Why did Ray Rice Fall So Far So Quick?

February 15, 2104 is a day that Ray and Janay Rice (formerly Janay Palmer) will never forget; it’s a day their lives were forever changed thanks to a public altercation at Revel Casino in Atlantic City New Jersey.  Much has been made of this altercation since the story first broke but the biggest blow to the couple came almost 7 months later when TMZ received a copy of the surveillance video inside the elevator where the altercation occurred. While the release of this video has cost Rice most of his fan and public support there are still a vocal minority speaking out on his behalf. His wife Janay has spoken out in support of her husband requesting that the media butt out of their personal lives, fans are questioning the integrity of the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL based on the timing of the video release and ensuing suspension, and some fans still stand firm in the belief that what he did just wasn’t all that wrong. Where can we find the truth in this matter? Somewhere in the middle as usual? I’m not sure in this situation. I’m not sure there is a right or a wrong and I’m not sure anything good can come from either the continued coverage of the story or the media dropping the story all together. You can’t ignore it, you can’t just hope it will go away on it’s own. Domestic violence is a major issue in this country and Ray and Janay Rice (with the help of TMZ) brought it right into the front door of every home in America. At the same time the story has become like an onion… the more layers we peal off the more it stinks. I do think it’s important to understand a few fundamental facts about the story and the ensuing fallout costing Ray Rice his job along with a boatload of money.

NFL Personal Conduct Policy

Some are wondering why the NFL has the right to punish Ray Rice despite the fact that he has already had his day in court and received a plea deal for his crimes. While it is true that the NFL does not have the right to overrule the court decisions and effect Ray’s criminal charges in any way this is not what they have done. When entering into a contract with an NFL team all players must understand and agree to the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. Any person who fails to live up to this conduct policy is subject to discipline to be determined by the league. The policy can be viewed at the following link http://nfllabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/personal-conduct-policy.pdf  Part of the Policy pertaining to the Ray Rice situations reads as follows:

 Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime. Discipline may be imposed in any of the following circumstances:

  • Criminal offenses including, but not limited to, those involving: the use or threat of violence; domestic violence and other forms of partner abuse

Essentially the league based on the terms of employment has the right to terminate employment based on criminal activity they feel is detrimental to the league. This is the same grounds they used to suspend Ben Roethlisburger despite the fact that he was never tried or convicted of any crime.  In this case the league and commissioner Goodell felt that Ray’s actions the night in question warranted swift and harsh action. Based on the conditions of his employment Ray opened himself up to this punishment by violating the NFL personal conduct policy. His punishment may be harsh but it is in no way double jeopardy, a violation of his rights, or anything but standard practice by a company protecting it’s brand.

Lack or Remorse or Sincere Regret

One of the most troubling pieces of this puzzle is Ray’s continued complete and total lack of remorse and awareness of the severity of the situation. This goes all the way back to the night in question when Ray can be seen on video showing no remorse or sorrow for his actions as he pushes his fiancée’s lifeless body out of the way of the opening elevator doors (in an apparent attempt to avoid her being seen by other casino customers) then lightly kicks at her attempting to wake her up, then drags her lifeless body across the floor like a rag doll. At this moment you would expect Ray to feel sorrow and pain as he just severely hurt the woman that he loves, and yet he shows no emotion beyond “oh crap I might get caught.”  While we can’t see this type of instant reaction from Ray we would certainly expect him to feel remorse after having time to reflect on his actions and see the penalties in front of him right?  He severely failed again as he was  given the opportunity to show remorse when he and Janay took the podium for a press conference on May 23, 2014. Ray began the press conference not by apologizing to his fiancé whom he knocked flat on her ass in a casino elevator but instead stating “First I would like to apologize to the Ravens Organization, fans, kids, and everyone who was affected by the situation.” Ray then continued in the typical bully/abuser mentality by turning the attention fully on himself and his recovery by adding “I won’t call myself a failure, failure is not getting knocked down. It’s not getting up.” Janay then chimed in to be sure SHE apologized for the role she played in the altercation…. if this doesn’t fit the abuser/abused relationship as perfectly as possible I don’t know what does. I have news for you Mr. Rice, you have failed… you have severely failed to understand the reality and the gravity of the situation, you have failed to understand that you and you alone are responsible for your actions, and you have failed to realize that you were wrong and you have major personal issues to work on. Until Ray Rice can acknowledge and understand his role in the situation from February 15th he will be and will remain a failure.  How can he repair the relationship he has with his wife when he has yet to acknowledge his own personal issues?

