Big Question: Executive discipline?

How should the NFL handle discipline for Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand, who was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving last Friday?

We’ve gone through this routine with players: Arrest, NFL review, discipline sometimes announced. But I’m guessing many fans didn’t realize the same procedures apply to all league employees in cases of legal trouble, from owners all the way down to the lowest-level staffers. Lewand’s arrest compels commissioner Roger Goodell to consider his case the same way he would with any player.

Here's what Goodell said about the Lewand matter during a recent NFL Network interview: "Our policies apply to everyone: Yours truly, club presidents, players, coaches, everybody involved with the NFL. I think Tom recognizes that, and of course I will speak to him at some point in the near future. We'll be gathering the facts. But everybody is accountable and everybody is responsible."

Not all of you are buying that final statement, however. Brian of Grand Rapids, Mich., voiced a common refrain:

With Goodell cracking down on player conduct over the last 2 years, what kind of discipline can we expect, if any, for Tom Lewand's drunk driving offense? I suspect he will ignore the issue but it doesn't seem right to hold the players to one standard and management to another. Both represent the NFL. I guess Goodell's true colors will come out.

I agree in the sense that we can’t judge Goodell until he reaches his conclusion. And I am absolutely in favor of holding management to the same standards as players. But before we start calling for Lewand’s head, we should remember a few things.

  1. While Goodell has the right to punish league employees regardless of the legal verdict, he routinely examines any pattern -- or lack thereof -- before making decisions. Repeated drunken driving offenses usually lead to significant discipline. First offenses are sometimes handled internally with fines that aren't announced.

  2. Observers should be careful to avoid the hypocrisy of calling for anyone -- a team president or a backup center -- to be made an "example of."

Everyone knows Goodell is serious about discipline. But at this point, we don't know all of the particulars of Lewand's legal history -- if there is one. Let's give Goodell the latitude to make an appropriate rendering of Lewand’s fate and then evaluate it based on that.