Notre Dame radio analyst Allen Pinkett recently drew criticism and ultimately received a suspension when he made the following comments after four Notre Dame players received suspensions to begin the season:
I've always felt like, to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team. I mean, that's how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team ... I don't want any mass murderers or rapists.
What any football team needs is a few players who live on the edge when they step between the lines. On the rugby pitch we called these guys mongrels. They were the mangy dogs willing to use their boots and fists to mete out justice at the bottom of a ruck. They were the mean sort and the opposition knew that they would have to contend with their style of play for 80 minutes. This is all fine and good in a sport where 30 players run around a field with minimal supervision -- Rubgy Union is not the National Football League.
NFL football is a different animal altogether with the number of officials on the field during the course of a game. Dirty players rarely escape the yellow flag. The National Football League however, is still a place where human beings must exert their will on their fellow man in the most vicious manner . . .
Every team needs tough guys. The Matt Wilhelms of the world, with their ass-slaps and high fives of the opposition, will not suffice.
Teams need players who not only refuse to help the opposition up off the deck but who use that player's body to help push themselves back up -- and don't mind sticking their hand in the opponent's face-mask or their knee in the groin for good measure. Teams need guys who are mean; guys who play through the whistle, looking to blast anything that moves.
From 2003-2011 Kris Dielman took the field 120 times for the San Diego Chargers at his guard position and epitomized the ethos of finishing every single play. Some people viewed Dielman's style as dirty but his peers knew better, voting him into 4 AFC Pro Bowls. In early 2010 as Dielman prepared for his third Pro Bowl, Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said the following about the Chargers guard:
"I know the Ravens voted for him. He’s hard nosed and a hard worker. He’ll come at you. He doesn’t ever back down. I think that’s what makes him the player that he is."
But Kris Dielman's gone now and I often wonder, "Who's the guy who will bring the edge each Sunday/Monday (or God permitting, Saturday, as that would mean the Chargers made the playoffs)?"
I see Mike Scifres as that guy but as a punter he just won't get on the field quite enough to garner any votes for the league's dirtiest player. Nate Kaeding? I heard he cheats at cards but is he good for an intentional groin strike during his infrequent visits between the lines? Methinks not.
As the Chargers prepare to begin the 2012 season in Oakland who inherits Kris Dielman's legacy as tough guy who gets under your skin because he's so freaking bad-ass but also carries an IQ that allows him to be freaking bad-ass without incurring 15 yard penalties?
What say you?