While the entire football world tries to make sense out of the charges levied against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots’ organization deserves some recognition for how they handled Hernandez, not just over the past week, but throughout his entire career as well.
Despite how things have ended between Hernandez and the Patriots, New England was wise to draft him. Coming out of college, Hernandez was one of the most versatile and talented offensive players available. Not only did he help the Florida Gators win a BCS National Championship, but he also was an all-SEC player, an All-American, and a John Mackey Award winner.
Of course, a troubled past and a wide array of character issues caused Hernandez to fall in the draft, not being selected until the fourth round. As they’ve done in the past, the Patriots took a chance on a high-risk, high-reward player like Hernandez, who was incredibly valuable in the fourth round for the amount of talent he possesses.
During his three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez became an integral part of their offense, became a Pro-Bowler and helped New England reach a Super Bowl. He was more productive in just three seasons than a lot of fourth round draft picks are in their entire careers. Those three seasons were well worth the cost of a fourth round pick back in 2010.
But when Hernandez found himself in trouble, the Patriots cut him no slack, which they were right to do. New England knew when they drafted him that there was a chance his off-field behavior could become an unnecessary distraction, and when that happened, they knew that the best thing to do was to let him go.
Therein lies the brilliance of the Patriots’ organization: they took a chance on Hernandez, got what they could out of him on the field, and when Hernandez became a distraction they cut him loose.
New England gave no second thought and no second chance, which is why Hernandez was cut within hours of his arrest, despite the fact that it could end up costing them millions of dollars they could have saved had they waited for the legal process to play out.
That no-nonsense attitude is a big reason why New England has had the kind of success they’ve had over such a long period of time. From the time they drafted him to the time they released him, the Patriots handled Hernandez brilliantly, and for that they should be recognized and applauded.