The NFL should not have sent the memo reminding its 32 teams of the restriction of alcohol on team property and team flights.
On November 1, Britt Reid, the former assistant coach of the Chiefs, son of Andy Reid, was given a three-year prison sentence for seriously injuring a young girl while drunk behind the wheel 21 months ago. Reid, 37, was on his way home from work and intoxicated when his car crashed into a vehicle parked on the shoulder of a Kansas City highway. So the dangers of drunk driving should have been fresh in the minds of most in the NFL community, right?
Apparently not fresh enough, as two incidents in the same week caused a reaction from the competition.
First, a post surfaced on social media showing Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke sipping a beer on the team plane as he celebrated his team’s victory over Philadelphia Monday night.
Then, early Friday morning, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing was arrested and charged with drunk driving and speeding just minutes after his team’s return flight from Green Bay landed following Tennessee’s victory over the Packers.
Perhaps Heinicke’s social media post only reflected poor judgment and immaturity; breaking the ‘pretend you’ve been there before’ code. But the league condemns such behavior because it could lead to Downing’s offense, which is far more serious. The carriage was lucky to have been stopped before it killed anyone.
Titans OC Todd Downing arrested, charged with drunk driving, speeding
So, why could happened, the NFL reminded teams of the policy.
The league’s statement read:
“In light of recent events, clubs are reminded that league policy prohibits alcoholic beverages, including beer, in dressing rooms, practice or office facilities, or while traveling on team buses or aircraft at any time during the pre-season, regular season or late season. This applies to all players, coaches, club staff and guests traveling with your team. This policy has existed for many years. Making alcohol available at club facilities or while traveling creates significant and unnecessary risk to the league, its players, coaches and others. Violations of this important policy will be taken seriously and will result in significant discipline.
“Each club must ensure that alcohol is not served at any time in its travel arrangements and must also take appropriate steps to confirm that alcohol (beer or any other alcoholic beverage) is not available at its facility. Please direct any further questions on this subject to the Management Council of Football Operations.”
Downing, 42, was driving a vehicle in a dangerous manner and could have experienced a repeat of the Britt Reid situation, or worse.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel spoke to reporters on Friday and declined to go into details due to the ongoing legal process, but he did say: “We all have a great responsibility as members of this community, as coaches and players of this organization, as fathers and spouses and teammates to make great decisions, and we understand that.
It’s unclear what kind of discipline Downing — one of Vrabel’s top assists and someone previously considered by some in the league to be a future head coaching candidate — might get from the Titans and the NFL.
But it’s important that League and Titans officials send a strong message, because while Downing has made a mistake and has had no similar previous offenses, he is in an authoritative and influential position as a coach who should lead by example for his players. and members of the Nashville community.
The league also needs to send a strong message because, for whatever reason, drunk driving continues to be a problem in the NFL, as it is in America, where more than 10,000 drunk drivers are killed each year, according to National Highway Traffic. Security administration.
It was one year ago that Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs, allegedly driving under the influence and traveling at 150 mph, shot and killed a fellow motorist, 23-year-old Tina Tintor, of Las Vegas. Tintor and her dog were burned alive as a result of the crash, which occurred at 3:39 a.m. on November 2, 2021.
At least four NFL players have been involved in drunk driving incidents in the past 25 years that have killed others. Meanwhile, others, including figures in positions of power such as Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, and Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, each pleaded guilty to drink-driving in the past eight years. NFL penalties varied in severity.
Ruggs, who faces up to 20 years in prison, was fired by the Raiders, but the league has yet to issue an additional sentence pending legal process.
In 2014, the NFL suspended Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent for 10 games after he lost control of his car while driving with an alcohol content over twice the Texas legal limit and killed his passenger and teammate Jerry Brown.
Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth was suspended for the entire 2009 season for pleading guilty to drunk-driving manslaughter. Before him, former Rams defenseman Leonard Little was serving an eight-game suspension in 1998 after he hit and killed a woman.
Sentences also varied for those guilty of non-fatal DUIs. There have been repeat offenders, such as Aldon Smith and Michael Floyd, who have also received multiple shots at redemption. And we’ve seen non-players get clemency after DUIs. Irsay, who should be held to the highest standard, served a six-game suspension and paid a $500,000 fine. Keim, who should also have been held to a high standard, served a five-week suspension, paid a $200,000 fine and kept his job.
It remains unclear what kind of punishment Downing could receive, but under the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy, discipline for players guilty of a first offense DUI, without aggravating circumstances, is a three-game suspension without pay. A second offense will result in an eight game suspension. Those guidelines apply to players, but Downing could be looking at a penalty more akin to Keim’s. When is still unknown. The NFL generally waits for the legal process to be completed. But should the Titans act quickly or wait for an NFL ruling?
Taking down very well could have hurt his prospects for a head coaching job in the near future, and rightly so. You cannot lead effectively while displaying such poor judgment. But not only should Downing know better, his decision was completely unnecessary because all NFL teams offer free driver service at all hours of the day for any player or coach who has been drinking.
Now, instead of being able to focus on building momentum after Thursday night’s victory over Green Bay, the Titans will likely have to look for a temporary contingency plan with the offensive coordinator. That could jeopardize their chance of winning matches. But because Downing chose to introduce himself to the team and everyone who shares the road with him on Friday morning, he and the Titans will rightfully have to deal with the consequences.
The coach is blessed that he did not seriously injure or kill anyone else. And he will probably have to work hard to regain confidence while helping his players learn from his mistakes.
Hopefully, Downing’s arrest will serve as a wake-up call to all NFL players, coaches and fans, and the league’s memo will help save employees and fans from future alcohol-related violations. But history suggests it may soon fade into a distant memory.
However, the NFL must do everything in its power to prevent that. League officials like to view the organizations and teams as leaders in their communities. Now here’s another chance for the league to do the right thing by handling the Downing situation in a way that sends a clear signal against drunk driving, while hopefully helping to save its employees and fans from similar life-threatening faults.
(Photo by Todd Downing: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)