Many were surprised by the news that Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell and Broncos pro personnel director Tom Heckert were both arrested in the past month for DUI. Plenty of people who understand the industry weren’t.
Binge drinking is, for some non-players who work for NFL teams, a very real issue. The job entails plenty of stress, plenty of travel, and plenty of opportunities to hang out with the guys and drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
Over the years, we’ve heard plenty of rumors about specific head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts, and other executives who follow the work hard/play hard lifestyle by playing with too much hard liquor and other intoxicating beverages after a long day at the Scouting Combine or the Senior Bowl or on the road scouting players at different universities or otherwise enjoying some rare down time.
So while it’s understandable that Russell and Heckert will be punished for drinking too much and then driving a car (allegedly), the league and its teams should use this occasion as an opportunity to assess and address a culture that can entail a lot of social drinking that can lead to a lot of social overdrinking that can lead to drinking and driving.
It’s a problem that’s hardly unique to the NFL or to sports. But it would be foolish to think that Denver is the only place where multiple front-office employees were close to and/or on the wrong side of the line.
And it would be unfortunate for the NFL to simply punish Russell and Heckert and move on. At a minimum, the league needs to look at the situation more closely and determine whether the league and the teams should do something more than discipline those who get caught driving drunk.If the league and the teams expect players to avoid drinking and driving, the league and the teams need to ensure that the right example is at all times being set by all coaches, executives, and scouts.