Many Dolphins fans today are celebrating the selection of the offensive lineman who may be the best talent in the draft. That’s fine. Optimism is why the gods included April on the NFL calendar. Still, logistics aside, if he were taken by the Patriots, would the same fans quickly brush aside concerns that some NFL teams did not? How much of fans’ vision is colored by the color of the jersey?
Forgetting for a moment the logistics, what if, instead of going to the Dolphins in the first round, Laremy Tunsil had landed in New England?
That’s just one of several questions I have about the selection. You should have some, too, because the fact is, you don’t know, I don’t know, the Dolphins don’t know and even Laremy Tunsil doesn’t know if, in a few years, this selection will be remembered as genius or reckless. It’s hard to picture much in-between.
This is not to say I would not have taken Tunsil if I were Chris Grier, Mike Tannenbaum and Steve Ross. Their file on him is a thousand times thicker than mine, orchestrated by respected security chief Stu Weinstein.
Here are issues they (and we) all should be kicking around:
1. “Half the kids in college do it.”
The video posted on social media of him with a bong and a gas mask sparked an avalanche of responses, including a series of tweets from former Dolphin Jared Odrick on how pot is legal in some areas and pointing out the hypocrisy of the NFL toward recreational drugs compared to more serious, violent crimes. (Interesting to note that one team that admitted wiping Tunsil off their draft board was the Ravens, former team of one Ray Rice.)
Food for thought: Let’s not turn this into a debate about what what’s not egregious and what ought to be legal. Tunsil, a player with NFL talent, jeopardized his future by using the bong, compounded it by doing it in the presence of others and worsened it even more by allowing it to be recorded.
Tunsil admitted those were unwise choices Thursday night. Hopefully he’ll learn. With Roger Goodell around, he has no choice.
2. Was it an isolated incident?
It’s an uncomfortable issue to raise on draft night, but Grier faced that very question, plus another on whether his first-round selection loves football more than drugs. Tunsil was asked if he has a drug problem.
Grier: “There’s no doubt he loves football and football’s very important to him. So for us, we were very comfortable and once you talk to him and spend a little time, the coaches upstairs and the scouts, the room was jacked when we got him.”
Tunsil: “I do not have a drug problem. You can check all of my college tests, I never failed one.”
One other box to check: The one that says Tunsil handled Thursday night with grace and class far beyond anything anyone could have expected. You couldn’t wipe the smile off his face or get him to stop saying how “blessed” he was to be a Miami Dolphin.
3. It’s mind-boggling how much prep work goes into the draft.
Think about it. The Dolphins were picking 13th overall. Tunsil was one of the top prospects on everyone’s board. Miami had no chance at him … right? So why waste time checking his background when there are hundreds of other guys who realistically could be in play? Why talk to his college coaches, high school coaches, the nurse who helped deliver him on Aug. 2, 1994?
Because stuff happens.
The video was news to you and me. It wasn’t to Grier.
“We had done work and we had known about it,” he said. “The video’s two years old, so from all the information we had we were comfortable with it.”
Grier added, “Stu Weinstein, as you guys know, is one of the best security guys in the league, security directors. (We have) done a great job of researching (Tunsil’s) background. We spent time with him at the Combine. Our area scout, Matt Winston, has done a great job in terms of researching him, spending time with him at the pro day. This is a guy — he has done personality tests, all the stuff we do.”
Initially, Tunsil inferred the video was older than two years but finally confirmed that yes, it’s from two years ago.
4. Tunsil admitted taking money from Ole Miss’ assistant athletic director.
Similar to the recreational drug issue. We could go on forever over whether college athletes should be paid (c’mon, of course they should be). We could debate whether his financial problems were legit (sure seems so).
Not the point. It’s 2016, it’s against NCAA regulations, but Tunsil did it anyway. He also was suspended half the season for taking other impermissible benefits.
Bad judgment? No other options? You decide.
5. Sometimes, you luck into a bargain.
Remember 1983? There was a QB from Pitt with a rumored drug problem. The Dolphins took a shot anyway at No. 27.
Character questions zapped Warren Sapp and Randy Moss in the draft, couldn’t torpedo Jameis Winston, and caused Johnny Manziel to fall to No. 22.
Moral of the story: Most of those guys overcame it, but every case is different. Overthinking sometimes is as bad as underthinking.
6. The unquestioned villain.
No debate necessary here. Someone in possession of the video offered to sell it to Deadspin, which declined.
That’s probably the someone who also just happened to post the video right as the draft began to maximize the hit on Tunsil’s wallet.
Does it get any lower than that?