Alan Petersime/AP
Alan Petersime/AP

Goodell’s Irsay Problem

Colts owner Jim Irsay faces four felony counts of possessing a controlled substance and a DWI charge. He’s subject to the same personal conduct policy as NFL players, but will the commissioner be the same disciplinarian when punishing one of his bosses?

I’ve been listening to people in and out of my business talk about the Jim Irsay story over the past 24 hours and I’ve heard a couple of themes: This is going to be a very tough disciplinary call for Roger Goodell because Irsay’s one of his bosses … and … the players are going to be watching this case to see if Goodell is as tough on one of his 32 employers as he is on the players.

I’m not buying that this decision will keep the commissioner up at night. I don’t think this is going to be a tough call for Goodell.

History says it won’t be, even though Goodell has never had to discipline an owner for substance abuse or driving while impaired in his eight years on the job. Irsay was arrested in Indiana early Monday and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence. He was also charged with four felony counts of possessing a controlled substance; police found prescription drugs that weren’t prescribed to him in the car he was driving. Irsay is due in court next week to address the charges.

This is the sort of case few commissioners have had to deal with. The fact that Irsay has a substance-abuse problem that results in such a public black eye for the league and for himself is a sad story, and it could have been a tragic one: Who knows if this was the first time that Irsay—allegedly—has driven while impaired? He said in a 2012 interview about his sobriety that he has spilled more alcohol than the interviewer has drank, a line many in recovery have used. But Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star quoted a source with knowledge of Irsay’s situation as saying, “He’s a sick, sick man. He desperately needs help.”

The first step here will be for Irsay to deal with the law, and to get the help he needs. Then Goodell will step in with discipline. An owner is subject to the personal conduct policy the same as a player. What we don’t know right now is whether Irsay has done anything prior to this point to be put on notice by the league. That, obviously, would make the potential league sanction worse.

Goodell and Irsay before the start of Super Bowl XLIV. (David J. Phillip/AP)
Goodell and Irsay before the start of Super Bowl XLIV. (David J. Phillip/AP)

But Goodell’s history shows he’s short on sacred cows. I once saw an exasperated Dan Rooney, the Steelers owner who was Goodell’s biggest champion when he ran for commissioner in 2006, tersely complain to him that he was too hard with his fines on Pittsburgh players. Patriots owner Bob Kraft remained a close ally after Goodell—rightfully—took a first-round pick away from New England and fined Kraft’s coach and organization $750,000 over Spygate. Goodell fined the late Tennessee owner, Bud Adams, $250,000 for making an obscene gesture to a crowd in Nashville in 2009. And he stripped New Orleans owner Tom Benson of his coach for the 2012 season, and his GM for half the season, after a long investigation into a bounty system with the Saints.

The closest case to Irsay’s was in Detroit in 2010. Club president Tom Lewand was arrested for driving while intoxicated, and Goodell gave him a $100,000 fine and a 30-day suspension from his job (later reduced to 21 days because Lewand complied with all the recovery steps the Lions and the league mandated).

Goodell knows everyone is watching the Irsay case. He knows he’s going to have to be compassionate but tough on Irsay. I think he will be. I think anyone who can strip a playoff team of its coach for a year isn’t going to have a hard time disciplining an owner if he’s found guilty of crimes as serious as felony drug possession and driving under the influence.

What’s the right punishment, if Irsay is guilty? A fine, certainly. But I can tell you from knowing Irsay that a fine won’t be such a big deal. Banning him from being around his team for a period of time would be much worse. Irsay loves being around his team. He loves being an owner. He loves the life, and what he can do for people because of that life. For goodness sakes, he tweets transactions. He gives out tickets in Twitter contests. When a former Colts beat writer, Len Pasquarelli, was ready to be discharged from a Phoenix hospital after bypass surgery while covering the Super Bowl in 2008, Irsay sent word that he wanted to ferry Pasquarelli home to Atlanta on his private plane, with a nurse on board. On Monday, Pasquarelli wrote about that for a story on his site, pickthedraft.com, just to show people that Irsay is a big-hearted guy who, obviously, has some demons.

I think a fine plus a suspension from any team-related activities will likely be Goodell’s discipline if the charges against Irsay are true. And if true, the discipline will certainly be justified.

Now onto your email …

* * *

PHYSICAL ISSUES. Can you elaborate on the Rodger Saffold situation? It would seem to me that he would have some footing for filing a grievance against the team if the team doctor’s examination didn’t agree with multiple other doctors that are just as qualified to evaluate his labrum. Was the agreement verbal or written pending the physical? What are the player’s rights in this situation when it ultimately cost him significant dollars?

 — Todd, Albemarle, N.C.

