Jan 302013

Just Shut 'Yer MouthIt’s been a while since I have felt the need to comment on some of the commentary coming from the mouths of current and former NFL players, but this Super Bowl week seems to provide endless opportunities for people stick their feet in their mouths. So let’s let at our most recent batch of guys who squawk first and think second, or third, or… ok, maybe not at all. And just so you’ve been warned, I’m not exactly feeling a lot of tolerance for some of this silliness.

Randy MossRandy Moss
I love Randy Moss as a player, and really enjoyed him as a member of the New England Patriots when he had his head on straight. The trouble with Randy is that he seems to be one very weird dude, if we judge by his antics on and off the field over the years, his bizarre video-pooping (there’s a term we don’t use every day) incident on MOSS-TV, and his ability to talk his way out of New England after reviving his troubled career.

But now Randy has made (and re-made) the claim that he believes that he is the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Now, it’s great that Randy believes that, and he is certainly welcome to do so. But given his up and down career, the fact that his numbers come up short of Jerry Rice, and the fact that Moss has still not won (at least for a few more days) a championship, it seems to be a dubious claim at best. Yet Moss continues to make it.

“What I said is what I felt, and I don’t want to get into a shouting match with Jerry Rice or anybody,” Moss said on Wednesday. “It’s my personal opinion. (Rice) has the numbers but I don’t believe in numbers.”

So Moss doesn’t believe in numbers; he also doesn’t believe in rings.

“In today’s society, it’s how we measure athletes or teams — on rings,” Moss said. “I don’t base it that way. I changed the game. But I’m not trying to make it all about me.”

Not trying to make it about you? Now that would be news. OK Randy, so you have a claim, and no objective measure for backing it up. By that standard, Rex Ryan is the best head coach in the NFL too.

There can be no doubt that Moss is one of the greatest receivers in NFL history, and that he had (past tense) the ability to completely take over a game. But it was only when he wanted to… when he felt like it. His own effort and lack of effort are what define his career, and he never put forth the effort that Rice put forth on a consistent basis and that made Rice better than everyone else. Randy is trying to write his legacy on how he wants people to remember him after he hangs up the cleats, and the legacy he is writing for himself is going to be a bit more generous than what will be written by others.

Like Jerry Rice, I wish Moss every bit of luck in getting his first ring this Sunday, but he needs to drop his silly claim of being the best ever.

Tim BrownTim Brown and Jerry Rice
Speaking of silly claims, how about the one made by Tim Brown, who is currently a nominee for the Professional Football Hall of Fame?

Just over a week ago the former Raiders’ wide receiver came out and said that former coach Bill Callahan intentionally altered the game plan in Super Bowl XXXVII to sabotage the Raiders’ chances of beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Callahan’s good friend Jon Gruden.

“We all called it sabotage . . . because Callahan and [Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden were good friends,” Brown said. “And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come. Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years. So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn’t pay him any attention. Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach. . . . It’s hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl. You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl. He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.

Brown later added, “I can’t say the man was incompetent because he was far from that. You only leave me with one other choice so I’ll have to go ahead and take the latter of those two choices.” The latter of the two choices of course being intentional sabotage.

What made the story even more stunning was the fact that Jerry Rice then got on board with the claim.

According to Rice, “For some reason — and I don’t know why — Bill Callahan did not like me. In a way, maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders he decided, ‘Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one.’”

Now anyone who watches Jerry Rice on television knows that Jerry Rice thinks a great deal of himself, but this statement was simply way over the top. First, there is simply no way in the NFL that coaches and players who work as hard as they do to win games in the NFL and advance through the post-season are going to throw a game like the Super Bowl in order to make some bizarre point or let a friend win. Second, it seems far more likely that Callahan simply over thought the situation and altered the game plan so he could be less predictable in the Super Bowl and have a better chance to win. If Callahan seems guilty of anything, it would seem to be outwitting himself.

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Brown later backtracked from his claim, stating he never made a suggestion that Callahan sabotaged the Super Bowl, but by then the damage, both to Brown’s credibility and to Rice’s, had already been done. The story has been dying a slow death over the past week, but both Brown and Rice made a miscalculation in spouting out fictional nonsense about something long since passed.

Ray LewisRay Lewis
Many people believe, myself included, that Ray Lewis is either a murderer or an accessory to two murders. We will never know the truth of the situation, given that Lewis plead to a lesser charge, that no one has ever been held criminally responsible for the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, and that important evidence in the case vanished. Lewis preempted a wrongful death civil finding by reaching a financial settlement after the filing of the suit.

But we do know this about Ray Lewis; the man is very likely an outright liar.

