Brandon Jacobs’ recent outbursts on social media have played out like a painful rerun of episodes starring NFL divas in their own tragic sitcoms. It’s completely possible Jacobs has a legitimate gripe, but it’s obvious he chose to handle it the worst way. Ask yourself what would happen if you announced to everyone at work the equivalent of what Jacobs announced on social media. Now you know why the New York Giants decided to let him walk away in the offseason despite his role in two Super Bowls and a team record 50 rushing touchdowns.
San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis had plenty of public outbursts under the previous 49ers’ regime led by Mike Singletary, who didn’t hesitate to discipline him for it. Since then he’s been a model teammate and significant contributor with Alex Smith at quarterback. And now with Colin Kaepernick under center Davis has largely vanished over San Francisco’s last three games, totaling three catches for 19 yards and zero touchdowns. I doubt Davis runs a 4.3 second 40-yard dash so he can run block all day, but he’s kept quiet about it. It’s a little something called professionalism. Ask Vernon about it, Brandon, he learned the hard way.
Speaking of Smith, the most inflammatory words he’s issued since being demoted have been, “It sucks.” Remember when he led the team to the the NFC Championship last year in a narrow loss? That counts for nothing this year. Good luck signing with a winning team next year after this tantrum, Jacobs. Is he not aware the entire NFL knows about Instagram, Twitter, Facebook? Next stop, Dr. Phil. Stay classy, my friend.
I know Jacobs’ defenders are going to use the generic excuses: he’s misunderstood and very passionate about the game, loves his job, and he just wants to help the team…unlike all the other players in the league who play football as a hobby between their day jobs of roasting marshmallows and constructing doll houses. Everyone in the league believes they deserve to start, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. A lack of playing time isn’t a license to behave like an ass, and instead it be incentive to beat the people in front of you. The only thing Jacobs accomplished was doing LaMichael James a huge favor by surrendering any hope of playing again this year. That and he kissed three paydays goodbye.
Others will say it’s not about money, but respect, or opportunity, or some other flaky excuse that justifies Jacobs’ immaturity. I’d be happy to rot away on his salary. In fact, I’d rot away for half his salary while living on a diet of moldy bread and flat cola left out in the sun all day. At this point the only people with a legitimate beef are any of the 49ers starters who earn less than Jacobs. A football locker room always has a leadership group made up of team captains who’ve earned their coaches’ respect and their teammates’ trust. It’s highly doubtful that Jacobs has earned either of those.
I’ve played on many teams where players made it known they were unhappy with their role, but most are smart enough to do it with under the radar. You go and meet with the coach in private. The answers are usually simple: work harder, eliminate mental errors, make plays when you get an opportunity, and shut up.
Quarterbacks complained the most in my time playing college ball. The starter my last four years was a quiet, rocket-armed player who led by example and didn’t talk much. The second stringer had his parents attend practice and constantly call the coaching staff. One year he tore up the fall scrimmage and turned a few heads. In his first start at the end of the season, he threw two interceptions in his first four pass attempts, and the other two throws were incomplete. The following spring camp he continued to regress, blowing a chance to win the spring game by throwing a pick in the endzone to a third string walk-on cornerback who didn’t make the team. Game over. The second stringer subsequently quit the team and fell off the football radar.
The backup quarterback chosen to take over the offense after my senior season was quite vocal in his criticism of our graduated starter, and boasted loudly how he was going to smash every single record in the books. This obviously rubbed a few people the wrong way. The following two years he guided the team to an 0-15-1 record in his career as a starter as the program nearly fell apart. Not all of that was his fault, but he didn’t help himself or the team. The lesson? Put up or shut up. Nobody that played on those teams was surprised at his abysmal failure. A lack of work ethic and a mouth locked on overdrive didn’t make him a better player. Shocking, I know. The best part? At the end of it all the incumbent starter still holds most of the passing records at Simon Fraser University.
Jacobs isn’t the first player to act out this way. In fact it’s been quite a tired method of late. Titus Young in Detroit intentionally lined up wrong and ran the wrong routes during games. Or there’s Rolando McClain in Oakland, who was suspended for arguing with the head coach in practice. It’s most likely going to happen again in the future, as divas of all shapes and sizes continue to put themselves above the team and think public disputes will cause coaches to bow down. You heard it here first: every single one of them will lose their fight. It’s easy being your own worst enemy, but it’s a lot harder to admit it.
Remember earlier this year when the 49ers signed Randy Moss and most media outlets predicted he’d be a team cancer? Jacobs must have been jealous. His recent outbursts on social media have done nothing but add to his questionable character and history of bitching. Why would the 49ers bow to a guy that’s done nothing but complain? It’s the quickest way for Jim Harbaugh and the coaching staff to lose all respect and control of a 9-3-1 locker room.
It’s also a simple math problem. One person isn’t more important than the other 52 in uniform. Brandon + Goodbye = Problem solved. No respect, no money, no team. Jacobs knew exactly what he was doing, and now he just needs someone else to blame.
Luke Purm is a freelance writer and former college football player (a wide receiver at Simon Fraser University) with an inside look at the sights and sounds from the huddle, down the field, through the air, in the endzone, under the pile, out of the locker room, on the scoreboard, and everywhere else football sweats, smells, yells, breathes and collides with life. Follow him on Twitter.