“No, really…she will.”
Tampa CB Aqib Talib is one of the few people I know that can really say that. For those who haven’t read the glorious details of the NFL’s best story of 2011, go here. I’ll just share my favorite line or two.
Talib dropped the gun, Billings picked it up and took off running, and Talib’s mother pull out her own gun and fired three shots at Billings. Aqib then allegedly grabbed the gun from his mother and fired two shots of his own.
I mention this to bring up the subject of character. I was a huge fan of Talib’s heading into the draft a few years back. I thought he would be a terrific pick for the Eagles. He was big, athletic enough, and a productive ballhawk. The Eagles traded out of pick 19 in 2008. Talib went 20th.
I don’t know if the Eagles even had Talib on their board. He had some character concerns coming out of Kansas. Some teams liked him, others didn’t. The Bucs had no reservations and took him. Talib has rewarded them by being a good player. He has also punished them by being a pain in the butt off the field. Character really is the ultimate x-factor.
The Eagles have generally taken high character guys. Freddie Mitchell was a knucklehead, but the only time he became a real distraction was Super Bowl week when cameras were on him and the team 24/7. There are some other exceptions. DeSean Jackson and Lito Sheppard weren’t choirboys coming out of college. Jack Ikegwounu had some issues. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few other players, but the majority have been solid guys.
Andy Reid spoke to that point in a interview with Dave Spadaro about 10 days ago. I’m not sure if it is episode 1, 2, or 3. It’s all worth watching. Andy talked about the need to build a strong environment by taking high character players and then having the ability to take some chances on guys who do have issues. No football coach in the NFL can surround himself with only choirboys and expect to win a championship. That’s just reality.
Last year the Eagles felt they needed an infusion of the right kind of players. They went after team leaders, good students, and high character prospects. That foundation now gives them the freedom to take a chance on someone this year. That’s important because a potentially key target for the Eagles does have some issues.
Colorado CB Jimmy Smith won’t be on all 32 draft boards. He has failed some drug tests. He’s had some other issues at CU. To my knowledge, Smith has never been arrested or suspended. We’re not talking about a violent criminal. Smith is immature and makes some dumb decisions.
Smith is someone you take a chance on for a couple of reasons. If you put him in a strong, professional environment, this is the kind of guy who might be able to change. He played 4 years at Colorado. That tells you he showed up for class enough to stay eligible. He also did enough on the practice field to keep the coaches either happy or satisfied.
Also, the ceiling is very high. He is an outstanding player. He has a great combination of size, speed, and cover skills. He may not have consistently played up to his potential in games, but you wonder how much of that is circumstantial. He didn’t get many passes thrown his way. His team was mediocre. Put him on an NFL defense with a winning team and you might get a much better product. If you are going to take a chance on a player, it might as well be on someone with big time talent.
Clearly no team will take him without doing a lot of research and meeting him in person to get a feel for his personality. Smith is a risk, but the reward is enticing…a CB with Pro Bowl potential. You wouldn’t want a team full of Jimmy Smiths, but mixing one guy into a defense with solid citizens like Trent Cole, Stewart Bradley, and Nate Allen is a risk I can live with.