We’ve mentioned flags and their predominantly red color at least 94 times over the past few weeks. ‘Tis the season for character concerns (hi, Janoris Jenkins), and front offices doing everything in their power to minimize the amount of red flags flying on their roster.
To a lesser extent, that applies to the free agency process too. When a players’ first contract expires and he’s allowed to hit the open market, he’s usually in his mid 20s. While that’s still young, he’s hopefully more mature than your average college junior, and in most cases that’s true, so the possibility of poor performance is a far greater concern when signing a player to a lucrative than the threat of idiotic behavior.
However, there’s always the odd idiot apple (hi, Albert Haynesworth) who ruins free agency for the rest of the apples. With football careers so short and the investment in players so high, creative solutions to identify the apples with a rotted core during free agency are needed
There’s a mustachioed man in Jacksonville who thinks he’s found a solution: wives.
That’s right, the wife tells the tale of the man, which is the philosophy that new Jaguars owner Shahid Khan brought to the team during his first run through free agency, a mutual idea he had with GM Gene Smith. So while the rest of us are busy ogling players’ wives on the various websites dedicated to such workplace distractions (don’t lie, you clicked that link and wasted at least 10 minutes), Khan and Smith are actually, you know, talking to them.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Khan, who made his fortune in auto-parts manufacturing, said he had the idea because he tries to meet all of the spouses of his employees. He said he has retreats in which his employees are encouraged to bring their spouses. Khan figured some of the things needed to be a solid player—like staying after practice or putting in extra work—require a stable home environment.
For Smith, the idea is borrowed from college recruiting, where a players’ parents are often leaned on heavily to provide hints about his character and personality. There’s also a certain amount of stability that comes with being married, along with the inherent desire to act like an adult.
“I can only speak from personal experience,” Smith said. “When my wife came into my life, she made me a better person. I think you start looking at things in a more responsible way and you actually have an intrinsic reason to come home.”
While the primary motivation of free agency and the draft is still clearly the pursuit of production, increasingly there’s been a personal element involved too.
The Jaguars’ major free agent splash last month was wide receiver Laurent Robinson, the now former Cowboy who was signed to a five-year contract worth $32.5 million. When he was called to Jacksonville for his free agent visit, the Jags asked him to bring his wife Kat, something she’d never heard of before. They did the same with newly-signed backup(?) quarterback Chad Henne, who started dating his wife Brittney in junior high, and Henne understood the Jaguars’ strategy.
“I really think there [are] a lot of guys that come in single, you are very young and there are lot of women after the money, the fame,” Henne said. “They aren’t in it for the right reasons. If you have a relationship before you come into the league, it builds your character and you get sustained in the way you live.”
There’s some logic here beyond the usual happy home, happy workplace business philosophy jargon. Wives aren’t throwing or catching passes, but being an NFL player is a unique and demanding line of work, so some strength at the homestead could go a long way towards keeping a players’ head aligned in the proper position.
Or maybe Khan and Smith really do just like hanging out with the players’ wives, and this is all just a dirty ploy.