Everything ends badly: As Derrick Mason Turns
“Everything ends badly, otherwise, it wouldn’t end.” ---Bryan Flanagan from “Cocktail”
It’s hard to believe such an insightful line could come from such an awesomely bad movie. Next to Tommy Lee Jones’ speech in “Men In Black” about how a person is smart but people are dumb, I can’t think of a truer line. If there was an award for “Best Line From a Bad Tom Cruise Movie” that one would win.
I only bring it up because it reminds me of former Baltimore Ravens receiver Derrick Mason and the strange turn of events he was involved in the past two weeks.
Mase, who was released by the Ravens this offseason, had signed with the Jets after deciding against a return to Tennessee (his first team) and the Ravens. The Jets had a spot open for Mason after the team released Jerricho Cotchery.
Loudmouth Jets coach Rex Ryan proclaimed Mase would catch 80 passes working out of the slot. But Mason underproduced and then started talking. As any Ravens fan can tell you, Mase can talk.
It started after the Ravens thumped the Jets in Week 4 when Mason questioned the offense’s direction after he was a complete nonfactor against his former team. Stories started coming out about Mase and fellow wideouts Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress going to Ryan with their beefs with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s playcalling, stories that Holmes, Burress, Mason and Ryan denied. Mason was benched the next week during New York’s 30-21 loss to New England, the Jets third straight road defeat. Ryan claimed it was to get a younger player a look, but the implication was clear: Mason’s act had worn thin.
Of course, anyone familiar with Mase during his time with the Ravens could see this coming. Mason’s production was going to decrease to the point where you could no longer tolerate his occasional diva-like behavior. Ozzie Newsome saw it before anyone else and cut the cord with the productive, but volatile receiver.
Now, before you think I’m pulling a character assassination on Mase, let it be said that the guy was a warrior. He made tough catches, he made big plays and he played hurt. No Raven fan will ever forget Mason in Dallas in 2008, when he repeatedly had to come off the field with an injured shoulder but kept going back in, running routes with one flap down. The guy wasn’t afraid to go over the middle and get the crap knocked out of him. No one will ever question Derrick Mason’s courage or desire.
Those diva moments were always lurking. Go back to 2006. The Ravens, with Mason’s ex-Titan teammate Steve McNair at quarterback, win the AFC North. As that season wore on, McNair found a chemistry with second-year wideout Mark Clayton, who made a lot of big plays that year. After the last game of the season against Buffalo, the Ravens wrapped up the No.2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. It should have been a glorious moment.
Until Mason opened his yap and complained about not getting the ball. I can remember every Ravens fan on the message boards saying some version of, “why now?” Why did he pick that time to undermine his teammates and make himself the focus?
Needless to say, the Ravens lost in the divisional round to Indianapolis, thanks to a comatose offensive performance. Clayton got hurt and was never the same again. Not blaming Mason for that, mind you, but that 2006 season was a great opportunity wasted and Mason's rant was the toot before smelling a really rancid fart.
In my limited experience with Mason personally, he always came off as an honest guy, always there to face the media. His opinions could be biting, sure, but I never had a problem with him. That didn’t always apply to the guys that covered the Ravens on a full-time basis, including notorious curmudgeon Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun, who has called Mason a selfish prima donna, although he also acknowledged Mase is a good man who wants to win.
Of course, Mason was on good behavior as long he was the No.1 guy. When the team brought in Anquan Boldin to take the No.1 job, the diva moments came back. First there was a delay of game penalty in Week 3 Mason got after slamming the ball down when Joe Flacco short-hopped a pass.
But I think the end for Derrick in Baltimore began on Week 11 last year in Carolina, when Mason and Flacco got into a shouting match on the sidelines. Knowing what an astute guy Ozzie Newsome is, he probably saw that and thought, “This guy isn’t worth it anymore,” and decided to cut ties with Mase the first chance he got.
Ozzie got that chance after the end of the lockout and the reinstatement of the salary cap. He cut Mason, along with veterans Todd Heap, Willis McGahee and Kelly Gregg. Needless to say, Oz has again looked like a genius as Heap and Gregg have been nonfactors, and Mason has talked his way out of New York after five weeks. McGahee has found a starting role in Denver, but in the process went from a Super Bowl contending team to a rebuilding team.
This week, for the second time this year, Derrick Mason will return to Baltimore, this time as a member of the Houston Texans. Seeing him as a Houston Texan will be a jolting experience and not in a good way. Like seeing Hank Williams Jr. talk domestic politics. It feels like this is Mason’s last chance. The market for 37-year-old wide receivers isn’t that big. Knowing Mase, it probably won’t end well. Then again, nothing ends well.