This week it was revealed that Lewis used a banned substance (IGF-1) to aid him in recovering from a torn triceps. According to Sports Illustrated, Lewis contacted a company owned by a former male stripper to obtain a deer-antler velvet extract after tearing his triceps in October. Mitch Ross, the owner of S.W.A.T.S, videotaped the phone call from Lewis. During the conversation, Lewis said to Ross, “Just pile me up and just send me everything you got, because I got to get back on this this week.”

Lewis has rebuked the claim and pointed to his history of negative drug tests, but there is currently no testing of players for IGF-1. The video evidence seems particularly damning. Lewis’ response to this? Why of course it’s to appeal to emotion and call the accusation a ‘trick of the devil.’

“That’s the trick of the devil,” Lewis said. “The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That’s what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you’re trying to do.”

Ross, however, is adamant that Lewis was using the substance. On ESPN Radio’s “VP and Russillo” show, Ross alleged that Lewis “used every product that I have.”

“Ray did what he had to do to get back on the field, that’s what he said,” Ross told Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo. “I’m not telling you he didn’t use anything. He got on a protocol, he absolutely certainly did… It was set up by me how to do it, and I even developed an armband for him to use at Day 7 to strengthen his triceps better… It sounds like he’s disputing it, I guess because he’s scared of Roger Goodell. Ray’s not the only athlete taking in the SWATS protocol.”

The report from SI is incredibly well documented, and Lewis is not the overt target of the article. The article also links IGF-1 to last year’s Alabama Crimson Tide team, and also notes Johnny Damon, Vijay Singh, and Shawne Merriman. In his interview on ESPN, Ross added Brett Favre, Carnell Williams, Heath Evans, and others to the list. You can read the article here.

Maybe the video is the trick of the devil, Ray. But I for one will believe a well-vetted report that is backed up by video evidence, particularly when compared to someone who is already convicted of interfering with a previous murder investigation. So I’m going with SI’s report, unless Ray Ray feels like producing a blood-spattered white suit to the police.

Marshall FaulkMarshall Faulk
Speaking of guys who need to shut the hell up…

Marshall Faulk was interviewed by Tom Curran of CSNNE.com and stated he still believes that the Patriots cheated the Rams out of a victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. Faulk said that he believes that the Patriots spied on the Rams’ walk-through practice the day before the game, and were able to respond to plays that the Rams had created for the Super Bowl. This is in conflict with the findings of the NFL, and Commissioner Goodell insisted there was no evidence that the Patriots obtained any information by spying on the walk-through.

“Am I over the loss? Yeah, I’m over the loss. But I’ll never be over being cheated out of the Super Bowl. That’s a different story. I can understand losing a Super Bowl, that’s fine . . . But how things happened and what took place. Obviously, the commissioner gets to handle things how he wants to handle them but if they wanted us to shut up about what happened, show us the tapes. Don’t burn ’em.”

“I understand Bill Belichick is a great coach,” said Faulk. “But No. 13 (Kurt Warner) will tell you. Mike Martz will tell you. We had some plays in the red zone that we hadn’t ran. I think we got to fourth down — we ran three plays that we hadn’t ran, that Mike drew up for that game… Bill’s a helluva coach… we hadn’t ran them the whole year, and the Patriots were ready for them.”

Whatever Faulk’s feelings about the way the Commissioner handled the investigation, the fact remains that Faulk’s accounting of the walk-through seem to be manufactured memories. John Czarnecki from Fox (thanks to Tom E. Curran for the reference) has indicated that the Rams did very little of actual preparation for the game, but were more focused on taking pictures. Further, the Boston Herald, who initially published the John Tomase report that the Patriots had taped the walk-through, retracted the story and issued an apology for running a false report.

Faulk is welcome to believe whatever he wants about the events of Super Bowl XXXVI. But his continued public insistence that he was cheated despite evidence to the contrary simply makes Faulk look like a sore loser.

UPDATE: Willie McGinest has the best response yet to Faulk’s rubbish: If we would have had inside information, the game would have been a blowout. Well said, Willie! My guess is that it’s going to be a little tense on the NFL Network set for the next few days!

Rat1SmallSite News

After the Super Bowl wraps up, we have a fairly aggressive schedule of off-season topics that we will be addressing. So just because the season is over doesn’t mean our writing is taking a break. In addition, we are now planning for some podcasts that will be taking place later in the spring. Twp topics we are looking at right now are free agent moves that take place in March and April, as well as looking at the long-term viability of the National Football League, given concerns over player safety. Our first podcasts will likely be facilitated conversations without listener calls, but we are certainly hoping that this approach will be successful and that we can eventually expand to live online broadcasts and listener calls. But for now it is one step at a time…. more to follow!