Every time an NFL team reaches a contract agreement with a player, it is subject to that player passing the team’s physical exam. A team doesn’t have to tell you why it might be failing a player when another team has passed the player. For instance, when Anthony Munoz came out of USC, he was flunked on the physical by a lot of teams because of a questionable knee. So even though it might appear to be unethical, the Raiders don’t owe Saffold or his agents an explanation other than to say, “He flunked our physical.” However, I feel the way Saffold’s agents feel: You can always find a reason to flunk a guy on a physical if you really want. And I think there is some evidence to suggest that the Raiders wanted to fail him on the physical. 

THE RAIDERS MESS. I realize money talks and many players will go ANYWHERE to get the money, especially since the NFL player shelf life can be so short. But how many agents will tell their players (quietly), “I am going to look everywhere but Oakland because that franchise is a mess, has been a mess and does not look like it will be cleaned up soon.” And how do the Raiders change that perception?

— Doug, Atlanta

TALK BACK

Have a question for Peter King? Send it along, with your name and hometown, to talkback@themmqb.com and check back to see if it’s included in next Tuesday’s mailbag.

That’s a great question, and I don’t have a great answer unfortunately. The one thing I would say is that I think it is vital that very soon the Raiders get a long-term quarterback and stop scotch-taping that position together from year to year. This team right now needs to figure out if it would be more well-advised to take a quarterback over a left tackle with the No. 5 pick. Everything flows from quarterback and coaching that position well. Now, if you’re not sure about the quarterback, then go ahead and take a long-term left tackle.

As far as the Raiders’ inability to win consistently in this environment, my feeling is that there have been too many changes too often across the board in the organization. As we’ve seen throughout the past few years in the NFL, consistent change rarely leads to consistent winning. So I wouldn’t think of cleaning house right now, and I would hold on to Reggie McKenzie for as long as I have faith in him to build a strong long-term base of my team.

MOTIVATING FACTOR. As a Bear in 2013, Julius Peppers had 7.5 sacks, seven games with one tackle, and one game with none. During his Bears career he raked in $54 million. It wasn’t Peppers’ fault that former GM Jerry Angelo and Coach Lovie Smith wildly overpaid him to save their own jobs in 2010, but it was his fault that he disappeared for so many games. While he didn’t have a nickname here, “The Invisible Man” would have fit. 

In free agency the question remains: how can teams get maximum effort from players after they’ve signed contracts with huge amounts of money up front? The final years of long-term deals are seldom reached, of course, but once the signing bonuses are banked, too often that’s a signal for some players to go on cruise control.

In Peppers’ case, it’s another new team and another big payday. Regardless of the incentives in his contract, he already has his cash up front. Will Packer fans also be left wondering when his play will equal his pay? 

— Jay, Chicago

I think you raise a very interesting question about motivation of players after they’ve signed big contracts, and I believe that’s not only an issue for veteran free agents, but also for rookies. It’s a big reason NFL owners were so convinced that they had to do something about rookie salaries before the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. And I think it’s the most difficult factor when a team is investigating a player—how do I know that I’m getting the great player that I saw on tape, and not someone who will cruise because he got his money?

I’ve watched Peppers a lot over the years. I can’t say that I watched him individually a lot last year, but I have the impression that he’s still an effort guy, but some of his athletic skills are declining, as they would with anyone who’s played as much as he has in the NFL. Now, Ted Thompson does not give out charity contracts. So I think he still sees Peppers as a guy who can make an impact on a defense that needs one.

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131 comments
chetjohnson
chetjohnson

Peter King should not be allowed to write anymore.  He has no objectivity and is nothing but a kiss arse for the league and it's ownership.  Peter King is like one of those over the hill free agents.  Once he got his NCB job and the MMQB website and hit the big time so to speak, he is just filling the square when he writes.  The bad news, he will get a hefty raise when the contract expires on both gigs.  Ugh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike26
Mike26

PK, you're clearly harsher against players than you are execs/owners.  Stop trying to pretend you're close to the middle in this.

ArnoldRiveron
ArnoldRiveron

I think the media should be punished for a change by wishing major fines and punishment on other people! Put a lid on it already media! You self centered people aren't so innocent yourselves. There's much of the blame to pass around!

MarthaHHarrison
MarthaHHarrison

just as Arthur answered I'm stunned that a student can get paid $4447 in one month on the computer . website link 





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agenera
agenera

I can't help but wonder where are all the cries of "thug" and "dirt bag" and "scum" and all those other adjectives everyone was using when Richard Sherman had a human moment of over emotion....Last I checked getting charged with 4 felony charges is a lot more "thuggish" than some guy yelling into the camera on national tv.

