed (and successful) experiments with players of so-called questionable character, the Cowboys have had their fair share of drama.
It’s all been there, and there is no way to deny it.
However as the Cowboys sit today with three projected defensive starters suspended for a significant portion of the upcoming season, I actually believe they are being portrayed unfairly by the masses and the national media. In particular, the reactions to these suspensions and the trickle down effect of these same reactions have been overblown comparatively to other teams.
As each announcement of a Cowboys suspension, or of a former Cowboys player’s personal problem is made, so are proclamations about Jason Garrett’s ability to lead, Jerry Jones’ ability to be a decent human being, and the Cowboys organizations’ ability to be a well-run franchise. Let the national media tell it the Cowboys are a team full of bad locker room guys, criminals, and degenerates who Garrett has absolutely no control over.
That’s the narrative of the Cowboys: Degenerates. That’s the narrative of their head coach: Weak. And that’s the narrative of their owner: Incompetent.
Yet while the Cowboys are portrayed as a once-great organization who has fallen from it’s grace, another historically important franchise’s “moral” standards have been left unquestioned; the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Cowboys and the Steelers are linked forever in football lore, yet the perceptions of the two in 2016 couldn’t be further apart.
And to be honest, these perceptions are bogus.
Yes, Dallas will be without Randy Gregory and Rolando McClain for some time for testing positive for marijuana and will be without DeMarcus Lawrence for four games due to a positive test for amphetamines. None of that is good, and none of that shines a positive light onto the Cowboys as an organization.
But as the league announced this weekend, Steelers running back Le’veon Bell will miss the first four games of this season for not showing up to a drug test. Why does a missed drug test equate to a four game suspension? Well, because Bell was already in the league’s drug program, and is now seen as a repeated offender.
Bell is not the only offensive weapon for the Steelers who will miss time, however, as wide receiver Martavis Bryant will miss the entire 2016 season due to repeated failed drug tests for marijuana.
Now, I have always questioned how the NFL drug policy is constructed, and how the tests are received and dealt with by the league and the public, but that doesn’t change the fact that the rules are still in place. And if they’re in place, a first class organization like the Steelers should follow them, right?
Two players, one of them a top running back in the entire NFL, are suspended after failing (or missing) multiple drug tests, yet no one has questioned the manhood of their head coach, or the competence of their owner. Not one person has called Mike Tomlin a puppet, accusing the Rooney family of pulling his strings.
And they shouldn’t. Tomlin is a top-notch coach in this league, and the Rooney’s deserve to be respected no matter how many drug tests some of their players fail. But neither should the Cowboys. Jerry Jones will be a Pro Football Hall of Famer one day, and Jason Garrett has proven that he is the right coach for this football team no matter what the 2015 record showed.
The Cowboys are not run poorly, Jason Garrett is not merely Jerry Jones’ puppet, and I am sick of the narratives which get used time and time again about this team. And if I sound like a bitter Cowboys fan, that’s probably because I am.