There is perhaps no more divisive character in the NFL Draft than former Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon. Some people compare him to Le’Veon Bell. For others, Ray Rice may spring to mind. An unquestionable talent with a questionable past, Mixon rehashes the age-old debate of production vs. character.
On Thursday, the issue will make its way into the forefront of the mind of Denver Broncos general manager John Elway. According to multiple sources, Mixon is headed to Dove Valley to meet with franchise brass.
Dove Valley…an interesting place to meet a player like Mixon. Doves, of course, are a symbol of peace. That is certainly not the image that springs to mind when one thinks of Mixon.
During the summer of 2014, Mixon punched a woman in the face. The incident was caught on tape, a tape that quickly circulated. The woman ended up in the hospital with a broken jaw and cheekbone. Mixon ended up suspended for his freshman season and was giving a one-year deferred sentence, reaching a plea, on an assault charge. Was he provoked? Yes… physically, in fact. Regardless, it begs the question of where to draw the line?
In July, three years will have passed since that incident. In that span, Mixon emerged as a dominant force for the Sooners. In 2015, he rushed for 753 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He added another 356 yards and four scores through the air. In 2016, he was even better: 1,274 rushing yards, 538 receiving and 16 more total touchdowns (10 on the ground, five through the air and one kickoff return).
Perhaps Mixon grew up between July 2014 and present day; though there is evidence to the contrary. In November, he was suspended for OU’s game against Iowa State after he was accused of ripping up a parking ticket and throwing it in a female police officer’s face. For what it’s worth Peter Schaffer, his Denver-based agent, says that Mixon paid the ticket.
Somebody will give Mixon a shot. Elway himself has taken chances on people with a checkered past before, and it has worked out well. Bradley Roby and Shane Ray immediately spring to mind. Those situations were somewhat different however. Different, less violent, offenses. They also didn’t show a pattern of behavior, stretching over years.
Abuse can take many forms. Throwing a crumpled up piece of paper into a woman’s face definitely pales in comparison to a punch. That doesn’t make it okay, especially considering the history of the individual involved.
Is it enough to condemn a man? That’s not for me to say. That is a decision that will have to be made by GMs across the NFL. Some might take him off their draft board completely. At least one will likely be willing to select him.
Winning cures all. Production tints our lenses. Tyreek Hill…Greg Hardy…people have come back after being accused of domestic violence against a woman. When the production starts to decline however, teams are less willing to turn a blind eye (Ray Rice).
Do not kid yourself, overvaluing the morality of NFL franchises. Barring injury, Mixon will be playing on Sunday next season. Whether or not it will, or should, be whilst donning orange and blue is a question likely running through the minds of Broncos brass as we speak.