There is a lot of things you can say about Ricky Williams. Superstar? Yep. Great Running Back? Yep. Total Flake? Yep, you can say that too. Over the years the mention of Williams’ name will stir up some form of debate, one way or another. Yesterday, after telling Bill Parcells VIA text that he was excited to return next year to the Ravens, a reply telling him not to go too long with this changed his mind. Just like that, Ricky Williams informed the Ravens he was retiring from the game that needed him more than he needed it.
With Williams now walking into his real life and away from the fictitious one he calls football, the conversation will now turn to his place in both NFL history, and more specifically Miami Dolphins history. Does Ricky Williams deserve to be in the Ring of Honor? We can discuss the Hall of Fame in about five years.
Before you read further I should probably let you know that I have never been a big fan of Ricky Williams. I wasn’t a fan of the trade that brought him to Miami and I surely wasn’t a fan of him after he walked off the team to start the 2004 training camp. So keep that in mind when you read on. Nothing personal against him at all for the record, just not a favorite of mine even when he was drafted by New Orleans.
The Dolphins never made Ricky Williams their first round pick. Instead, they made him two first round picks. Giving up a first in 2002 and a third in ’03 that escalated to a two. All told, the Dolphins gave up four draft picks for Williams. Williams became a workhorse for then coach Dave Wannstedt and was the Pro-Bowl MVP in 2003. He led the team in rushing and rushing attempts as well. The workload on Williams however took it’s toll.
Williams was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and was treated for clinical depression. It’s the reason why he conducted post-game interviews with his helmet and tinted visor on. In 2004, Williams walked away from the Miami Dolphins and it was learned shortly after that he had failed a third drug test and would have been subject to a four game suspension.
Instead of playing football, Williams spent his season in the Australian outback, stoned but at peace.
In 2005 Nick Saban convinced Williams to come back to the Dolphins after a sit down on Saban’s front porch. Williams came back, paid some of the bonus money back to the Dolphins and told Saban that he no longer wanted to be a featured back. He would split time with Ronnie Brown. By the end of the season however, Williams had once again failed another drug test and was suspended for the entire 2006 season.
Ricky reportedly failed another drug test during his suspension but league rules at the time prohibited the NFL to take action against players who were suspended, he applied for reinstatement and Roger Goodell allowed him to return. He would be placed on IR after tearing his pectoral muscle in a game against Pittsburgh. Williams would return to the Dolphins in 2008 after coaxing from Bill Parcells and his time with the Dolphins would remain uneventful from that stretch forward.
In Miami, Williams is second only to Larry Csonka in rushing yards. He is one of only 26 players to eclipse the 10,000 yard mark, led the NFL in rushing 2002, and carries in 2002 and 2003. He has rushed for more yards in one season than any other Dolphin and holds the same record for a single game. In other words, Ricky Williams has the stats to support his name on a placard around the stadium bowl.
Statistics do not always tell the story though. The Ring of Honor is not a “Ring of Fame”. To me, honor also means integrity. Names like Dan Marino, Dwight Stephenson, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Bill Stanfill, and more are enshrined on the stadium ring. Some for their play but all because of what they meant to the team. Then of course there is the name Jim Mandich who’s name is not on the Ring of Honor for his contributions as a player, but his entire body of work with the Miami Dolphins from the day he was drafted until the day that he died.
Does Ricky Williams deserve to be in that group? To me, I say no. While I recognize the fact that he statistically stands out, his off-field issues can not be simply overlooked. For starters, he quit on his team simply because he didn’t want the league to tell him that he couldn’t smoke Marijuana. He came back to the team in part due to a lawsuit asking for the return of some 4 million dollars in bonus money paid to him just prior to him quitting. He followed that season up with yet another drug related failed test and was suspended yet again.
Ricky Williams was a player that simply could not be relied upon by his teammates or his coach in the prime of his career. He became a sideshow to a team that needed character. While well liked by his players and his talent was undeniable, Ricky Williams could never not be Ricky Williams and that came with a price. For both his team and himself.
There are a lot of fans out there that support Ricky Williams…some will argue that “Pot” is something that should be made legal anyways, but this isn’t about a belief in what should or shouldn’t be considered right or wrong, it’s about a rule that is in place that was broken. It is about a man who quit on his team and his teammates, not once but twice when he failed another test.
When I look at the Dolphins “Ring of Honor” I think of the accomplishments that each individual made to the team. Some come with Lombardi Trophies, some with Hall of Fame jackets, and others with Dolphins team leading statistics. I remember their play and the dedication they gave the team both on and off the field. When I look at those names, I do not recall an association with something bad. Looking up there and seeing Ricky Williams’ name will not elicit rushing records or a Pro-Bowl MVP award. I will however recall his off-field issues. His quitting and his suspensions. Regardless of whether you support him on that ring or not, you will recall that as well.
It’s something that the team, in my opinion, does not need to showcase on a ring of “honor”. Unfortunately, the debate about Ricky Williams won’t have a clear and defined answer either. I am sure that the poll below and the comments will drive that point clearly home.
Before you answer the poll question ask yourself this question. If you had to do it again, knowing the outcome, would you trade two first rounders and two fourth rounders for the 6,300 or so yards that Williams turned in? It’s a fair question.