For Incognito, finding a job might be tough. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is known to value "protecting the shield," and much like the New Orleans Saints involved with "Bountygate," Incognito could find himself under league discipline. At the same time, he's also 30, with a history of bad acts and, according to Scottsdale (AZ) police (via the Sun-Sentinel), just smashed his own Ferrari with a baseball bat.
On second thought, maybe @68INCOGNITO won't have an easier time getting another job than Jonathan Martin. Vandalizing your own Ferrari? Odd— Jason Cole (@JasonPhilCole) February 27, 2014
Martin, however, is just 24. He was considered a borderline first-round prospect just a few years ago and went 42nd overall to the Dolphins. Before this, Martin had never had any hiccups in a career that includes a Stanford education and two All-American honors (2010, 2011).
While the risk of acquiring Incognito (even the perceived risk if not a real one) might be too high for some teams, the reward of getting the most out of Martin will be too much for most teams to ignore.
That's a fine idea, Andrew, let's explore it.
Leadership...and Friends in the Locker Room
On #Colts roster are Jonathan Martin’s ex-teammates like Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and Griff Whalen. A welcoming locker room. Colts need OTs— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 26, 2014
During the drama in the Dolphins locker room, this idea seemed to permeate that Incognito was the norm in NFL culture and Martin was the problem. In talking with players like former San Diego Charger Mike Goff and former Cincinnati Bengal John Thornton, I've found the opposite to be true.
Yes, there is a strong "macho" component in the locker room that looks something like what Incognito stands for. Yet, he is an extreme outlier, and just about everyone around the league will tell you that they've seen similar things happen to other teams, but that Incognito was allowed to run wild rather than reined in.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of "Martins" around the league as well—guys who go home to their families, who aren't comfortable at the club or at the bar or just want to play the game they love for as long as they can before fulfilling post-career dreams.
Martin may be an extreme outlier on the opposite pole from Incognito, but in my own personal experience, I can think of at least one player in every single NFL locker room who would be considered an "odd duck" compared to Incognito, and may have been put in the same position as Martin if roles had been reversed.
That's the difference between Martin and other players like Martin—not every single NFL team considers players like Incognito the ideal. Most rein that type of behavior in with leadership from the coaching staff and from the locker room.
There is no lack of leadership within the Indianapolis Colts franchise.
This is Chuck Pagano's team. The head coach who gave us "Chuckstrong" wouldn't be worried that a little drama might upset the proverbial apple cart. His team went to the playoffs while their head coach had cancer; I think they can handle just about anything. Meanwhile, Pagano has grown himself—as both a coach and a leader. Earlier this year, I highlighted just how much Pagano has become a new man in the face of tragedy.
If Pagano, who is learning that a kinder and gentler approach works best, can't handle a kinder and gentler-type player like Martin, who could?
As for locker-room leadership: Do you think wide receiver Reggie Wayne is anything like Incognito? Wayne hits up charity events like Incognito hits up strip clubs. What about linebacker Robert Mathis? Certainly a defensive powerhouse like Mathis has to be a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, right? Nope, Mathis is known as quiet, professional and is rarely seen doing anything other than putting quarterbacks on their backsides.
Pat McAfee, the punter, is a captain for this team—chosen by the players. One moment looking at McAffee's Twitter account (including the recent shots he's taken at Incognito) and you'll see that Martin would fit in just fine with this bunch.
Meanwhile, Martin's friend and former Stanford quarterback Luck is also a captain on the Colts. This same Luck told NBC Sports Network (via CBS' John Breech), "I'd say I love Jon, we had a great time at Stanford together, still stay in touch with him regularly and I think he's a great man."
Luck also made it clear in that interview that he was advocating bringing Martin to Indianapolis and that he still speaks with Martin regularly. Again, this is the franchise quarterback and a captain of the team.
The Colts also have offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton (Martin's college offensive coordinator), former teammates in wide receiver Griff Whalen, tight end Coby Fleener and safety Delano Howell. It isn't that odd for a team to have numerous players from Stanford—which became a bit of a draft-prospect factory under former coach Jim Harbaugh—but the Colts certainly seem to be ripe to host the next alumni gala.
Martin would fit right in on the Colts roster, and he'd get a much more welcoming atmosphere than the toxic Dolphins ever provided.
An Important Role on a Successful Team to Allow Martin to Show His Worth
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) had the Indianapolis Colts in the bottom third of all NFL teams both in pass-blocking and run-blocking last season. So, it's clear why Luck might want some trusted help on the offensive line.
Current Colts tackles Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus were among the best players on the Colts line last season, but were both outside the Pro Football Focus top 25 at the position. Martin could serve to push both of those players, and also force one of them (or himself) into a guard position.
At the very least, Martin serves as a swing-tackle/depth for a team that looks like it's got a pretty good hammerlock on the AFC South for the foreseeable future.
It's important, too, not just to look at past performances on the Dolphins when assessing what Martin could offer the Colts (or any other team for that matter). Martin was miserable in Miami. He loathed his fellow linemen and hated going to work on a daily basis. One reminder of the way his team threw him under the bus after Martin left shows you how great that relationship was.
Somewhere in between Martin's sky-high potential pre-draft and what he was with the Dolphins lies what Martin could be for the rest of what should be a very long NFL career. A better working environment, support and a team worth blocking for could help unlock a lot of that potential.
Not to get too psychoanalytical here, but a lot of Martin's private exchanges in the Ted Wells report showcase a young man who doesn't have a lot of self-worth. Part of that was probably inherent in Martin before he got to the Dolphins (and the report, admittedly, does note emotional issues prior to Martin arriving in Miami). But another part of that, and perhaps the biggest part, was how Incognito and the other linemen systematically beat him down emotionally.
Although Martin was a starter, his worth was constantly questioned both by teammates and himself.
In Indianapolis, Martin already has a captain publicly heralding his worth. Will that let Martin escape film room haranguing if he makes mistakes on the field? No, absolutely not. Yet, accountability and harassment are different things. In most locker rooms, lesser linemen aren't the ones doing the chiding like guard John Jerry was doing in Miami. Most times, it's meant to teach rather than belittle.
Frankly, it might be best if the Colts line continues to gel—maybe with an interior addition in the draft—and Martin stays on the bench. Swing tackles are used more and more for situational play, and Martin could use some time out of the spotlight while pitching in on goal-line/short-yardage situations.
Best-case scenario, Martin proves he's the best right tackle on the Colts before Cherilus' big money hits and before his rookie deal is over. The Colts would much rather pay a promising young tackle that money than a post-30 fringe player—especially if the former is outplaying the latter.
Worst-case scenario, honestly, is that the Colts acquire a cheap player still on his rookie deal, accept a little increased media attention and that player doesn't work out. It's a no-risk situation for a team that is most likely headed to the playoffs either way.
The upside here is too great to pass up, and Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has to do everything in his power to make this happen.