Just Say NO! to Clay Matthews for Defensive Rookie of the Year

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By  Andy Tisdel

Let me just say it: I don’t think that Brian Cushing’s  Defensive Rookie of the Year award, as voted on by the AP, should be going to a re-vote (as it currently is). Nor do I think Clay Matthews should win, should it come to that kind of a re-vote.

Brian Cushing had a hell of a year. He had one of the best years of any defensive rookie this decade, ranking sixth overall in tackles and picking off four passes and defending 14–by far the most of any linebacker in either category (this year). On a defense that ranked 13th overall in yards given up, Cushing was a leader on the field. He subsequently ran away with the DROY award, receiving 39 votes from the AP. Nobody else was even close; Buffalo Bills safety Jarius Byrd got six and Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews had three, out of fifty.

That’s Cushing wrapping up Chris Johnson. I’m not sure you understand quite how much ass this man kicked.

Now Cushing has tested positive for using a “nonsteroidal” banned substance after displaying substance abuse symptoms. And he stands to lose a lot more than just an award or tw0. Yes, it could cost him $2.6 million dollars in incentives and escalator clauses (You can read the full story on NFL.COM). We don’t know what that substance was. Nobody seems to, even Texans owner Robert McNair.

“The club is left completely out of the loop on that,” McNair said. “We’re not even notified…” and later in the article, “we don’t know what any of the details are, we don’t know what doctors he may have consulted with, we don’t know what evidence that the league might have had…” Well if the Texans’ own team owner doesn’t know what the hell is going on, how does the AP? What is the substance he used? Was it only once, or repeatedly? By accident or on purpose? Was it something like the StarCaps of Pat and Kevin Williams’ fame, that didn’t actually affect their play but still merited a suspension? If so, would it be remotely appropriate to deprive him of the award on the grounds it affected his play, or is it just a reputation thing?

The AP is moving far too quickly on this for my taste, which argues for the latter case: they smelled the smoke of the positive test–which Cushing still disputes–and decided to dump him as fast as they could. But with all these questions yet to be answered, I have no idea how the AP thinks it has grounds to take the award away from Cushing–and certainly not, again, after the kind of season he had.

I guess the “non-steroidal substance” was the pure blood of Michael Jordan, since he appears to have gained madd ball skillz.

But even if they feel they have to yank the award, why bother with a revote? Why not just award the thing to Jarius Byrd? I’m no Byrd fan–I think his string of games where he had six picks in three games was more luck than skill, and that’s what vaulted him into the ESPN spotlight so necessary for award-getting–but he got the next most votes, fair and square.

As a Packer fan through and through, I’d love to see Matthews get the thing, but that’s how the voters voted, rightly or wrongly. Performing a recount like this almost makes the award meaningless anyway; whoever gets it will be dragging an asterisk around. “Oh, yeah, that was the year Brian Cushing won it, BUT…” I think the best solution if they’re really going to strip Cushing of DROY honors is to not hand them out at all. If Cushing was the best of all rookies, axing him from the list does not make Byrd or Matthews the best that year, which is what this is supposed to be about anyway.

Byrd did do some otherworldly things at safety, it must be said.

Okay. I’ve had my rant, now I’m putting in one more, larger question before I wrap this thing up and go to bed. Here it is:

Why the hell do we even care what he took?

Seriously. Why do we care? Baseball fans and the baseball administration get themselves in a real tizzy over this sort of thing. MLB still hasn’t gotten over the steroid scandals. That was in what, 2003? Dragged on until when? The sense of cheating goes a lot deeper in that sport, perhaps because it’s supposed to be so quintessentially American and cheating there is more wrong then cheating elsewhere? I just don’t know.

But in the NFL, it’s more of a fire-and-forget system. You serve your suspension or you pay your fine and the league, and even most fans, forget about it. ‘Spygate’ was the biggest scandal in sports a couple years ago; who brings it up now? Julius Peppers and Shawne Merriman both got suspensions handed down, as that same article helpfully reminds us. Who remembers those?

Didn’t stop him getting an enormous contract, did it? In the NFL, talent > character flaws/other flaws by a DAMN sight.

Baseball, every time a steroid-tainted player’s name shows up, we hear all about it. But as football fans, we all know there’s drug use out there, and illicit crap that gets around the bans and the tests. The bulk that some of those players have defies all common sense; we think, “that couldn’t have happened naturally”. So we’re not really surprised when a player turns out to have ‘juiced’, nor are we outraged.

I think the get-ahead-by-any-means credo in the NFL, the hours upon hours of obsessive film watching and game planning and strategizing and maybe the need to find any kind of edge over the other guy, justifies part of it for us. I could be totally wrong. But whatever the reason, we’re just a lot more okay with NFL athletes using drugs.

