Winning trumps everything. That’s the message the Oakland Raiders are relaying when the team inked mercurial offensive lineman Richie Incognito on Tuesday.
“You can’t have all boy scouts.” was Raiders general manager Mike Mayock’s retort to inquiries about the signing — one that’s divided RaiderNation. This after stating high character was a prerequisite to being a Raider these days.
The baggage Incognito carries is quite heavy. From off-field incidents to allegations of racism, to being checked into a mental health facility after he retired, to unretiring and then his releases and missing 2018 altogether, this is a textbook definition of flier.
Incognito, a soon-to-be 36 year old (in July), is a stopgap for a team with a question mark at left guard. Brought aboard on a 1-year, veteran minimum deal, the former Pro Bowl mauler figures to compete immediately for the wedge in between left tackle Kolton Miller and pivot Rodney Hudson.
While neither GM nor head coach Jon Gruden will openly admit it, the pair did not like what they saw from Denzelle Good, or they want to ensure the 28-year-old is pushed to the max by Incognito.
We knew this was coming long ago.
“We’re going to continue to look at players that can come in and compete at that position,” Gruden said back in early May, referring to the wide-open left guard spot.
Based off playing merit alone, Incognito fills the role departed Kelechi Osemele owned during his Raiders tenure. However, it’s when you look at the entire body of work, onfield and off field that raises concerns when it comes to Incognito. His emotional and mental state is erratic at best. In addition, despite Mayock’s assurances both the Raiders and the player are taking the necessary steps and precautions, doubt still looms heavy.
In Raiders’ brass eyes, this is a win-win.
- Sign a quality player on the cheap and if he succeeds, he’s many relative peanuts.
- Since said player signed a super cheap deal, if he flunks out, he can be cut without batting an eyelash.
Still, hypocrisy knows no bounds in the NFL.
Yet, if Incognito plays a key role in the Raiders renaissance and the team — as unlikely as it may be — rises to a winning record and even a playoff run, some will forgive him. That is what Mayock and Gruden are banking on. And when they come to cash in those chips, they’ll get cash in hand — period.
Hypocrisy in the league is the jelly. Hypocrisy amongst the fans is the peanut butter. And the Raiders’ TV Twins (Mayock and Gruden) are making one hell of a sandwich.