One week ago today, Marcell Dareus stood there on the first day of the Bills’ voluntary minicamp and announced that he was on the straight and narrow. Little did we know he was talking about a drag strip.
You can’t make this stuff up. Five months after being benched twice for tardiness; one month after being charged with two felony drug counts in Alabama; two days after insisting his troubles were behind him, Dareus was arrested again after crashing his car while drag racing Friday.
My first inclination was to resubmit last Thursday’s column, which said Dareus was beyond the “wake-up call” stage and needed to grow up if he expected to get a long-term contract from the Bills.
That was a love tap, a bouquet of roses. Fool me twice, shame on me? What’s the operative saying when someone fools you four times? I’m out of patience with Dareus. To borrow the immortal words of Gregg Williams, it’s time to offer the defensive tackle a box lunch and a road map.
The Bills should have cut Dareus on Saturday and been done with him. Marrone said at the draft that he believes in second chances. How many does this make? Five? Dareus is an embarrassment to his head coach, and an insult to the memory of Ralph Wilson.
Last Friday, Doug Marrone dismissed the team from the opening week of minicamp around 12:30 p.m. He told them to enjoy their weekend, and to stay out of trouble. According to Hamburg police, Dareus crashed his car into a tree on Milestrip Road and left the scene less than three hours later.
Sources told The Buffalo News that Dareus was drag racing with defensive lineman Jerry Hughes. I don’t know what’s more astonishing: That Dareus would be so dumb in the midst of his current troubles, or that Hughes, a teammate, would contribute to the outrage.
Dareus could have been seriously hurt or wound up dead in a ball of fire, like the man who plunged onto the Kensington Expressway after drag racing. The crash occurred around the time children are walking home from school. This could have been a public disaster for the Bills organization.
The Bills have no intention of releasing Dareus, of course. They need him to help win games in a critical year. They drafted him third overall in 2011, making him their highest pick since Bruce Smith. His contract for the coming season is guaranteed for a little over $3 million.
Marrone met the media Tuesday and reaffirmed his belief in his star, making sure to point out that Dareus is “working on a lot of personal issues.” The head coach said he’s determined to become more personally involved with Dareus and get him back on the right track.
Gee, you’d think that would have been the case when Dareus was late for a meeting last December, ONE DAY after Marrone suspended him for the first quarter of the Miami game. Or after he sat him for a half in the finale at New England. Or after Dareus was charged with the two felonies.
Once again, Dareus is being painted as a victim, a wayward soul in need of salvation. Marrone emphasized Dareus’ personal issues, mining for sympathy and planting the notion that the guy has more complicated demons than the most obvious one – stupidity.
People in the organization tell you Dareus isn’t a bad kid, that he came from difficult circumstances in Alabama and doesn’t have the nasty character of Marshawn Lynch. The prisons are full of that sort of men.
At some point, when you’ve led the privileged, pampered life of a pro athlete, you need to accept responsibility. If Dareus was an average NFL player, he’d be gone by now. There’s a double standard for a player perceived as vital to a team’s chances – especially in a year when they’re desperate to contend and jobs are at stake.
Dareus is almost certain to receive a suspension from the NFL under its personal conduct policy. He’ll hurt his team’s chances in a crucial year for the organization, at a time when potential owners are taking a critical look at a team that’s going to cost them more than $1 billion.
We keep hearing about Dareus’ “poor decisions.” Deciding what to eat for dinner, or what to watch on TV, is a decision. We’re talking about negligence and criminal behavior here.
It’s not the behavior of a young man who cares about his team or living up to his potential. The Bills picked up Dareus’ option for 2015 before his arrest in Alabama. They would be considering a long-term extension (in the $40 million to $50 million range) under normal circumstances. They would be foolish to give him that kind of deal now.
The myth is that Dareus is a great player. He’s a good player, a rare athlete. But he’s been erratic and unreliable, a finesse guy who hasn’t been consistently good against the run. He’s been a defensive tackle for the worst three-year stretch of run defense in franchise history. He’s played on three 6-10 teams in three years, so spare me the talk about great.
And please, stop referring to him as a Pro Bowler. Dareus was added to the roster when someone dropped off, which is how many Bills got there in the last 14 years. It’s no great achievement to make it because a lot of NFL players don’t give a damn about the game.
So what if he’s a great athlete? The NFL is full of great athletes. You can find gifted athletes in the street, or in Canada or the indoor leagues, guys who would die for Dareus’ talent, hungry players who would wake up 12 hours early and run a mile to play one down in the league.
If Dareus can’t be bothered to get up on time, or stay out of trouble for two days, why would anyone assume he’s in the weight room, that he’s taking care of that God-given body and doing all the things you need to do to become great in a harsh, unforgiving sport?
Dareus will give you the big play now and then. He gets his sacks. But he’s soft as a player and a person. I feel the same way I did about Stevie Johnson after his multiple episodes. He’s not accountable enough to realize his talent. He’s not worth the trouble.
He has put Marrone in a difficult position. The new coach talks about accountability. But it does nothing for his credibility when Dareus continues to embarrass him and gets coddled. After awhile, all the tough guy talk begins to ring hollow.
We’re always being reminded that the NFL is a business. There’s no way the Bills can justify giving this guy a monster contract extension. Maybe Dareus isn’t a bad guy, but he’s bad business. The sooner they realize that, the better.