Tiki Barber: Why Signing Him Would Burn the Oakland Raiders
So Tiki Barber has come out of retirement.
In an ordinary offseason, this would most likely register as no more than a blip on the radar. However, with the current state of league affairs effectively shelving the usual pontification regarding free agency and even muting draft coverage a little bit, Barber's announcement is big news.
It's the only circumstance in which I could think something so yawn-inspiring would be big news.
I'm sure nothing makes Barber happier, as he'd be glad to regale you for hours upon hours as to why he's big news and it's very important that he's coming out of retirement. See, Tiki likes himself—A LOT.
People have linked Barber to the Oakland Raiders. While this is—for reasons I will outline in the upcoming slides—as ludicrous an idea as can be, it's not surprising in the least.
Whenever any potentially controversial player is up for grabs, it's popular amongst pundits, experts, peripheral media, fans of other teams and even the elderly lady in front of you at the grocery store to state with conviction that they're a perfect fit for the Raiders.
They often can't think of valid reasons, other than "they're the Raiders and they make weird decisions. This would be perfect!"
No, it usually would be a disaster. In this particular instance, it would be a disaster melded with a catastrophe. A disastrophe.
The Obvious: He's Very Old for a Running Back
When last we saw Tiki Barber on an NFL field, he was rushing for 1,662 yards on an average of 5.1 yards per carry in the 2006 season for the New York Giants.
Those statistics are rather impressive, as are his career statistics after becoming a full-time starter in 2002.
From 2002-2006, Barber ran for an average of 1,528 yards on 4.9 yards per carry. A great run, to be sure.
But when he retired in 2006, he was 31 years old. There is a wide perception, backed up time and again by statistical proof, that a running back's performance significantly declines after they reach the age of 30.
Barber, having not taken the same amount of beatings by only starting five of his 10 seasons in the NFL, may have broken the mold. But I highly doubt it.
Barber, now 36, is six years past the age for which there is incontrovertible evidence that a running back begins to break down.
Barber also hasn't picked up a football in nearly five years. Playing two-hand touch with Katie Couric and the cast of the "Today" show doesn't count, Tiki.
Oh yeah—the Raiders also happen to have two young, dynamic running backs in Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, who showed without a shadow of a doubt last season that they are both capable of doing some serious damage in the NFL.
Tiki's age, combined with the talent and youth of D-Mac and Bush, is one major reason the Raiders shouldn't even consider Barber.
The Obvious: He Hasn't Played Football in Five Years
This is what Tiki Barber looks like to most NFL fans now, at least those of the non-NY Giants variety.
We are used to seeing him on television, even if we don't much like listening to what he has to say.
It was always obvious Tiki was going to go into broadcasting—he's got a good smile, a fairly impressive vocabulary (even if it is misused—and comically so—at times), dresses well and was very popular at the time of his retirement.
In fact, it was shortly after his appearance on CBS while still playing with the Giants that media folks praised his poise and media acumen and began discussing how good of a broadcaster he'd be if he retired. In fact, I remember thinking "Wow, if Barber wanted to he could retire right now and have a job, that's how much these media types are swooning over him."
Tiki, never one to believe his own hype and always and forever a humble man, didn't listen to the rumours or compliments.
No, all he did was promptly retire while he still had gas in the tank to become—wait for it—a broadcaster!
Ah, Tiki. Don't ever change.
Or more to the point, please change—and quickly.
The Raiders, with a stable of young, hungry running backs who need as many touches as they can to maximize their big-play ability, certainly do not need a 36-year-old running back that hasn't toted the rock in almost six years.
Not to mention, they still have to re-sign Bush and a slew of other free agents far more important to their success than Barber-booey.
The Not so Obvious: Tiki Is an Egomaniac
There's Tiki with my man Lance the DJ from the children's show Yo Gabba Gabba!! (I have a three-year-old daughter—this is a shout-out to her).
One thing Lance and Tiki have in common? They're both fans of Tiki.
When he played in the NFL, Barber was widely known among his peers and the media to be—let's be diplomatic here—so far up his own rectum that he could lick his own inner ear.
Yes, Barber is known as a conceited, cocky person, but I'm sure he'd be happy to regale you for hours regarding his humbleness and modesty. He's good like that.
Many former Giants teammates, with no fear of rancour from Barber despite his massive influence in the media, went on record as stating he was a terrible teammate, that he was more about himself than the team, that he undermined coaches and teammates when they didn't kiss his ass and that for the last two seasons he did absolutely nothing at all off the field to help his team win.
After an MVP-like 2005, it was shocking to hear this, as most players that produce statistically become defacto leaders on their teams. Most players and people who think they're the most amazing thing on the face of the planet embrace the Alpha Dog philosophy and become leaders of men. If they're that important, why shouldn't they?
