Does Player Ability Affect Disciplinary Action?

It's not a perfect world and the punishment does not always fit the crime in professional sports. 

It's been quite a busy off season for the Green Bay Packers in terms of off-field incidents.

Letroy Guion and Andrew Quarless have both been arrested. Guion had his charges dropped, but we are still awaiting any NFL punishment. Quarless is just beginning his criminal process, which I'm sure we'll hear a lot more about it the coming days in addition to any Packers roster decision and NFL discipline.

Datone Jones was recently suspended for one game due to marijuana possession following the NFC Championship game.

Whenever players get in trouble, fan reactions are usually highly dichotomous.

"Cut him! We don't need him around. He's a cancer to the organization."

"Give him a second chance. I'm sure he learned his lesson. Everyone deserves a second chance."

Also, inevitable questions along the lines of "If Aaron Rodgers committed this crime, would you still want to cut him?" and "if Rodgers got caught with a joint would you decline to re-sign him to a new contract?"

So, what determines which reaction fans make? What determines which course of action a franchise will take outside of any formal league sanction?

Whether you like it or not, I'd fashion a guess that many of us ascribe to the Jimmy Johnson (former coach of the Dallas Cowboys) school of thought. Johnson famously said, "I'm going to be very consistent in how I treat you. I will treat each one of you differently."

He was speaking about backup linebacker John Roper who was cut after falling asleep during a special teams meeting. Johnson later elaborated that had Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, or Emmitt Smith fallen asleep during a meeting, he'd simply go over and wake them up.

Superstars get breaks. Fringe players and backups are shown the door.

So, yes, ability does affect disciplinary action.

This favortism also happens every year in the NFL with regards to arrests, ranging from small misdemeanors to violent crimes. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy, who were implicated in domestic abuse, were not shown the doors immediately. The Ravens initially tried to protect Rice before finally succumbing to public outcry for him to be released. Peterson and Hardy were put on the exempt list and remained with their teams, which meant they were able to collect their full salary for doing nothing all season.

This list goes on where superstars are given second, third, and even fourth chances with the team.

Then there's the case of John Boyett, formerly of the Denver Broncos. He allegedly head-butted a cab driver and stole a shovel from a construction site he used to bury himself in mulch as he was fleeing from the police. He was released by the team shortly thereafter. What was his rank on the team? Practice squad.

Also consider running back Michael Hill, who had two separate stints with the Packers, mainly on the practice squad, but also briefly on the active roster. While a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a backup, he resisted arrest after a bar fight and was immediately released by the team.

This list also goes on. Several lesser players are released each season after being arrested. They don't get second chances.

Just like sleeping in team meetings, the punishments and roster decisions for crimes imposed by the team often reflects the players' abilities and worth to their teams. If they are starters, or superstars, the team wants them around. They'll help them, get them treatment, do damage control, and fight to get them on the active roster. They'll hold press conferences and help them craft carefully worded statements and public apologies.

If they are a backup or practice squad player, they are thrown to the curb like yesterday's trash. There's no formal press conference from the team. The transaction quietly shows up on the wire and the beat reporters are charged with writing it up.

Whether it's fair or not, right or wrong, or you agree with it or not, this is how professional sports work. They are business trying to make insane amounts of money. Finding superstar players is extremely difficult, so franchises try to protect their investments and moneymaking machines.

So, would you cut Aaron Rodgers if he fired a gun into the ground and then tried to hide in a plant? Of course not. He's the best quarterback in the game and will be nearly impossible to replace.

Would you cut Andrew Quarless for the same crime? It's likely because he's no longer the presumptive starter at the position and hasn't shown that he can perform any better than a street free agent.

That's the way it is, and it's not going to change any time soon. The sports world we live in values the ability to throw a ball or sack a quarterback over being a decent human being.

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Comments (12)

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croatpackfan's picture

July 08, 2015 at 06:35 am

Well, there was and there is some people more equal than others. It is not news. But if you ask the question about Aaron Rodgers, you should also ask yourself another question. If Aaron would smoking pot a lot, will he be the same player as he is today? Does the pot smoking influence on his level of playing or not? If he is smoking pot regularly and played this good, how good he might be if he did not do that? There is a lot of questions and lot of answers we do no know. Also, I would like to put the border high. I will ask you what would you do if Aaron Rodgers will find himself in the same situation as e. g. O. J. Simpson or Aaron Hernandez. Will you cut him or not? I think the answer lies, also, within thin borders of what is (was) the problem, not only how big star the player is....

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Evan's picture

July 08, 2015 at 07:32 am

I'm going to go out on a limb and say if Rodgers murdered a couple people, I'd vote for him to be cut.

Pot, I wouldn't care about - for me pot in the NFL has always been more about stupidity in getting caught than the act itself.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 08, 2015 at 06:44 am

Yep.

And it's not much different in any field. In my field, several of the biggest names have done insanely dumb stuff. Some of it criminal. And yet they are still in demand because they can do things most people just can't do. Not fair. But it's the way the world works.

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ray nichkee's picture

July 08, 2015 at 09:42 am

If aaron rodgers murdered someone you wold be wasting a roster spot if you didnt cut him because he would be locked up for a good long time.

