The Miseducation of Roy Williams

>> 5.28.2010

Roy Williams is a joke.  At least, that’s what they think in Dallas, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports:

As much as Cowboys fans love to celebrate the Herschel Walker trade in 1989 that launched the great run of the 1990s, Williams is almost the antithesis of that deal. No, Williams didn’t cost as much as Walker gained, but Williams has fallen so far short of expectation that it’s a joke.

Just three years ago, Roy Williams was coming off of an 82-catch, 1,310-yard, 7-TD season.  In the words of a very-different-sounding Yahoo! Sports Roy Williams article from 2007

One season removed from his first Pro Bowl appearance, Detroit Lions wide receiver Roy Williams has firmly established himself as a star in the NFL.  What few outside of Detroit know is that he's also one of the most entertaining voices in the league.

Roy certainly was entertaining.  In Detroit, he came across as intelligent, funny, and famously stingy with his dollars—but not with his praise for teammates.  I always found Roy easy to like.  Seriously, a superstar NFL wideout who’s also a music-loving homebody?  That’s music to my ears.

Robinson: Not a lot of people know this about you, but you're a pretty musical guy. You play sax, piano and guitar, right?

Williams: Yeah. Hearing the sax when it's in jazz, it can really chill you out. That's one of the things when I retire – I want to move back to Odessa and buy a house once I stack that paper and learn the drums. I want to play the drums.

Upon reading that article, my wife happily christened Roy her Favorite Lion.  Her first Lions jersey was a home Williams #11.  Of course, besides all the awesome off-the-field stuff, Roy made a habit of doing on-field stuff like this:

Roy was on his way to being a superstar in Detroit—and when the Lions added Calvin Johnson, it seemed as though the Lions would have one of the best WR duos ever assembled.  But Roy took a step back in ‘07.  Shortly into the 2008 season, Roy’s role was that of the second fiddle, and his heart was elsewhere.

Clearly, he wasn't a great fit for Mike Martz's timing offense, preferring to use his physical tools to improves and dominate, rather than be exactly on a mark at exactly the right time.  Clearly, the losing bothered him.  Clearly, he didn’t enjoy drawing coverage so that Mike Furrey and Corey Bradford could catch balls in the margins.  From Nick Cotsonika’s piece in the Freep ($):

"I feel that if I'm not involved in the game and we lose, I'm (ticked) off," Williams said. "But if I'm not involved and we win, hey, it's a great job. And I've been like that since I've been here. I just feel like I can make some plays, as well. ... Three balls a week, that's not going to cut it."

Even though that article is titled “MAD MEN: ROY WILLIAMS,” I didn’t think he was angry.  He seemed . . . vacant.  Empty.  Whatever magic, whatever spark he possessed, it was gone.  Gone, as if he was just waiting get out of Detroit.  Gone, as if he’d already left.  Gone, as if he was already back in Texas.  From the Grand Rapids Press:

The one thing you learn about Williams very quickly is that he loves Texas and would love to return to his home state. Williams is a Texas guy and mentions it in nearly every interview and flies back to his home in Odessa to see his young child every chance he gets. If the Lions get two consecutive days off, Williams bolts for Texas. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it shows where his heart is.

Well, Roy got his wish: he was traded to the Cowboys, he donned the star, he returned as the prodigal son.  But oddly, whatever went missing . . . it didn’t come back.

Watching Roy in Dallas, he plays like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Actually, scratch that, it looks like he’s got the weight of the world in his hands.  He never possessed Herman Moore-soft hands—in fact, he’d garnered a bit of a reputation for dropping the easy ones.  But a man who made impossible catches seem routine suddenly couldn’t catch a cold.

Watching Roy attempt to catch a football these days is painful.  You can see him get open.  You can watch the ball come his way.  You can see him extend his hands, watch it all the way in, and then . . . FLUFFERNUTTER!  It shouldn’t happen with an NFL-caliber wideout, let alone one as gifted and well-compensated as he is.  I've speculated before that it might be his vision. Former Jaguar receiver Jimmy Smith struggled to catch the ball until his vision was corrected with surgery; it’s a wonder Roy can see anything through his trademark limo-tint visor.

