In the end, Charles Rogers was a number. Nothing more. He wasn’t a star. He certainly wasn’t a role model. Heck, he was barely a memory, seeing how little he played.
Rogers was a number. His draft number. The No. 2 selection in the 2003 draft. Had he been a fourth-round pick, no one would have expected anything after three subpar seasons. Had he been a fourth-round pick, no one would have argued to keep him after he violated the NFL’s substance-abuse rules. Had he been a fourth-round pick, no one would have blinked when the Lions sent him packing this past weekend.
But because he was a number, that big No. 2, I can’t tell you how many times on Sunday folks stopped to ask me, “What do you think about Rogers being cut?”
Why? Any other player who can’t break his way into an exhibition game, fans write off. And by the end of August, that’s all he was. A guy who couldn’t crack the Lions.
Maybe that big No. 2 which hung so heavily around his neck reflected more on the people who chose him than on Rogers himself. Not the first No. 2 to disappoint
Who says he deserved that lofty status? Maybe someone smarter would have predicted his lousy practice habits. Maybe someone smarter would have predicted Rogers’ sense of entitlement over effort and concluded, “Don’t risk that high a pick on this unpredictable a guy.”
But it’s not like teams haven’t blown such tea leaves before. The Green Bay Packers made a No. 2 pick out of Tony Mandarich. The San Diego Chargers made a No. 2 out of Ryan Leaf. The New York Jets made a No. 2 out of Blair Thomas. All these guys exited the stage in a whisper.
Now, Rogers is gone from the Lions. And? It’s not like they cut an incredible NFL talent. In the handful of games he played here – 15 in three years – rarely did Rogers demonstrate the skill that everyone whispered about. Yes, he was quick. Lots of NFL players are quick. But he wasn’t disciplined. He wasn’t durable. He wasn’t dominant.
And he wasn’t Rod Marinelli’s choice. That makes a difference. Steve Mariucci was coach when Rogers was chosen, so Mariucci had a vested interest in making himself look smart. Marinelli doesn’t care. Rogers was someone else’s mistake. All Marinelli wants is guys who will play hard for him.
And apparently, Rogers wasn’t among the top six receivers to meet that criterion.
Besides, there was another number involved with Rogers – $10.1 million, which is what the Lions are trying to get back from him for, they claim, defaulting on his contract with his substance-abuse suspension.
Call me crazy, but when you are shaking down a guy for 10 million bucks, do you really expect him to give you maximum effort on the field? Marinelli makes a statement
All of which made Rogers an attractive sacrificial lamb. Remember, Marinelli has never head-coached an NFL regular-season contest. The players are watching him. If a guy with the wrong attitude and the wrong practice habits is still given a spot on the team, the other guys aren’t stupid. They see how the game is played.
Marinelli was able to make a statement -I don’t care who you are, I’ll cut you if you don’t do it my way – while ridding the Lions of an albatross. You almost wonder how the Lions could have resisted.
Of course, it makes Matt Millen look bad. But Millen has taken that hit before. Joey Harrington is gone, Marty Mornhinweg is gone, Mariucci is gone. If you can survive faulty choices at head coach and franchise quarterback, what’s a wide receiver on the pile?
Which is where Rogers is at press time. On the discard pile. He is a cautionary tale about drafting a guy in his own backyard, because some claim he had too many hometown voices telling him how good he was. Maybe some new team will take him, attracted by that shiny No. 2 around his neck. And maybe that team will make something more out of Charles Rogers.
If not, he will be nothing more than he was here. A number bigger than he was.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Order tickets for the charity book launch of “For One More Day” with Tony Bennett and Hank Azaria at 248-433-1515 or ticketmaster.com.