I'm a firm believer in second chances.
My life has been filled with second chances. If the people in my life didn't believe in redemption, I wouldn't be married. I wouldn't have a job in the journalism field. I wouldn't have many friends.
Another guy is desperate need of a second chance is Matt Jones.
Living in Jacksonville, I understand why the Jaguars felt like they needed to let Jones go. New General Manager Gene Smith is trying to build a team that is founded on character, and released a number of guys who had character issues.
Jones was one of those casualties.
In case you don't know the full story behind Jones and his release, let me fill you in.
The converted quarterback from Arkansas was taken in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He was drafted solely on potential and athletic ability, with the hope that he would be able to make a successful transition to WR.
For Jones' first three seasons in the River City, it looked like Jacksonville made a critical mistake. His best year was 2006, when he caught 41 passes for 643 yards and four touchdowns. Not exactly the numbers you want to see out of a first-round draft pick.
In the summer of 2008, Jones was back in his college town when he did something that would change his life forever.
Apparently, Jones was in his car in the wee small hours of the morning cutting up cocaine with a credit card. He was arrested on a charge of felony possession of a controlled substance.
At this point, I thought Jones was done in Jacksonville. First, the guy doesn't produce. Then he gets busted with coke? Game over.
But he stuck with the team for the 2008 season and had a breakout year. He had career highs in receptions (65) and receiving yards (761), despite the fact that he missed four games last year.
It's amazing what a little motivation can do for you, huh?
About three months after the end of the season, Jones was back in Fayetteville, Ark., playing golf with a friend.
In what could either be construed as a momentary lapse of judgment or evidence of stupidity, Jones drank beer on the golf course.
By itself, having a few cold ones on the golf course is not that big a deal.
But when you're on probation, and one of the terms of your probation is not to drink alcohol, and your face is probably the most recognizable in the state of Arkansas (it's not a big state), a few beers on the range becomes a VERY big deal.
It's unclear if someone tipped off his probation officer, or if he just failed a random test, but the troubled wide receiver ended up back in jail for violating his probation.
That was the final straw, as the Jags cut ties with the 26-year-old WR.
So far, no team has been willing to give Jones a second chance.
As a 49er fan, I hope my team is willing to assume the risk and get this guy for a number of reasons.
First, we don't have a lot of wide receivers. Isaac Bruce is a good receiver, but he's getting really old. Michael Crabtree has tremendous potential, but who knows when he'll blossom?
After that, who do we have? Brandon Jones? Jason Hill? Arnaz Battle? Josh Morgan?
Wide receiver is probably the weakest position on the roster. If there's a chance to get a cheap and talented player at that spot, I think we have to take advantage of the opportunity.
Second is the emergence of the Wildcat formation.
Not too many people remember what Jones did when he was at Arkansas. As effective as he was passing the ball, he was equally effective running the ball.
I went to school at the University of Florida, and vividly remember watching a young Jones run wild on the Gator defense in 2004.
Florida was up 38-7 at one point, but Jones led a furious rally. My Gators held on to win the game 45-30, but Jones was lights out in that game (threw for 252 yards and a score, rushed for 68 yards and another score).
Jones would be a perfect fit in the Wildcat. He has tremendous speed (4.39 at the combine) and ample experience at quarterback.
In addition to being a great QB in that formation, we have arguably the best running back in the league in Frank Gore. Having that running threat at QB and RB makes the Wildcat extremely difficult to stop (just ask the New England Patriots).
Lastly, Jones will be tremendously motivated.
We already saw the kinds of numbers he put up when his roster spot with Jacksonville is in jeopardy.
Now imagine how motivated he will be, knowing that the team he eventually signs with (because a team will sign him at some point) could be his last chance to make a living playing a game.
I can't guarantee that Jones would pan out in a 49er uniform. But the reward could be tremendous, while the risk would be fairly minimal.
And everyone deserves at least one second chance.
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