The Matt Patricia Mess

Twenty-two years ago, Lions’ head coach, Matt Patricia, was still in college; he and a friend were on Spring Break in Texas.  Out of that excursion came an indictment against Patricia for sexual assault; he was never tried, and the charges were dropped.  Patricia has been in the coaching business since his college days at Rensselaer and this is seemingly the first time this fact has been brought to light.  In the current environment of the MeToo movement, this allegation cannot be ignored as something from the dim, dark past that has no relevance today.  At the same time, it is important to ask the right questions here and to focus on what to do now.

The Detroit Lions – and the New England Patriots before them – assert that they knew nothing of this indictment until this week.  If those assertions are truthful, it is difficult to assign any blame to either team for having Patricia as part of their organization.  I think it is more appropriate to ask at this time a different set of questions:

  • Who does the background checks as part of the vetting process for the Lions and the Patriots?  Do other NFL teams also use the same folks to do background checks for them?
  • How did these investigators miss this indictment – which is a matter of public record?  Or, did they find it and choose not to report it to the teams in question here?  If that is the case, why did they do that?

In 2018, there is no chance that this sort of situation will be ignored.  For that reason, I think it is important to figure out first if the Lions – and the Pats before them – were ever aware of this accusation. Here is why:

  • If either – or both – knew about this and hired Patricia anyway, it is fair to ask the teams about their “personnel evaluation processes”.  What factors led the team(s) to believe that this blemish on Patricia’s record could be overlooked?
  • If, however, neither team was made aware of the indictment, the focus of the questioning must be in the vetting processes themselves and the people/organizations that provide the vetting data to the Lions, Patriots and potentially to other NFL franchises.
  • If Joe Flabeetz was the person responsible for doing the background investigation on Matt Patricia when he was up for the Lions’ head coaching job, it would be appropriate and important to find out what Joe Flabeetz did and did not do in that investigation.  For example, it may be standard practice for Joe Flabeetz and his organization to ignore arrests/indictments that never go to trial even when they find them.  That practice would resonate with the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” but it would not play so well with the idea of probing the true character of the potential employee.

I am not an attorney, so I have no idea if the alleged victim in this matter can re-activate these charges 22 years after the fact.  There are statutes of limitations in American jurisprudence, but I have no idea how “aggravated sexual assault” charges are covered by such statutes in the State of Texas.  I mention this not because I think breathing life back into this matter is a good idea; rather, I bring it up because without a trial, it will be next to impossible to ascertain the facts of the situation.  And without the facts, it will be difficult to figure out what questions need to be answered and by whom.

There is another NFL-related situation that could well wind up in the legal world.  Last week, the NFL issued a 4-game suspension to Saints’ RB, Mark Ingram, for violation of the league’s PED policy.  Ingram has categorically denied the situation saying that what he tested positive for is something that is permissible in the NFL with an exemption.  I do not know what the substance involved here is nor am I aware of the NFL’s “exemption rules” here.  I presume what Ingram is talking about here is that there are medical conditions that require as treatment the administration of a drug/medicine that will trigger a reaction in the standardized NFL drug test.  With prior notification from the doctor – and probably concurrence by someone in the league offices – a “failed test” for this player and that substance can be waived.

Regardless of how this situation works, Mark Ingram is pressing his case that he did not fail a PED test and that this suspension is unwarranted.  His explanation/excuse for the failed test is a lot more satisfying to me than the much more standard explanation that the failed test was due to a tainted supplement that was taken innocently and ignorantly.  Here is a statement from one of Mark Ingram’s representatives on the matter:

“At the end of the 2017 season, as a result of an NFL mandated drug test, Mark Ingram tested positive for a substance that was not a performance-enhancing substance, but a substance in fact permissible with the proper use exemption with the NFL. He has vigorously challenged the test results through the arbitration process. The arbitrator’s Opinion is due on or before Wednesday, May 16. Upon having the opportunity to review the arbitrator’s opinion, we will explore what further options are needed.”

The outcome of this matter could be very interesting…

Finally, here is a comment from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad, on the rebirth of the XFL:

“I can’t wait for the XFL to return – that’s another three hours a week I can go to Walden Pond with a bag of Fritos.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “The Matt Patricia Mess”

  1. Jack- as a member of law enforcement and former federal background investigator, I find it difficult to believe the NFL team ownership doesn’t have a rigorous background investigation protocol for hiring ANY member of their leadership team…a cursory examination would have uncovered this incident…

    As to Ingram from my Saints…i mean, it’s new orleans…who there doesn’t have some kind of illegal substance in their body?…lol

    1. Jim D:

      I agree that there is something fundamentally flawed about whatever background investigation was done in this case. One would not need a Top Secret Clearance to find that sort of thing.

  2. Curmudgeon –
    Your column today has me contemplating my desire to weigh-in against against the direction that the #MeToo movement seems to want to take us. Suffice to say that the utter contempt for our entire system of justice and due process that is implicit in such a situation as that now facing Patricia rankles me to my core – the notion that we will skewer an individual without any level of due process is not only unconstitutional from a legal perspective but it is simply devoid of any sense of justice and fairness at the most basic level.

    But stepping down from my soap box and keeping to the focus of your column on the perceived failings of the “background investigation”, let me just say that, from the perspective of a career prosecutor who also had a significant stint at the defense counsel table and overseen both public and private internal investigations, there is simply no way that any “investigator” with even the slightest modicum of competence failed to discover this background on Matt Patricia or chose to simply not relay it to the entity who contracted them to complete the investigation. So, what does that say about the NFL/Detroit Lions management?????

    And while I’m on a “legal” bent, wrt your discussion on the Mark Ingram situation, I find it significant that his “representative”’s statement only said that it is a substance that can be “permissible with the proper use exemption”; he did NOT say that Ingram in fact received or even qualified for that exemption. Things that make you go “Hmmmmm”….

    1. Pete:

      The “Court of Public Opinion” has never honored the concept of innocent until proven guilty. In today’s Internet-driven news cycles, the “court of Public Opinion” is in hyperdrive. Matt Patricia just happens to be the latest person to step into the spotlight.

      Like you, I cannot believe that any professional investigator could possibly have missed that public information nugget; and having found it, I cannot fathom any reason why said investigator would not include it in his/her findings report to the client.

      I remember a few years ago that Richard Sherman tested positive for something but got his suspension overturned on appeal because he had a “proper use exemption”. I don’t recall the details but maybe the Ingram situation is similar. We shall see…

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