Why Are We So Hard on Kevin White?

| August 13th, 2018

Kevin White did nothing to you. He didn’t beat up your mother. He didn’t steal your birthright. He didn’t tape over your Warren Zevon: Live at the Capitol Theater bootleg. All he did was get selected seventh overall by the Chicago Bears because he was one of the most supremely gifted athletes in the 2015 NFL Draft.

And yet his failure to stay healthy during his short Bears tenure seems to have personally offended many of this team’s faithful fans. The one question I have been trying to wrap my head around is…why? Why do fans fixate on White in ways they don’t fixate on other players? Why do I receive unsolicited texts from folks inside Halas Hall with White status updates, like I’m waiting on news of a baby’s birth? Why is so much attention paid to a player at a position the Bears just invested millions of dollars and a high draft pick to upgrade?

White’s not that important. The Bears know that. Why don’t their fans?

A lot of this circles back to the insane attention paid to the draft itself, specifically the first round. We know so much about these kids by the time their names are called it’s borderline absurd. Months upon months of college tape study, classroom breakdowns, pro days, three-cones, four-cones, eleven-cones…etc. Every fan has an opinion of every selection. And every fan believes their opinion is correct. (This goes for basically everything in life, by the way.) Many will go to absurd lengths over a player’s career to support that initial opinion.

Kevin White was taken seventh. Eddie Goldman was taken 39th that same year. If those picks were reversed, nobody would give White a second thought because Goldman has had a first-rounder’s career. I understood fixating on first-round selections before the rookie wage scale because those picks could cripple a team financially for years if they busted. But now? Of course you want the first-round picks to be successful since that’s where a high percentage of the league’s best players are found. But outside of quarterback, which requires a multi-year commitment from the entire franchise, missing on a pick or two in this round just isn’t a big deal anymore. Especially if you have success later in the draft.

Need an example? 2014 Dominique Easeley. 2015. Malcolm Brown. 2016. No selection. 2017. No selection. That’s the first round track record of the New England Patriots, the modern NFL’s most successful franchise, over the last four years. Easeley isn’t on the team anymore. Brown isn’t any good. You wanna blame their place at the back-end of the round? Go right ahead. But the next player taken after Brown was Landon Collins. Seven picks later was Goldman, who plays the same position as Brown and at a much higher level. The Patriots haven’t selected an actual contributor in the first round since 2012.

Yet White remains the object of fan consternation. Email after email to DBB’s inbox asks, usually in all CAPS, “Why don’t they just cut him?!?!?!” The answer is simple: he’s a good kid, a hard worker and they like him an awful lot. But instead of a fan base rallying behind him, hoping he stays healthy and succeeds, they have turned him into some kind of black hat villain for either (a) not fulfilling their expectations or (b) validating their pre-draft opinion of him. White’s career has been frustrating, no question about it. But wouldn’t a healthy, redemptive 2018 in Chicago be far more enjoyable than casting him off to the bottom of Miami’s depth chart?

I don’t care where a guy is drafted. But if the question is will the 2018 Bears be better with a productive Kevin White, the answer is unabashedly yes. Why every fan isn’t pulling for that outcome is beyond me.