On the relative importance of character issues to an NFL team

By Jerry Angelo
February 14, 2014

Looking ahead to the draft, former Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo talks about the case-by-case nature of character issues in the NFL. "As a personnel man," he says, "my only concern was, 'Is he good for business?'"

I heard Kirk Herbstreit make an interesting statement about Jadeveon Clowney. He said that his character may be a problem for teams, given the way he handled his last year at South Carolina, in regards of when he was or wasn’t going to play.

Personally, I found it humorous. I think 31 teams in the NFL are hoping that the team in front of them is thinking that.

Something people don’t know: In the NFL, at some positions, character is less or more important than it is at other positions. In Clowney’s case, character is less important because of what he does. What Clowney does has rare value, so coaches and personnel people alike will compromise – and, in some cases, prostitute – character for his pass-rush prowess.

If he were an offensive lineman or quarterback, for example, his character could affect his draft status. Those positions require a higher degree of fiber. For an offensive lineman, it is so important that they work well as a unit and one bad apple can spoil the barrel. That is not the case on the defensive line.

Players who play on ‘islands’ or in ‘space’ – i.e. pass rushers, corners, receivers, running backs, outside linebackers – have more emphasis put on what they do rather than who they are. There are a thousand examples of this throughout the league. Don’t get me wrong; I am not judging someone’s soul. As a personnel man, my only concern was, "Is he good for business?"

Character is important, but it’s a case-by-case evaluation and much of that is based on his position. It's not that character isn’t important, it’s just not as important at certain positions.