How to tell if you’re an idiot: NFL free agency edition

I’ve always really enjoyed judging the character of people from afar.  Sure, that’s a pretty cynical, borderline sociopathic thing to say, but it’s a theory that makes sense.  I mean, we are really kind of wont to judge a book by its cover.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand someone might be having a bad day and might potentially be demonstrating a particularity negative portrayal of themselves in a false light.  Yeah, being a jerk at the bank isn’t a good look for anyone, but sometimes you catch someone at the end of their rope when they can’t contain extreme emotion anymore.  But, I’ve usually found you can reasonably ascertain someone’s character through mild observation, so for the sake of argument I’m going to discuss this topic at length.

People often perform rituals that, for better to worse, make them look like morons.  And by rituals, I mean ritualistically torching a professional athlete’s jersey because they leave your favorite team.

In some countries (mostly America) people (mostly Americans) have taking to burning (mostly American) flags to express their displeasure with a particular regime, government entity, or for patriotic kindling.  But it’s usually a source of disdain.  Some folks have taken this ritual a step further by making it applicable to professional athletes.  And since lighting a person on fire is a felony in most jurisdictions, the public has adopted jersey burning as their preferred form of protest.

Torching jerseys seemed to really hit the mainstream when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat back in 2010.  After King James selfishly and maliciously left the warm, paradise of Cleveland for the desolate Hell on earth that is Miami, Fla., many of the townspeople took to the street to nonverbally tell the King how they felt: “Traitor!”, people yelled as they doused replica LeBron jerseys in lighter fluid and then burned them to a crisp.  All because this selfish, arrogant athlete decided to seek a brighter future for himself and his family.  How dare he leave a city so filthy the river has repeated CAUGHT FIRE, an occurrence that spits in the face of both thermodynamics and environmentally callous regulations.

Anyway, those fences seemed to mend after the Cleveland public sheepishly welcomed James back to the city while the team’s owner Dan Gilbert, in a legendary display of literally throwing away his dignity begged LeBron to return to his horrible city.

But, LeBron James is the most popular athlete on the planet.  Of course watching him leave will incite some folks.  Well, what about when one of the NFL’s best running backs leaves his team?  Well, good thing you are about to read the next paragraph.

The answer to the aforementioned rhetorical question is this: they absolutely flip out.  DeMarco Murray won me my fantasy league last year, but more importantly, he led the league in rushing yards and broke the Dallas Cowboys single season rushing record, which is a remarkable fact considering Emmitt Smith used to hang out in Dallas.  In fact, Murray was so dominantly awesome the league went ahead an awarded him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year, another tremendous honor considering that’s an award usually reserved for quarterbacks.  To further illustrate the significance of Murray winning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, six running backs have won the award since 2002.  Three of them needed to set single season touchdown records in the process and the other three eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark; so yeah, it’s a hard award to win.  So you have a 27-year old running back who just won the NFL OPOY award and even though he’s had some injury issues, he looked great last season and the year before, is running behind the best offensive line in football, and has the luxury of a prolific passing attack to take some pressure off his legs.  What do you do?

If you said, “allow him to enter free agency and allow him to sign with a rival team within your division”, then congratulations, and thank you Jerry Jones for actually taking the time to read my site.  Big fan.

Dallas, a team with pretty much every opportunity to re-sign Murray said, “nah” instead handing a chunk of money to Doug Free, an offensive tackle who allowed roughly as many sacks as an anemic first grader would have last season.  Of course, it’s the NFL, so running backs have a shorter shelf life than most players.

That ebony Adonis is DeMarco Murray; 220 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal that can run a 4.4 second 40 and crush defenders into dust.

Chip Kelly (whose idiocy I will address some other time) decided he (rightfully) liked Murray and convinced the Eagles to offer Murray a five-year $40 million deal.  Murray’s teammate Sam Bradford is making $13 million next season and hasn’t played an entire football game since the regional quarterfinals of his seventh grade year.

