Broncos Director of Pro Personnel Tom Heckert was arrested for drunk driving on June 11. The Broncos knew about it and informed the league office, but they didn’t suspend him, and they said nothing about it publicly.
Broncos Director of Player Personnel Matt Russell was arrested for drunk driving on July 6. When news of that went public, the Broncos quickly issued a statement saying they were disappointed, but they still said nothing about Heckert’s arrest.
It was only after the Associated Press picked up on Heckert’s arrest on Tuesday that the Broncos acknowledged it and said that both Heckert and Russell would face severe discipline.
Now the Broncos are facing questions about why they didn’t discipline Heckert, or say anything about it publicly, when he was arrested.
Some of the strongest questions are coming from Tom Nalen, the former Broncos center who was named to the team’s Ring of Fame in May. On Twitter, Nalen referred to the decision-makers on his old team as “cowards” for failing to crack down on Heckert immediately, and he suggested that their silence may have suggested to Russell that drinking and driving was something he could get away with.
maybe if the broncos were more proactive in dealing with heckert, russell doesn't get the DUI. cowards—
Tom Nalen (@TomNalen) July 10, 2013
Nalen also called the statements from the Broncos about aggressive discipline for Heckert and Russell a “PR stunt” that is only being done now because the team is taking public criticism for having two high-ranking executives arrested. Nalen also raises a troubling question: What if, instead of Russell causing minor injuries to the officer in the police car he crashed into, Russell had killed the police officer? What would we be saying then about the Broncos’ failure to send a message after Heckert’s arrest?
“If they had come down hard on Heckert, I believe Matt doesn’t make that mistake last weekend,” Nalen said. “If Russell had killed someone and then the news of Heckert came out with no discipline, I think fans might be angrier.”
Nalen is right: The Broncos blew it with their response (or lack thereof) to Heckert’s arrest.