So why do we care about Brian Cushing and his non-steroidal, vaguely defined, banned substance? A four-game suspension, okay, fine, no reason not to hand that down if he did violate the NFL policy. But the move by the AP of actually going to a re-vote, of taking away the award that Cushing won and giving it to someone apparently not as worthy, I don’t buy any of that.  Let him keep it or give it to Byrd or don’t give it to anyone, but holding a full recount is exactly what the AP shouldn’t be doing. It’s not as if there was voter fraud or anything that invalidated the procedure, for Chrissake, only the result.

Sweet crap on a stick, can you imagine the re-vote looking like this? We’d be up to our collective balls in “Matthews for President” campaign advertising.

You can read more articles from Andy Tisdale on this page.


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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.


28 thoughts on “Just Say NO! to Clay Matthews for Defensive Rookie of the Year

  1. Except for the possibility that Cushing CHEATED to get those lofty stats. Would he have performed that way if he was not juiced? Probably not. Why should a someone be awarded for cheating?

    My take is that I don’t want to see Matthews put in the uncomfortable position of accepting an award at the expense of his friend and former college teammate, AND the fact that it simply escalates the “guilt by association” that is already following CM3 around thanks to Cushing. Strip ROY away and give it to Matthews and the whispers of “they’re both products of a corrupt USC program. I’ll bet he tests positive next,” are inevitable.

    I’m still not in favor of turning the other cheek when it comes to rewarding a cheater, however. While it would be a nice for the Packers to lay claim to having the Defensive ROY playing on the same defense as the Defensive MVP, it would put an unfair and uncomfortable spotlight on Matthews. Perhaps his name begins to show up on the “random” drug testing lists more often than it ordinarily would, thanks to that (which we hope he has nothing to fear from). God knows, the media would be licking its collective chops at the slightest hint that CM3 also juiced. It’s just an added pressure that I don’t want to see him go through.

    1. “I don’t want to see Matthews put in the uncomfortable position of accepting an award at the expense of his friend and former college teammate, AND the fact that it simply escalates the “guilt by association” that is already following CM3 around thanks to Cushing”

      Well said, Anita. You echo my main reason for not wanting Matthews involved in this re-vote.

    2. “I don’t want to see Matthews put in the uncomfortable position of accepting an award at the expense of his friend and former college teammate…”

      Hypothetical question: if Matthews wins the revote, should he accept the award or turn it down?

      1. Well, Cushing just won again, but if I were Matthews, I would decline. Unless, of course, I was due a big bonus in my contract for winning…

  2. Wow!! The AP can take away any award they want, they are the AP they give the award, and thus can take it away.

    CRUSHING is still eligible. The reason for the revote is how many people value LB more than S? I think that is the true reason for the revote, just cuz Byrd got more votes how many of the 39 CRUSHING votes would go to CM3 because OLB with 10 sacks is more valuable than a S with 9 ints.

    I personally dont care and I dont think CM3 cares. He is looking to get 16 sacks this year. The issues is this is the offseason=no real news for a while.

  3. CM3 not only had 10 sacks, but had 1 FF, 3 FR, 7 pass deflections and 1 TD. Byrd didn’t have a single TD, nor did Cushing.

    CM3 wasn’t just sacks. That’s so misleading. He was always around the ball.

    He deserved the award. Why shouldn’t he get it, if there’s a re-vote?

    Cushing did take a masking substance, which IS an indication of taking PEDs. For that reason alone, he should be stripped of his award. He only performed like he did because of the substance he took.

    I do agree with the “too early” point. It’s not 100% sure he took steroids. I believe, after he comes back, we’ll see if he took it or not; If he doesn’t perform as he did last year, we’ll all know why…

  4. Well here’s my take on it; the NFL would not have released this news if they weren’t pretty damn sure that Cushing was on something. For one, its not like the NFL really wants to suspend Cushing, they could go the MLB route and just turn a blind eye, but the NFL feels that its more profitable to portrait a squeaky clean image of equality and justice and hence they go through these testings. In my opinion no one really wins in this scenario; obviously Cushing will most likely lose the award, lots of money and awards in the future, the Texans will lose a ton of money if they lose games because of Cushing’s suspension and the NFL loses due to the bad press, as if they didn’t have enough of that with Big Ben’s rape case, LT’s rape case and the whole Dez Bryant’s mom being a prostitute thing. So really, you have to assume that the NFL is 100% certain about the testing results before they would announce this. Furthermore, I don’t think the AP has acted that quickly, I believe it was only after Cushing lost his appeal that the AP decided to do the redo. From my take, the AP gave every chance for Cushing; the NFL probably retested the results, then announced the results, allowed for an appeal and finally rejected the appeal before the AP reacted.