Chris10
Chris10

I am amazed at how many people are surprised by this whole thing.  This guy owns a team in a league that routinely allows wife beaters, murderers, drug addicts, drunk drivers, and many other criminal types play the game and make millions.  How is it surprising that an owner breaks the law too?  Truly the "National Felon League" nickname is becoming more and more true every day

Buck2185
Buck2185

Goodell was only slightly slapping Krafts hands with a $750,000 fine for spygate. He should have taken back their three SB rings and kicked Belichick out of the league.....

jasonleegrenier
jasonleegrenier

That's karma for ya! Talked smack on Peyton Manning. Look where you are now buddy. I'm sure he will receive a harsh punishment cause if not then Goodell looks like a bigot. 

DCotoz
DCotoz

like father like son

RobertSmith
RobertSmith

Irsay looks like a chronic alcoholic.  His behavior reflects very poorly on the NFL brand.

Ciscos
Ciscos

The Irsay problem isn't a problem and shouldn't keep the commish wringing his hands either.  Yes he is an owner, but he's subject to the same "high moral standard" the commish applies to players and other NFL employees.  Given the severity of the allegations and the charges pending against him, it should be substantial.


1. Suspension. Yup and should be effective immediately pending the outcome of his case.  At it's conclusion, the commish should tack on a few more months and write the prior time off as time served. Could Irsay be looking at a season long suspension? Well, what would he do with a player who had the same set of circumstances and the same history? 


2. Fine. Of course, but the question becomes "what's reasonable and necessary?" Cheating got the Patriots slapped with 750k and Bud Adams 250k for the flipping the bird.  With Irsay, I'm thinking it should be at minimum a million. Then the NFL should take that "fine" money and donate it to various drug treatment centers in and around the City. 


3. Innovative Punishment Options. Irsay could/should be required to do a couple of PSA's on drug awareness and treatment options. Overkill? Probably, but for a league that needs as much good PR as they can get, to offset some bonehead (insert name) getting arrested in the future.  "The NFL Cares..."


4. The NFL.  No one is bigger than the shield. No one. Not even owners.

George
George

Irsays (all of them) are dirtbags.

You don't "fix" dirtbag.


KevinB2014
KevinB2014

OK, here's the article I was referring to:

http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nfl/colts/2014/03/17/-colts-owner-jim-irsay-arrested-on-dui-charge/6515267/

to shoota79, I never said I thought it was unlikely he was in possession of narcotics. I think it's a certainty. The police officer found four different Schedule IV drugs on him when he was arrested. I doubt he planted them on Irsay. What I find unlikely, although certainly not impossible, is that Irsay didn't have a prescription for each of them. I predict it's going to turn out that he did. Just a feeling. We'll see. But they guy's a billionaire. I doubt he's driving by a street corner buying the drugs from a street dealer. I think it's far more plausible that he got a doctor's prescription for them. My main point was, though, that while it sounds sensationalist that he was arrested on four felony drug counts, no charges have been filed yet, and if he produces Rx for the four drugs, no charges will be filed for possession. Then he'll be facing, at most, a misdemeanor DUI charge, and that isn't a certainty either, given that there doesn't appear to be alcohol involved and it would be more difficult to get a conviction based on his having taken prescription drugs.

KevinB2014
KevinB2014

Unfortunately I can't locate the Indianapolis Star article I read this morning, but it indicated that if Irsay can produce prescriptions for the four Schedule IV prescription pain killers he had in his possession, no felony drug possession charges will be filed. It isn't clear whether he got the drugs without a prescription, which I find unlikely, or simply didn't have them in the original pill bottles and will be able to produce the Rx later, which I find more likely. My prediction: no drug charges whatsoever. But we'll see.


Then the issue is the DUI. The article left me unconvinced that he'll face charges on that. I think it's likely, but not definite. There was apparently no alcohol in his system. No breathalizer test. The article suggested it is more difficult to convict of DUI without such hard evidence. So again, we'll see.


He's already voluntarily checked into a drug treatment facility; he did that Monday, the same day he was released.


The bottom line is that before everyone jumps all over this and goes off the deep end calling for his franchise to be stripped from him, year-long suspensions, lifetime bans, etc., how about we just chill a bit and let the facts come out.

LeeHarvey
LeeHarvey

If someone pulled Peter Kings car over, they would find a trunk full of Big Macs and a driver with 10 times the legal level of hubris.

Junkjunk
Junkjunk

Suspension is no way near enough. Irsay owns the Colts and sets the example for the organization (and arguably the league). If the penalty is a only a suspension it needs to be substantially longer than what a player would receive for a similar infraction. I prefer that the NFL force him to he sell the team and in doing so set the right example.

SpencerNewcomer
SpencerNewcomer

Unless there were 60,000 percocets in his trunk, no way Irsay gets a felony drug conviction. Johnny law likes to overhype and overcharge. Especially somebody with his money and a clean (public) background, no way he does time.

