Of pillars and paucity, part 1 of 2

  In the last month, the one storyline that has consistently had this community buzzing is "Should we sign 'x'?" In the last month, we've seen a story on Plaxico Burress (by VanRam), one on Brandon Marshall (by DekaJ), and five (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) on Michael Vick. Bryan Burwell, of Post-Dispatch fame, even joined in Wednesday with this piece, suggesting the pillars should be made more of dough and less of concrete.

  While I can understand the uncomfortability many of us feel with the roster and the depth chart as it exists, this seems motivated more out of desperation than acumen.  It seems we have gotten to the point where some of us are willing to sacrifice what integrity this team has for the potential on-field accomplishments of one of these three.  So while I have stayed largely silent throughout these debates, I feel it is time to opine.

  Adding any of these three would wreck everything this team has built in the last five months, and while that may not seem very long, I believe the next 6 years of this franchise are already in place.  Adding Burress, Marshall or Vick would put us on the road to ruin, and I'll offer why I think so after the fold.

You have to look at the entire equation: At what point do the negatives outweigh the positives? - Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Sport in Society

    For those of you who may not be familiar with the "four pillars" of Spagnuolo's approach to heading up the Rams, he laid them out during his first press conference: faith, character, core values and team first.  While I may disagree with the wording (I don't think it's fair to ask people to express faith, if it is in a religious sense, despite my piety.  And what core values?), the essence is simple: no primadonna knuckleheads allowed.  This team is going to be built around adults who can push their egos aside to commit to one another in the pursuit of a singular goal: the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  I think that's something we can all agree on.

  What Burwell touched on in his piece Wednesday is something I agree with: you have to be flexible in building a depth chart to include a variety of characters.  We can't put together a team of bible thumpers, nor a team of good fathers.  We need all kinds of personalities and talents on this team that Coach Spags can mold together into a single force that is capable of succeeding against any team in the NFL.  I'm in total accord with Burwell on this, but not as it applies to Vick, Burress or Marshall.

  Each of these three has a history of misconduct.  They are not "good guys who messed up."  These are adults who habitually engage in behavior that does not comply either with American law, or the common conduct one would expect of a man.

  Michael Vick had his own history.  Of course, it all starts with the company you keep.  In 2004, two of Vick's homeboys were arrested for trafficking marijuana.... in Vick's car.  (That link details some of Vick's accomplices that were with him from day 1 all the way up to the federal RICO case) There was Watchgate, an episode that saw Vick's friend, Quanis Philips (who would later be involved in the dogfighting escapade), steal a security guard's watch at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  There were the misadventures of Ron Mexico, a name Vick allegedly used in seeking medical treatment for herpes after (again, allegedly) knowingly passing it on to a "lady friend."  Of course there were the dogs.  Most importantly to me, was that even in the midst of the publicity surrounding his case, Vick still failed a drug test.  This was not a mistake; this was a pattern.

  Plaxico Burress had a string of incidents himself before his most notable incident.  Twice in late 2008, Burress' wife called the cops to break up a domestic disturbance; after both times, a temporary restraining order was issued.  Of course, the most memorable of his "slip-ups" was the "Ouch, I think I shot myself" story from December last year.  There's a couple details I think that are notable from that.  One, Burress took an unregistered Glock into a club.  In fact, Burress had never even applied for a license in New York.  Two, when the cops searched his house, they found a second pistol and a rifle.  He is yet to produce any paperwork that would suggest he owned the firearms legally.  A month after his self-shooting, Burress was in court for a "mix-up" in 2006; a car dealership gave Burress a Chevrolet Avalanche to drive around town and use to attend promotional events for the dealership.  Shockingly, Burress never showed up at any of the events.  The dealership was soon contacted not by Burress, but by the New York Police Department who had just impounded the 'Lanche.  Upon retrieving the vehicle, there was noticeable structural damage that Burress claimed "was only partially his fault."  Of course, there was the car crash Plaxico was involved in just two weeks after shooting himself; Burress was driving without valid insurance at the time.  This isn't an error in judgment, or a night of carelessness.  This is behavior.

  Brandon Marshall similarly has quite a track record.  Because he has such a track record, I would rather summarize with numbered links instead of spelling them out, so here we go.  #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10. Suffice to say, Brandon Marshall is just as dependable off the field than on it, although where you can depend on him to succeed on the field, you can depend on him to get in trouble off of it.

  So what if they have a past?  Don't these guys deserve a second chance?  Sure they do.  But they've already had it.  And third chances.  And in Brandon Marshall's case, someone soon will be giving him his 11th chance.  Sure, it's a bit harsh to suggest that someone who had a domestic disupte is being "given a second chance" when he returns to the field, but this is more.  We're talking about players who have strings of problems, patterns of behavior that explicity demonstrate that their personalities create problems.

  If we are to put any stock into what Coach Spagnuolo is preaching, then we can't even consider these three.  It's one thing to give someone a second chance (which I'll address in part two), it's another to allow them to string you along as they destroy their lives and your franchise.  For all our failures on the field, we've remained a well-behaved team.  Even though we have suffered from a paucity of talent, we shouldn't make ourselves suffer from a paucity of principle.

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