The Worst of Aaron Hernandez Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Some sports columnists think the Patriots should have seen this murder coming.


Image Credit: Jeffrey Beall via Flickr

In sports columnist world, star tight ends do not simply murder their friends because of some irrational aberration. No, their actions must Mean Something about football, sports, and society at large.  When Aaron Hernandez signed a contract extension last August for about $41 million, we heard mostly good things about the deal from the sports media. So imagine the surprise we feel when the the Meaning woven out of the Hernandez tale is that the New England Patriots should have known better … that some positive drug tests for marijuana and some scary looking friends from Hernandez’s college days essentially predicted a cold-blooded murder.

There’s a healthy competition among pundits to prove who among them truly saw this coming, and just how culpable the Patriots are for being so blind to the future alleged murderer in their ranks. Should the award for silliest Monday morning quarterbacking go to one of the thousands who saw this as a sign that the Patriots had lost their mythical “Patriots Way?” like, say, Dan Shaugnessy at the Globe?

Bob and Jonathan Kraft need to stop trying to make us think the Patriots are different from all those bad boys in the NFL. You know, all those guys who only care about winning.

…No. The Patriots are no different than any other team. They’ll take a chance on trouble, which apparently is what they did when they drafted Hernandez in the fourth round in 2010.

Well, no, because as long as you never subscribed to the “Patriots Way” mythology, pointing out that this is an example of why it doesn’t exist isn’t that inconsistent.

So should the award go to Fox Sports’s Jason Whitlock, who thinks Aaron Hernandez happened because … Jay-Z, an “unrepentant, flamboyant former drug dealer”  exists, and Hernandez’s behavior screamed “future murderer?”

Hernandez did not hide who he was. He reportedly threatened Wes Welker. Matt Light, a former Patriot, made it clear in a newspaper interview he could easily see Hernandez’s character flaws. A dozen NFL franchises took him off their draft boards based on their investigation of his behavior at Florida.

Well, sure, a few drug tests and a threat or two obviously indicate a predisposition for murder. That makes sense! But still, Whitlock isn’t explicitly saying the Patriots should have seen these signs and dropped him. He thinks gangsters in professional sports are a ubiquitous cultural problem.

Is it syndicated columnist Kyle Newman who says he loved most things about Aaron Hernandez?

I’ll even go so far as to admit that I dug his bad-boy, tatted-up, weed-smoking, make-it-rain-celebration swagger out on the gridiron.

And I loved the fact that even a guy with a ruffian image and checkered past like Hernandez could, it seemed, adhere to the “Patriot Way”.

All that being said, I was not surprised when Hernandez was named as a suspect in the execution-style shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.

What?! Who among us wasn’t surprised that someone would gamble his $41 million contract to commit the most poorly covered up execution-murder ever? Newman wasn’t, apparently. But no, not even Newman is really truly saying the Patriots should have known better.

No, the award for silliest column, if Deadspin’s Drew Magary and his army of readers is to be believed (and they are), must certainly go to ESPN’s Ashley Fox. Take it away, Fox:

New England has acted wisely and admirably in the immediate aftermath of this heinous story, but it can’t be forgotten that New England was the organization that employed Hernandez. The Patriots chose Hernandez. Not once. Twice. They were the team that decided, since Hernandez had fallen into the fourth round of the 2010 draft, that the value of taking Hernandez trumped the risk of selecting a player with character issues.

The team can try to collect and burn every No. 81 jersey it has sold, but it can’t erase the fact that Hernandez wore a Patriots jersey for three seasons. Hernandez was part of the Patriot Way that seems to have gone awry.

Drew Magary at Deadspin, no knee-jerk defender of New England sports teams himself, writes an epic takedown. Over to you, Drew:

I know! The Patriots cut Hernandez NOW, when they have reasonable evidence that he probably killed people? Way to go, you Johnny-come-latelies! Awfully easy to cast the man aside now that he’s been accused of a horrific crime, but it takes men of real grit to assemble a team of futuristic pre-cogs, sift through data analyses, and come to the conclusion that they preemptively should cut one of the best tight ends in football because they can reasonably assume he’ll be participating in gangland-style murders mere months hence…

… Yeah, Patriots. Stop employing future murderers! They couldn’t be easier to spot.

Really, we’d recommend you read Fox’s entire piece, and Magary’s entire takedown, because it’s just good, clean fun.

“The franchise, led by Kraft, needs to recalibrate and be more selective going forward, starting now,” Fox’s column concluded. “ESPN needs to recalibrate and be more selective with their columns going forward, starting yesterday,” concluded most of her readers.