The Case for the Bears Pursuing Kareem Hunt

| January 24th, 2019

Whataboutism is often associated with the Soviet political apparatus. Their concept was simple: we can rationalize anything we do on the world stage as long as someone, somewhere did something similar at some point. “Sure, we’re endorsing the imprisonment and murder of homosexuals in Chechnya, but what about the Americans banning trans people from their military?” Whataboutism doesn’t require facts and logic. A does not need equal B.

I bring up this concept because Whataboutism is going to be a primary defense for whichever team decides to sign Kareem Hunt in the coming months. “Yes, he’s done bad things but what about the Chiefs with Tyreek Hill? What about the Saints, Cardinals and Redskins with Adrian Peterson? What about the Bengals with Joe Mixon?” Nobody will defend the actions of the player. They will defend the team because, well, if other teams did it, why can’t we?

By now you’ve hopefully read Emily’s wonderful piece in this space on Wednesday, arguing for the Bears staying out of the Hunt market. Honestly, I fundamentally agree with much of what she wrote. But I thought it worthwhile to present the opposing view; an argument for giving Hunt a second chance and giving him that second chance with the Chicago Bears. And in presenting that case, there are three issues with which to deal.

Issue I. The Event, or What Was Recorded

Nobody could possibly make an argument defending the video above, which clearly shows Hunt in an altercation with a woman in a hotel hallway. There are many reports suggesting this woman verbally-assaulted Hunt with “the N-word”, and it sure looks like alcohol was fueling the festivities, but nothing excuses a man laying his hands (or boots) on a woman. Nothing.

And as Emily deftly pointed out, this was not an isolated incident. Hunt was actually involved in three separate violence-related altercations in 2018. But in none of the three instances were charges files against the running back and that means, without debate, he’ll be back in the league. He’ll likely face a short suspension in 2019 but those anticipating a substantial absence will disappointed.

Hunt is not Ray Rice. We’re not talking about a man who beat his wife or girlfriend. We’re talking about a man with a violent streak. This isn’t Whataboutism because there is a distinct difference between the behavior of Hunt and Greg Hardy, Tyreek Hill and Josh Brown – men who abused women with whom they were in relationships, i.e. domestic abusers. The difference? Hunt seems to fight EVERYBODY. He’s an angry young man.

If the recording above were of one of the other two incidents, let’s be honest, Hunt would have played Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. The fact the video featured a woman in this current climate is why the Chiefs gave him a quick pink slip and why the commissioner put him on that silly list of his. This is not a good or bad thing. But it’s definitely a thing.

Ultimately, the opinions of fans will be based upon a simple question: is the video above enough for you to never want Hunt to wear your team’s laundry?

Issue II. The Coach, or the New Culture

The most popular “football” rationale for not bringing Hunt to Chicago is the perceived disruption of a locker room that developed a fun-loving identity in 2018 under head coach Matt Nagy. Here were Nagy’s quotes on Hunt from the year-end presser:

“I talked to Kareem, completely wanting to know how he’s doing. We had a good conversation [a week ago]. Here’s a kid that I spent a year coaching on offense. It’s a tough situation. I wanted to see — making sure that he’s OK but understanding, too, the situation that happened is unfortunate for everybody. He knows that.

“The only thing I cared about when I talked to him was literally his personal life, how he’s doing. It was a good conversation. He sounded good. But that’s it. The other stuff, that’s not where it’s at. There’s more to it than the football, so we talked strictly on that.”

Does this sound like a human being Nagy is concerned about introducing to the locker room? This argument seems the shakiest for a number of reasons.

(1) The Bears would almost assuredly create an off-field agenda for Hunt, asking him to volunteer time at women’s shelters or speak to area youth about violence. In other words, they’ll make sure Hunt acts contrite.

(2) The Bears would almost assuredly have a kill switch on the entire arrangement. If Hunt were to get into a hint of trouble, he’d be released immediately.

(3) Not one of Hunt’s previous teammates complained about him as a teammate. And while QB Patrick Mahomes famously commented “we don’t do those things” in regards to the Hunt video, he also admitted to reaching out to the tailback before the Chiefs played the Raiders on the Sunday after the suspension.

Hunt’s character is fair game outside the building. It’s unblemished inside it.

Issue III. The Talent, or, No, Just The Talent

A popular argument has also surfaced across social media that Ryan Pace’s ability to find talent in the mid-to-late rounds should rule out the prospect of pursuing Hunt. But that argument has a fatal flaw: Hunt is a great player for this offense and this is not a plug-and-play offense. Sure, Pace found both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in the mid-to-late rounds but neither of those players is as dynamic or versatile as Hunt.

Hunt has played 27 games in the Reid/Nagy system. In those 27 games he had:

  • 453 carries for 2,151 yards rushing (4.7 per)
  • 79 catches for 833 yards receiving (10.5 per)
  • 25 touchdowns
  • 1 fumble

These aren’t good numbers. Those are MVP-type numbers.

The Bears are no longer a developing team. They are 10-1 to win the Super Bowl NEXT SEASON. Sure, they could roll the dice on drafting a back to fit Nagy’s system but every single player drafted after the second round is a crap shoot. Hunt walks into Halas Hall with full knowledge of the system and a proven track record of success. And he’ll only be 24 years old when the 2019 season kicks off.

If the Bears signed Hunt, their odds to win Super Bowl 54 would get better that second.

If given my druthers, I’d prefer the Bears not bring Kareem Hunt to Chicago. It’s far easier to root for good guys than bad guys. But I’ve also been around a while and I understand there are more than likely bad guys already on this happy-time, Club Dub Bears roster, just as there are on every roster in the league. This is a violent game played by violent men and expecting them to flip a switch once they leave the field of combat is naive.

I also want to win the Super Bowl. And having watched the video above and read about the other two Hunt incidents, I can’t honestly say his being part of the 2019 Chicago Bears would impair my ability to enjoy a championship run. And I have a feeling I’m nowhere near alone.