Well, that didn’t take long. The St. Louis Rams cut defensive end Michael Sam over the weekend. Sam is, or would have been, the NFL’s first openly gay player.
He was drafted late, seventh round. Homophobia was suggested. Now that he has been cut, homophobia has been blamed, by Michelangelo Signorile at the Huffington Post.
Michael Sam was cut by the St. Louis Rams over the weekend. Over the following 24 hours, no other team had decided to claim the first openly gay player drafted to the NFL. Then came the news that the Rams didn’t choose him for its practice squad. And though he could be picked for a practice squad for another team this week, NFL watchers believe his options are dim.
There have already been lots of arguments on social media, and it will continue this week, over whether or not this represented homophobia in the NFL. Frankly, I’m astounded that anyone can even debate this. One person on my Facebook page said that if Michael Sam were good enough he’d be playing. I don’t know how this person could possibly justify such a statement since the NFL’s record — of giving slaps on the wrist for ugly homophobic incidents and hiring known haters — suggests otherwise, and no openly gay player had been drafted before.
And none of that bears on Sam’s performance in pre-season or whether he is what the Rams or any other team needs. He had a decent pre-season. The Rams cut him because he wasn’t what they believe they need. No other team took him on.
That’s what happens in pre-season football. Some rookies make it, many rookies don’t.
The Rams also cut Sam from their practice squad, and explained why.
They already have five defensive ends on their 53-man roster and have depth needs at too many other positions to cover injuries, and they need players for the scout team to run the plays of opposing teams in practice now that the regular season is here.
As of Sunday night, the Post-Dispatch had confirmed the names of six players the Rams will sign for their 10-man practice squad. But they still had needs to address at quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and cornerback – which would soak up the final four spots.
They’re too deep at defensive end and too thin elsewhere.
Signorile devotes the rest of the article to bashing the NFL for being “homophobic,” a smear that halts any discussion dead in its tracks. He bashes the Giants for hiring David Tyree for player development, because Tyree opposes gay marriage.
What that has to do with whether Tyree will make a good player development director or not is not explained.
Bashing Tyree’s hiring is telling. Tyree is the former Giant wide receiver whose insane helmet catch led to the Giants defeating the Perfect Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
Tyree might know how to spot and develop players for the Giants. Or not. But his stand on gay marriage has nothing to do with that at all. Signorile wants Tyree banished over something that has nothing to do with his job. He wants Sam captured by an NFL team for reasons that have nothing to do with the job.
The St. Louis Rams finished 7-9 in 2013. They’re in the NFC West, a ridiculously tough division that includes the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Arizona Cardinals. All of those teams had winning records last season. The Rams finished at the bottom of that division, and unless they make some radical upgrades in all phases and a couple of the three teams above them fall apart, they can expect to finish at the bottom again.
Owner Stan Kroenke has a lot of decisions ahead to get the Rams back to winning. That might or might not include a move to Los Angeles. Under the lease agreement with St. Louis, the Rams could move pretty much whenever Kroenke wants — if he wants. He owns a 60-acre plot of land in L.A. that could be used to build a stadium.
Rams Coach Jeff Fisher doesn’t see Michael Sam as the answer to his defensive issues. That’s his call. But he took a chance on Sam, as NFL coaches do with rookies every year. Fisher’s job depends on getting these calls right. If he got the Sam call wrong, another coach somewhere would have taken a chance on Sam. They didn’t. Not even the Dallas Cowboys, a team whose defense is as loose as it gets.
Frankly, it’s a little surprising that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t take a chance on Sam. He wanted Johnny Football — whom Sam sacked in pre-season — not for his performance, but for the sake of “relevance.” Signorile wants Sam retained for the same reason. That’s no way to run a football team, as Cowboys fans know — the former America’s Team has been mediocre for a decade. It turns out that Sam was never in the Cowboys’ plans. Considering how bad their defense was in 2013 and in pre-season this year, that’s saying something.
The bottom line is that Michael Sam didn’t make the cut. He wasn’t what the team that drafted him needed. No other team took a gamble on him this late in pre-season. The NFL doesn’t do affirmative action hires, and it shouldn’t start now.
Update: And Jerry Jones opts for “relevance.”