Playing middle linebacker in the NFL is more than just stuffing the run and spying on the quarterback. Playing middle linebacker in the NFL is like playing the position of quarterback. The job is equal parts talent and leadership qualities.
Given the incident involving Oakland’s man in the middle, Rolando McClain, the franchise should be rethinking the future of their defense.
This is not to say now is the time to pull the plug on McClain all together. Quite the opposite in fact. Now is the time to see what this young man is truly made of.
Problem is the Raiders won’t have the benefit of learning that on Sundays. Instead Hue Jackson will have to see what type of character McClain has through the lens of the legal system.
Before getting too high on my horse, I’m willing to let this entire saga play out. Before we bury an immature millionaire we should first allow the legal due diligence to be completed. However it would be in Oakland’s best interest to shut McClain down for the rest of the season.
Actions such as these, no matter McClain’s direct or indirect involvement, cannot be rewarded. In order for McClain to mature into a true leader he must learn a harsh lesson. Professional football can provide plenty for those that are fortunate. Just ask Michael Vick about that. If you’ve got the game, then all can be forgiven. But it took Vick sitting in a federal jail cell to learn that lesson. McClain would be wise not to follow a similar route.
I’m not one of these types that believe once you make your money that you should turn your back on those that supported you from day one. For me, I feel that you owe it to your closest friends and family to remain active in their lives, no matter their private dealings. However, your role should be as a positive influence showing them the way instead of following them on their path.
McClain didn’t just make a mistake. Please don’t give him a pass on this. A mistake is something that happens on Sundays in the course of a football contest. This was a premeditated act that reveals a lot about McClain’s flawed logic.
The Raiders are a better team with McClain in the middle. The stats will reflect it even if he isn’t reminding anyone of Ray Lewis. What Rolando must realize is that he has a much bigger family relaying on him now. Those men that wear Silver and Black are his kin. He’s let them all down.
Make no mistake, if the organization were to tell McClain to stay home for the balance of the season it would greatly affect the team’s playoff hopes and could aid in jeopardizing the team’s goals. But it is the right action to take.
Football does not trump all. It is a game. Nothing more. Some misguided students in Pennsylvania put that issue into focus recently. We cannot hold athletes and coaches up as role models. They are gifted in ways we are not. But so too are cats, video game designers and cinematographers. At some point we, the public, must draw a line in the sand. Are we going to ignore morals in the sake of selfish satisfaction? Or are we going to start holding everyone accountable no matter their social standing?
If it were you or I arrested in Alabama after being given a day off from work how likely is it we’d be allowed to return to our place of employment while a criminal investigation is still on going?
I am as guilty as the next in helping to make sports what they are. My failed athletic career has led me down a path of obsessive fandom. But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost all common sense.
At the professional level, football is a job like any other. No matter how much coin you’re clocking there are going to be days when you’d rather stay home and do nothing. No matter your level of fame and fortune you’re still getting paid by someone with more money than you’ll ever make. That is life.
McClain is an employee. Nothing more. At the end of the day he’s just a figure on a balance sheet. He needs to be reminded of this.
Rolando McClain is not bigger than the Oakland Raiders. He sure as hell isn’t bigger than the game. But as a man in a position of leadership he is held to a higher standard. No matter what happened Wednesday in Alabama he has failed his team. The Raiders cannot allow his selfish lack of focus go wanting until Roger Goodell gets to that memo on his desk.
Oakland must take action now no matter the eventual outcome. They owe it to the franchise. They owe it to the players. They owe it to the fans. Most important of all they owe it to McClain. Coach Jackson is a teacher first and this is as good a teaching opportunity as he’ll get with McClain. Otherwise the only other way McClain might learn will come in the form of him losing more than just the balance of this season.