Before he can bring out the best, he must bring out the worst in order to confront it. That's the only way to really look at this Jonathan Baldwin scenario that seems to be unfolding in the Kansas City Chiefs preseason. The warning signs were there around Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin that knocked down his draft grades in the first place, but Scott Pioli took the risk for a Chiefs team that desperately need another playmaker at the wideout position.
Some eyebrows were raised after the Chiefs final draft class rolled in, since both Baldwin and Justin Houston, the third round choice, were both labeled as high-maintenance for one reason or another. Thus far in his short tenure in Kansas City, Pioli had placed an emphasis on leadership, character and integrity. Suddenly he seemed open to talent, no matter what came with it.
So this latest mess with Jon Baldwin represents the first real headache that some draft writers predicted might happen. Baldwin's no-show at practice on Wednesday continues to draw speculation. Nick Wright says via Twitter, "What I'm hearing on Baldwin: "he's as advertised. Diva, spoiled, doesn't wanna listen. Can run a Go and a Slant, and doesn't wanna work." Wright goes on to say, "More on Baldwin "Todd's embarassed him a few times, but hasn't really gone off on him yet. Doesn't wanna learn how to deal w/ a jam at line."
We've seen this before, although not with a player as raw as Baldwin. Dwayne Bowe certainly felt the friction of working with Todd Haley and that's what Jonathan Baldwin is currently feeling and will continue to feel in his time with Kansas City. Haley's discipline and tough-nosed approach is going to bring everything out into the open -- it's like a refining fire in a bronzing factory that heats the metal so hot that all of the impurities rise to the surface. Only then can the workers skim the top and remove anything impure out of the substance.
Baldwin's going to go through the fire in the same way, and the expectations and level of work will force him to throw his tantrums and expel his emotions. He's going to have to grow up and fast. There's no room for locker room fights or an unwillingness to do the work leading up to game day. He's going to be more disciplined than ever before or not be on the team at all. And Haley really isn't going to give him any other option.
If Baldwin can develop a longer-term perspective, he's going to see that Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Dwayne Bowe are the other talented receivers that Haley has worked with until this point and all three are the No. 1 guys on their respective teams. All are elite level receivers who stand among the NFL's best. It's possible that somewhere down the road, Baldwin can join those names. But it's going to be a long, hard road for Baldwin at this point, and it might get worse before it gets better.