The offseason is the most dreaded time of year for NFL executives, and it's not just because they miss football that much. Rather, the offseason is when players are away from the organization with a lot of time on their hands, and that can lead to trouble.
Already this week, the first week after the Super Bowl, we've seen that in full effect with a number of NFL players getting arrested. One such player was Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who was arrested for assault after punching a pizza delivery driver. While this is a league-wide issue that unfortunately occurs every offseason, for the Colts it's the latest in a string of incidents that damages the image of the beloved horseshoe.
Over the past three weeks, three Colts players have gotten arrested and another was suspended by the team for personal reasons. And a franchise that used to be regarded as one of the cleanest, most professional, and classy organizations in football has been plagued by a number of suspensions and arrests recently, from the top of the organization to the bottom, from the owner to the last guy on the 53-man roster. Just consider this list of arrests and suspensions recently for the Colts (and I might be missing a couple, too):
Moise Fokou, LB, January 2013, DUI
Joe Lefeged, S, June 2013, gun-related charges
John Boyett, S, September 2013, public intoxication
Jim Irsay, owner, March 2014, DUI
Andrew Jackson, LB, June 2014, DUI
Da'Rick Rogers, WR, September 2014, DUI
Josh McNary, LB, January 2015, Rape
Andrew Jackson, LB, January 2015, DUI
D'Qwell Jackson, LB, February 2015, Assault
LaVon Brazill, WR, June 2013, substance-abuse (4 game suspension)
Weslye Saunders, TE, July 2013, PED (8 game suspension)
Erik Walden, LB, November 2013, headbutting opposing player (1 game suspension)
Jim Irsay, owner, March 2014, DUI (6 game suspension plus fine)
Robert Mathis, LB, May 2014, PED (4 game suspension)
LaVon Brazill, WR, July 2014, substance-abuse (1 year suspension, later reduced to 10 games)
LaRon Landry, S, September 2014, PED (4 game suspension)
Trent Richardson, RB, January 2015, *TEAM SUSPENSION for personal reasons* (2 game suspension)
This isn't necessarily an indictment of any certain person to hold them accountable for the issues. It's hard to pin this solely on Jim Irsay or Ryan Grigson or Chuck Pagano - in some of these situations, there was nothing to indicate an issue, such as with Robert Mathis, D'Qwell Jackson, and even Josh McNary. The individual is always responsible for his actions, and sometimes that's it - we can't go placing blame on the general manager or the head coach for some of these things.
But what is clear is that this trend of recent arrests and suspensions has left the Colts' reputation damaged. For as many standup guys that are in the locker room and running the team, as we know, the negative news gets all the focus and the attention in the media and from fans. And it's that exact attention that has been very prevalent surrounding the Colts recently.
It starts with owner Jim Irsay, who was arrested for DUI and suspended six games by the NFL this past summer. As the owner of an NFL franchise, people are watching him, and when he gets arrested and suspended it sends the wrong message. It continues with Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, who are both standup men but who need to get control of their locker room. And it's ultimately on the players, who have been the ones making stupid decisions.
Understand, it's a small minority of Colts who have gotten in trouble. But that small minority is where the focus is at, and with the negative attention recently it's damaging to the horseshoe. Chuck Pagano talks all the time about protecting the horseshoe and about how people are horseshoe guys, but this isn't what the horseshoe is about. The horseshoe isn't about being stupid and getting arrested or suspended. Yet by Colts players (and their owner) doing just that, it naturally reflects back on the organization and the horseshoe.
After the NFL season ended, Jim Irsay said that the Colts needed to get tougher. Before they can get tougher on the field, however, they need to get tougher off the field. Punching a pizza delivery driver in the head is not toughness. Getting arrested or suspended period is not toughness. What's tough is being a true man and doing things the right way, even when others aren't.
The Colts are filled with players and leaders that are great people, great citizens, and great representatives of the franchise. Unfortunately, the small minority that has been getting into trouble is hard to overlook, and it's damaging the image of the Colts' franchise. And that's something that needs to stop.