On Monday, the Broncos are expected to decide the fate of director of player personnel Matt Russell and pro personnel director Tom Heckert, both of whom were arrested in separate drunk-driving incidents over the past few weeks. Once a decision is made, executive V.P. of football operations John Elway is expected to break his silence (some in league circles regard it as a conspicuous silence) regarding the situation.
Ultimately, owner Pat Bowlen may break his own silence, peppered with a few expletives.
As explained by Albert Breer of NFL Network, Bowlen’s pocket could be picked by the league office as a result of the suspensions, under the same policy that fines teams when multiple players are suspended in the same year. As Breer surmises, Heckert would be the first suspension, since his arrest occurred before Russell’s. Russell then would be the second.
If Commissioner Roger Goodell decides to apply the policy to non-players in Denver, the Broncos would have to pay 25 percent of the salary Russell loses while on suspension to the league office, which gives all fine money to various football-related charities.
Of course, it’s money that otherwise would have been paid to Russell if he weren’t suspended, but at least the Broncos would be getting something in return for the salary paid to the man regarded (at least before this incident) as the eventual heir to Elway.
Still, the amounts paid by teams for suspensions imposed on players and non-players falls into the parking-ticket category for billion-dollar businesses. That’s why we remain convinced that the only way to ensure more vigilance by teams in screening and monitoring and educating potentially problem employees is to take away not money but draft picks. Though I don’t necessarily advocate that approach, it would definitely create the strongest possible incentive to reduce violations of the substance-abuse policy, the steroids policy, and the personal-conduct policy.
The only question is whether the NFL wants to create a stronger incentive than the incentives that currently exist. Looking at the year-to-year numbers regarding suspensions under the various policies, the current incentives don’t seem to be working very well.