It’s obvious that Vincent Jackson has it all over Forrest Gump when it comes to intelligence. By all accounts, the San Diego Chargers wide receiver is a smart guy. In fact, it is said that he is a really smart guy.
But smarts will only get you so far when stupid decisions become your calling card.
Chargers general manager A.J. Smith is being raked over the coals for sending a message to Jackson and his agents Wednesday that he has a price for dealing Jackson, and if other teams refuse to meet it, so be it.
Some have derisively referred to Smith as “The Lord of No Rings” because his team has yet to win a Super Bowl. As if Smith cares what others say.
It’s highly ironic that on the opposite coast this week, the Jets were blasted by many for going easy on wide receiver Braylon Edwards for his stupidity by allowing him to play in Sunday’s game against Miami. Yet, Smith is criticized for standing up to a knucklehead and his enabling agents by refusing to give them what they want.
Then there are those here in St. Louis, where some fans and media can’t figure out why the Rams wouldn’t give up the farm in draft choices and money to a player that is under suspension by the league for multiple DUIs.
Sure, Jackson is a great talent. But didn’t we learn our lessons after bringing in the Claude Wrotens of the world? It’s not only money and draft picks that can be lost. It’s not having the player when you need him.
What’s wrong with this picture?
If Smith is “The Lord of No Rings,” then Jackson and Edwards are “The Lords of No Brains.”
Edwards was with fellow receiver Donte’ Stallworth on that fateful March night in 2009 when thousands of dollars in bar bills were rung up in a night of partying. Stallworth drove home in the wee hours, but then got in his car at about 7 a.m. because he was hungry. He ended up killing a man, and was suspended by the NFL for the ’09 season.
Obviously, Edwards didn’t learn much from his friend’s tragic decision. Because there was Edwards driving drunk at about 5 a.m. last Tuesday morning, with two teammates (tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and defensive end Vernon Gholston) as well as two other people in his car.
This, of course, is the same Edwards that is on probation for an incident in Cleveland in Oct. 2009 that cost him a 2010 game check, and who once was nailed for driving 120 m.p.h. In their infinite wisdom, the Jets traded for Edwards two days after that early morning in Cleveland when he punched out a 130-pound friend of LeBron James.
As for Jackson, he has such a feeling of entitlement that he hasn’t been able to figure out since the end of last season why the Chargers have refused to award him with a long-term contract. We’ll never know what would have happened had the salary cap not gone away this year and Jackson had become an unrestricted free agent.
But he didn’t, and the Chargers retained their rights with a restricted free-agent tender of $3.268 million. That was lowered to $583,000 when he hadn’t signed the tender by June 15. The Chargers made the original tender even after Jackson pleaded guilty in February to a DUI charge from Jan. 2009, his second since joining the Chargers in 2005. He was on probation for that one when the second one occurred at 2:30 in the morning, a few days before the Chargers’ playoff game against the Steelers.
He was placed on five years’ probation, and was sentenced to 15 days of community service along with having to pick up roadside trash for four days.
When he was arrested, Jackson believed no charges would be filed, and added, "In the event they are, I look forward to clearing my name and proving my innocence."
He sure did that. The case was delayed as Jackson’s attorney attempted to have the blood-alcohol evidence thrown out. Guess that’s how you try to prove your innocence by trying to get rid of the evidence. How about accepting responsibility? At least Stallworth did that, even when there was evidence of contributory negligence by the man that walked out into the middle of the road.
During the 2009 season, Jackson’s attorney, Cole Casey, said, "I'm just going to continue it until after the season is over. Then we'll decide from a legal standpoint what to do from there."
When he finally pleaded guilty, Casey said, “Vince just wants to get ready to play football this season, and he doesn’t want to have a lot of this legal stuff hanging over his head.”
Of course, it was OK for it to be hanging over his head for 13 months while they tried to wish it away.
But wait, there’s more. Because of his DUIs, Jackson’s driver’s license was also revoked. Of course, that didn’t matter to him. He drove anyway. And, on the way to the Chargers’ playoff game last January against the Jets, he made another wise choice and decided to bring even more attention to himself by blasting music. Police were drawn to his car, noticed the expired tags and Jackson was detained. Quarterback Philip Rivers ended up picking him up and taking him to the game.
In April, there was another guilty plea for that incident, for which he owed another 80 hours of community service.
It could be said that one time is an aberration. Two times is a coincidence. But three times is a trend.
Yet, he and his agents can’t figure out why he wasn’t traded. Sure, part of it was the compensation demands that Smith made. Still, it wasn’t like a bevy of teams were lined up at his door. Who knows if it would have mattered, but it also didn’t help that Edwards’ arrest became public knowledge the day before Wednesday’s deadline. ESPN’s John Clayton reported that ownership in St. Louis and Seattle ordered that discussions about a potential trade stop when the news traveled about Edwards.
Anyone knows that one more slip by Jackson will likely result in a one-year suspension. Teams had to decide whether Jackson’s talent was worth the risk. The answer was obvious.
Still, there was Jackson texting Jason La Canfora of NFL Network and saying, “I just want to play football. It feels unethical.”
If he just wanted to play football, he would have signed his tender months ago amid all his legal trouble and showed he is capable of being a good citizen.
As for being “unethical,” that’s laughable coming from the mouth of Vincent Jackson.
Seems like Forrest Gump sure had it right.
Howard Balzer is the Editor/writer for GridIronGateway Magazine. For subscription information visit GridIronGateway.com (reduced online rate of $39.95) or call 888-501-5752. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/HBalzer721