When the NFL handed down a twelve game suspension on Vontaze Burfict, reaction appeared mixed. Within the fanbase, many feel like the suspension feels overly punitive. However, in accessing proper blame takes a bit of deeper thought and a touch of nuance. The problem goes deeper for the Raiders.
No Pity for Burfict
While the hit on Jack Doyle seems lesser than others, Burfict’s history remains the issue. In his letter, NFL Disciplinary czar Jon Runyan mentioned speaking to Burfict about his previous behavior. Yet, Burfict ignored the repeated warnings. If Burfict pulls up and just drops Doyle to the ground, none of this uproar occurs. Yet, he does not appear to possess restraint.
In all honesty, the Raiders know what everyone else does: Vontaze Burfict does not need to play dirty. He is a talented linebacker with skill. Yet, time after time, his behavior continues to undercut the ability. From his time at Arizona State to the Bengals and Raiders, Burfict chooses not to conform. As a result, consequences happen for repeated rules violations. If the Doyle hit marked his first or second time, his penalty would not be anywhere near the current severity. Yet, after a dozen miscues, the NFL finally grew tired and decided to punish him justly.
During his time as an NFL analyst, Raiders GM Mike Mayock offered up his take on Vontaze Burfict. From moment one, Mayock did not want any part of Burfict as a rookie. To his credit, Mayock’s gut feeling proved correct with the multiple incident Burfict involved himself in. However, some blame needs to fall his way. Regardless of whether Mayock ultimately answers to Gruden or not, allowing Burfict to hurt the team with dirty play, falls on his shoulders. Additionally, Mayock continued a recent Raiders tradition of avoiding spending high draft capital on linebackers. While Gruden may own the final say, if Mayock pushed for say, Mack Wilson or Devin Bush, Gruden could’ve relented. Yet, Mayock allowed himself to become convinced on taking a flyer on a troubled player. In addition, the linebacker corp with Burfict was suspect. Without him, now looks brutally thin.
When the Raiders signed Burfict, Paul Guenther served as a main reason why. For years, Guenther served as either his coordinator or position coach. Suffice to say, Guenther needed to convince Gruden and Mayock to bring the talented but problematic linebacker to the Raiders. Well, since Gruden will not fire himself, does this incident place heat on Paul Guenther? It should. By endorsing the deal and leading and underperforming defense, Guenther will take the fall, if the defense falls apart in Burfict’s absence. More importantly, teams that fail always need a fall guy. Guenther put his reputation on the line for Burfict.
The Oakland Raiders took a major chance on Vontaze Burfict. Now, they will wait to see if any appeal slices the suspension. Yet, through their own doing, a player on a one-year deal could further unravel their entire defense. As a result, blame can spread around.