When I was a sophomore in high school, I was in my Algebra II class with some seniors, very few sophomores, and the vast majority juniors.
We had a great teacher who really helped me understand the class (kudos to you, Mr. Brewer, if you are reading this), and I also learned a few other things from the people in the class.
One person, Zac Carter, told me something that still to this day sticks with me to a degree.
"It it only illegal if you get caught," is what he said to me when I talked to him about cheating on tests and homework.
I never bought that kind of logic because I always knew that you only got punished if you were caught, but it taught me that there are people who will take risks and do stupid things hoping that they turn out great in the end.
Well, Brian Cushing was one of those people, and he certainly paid a price this past week.
Not only has he been tarnished/labeled with the term 'cheater,' but he's lost his spot on the second team All-Pro ranking of this past year, and he nearly lost his Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
However, in a re-vote, the Associated Press still felt he was the most worthy. He earned 18 of the 50 votes while the next best was Jairus Byrd with 13. Cushing did not win in a landslide like he did before, but he is still the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Many people are sure to say that he did not deserve any kind of recognition, and that it is appalling that he has kept the award.
Well, I don't believe that. I think Brian Cushing still deserved that award, and I'm asking you to think with an open mind when it comes to this matter.
The reason I believe Cushing deserved that award is because he was the easy choice for it really.
This wasn't a debate of whether or not vanilla or chocolate is the yummiest flavor of ice cream; this was like Bugs Bunny versus Elmer Fudd in a cartoon episode.
We all know that the stuttering hunter is going to look like a complete imbecile after the crafty hare starts putting on a show.
Brian Cushing still deserved the award because even if you can argue that the illegal substances he used, (which, to be specific, was human Chronic Gonadotropin, or hCG, the same substances Manny Ramirez tested positive for last year in the MLB), you cannot convince me that the substances were the direct cause to his entire performance.
This guy was Bugs Bunny and everyone else was trying to hunt "wabbits," in my eyes.
Take a look at the statistics first. I know tackle stats are exaggerated sometimes, but I don't think you can fabricate the fact that he had 133 tackles (86 solo, 47 assists) and that is 91 more than Jairus Byrd's 42 (30 solo, 12 assists), and 83 more than Clay Matthews' 50 (36 solo, 14 assists).
Jairus Byrd did have nine interceptions, but Cushing had four himself with 10 passes deflected compared to Byrd's 11, and Clay Matthews had zero interceptions and seven passed deflected.
Clay Matthews was a strong candidate because he was a pass rusher in a 3-4, but you still have to play the run, which he did not do as well as Cushing. Matthews had 10 sacks, but Cushing, despite being a 4-3 outside linebacker, also had four sacks himself.
Cushing had two forced fumbles, Matthews had one. Cushing had zero fumble recoveries, Matthews had three, one of which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown while Cushing has a safety.
Cushing did break the rules, and he should be punished, but there is a limit to the punishment. One can make the argument that these steroids helped out his overall performance, but steroids do not make a football player by themselves.
He still has to read defenses. He still has to get his arms around the ball-carrier, he still has to cover receivers/tight ends in zone coverage.
Steroids make you stronger, they don't make you faster or smarter. While he could muscle people to the ground easier, he still was a cerebral football player who made plays.
Steroids do not have that great of an impact on a player. Now, they do help the guy out, but to say that these steroids are the only reason that Cushing was such a dominant player against the pass, against the run, on pass-rushing, on intercepting, or made him smart enough to read offenses and fast enough to chase down running backs before anyon else is irrational.
If this had been a close race, I'd say steroids put him over the top of these guys and he deserves to lose the award, but he earned 39 of the 50 first place votes originally in the first voting process! The player in second was Jairus Byrd with six votes.
Cushing was just better than everyone, and the tragic thing for him is he would have been better than everyone if he hadn't taken those substances. He didn't have to violate the league's policy.
That's just how I see it. I think if this had been a close vote, I'd say that he deserves to lose the award because the steroids gave him the extra edge, but the truth is he already had that edge without them.
Now Cushing will not be a second team All-Pro linebacker anymore, and that is fair I guess because there were a lot of linebackers who had great seasons last year.
But there wasn't a rookie on defense that could match Cushing. Not in my opinion. Not even without the steroids.