PWINGS
PWINGS

Headline: Colts owner Jim Irsay faces four felony counts of possessing a controlled substance and a DWI charge.

A number of the posters to this thread are over-simplifying this as "only a DWI charge". If he's convicted of felony drug possession of narcotics for which he did NOT have a prescription, he may be enjoying new living accommodations (and I don't mean a drug rehab facility.) This is more complicated and serious than a simple DWI charge. Hence, the term "felony" as opposed to "misdemeanor".

Buck2185
Buck2185

@chetjohnson Particularly his undying love for Bob Kraft and anything Patriot. It has been rumored though, that Peter's little Tommy Brady has been getting jealous of late. This is due to Peter's apparent new man love crush of Richard Sherman in the past few months.....

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@MarthaHHarrison Somehow, I'm not stunned that someone with your avatar would post crap like this here. Get a life.

Mike26
Mike26

@agenera  Wow, there's idiocy - and then there's what you posted here!

rskins09
rskins09

@agenera     Your right ...When a NFL player gets arrested he's an automatic  thug ...When a now owner gets in a jam with the law -  well he needs  help ...Can't have it both ways ...Irsay  should be fined  and suspended  for at least four  NFL games this season ..And don't tell me Irsay had an unhappy childhood ...Big question to me is why didn't he have a chauffeur ..Know he could afford it . He shot himself in the foot ..What an idiot .....  

JubJub
JubJub

Irsay is white and rich. Such people must be defended because they are weak and helpless.

JubJub
JubJub

Nonsense. Criminal behavior among people in the NFL is no higher than for the general population. You're reinforcing an ignorant stereotype with zero facts to support your position.

JubJub
JubJub

Yes, I'm going to stop watching the NFL. Because of Jim Irsay. I can no longer enjoy the sport because one owner is a drug addict. It's all ruined. I also will stop listening to rock music because I hear that Mick Jagger has done a ton of blow.

rskins09
rskins09

@Ciscos     At least a four game suspension  without pay starting this Sept... Why didn't Irsay have a chauffeur  ....BTW, his late father didn't win any popularity contest when he owned  the orig. Colts  in Balteemore, Md ..  He ran this great  franchise  into the ground years before he moved the team  in the middle of the night  .. They used to have targets (dart boards )  with  Irsay's  face in the middle ..

akattack
akattack

@KevinB2014  There's always the chance that he was getting pain meds from the Colts facility, too (either with or without the help of a team doctor). It definitely wouldn't be the first time something along those lines has happened.

rskins09
rskins09

@KevinB2014    I agree to a certain extent ..... But the press  NEVER, NEVER cuts any NFL player any slack  when they get a DUI  and/or find drugs in their car ...They're automatically  guilty  when it hits the newspapers  the next day ..They - the newspapers --are just doing their job ...sure, right ... 

shoota79
shoota79

@KevinB2014  Kev , why do you find it so " Unlikely " that Jim Irsay was in possession of narcotics ? The Man has a long long history of Drug & Alcohol use / abuse . Granted we don't have all the facts but one thing is clear = Irsay need help ASAP . 

mystafugee
mystafugee

@KevinB2014  ...but if it's an athlete, let's just slam him for his poor moral character and anyone who defends this type of behavior is scum and an enabler.  F---- Irsay, he's a lowlife trust fund baby who hasn't earned anything of substance in his life.  Take away his birth parents and he's probably some guy getting blacked out in a dive bar right now.  

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@LeeHarvey And don't forget a case of craft beer in the trunk. Oh, and a big cup of fancy coffee in the cupholder up front.

tfaw
tfaw

@LeeHarvey  excellent...i just about spit out my iced tea....

pk_sea
pk_sea

@PWINGS  They have to call it felony as they are a class IV drug. He'll most likely plea it out, get probation and not see time for the pills (other than a mandatory rehab stint).

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@JubJub He's a rich, white thug, perhaps? And with a big heart no less...

AndrewJHamm
AndrewJHamm

@JubJub Absolutely right. The crime rate among pro sports players is statistically lower than that of the general population.

JubJub
JubJub

According to brainiac, it looks like Jim Irsay. You didn't get the memo?

Ciscos
Ciscos

@rskins09 @CiscosAgreed... whatever suspension he gets should go into the season. And to think in the beginning I thought he was going to be unlike his father, but as Jim as aged, the more he's proven the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, indeed.

scott s1
scott s1

@akattack @KevinB2014the bottles of pills did not have his name on them, which is just about as bad as having the Schedule IV drugs

Buck2185
Buck2185

@SkokieDog @JubJub you know what would be great? Irsay taking some adderral and talking like a loud mouthed punk inn an interview with Erin Andrews.......

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