There was a lot of controversy last month around the NFL combine choosing not to invite Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon to the much-hyped annual pre-draft workout. The Sooner running back is considered to be one of the most talented players at his position in the draft. The combine and many teams have crossed him off their list because of an incident that happened before his freshman season at Oklahoma.
Mixon was suspended for his freshman season after being caught punching a female student in the face after an altercation at a dining area on campus. He went on to have two very productive years in the Sooners’ backfield and was considered a top prospect until video of the incident was released shortly before Oklahoma’s bowl game. We could get into a debate on where people stand about tolerance of domestic violence, but I think most of us would agree that the argument is pretty one-sided. I want to get into whether or not the Browns should even consider Mixon with any of their many draft picks.
Let me start by pointing out that the Browns have at least some level over interest in the Oklahoma running back because they brought him in for a private workout. Mary Kay Cabot from cleveland.com also reported that Browns’ co-owner, Dee Haslam, is not completely opposed to the idea of bringing Mixon to Cleveland. She stated that she believes in giving people second chances and that it would be a decision for the personnel guys to make.
I’ve got to admit it’s a little shocking that she would even be open to the idea, but that just shows that talent is the great equalizer. The more talent you have, the more red flags people are willing to tolerate. Look at Josh Gordon. The guy is a physical freak and put up monster numbers in the small amount of time he’s actually been on an NFL field. With all of his suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, he would have been cut five times by now if he wasn’t so talented.
I don’t think the Browns should take a chance on Mixon for a few reasons. The first reason is that they aren’t in that bad of shape at the running back position. Isaiah Crowell ran for almost 1000 yards last season behind a terrible offensive line on a team that was behind most of the time. He also averaged a very respectable 4.8 yards per carry according to Pro Football Reference. His backup, Duke Johnson, also did a solid job as a third down and change-of-pace back. He has the quickness and versatility to keep defenses on their toes. The running backs are pretty solid, and the offensive line should be greatly improved this year to make them look even better.
Another reason that I believe the Browns should stay away from Mixon is because they can’t really deal with more distractions right now. They are coming off of a 1-15 season, haven’t had a good quarterback since they returned in 1999, and recently got rid of quarterback who had substance abuse issues and is accused of hitting his girlfriend. The coaching staff and front office seem to turn over every couple of years, and we always hear of people who don’t want to get anywhere near this dysfunctional organization. There always seems to be some off-the-field story with the Browns, and for once, I would like to be able to focus on the rebuilding process and what my team is doing to get better.
The Browns should use their tremendous draft capital to bring in players at positions that really need upgraded. They should also make sure the guys being brought in have good character and are good examples for the many other young players in the locker room. Hue Jackson talks about changing the culture and getting rid of distractions and off-the-field issues, so this is his chance to show the guys character matters and that they should take their cues from guys like Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. The Browns need to turn their organization around and don’t need to be worrying about someone bringing more negative publicity to the organization.
I know that Joe Mixon admits he made a mistake and says that he is sorry for what he did. I am not against people getting second chances, and I do believe people can change and find redemption. However, I’m tired of the Browns taking chances on guys like this just because they have talent. If Hue Jackson really wants to change the culture, he should make a statement about the quality of guys he wants on his team. With all the youth already on the team and tons of draft capital at their disposal, let’s see if the Browns can get it right this time and build a real winner.