Ray Rice is a Public Figure

Ray Rice is a public figure, and he chose to be a public figure. This is why TMZ is broadcasting video of the fight he had with his fiancé, this is why every news outlet in America is covering his life, this is why the general public is involving themselves in his marriage. When Ray Rice realized his dream of being an NFL player he gave up any chance he had of being able to act out in public without creating a public outcry. While I can understand where he and Janay are coming from and why they are upset that the general public is involving themselves in their marriage they have to understand that this is a reality that goes hand in hand with the success that Ray has enjoyed. This is a part of Ray’s celebrity and it’s Ray’s celebrity that has built a fruitful and lavish life for the two of them. While this may not be “right” this is a part of their lives that they gave up when Ray chose to become a public figure.

Why Did the Video Create the Backlash?

Many people have become concerned that the backlash against Ray Rice did not take place until the second video showing what happened in the elevator was shown to the general public.  While it’s understandable that people are concerned considering we already knew the contents of the video prior to it’s release I also understand why the opinions of so many changed after the video was released.  For one it’s much easier to stomach an act when we don’t have to witness it, knowing he hit his now wife is bad enough, but it’s much worse to have actually seen the act.  Additionally prior to the video being released we still have several unanswered questions about the altercation.  Did she provoke him?  Was she attacking him?  Did he defend himself?  After seeing the video we see that while she did move toward him there were many options he could have chosen that would not have resulted in the violent hit that created this controversy.  Janay was no angel but she was not choking him, beating him, or hurling objects in his direction.  This confirms the beliefs of so many who had already turned on Ray and eliminates the excuses many others had created for him.

As for the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens had they seen the video prior to the two game suspension and the Baltimore Ravens public backing of Ray then there are no excuses.  While we can assume that they had access to that video both sides claim they in fact did not have see the video prior to September 8th and there is no proof otherwise.  According to a reliable source, ESPN’s Chris Mortinson, the NFL requested a copy of the video from law enforcement but was denied.  If the only facts we have to go on are that the NFL did not see the video and that the Baltimore Ravens did not see the video and based both their punishment and reactions on Ray’s story, that he was defending himself, then we can understand why the tone changed after the video was released.

Ray Rice Comparison to Michael Vick

The Ray Rice story has drawn a lot of comparisons to Michael Vicks crimes of 2007 and rightfully so; both men engaged in despicable, inhumane acts inflicting pain and suffering on victims who didn’t have the ability to properly defend themselves. While Vick’s crimes were violent and despicable on a completely different level than Ray’s crimes there are several parallels between the two and Ray could learn a thing or two about how to overcome this adversity by following Vick’s lead.

In 2007 Michael Vick was implicated and later arrested as a part of an interstate dog fighting ring and within hours was suspended indefinitely by the NFL (Sound familiar?). Following his plea Vick spent 21 months in a federal prison followed by two months of home monitoring. In 2008 Vick was forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy after an arbitrator ruled that he reimburse the Atlanta Falcons and owner Arthur Blank $19.97 million, a prorated portion of his $37 million signing bonus. At this point Vick had hit rock bottom, had his life’s work, his hopes and dreams slip away because of the horrible and despicable things he did. To me this is where Vick’s legacy is written, how he would respond, how he would learn from his mistakes, and what he would do if given a second chance?

While serving a 21 month prison sentence Michael Vick had his representatives’ reach out to the Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle who initially declined the invitation to meet with Vick. After initial attempts to communicate with Pacelle failed Vick continued to reach out to the CEO who eventually agreed to meet with Vick after considering that Vick could help reach an estimated 100K urban youths involved in dog fighting. Vick has since then become a huge part of the cause of ending dog fighting and has contributed his time, money, and voice to fighting what he was once a part of (It’s important to add at this point that according to the HSUS no money has exchanged hands between HSUS or Michael Vick at any time). Vick has since then become heavily involved in the Pets for Life program, fought to secure passage of H.R. 2492 the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, and participated in various face to face meetings, public appearances, and videos expressing his remorse and speaking out against the mistakes of his past.

