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.