Okay, so I’ve gone on a pretty sizable tangent here.  Let’s make this situation applicable to jersey burning: it’s because Dallas fans torched their Murray jerseys after he signed with the Eagles.  And they have every right to voice their displeasure; how DARE Murray leave Dallas for an inter-divisional rival.  He’s a traitor, he’s only interested in money, and he’s a sell out.

Facts worth considering:  Murray was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft.  This means his rookie deal was worth just under $3 million over four years, and only about $600,000 of that was guaranteed via a signing bonus.  Murray played well in his rookie year, but got injured and missed the remainder of the 2011 season, the effects of which plagued his 2012 season.  Murray was injured for two games in 2013, but if you combine his numbers in 2013 and 2014 he rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns, both numbers placing him among the elite players in the league.  In essence, he vastly outplayed the roughly $600,000 he was making per season.  For comparisons sake the league’s highest paid running back Adrian Peterson makes nearly $12 million a season and missed 15 games last year and the runner-up for the OPOY award is a quarterback whose paycheck is worth nearly $20 million a season.  So yeah, Murray is a bit of a bargain.

More facts: Running backs typically decline after age 30.  Like significantly.  I play fantasy football and three years ago Maurice Jones-Drew was the third overall pick.  He retired about a week ago.  As you can see, things change quickly.  Murray is 27-years old, and well aware that his window is closing.  This is the first time Murray will be able to cash in on a contract.  He will go from collecting as much money as his backup to one of the league’s highest paid running backs.  And even then, the $8 million per year he’s making is still a pretty amazing bargain considering the level of production.  Andy Dalton makes almost twice as much money as Murray.  Andy.  Dalton.  This fact should infuriate you.

What’s that?  Fact?  Yup:  Murray didn’t hold the Cowboys hostage.  He gave them every opportunity to negotiate a contract.  Apparently, the Cowboys lowballed Murray in a Dan Gilbert-esque display of cowardice, leading the NFL’s leading rusher to take offense.  Even then, even after basically being told, “we like you, but don’t like like you”, Murray STILL allowed the Cowboys to make a final offer and match the Eagles.  Again, they said “nah.”

So, to recap, we have a 27-year old running back coming off one of the most prolific rushing performances in league history cashing in on a deal (probably the only big contract he will ever receive) with another team who apparently values his abilities, and fans of the team he departed, (you know, the team who lowballed him in the first place) are taking offense to his decision.

Listen, I understand sports are a source of passion for people, especially football, and especially in Texas where watching football is a close second to either shooting Mexicans on-sight or just being bored for “Favorite Activity”, but come on, use some common sense.  I currently work in a restaurant and want to leave, but I don’t think the customers will be burning my shirts after I take a more lucrative, higher paying job and calling me a “traitor” or “sellout”.  Demarco Murray plays arguably the most physically demanding position in football, a position which sees retired players like Tony Dorsett unable to eat soup because the league ignored his hundreds of concussions and has a retirement plan that is only slightly better than al-Qaeda’s “72 Virgins” and “Why is this vest ticking?” sales pitches.

As much as people knock athletes for “being all about the money”, isn’t that sort of a hypercritical notion?  Isn’t that kind of the point of having a job?  Sure, helping people and self-fulfillment are noble achievements, but at the end of the day isn’t the reason for employment getting a hot meal, providing for your family and taking awesome, exotic jet-ski vacations?  Yeah, athletes make a lot of money, but considering the revenue their sports bring in and the physical toll things take on their body, maybe it’s okay if they collect an extra couple million.  If you still aren’t convinced, I encourage you to Google “CTE” and research the lives of some ex-NFL players and tell me those guys don’t at least deserve a decent severance package.

If you are the type of person to burn the jersey of a professional athlete because he bailed on your team, maybe take a step back and realize maybe it’s because you, your city, and your team’s ownership kind of suck.

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