Why do the Bears keep up the charade that character matters?
Is it because they think we’re stupid or because they think they have to put on an act for image purposes? Or is it some combination of the two?
I don’t at all like that the Bears have signed defensive end Ray McDonald, who has a history of off-field trouble involving women. But I would feel a lot better if team chairman George McCaskey had stood in front of reporters Tuesday and explained the signing with a little more truth. Like this:
“Look, we’re in the business of winning football games. The pool of human beings who can play this sport at the highest level and manage to live according to society’s mores could fit inside a thimble. If we said no to every player with off-field issues, we wouldn’t be a top-25 college program. This is the only way to compete in the NFL. I know we’re taking a huge risk, but all I can say is that we’re going to monitor him. Oh, and one other thing: Hide the womenfolk!’’
Instead, we got some mushy talk from McCaskey, the franchise’s moral compass, about a player who has, at a minimum, been involved in two very messy situations in which there were accusations of domestic violence and sexual assault, respectively. San Jose police are still investigating McDonald for the sexual-assault case from December.
How he came to be a Bear is a lesson in … taking the initiative/paying for your own flight? Perhaps. General manager Ryan Pace asked McCaskey whether he could pursue McDonald, who had been waived by the 49ers for a “pattern of bad behavior.’’ The pattern was three brushes with the law in seven months.
“We had a file on him with the information that we had gathered, and I looked at the file and came back and said no, ’’ McCaskey said. “So Ryan said, ‘Fine. We’ll move on to the next guy.’ And then Ray – I don’t know if he contacted (defensive coordinator Vic Fangio) or Ryan directly or I don’t know how it came about – but he asked if I’d be willing to meet with him and I said yes. So the fact that he proposed that idea, I gave him a lot of credit for.’’
We don’t know the contents of the file the Bears have on McDonald, but we do know that whatever is in it made McCaskey immediately deny Pace’s request to pursue the free agent. Shouldn’t this literally have been an open-and-shut case?
McDonald paid for an airplane ticket to Chicago and sold himself to the chairman. If two Hare Krishnas proselytized at McCaskey’s door, it wouldn’t be long before he had a shaved head and flowing robes.
“I was impressed with how sincere he was and how motivated he is,’’ McCaskey said. “He understands, I think, that he could have well been facing the end of his football career. And he loves football. And he wants that career to continue. So I was impressed with his motivation.’’
It’s not just the Bears who have a soft spot for troubled players. It’s everybody. The Cowboys recently signed defensive end Greg Hardy, who had been found guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill his former girlfriend. Someone will want running back Adrian Peterson, even though he physically abused his four-year-old son. Both men can play football at a high level.
For the same reason, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith likely will take Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in next month’s draft. Never mind the sexual-assault accusation that follows Winston wherever he goes. Lovie thinks he can make the quarterback behave. Just like he did with Tank Johnson when both were with the Bears. Until he couldn’t.
Pace isn’t starting a new culture at Halas Hall. Remember, the Bears drafted Johnson, who came to Chicago in 2004 with all sorts of red flags. And it’s not just crime-and-punishment players who negatively affect the franchise. It’s talented players such as Brandon Marshall who eventually wear out their welcome with teammates. That’s a character issue too. Sometimes, it’s players such as Sam Hurd, who seemed to be a “character guy’’ until he went into the drug-trafficking business. Some people you think you know and really don’t.
Too often, the Bears look at a sheep in wolf’s clothing, comment on what big teeth he has and, doing their due diligence, ask if they were professionally whitened.
The Bears know McDonald can play. Apparently, that’s enough.