Conflicted About Pacman

The Dallas Cowboys' signing of Pacman Jones is understandable, but it's also tough to accept on many fronts.'s Ed Thompson weighs in on the issue while pointing out why the Titans defense deserves more respect, and why Tony Sparano will get the Dolphins back on track in 2008.

The interest that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has shown in Adam "Pacman" Jones is understandable, but I have to admit that I struggle with the thought of him getting yet another chance to play professional football. 

This week, former Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders became one of a number of people pulling for the 24-year old cornerback to turn his life around after repeated displays of reckless behavior off the field.

"It amazes me how some people with a pen and a pencil or a camera could really say a guy doesn't deserve a second chance when we've all deserved second and third chances," Sanders said this week. 

Sanders makes a valid point — even though Pacman has reportedly been arrested six times, not two or three since being drafted with the sixth overall selection by the Tennessee Titans back in 2005. 

But it's harder for the average Joe to be that compassionate about a man who is going to earn more than a half a million dollars this year while attempting to take advantage of yet another chance to do something so many people have dreamed of doing — playing football in the NFL. And it's even harder to find that compassion when the man who is going to cash those checks from Jerry Jones has been accused of spitting on and punching women, being involved in a strip club melee, and recently had to make good on a $20,000 debt he ran up in Las Vegas. 

That's just tough to comprehend for those who are basically law-abiding folks who work for months to earn what Pacman lost during one crazy trip to Vegas.

That said, I also understand why Cowboys owner Jerry Jones signed Pacman. With the talent on their roster, the Cowboys are in a strong position to win a Super Bowl in the next few seasons. Based on Pacman's ability to be a significant playmaker on both defense and special teams, Jones couldn't avoid taking a chance on the off-the-field walking disaster. And he took measures to protect his franchise contractually if his rising star steps into the same kind of muck during off-hours once again.

During the 2006 season, Pacman had the 14th-best burned rate in the league among starting cornerbacks. Out of 84 passes thrown to his area, the former Titan allowed just 51.2 percent to be caught. Statistically, that put him among the top 25 percent of the cornerbacks in the league at preventing completions. He also intercepted four passes after failing to snare one during his rookie campaign. That's a significant leap between his rookie and sophomore seasons, further proof that he was getting a better feel for the speed and flow of the opponents' offenses, taking better advantage of his gifts as a defender. 

Compared to other players who ran back at least 20 kickoffs in 2006, Pacman had the seventh-best average at 26.1 yards per return. And the only player who returned three punts for touchdowns, like Pacman did in 2006, was Chicago's Devin Hester.

While I disagreed with the move philosophically, now that it's done, count me among the people who are pulling for Pacman to become the kind of man that people can respect rather than despise.

Any other outcome would be a total waste for the NFL, the Cowboys and — most importantly — for Pacman Jones.

Titans Defense Rose to Challenge

The Tennessee Titans' defense deserves more respect than I think most people imagine. In addition to playing some good, hard-nosed football in 2007, they minimized the mistakes committed by their offense better than any other team during the 2007 season. 

LB Keith Bulluck returns an interception against the Saints in 2007.
AP Photo/Judi Bottoni

The Titans offense not only finished the 2007 season ranked 21st in the league, they repeatedly put their defense in a bad spot by turning the ball over 34 times. That frequency of miscues put them in a tie as the seventh-worst unit in the league at coughing up the football. 

But the Tennsessee defense was outstanding when it came to minimizing that damage; they allowed just 49 points to be scored following those turnovers, the fourth-lowest number of points in the NFL. 

But what's truly impressive is when you look at the feat from two different angles. 

While the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers offenses also gave away the ball 34 times, their defenses allowed their opponents to post 67, 112, and 147 points respectively. 

As for the three teams who allowed less points than Tennessee following turnovers, they didn't have to thwart the opponent nearly as often.

The New England Patriots defense allowed a league-best 35 points, but they were only put in those tough situations 15 times, less than half as often as the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts gave up 37 points following just 19 turnovers while the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed 47 points after just 22 offensive turnovers..

He's Got Spunk  

I like Tony Sparano's spunk. 

The Miami Dolphins' head coach has handled veteran defensive end Jason Taylor's "dance fever" firmly, but has also established some solid lines of communication with the befuddling veteran that could pay off down the line.

Sparano's public comments on a number of topics to date have made it clear that he's committed to doing whatever it takes to win ball games and get this club back on its feet. When asked on Wednesday if he was hoping that he could take some return duties off of Ted Ginn so that the second-year receiver could focus on developing as a wide receiver, Sparano replied, "The best guy returning kicks will be the guy that goes back there. If that ends up being Ted, so be it. Ted knows, no different than anybody else, the more jobs you can do here, the better off that we are going to be."

And then he was asked if he gets nervous about the thought of the 178-pound Ginn returning kicks.

"Not if he can score touchdowns," Sparano said.

Miami's going to be a fun team to keep an eye &mdash and an ear &mdash on this season.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and at You can contact him by email through this link.

Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2008 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such Licensed Materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited. 

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