The San Francisco 49ers are in a position where they need some serious playmakers on both sides of the ball. Over the past couple months, one name brought up as a potential option in second round mock drafts is Joe Mixon. The Oklahoma running back is immensely talented, but he also pled out after punching a woman in the face.
While I wish I could focus exclusively on football, when the 49ers elected to release cornerback Tramaine Brock, one of the first things I thought was, “well, this would suggest Mixon is not on the 49ers board.” I did not think John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were prepared to draft Mixon, but the Tramaine Brock situation certainly provided an example of how they might be thinking.
Shanahan and Lynch both met with the media this week, and were asked about the Brock situation. Shanahan spoke on Monday, and he acknowledged the team did not have all the information when they decided to release Brock. It was his first time making this kind of decision and he said he did not realize the difficulty that comes with making a decision without every detail on the incident.
“It was a tough situation because it’s a big deal and you don’t have all of the information. My first time going through it, I found out how hard it is to kind of get all the information. So, we spent most of the day trying to figure out all the information you can, as much as you can get, and you never do get all of it, but there was enough there that we felt it was the decision we had to make and move on from.”
Both Shanahan and Lynch were asked how this might apply to other players. Lynch was specifically asked if Joe Mixon was off their draft board. Lynch would not say yes or no, but rather that they would not share any specifics about who was on or off their draft board.
Both had a chance to discuss the issue of character and situation-by-situation in more general terms. Both said they would look at every situation on its own and gather the information they can.
“I think each situation’s different and you’ve got to look into every situation, gather all the information that you can. When you do, you try as hard as you can to make the right decision and I think that’s what I felt we did.”
“[A]s those situations arise and hopefully there won’t be a lot them, we’re going to treat each one of them as a unique and different situation. That’s what we did the other day. I can tell you guys that I understood when I stepped into this job that there would be tough decisions and I also understood that part of my job is to make tough and hard decisions. I can tell you that the gravity of that situation, you’re affecting an organization, you’re protecting your organization, but you’re also dealing with the family. So, that was not easy. I think there’s been some conjecture that we didn’t think highly of him. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. He was a starting player for us. So, that was not easy. I can also tell you that it wasn’t meant to send a message. I think you let those things happen organically and we did what we felt was the right situation in that situation. It was not easy and felt like it was something that we needed to do.”
Both Shanahan and Lynch talked about trying to do the right thing with the information they have. At the same time, they did not set a bright line rule when it comes to off-field arrests.
They have repeatedly stated the importance of character in their personnel decisions. These repeated comments, coupled with the quick decision to release Tramaine Brock would suggest a player like Joe Mixon would be off the board.
However, what about Dalvin Cook? Dating back to high school, Cook has had several run-ins with the law, including an allegation he punched a woman in the face. He was found not guilty in the battery allegation, had charges dropped on robbery and firearm possessions in high school, and received a citation for animal cruelty. Where does this fit into the decision-making process for the 49ers? The 49ers decision to release Brock shows a conviction is not necessary, but for a player like Cook, it is not entirely clear what their policy might be.
The 49ers history has been convoluted when it comes to off-field arrests. Under Trent Baalke, Ray McDonald and Bruce Miller both received a second chance following violence-related arrests. Both were subsequently released after further arrests. There has been nothing to suggest Tramaine Brock had gotten in trouble prior to this arrest, which would suggest a zero tolerance policy. Reports following the arrest said the alleged victim had visible injuries. It is possible that was a deciding factor for Lynch and Shanahan.
Neither Lynch or Shanahan was entirely clear on the specific details that led to Brock’s release, other than to say they were trying to do the right thing with the information they had. It would appear we are simply left waiting to see how they respond in each situation, rather than knowing the team has a specific bright line rule in these situations.