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On Matt Jones: The Power of Positive Thinking


[Note by River City Rage, 07/13/08 3:09 PM EDT ] Zac from the fantastic site "Throwing into Traffic" has perhaps the most nuanced perspective on the rise and fall of Matt Jones.  He was kind enough to let me post it here.  Zac has a unique take on the Jaguars, and he links to some of his other writings in this article.  Thank you Zac for sharing this! -Chris

I’m probably one of maybe a handful of people that is in any way saddened by Jaguars WR Matt Jones being caught with cocaine. Anyone who frequents the site knows that he’s a particular favorite of mine, both because of his physical capabilities and the humanizing, almost pathetic desperation that he seems to carry around with him. Indeed, despite my recent praising of Jack Del Rio, I still begrudge his careless destruction of Jones, who is built much more psychologically fragile than his frame and measurables suggest. Perhaps most saddening is that this year, surrounded by a team of fellow NFL castaways and relieved of much of the pressure that came with his arrival into the league, Jones stood a chance of thriving in Jacksonville. After all, does it make sense that someone who has Jones’s gifts and has flashed the kind of potential he’s shown (Jones’s one handed catches are as close as I think the NFL has come to slam dunks) would stay completely quiet for long?

That said, I don’t now how to read this latest misstep in Jones’s career full of mistakes by himself and others. It’s not surprising that he’d be caught with some sort of illicit pastime; after all, you try going through life hearing how much more spectacular you should be and see if it doesn’t mess with your perspective. I joked with a friend that Jones did cocaine because at 6’6", 238 pounds, a 4.37 40-yard time and a 40 inch vertical, ordinary life among humans is BORING. I’m not so sure that the idea is far off of the mark, although the real problem may not be that ordinary life is depressingly boring compared to who Matt Jones is, but that Matt Jones’s life is depressingly boring compared to how Matt Jones knows it should be. We talk all the time about our frustrations with failed "workout wonders," but I wonder what it must be like for them. Consider that while our feelings are tied to the unimaginable potential of possessing the athletic capability of these players, for them, the potential is completely imaginable. Matt Jones knows exactly what it’s like to move as fast, jump as high, and be as strong as Matt Jones, and it must be incredibly frustrating to have that understanding paired with the disappointment that comes from those gifts lacking accomplishment. This is probably why while Jones’s career becomes a punchline for us, he and other similarly athletically gifted disappointments are totally unable to find levity in the situation.

Matt Jones is one of the most uniquely human wide receivers in that his general diva tendencies (the pouting, the vow to not shave…) never fully eclipse his own desperation. This makes it particularly frustrating to watch Jack Del Rio bench Jones and chide him in the media for the very traits that I’ve come to appreciate, and the fact that this latest issue is probably going to lead to more of the same is disheartening. This is why I’m hoping that this latest incident serves two purposes. First, I’m hoping Jones gets released from the Jaguars. I know I’ve extolled the virtues of the faceless, band of damned brothers passing attack they’ve built down there, but at this point the likelihood of Del Rio allowing Jones to be a part of it seems slim; Jones would be the fifth option at best. Furthermore, given this latest incident, I don’t know that anonymity in the whole is the cure for what ails Matt Jones. Instead, maybe he needs a change of locales to a place that has shown an aptitude for and a predilection towards repairing and restoring fallen stars. Which is why the second thing I hope is that Matt Jones, an Arkansas alum, will wind up on the Cowboys. This isn’t as out of the blue as it may seem. Jerry Jones lives and dies by Arkansas football, and has proven his willingness to bet on tremendous upside versus some potential for failure in the cases of Terrell Owens and Adam Jones. Furthermore, the team needs to solidify it 2-3 receiver spots, and Jones is ideally built to satisfy either role (he’s certainly more of a downfield threat than Patrick Crayton). Throwing T.O., Matt Jones, Crayton, and Witten downfield would give the Cowboys the strangest and most dangerous (in several different senses of the word) passing offense in the league. Having already gambled and won with T.O., is it crazy to think Jones could do the same with a younger, faster, bigger receiver?

In any case, I want this incident to be the one that lets Matt Jones separate from the past. Obviously, it’s never a positive thing when someone gets arrested, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is less the start of a terrible pattern or downward spiral than it is a necessary outburst on a lost prodigy’s road to finding himself. It’s not like Matt Jones was riding high prior to the arrest; he’d gone from dynamic receiver of the future, a man who could turn his size and speed into airborne art that was the sum of a number of dynamic energies, to a failure cruising around the backwoods with blow in his lap. If Dallas, (or anyone for that matter, but Dallas has done it already so let’s stick with them) were willing to pick up the pieces of Matt Jones, wouldn’t it be worth it to buy so low on such young, potentially salvageable greatness? Having already shaped T.O. into a happier human being, I think it’s time for the Cowboys to work psychological wonders on another project. I want Matt Jones to start smiling.