What Vick did was horrible and despicable and if people out there don’t want to provide him with a second chance at football or life I completely understand that; however, I feel the Michael Vick story is a stellar example of how a young man can accept his crimes, do his time, and atone for his actions. This is the process Ray Rice needs to follow and it starts with acknowledging that he and he alone was responsible for his actions the night of February 15th. Not Janay, not the alcohol, not the media, not the NFL or the Baltimore Ravens but Ray Rice and Ray Rice alone. Ray then needs to become a loud and active voice speaking out against domestic violence and donating his time and energy to helping battered women get back on their feet. Ray’s fans and the general public need to hear him apologize to Janay without saying “we” or “us” at any time.   He needs to admit that HE made a terrible mistake that HE regrets and that HE will do everything within HIS power to make it right. At that point he will be able to start battling to win back some of the public that he lost.

Where Does Ray Go From Here

I’ve had harsh words for Ray since the first story broke back in February and I will continue to do so.  I have little patience for two things in this world; hitting women and touching children and Ray Rice crossed one of those lines…. viciously.  With all that being said I am a believer in second chances (I don’t really appreciate people killing innocent animals for sport either but you see my take on Michael Vick).  It’s time for Ray to step up to the plate and stop hiding behind the crutch of alcohol and the idea that “we both did something wrong.”  He needs to man up and admit that he was the aggressor and the one in the situation with the physical ability to do the most harm, he handled the situation horribly and needs to pay for his crimes.  Ray needs to take this opportunity to be more of a spokesperson for domestic violence than he was for bullying and he needs to spend a great deal of time and energy working to help people understand the severity and danger of this horrible and prevalent issue.  In doing this Ray will be able to learn to respect his wife on a level that he clearly does not at this point, and begin to rebuild the troubled relationship he has with the NFL and his fans.  This could resurrect his life, his relationship with his wife, and his career… with his life and relationship with his wife being far more important than anything else.

Do defenses really win championships?

Ever since the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48 (side note… roman numerals are stupid… stop using them) the talking heads seem to have re-opened the age old debate:  Do defenses win championships?  We’ve all heard the old cliche “offense sells tickets but defense wins championships” and this mantra was never more true than in 2000 when the Ravens used their dominating defense and cap gun offense to roll the 5th best offense in football 35-7 holding Kerry Collins and company to zero offensive points.  Kerry Collins threw 4 interceptions and Sean Peyton’s high powered offense turned the ball over 6 times and had it not been for a 97 yard kick return by Ron Dixon the 2000 Giants may have been the only team ever shut out in a super bowl.

While much of the storyline in Super Bowl 48 focused on the Seahawks number 1 defense against the Broncos number 1 offense little attention was paid to the match up featuring the Seahawks number 8 offense against the Broncos porous number 22 defense.  The stellar defensive performance diverted our attention from the methodical and surgical dissection Russel Wilson performed on the Broncos defense.  While the stats were underwhelming (Mainly due to the early lead the defense built) we can wonder what the score would have been had the Seahawks remained in attack mode the entire game.  Did we give too much credit to the defense and forget about how the leagues 8th ranked offense continue to pile on the pressure scoring points at will?

So this leads me to the question of the day; in this day and age does defense really still hold the key to championship glory in the NFL?  In order to determine this I examined and dissected Super Bowl champions and the teams they defeated for each of the past 10 years.  Not only is 10 years a nice round number but historically significant as it was the 2004 season that kick started the current high flying offensive era of NFL football with the NFL’s decision to enforce the 5 yard illegal contact penalty.

In examining these teams I used rankings of offense and defense based on points scored and points allowed.  I like this statistic better than the standard yards allowed mainly because that number can be skewed by a “bend but don’t break” philosophy or a quick strike offense that just keeps putting the opposing team on the field.  The results are pretty interesting….

