You hate that guy at work.
You know that guy: the one who drains the coffee pot and doesn't refill it, the one who never seems to be at his desk, the one who laughs at his own jokes when nobody else does, the one who can't handle himself in front of customers and "replies all" to every email.
You're pretty sure he makes more than you.
You hate that guy.
Former Detroit Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell was that guy.
"I'm just not a big fan of Scott Mitchell," former Lions left tackle Lomas Brown said last week on ESPN Radio (via the Detroit Free Press). "He's not on my Christmas list."
There aren't a lot of people who are big fans of Mitchell. Outside of an excellent 1995 season, his play wasn't anywhere near worth the millions he was given. Fans had their fill of Mitchell during his dramatic regression in 1996, but apparently, it didn't take his teammates that long to sour on him.
Brown admitted that during the 1994 season, Mitchell's first in Detroit, Brown intentionally missed a block, hoping Mitchell would be knocked out of the game:
We were getting beat, 24-3, at that time and he just stunk up the place. He's throwing interceptions, just everything. So I looked at Kevin Glover, our All-Pro center and I said, ‘Glove, that is it.' I said, ‘I'm getting him out the game.' . . . So I got the gator arms on the guy at the last minute, he got around me, he hit Scott Mitchell, he did something to his finger . . . and he came out the game.
His plan worked, and backup Dave Krieg helped turn the Lions' season around. They went 5-2 down the stretch and made the playoffs.
Mitchell responded to Brown's admission on the Dan Patrick Show (via Pro Football Talk). Mitchell told guest host Mike Florio:
It was extremely disappointing. I’m really shocked by it, to be honest. Here’s a guy I’ve had in my house, I had a big dinner for the offensive linemen every year, he came to my house and ate dinner, I gave my offensive linemen gifts every year. For him to do that is just reprehensible, beyond words. It’s really disappointing, it really is painful. When you mess with my family, mess with my livelihood, mess with my health, it’s unacceptable. It’s B.S. I just wouldn’t do it to a teammate. I wouldn’t do it. If Lomas has a problem with me, come talk to me. To try to get someone hurt, it’s just mind-boggling.
Mitchell's reaction likely echoed Brown's thoughts at the time: Mitchell was messing with Brown's livelihood.
Just like your hapless co-worker, who can undo weeks of effort with a thoughtless comment at a client meeting, Mitchell's poor play was dragging down a team that had gone 10-6 the previous season. Mitchell, whose three-year contract worth $11 million was supposed to put the Lions over the top, was about to put the Lions below .500 with just seven games left to play.
So Brown took matters into his own hands—and broke every written and unwritten rule of sports.
When that guy whose clip-on tie makes you grind your teeth is about to keep your department from hitting its year-end targets again, if you tell a co-worker "That's it, I'm going to break his fingers" and then you break his fingers, you're going to jail.
What Brown did is, as Mitchell said, "reprehensible." An unblocked pass-rusher getting a clean hit on stationary quarterback is one of the most dangerous plays in the game; it's why the NFL makes up new rules every year about when and how defenders can and can't tackle quarterbacks.
By putting Mitchell's health and livelihood at risk, Brown's actions went far beyond office politics. By publicly admitting it—maybe even bragging about it—Brown has done immeasurable damage to his own livelihood.
Prior to this incident, Brown's promising career as a broadcaster and analyst was overshadowing his deeply underrated career as a player. Now, he's ruined his legacy as a player and cast serious doubts on his future in front of a camera.
Brown has already apologized for his statements on ESPN's First Take (via USA Today), and has said he'll reach out to Mitchell. Only time will tell if the 27 years of goodwill Brown's built up as an outstanding player and likable TV persona will outweigh his two terrible decisions.
In the meantime, let's all take a lesson. Even if we're not putting our bodies on the line for the entertainment of millions, our coworkers are our teammates. Like them or not, what's good for them is good for us, and vice versa.
If you've got beef with someone, be straight with them. Treat them with respect and dignity, and in the process, preserve yours. Going behind their back to "get revenge" will ultimately reflect more on you than them.
Or, you could wrap their desk in tinfoil.
I hear that's very cathartic.
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