The Dallas Cowboys organization has stood behind Josh Brent since the car crash that took the life of practice squad player Jerry Brown Jr. Now that Brent has been found guilty of intoxication manslaughter, they might want to rethink their stance.
At one point it seemed plausible that Brent could return to the Cowboys’ fold after letting the legal system run its course. But the facts that were revealed during Brent’s trial should make that possibility remote.
Brent received a fairly light sentence: 180 days in jail and 10 years probation. He could conceivably be released from jail in time to join training camp, pending whatever discipline the NFL hands down.
Plus-sized interior defensive linemen who can actually play are highly prized at every level of football. The Cowboys, in particular, are thin at defensive tackle and will be even moreso if Jason Hatcher isn’t resigned.
However, hearing the details of Brent’s actions the night of the crash, and the fact he had a previous DUI conviction, has made it harder to envision Brent wearing a star on his helmet again. As much as the Cowboys are worshipped in North Texas, it’s the kind of PR hit even they should avoid.
Sure, fans only cheer for laundry. However, the national headquarters for Mothers Against Drunk Driving is in Irving, Texas, the same city where the Cowboys used to play and still practice. There will be a backlash if Brent returns to Valley Ranch.
Early on in the timeline of this tragedy, Brent could be painted as a sympathetic figure. Anyone who drinks has probably gotten behind the wheel when they shouldn’t have. The "everyone makes mistakes" argument could be pleaded.
Except this was Brent’s second "mistake." He was also busted for DUI in 2009, just three years before the December 2012 crash that killed Brown.
Brent also had Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, offering him public support and forgiveness. The strength shown by Brown’s mother no doubt played a key role in Brent avoiding a prison sentence.
But in the court of public opinion, there was outrage that Brent avoided going to prison. Statistics show that he was lucky to avoid doing hard time for intoxication manslaughter.
It’s one thing for Cowboys players, individually, to support Brent as a person. Linebacker Sean Lee showed up in court during jury deliberations to show his support.
It was Cowboys players who encouraged Brent to join them on the sidelines less than two weeks after the crash. Recall that Brent eventually left the sidelines when his presence began to draw unwanted attention.
And that was before we knew that Brent’s blood alcohol was 0.18 at the time of the crash, the equivalent of consuming 17 standard drinks.
That was before we learned that Brent was driving without a license and insurance. His Illinois license was suspended after his previous DUI. To get it reinstated would have required him to have an ignition interlock on his car.
The trial also showed how Brent acted after the crash. While his friend lay dying, Brent just wanted the cops to let him go home. Then he repeatedly argued and complained about having his blood drawn, never showing concern for Brown until he was told his friend had died.
The portrait painted of Brent during the heavily-covered trial is of a person with no regard for the law or anyone else. As an NFL player, he had multiple options to avoid drinking and driving. The fact he already had a DUI on his record should have made him especially wary.
All of these facts might be easier for the public to digest if it had any sense of what Josh Brent is really like. Is he a likeable person? Little-known defensive linemen â Brent started just five games in three seasons â don’t get interviewed much. Brent has been publicly silent since the crash.
Once Brent has served his time, there’s little doubt he will attempt to resume his NFL career. It’s probably not the best thing for him to do that in the fishbowl of Dallas. The Cowboys’ huge media following is topped only by the White House press corps.
Even accounting for a certain percentage of blindly loyal fans, it will be a hard sell for the Cowboys to bring back Josh Brent now. Support for Brent the teammate, the person, is one thing. Future employment as a player is another.