You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
The news that Sean Taylor has reached a plea agreement with Miami prosecutors that will keep him out of jail and land him an NFL suspension that will be minimal if there is one at all certainly was welcome among all those who follow and, especially, who are employed by, the Redskins. The situation, which has been going on for a year, isn't quite concluded yet. Taylor has to do some community service type things in Miami area schools and he'll be on probation for 18 months. But it's just about over and there are a couple of things that need to be said about it in retrospect.
First, most of those who are complaining that this was a case of someone with money get off easy don't know what they're talking about. And I'm not claiming that I know what I'm talking about in this instance either. I wrote here a while ago that the charges against Taylor didn't seem to fit what had transpired on that day in West Perrine, the depressed community near Miami. If felony charges carrying mandatory jail time were pressed every time there were threats and punches exchanged on the streets of places like West Perrine, the courts and prisons would be jammed to the gills.
Regardless of that, if you want to say that Taylor bought his justice or got off easy because he's an NFL player you need to demonstrate that others, less rich and famous that Taylor, got more severe treatment for committing similar offenses. It's my educated guess that many, many more such perps end up with community service and probation than go to jail. I don't have any statistics to back that up, mind you, but neither do most of those crying foul in this situation, either. If anyone has any information to the contrary, please feel free to forward it to me.
The most important thing about this whole affair, however, is not the celebrity justice aspect but the mere fact that it happened. That fact may well have saved Sean Taylor's life.
A year ago Taylor was not anywhere near where he needed to be and what he was doing did not remotely resemble what he needed to be doing. He was blowing off phone calls from Joe Gibbs and that was the least of his problems. According to this excellent article by Robert Andrew Powell, he possibly carried a gun into a club. Taylor was hanging out in West Perrine with a buddy who was up to all sorts of activities ranging from unsavory to illegal if the contents of the buddy's house after he moved out are any indication. Instead of spending his days at OTA's in Ashburn, working out and polishing his knowledge of the defense he was cruising around the housing project in an ATV.
Obviously, this is not a path that a young man who is very talented in his profession and is worth millions of dollars should be on. In fact, it was incredibly stupid for him to be where he was doing what he was doing. Taylor, though, didn't see it that way. He was bulletproof and he could do whatever he wanted to do, the consequences, if any, be damned.
The consequences came in the form of a felony arrest warrant. Sean Taylor was facing the possibility of spending a good chunk of the rest of his life in jail. No matter how flimsy the charges may have seemed or how much the prosecutor may have seemed to be overreaching in pressing such serious charges, the time behind bars was staring him right in the face.
It appears that he has been scared straight. On the first day of training camp last summer Taylor stayed out in the hot sun and signed autographs for all of the kids who wanted one. While he wasn't exactly glib with the media he was much more accommodating than he had been in the past. The more cynical out there might say that this was just PR, an attempt at image rehabilitation. While they might be right to an extent, it does appear that he genuinely has changed for the better.
This could well turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Sean Taylor. Had Joe Gibbs known what path Taylor was on last year, he himself could not have written a better prescription to knock him off of that path and get him onto the right one. Taylor certainly would not have listened to any lecturing. It took something like this to give him a shot at turning his life around. We will see whether or not he completes that turnaround.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. For details and ordering information, go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com