    Should Cushing be allowed to keep his DROY award? I actually like how they’ve done it, if you think that he should be allowed to keep his award or that the accusation is fishy or you don’t think its such a big deal, by all means the press should go ahead and vote for him again. Bryd is not the defacto winner by default due to the wording of the vote; the AP only votes on who they think should win, not who should be the runner-up, so it does make sense to do a revote. My personal opinion is that there should be a revote, if he cheated, then he cheated someone else out of the award, its pretty much that simple. You don’t want to have a Barry Bond debacle with an asterisk being placed on his records.

    Should Matthews’ win the award? My opinion is that he stands a good chance as a linebacker, but if it should be awarded to him, he should take it. Matthews is not Cushing, and until proven guilty is innocent. And really, the press is already spinning the connection between the two, so even if he doesn’t win the award, people are going to be wondering “Did Matthews lose the DROY award because he was Cushing’s teammate or because he is also a PED user?” Matthews gets bad press either way, I would rather see him win and accept it; there’s no reason to decline the award because of someone else’s mistake.

      1. I don’t think so. IT’s not like the Olympics, it was not a direct competition. It’s a subjective voting award, where the candidates played different positions…

        If it was a vote for the best 4-3 OLB, then I could see it. Not the case…

  5. Well, it just been announced that Cushing retains the award:

    Cushing got 18 votes, Byrd 13, Matthews 10, Prakpo 3, Laurinaitis 1. I believe there are 50 voters, so that means 5 didn’t participate?

  6. Apparently Orakpo got three, James Laurinitis got one, two abstained and three voters “were unable to send in a ballot”, whatever that means.

      1. Watch out Al – you’re tredding on thin ice there. Rookie of the Year = Yawn. I hate personality contests. I judge them on my opinion of their play on the field. CM3 is the best PLAYER of the 3. No contest.

  7. Who knows, but I wonder what that says about the perception of athletes and PEDs; doesn’t this sort of imply that the media doesn’t care if you take PEDs?

    1. Kinda. While I find him guilty, I think it’s more of a statement that some voters think he’s actually guilty, and some others believe that by only taking a masking substance isn’t an indication that his production was due to steroids…

      1. Reportedly, there was one voter who actually switched from Byrd to Cushing. I’d like to hear that guy/gal’s thought processes…

        I’m not sure if it is used as a masking substance, though. None of the lists I checked (through Google searches) listed hCG as a masking substance, and Wikipedia describes it as something users take after a cycle to restore normal levels of testosterone and avoid side effects.

        In other news, Cushing has been stripped of second-team All-Pro honors by the AP.

        1. Now that is bizarre – switching from Byrd to Cushing…

          Dr. Chris Geary, an orthopedic surgeon dealing with sports medicine at Tufts Medical Center, who says, “There’s no reason for a male athlete to take (HCG) other than masking that he’s taking steroids. It has to do with the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone (a natural steroid) and if someone goes above a certain ratio, it’s pretty considerable they are taking anabolic agents. HCG can normalize the ratios so it looks like you’re not taking (anything).”

          Andy, here is an article that talks about HCG as a masking agent:


          1. Ahhhh. I thought it was just a recuperative drug in the case of steroid users. I retract that comment : )

  8. “Well if the Texans’ own team owner doesn’t know what the hell is going on, how does the AP?”

    That’s beautiful.

    Personally, I think the baseball comparisons just aren’t valid. Just my opinion, of course. And I am one of those weirdos who is much more offended by drug use in baseball than in football. If you’d like me to write several hundred words about it, I will. But I digress. Anyway, the whole AP revote is a perfect illustration of how reactionary we have become as a society in general. Years ago, you never saw one incident change policy. In anything. Now we have laws being changed due to one unfortunate incident. This can be a good thing (see Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law, for instance). Or it can be stupid, like this revote…or even stupider, like changing the playoff OT rule JUST IN CASE the Super Bowl MIGHT ONE DAY end with an OT coin flip winner marching down and kicking a FG. Good or bad, though, this trend is a far cry from how “things used to be.” But it’s all over society.

    1. It wasn’t my intention to make it sound like baseball fans were strange or anything for being more concerned; I was kinda just observing that it’s generally a bigger deal when a baseball player uses performance-enhancers then it is with football. Didn’t mean to cast any pejoratives around. : )

      I have not yet heard a reason I accept that gave a serious reason for changing the OT rules in the playoffs. None.

  9. I am now really irritated at the whole revote. It has now just become a way for the journalists on the AP voting committee to promote themselves. New names have entered my sportswriter lexicon. Like John McClain, for instance. I thought John McClain was Bruce Willis in “Die Hard.” No, he’s some clown who changed his vote on the Cushing DROY. I heard John Clayton on Mike and Mike ths morning explaining his vote. And of course Peter King, the biggest self promote in sports journalism, let us all know exactly what HE would be doing with the revote.

    Enough, already. Football fans get the premise of drug testing. But this has turned solely into a self promotion party for the AP voters. And THAT very fact torques me off more than any one player’s drug test results.

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