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Can attitude overshadow a player’s talent?

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Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

In the case of high-profile players like Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr., the conversation about how they ‘fit’ into the culture of a franchise is more prominent than ever. Common phrases like ‘not worth the headache,’ ‘locker room cancer’ or ‘too much of a distraction’ follow players who are deemed a tougher sell.

Called out for their attitude and commitment, the perception of a player’s public persona have grown into a larger consideration for GMs. While players like Bryant and Beckham have intriguing abilities, their on the field talent has become upstaged by questions about their demeanor and approach to the game. As a fan, is it more important for an organization to sign the best players or find talent that aligns with the ideals of the franchise?

In looking at one of most decorated NFL teams in the New England Patriots, it is hard to argue against selecting personnel based on players that will buy into the system. Bill Belichick has found unparalleled success in sticking to the “Patriot Way” with few exceptions. In many cases, he parts ways with productive players (i.e. Malcolm Butler) that are not as receptive to New England’s strategy. Begging the question, should teams weigh measurable physical gifts differently when a player has a notorious temperament?

With the Ravens struggling to rejoin the conversation as a contender, it is tempting to stock pile as many play makers as possible. However, given that football is the ultimate team sport, prolific players that bring unnecessary scrutiny and media attention often prove to be divisive and counter-productive. Rather than struggling to bend a player into Baltimore’s locker room, the long game suggests finding prospects and signing players that will mesh within the organization and develop from subscribing to the leadership structure that is in place.