Does character count and is it necessary for success?
This is the question on the minds of both primary voters as they head to the polls this spring as well as NFL executives whose teams’ future victories will depend on how well they pick players in this week’s NFL draft.
Almost two years ago to the day, the Cleveland Browns bet their franchise on a talented Heisman Trophy winner by the name of Johnny Manziel. Despite gaudy college statistics, NFL teams passed on Manziel till the Browns selected him with the 22nd pick in the first round. The trepidation over Manziel was mostly because he had enough red flags concerning his character to initiate a bull stampede.
True to the naysayers, drafting Manziel has proven to be a nightmare for the Cleveland Browns organization. Before finally getting released, Manziel spent more time dodging rumors that he had a substance abuse problem than dodging defenders on the gridiron, and when he did play he was mediocre at best. Meanwhile the Browns’ selection of Manziel looks more foolish in retrospect, given that two quarterbacks chosen after Manziel in that year’s draft, Teddy Bridgewater and Derick Carr, have already been selected to the Pro Bowl. Manziel has become the stock punch line for comedians’ jokes and is currently unemployed with no respectable agent willing to take him on as a client. If all of this weren’t bad enough, it was recently announced that he also has a domestic violence rap to answer to in Texas.
So character counts, right? Not so fast. Character deficiencies aside, I believe even if Manziel had been stone cold sober his career was doomed for failure the second he left college. Unless you’re Russell Wilson, how many scrambling 5’11” quarterbacks do you see dominating in the NFL? Although character matters, it is not the sole determinant of success. If it were, Babe Ruth would have never been the Sultan of Swat, and the Al Davis Raiders teams of the 1970s and ’80s who prided themselves in stocking the roster with talented but bad apples wouldn’t have been so good.
We all know that intangibles like character and leadership matter, but how much, and how can it be measured? More and more the sabermetrics eggheads who rule today’s sports world have tended to discount character and leadership when evaluating talent, as neither of these attributes is quantifiable or can be measured in a computer program or mathematical equation.
Much like today’s sabermetric gurus, American voters seem to struggle with how to evaluate values like a candidate’s honesty and integrity, even questioning how necessary such values are when it comes to getting the job at hand done. This conundrum is nothing new in American politics. In being told about General Grant’s deficiencies as a man in regards to his heavy drinking, President Lincoln quipped if he “could find out what brand of whisky Grant drank, he would send a barrel of it to all the other commanders.” The American voter agreed with Lincoln’s sentiment, electing Grant twice, and historians more and more have come to conclude that Grant was a solid President.
As it becomes increasingly clear that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are fated to square off against one another this November, what are the voters telling us by selecting them during the primary process? After all, in Hillary Clinton one would be hard pressed to find a more ethically challenged big name candidate. Donald Trump for his part, with his adolescent name calling and brusque manner, would never win any character beauty contest either. With only one in four Americans believing the country is on the right track, it is quite possible people are so fed up with the status quo that they will vote for any candidate, character deficiencies and all, if they believe that candidate can shake things up.
If, as the early polling indicates, we are headed for a Hillary Clinton Presidency, can she deliver on the type of change the voters seek? Given that even her ardent supporters struggle to name a single accomplishment and her time as Secretary of State was a disaster, this is highly unlikely. In this find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. At a time when America desperately needs a quality President, we are on our way to selecting someone without both the skill set or character to do the job well. It would seem the American voter is no wiser or better off than the Cleveland Browns.