By CHUCK POLLOCK, Sun Senior Sports Columnist
After a brutal two months when his team went from being an odds-on Super Bowl participant to one that had virtually played itself out of the playoff race, Bills coach Sean McDermott had to be reeling.
Over that span of eight games, four of the five losses were via blown fourth-quarter leads that rested squarely on a defense McDermott had taken over from coordinator Leslie Frazier.
With each defeat the Buffalo’s social media denizens have gotten louder and louder in their calls for his firing.
Clearly, calling the defensive signals took away from his game-day responsibilities, something he had already struggled with even before adding a second job.
McDermott had to be thinking, “What else can possibly go wrong?”
He found out late Thursday morning.
THAT’S WHEN the national media reported that Bills edge rusher Von Miller was being sought in Dallas for assault of his pregnant girlfriend.
The assault part was bad enough, but the adjective before the description of the alleged victim took it to a different level. In Texas, violence against a pregnant woman is a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine.
But as heinous as the charge against Miller might be, being a media person I have my skepticism.
For years, the wives/girlfriends of pro athletes or high-profile celebrities have filed abuse charges against their significant others only to eventually withdraw them, presumably because they were paid handsomely not to pursue legal action.
Who’s to say that doesn’t happen in this case?
After all, Miller is in his second season of a six-year, $120 million contract though the consensus when he signed was that it was only expected to be three years and the second half, starting when he would be 36, would be voided.
HE FINALLY turned himself in late Thursday and was released on $5,000 bond, but the delay in surrendering to police didn’t exactly paint a portrait of an innocent man.
That got me thinking about Ray Rice.
The former Ravens running back was 26 years old when, between the 2013-14 seasons, he and his fiance were at a Casino in Atlantic City when they argued in an elevator. His facial punch knocked her out. When the elevator stopped, he merely dragged her out, unconscious.
A leaked elevator video — it’s still hard to watch — showed the whole incident.
An open-and-shut case?
The NFL, which maintained it hadn’t seen the tape, threw the BOOKLET at Rice, as usual… suspending him for two, that’s TWO games. This at a time when Tom Brady was suspended four games for using under-inflated footballs.
The league was fileted across the country and, SUDDENLY, after seeing the tape, commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him indefinitely. Rice fought the suspension and won but it was a pyrrhic victory. He had become such a pariah no NFL team would risk offending its female fans to even consider signing him.
Rice’s football career was over, but he escaped any notable legal consequences. He married his fiance and she declined to participate in the investigation and the only penalty he received was a plea deal that stipulated counseling and if he completed it, which he did, the incident would be expunged from his record.
AND THAT brings me back to Miller.
When the Bills signed him last season, little was made of the fact that in 2021 he was reportedly involved in a domestic incident — threatening texts — involving the same woman who was allegedly victimized Wednesday night. That case was dropped with authorities citing a lack of evidence.
When Buffalo acquired Miller, McDermott cited his leadership skills. Eleven games into last season, he tore his ACL but had already accumulated eight sacks. He began this season on injured reserve and returned seven games ago logging a mere 1½ tackles — one-and-a-half — over that span. In short, post injury, his contribution has been zero.
But McDermott continued to point to the leadership he demonstrated in the locker room.
However, the words of Buffalo’s Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy have stuck with me: “You don’t lead in the locker room … you lead on the field.”
What’s certain is this.
Miller’s incident, if it’s true, makes a mockery of McDermott’s persistent touting of his team’s “culture” and “character.”
When NFL fans think of Rice, they won’t remember his rushing skills, it will be the mental picture of him punching his fiance’s face in an elevator. And when Bills fans think of Miller, they won’t recall the few sacks, instead, they’ll remember he was charged with assaulting the pregnant mother of his children.
This embarrassing episode has career-ender written all over it and rightfully so.
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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