NASHVILLE, Tenn. –- In his expansive look at Myron Rolle, SB Nation's Aaron Gordon suggests the Rhodes Scholar and safety got a raw deal from the NFL.
"It was not Rolle who was uninterested in the NFL, but the NFL who was uninterested in him, or perhaps even scared to have him around," Gordon writes.
It's begs a major question: Why?
Why would the Titans have feared a smart player who took a year away from football for the Rhodes Scholarship? Hit on a sixth-round pick who's a genius and the franchise looks ingenius too. Smart safeties are coveted. An intelligent guy having big plans for his second act wouldn't dissuade a team from giving him his first act if he was worthy of it.
They liked him a great deal. But the NFL is a meritocracy, and the simple fact was that Rolle did little to stand out. He didn't pull a spotlight to his play at all in that training camp.
The Titans had Michael Griffin, who went to the Pro Bowl, and Chris Hope as their starting safeties. They were unquestionably superior players. Vincent Fuller was a safety who played nickelback. Donnie Nickey was about done, but has ranked as the team's best special teamer for much of his career.
A year on the practice squad would give them time to develop Rolle a bit.
At season's end, little-known Pete Ittersagen outranked Rolle. When Fuller was hurt and the Titans needed an extra safety, Ittersagen was the player promoted off the practice squad.
A year later Tennessee still had Griffin and Hope. But the Titans were not inclined to think Rolle could be their third or fourth guy. Two veteran additions -- Jordan Babineaux and Anthony Smith -- ultimately rounded out the safety group. Rolle was cut before the regular season began and his time in Tennessee was over.
Rolle's case illuminates how archaic and dehumanizing the NFL's narrow conception of what makes a good player can be, how it forces unique people into rigid stereotypes and makes life-changing judgments about those who are different. To the NFL, people can only be athletic or smart, articulate or dumb, thuggish or timid. These false dichotomies confuse people when someone doesn't quite fit, when someone is both athletic and smart, or doesn't speak articulately but has very bright ideas, or is Richard Sherman. It doesn't make them worse football players, and often makes them better or more interesting human beings, but the NFL doesn't care about any of that. The league just wants guys who will play football, and play along.
I wholeheartedly disagree with that assessment. What the league wants, first and foremost, isn't just guys who will play football, and play along. It's guys who will play football well.
The Titans would have loved for Rolle to have worked out. Any team would love for a sixth-round pick to be a solid contributor or more. They were fired up when they heard him talk about how much he wanted to make it and how he wanted to have a long career.
I don't believe a question about his commitment or a fear of his brain prompted them to steer away. There was a far simpler reason he didn't make it
He wasn't a good enough player.