DeAndre Baker Incident Could Spell Quick End to His Giants Career

Jason Keidel
May 19, 2020 - 11:55 am
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Though the NFL has found fresh ways to measure muscle and speed and quickness — largely wrapped in the term "twitch" — the league still struggles with judging the tissue between the ears. 

Indeed, the NFL Combine has turned into a cattle call of large men in little clothing, prodding these young men to run, jump, throw and catch a football. Yet, for all the measurables, the league can't study or fix the flaws in the mind. 

Go to any NFL team and you'll hear boilerplate language about "culture" and "character" about as often as you hear "first-and-10."  The Giants, in particular, have been tethered to these buzzwords since GM Dave Gettleman took over as general manager. He let their most gifted safety, Landon Collins, walk to Washington as a free agent. Just a season after signing their most gifted offensive player, Odell Beckham Jr., to a $95 million deal, they shipped him to Cleveland. 

All of this was done under the guise of character and culture. Though wildly talented, Collins and Beckham were seen as locker room rebels, way more about the name on the back of their jerseys than the front. Gettleman cleaned house, booting Olivier Vernon, Damon "Snacks" Harrison and Janoris Jenkins to clear cap space and white noise from the franchise. Two of Gettleman's top draft picks with the Giants - Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley - have been exactly the kind of athletes NFL teams love: very productive players and team-first guys.  

Then there's DeAndre Baker. Gettleman moved up in the 2019 NFL Draft to grab the Georgia cornerback, who then had a rough rookie season. Then, if that weren't enough, Baker  allegedly lost copious cash in a Florida poker game, then returned days later with guns and ammo to rob the joint. After the Miramar Police Department issued a warrant for Baker's arrest, he turned himself in on May 16, and is facing four counts of armed robbery with a firearm and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. (A fellow NFL player, Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar, was reportedly with Baker during the alleged crime and also turned himself in on Saturday.) 

Since the weekend, we've heard about mutating eyewitness accounts, indignant defense lawyers screaming innocence, and not even famed tabloid site TMZ can find a video that shows Baker gripping a gun or barking at a fellow miscreant to shoot someone. 

Still, the optics are miserable. Sprawling arrest warrants aren't generally issued for trips to the grocery store at noon. They tend to correspond with moves made after midnight. And Baker will be lucky indeed if he finds himself in a Giants - or any - uniform anytime soon. 

One of the more humorous lines ever spoken by a football player came from three-time Super Bowl winner Mark Schlereth. The former offensive lineman once said that NFL execs are so desperate for talent that if Hannibal Lechter could help them win a championship they would reclassify his cannibalism as an "eating disorder."

Baker is not so lucky. He doesn't have transcendent talent, and surely Gettleman regrets dealing three draft picks to move back into the first round to snag the 22-year-old, who has already brought Page Six shame to himself and police blotter dishonor to the club that so strongly believed in him. And it proves, yet again, that not even stoic football lifers like Gettleman have a jeweler's eye to inspect the mind. 

For his part, Baker has reached out to Big Blue, begging for forgiveness. Baker is facing 15 years minimum for each of the four counts of armed robbery. According to The New York Post, Baker's attorney, Patrick Patel, said that Baker is born-again, and ready to become Ray Lewis, not Ray Rice. 

DeAndre Baker is no Ray Lewis. Though Lewis was embroiled in serious legal troubles early in his career, he was so astoundingly good that the Ravens wouldn't turn their back on the Hall of Fame linebacker unless he was literally imprisoned. Baker has to pray he can just wriggle free of these ominous charges, then hope he's good enough for a second look, and maybe a second act.

Twitter: @JasonKeidel