I disliked Paul Daugherty before I ever met him. I even took a shot at him when I hosted a sports-talk show in Cincinnati earlier this year (sadly, the audio has been destroyed). There was an air of smugness that came through his writing that drove me nuts. I thought it was a front, and anyone who knows me well enough knows that I despise phonies (especially phony radio hosts) more than just about anything else. They're right up there with pedophiles and Little League coaches. Oh wait, same thing.
When I met Paul Daugherty in March of 2007 I was shocked to find out...he's the exact same person you've been reading in the Cincinnati Enquirer for years. He's just a painfully honest fellow who--I promise--never has an agenda. Perhaps more shockingly, we became friends. Well, we kind of became friends. I mean, he's approaching the age of fifty and I'm still approaching girls in the bar who (hopefully) make poor decisions. But anyway...I worked four-to-five days a week with Daugherty for over five months, so we had a lot of time to shoot the shit. One of our frequent topics was Chad Johnson. This was because Daugherty authored Johnson's biography.
In all of our chats I never once heard Daugherty say a bad thing about employee No. 85. In fact, just as he's done several times in the Enquirer, he defended Johnson's antics and deemed them harmless. Which is why his column that ran on Sunday was so telling.
A couple of things before I semi-dissect the column:
1. Often times with columnists a fact is disguised as an opinion. This is done to protect the source. Remember, he's been doing this a long time; he's well respected with a ton of contacts. I'm guessing there are a lot of things that Daugherty held out of this column (you know, the off the record stuff) that forced him to bite his tongue. Either way, he had enough information to write another thought-provoking piece (or whatever).
2. Remember, Daugherty really likes Chad, and--again--he doesn't have an agenda. Even if he and Chad had a behind-the-scenes fight Daugherty would never redirect his venom and allow the world to play voyeur. So the fact he banged out a column about the possibility of Chad being a cancer speaks volumes.
3. This probably doesn't belong in this space, but it seems important to mention that I'm not a jock-sniffer (relative term) in any way. I don't think a single thing is cool about liking someone just because of their stature. This is especially true of the local celebrities I know. When I say or write kind words about Daugherty, Dave Lapham, Scott Sloan, Mo Egger, etc., it's because they are my actual friends, and not because I want them to like me. Remember, I wanted to hate Daugherty, just as I hate so many other local celebrities.
Now that we have those bases covered, my thoughts on the column...
a. Ray Oliver's scorpion/turtle parable scares the hell out of me. Reading between the lines isn't necessary to understand what he meant: Chad Johnson is a cancer, but the team needs him in order to win games. It can also be translated to Marvin Lewis needs Chad on the field if he wants to save his job.
b. A few paragraphs in Daugherty asks a simple but eye-opening question: "Is he worth it?"
Huh? What? Has it really reached the point to where that question needed to be asked? When did this become such a monumental problem? I just thought Chad was a baby who had to be dealt with a little differently than the rest of the squad. I didn't realize that Chad's antics had gone too far, and that his selfishness is out of control, because that's the way the column reads. Either way, I'm assuming there were enough grumblings in the locker room that led Daugherty to posing that question in print.
c. Daugherty also wrote that "Groups of veteran players have met informally to discuss what to do about Johnson. Some have suggested he sit a game." Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't remember hearing or reading about this. Regardless, this is a really big deal. Chad Johnson is the second best player on the team, an absolute necessity if the team wants to win. Plus he significantly upped the profile of the Bengals since his rookie season of 2001--he's an invaluable guy to the organization. Or so I thought.
So...when the question of "Why would players meet to discuss what to do with him?" is posed, I can only think of one answer:
Chad Johnson must be a cancer.
(Two important things: 1.) I didn't talk to Daugherty about this post, which means this is just my opinion, and 2.) Go listen to the podcasts, dammit.)