Having a consistent message is an important part of building a brand and running a successful company. If your boss was constantly changing his rules and making exceptions to various policies, you'd begin to question the legitimacy of the direction of your workplace.
So far, this hasn't been the case at One Buccaneer Place under Lovie Smith and Jason Licht. The duo in charge of the roster have shipped out high-priced players that don't fit their specifications, and have placed a heavy emphasis on character. Josh McCown, Clinton McDonald and the rest of the new Bucs this summer all fit that mold.
So why, oh why, are the Buccaneers bringing Richie Incognito in for a visit? Even the decision to "kick the tires" on the troubled offensive lineman reveals the temptation to stray from the team's relatively new set of ideals, just to cover up for an issue that should have been addressed earlier this offseason.
The Bucs had their chances to address the guard position this summer, but were either outbid on the players they wanted, or simply didn't pursue any in the belief that Oniel Cousins and company were good enough. They let the draft pass by without selecting a guard ready to start in the NFL, leaving themselves very thin at the position.
So out of this desperation, the team has already shrugged off their standards for player evaluation to bring in a man who helped to create a culture of bullying, racism and immaturity in Miami. What kind of message does this send to the players, the fans, and other teams around the league?
From what I've gathered about the Mike Williams situation, his departure boiled down to a desire to have leaders in the locker room to help shepherd young players in their NFL careers. If Williams was seen as a poor role model, and not worth his contract, that is a justifiable (if not a bit overzealous) reason to ship him out of town for next to nothing.
But if the team brings in Incognito, the juxtaposition of these two moves will reflect very, very poorly on the franchise, and will send mixed messages to the players.
This is exactly the sentiment I expressed in my first article for Bucs Nation, which dealt with the Mike Williams trade. The franchise has set a dangerous precedent, and it seems it only took them a Carl Nicks retirement and a couple of months worth of time to ignore the standard they set.
Hopefully this move is nothing but a fact-finding mission rather than legitimate interest. Because there is absolutely no way the Buccaneers can justify adding Richie Incognito to their roster. There are 31 other teams in the NFL, most with lower personal conduct standards than the Bucs, who have passed on the guard for months.
Signing him would send the wrong kind of message to everyone involved with the franchise. Simply bringing him in for a visit is enough to cast a shadow of doubt on the resolve of the leadership at One Buc Place.
The Buccaneers cannot sign Richie Incognito. It would be a direct attack on the franchise's message this offseason, and a disappointing statement on the team's leadership.
Author's note: While discussing this article in the comments, I came to the realization that I could be seen as attacking the character of Lovie Smith and Jason Licht, and that my comments could be seen as a bit sensational. That was not the intent.
I believe that in this particular instance, Licht and Smith are speaking in one way to placate the masses, but acting in another way behind closed doors, and that's how I define hypocrisy. However, I understand that this goes on at every NFL team, and I don't believe there to be malice or systematic lying taking place at One Buc Place.
So for those who said my headline and thoughts were a bit too "name calling" or personal, I am inclined to agree, although that was never the intention. I simply believe this case is being handled improperly, and believe it shows hypocrisy. I do believe that Lovie Smith is an outstanding human being, and have no doubts about his qualities as a leader of men.
Feel free to continue to comment, as I welcome your thoughts on this topic.