2 Denver Executives Arrested for DUI! Broncos Need To Create Culture Of Accountability
Roger Goodell has done an impeccable job of becoming judge, jury and executioner when it comes to the off the field antics of the NFL’s personnel. It doesn’t matter if it is a star player, a benchwarmer, or a high powered executive in the case of the Denver Broncos, Goodell has been stern with his punishment. We’re used to reading about numerous infractions by players with too much money and time on their hands. It turns out that even the staff in charge of recruiting, evaluating and signing those players like to dabble in extracurricular activities. You would think living in the Mile High city, these Denver exec’s would be a little more laid back but then again Colorado’s newest state flower does entice cotton mouth.
Whatever the reason may be, the fact of the matter is that the Broncos are facing an identity crisis in their front office after, not one but two executives were arrested for DUI. Over the long 4th of July weekend Matt Russell, Director of Pro Personel, celebrated his birthday in Breckenridge, Colorado. It seems that Mr. Russell went a little too hard on his birthday and got himself into some trouble. Found with a half drunken 1/5th of peppermint schnapps, Russel’s wild ride came to an end after rear-ending a police SUV and sending the officer driving that vehicle to the hospital.
It turns out that wasn’t the only damage done by Russell, as it turns out he was involved in a hit-and-run minutes earlier, crashing his car and leaving the scene of an accident. It’s difficult to gauge the difference between right and wrong when you are inebriated to the level that Russell was but there are no excuses. As the facts were revealed in this case, the media started to do their digging and found that a month earlier another Broncos executive was arrested for DUI.
Tom Heckert was hired by the organization as the director of pro personnel in May and just a month later, during mini-camp I mind you, Heckert was arrested in Parker, Co. Heckert was pulled over after a deputy saw him strike the median and nearly hit the street light. He was arrested just after 10:30 at night and when he was released to Broncos’ scout John Spyteck the next morning he blew a 0.162. He was still over twice the legal limit to drive 7 hours after his arrest.
When Russell was arrested he blew a 0.246, which is over three times the legal limit of 0.08. Not to mention Colorado’s DWAI law that can allow an officer to charge an impaired driver even if their BAC is below the “legal limit”. Often times someone’s driving could be impaired with a BAC of 0.05, the discretion is up to the arresting officer. There are no excuses for those who are involved but the Broncos organization is now under some bright lights of scrutiny during the dark days of the NFL offseason due to their actions.
Aaron Hernandez’s case has been more than enough for the vultures of the media to prey upon but there’s not much more to report on until more evidence is leaked or the trial starts. With just two weeks away from training camps starting this story may fizzle out. Before it does, something needs to be done. Yesterday Broncos president Joe Ellis came out and said that there has been a “disturbing pattern of irresponsible behavior” admitting that his organization is “not perfect. We’ve made our errors. We admit it. You can say we apologized for it but I think an apology rings hollow . . . I don’t think fans, I don’t think the public, I don’t think anybody wants to hear an apology.”
Mr. Ellis couldn’t be more correct, but the fact that the Broncos have not been forthright about Mr. Heckert’s DUI doesn’t bode well for them. Clearly, it is difficult to fire someone a month after the fact but after Russell’s run in with the law, both figuratively and literally, there are many questions as to their punishment. Since 2000 there are just 2 teams in the entire NFL that have had more player arrests than the Broncos. They have created a culture in their organization whether they want to admit to it or not. The only way to change the current situation is to make an example of someone, whether or not that will be these two executives has yet to be determined.
I understand that it would be hard to get rid of 2 of your top 3 executives, but the last man standing is the mighty John Elway. Already a legend in the area, John stepping forward and giving these guys what they deserve may help curb any future distractions. Mr. Elway, however, has yet to make a public statement about the current situation. It would be an uphill battle to replace to figures like Russell and Heckert but it may be in the best interest of the future of this team. Maybe not for their upcoming season, but definitely in the coming years.
That is the very reason why I believe these gentlemen will keep their jobs and face some sort of punishment, the severity is up in the air. The Broncos are built for right now, they are not looking to compete in the next few years. Hell, if it weren’t for blown coverage at the end of their playoff game against the Ravens, they could have possibly brought home the Lombardi Trophy last year. Denver is competing for the Super Bowl this year, so that means that they will need to make some key personnel decisions in training camp and throughout the year. Although John Elway is a living legend, he can’t do it all alone.
The problem is that surprisingly not many football executives have been in this situation. In 2010 a Detroit exec was pulled over for DUI, was suspended for 30 days and fined $100,000. That’s great and all, but he didn’t blow triple the legal limit or hit two cars including a police officer. There is speculation that they could be suspended for the year, but Donte Stallworth had to kill someone to have that happen and Gregg Williams and Sean Payton were part of one of the biggest scandals in recent football history, the bounty program. Players who violate the substance policy for the first time have never received more than a 4 game suspension. When Ravens offensive line coach Andy Moeller was arrested for DUI he only served a 2 game suspension.
As much of a hard ass as Roger Goodell is, if this is left up to the league there may not be enough of a punishment to break this bad behavior. To establish a culture of accountability, John Elway and Joe Ellis need to come in and make the right decision. It doesn’t matter that these guys are part of the club, or that they have close relationships within the organization. If the club doesn’t hold its executives accountable, then what message are they sending to their players? It may put a damper on the Super Bowl aspirations of the Broncos, but dismissing these men from their jobs in no way dissolves their chances of winning. It may make it more difficult when injuries happen and tough roster moves need to be made but Denver still has their golden boy at the helm. In John Elway they trust!