Was anyone surprised when the 49ers determined the penalty Aldon Smith received internally was different than the one special teams player DeMarcus Dobbs got for the same infraction a year earlier?
At least that’s how it’s playing out at this point. With Smith nursing a back injury that may or may not have been affected by his 7 a.m. alleged-DUI accident, he could always be declared inactive. Then 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh could continue to be defiant in terms of public perception (he seems to love that stance) while at the same time not taking major heat for playing Smith against the Indianapolis Colts.
Either way, the 49ers initial stance regarding Smith could be something Harbaugh learned from Al Davis while working with the Raiders, but it’s a feeling held by a lot of old-school coaches from high school all the way up to the NFL.
Basically, when there are behavioral issues regarding top players, you don’t punish the rest of the team for the transgressions of an individual. That’s a theory held by coaches from high school through college, although few will ever say it in public. Losing with less than your best is in no way a better option than winning with a player who might be hung over.
I realize that runs contrary to the “make ’em all suffer and it’ll teach him a lesson” thought process. But there is money at stake, and let’s not pretend that doesn’t count.
When Rolando McClain kept screwing up (he had issues with firearms and law enforcement but no DUI arrests), the Raiders cut him loose. If he had performed anywhere near the level of the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, he’d still be on the team. Behavior and squad car photos would have been overlooked if he had been anywhere near Smith’s level of production.
It’d be great if Harbaugh would come out and admit a double-standard, but that will never happen. Dobbs was a special teams player who committed almost the same transgression as Smith did a year later. Yet he wasn’t allowed to play the next game and Smith, according to Harbaugh, could face the Colts Sunday.
When McClain was involved in a shooting incident while attending a family funeral in 2011 (charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence), Hue Jackson was indignant yet let McClain play in the game, although he didn’t start.
The Raiders season went in to a downward spiral, although it would be a stretch to suggest the McClain decision was a major factor. He simply wasn’t good enough as a Raider to be a major factor in terms of winning or losing.
All it does is illustrate the obvious, both in the NFL as well as most employment situations. Those who produce get ample opportunities to straighten things out in direct proportion to how good they are.