Alas, Barber is of the other silk—the "I'm perfect and if you cross me or point out how I'm not perfect, I'll pout, cry and do anything I can to avoid taking personal responsibility for my failings and find a way to blame you" egomaniac as opposed to the "I'm better than you so I should tell you what to do" type of egomaniac.
The latter is actually a beneficial teammate—the former, not even someone you want to give a nickel to on the street for fear you may have to speak to them for 30 seconds or more.
Want an example of how much his type adds to a team? The Giants won the Super Bowl the year after he retired by pulling off one of the greatest upsets in NFL history. Coach Tom Coughlin and the Giants said it was because of team unity and a common goal, something that didn't exist when Barber was there, which Coach Coughlin and the Giants players also made very clear.
After purging the squad of locker room abscesses like Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, JaMarcus Russell and others too numerous to mention, the last thing the Raiders need is a faded superstar thinking he still has it, ruining the locker room and the team concept this organization has FINALLY adopted after years of a me-first mentality.
Barber's ego gives me more pause than his age and mani/pedi living over the last five years. I'm worried that if the Raiders did sign him, the instant Tiki entered Oakland city limits, Alameda would collapse under the weight of his forehead.
The Not so Obvious: He's Not Doing It for Any of the Right Reasons
Let's list the reasons a player SHOULD come back to the sport he professes to love:
1) Can still play at a high level (there were scouts that thought Jim Brown could still play at 40)
2) Loyal to team and fanbase
3) Competitive fire still burning
4) Sport needs a shot of intrigue at that time
While not in order and maybe not the best reasons, the above reasons could all be swallowed by the average fan if a former star player announced they were returning to their sport despite all signs pointing to it being a really, really, really poor idea.
Let's look at the reasons Barber is most likely returning. I speculate, but the media monster seems to be in agreement that Barber's reasons are less than altruistic:
1) He's broke. He was a terrible football analyst, so he was fired. He was terrible on the Today show, so he was fired. He's in the middle of a messy divorce, has four children from that divorce and has no money left from his playing days, or his failed foray into broadcasting.
2) He needs validation. This guy is such a walking pat on the back that he can't stand to think of himself out of the public eye for more than two seconds. Hell, he'd be glad to tell you that we, the public, can't live without him and his incredibleness. Right.
3) He's got something to prove. Ordinarily, this would be a good thing, a "show the world" mentality with a chip on the shoulder. But this is a guy that has already proven everything he needs to, at least by most measures. The fact the Giants won it all the year he left still eats at him and he wants to come back for another shot at a title. The problem is, his age and recent lack of playing time make it highly unlikely he'll contribute positively to any team, meaning it's really all for Tiki and not to help the team he may join.
Barber, thus far, has said all the right things, but the fact is his life has been in shambles recently and it's been his own doing. He lost sponsorships after it was revealed he cheated on his then-pregnant wife with a woman 10 years younger than him and he's been flailing in court and divorce proceedings ever since.
If the man was wearing a sign outside the NFL offices that said "Will carry football for food" his motives couldn't be any more obvious. Once again, the Raiders do not need a player who is focused on anything more than football.
We had a guy here interested in picking up a paycheck but not putting in any effort. He even started for us. He had talent, but no team-first mentality. He was playing for all the wrong reasons.
His name is JaMarcus Russell.
In Barber, I see Russell all over again, only Barber knows better, is older, yet is still just playing for a paycheck. A paycheck necessitated because he can't live the way he preaches others should.
Adding an egotistical hypocrite to the Raiders, when coach Hue Jackson and his new staff are doing their best to continue changing the culture, would be the worst decision they've made in years. And we drafted Russell, remember?
In case I didn't make the point clear enough, I do not want the Raiders to sign Tiki Barber.
I don't feel it's necessary in any logical way. We have young running backs who have shown their abilities. They need the rock as much as possible.
We have a team who improved in leaps and bounds last season; a big part of that was eradicating ego and me-first attitude and buying into a team system. Barber would unravel that in seconds.
I feel that Barber should stick to shaking hands with SpongeBob and Lance and other cartoon characters that he may actually be able to still juke on the field of play and leave the NFL to the next generation of running backs looking for their chance.
I will be shocked if Barber comes back and actually makes a team. I will be stunned if he actually contributes anything on the field and I will literally eat my own facial hair if he somehow, some way, helps a team win and/or make the playoffs.
A record run of seven 10-plus loss seasons didn't make me waver in my loyalty or faith to this team, but if they actually signed Barber, I might have to reevaluate things.
I don't know that I would've wanted Barber even in his prime, so poor was his attitude and sportsmanship. Now that he's ruined his personal life, needs quick cash and to repair his rep—he's trying to regain glory at the tender age of 36 when not touting the rock in almost five years?
I'd rather stick salt-and-vinegar bamboo shoots under my finger and toenails, thank you very much.