Mac Engel

Morris Claiborne needs to grow up and get better

Morris Claiborne, get over it and grow up. You had a bad day at work and you were mad at your boss; welcome to the party.

That Claiborne was mad at learning he would be benched behind Orlando Scandrick is a good sign. He cares.

That Claiborne pouted and left the Cowboys, which included skipping Tuesday’s team activities, is the sign that his pledges of maturity and knowing what it means to be a good pro were amiss.

“The reason I left was how [the demotion] was brought to me and presented to me. I felt I had to just leave the facility at that moment,” Mo said Wednesday, several hours after he apologized to his coaches and teammates. “I am pretty sure everybody has been in that to … where they had to remove themselves. I was ready for whatever fines. I felt like if I stayed, who knows what would have happened?”

Let me help: If you weren’t the sixth overall pick, you would have been cut, that’s what would have happened.

He is right, everybody has been there. Everybody wants to scream, and leave. The grownups stay and deal with it. What he may not know is that even in the macho world of the NFL, where confrontation is king, managerial types often prefer the passive-aggressive method to break bad news the good old-fashioned way — via email, a subordinate or a text.

A teaching moment: You don’t quit on what is a temporary seven-figure job because you’re mad. Get back to work and get that check because when it’s gone, it’s gone.

According to the rankings of cornerbacks by the NFL Network, Claiborne ranks 92 out of 96. How could he not see this coming?

Claiborne never named himself the next Deion Sanders, and he never forced the Cowboys to give up a second-round pick to move up to the sixth slot to draft him, but the rest is on him.

The Cowboys ignored the red flag before the draft because they are no different than most teams. They will lie to themselves, the fans and the media about a man’s flaws because they are in love with talent.

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The red flag wasn’t that Claiborne reportedly scored poorly on the Wonderlic Test at the NFL Combine. The red flag was that he quit on the test because it didn’t have to do with football. In his world, his speed and athleticism always trumped everything.

A teaching moment: Do what they want, and do the best you can, even if you don’t know, or care, about the answers. NFL coaches and executives have seen similar, or worse, scores.

The Cowboys drafted Claiborne because he is fast, can jump, has ball skills, graded “high” — whatever that means — and looks the part.

He is an unfailingly decent, polite man who wants to do well and be successful. It’s also not clicking because, for the first time in his life, his speed and athleticism can’t cover up the fact he does not know how to play his position.

The other players around him, and against him, have similar athleticism and they have the technical aspects he has not learned or adopted. The results have been gory.

Let this sink in: Rams rookie free agent quarterback Austin Davis, making his second career NFL start Sunday against the Cowboys — went out of his way to pick on Claiborne. Other NFL quarterbacks have done this over the previous two years with similar results.

Nothing Jerry Jones said in his weekly radio show on KRLD/105.3 FM “The Fan” on Tuesday was a lie. I asked (please notice the self-promotion): Had the Cowboys not given up so much to acquire Claiborne would this team remain so committed to him?

“Is he what we had hoped for at this point when we drafted him with the sixth pick — and gave up a pick to go up to the sixth pick to get him? No,” Jones said. “But he’s gonna be a good player.”

A teaching moment: The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a myth. If you are Claiborne, those words have to hurt more than any shoulder or wrist injury he has dealt with since he came to the team.

Jason Garrett said the team would discipline Claiborne, but he would play Sunday night against the Saints. He also said the competition is open, meaning there is an opportunity for Claiborne to play his way back into a more prominent role.

In his third season and with 28 NFL games worth of experience, if he doesn’t get better, he is going to be gone. He will be a poor man’s Mike Jenkins.

Jenkins was a first-round draft pick in 2008, had one good season and was not re-signed after his rookie deal expired. He has bounced around the league since he left in 2012, and merely survived.

Another team will give Claiborne a contract, and maybe what Claiborne is is an NFL survivor who gets paid, but doesn’t do much else.

In his time here, he has been hurt, burned, benched, picked on and made a few plays. Add to this list pouting and briefly quitting because he was mad at his bosses, who agree he has not been worth what they gave up to get him.

Mo has time to change it, but he would be wise to begin that process today. That starts by growing up, and dealing with bad days at work because — he is right — they happen to all of us. Welcome to the party.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.

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