Football is a nasty sport sometimes. Tempers run high, words are exchanged, and fights happen (however, surprisingly less often than you’d expect). However, most guys know how to keep things professional, seeing as hated opponents may one day become teammates — a reality on full display during this week’s 2014 NFL free agency frenzy. At the end of the day, players just want to escape Sunday with their health somewhat intact, which is hard enough when you’re playing fair and square.
The need for self-preservation is a unifying force in the league. Still, some guys don’t care and actively try and injure people, or instigate brawls. The “dirty players.”
League polls have revealed who these people are over the years, and sometimes the consensus is a guy like Hines Ward, who seems like a likable dude off the field, as evidenced by his immediate ascension to NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage team, as well as cameos in “The Walking Dead” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”
He could still be a dick, but his on-air persona seems pretty affable and his smile comes off as that of sincerely well-intentioned person. He is the exception — not the rule.
Most of the time, these guys are just total assholes. Albert Haynesworth (basically quit after getting a huge deal), Ndamukong Suh (continues to stomp people in broad daylight), and Bill Romanoski — who was ordered to pay teammate Marcus Williams $340,000 after a punch in practice broke Williams’s eye socket. All guys who were routinely voted as dirty players. All guys who seem by any objective measure to be jerks.
After one of the more horrific seasons in recent memory (from a P.R. standpoint at least), the Dolphins cut world-renowned asshole lineman, Richie Incognito, in an apparent effort to change the franchise for the better. In the ensuing months, after it was revealed he was an abusive, lunatic teammate, Incognito proved he wasn’t much different off the field, bashing up a Ferrari with a baseball bat (among other things).
Take a wild guess what his colleagues around the league thought of him when pressed by anonymous pollsters?
[Phinsider] INCOGNITO: “I think I was at No. 6 last year, and no personal fouls and no major penalties and no fines, and I move back up to No. 2?”
Incognito was voted the dirtiest player in 2009.
Now the Dolphins find themselves in a position where they’ve basically traded one problem child for another. Finnegan was voted the NFL’s dirtiest player in 2010, something he takes serious pride in. In fact, he’s been called “the Dennis Rodman of the NFL” by Washington WR Josh Morgan.
[USA Today] “Just a lot of dirty and unnecessary stuff,” Morgan says. “He’ll tackle you when you’re in a crowd. Try to twist your leg or break your leg. Punch you in the (gestures towards crotch) … you know. Poke you in your eyeball as you’re getting up.
Do they think that firing their trainer and offensive line coach magically created that “team-first culture of respect”? Coming on the heels of the Jonathan Martin situation and subsequent facts revealed in the Wells Report, the move to sign Finnegan begs the question “What kind of people are running the Miami Dolphins organization?” Either they don’t care about cleaning up their reputation, or their reputation is so bad their free agent options are limited to the dregs of the NFL.
Dolphins reached agreement on a two-year deal with former Rams CB Cortland Finnegan, per league source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2014
Without even suggesting Cortland Finnegan will cause any harm to anyone next season — or that he’s even a bad dude to have in the locker room — it would appear that the Dolphins’ management is simply incapable of distinguishing “character guys” from “jerks.” The team and their fans will continue to suffer — and bad things will continue to happen — until someone decides to man up down there and tell the assholes to go take a hike.
You can see a full recap of all the free agent signings, plus a ranking of the 49 best players still available, here.