Original, horribly wrong story follows:
Doug Pederson said he has no intention of benching Josh Huff for this week’s game against the New York Giants after the Eagles wide receiver was arrested with weed and a gun in his car, speeding on the Walt Whitman Bridge. Huff was caught in New Jersey, where he does not have a permit to carry a firearm. But the first-year head coach said until he learns all the information about the incident, he isn’t ready to made a decision as to Huff’s punishment.
Pressed as to what, specifically, Pederson would need to see outside of the police report and talking to Huff himself, which he has done, the coach stumbled through a response. “Until I find out exactly the severity of it and what’s going to happen down the road, right now, nothing,” Pederson said, via Dave Zangaro of CSN Philly. “We’ll take it one day at a time.”
That…doesn’t make any sense. By now the team has had ample time to speak to police and/or obtain a copy of the initial report. Huff was there, obviously, so at the very least that conversation should illuminate the franchise as to what went down on Tuesday.
“I want to see exactly what happened, maybe talk to some people and find out,” Pederson said. “It’s outside of the building, obviously, and a lot of times, these situations are out of our control. I just want to get everything tightened up.”
Did Huff have a gun? Yes.
Was the gun registered in New Jersey? No. Per reports, Huff’s gun is registered in Texas.
Are the hollow-point bullets he had, not in the gun but in the car, legal? No, they are not.
Was there weed in the car too? Yes.
Is weed legal in New Jersey? No.
Is there anything else in need of ‘tightening up?’ Other than the team’s policy on players who have run-ins with the law, not at all. No.
This is the point in the story where we run down all the transgressions different Eagles have had since Pederson took the job. Nigel Bradham bringing a gun to an airport or punching a cabana man in Florida. Nelson Agholor’s monetary dispute with a stripper that led to her accusing him of assault. The myriad of past incidents involving players the team has either drafted or traded for this season, without much care of character issues at all. (We ran a lot of these issues down when Dorial Green-Beckham was brought into the fold, if you care to revisit the misdeeds in full.)
The team’s decision to not suspend Huff with the evidence they surely already have is, from a basic logic standpoint, fine. Let’s get that out of the way. Yes, he had a gun, but it was registered somewhere, and yes he had weed, but it’s 2016 and we’re not prudes. Anyone wringing their hands about either of those things is looking to be offended. The bullets are a problem, sure, as is the stupidity of getting caught driving with all of that in his vehicle, but we aren’t talking about a player who fired the gun at someone. It feels like that needs to be said. (Note: To protect an egg from inevitably hitting me in the face, let’s acknowledge that if more comes out, and Huff has done any of those more severe offenses, even my hands will be wringing.)
It also needs to be said, however, that Pederson’s response is unacceptable. Teams need to stop lying to the press — and fans — about why they slowfoot punishments when it comes to legal matters. The Eagles don’t need to continue to fact-find anything about Huff. They could suspend him right now and be rightly justified and lauded within the community.
But that’s not what they will do, because that’s not what any NFL team does.
Roger Goodell has created a structure of punishment in the NFL where he is the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to players in the league. Sure, after the Ray Rice debacle (and many, many subsequent debacles) Goodell has created a task force of sorts to hand out player discipline for off-the-field matters, but ultimately the commissioner, himself, is the man who doles out punishments around the league.
The NFL Personal Conduct policy is clear: Goodell can do whatever he wants to whoever he wants whenever he wants.
Why, then, would an NFL team even bother disciplining their players when the league is going to eventually do it for them? Why would Pederson come off as the bad guy to his locker room when Goodell is always the bad guy, to everyone?
Moreover, why would a team punish a player when the league is still going to punish him too? Unlike the NCAA, where schools often discipline players or coaches who break the rules in hopes the NCAA will accept that penalty and rubber stamp a potentially lesser punishment, Goodell has proven to add his own sanction, independent of — and perhaps even in spite of — what teams do.
So, there is absolutely no point for a team to discipline a player unless it’s absolutely clear they are an abhorrent monster who can’t be in the league anymore. The Giants were pilloried for the way they handled the Josh Brown domestic violence situation because they knew the league would do their dirty work for them. The Giants undoubtedly figured the public relations backlash would be easier to handle than fighting with the NFL Players Association and their own locker room.
This has to be Pederson’s logic, too. If the NFL wasn’t going to suspend Bradham for bringing a gun into an airport, why should he? And if the league suspends Huff for being really, really stupid in his car over the bridge, what benefit would Pederson have had to suspend him first? So the rest of the locker room loses faith that the coach has their back?
It makes no sense. None of it makes sense. But we shouldn’t expect it to change, so long as Goodell’s iron fist rules the league the way it always has. We all wish Pederson would have the guts to say, ‘look, we’d suspended Huff, but the league’s going to do it anyway’ or ‘guys, it makes no sense for us to discipline Huff because Goodell’s going to do it.’ But he won’t. Because nobody does.
Honesty would make Pederson look less foolish when he talks to the media. But that’s not what the NFL wants, so that’s not what teams will do. Not as long as Goodell is in charge.