Odds on NFL Criminals: Who is Ready for a Meltdown?
by Trevor Whenham - 06/27/2007
I used to hate the NFL offseason because after the draft there was no talk of the NFL in the media until training camps got underway. Now I hate the offseason because the draft is over and the NFL can't get itself out of the media. Unfortunately, it's not about player movement, new coaching schemes or something that would actually be interesting to read and hear about. It's all about which moron player got himself arrested for something stupid. It used to be that we'd hear about an arrested player once a month or so, but recently we are on a daily pace. From the bizarre like Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones, to the criminally stupid like Michael Vick to the just plain out of control like almost the entire Bengals' lineup, we can't escape hearing about these idiots. It's so bad that a story like Dolphins' defensive tackle Fred Evans, who was tasered by police in Miami after refusing to get out of a cab over the weekend, is so commonplace and almost expected that we don't even give it any notice.
When Roger Goodell became commissioner he set cracking down on ridiculous and embarrassing behavior as his biggest priority. He got tough and dished out some very strong penalties. Now, in the real world that kind of thing would lead to fewer infractions and generally better behavior, but in the bizarro world that is football, all that has happened is the pace of arrests seems to have increased. I'm sick and tired of hearing about the constant criminal parade, but I know that it isn't going to go away, so I guess the only thing left to do is to come up with a way to at least make it entertaining. Sports are more fun because we can bet on them, so this criminal problem would be more fun, or at least more bearable, if we could bet on it, too. In that spirit, here are my odds that some of the worst offenders will, literally or figuratively, end up in a gutter. I'm talking about a Maurice Clarett-style meltdown complete with time in jail and a total and absolute fall from grace.
Tank Johnson (-160) - There is no such thing as a lock, but Johnson's eventual total collapse is the closest thing to a lock that there is. Examine the evidence - the guy was busted with enough weaponry in his house to overthrow a mid-sized government. This was not long after he had been arrested once for possessing a handgun at a nightclub, and again for assaulting a cop. Two days after his arsenal was discovered, Johnson's bodyguard was shot and killed in a nightclub. It remains a mystery why a guy who is appropriately named Tank needs a bodyguard, but that's another issue.
Johnson served 45 days in jail for the gun charges, which he served at the same time as a four-month sentence for probation violation. After getting out of the slammer he met with Goodell, accepted an eight game suspension, and declared that he would be the league's citizen of the year. In Johnson's world, apparently, being citizen of the year involves getting drunk and then speeding. The Bears were unimpressed by that latest embarrassment, and they cut Johnson. Think about it - the guy is now without a team and he's been suspended for at least eight games and potentially more after the latest problems. No team means no one to be accountable to. This guy is out in the world on his own. That's a virtual guarantee of a major meltdown. It's money in the bank.
Pacman Jones (-150) - Sure, Johnson's meltdown is a near certainty, but Pacman's definitely not that far behind. I only give Johnson the favorite status by the narrowest of margins because he's shown that he can be a one-man wrecking crew, while Jones clearly works best when surrounded by a posse of people just as stupid as he is. Jones could theoretically come to his senses and ditch his friends, but Johnson's demons are stuck inside. That being said, Jones is not going to ditch his buddies, and he's inevitably going to do something irreparably stupid. The facts are clear - every time Jones leaves his house he ends up somewhere with strippers and someone ends up shot. You can only do that so many times before you end up in the hoosegow. On top of that, he's out of the league at least for a year -- likely forever -- so the cash flow is gone. The lack of money will increase the desperation and improves the chances of something dramatic happening. Come to think of it, Jones is probably a pretty big overlay at this price.
Michael Vick (+240) - Setting odds on this genius was particularly challenging. All things being equal, I don't think that his collapse is that much less likely than the other two. The problem is that he is starting from a much higher place - millions and millions of dollars in the bank and an established place as an elite player - that he has so much further to fall. Still, I like his chances. It's not just that his denials of involvement in dog fighting are as believable as Barry Bonds' claims that he thought it was flax seed oil. The fact that he has pulled out of every public appearance since his problems arose, and he has failed to make a sincere or believable denial, makes me believe that there really is something to the story, and that it is destined to end badly. The most compelling reason to believe that Vick is heading for a hard fall is who he has been involved in these problems with. His cousins were allegedly the brawn behind the dog debacle. It's not directly related but entirely relevant that Vick's brother is a total moron too. My point is that Vick is being drawn down by genetics. You can ditch your friends, but you can't ditch your family. Vick could probably manage to pull himself down by himself, but with the help of blood it's a much surer thing. On top of it all, it seems very likely that this investigation will lead to an eventual suspension from Goodell, and Falcons' owner Arthur Blank doesn't seem like the kind of guy who will have patience with that kind of thing. As inconceivable as it seems, Vick could easily find himself booted from the Falcons, and that embarrassment could hasten his descent into the gutter.