Just about one month ago, Head Coach for the Denver Broncos John Fox gathered his players at midfield before releasing them for their summer vacation. Coach Fox then gave his usual speech to the players about staying out of trouble and representing the franchise well to the best of their ability.
”Just make good decisions, be smart”
The Broncos players, assuming the organization is not covering it up (if this doesn’t make sense it will in a second), have followed this simple instruction. Two top executives in the Broncos organization, however, have not. The day before Fox gave his simple rule, the organization had learned that Tom Heckert (seen in the above picture, on the left), the recently hired director of pro personnel, had been charged with drunk driving. This was not made public or even acknowledged by the Broncos executives until this past Tuesday, when the story was published by the Associated Press. The AP report came after Matt Russell (seen in the above picture, on the right), the director of player personnel and one of John Elway’s closest aides, apologized for his lack-luster driving under the influence which ended in him crashing into an SUV…belonging to the police department.
These events led the organization to release a comment stating that this ”disturbing pattern of irresponsible behavior” will be cleaned up. What does this mean? The Broncos are working with the NFL’s office to determine the proper punishment for their executives and, at a time where Commissioner Roger Goodell is favoring stiffer penalties due to the league’s relationship with MADD, who knows how severe the punishment may be. We are talking about the NFL Commissioner that handed out a slew of fines, suspensions, and loss of draft picks to the New Orleans Saints for Bounty-Gate…so it is clear that Goodell doesn’t fear giving out the big penalties.
Team President Joe Ellis certainly had a lot to say about the situation.
“We’re not perfect. We’ve made our errors. We admit. You can say we apologized for it – but I think an apology rings hollow when you run into the back of a police car or you’re blowing a blood alcohol limit that’s three times the legal limit. I don’t think fans, I don’t think the public, I don’t think anybody wants to hear an apology”
I am in full agreement with Ellis here. While an apology is necessary because to not apologize would cause an even greater controversy, as if they didn’t regret their actions, it doesn’t do any good to say you’re sorry. These men need to actively seek help and the organization needs to ensure that incidents such as these don’t happen again in the future. Ellis discusses this in a roundabout way.
“So, I think you have to acknowledge your mistakes and you have to fix them and you have to do that the right way….There’s a lot of things we do. We offer programs, we offer a lot of help, there’s a ton of stuff the National Football League makes available to all the teams in an effort for them to avoid this kind of thing. In this case, we had two guys that couldn’t do it. And that’s just sad. That’s too bad. But we’re going to move on and our hope is that you won’t see this kind of incident from an employee again”
On the subject of why the Broncos didn’t release Heckert’s arrest after it occurred, Ellis had this to say:
“Well, we handle those things internally….When they become external, then we deal with them. But we’re not in the business of announcing those kinds of things before they need to be addressed. And we were in consultation with the league all along and in terms of internal communication everybody understood it. Everybody that was involved. Everybody that needed to know”
Now, I understand the business reasoning behind not immediately sharing Heckert’s DUI. It makes sense that a business would want to have a plan for how to handle the fallout before the controversy becomes public and they are smothered with requests for comments and answers. What I don’t understand is why it took another incident, that may have even been prevented by dealing with the first openly, to discuss Heckert’s mistake. It is clear that this issue needed to be addressed before the Broncos organization believed it was necessary to share it with the public.
Wide receiver Eric Decker provided a player’s perspective on the arrests…
“This is a great organization. They’ll find the right manner to handle it. As players, our focus is on getting ourselves ready for a great season. Whatever action they’re taking, John Elway and Mr. (Pat) Bowlen will find the necessary discipline. As far as me, I stay out of that. My job as a football player is to come to practice and make this organization better”
I would expect to hear nothing less from a young player during the off season when their focus should be on their play and not on the poor decisions of upper management. It is clear that Decker has faith in the leadership of Elway and Bowlen to handle this controversy so that he, and the rest of the team, can prepare to win football games.