Whatever it is—vision, malaise, a case of the yips—it can’t be that he’s just working because he needs the money.  When the Cowboys pay him the thirteen million dollars they owe him for this season, he’ll have earned fifty million in his career.  Agent Ben Dogra said, during a meeting with Roy and his family:

Let’s have a plan so he can achieve greatness, do what you have to do to be a great player. Roy can walk away from the game right now. He has all the money he needs, but this is about what’s inside of him, what he wants to be.

Well, that’s the question: what is inside Roy Williams?  What does he want to be?  For all his unfulfilled potential, for all of the millions of Lions-fan dollars he collected, for everything that his drafting, failing, and departure represents, I still want him to make good.  I can’t believe that Lions football was tainted, so cursed, that for a decade, no amount of talent, effort, or luck could make anyone who passed through this organization successful.

Get out there, Roy, and show the doubters they’re wrong.  Prove to them, to the spoiled Cowboys fans, and to us, that you really would have been successful.  Take your rightful place amongst the best and brightest in the NFL.


9 comments:

Mike aka CJ81TD,  May 28, 2010 at 7:22 PM  

I'll always have a soft spot for the guy who gave up all something to cheer about when there really wasn't much going on. We should also never forget that he gave us the nickname Megatron. I could thank Michael Bay or the toy designers but I choose to give credit to Roy.

Never got tired of the 1st down celebration - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCmK8_Kp_eM

Ryan,  May 29, 2010 at 4:59 AM  

I remember one New Year's Day 2 years before we drafted Roy, Michigan was playing a bowl game at the same time Texas was playing. They kept cutting away from the game to show highlights from that Texas game and every time it was Roy Williams making a crazy catch and bucking defenders off of him. I instantly wanted him to be a Lion. I was very excited to see we drafted him, but unfortunately it never panned out. What else is new for the Lions though.

Ty May 29, 2010 at 11:17 AM  

Cj81TD--

That's a great point. For a long time, it Roy really was the only thing working here. Even as chuck was going down in flames, and BMW came and went, Roy always looked like a surefire star. If he fails, it really will seem like there was never any hope, like the Lions teams of the 2000s were just a vortex of failure and misery from which nothing could escape.

I knew all our hopes for those teams were in vain, but I want to be able to pretend that there's a parallel universe where it worked out.

Peace
Ty

Ty May 29, 2010 at 12:48 PM  

It was interesting, like six months ago i caught the 2000 Holiday Bowl (I think), and it was Joey versus Roy. Roy looked like a man amongst boys, and Joey indeed looked like the confident, smart field general he was purported to have been. Actually, i think i blogged about it . . . Check the search widget on the right sidebar. I'd link you, but i'ma on my wife's iPad and not totally proficient.

Peace
Ty

Neil May 29, 2010 at 3:31 PM  

Poor Roy was a victim of the dreaded Lions Disease which has taken so many of our promising young athletes. His spirit horse bolted the stables and now all poor Roy can do is wander aimlessly, knowing that although nothing is physically wrong with him, he is mentally beaten.

Matt,  May 30, 2010 at 2:48 PM  

Roy's motivation was clearly sapped during his time with the Lions, especially once Martz took his pass-happy system out the door with him (good riddance). Then I think he thought that, once he moved on to Dallas, things would just magically return and it would become "The TO & Roy Show." Unfortunately for Roy, Romo was obviously much more comfortable throwing to TO, Witten, or dumping off to one of the RBs. When Romo DID look Roy's way, Roy did little-to-nothing to earn Romo's trust/confidence. Now he's been surpassed by Miles Austin (maybe even Sam Hurd) and Jerry showed SOOO much confidence in him when he drafted Dez Bryant. This season is definitely Roy's last shot in Dallas. I hope he makes good on it, but I'm not putting money down on it.

Anonymous,  May 30, 2010 at 10:59 PM  

I am by far an expert on this game. I do recall however, Mr. Williams' last Lion's season and how he would smile after failing to make a catch. This bothered me to the point of questioning his dedication and internal expectations. I had no issue with his trade and in fact thought we got a break that Dallas took him. No buyer's remorse with that deal.

Emerson June 1, 2010 at 1:16 PM  

Great article. I think Roy is done. He can't be good with Romo and can't make himself get better for Romo. Roy lost his passion and ability at some point and it sure as heck ain't because of our mighty Lions like some poster surmised.

bigwalt2990,  June 1, 2010 at 2:45 PM  

I'd love to see Roy come back if he doesn't have any hard feelings, and if the staff wants him of course. Only for a 6th rounder or lower though.

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