For Saints and NFL Teams, Talent Leads To Wins, Not Character

Wide receiver Joe Morgan was the first Saints player arrested since 2010. - USA TODAY Sports

With the ever growing pressure to win now, NFL teams will always take a chance on talented, yet troubled players.

The National Football League has a significant image problem. In recent years, it feels like they've spent more time making headlines for its off-the-field exploits than for the actual football games. From players getting routinely arrested to so-called bounty programs, the NFL has found itself on the back page of tabloids as much as on the front page of sports blogs and magazines.

Since Super Bowl XLVII, there have been at least 33 arrests

We do not have to look very far to find proof of this sad state of affairs. On June 26, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of one of his associates, Odin Lloyd. The day before that, Cleveland Browns linebacker Ausar Walcott was arrested for attempted murder stemming from a bar fight. Not to be outdone, Indianapolis Colts Joe Lefeged was arrested on Saturday June 29 on gun-related charges.

Since the end of Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, there have been at least 33 arrests of NFL players. That's nearly seven arrests a month.

Amazingly, the NFL has not missed a beat. Despite all the negative publicity, it is enjoying an all-time high in ratings. Its revenue in 2012 was estimated at $9.7 billion, up from $8.87 billion dollars in 2011. An eye-popping 9.4% increase in a one year span. At this pace, the league's revenue in 2016 could hover around the $18 billion mark.

The NFL, however, is aware of the fact that it needs to clean up its act. As lucrative as the league has been over the past decade, things can change quickly in a fickle society and there is too much at stake to risk losing viewers or partners. Since taking over as commissioner prior to the start of the 2006 season, Roger Goodell has clearly made it his highest priority to restore the league's public image.

Goodell's heavy-handed approach to disciplining rule-breaking players has led teams to think twice before pursuing at-risk prospects. However, what team owners, coaches and fans want first and foremost is to win. More often than not, that includes signing talented players with checkered pasts and giving them multiple chances until they've burnt all their bridges. The higher the potential reward, the higher the risk a team will take.

This leads us to an intriguing question: how high has the reward actually been? Have teams who have taken more risks with talented troublemakers won more than teams who have stuck to the "great character locker room" approach? Conversely, have teams full of "good guys" won more because of a highly disciplined and functional locker room?

To try and answer this conundrum, I went through the interesting exercise of studying the NFL Arrests Database put together by Brent Schrotenboer and Merrie Monteagudo of the San Diego Union-Tribune. They have done an outstanding job of compiling all NFL arrests since 2000.

I decided to take in account the arrest numbers of all 32 NFL teams from 2006 on, which matches the start of Roger Goodell's iron-fisted tenure as NFL commissioner. My examination revolves around the admittedly subjective yet telling correlation between the number of arrests for a team and its winning percentage.

I divided the league's 32 teams into four groups: the "good guys" with the fewest number of arrests, the "not so bad guys," the "not so good guys" and finally the "bad guys," comprised of the teams with the most arrests since 2006.

The Good Guys

NFL Rank


Team


Arrests


Regular Season Record


Win %


1


Arizona Cardinals


4


50-62


0.450


2


Houston Texans


6


59-53


0.530


3


Baltimore Ravens


7


72-40


0.643


4


New York Jets


7


57-55


0.510


5


Carolina Panthers


8


50-62


0.450


6


Dallas Cowboys


8


64-48


0.571


7


Saint Louis Rams


8


36-75-1


0.321


8


San Francisco 49ers


8


57-54-1


0.510


The "good guys" group shows that although character certainly matters, character alone isn't necessarily conducive to winning. In this group, only the Baltimore Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys have records significantly over the .500 mark. Even teams like the San Francisco 49ers with their latest run of success have won only 51% of their games since 2006. The Good Guys Award winner, Arizona Cardinals, have a losing record in that time frame.

The Not So Bad Guys

NFL Rank


Team


Arrests


Regular Season Record


Win %


9


Buffalo Bills


9


43-69


0.384


10


New England Patriots


9


88-24


0.790


11


New York Giants


9


66-46


0.590


12


Philadelphia Eagles


9


60-51-1


0.540


12


Green Bay Packers


10


66-46


0.590


14


Kansas City Chiefs


10


38-74


0.340


15


New Orleans Saints


11


69-43


0.620


16


Oakland Raiders


11


36-76


0.321


With the exception of the Bills, Raiders and Chiefs, this group is composed of perennially well-run franchises. Although these teams will take a few chances on at-risk players, they have the necessary veteran leadership to avoid any dysfunction. This group contains four recent Superbowl winners in the Patriots (2004), Giants (2007, 2011), Saints (2009) and Packers (2010).

The Not So Good Guys

NFL Rank


Team


Arrests


Regular Season Record


Win %


17


Washington Redskins


12


47-65


0.420


18


Detroit Lions


13


32-80


0.290


19


Atlanta Falcons


14


67-45


0.600


20


Chicago Bears


14


65-47


0.580


21


Cleveland Browns


15


37-75


0.330


22


Indianapolis Colts


15


74-38


0.661


23


Pittsburgh Steelers


16


71-41


0.634


24


Seattle Seahawks


16


53-59


0.473


This group is strikingly composed of both historically badly-run franchises and well-run organizations. Teams like the Redskins, the Lions or the Browns have had to take more chances on players with questionable character, yet to no avail when it comes to winning. On the other hand, the Colts, Falcons and Steelers have been able to compensate for a few bad apples with the talent already on their roster, especially at the quarterback position.

The Bad Guys

NFL Rank


Team


Arrests


Regular Season Record


Win %


25


Miami Dolphins


18


45-67


0.402


26


San Diego Chargers


18


70-42


0.630


27


Minnesota Vikings


19


55-57


0.491


28


Tampa Bay Buccaneers


20


46-66


0.411


29


Jacksonville Jaguars


22


46-66


0.411


30


Denver Broncos


24


57-55


0.510


31


Tennessee Titans


24


60-52


0.540


32


Cincinnati Bengals


28


52-59-1


0.464


Surprisingly, the "bad guys" group is mostly composed of teams that have been mediocre for the past seven years. In that time span, only the San Diego Chargers have a significantly good record and they have been in a downward spiral the last few years.

What these charts show is that despite the league cracking down on law-infringing players in an attempt to repair its image, every NFL team will always be willing to take chances with troubled players, some more successfully than others. With the ever growing pressure to win today, coaches know what they most need in order to achieve that goal: talent first, character second.

Keep Reading:

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Canal Street Chronicles

You must be a member of Canal Street Chronicles to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Canal Street Chronicles. You should read them.

Join Canal Street Chronicles

You must be a member of Canal Street Chronicles to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Canal Street Chronicles. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker