Russ Brandon Source of Marshawn Lynch's Legal Woes?

Medicine_Gone_BadAnalyst IJune 17, 2008

Having Marshawn Lynch take a hit for the team on any given Sunday is automatic with the Bills' stout RB. Expecting Marshawn to take a publicity hit for the Buffalo Bills' mishandling of the alleged hit and run is simply misguided.

Speculation has increased over the possibility that three other Buffalo Bills were in the vehicle with Marshawn Lynch at the time of the hit and run: rookie receivers James Hardy and Steve Johnson, and second-year offensive lineman Christian Gaddis.

According to a Fox Sports article, the three players were subpoenaed earlier Thursday, along with a person police referred to as "a high-ranking member of the Bills security staff."

Bills' COO Russ Brandon was served with a subpoena the same evening as the Buffalo Bills released this statement: 

"The Buffalo Bills organization is issuing this statement to respond to media reports that suggest that the Buffalo Bills have not been cooperative with the authorities, which is completely untrue."

Obviously the Buffalo Police Department and the District Attorney have a different view of cooperation as Bills' COO Russ Brandon.

Russ Brandon had taken over the COO position in part as a reward for the increase in ticket sales and Bills fanbase. I would argue that his 11-year tenure had finally harvested success once Ralph Wilson, the Buffalo Bills owner, had hired Marv Levy.

It was Levy who brought back stability, trust, and loyalty, and he based his formula on character. I still remember the snide remarks nationally and locally from the media that felt these two 80-year olds (Wilson and Levy) were over their heads.

Marv Levy cleansed the Bills' locker room and replenished it in two very strong drafts that sent a clear message to the Buffalo Bills' fan-base, "The Bills are Back!"

The Bills' fans have responded in droves, with season tickets sales the highest since 1993.

Filling the shoes of Hall-of-Famer Marv Levy is no easy task, as in this example.

The following year, Levy found himself in disagreement with Norm Pollom, the Bills' national scout and former Director of Player Personnel. Pollom, for whom Marv had great respect, was urging him to take a defensive end.

However, Levy questioned the player's character. As the draft approached, Levy and Pollom engaged in a discussion that lasted five hours. Finally, Pollom turned to Marv and stated, "If you take this guy, Marv, he'll end up in the Pro Bowl!" The ever-quotable Levy responded, "I want a guy who'll end up in the Super Bowl."

The Buffalo Bills' second-round pick WR James Hardy is the missing piece of the red-zone offense that the Bills were looking for, but with a troubled past. Hardy managed to get into trouble soon after the NFL Draft, and the altercation had suggested a weapon was involved. The incident was later resolved, and a portion of the statement that was released:

"I realize what the public perception could be pertaining to this incident; however, that was not the reality of the situation," said Hardy. "This situation that has been blown out of proportion has been very hurtful and frustrating for me and my father. There was a misunderstanding and a misinterpretation of the situation. I would like to first apologize to the fans of Buffalo, and to the Bills organization for any distractions this may have caused."

This statement had raised a few eyebrows within the Bills' fanbase. It was very polished, and it seemed to echo the same remorse that Hardy spoke about during his NFL-combine interviews.

The response was very "slick", and it begs to question if Russ Brandon had any input on the handling of the incident and press release for hardy.

With the Bills organization drafting WR Hardy and his character issues, the new Bills brass had signaled that character is a concern, but not a priority when evaluating talent. The Bills had veered from Marv Levy and the foundation that he had built.

With the possibility of Hardy being in Marshawn's car in the alleged hit and run, Russ Brandon may have felt obligated to protect Hardy, for his own drafting credibility, and for the potential public backlash.

Russ Brandon would have benefited from Lynch and his lawyer stonewalling the police investigation, so that charges would be dropped, preventing any Bills players from being named publicly. Only Marshawn, a Marv Levy draft pick, would take the initial scrutiny from the press and fanbase.

The Buffalo Police Department and District Attorney are in a no-win situation; it's either favoritism or excessive pursuit, depending on how they approached the case. When they felt they were being embarrassed publicly, they played hardball with the subpoena. This grabbed national headlines, surely getting the Bills' brass attention.

If Russ Brandon can wiggle out of the grand jury hearing, he may have another headache with the news that the hit-and-run victim has hired two of the top personal-injury attorneys to represent her in a possible lawsuit.

If there is reasonable ground to subpoena Russ Brandon in this criminal suit, I would imagine he would be required to answer questions on his involvement with Lynch and Hardy in a civil suit. Any possible obstruction of justice would drive up the damages for the victim, with the Bills organization being held liable.

I can see this being settled for between $3-5 million, or the Canadian newspapers will have a field day with headlines of "Four Bills Players Involved in Hit and Run With Canadian Woman". $3-5 million sounds like a good bargain to erase those headlines right around the time the Bills visit Toronto.

Those tactics may be frowned upon outside of the legal community, but they resemble the strong-arm tactics that the Buffalo Bills have used in trying to sell the Toronto game; squeezed within a three-game package of the preseason and the 2009 season.

I don't mind driving anywhere to see the Bills play or practice, with the team that Levy rebuilt. I definitely won't blindly pour money into the Bills coffers if they decide to focus on their marketing success over the accountability and loyalty to their fanbase. I am sure many would change their minds, with tickets sales the first to reflect their decision.

If Russ Brandon was involved in any obstruction of the alleged hit and run, then he has overstepped his boundaries as the Bills' COO, and he has risked liability charges to the Buffalo Bills' organization.

COO Russ Brandon's first priority is the welfare of the Buffalo Bills, including Marshawn Lynch.

"Slick" just won't do the trick.