Thrill of Victory

Titans must wait and hope for the best with Britt — again

Oops, he did it again.

Over the weekend, the Titans’ Kenny Britt had another run-in with police. While Britt has not been charged with anything and is evidently not a suspect, the latest incident (at a minimum) once again casts serious doubts about Britt’s judgment with regards to the company he keeps — and whether he’ll ever be anything but trouble for the franchise.

Britt was in attendance at a birthday party in his home state of New Jersey over the weekend when police were called to the scene at 3:28 a.m. on Sunday after a stabbing was reported. Police found no trouble once they arrived; however, a call came from the Jersey City Medical Center that a man who’d been stabbed was there. It turns out the man was Britt’s friend, and Britt had driven him to the hospital. Officers sought Britt’s cooperation, but he refused and left the scene — evidently to return to the scene of the original crime, where there was a shooting an hour and a half later.

Officers would like to talk to Britt about the latest incident, and perhaps NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would, too. Britt’s been in Goodell’s office twice, and last got away with a one-game suspension after the commish grew tired of Britt’s bad behavior.

In case you need a refresher on Britt’s rap sheet, here it is:

  • January 2010: Britt was arrested for failing to pay three outstanding traffic warrants in New Jersey. His license was suspended and he paid an $865 fine.
  • August 2010: Britt was pulled in Nashville over because his tinted windows were too dark, and he was given a misdemeanor for driving on a revoked license
  • October 2010: Britt was accused of punching a man in the face in a bar room fight in Nashville, though he was later not charged after a police investigation.
  • February 2011: Britt was charged with theft by deception after failing to pay a $12,500 bail for his friend Albert Robinson, who had been charged in New Jersey with hindering apprehension along with several gun offenses. That charge was later downgraded to a misdemeanor after Britt evidently provided some explanation that pleased the court. (Incidentally, Robinson would later be charged with murder in an unrelated incident.)
  • June 2011: Back in New Jersey again, Britt is charged with careless driving, pays a $478 fine, and has four points added to his license. It could have been worse, as Britt was originally charged with a felony after eluding and lying to officers who were trying to stop him after they clocked him going 71 mph in a 50 mph zone. After officers pursued him, Britt began weaving in and out of traffic, and after finally pulling over, Britt walked away from the vehicle and denied it was his. A passenger in Britt’s vehicle also walked away and was apprehended with a marijuana cigarette at his feet.
  • June 2011: The very next day, plain-clothes officers suspect Britt of carrying a marijuana cigar, identify themselves as police, and try to handcuff Britt. A scuffle ensues; police have to wrestle Britt to the ground to handcuff him. Meanwhile, the cigar disappears as police suspect a friend disposed of it in the midst of the scuffle.
  • June 2011: In Nashville, Britt surrenders to Nashville police after providing false information on his drivers’ license on two different occasions. Charges were eventually dropped.
  • July 2012: Britt, escorting a female soldier back to the Army base in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, is charged with DUI on the base after refusing to take a Breathalyzer test (and subsequently failing a field sobriety test).

If you’re keeping count, Ferris Bueller fans, that’s now nine times that the Titans receiver has had run-ins with police since the franchise drafted him in 2009.

Which begs the question: what are the Titans to do about it?

Britt is scheduled to make about $1.35 million this coming year. Outside of the bad behavior, knee injuries have kept Britt from reaching his potential – when he’s healthy, there aren’t 10 more talented receivers (and maybe not five) in the NFL than Britt. I’m not saying that makes Britt a top-10 wideout – you have to factor everything in – but given that the 10 highest-paid receivers in the NFL last year made between $5-11 million last year, Britt stands to be a bargain for 2013 if he can stay on the field.

Here’s the other thing: Britt’s a free agent after the 2013 season. I’m sure his agent has made him aware of the kind of money that might be coming his way could he perform up to his potential.

So as much as a large part of me (and probably a lot of Titans fans) would like for the team to tell Britt to kiss off, it doesn’t make business sense. Britt will probably be some other team’s problem a year from now. Between now and then, the Titans have a chance to reap a one-year reward – and potentially a very large one – since Britt has a built-in incentive to behave.

Of course, that’s looking at things from a purely football perspective. One can also make a case that Britt is the poster child for the Titans’ declining popularity in this town.

It’s true that losing will cause a fan base to dwindle, and since the 2002-03 seasons, the franchise has put together back-to-back winning seasons just once (2007-08). But sometimes it’s the way you lose that drives fans away, and I think that might have been the Titans’ biggest problem over the last decade.

Nashville’s honeymoon was so strong those first five years, but slowly started to wear off. First, it was Pac Man Jones making the news for all the wrong reasons. Then, it was one Vince Young drama after another. By the time Young was done here, Britt had taken on the mantle as the Titan in the news for all the wrong reasons. In the middle of it all came the death of Steve McNair, which exposed how he’d lived all along.

Let’s be clear about two things: every NFL team has behavior issues, and there are plenty of good guys on the current Titans roster. But far and away, fans remember Britt’s rap sheet far more than they do every good thing that a Rob Bironas or Jason McCourty does – and they’re sick of it.

If you want to look on the bright side, here it is: it’d be hard for the Titans to sink much further. Just look at all the records and the empty seats. The team will likely address the defensive side of the ball through the draft and free agency, and the offense still has plenty of talent – and that includes Britt, who is probably the franchise’s most gifted player. Sometimes, even an idiot like Britt eventually gets the message — hey, even Pac Man finally turned his life around.

Maybe seeing his buddy stabbed will be the punch that snaps him into reality. At some point, Britt’s going out of breaks — and this time, I’m not just talking about the football variety.