Last week, the Miami Dolphins released Chad Johnson, after the superstar wide receiver was arrested for domestic battery.
Is there a more polarizing figure in the National Football League than the once-named "Chad Ochocinco"? And were the Dolphins correct in letting him go?
Here's our take, from deep in the heart of Dolphins Country.
Was Chad Johnson good for the Dolphins?
Chad Barr: What team wouldn't want a savvy veteran receiver?
With Miami, Johnson brought discipline and experience to a faceless Dolphins roster which still desperately needs leadership. He brings a positive, unique energy to every locker room, while challenging younger players to compete at a higher level.
On the field, he is still a force. Sure, he came off of a very poor receiving year with the Pats, but didn't New England play in the Super Bowl? Even if he is not the focus of an offense, his presence still demands attention from defenders on every play.
Ted Curtis: On the field, Johnson's glory days are well behind him. At the peak of his career, Johnson was a first-rate receiver, averaging more than 90 catches per season with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2003-2007. The last two years, his numbers have dropped precipitously. There is nothing wrong with admitting that he is in the winter of a very good career. But he was hardly the game-changer that the Dolphins so desperately crave.
Off the field? To be fair, he had been clean with the law until his recent arrest. But was he always an asset to his team -- or was he a distraction? Dancing With the Stars...The List...The autobiography...the absolutely dreadful VH-1 reality dating show... Is this really a player you want to be the face of your team?
Is star power so important?
CB: Chad Johnson has a Hall of Fame personality that has not been seen since the likes of Deon Sanders. Even my wife, who hates football, likes Ochocinco. He has more than 3.6 million Twitter followers and more than 2.1 million Facebook fans. He is a star in a city that loves its stars. Sports are entertainment, and Chad Johnson is an entertainer.
Imagine how many jerseys the Miami native could have sold, or how many fans would have come out just to watch him? Brand new coach Joe Philibin - who has about as much charisma as a pet rock -- needs to remember that the last time Miami fans witnessed a Super Bowl, we were hosting the game, not playing in it. Miami needed Chad Johnson.
TC: Every team must decide for itself how to balance individual star power with on-field talent. The glitz and glamour that Johnson might have brought the Dolphins was not what Miami -- or any struggling team for that matter -- truly needs.
Right now, the Dolphins need great football players, not players who will sell tickets or jerseys solely on name recognition. Miami has missed the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons. Now, they need victories. And make no mistake: If the team wins, the fans will come to Sun Life Stadium, the merchandise will fly off the rack at every Sports Authority in town and the team will succeed.
Was his punishment too severe?
CB: Did Chad Johnson head butt his wife? Or did her own attempt at a head-butt backfire? At this point no one knows as the truth has yet to surface in court. But we do know that the entire Dolphins organization overreacted, far too quickly. Teams have famously held onto players through criminal allegations: Ray Lewis was accused of murder and he now is the defensive face of the Baltimore Ravens; Ben Roethlisberger was accused of rape and now continues to quarterback the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the Dolphins released Chad Johnson, just on accusations.
Johnson's release also has had repercussions on his endorsements: Coconut-water Zico dropped their sponsorship agreement with Johnson. What will become of his other potential off-the-field pursuits?
Not only was this punishment too severe, but it was very poorly executed -- all on camera for HBO's Hard Knocks. Coach Joe Philbin's statement that Johnson was not a "good fit" for the Dolphins was shamefully delivered. Perhaps Coach Joe didn't appreciate Chad's star power, was intimidated by his presence on the team or just wants a team of average Joes. Thanks Coach Joe, for running our star hometown hero out of town. Have fun coaching your generic team in an empty Sun Life stadium. I'll be watching the Ravens.
TC: Ever take the time to read the Standard Player Contract that is signed by every NFL player? It's available for all to see: Find the nine-page document starting on page 256 of the league's collective bargaining agreement: https://images.nflplayers.com/mediaResources/files/PDFs/General/2011_Final_CBA.pdf
Paragraph 11 of the contract states: "If Player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, then Club may terminate this contract." Simple. Keep out of trouble or the team can fire you. Every player knows it, every player understands it. Why anyone has a problem with the Miami Dolphins exercising their rights under the contract is beyond me.
Now perhaps the only question remaining for Chad Johnson is this: What happens next?
Follow Prof. Ted Curtis and Dr. Chad Barr on Twitter at @LynnUSportsMgmt and on Facebook at LynnSportsManagement.
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