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Colts Aren't Ruling out Richie Incognito, but Should They?

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Colts head coach Chuck Pagano told the media today that they will look at all options, including offensive lineman Richie Incognito. But should they have interest in signing the troubled guard? That's a tougher question.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Former Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday and was cleared by the NFL to play.  Because of this, the discussion about whether a team will or should sign him has picked up once again.  And, for a team that could use guard help like the Colts, the discussion seems especially pertinent.

Enough so that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was asked today whether the team would consider bringing Incognito in.  His answer didn't rule it out.  This from the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder:

"Anybody that's on the street right now, after the cut downs this weekend,'' he said. "Anybody that comes available, we'll discuss. We will not, based on anything, say yea or nay based on history, this, that or the other.

"If it makes sense, if it's going to help us win and it's the best thing for this team and this organization moving forward, it doesn't matter whether it's Richie or anybody else. We'll do what's right for this organization and what's best for this team and what gives us the best chance to win.''

That's not an endorsement, but it's not a "no" either.  So basically, Chuck Pagano didn't tell us much new information, though now we've got the head coach not ruling it out, so it has sparked more discussion.  So let's just take a look at some of the pros and cons of the Colts bringing in Richie Incognito, then I'll give my take.

Pros:

  • The Colts could use a guard.  Left guard Donald Thomas is done for the season with an injury, and the current starter at left guard is a rookie, Jack Mewhort.  And then Lance Louis didn't look good against the Giants when playing with the first team.  The Colts could use a guard.
  • Richie Incognito is a good guard.  The 9-year veteran has started 102 career games with the St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins.  He's not a standout player, but he's better in the short term than the guards the Colts have right now and could help the line out.

Cons:

  • Well, this one should be obvious, but he's had some attitude and behavior issues.  And that's an understatement.  Every place he has gone, he's had an attitude issue, yet he keeps convincing teams to give him a shot.  It all came to a culmination in Miami, when he was the face of that bullying scandal.  This might sound harsh, but I don't care your opinion of that scandal or whether Jonathan Martin or Richie Incognito was most at fault - the bottom line is that there was bullying that went on, and it was enough to cause Martin to leave the team.  Incognito has come off as a jerk to many people and his attitude would raise red flags anyway (it did for Tony Dungy entering the 2005 draft, when he gave Incognito a "do not draft" grade because of character concerns), but the bullying scandal in Miami only magnified that to a whole new level.  Regardless of what you think about the bullying thing, you can't deny that there are red flags there.
  • While this Colts team has strong leaders, I'm not so sure the offensive line does.  If you talk to anybody surrounding football they'll tell you how the offensive linemen especially function as their own unit, and within that unit there's no real leader.  It would likely be Anthony Castonzo or Gosder Cherilus by default, as they've played the longest, but I don't know how strong their leadership is.  I've talked with people who know Incognito who say that with him, you just can't put him in a position of leadership.  He's a good player, but not a good leader.  Do you really think that the Colts can sign a 9-year veteran lineman, put him in a unit that's always kind of their own unit, among a group of young, inexperienced players, and expect him not to be placed in a position of at least some leadership?  It's impossible, and the Colts have to know that signing Incognito would mean giving him at least some leadership - something they'd need to seriously consider and do their research on.
  • This is a tightly-knit team.  Chuck Pagano is very, very emphatic in his emphasis on family.  Family doesn't treat each other like Incognito has treated some teammates in the past.  Signing Incognito could have a negative affect on that family aspect of the team that Pagano has worked so hard to cultivate (notice I say could, not would).  The team that signs Incognito (if one does) is going to do so for business, not for family.  You can talk all you want about the NFL being a business (because it is), but Pagano wants to try to make it as much of a family as possible.  This doesn't mean he wouldn't sign Incognito or that it would ruin what he's been doing, but he'd better think hard about it before doing so.
  • I'm not sure how much this one actually comes into play, but some have joked that the Colts are "Stanford East" with all the former Stanford guys on their team.  Andrew Luck, Griff Whalen, Coby Fleener, Delano Howell, and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton all have Stanford connections with Jonathan Martin - the one who left the Dolphins team because of Incognito's bullying.  How easily would those players accept Incognito into their locker room?  Outwardly, they're all class acts and would welcome him, but how would they really react?  I don't know the answer to this, but Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano better find it out before they make a decision to bring Incognito in.
  • Richie Incognito's talent might not be enough to outweigh his character concerns.  Basically, the only way you can justify brining in Richie Incognito is by saying that he's an upgrade at guard - which he would be.  But is he enough of an upgrade to make the risks worth it?  Remember, he's not a great player.  He's a good guard, but nothing special.  He's not going to instantly make this offensive line a good one like some fans are implying would happen.  He'd be an improvement, sure, but he's not going to be a game changer for them.  Does that talent really outweigh the risks that come with it?
  • Finally, it's not the best answer long-term.  Richie Incognito would help the Colts out this year by being an improvement over what they currently have (though, again, see the previous point).  But Ryan Grigson drafted Hugh Thornton in the third round last year and Jack Mewhort in the second round this year.  Both of them have potential.  Sitting one of them this year would not be as good for their development as playing them would.  Yes, I know, the Colts have to protect Luck.  But this line won't be worse than it was last year, even with all the young guys on the interior.  Fans think short term.  General managers have to do that primarily, but also think long term too.  And long term, starting Mewhort and Thornton and letting them take their lumps has the potential to be a much bigger payoff than signing Richie Incognito this year.
I think you can already tell what my opinion is: I don't think the Colts should sign Richie Incognito.  The Colts could certainly use help along the offensive line and I'm not denying that Incognito would be an upgrade, but I don't think he's anything special and I'm adamant on the fact that I don't think his talent outweighs the many red flags that come with his character, attitude, and behavior.

Chuck Pagano wouldn't rule out bringing in Richie Incognito, and we should have expected that.  He just said that they're evaluating everyone out there, and of course they are.  When it comes down to it, however, I don't expect the Colts to sign Richie Incognito, and I don't think they should, either.