The Questions you need to ask yourself is, do you want him showing up on another team on sunday and whooping your but? Do you have a decent replacement? How good is he as a teammate?

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Paul Griese's picture

July 08, 2015 at 09:59 am

Just read Other Cory's piece about players having too much time on their hands and the Favre-ulation by Aaron. Interesting to think about all three topics: Young Favre behavior, in the age of smart phones and social media, and if his stature as a backup in ATL would have snuffed out his career or merely just diminished his trade value, and we would have gotten to keep a first round pick AND #4.

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lebowski's picture

July 08, 2015 at 11:51 am

Does the Pope wear a funny hat?

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Mojo's picture

July 08, 2015 at 12:16 pm

The way teams fiqure it is: those at the end of roster can be replaced fairly easily without much to lose. So really then, it becomes are they worth the headache? Usually not.

Plus, I think it's kind of known by scrubs, that you don't poke the team in the eye. They have to toe the line or walk a narrow line or just line up correctly - anything to do with lines. Especially when the coaches haven't even formed a relationship with you. Makes it easier to dump someone when you don't really know them.

Regarding Quarless, I think the teams history with him and that he hasn't done anything else previously are the main reasons they stuck with. Much more than his seeding on the depth chart. I believe TT has an honest affinity for players and takes seriously the effect of what being on the team means to them.

The Broncos should have retained John Boyett in the case you recalled. Such quick thinking and resourcefullness should be rewarded. And if the mulch was some kind of dried leaf compost(stink mulch) he probably was punished enough.

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LeagueObsrvr's picture

July 08, 2015 at 01:33 pm

I hope and pray that the Packers are never faced with the dilemma of their quarterback or team leader having off-field issues. I still remember the gloomy years of controversy surrounding James Lofton, Mossy Cade, and the famous quote from Tommy Thompson about building a prison in Green Bay so "players could walk to work." Those were very dark times to be a Packer fan. I think when Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf took over the operation after Tom Braatz in the wake of those controversies, they made it a point of making sure the Packers make character a major part of their personnel evaluations and scouting philosophy and I hope it remains a key part of their <em>modus operandi</em> going forward.

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Turophile's picture

July 08, 2015 at 01:51 pm

You have to separate NFL actions against a player, which should be even across the board, from team actions against a player, which will certainly depend on how valuable that player is to the team.

The team view has already been mentioned, but from the NFL offices there should be a consistent standard. From their view, if a players misdemeanour (or worse) comes to light, the penalty should be the same for a superstar or a scrub.

This is not necessarily FAIR. A guy earning many millions per season could take a $100,000 hit and barely notice. For a minimum wage guy, it is a very big hit. The oinly concession I'd applaud to make THAT fair, would be to have a system in place that would fine the player a percentage of his annual wage, instead of a standard fine.

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4thand1's picture

July 08, 2015 at 03:35 pm

like a flat tax

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Richard L.'s picture

July 08, 2015 at 02:12 pm

First, I do not know all the circumstances in this matter. Second, All the information is not available at this time. Speculation is just that, SPECULATION!

Andrew Quarless is going to have to stand for what happened on his part. But I would be interested in what brought about his action. Who was intimidating who?

Lastly, he is charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony. Are you ready to put speeding tickets on the same level as a felony? Think about it, "Where do you want condemnation to go?"

Turophile makes a good point as well.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 08, 2015 at 07:42 pm

Speeding tickets do not carry penalties of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. One should not compare discharging a gun in a public place with speeding, though depending on circumstance it is not necessarily horrendous, either. Quarless' motivation for firing the gun is not really known. If he had been demanding money, it would be armed robbery. If he was trying to force one of the women to come with him, that would be something else. It certainly sounds like the facts might easily constitute assault, which does not require physical contact, merely that an action causes another to fear bodily injury. Additional charges are by no means impossible. Where one draws the line is up to each individual, when, as you rightly point out, Richard, all the facts are known.

Police reports are not always 100% accurate, but neither are they pure speculation. I myself have proven such reports to be wrong, and on a handful of occasions gotten the police to amend their reports, at least once drastically. For that reason, I agree that GB should investigate and also wait for the results of any additional official investigation.

Most of us overlook faults in some people that for various reasons we do not tolerate in others. They are foibles for the former and character defects in the latter. In my case I look at the totality of the person, and in the business setting, how they otherwise conducted themselves was very important. Being extremely competent was a factor in my decision making. We employed a recovering alcoholic who went on a 10-day bender after having been a really fine employee for a dozen years. What to do? Had he been a marginal employee, I suspect that he would have been terminated. We were at a stand-still since he had taken the case material home with him and it was missing while he was on his bender. Fortunately we did not have to publicly admit that we were not up to speed on that matter. That would have mattered as well since it would have harmed our business reputation.

The author again writes that Quarless has had no off the field incidents. That is true as far as I know since he has been in GB. He did have some incidents in High School and at Penn St. I'm sure GB thought he had matured. This incident has to cast doubt on that.

I will wait for all of the information to come out to decide what I think GB should do with Mr. Quarless.

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