Albert Breer got to sit down with former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was banished from the NFL combine because he a broke a woman’s face in 2014, and published details of his conversation with Mixon on The MMQB last week. The ostensible point of Breer’s piece is to offer some insight into who Mixon really is, but the main thing to be gleaned from this story is that the football press still sucks.
At the outset, Breer admits that he was hesitant to publish the piece, because he doesn’t want to look bad if Mixon does something despicable in the future:
In short, I worried there’s something else behind the figurative Door No. 2. And I know that if even if there isn’t, something else still could happen.
After all, I don’t want to come off looking like a rube any more than the NFL’s 32 teams do. Not after reading what was in the police report in the summer of 2014, and not after seeing exactly what was released on video in December. Mixon knows he can’t change the facts of what happened on July 25, 2014, either.
Skepticism is a good thing for a reporter to arm himself with in these kinds of situations, though I’d argue that if a writer is already harboring such trepidation before a piece is published, the most sensible thing to do is probably to not publish the piece at all.
But maybe that’s selling Breer short. Maybe he did in fact manage to pull something useful out of his time with Mixon—perhaps a discussion about what meaningful steps Mixon has taken to ensure that he never does anything like this again, or some talk about the value of counseling and anger management. Let’s see how Breer did:
Riley arrived in Norman in January 2015, just as Mixon was returning to the program. Riley had his preconceived notions, too, as a husband and a father of two young daughters. Two years later, he says Mixon is his 4-year-old’s favorite player, and tells the story of how Mixon had a flower arrangement waiting for the family when they returned home from the August birth of their second daughter.
That’s a story relayed to Breer by Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. I highlight it here because there is no surer sign that a reporter has been had than that reporter allowing some coach to tell him that the Bad Man is actually Good because the Bad Man is the coach’s daughter’s favorite player.
Breer failed to produce anything beyond some light ball-washing with this story—he makes sure we know how much Mixon “respects” the NFL’s decision to keep him away from the combine—but what’s remarkable is how useless it is even on those terms. Mixon doesn’t need this ball-washing.
Here you have a member of the press helping to craft the standard redemptive NFL storyline for a guy who requires no redemption. Mixon is a talented rookie who can be acquired cheaply, and that makes him a valuable NFL commodity. He is in zero danger of not getting drafted or having a job in the NFL next year, and he will go as far as his talent, work ethic, and ability to refrain from hitting people in the face will take him.
Joe Mixon punched a woman in the face two years ago (and, no, she never called him a racial slur). He has since reached a plea deal with the district attorney, received a remarkable amount of bad press, and been banished from the combine; he will also be employed next season, as he should be, because he is a good football player. Someone should have told The MMQB that there are no wheels to grease here.