Once one of New York’s favorite sons, Barber was thought to be a walking embodiment of everything that Wellington Mara and the Giants organization stood for. He exuded class, got involved with charity work, and usually handled himself with poise when addressing the media. For a team that was desperate for something to smile about, Barber was a bright spot that the crowd relied upon to add spark to a mediocre offensive attack.
So why exactly is Barber’s worsening image important? He is certainly not the first pro athlete, not even the first Giant in recent memory, to tarnish himself in the public’s eye. This case stands out because it proves that owners and GM’s never can quite tell which potential team members will generate distractions and negative attention within the locker room.
It wasn’t exactly shocking to see a player like LT involved in extracurricular scandals (his most recent being a rape case in 2010). LT’s less than savory tendencies had been well documented since he began his NFL career. Burress’s fateful gun mishap might not have been expected, but due to his questionable attitude and troubled past the incident at least made sense.
While draft analysts debate the importance of taking a player’s off the field history into consideration, Barber shows us that it truly is impossible to project the character that a player will display several years down the line.
If the wholesome face of an organization could enter such a downward spiral as Barber, than any professional athlete (no matter how marketable or family friendly) can eventually cause unrest. Thus, talent must heavily outweigh non football related factors.
The Giants apparently agreed with this logic, when they selected DT Marvin Austin, who missed his entire senior season thanks to a minor offense. The Tampa Bay Bucs also concurred, when they took a chance on WR Mike Williams in 2010. Williams found himself suspended multiple times during his time at Syracuse and thus failed to produce the numbers many thought his talent was capable of. When given a chance at the professional level, he earned a starting job and a slot in the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players.
As Barber continues to dig himself deeper into the hole, New York sports fans will continue to stare on in disbelief.