This is both familiar yet new territory for Colts vice-chair/owner Carlie Irsay-Gordon. Familiar in the sense that she has been attending the NFL's owners meetings for the past decade, but new in the sense that she is now doing so as the leading member of the Colts representation at this week's league meetings in Orlando, Florida.
Her father, Colts owner Jim Irsay, is away from the team and undergoing rehab after his arrest for driving while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance. He is getting help, which as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated is the "first priority," but at the same time Irsay will be subject to discipline. Goodell said today at his press conference of Irsay that:
"He is seeking help and he has done that voluntarily. That's the most important step, at least initially. To my knowledge, I've been in a room all day today, but there are no formal charges at this point. We obviously will want to understand the facts before we take any steps as it relates to any discipline. Obviously, any policies or any laws that are broken - whether you are commissioner, owner, player or coach - subjects you to discipline."
He later addressed Irsay's heavy involvement at the owner's meetings, saying:
"Jim is serving on quite a few committees. He is someone that's grown up in this league. We're, I think, the identical age so we sort of grew up in this league together. He is someone that loves this game and he brings an important perspective to it, but that's not the priority right now. The priority is for Jim to take care of the issues he is facing and deal with it. He also has a great organization that he is proud of and three girls that are very capable, smart and effective and they are in the room."
Those three girls Goodell referred to are Irsay's daughters, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Foyt, and Kalen Irsay, all of whom hold the title of vice chair/owner of the franchise and who will take over ownership after their father steps down. Heading the operations at the time being while Jim is away is his eldest daughter Carlie, who is acting in Jim Irsay's role and will sign off on any moves that are made. She sent a letter to season ticket holders today, saying:
"The outpouring of support and expressions of love and concern for my father have been overwhelming. My sisters and our families join me in thanking all of you who have reached out to us during this time. We are optimistic that he will return to good health and we, joined by many of you, will be praying for his full recovery."
She reemphasized that, as we wrote last week, the football operations will continue as normal:
"In the meantime, I want to assure you that all the important work at our training facility will continue, without interruption. We have a strong, talented group of football professionals and an experienced and loyal front office team. Everyone will be working to complete a successful free agency season and draft in anticipation of an exciting football season."
In case you hadn't noticed, a major topic of the first day of the meetings was about Irsay, and Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who is also in Orlando this week, talked about his relationship with his boss and he too expressed his unwavering support for a man he called a "friend:"
"First (thing) I told (Irsay) was, ‘You're more than a boss to me. You're my friend.' I'd take a bullet for the guy and I think everybody in our organization and I think anybody that knows the man that Jim Irsay is would do the same. Myself, the entire organization, my wife, my family, we would do anything for Jim and his family."
Pagano knows a thing or two about the importance of having support from others close to you when battling challenges in life. The coach missed most of the 2012 season battling leukemia and in that period Jim Irsay was emphatically behind his head coach and offered total support, which Pagano has repeatedly said was huge.
"When you go through something like I went through, a lot of things get revealed to you and what was revealed to me about Mr. Irsay when he talks about faith, family and football, it's not just lip service. It's not just talk. He lives that."
Pagano added of Irsay that:
"The guy has a heart of gold and he would do anything for anybody in our organization. What he's done for that city and certainly what he did for myself and my family through my ordeal, I'll never be able to repay him. We are just here to support him."
There will be more talk as the week goes on about more football topics, but it is clear that a major point of interest on the first day of the league meetings was Jim Irsay, which was to be expected. One of the league's premier and more prominent owners, Irsay chairs the legislative committee and also serves as a member on both the finance committee and the Super Bowl advisory committee. His presence will absolutely be missed this week, but in the time being his daughter Carlie, along with a group of representatives, is in Orlando at the meetings, which Carlie has attending for the past decade.
There is nothing 'normal' about the situation the Colts are in, and it will be an unprecedented situation for Roger Goodell as he contemplates possible disciplines for one of his bosses but a man who is still under the league's personal conduct policy. Goodell said today that Irsay will be subject to discipline, and I would expect the NFL's Commissioner to come down hard on Irsay to make a point. A combination of a hefty fine and a suspension is a definite possibility. It is an unprecedented scenario for Goodell, but similar situations have occurred. In 2009 Goodell fined the late Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams $250,000 for an obscene gesture at a crowd. In 2010 Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand was fined $100,000 and suspended 30 days by Goodell for driving while impaired. Expect the punishment for Irsay to be more significant than that. Either way, as Goodell noted the first priority is making sure Jim Irsay gets help but that the Colts owner will certainly be subject to league discipline for his actions.
As a result, it's a real possibility that Carlie Irsay-Gordon will be running things a little longer, but for now she is in Orlando representing the Colts at the annual league meetings - a glimpse into the future of the Colts, though not in a way that anyone would have wished.
OTHER COLTS NOTES FROM THE LEAGUE MEETINGS:
- The Colts' submitted a proposal last week that would allow teams with retractable roofs to open them at halftime of a game if the weather were to improve so that teams could improve fan experience at stadiums. They will have to wait on a decision, however, as the discussion was tabled until the owner's meetings in May (yeah, there are more meetings after this). An incredibly interesting nugget from ESPN's Mike Wells is that the roof at Lucas Oil Stadium has been opened for 15 out of a possible 48 games since the stadium opened in 2008. It has long been a joke among fans in Indianapolis that the Colts hardly ever open the roof and there is a lot of truth to that. It is fair to wonder how many of those 33 games the roof was not opened for would the Colts have actually opened it at halftime, but I guess that whatever helps them get their money's worth (of taxpayer money) for the retractable roof is worth exploring - but that won't happen until May.
- The compensatory picks for this year were awarded today and, as expected, the Colts did not receive any. Compensatory picks are awarded based off of free agents that a team loses the previous year and are not tradable. The Ravens and Jets each received four compensatory picks, the most in the league. The Colts, receiving zero, currently have five picks in May's NFL Draft and will stick with that number unless they make a trade. Their five picks are tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the fewest in the league.