If a Massachusetts district attorney is to be believed, Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots gave one of the dumbest, most despicable people on the planet a $40 million contract.
No wonder Robert Kraft is embarrassed. No wonder the Patriots panicked, cutting Aaron Hernandez before he was formally charged with a crime, removing him from the team’s website and blocking the star tight end’s Twitter feed.
Wednesday morning, Aaron Hernandez wore a poker face as police escorted him to a cruiser and as he was arraigned for murder and five gun charges. It was the New England Patriots who wore their guilt on a sleeve. Based on their reaction, Kraft and Belichick looked like the disgraced and petrified New Englanders who were no longer getting away with murder.
Three years ago, they stole an undersized, questionable-character tight end in the fourth round. Hernandez was quite a bargain. He delivered 175 receptions, 18 touchdowns, and, at the age of 23, commanded a superstar salary commitment.
NFL teams don’t wash their hands of great players easily. The Baltimore Ravens stood by Ray Lewis when he was charged with murder and eventually pled guilty to obstruction of justice. OK, Lewis is one of the greatest players in NFL history. Hernandez isn’t on Ray’s level.
But the Patriots’ quick surrender is enlightening. This is professional football. Jerry Jones has employed a team of babysitters to keep Dez Bryant out of trouble. Josh Brent was on the Cowboys’ sideline shortly after his drunken driving killed a teammate. The Kansas City Chiefs honored Jovan Belcher by hanging his jersey in his undisturbed locker 36 hours after Belcher murdered his girlfriend/baby’s mama and killed himself in front of the team’s general manager, head coach and defensive coordinator.
Football has a high threshold for tolerating and rationalizing depravity and violence.
From my vantage point, it appears Kraft and Belichick are not all that surprised Massachusetts police say they discovered damning and plentiful evidence of Hernandez’s stupidity and despicableness. If the Patriots were shocked by the allegations leveled against Hernandez, they wouldn’t be so embarrassed, they wouldn’t be so dramatically quick to scrub the organization of all traces of Aaron Hernandez.
We need a Benghazi-style investigation into Hernandez’s personnel file. I’d love to know what the team’s security staff unearthed about Hernandez during his three-year stint in New England. The club’s swift reaction on Wednesday suggests to me that at least a few people in the organization knew Hernandez was an imbecile capable of involving himself with dangerous people and dangerous situations.
Belichick has some explaining to do. According to police investigators, Belichick gave an absolute moron $10.5 million in guaranteed cash. And now comes a report Hernandez is a suspect in a double murder that took place in July 2012, before he received his signing bonus and rich contract.
Seriously. I’m not trying to be funny. The police have described a crime that reveals a special level of stupid. According to the district attorney, Hernandez rented a car in his own name, returned it with a spent shell casing and bubble gum, was captured on surveillance tape leaving and re-entering his home with the possible murder weapon, hired maids to clean his house of incriminating evidence, texted his hoodlum friends to come down to Massachusetts and killed a man because he spoke to the wrong people at a nightclub two days earlier.
Now, I’m not buying the police story. At least not all of it. There’s got to be a stronger motive. In my opinion, drugs have to be involved in this story some way. And I need to know what role Hernandez’s two alleged accomplices played in this tragedy.
But there’s little doubt Hernandez is one of the dumbest people on the planet. When any organization gives you a $40 million contract and you have an 8-month-old baby and a fiancee living at your mini-mansion, there’s no justification for riding around at 3 a.m. in a rented Altima with two homies from another state and a 27-year-old semi-pro football player.
Like a lot of athletes, it sounds like Hernandez had the game all f—ed up. He wasn’t satisfied being a celebrity, millionaire athlete. He wasn’t satisfied staying in the athlete lane. Hernandez wanted street cred. He decorated himself in prison tatts and kept a close alliance with his boyz from the ‘hood. Good for him. If the allegations are true, his transition to gen-pop will be seamless.
What about Belichick’s transition? We’ve been hailing him as a genius for a decade, crediting him for winning the Patriots Way, with the right kind of high-character players. He hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 2004. He’s getting a little desperate and sloppy.
The Patriots responded Wednesday like an organization that knew 10 months ago Aaron Hernandez was the wrong guy to give $40 million.