In the end, John Mara relied on a combination of the circumstances of the case, the withdrawal of domestic violence charges and also gut instincts about doing the right thing in deciding to keep kicker Josh Brown despite his arrest last year for an incident involving his then wife.
“A lot of times there is a tendency to make these cases black and white,” the Giants president and co-owner said in his first public remarks since the team’s 37-year-old kicker was suspended one game for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. “They are very rarely black and white. You very rarely have a Ray Rice video. There are allegations made, you try to sort through the facts, you try to make an informed decision. That’s what we did.”
Mara has a well-earned reputation among those around him – and that includes fellow owners, players and family members – for doing the right and equitable thing, especially with difficult decisions such as the one he faced with Brown. That reputation was certainly tested with Brown’s situation, mostly because he chose to say nothing until now and thereby allowed the controversy to fester.
He had thought that not talking would be seen as a way not to fan the flames of controversy and respect the privacy of the matter, especially where it concerns Brown’s ex-wife, Molly. But Mara’s silence only exacerbated the tension and left many unanswered questions about whether the Giants were covering for Brown and not addressing the totality of the situation.
Mara admits he “probably should have [spoken] a couple of days ago.”
I can’t ever remember him ducking an issue, regardless of its controversy or complexity, and this seemed like an odd time for keeping quiet.
“It’s such a complex and emotional issue,” he said.
He’s right about that, too.
Domestic violence is one of the most serious issues of our time, and the NFL’s recent dealings – and failings – with the matter have been a major source of controversy, particularly since the mishandling of Rice’s case in 2014.
But Mara at least provided clarity about where the organization stands. And while many will continue to question the team’s decision to keep Brown despite knowing about the May 2015 arrest and Molly Brown’s accusations that her husband had physically abused her more than 20 times, Mara is now willing to stake his reputation and that of his organization on deciding to live with the consequences of his decision.
“This is an organization that always tries to do the right thing,” he said. “I don’t know that we always get it done, but we try… Yes, the easiest thing in the world for us to have done would have been to say ‘Let’s find another kicker.’ But I’m trying to be fair to him as well. I think he’s trying to do the right thing and he deserves an opportunity to show he can do that.”
Empty words from an owner who is trying to cover for the actions of one of his players, all in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage? Many will consider it just that.
But the Giants do have a track record of dealing fairly with players, and if you have been around this team and its players over the years, you will know that most of them share the belief that the Giants do try to do the right thing. And for that, Mara, as well as the Tisch family, which co-owns the team, has history and good will on his side.
That said, Mara knows he’s dealing with a sensitive issue, and understands the potential fallout with his decision to keep Brown. And not just with fans.
“I’m painfully aware that I have four daughters and seven sisters,” he said, “and I know I have to face each one of them.”
Mara also made it clear that Brown’s future with the team will now be a football decision. The Giants’ signing of kicker Randy Bullock, who will kick during Brown’s suspension, could be a more permanent move if he is viewed as a better performer than Brown.
“Josh knows what’s expected of him, it’s been made pretty clear,” Mara said. “He’s been a good citizen since he’s been here. He’s had conversations with a number of us in management, including myself, and I’m confident that he’ll continue to conduct himself in a manner that we expect of Josh.”
It’s a big risk for the owner and his organization, but he’s willing to live with the consequences. Especially after ending his ill-advised silence on the matter.