Normally, I’m not one to question authority, but didn’t it seem a little suspicious when the Philadelphia district attorney decided Monday would be a good time to tell the world that he didn’t have the goods on LeSean McCoy?
Villanova played for the NCAA men’s basketball championship Monday night. The Phillies opened their season in Cincinnati in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, former Sixers superstar Allen Iverson learned that he had been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Yeah, it was a prime opportunity to bury the announcement that the Philly cops spent nine weeks determining no crime had been committed.
But it was big news – and very good news – for Bills fans and McCoy, who will not face the lengthy suspension that almost surely would have awaited him had he been charged with assault in connection with a brawl with off-duty policemen in a Philly bar on the morning of the Super Bowl.
McCoy might yet face discipline under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. While the DA’s investigation didn’t produce enough evidence to file any charges, the league will conduct its own probe and could find that McCoy’s actions in that early-morning scuffle tarnished the NFL’s shield.
At the very least, McCoy put himself in a compromising situation that night. There was cellphone video that seemed to show him throwing a punch. The Philly cops initially felt confident that McCoy would quickly be charged with assault.
McCoy is fortunate to get off this easy. It certainly helped that urban police don’t tend to get the benefit of the doubt in this country nowadays; those off-duty cops were not blameless. McCoy also had something most young males lack in these matters – the financial resources to enlist the help of high-powered lawyers to find holes in the state’s case.
This should be a humbling event for McCoy. Even his biggest supporters say he was dumb to put himself in such a volatile situation. He’s a big-time NFL star, with a lot more than his pride to lose. A running back’s physical prime is a brief one; it’s foolish to risk your health in a fight over women or a bottle of champagne.
But “Shady” strikes me as the sort of character who will laugh this one off and go on about his business, marching to the beat of his own drummer. There’s an aloof, unapologetic quality to the guy, a sense that he’s too cool for school and not subject to conventional codes of behavior.
In roughly a year’s time, Shady has accused Chip Kelly of being racist and seemed incredulous that anyone would press him on it; posted an insulting invitation to a party, asking women to sign a confidentiality agreement; stiffed the media after getting shut down in the second half in his return to Philly, and had the scuffle with the cops.
McCoy needs to start acting like a responsible adult. The Bills don’t have a lot of leaders these days. It would help if one of their highest-paid and most charismatic players acted as if football was the most important thing in his life, and like someone who values being a sports star in Buffalo, where the worst sin is acting like you’re too big for the town.
People talk about how vital he is to the Bills’ organization, but McCoy has to do a lot more on the field to justify what the Bills paid to get him last year. At five years, $40 million, he was a vanity buy for Terry Pegula at a position that’s been consistently devalued in the NFL in recent years.
Of course, jumping at McCoy was typical of the Bills, who have drafted more running backs in the first round than any other NFL team in the last 13 years. While other teams moved toward low-priced tailback committees, the Bills invested in the fading myth of the franchise running back.
McCoy is a $7.65 million cap hit this season. There are only four other running backs in the league who are slated to cost their teams more than that on the cap this season: Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch (who says he’s retired), Jonathan Stewart and Doug Martin.
You need to produce in a big way to justify that kind of money. You also need to stay healthy. McCoy missed four games last season. He was hurt during training camp. He seemed in no hurry to get back on the field at the end of the year, and the Bills won their last two games without him.
This is a critical year for McCoy and the Bills. Jobs could be on the line. McCoy needs to prove that he’s not one of those backs who head into decline in their late 20s, diminished by a heavy workload early in their careers.
McCoy needs to be a star, to silence all the skeptics who wonder if the Bills would be no worse off with second-year man Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee – who will count a combined $1.2 million against the cap this year – carrying the load at running back this season.
The fact is, if McCoy truly valued his career, if he understood that he’s entering a pivotal juncture in his career, he never would have been out in that bar early in the morning of Feb. 7.
You don’t need a grand jury to determine what McCoy (or Patrick Kane, for that matter) has been guilty of far too often as a young sports star: Poor judgment.
Crass as it sounds, fans care mainly about what he does on the field. All is forgiven if you produce. In the end, the issue isn’t whether McCoy is a good guy, but whether he still has it in him to be a great back.