Matt Stafford recently became the NFL’s highest paid player, signing a five-year, $135 million dollar extension that includes a $50 million signing bonus and $92 million in guaranteed money. But back in 2009, before he was drafted, when he was the consensus number one quarterback in the draft, the San Francisco 49ers, under the direction of then-head coach Mike Singletary, took him off their draft board because he wouldn’t talk to the team’s psychologist about his parents’ divorce.
Singletary recounted the story on a radio interview to KNBR’s Ralph Barbieri,
“If you’re going to look at drafting a guy in the first round, and you’re going to pay him millions of dollars, and asking him about a divorce about his parents, if that’s going to be an issue, uhhh, then you know what, maybe he doesn’t belong here.”
There are a few caveats that must be issued. First, Mike Singletary is a Hall of Famer, 10-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl Champion, and two-time NFL Defensive player of the year; that is to say, he’s not just some schmuck. Granted, an incredible on-field career does not a good coach make, but Singletary’s impact on the game of football can’t be ignored.
Second, the 49ers held the 10th pick in the draft, so there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Stafford would still be available when it was their turn to pick.
Still, many players have committed more egregious sins than refusing to talk about a non-football personal matter and stayed on draft boards. Not to pick on Frank Clark, who’s been a model citizen since entering the NFL, but he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks after he was suspended from the Michigan Wolverines for pleading guilty to felony second-degree home invasion (he stole a laptop) and ultimately kicked off the team after being arrested on domestic violence charges.
Before we go further, let’s acknowledge that people — especially young people — make mistakes and shouldn’t be branded as lifelong criminals based on a few dumb things they did as kids. Beating up your girlfriend is awful and goes beyond “youthful transgression” but it doesn’t mean you’re automatically a lifelong evil-doer and Boko Haram sympathizer.
If a player like Greg Hardy, who was suspended from the NFL for beating up his girlfriend on a pile of guns, can sign a one-year $11 million dollar deal after the facts come out, it’s insane that a team would pass on Matt Stafford for not talking to a stranger about his parents’ divorce.