We've all seen it. We've seen it and we've wondered about it. Why does an NFL player suddenly decide he's worth more than the team? Ego. Pure and simple answer. Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson, is one such player. Thursday morning, November 20th, Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinatti Bengals sent him back to Cincinatti from Pittsburgh effectively removing him from playing in that night's game. Rumor has it that he was sleeping during a team meeting, but likely it was more than just that. In the end Lewis sent a message to the team that he was in charge, not Chad. It's true that the Bengals haven't won 8 games while he was there, so it's no big deal that they lost when he was gone, but many fans and players are left wondering if they could have taken the somewhat lethargic Steelers had he been there. You'd think that today, this Friday morning after their loss, Marvin Lewis would be one of the most despised men in Cincinatti. Not true. He's actually even more respected than he was before according to Ron Cook with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He wrote a very interesting article on it that you should all check out. So Lewis is more respected? Yes indeed. Players that aren't "Super Stars", and fans that still think the NFL should represent the moral fiber that they remember so well, all have more respect for Lewis than they ever did before. That's amazing if you think about it. Imagine a world where the majority of us people expected even the most talented to live by the same rules we have to... Oh wait... We do. And that's exactly why Lewis is more respected and the only Star of the Cincinatti Bengals this Friday morning.
Terrell Owens' career was centered around how big a cry-baby he can be. Adam "Pac-man" Jones' career around how big a pain in the ass he can be. Chad "I refuse to call him Ocho Cinco over and over" Johnson has seen this and decided he needs to be the center of attention also. There's no denying that Chad is talented. And there's no denying that he's been unhappy in Cincinatti lately and wants to go somewhere else. After all it worked for Randy "Look-at-Me" Moss when he went to the Patriots and they almost had the perfect season. Not to mention afterwards, Moss got a rather nice payday and plenty of accolades. Johnson would like that too. Instead he sees himself as the only worthwhile part of a badly broken team. Forget that Reggie Kelly, Chris Henry, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cedric Benson, and Carson Palmer are also very talented in their own right. No, in Chad's world there's Chad Johnson and little room for anyone else. As for wanting out of Cincinatti... He doesn't think they have a shot at a Super Bowl. He's right too. But not because they're not talented enough, but rather because they're beset by problem players like himself. The Miami Dolphins don't have the level of talent that the Bengals have and they're having quite a decent season. Cleveland has some nice talent but it's still very very raw, yet they've won more than one game this year also. It's because of players like Johnson and Houshmandzadeh that the Bengals don't have a shot at the Super Bowl.
The NFL has problem players throughout it's league to varying degrees. Plaxico Burress in New York, Terrell Owens and Adam Jones in Dallas, Randy Moss with the Patriots, Ricky Williams with Miami, and etc. But for some reason, Cincinatti seems to have a boat load of these players starting with the big three... Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Chris Henry. They also represent three different types of problem players. Chad is the one that wants center stage no matter what it takes to get it, Chris Henry is in trouble with the law so often he was a primary example Goodall used in his no tolerance policy for bad behavior, and T.J. is loud mouth, give me the ball every play guy. With such discord on their team it's no wonder they can't win many games. Every team knows that it's the TEAM that wins the game and not the player. The funny thing about this is that some teams just don't seem to care if they get a bad apple, because they want to win a Super Bowl that badly. The Patriots and Dallas come to mind real fast in this regard. If the player is bad enough, you can bet Jerry Jones of Dallas will soon add them to his rosters. If the Patriots can buy them cheap enough they'll bring them on too. The funny thing is that neither of those two teams have won a Super Bowl with these bad apples in their barrel. Other teams like the Steelers exercise a Character over Talent policy. They'd rather have a whole team of supposed mediocre stars than even one self involved Super Star. They have five Lombardies to prove it's the way to do it too. The Rooney family has shown for over 75 years that a team sport is about the team and not the individual. And while many of their players do eventually become Hall of Famers, and are Super Stars in their fans' eyes, those players are seldom loved or followed by the media nearly as much as the Chad Johnsons of the league. Lets face it, Chad Johnson sells national papers while Hines Ward only sells local tickets.
I suppose what amazes me the most is when one of these "Super Stars" gets the boot from their team, you can always bet a fan of another team will suggest signing them. They see their stats and not their character. You can rack up a lot of receptions or run yards without ever winning a game, so those stats don't mean much outside of bubble gum cards and NFL contracts. The only stats a team cares about is the win loss stat. When a player becomes available on the free agent market you need to look at how instrumental the individual was in supporting his team with his talents towards a winning season. Because free agents aren't cheap. Why pay out that much money for a disruption? You turn to the free agent market to fill a need, and I don't know of any team that needs disruptions. Well... Except for Dallas obviously. There are always going to be Owners and Coaches willing to believe they can change the player. Just like there will always be people who believe they can change a loved one that has gone astray. The problem players even count on it. And so Chad Johnson wants to become a free agent in order to go to a team that has a shot at the Super Bowl as his career slides towards it's sunset. What's so hillarious about that is that he is on a team that has a shot if only the "Super Stars" on it would work as a team. And now he thinks he'd get that shot on another team. All he'd really do is latch on to a team that works as a team and slowly begin to undermine it. And since he'd be likely the only "Super Star" on that team, he'd probably make it to the Super Bowl and get his ring. Whereas in Cincinatti he is one of many "Super Stars" and they have no shot since they can never play as a team.
Players like Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens almost never make it to the Hall of Fame, yet they do sometimes make it to the Super Bowl like Moss did. Because of this you'll always have teams that will pander to them. If more teams would just cut these players right off, early in their careers, then I suspect we'd see less and less of these kind of players come into the league over time. Fewer problem players would equal more fans, and more fans would equal more money. And that's just one of the positive benefits. If teams cut those players you'd also see more team effort and therefore more parity in the league. What do I mean by that? Andre Caldwell. He got to fill in for the missing Johnson and had a pretty good game against our Steelers last night. 3 receptions for 26 yards isn't much but it averages close to a first down per catch. Makes you wonder why they didn't throw to him more often and why they didn't play him sooner. The reason they didn't throw to him more is T.J. Houshmandzadeh would have cried like a baby, and they didn't play him sooner because Chad Johnson would have thrown a tantrum befitting the brattiest of two year olds. If I were Lewis, I think Caldwell would be Johnson's replacement. I'd put Johnson on injured reserve for his wounded pride and win some games with the likes of Caldwell. And at the same time, Lewis could send a solid message to the rest of the team on which direction they were headed.
Brian L. Baldwin (Steelers70)