The New York Giants have enough to worry about in 2017 without acquiring an off-the-field distraction such as running back Joe Mixon.
In some alternate universe, the New York Giants spending any draft pick, let alone a first-round selection, on a talent such as Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon makes all kinds of sense. As Matt Lombardo of NJ.com explained in late March, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. lists Mixon as the best back of the 2017 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, the Giants were responsible for one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL last season. Mixon seems to be a perfect fit for Big Blue on paper or in a video game simulation.
In the real world where real consumer emotions and reputations of team executives and of an organization matter beyond wins and losses, the matter is much more complicated. Odds are you have heard about the 2014 incident in which a video camera recorded Mixon punching a female student during an alleged altercation. That footage is disgusting and difficult to watch.
Whether or not you believe Mixon deserves to play a down of NFL football is your opinion. Some likely think Mixon should be banned from the NFL forever, others would probably like to see Mixon serve a suspension before featuring for a team and some may not care either way.
Each franchise has a difficult decision to make regarding its handling of Mixon’s status. The team that selects him—and it seems inevitable one will acquire his rights during the upcoming draft—will face scrutiny from beat reporters, national writers, local fans and observers. There will be calls for boycotts and protests before and maybe even during games.
The Giants don’t need such distractions or unfavorable headlines at any point in the foreseeable future. It was only last fall, after all, when the club mishandled the alleged domestic violence incidents involving kicker Josh Brown about as poorly as one could have imagined. The team eventually released a statement via its official website claiming responsibility for “misguided” actions after cutting ties with Brown, but the damage was already done well before that announcement went public.
This past February, ESPN’s Jordan Raanan took to Twitter to claim he believed there was “no chance” the Giants would draft Mixon, “especially not after Josh Brown.” Draft stocks of to-be rookies change over time, however, and that tweet is from nearly two months ago. Anybody with the power of Google can see it appears Mixon’s days of supposedly being “undraftable” are a thing of the past.
The Giants need to sit this one out, however. That’s the team’s final punishment for the bizarre Brown saga. Mixon may go on to have a tremendous career. He may prove to be the best overall offensive player of this draft class, a once-in-a-generation talent who helps a team win a Super Bowl title and who earns multiple personal awards. The Giants don’t have the luxury of taking a flier on him, and anybody within the organization who believes differently should think back to last October and remember all that occurred.
It’s a safe bet quarterback Eli Manning has zero interest taking questions from reporters about his personal thoughts on Mixon being a teammate or in the NFL. Certain unnamed media members have probably come close to suffering muscle pulls stretching to create negative narratives about wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. over the past couple of years. However, one wouldn’t have to put in much work to make Mixon the biggest story hovering over the Giants between now and next January if the team drafted him.
Manning isn’t getting any younger, and his window to win a third Super Bowl championship before he rides off into the sunset closes a little more each year. The Giants already possess a roster capable of making a playoff run later this year, but whatever Mixon would offer to the New York offense isn’t worth what drafting him would mean for the team in 2017 and beyond.
The Giants learned the hard way last fall that no franchise, regardless of its ownership or legacy, can separate the football from serious alleged off-the-field events and incidents. Some team will decide drafting Mixon is worth all that comes with making that choice, and those coaches and front office individuals can deal with the aftermath.