Reuben Foster is a linebacker who starred at the University of Alabama and was a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers. Battling injury, he played in 10 games for the 49ers last year, his rookie season, and 6 games so far this year.
In February, Foster’s girl friend accused him of domestic violence. Police arrested Foster. However, she later recanted, claiming that she made up the allegations to extort money from Foster.
Late last week, police arrested Foster again based on new allegations of abuse by the same woman. The 49ers immediately cut Foster from the team.
Shortly thereafter, the Washington Redskins claimed the rights to Foster. They made it clear that Foster would play for the Redskins only if the results of investigations by the NFL and the police clear him. Even then, management says, Foster will play only if the Redskins conclude he deserves to, taking into account off-the-field issues.
From a football perspective, the decision to claim Foster seems a little odd. Inside linebacker is one of the few positions where the Redskins are strong. Incumbents Zach Brown and Mason Foster are two of the team’s top players.
Moreover, Reuben Foster hasn’t played very well this year. ProFootballFocus rates him “below average.” To make matters worse, Foster has had off-the-field issues unrelated to alleged domestic violence.
On the other hand, no one questions Foster’s talent and potential. He is only 24 years old (and playing on a club-friendly “rookie contract”), whereas Brown and Foster are both 29. As for the non-domestic violence off-the-field issues, they are red flags, but not necessarily dealbreakers. Absent the latest charge by his girlfriend, he would still be with the 49ers.
If either of the two complaints by Foster’s girlfriend is valid, then, in my opinion, he should never play football for the Washington Redskins. But as things stand, we don’t know if either complaint is valid. The girlfriend is clearly a liar — her original allegation and her recantation can’t both be true. Thus, it would be premature to conclude that Foster is guilty of violence against her.
Accordingly, it’s difficult to see what’s problematic about the Redskins claiming Foster. In effect, they are getting “dibs” on a talented young player in case law enforcement and the NFL clear him.
Critics note that no other team claimed Foster. But that doesn’t mean every team concluded he doesn’t deserve to be claimed. It may just mean the Redskins acted quickest. If the move makes football sense, and assuming that Foster will never play for Washington unless he is cleared, there’s nothing wrong with the front office moving quickly, before another team claimed Foster.
The Washington Post disagrees. Its battery of left-leaning sportswriters roundly condemned the Redskins move.
Inevitably, the Post compared the claiming of Foster to the decision not to claim Colin Kaepernick after starting Redskins quarterback Alex Smith suffered a season-ending (and career-threatening) injury. Barry Svrluga did so in a column called (in the paper edition) “Adding Foster, not Kaepernick reveals Redskins true colors.”
The comparison is specious. Kaepernick was (and may still be) a fairly good quarterback, but he’s not the quarterback Washington needs to finish out this season. The Redskins need a backup QB whose style of play is compatible with the offense we run — in other words, a normal drop-back passer — and who knows the system.
They found that quarterback in Mark Sanchez, a standard, albeit flawed, drop-back passer who has played for several of the Redskins’ assistant coaches. Kaepernick is a different style quarterback who, as far as I know, has never been associated with any of the coaches on Washington’s staff who handle QBs or are involved with the passing game.
In addition, the Redskins may not want to employ a player who has led the movement to take a knee during the National Anthem movement and/or who would bring loads of hoopla if he came here to play. (To be clear, I’d be fine with Kaepernick coming here, but I don’t run the Redskins). The question of whether Foster hits women has not been resolved. The question of whether Kaepernick fails to show respect for our country is settled.
Svrluga says he understands the displeasure Kaepernick’s kneeling engenders, but argues that “employing Kaepernick would provide an opportunity for discussion.” Svrluga fails to understand that football teams do not exist for the purpose of providing opportunities for political discussions.
This failure of comprehension shouldn’t surprise anyone who reads the Post’s sports page regularly. Some of the paper’s sports columnists must be frustrated political pundits. They frequently take the opportunity to advance leftist causes and political correctness.
Earlier this month, George Washington’s men’s basketball lost to the University of Virginia 76-57 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close (Virginia led 42-17 at halftime). The Post noted that just two years earlier, GW had upset a highly-ranked Virginia team.
What the Post didn’t say was that the collapse of GW’s program is due to the papers’s report that former coach Mike Lonergan abused players during practices. The report appeared to be based on complaints by bench warmers. GW’s best players backed Lonergan.
The Post’s reporting led to firing of Lonergan, who had taken a moribund program and led it to an NCAA bid in his third season and an NIT championship in his fifth, and final, one. GW went 74-32 once Lonergan’s first recruiting class reached its sophomore season. Today, the program is in shambles.*
The verbal verbal”abuse” of players cited by the Post, though politically incorrect, seemed like small potatoes stuff. Gary Williams, whom Lonergan once assisted and for whom the floor at the University of Maryland is named, very likely engaged in far worse, if the rumor mill is even close to the mark.
The Lonergan affair merits a longer post. For now, I’ll just say that the Post’s objection to this coach seemed more about the politically incorrect culture of big-time college sports than about the behavior of this particular coach.
The same is true of the Post’s more recent adventure in getting college coaches fired. D.J. Durkin coached the University of Maryland’s football team. Previously, he was an assistant to John Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, two of the very best college coaches in the game.
Under Durkin, Maryland succeeded in recruiting players who normally wouldn’t have considered coming to College Park. Injuries held back the team, yet the Terps have still been good enough to defeat Texas in back-to-back seasons and to take Ohio State to overtime before losing earlier this month.
One of Durkin’s players died during a practice this summer. An investigation did not find Durkin responsible for the tragedy. Moreover, though ESPN reported that the team’s culture under Durkin was “toxic” — a report seized on by the Post — the investigation found that this wasn’t so.
The consensus was that players weren’t thrilled with some of Durkin’s methods, but accepted them as the price of becoming a top-tier team. The players were probably right to do so. It’s likely that Durkin’s approach is similar to his mentors — Harbaugh and Meyer — and consistent with the way college football players are coached in most successful big time programs.
Even Svrluga admitted that if Durkin’s record resembled that of his mentors, his job would have been safe. Durkin’s record fell considerably short, but he was only at Maryland for a short time and the team was making strides.
Based on the investigation, Maryland decided to retain Durkin. At that point, the Post, with Svrluga leading the charge, threw a fit. Sally Jenkins wrote a scathing column called “Don’t let your sons play for D.J. Durkin. Such advice to football players and recruits had hitherto been considered outside the job description of sportswriters, I think.
Almost immediately, Maryland reversed its decision and sacked Durkin.
As with Lonergan, there is much more that could be said about this affair. The unifying theme, though, is that the Post dislikes the way college athletes are coached in many major programs. It isn’t politically correct.
Political correctness also underlies the Post’s view of the Redskins decision to claim Foster. This decision, though consistent with the concept of due process and innocent until proven guilty, flies in the face of the left’s “believe the woman” (even when we know she’s a liar) stance. Foster may or may not have committed domestic abuse. He’s undoubtedly “guilty” of falling on the wrong side of the culture war.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, dislikes America and does so ostentatiously. He therefore falls on the right side, in the Post’s view.
That’s sufficient for the Post to make an apples-to-oranges comparison of the two players’ concrete situations and to assert that the Redskins have shown their true colors. Actually, the Post has shown its.
*Last night, GW lost to the University of Vermont 69-53. My edition of the Post reported the score as 63-53. It’s bad enough that the Post sportspage indulges in left-wing political commentary. It should at least be able to give correct sports scores.