Taking a look at the past 10 Super Bowls gives us a total of 20 teams that have either won or lost the big game in the last decade.  Of the 20 teams 12 have had a statistically top 10 defense compared to 15 of the 20 with a top 10 offense.  This statistic skews even further when we take a peak at just the winners of the big game; 5 of 10 champions have had a top 10 defense compared to 7 of 10 with a top 10 offense.  So it may seem that just reaching the Super Bowl can be tough to do without a top 10 offense while half of Super Bowl champions in that time frame didn’t have a top 10 defense.  In 7 of the past 10 years a team with a top 10 defense has lost the Super Bowl to a team with a defense out of the top 10 while top 10 offense have not seen this same fate.  In the 8 games in which a top 10 offense has lost the super bowl 6 of the 8 have lost to teams also in the top 10 offensively with the 2008 Cardinals and the 2007 Patriots being the only teams to lose to opponents not boasting a top 10 offense.  In Super Bowl 42 the Giants were able to hold the Patriots record setting offense to 14 points but in this case it was not the leagues top defense suffocating it’s opponent.  In fact the Giants in 2007 were ranked 17th in scoring defense and had given up over 30 points 6 times in the regular season and over 40 points twice.  Their fate was slightly different for Arizona the next year when they went toe to toe with Pittsburgh’s number 1 defense in Super Bowl 43 but again was this necessarily an example of a suffocating and dominating defensive performance?  Kurt Warner completed 31 passes for 377 yards against that vaunted Steeler defense including a 64 yard TD to Larry Fitzgerald with 2:47 remaining in the game.  At this point it was not the Steelers number 1 defense but instead it was Ben Roethlesburger and the Steeler offense that went 78 yards in 1:48 to give the Steelers the lead and eventually the win.  While you may point out that we remember the miraculous 100 yard interception return just before the half by James Harrison but Harrison’s play would be completely meaningless had it not been for Big Ben and Santonio Holmes heroics in the final seconds of the game.

So we have seen how some of the top 10 defenses and top 10 offenses have fared in championship games but how about teams outside of the top 10?  Can a team get to the mountain top with a sub par offense if they have a great defense?  How about teams with a sub par defense and a great offense, can they be championship caliber?  Taking another look at Super Bowl champions I found that only 1 of the previous 10 Super Bowl’s was won by a team with a bottom half offense.  In comparison 4 of the previous 10 Super Bowl champions had a defense in the bottom half of the league; when we add in the Super Bowl loser we have 2 more teams with defenses in the bottom half of the league but no more bottom half offenses.  This gives us 6 of 20 teams with bottom half defenses making it to the big game but only 1 out of 20 (the 2008 Steelers) bottom half offenses even making the Super Bowl.  This numbers skews even more if we look at the bottom third of the league as Pittsburgh’s number 20 offense slightly misses the cut leaving us with no bottom third offenses reaching a Super Bowl in the previous 10 years.  In that same time frame 4 teams managed to make the big game with 2 winning despite having a defense ranked in the bottom third of the league.  The 2012 Broncos, 2011 Giants, 2008 Cardinals, and 2006 Colts. may not have followed the traditional mold but they were able to reach the biggest game of the year despite having defenses that ranked 22nd, 25th, 28th, and 23rd respectively.

Additionally the defensive performances of the past 10 years look even less impressive when considering a few more facts.  In our 10 years window we found 5 teams that won a Super Bowl with a top 10 defense and 7 teams that made it to the Super Bowl only to lose with a top 10 defense.  Looking specifically at these teams we can clearly see that 4 of the 5 Champions and 5 of the 7 losers with top 10 defenses also had a top 10 offense.  Meanwhile of the 7 Super Bowl champions with a top 10 offense only 3 also had a top 10 defense.

So perhaps we may have jumped the gun a little on this thought that the 2013 Seahawks have proven to us that even in this age of high flying offense that defense really is still the key to winning championships.  In fact the Seahawks performance in Super Bowl 48 was even more impressive considering the age in which it was accomplished.  League rules, offensive schemes, and even teams personnel decisions are built around creating a dynamic high powered, fast paced offense and more often than not it is this offensive fire power that will win regardless of the scale of the game.  We can look at the 2013 Seahawks and the 2008 Steelers as proof that defense is still alive in the NFL and that the true key to winning will always been defense but in order to do that we have to ignore the majority of the facts surrounding past Super Bowl champions.  In addition to just who won these games we also have to ignore the fact that the 2012 Ravens put up 34 points on the number 2 defense in the NFL in Super Bowl 47; the 2010 Packers scorched the leagues top defense for 31 points in Super Bowl 45; and the 2008 Cardinals piled up over 400 yards of offense against the suffocating Steelers defense in Super Bowl 43.  Continue to hold onto the past if you want and continue to believe the myth that defense wins championships but if you are a betting man (or woman) I would recommend putting your hard earned money on offense.