Dec 122012

Widows, this was a good week. Rat’s Orphan and her roll of the dice put me in the position to do better than my husband with my predictions. It all came down to the Monday night game. He chose the Texans and the Orphan and I chose the Patriots. (Pause for gasp!) Ladies, do not adjust your computer monitor. You read that correctly. My husband, a loyal Patriots fan, DID NOT choose them to win. It was amazing to watch the cognitive dissonance created as he wished to be wrong about the outcome of that game! Being wrong, however, meant that this week would mark the first week that I came out ahead in my predictions. December 10, 2012 is a day that will live in infamy. Not only was I right about the Patriots, my husband was actually rooting to be wrong! Now I have seen it all and I can leave this earth as a happy woman!

I give Ghost Rat a hard time. I tease him about how loudly he claps and yells, pretending to cower in fear. I scheduled a Christmas shopping run that lasted most of the first half of Monday night’s game on purpose. I told him to develop some sort of SOS code to use if he keels over since he watches the game in the basement and I may not hear him collapse. In spite of myself though, I have grown to enjoy my time in the man cave, eyes glued to 6 different games on NFL Sunday Ticket. I have opinions now about players, coaches and teams. I may not be well informed, but I know just enough to be dangerous, and probably more than a little bit annoying. I realize that many men need to be careful what they wish for. I wonder if they really want us to sit down next to them on the couch, pop open an adult beverage and talk about wisdom of starting a rookie quarterback. Maybe what they really want is to be left well enough alone. I need to issue a warning: If it can happen to me, it can happen to any woman. Any woman can end up a FAN.

That got me thinking, Widows. What if women ran the NFL? I think that there are many who would like to see the resignation of Roger Goodell, but are they ready for a woman in the role of Commissioner? Or would that make her a Commissionette? If women ran the league, I think some things would change!

The latest controversy centers around a proposal to ban the kickoff. Without going into elaborate detail, this is being batted around as a way to reduce injury to players by eliminating the opportunity for a surprise on side kick. I have tried repeatedly to re-type the logic for choosing the field position, the rationale behind making it a “4 down and 15 yards to go” situation, and quite frankly I deleted it 4 times before I decided to abandon my efforts. A female commissioner probably wouldn’t choose a strategy that was that hard to explain. That isn’t to say that a female commissioner would embrace a practice that creates great risk for injury, but with that logic, she would probably turn the league into the NFFL (National Flag Football League).

Regarding the violence issue, I think a female commissioner may approach rough, hazardous play differently. Teams are penalized in terms of yardage and players are sometimes fined or suspended for their conduct. Yardage penalties don’t seem to deter thugs from acting accordingly and those guys have paychecks that aren’t even touched by the fines issued. If we invoke Kindergarten rules, when players can’t play nice, maybe he shouldn’t be allowed to play at all! Bench him. Immediately. Remove him from the playground and make him sit in time out while his buddies play nicely.

When I began musing about this topic, my husband pointed out that Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, has had her name bandied about for the top spot in the NFL. A die hard football fan, she is a lifelong follower of the Cleveland Browns. She has been quoted several times saying that the commissioner job is her “dream job”. She recently appeared in an advertisement for NFL football apparel for women. Not only is she a fan and now a model, but she is also both a football orphan (her father was a football coach) and a football widow, having had a long term relationship with an NFL player in her younger years. I don’t know if the world is ready for a woman in that position, but her resume looks good. Watch out, Mr. Goodell!

Since this week’s focus is on women ruling the football world, I am turning to my own intuition again for the picks.

Widow’s Week 15 Picks
Bengals over Eagles
Packers over Bears
Giants over Falcons
Buccaneers over Saints
Rams over Vikings
Redskins over Browns
Dolphins over Jaguars
Broncos over Ravens
Texans over Colts
Lions over Cardinals
Chargers over Panthers
Seahawks over Bills
Steelers over Cowboys
Raiders over Chiefs
Patriots over 49ers
Jets over Titans

Dec 112012

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was dealt a serious blow today when former Commissioner and current arbiter Paul Tagliabue determined that, while the New Orleans Saints were clearly operating a bounty program that was in violation of league rules, the case against the players was “contaminated” by Saints’ coaches and others, suggesting that any discipline beyond fines was unfair, and all discipline against individual players was vacated.

“Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects,” Tagliabue said in a statement released by the league. “My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”

In response, the NFL issued a statement which said:

“We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. (Tagliabue) as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer.

“… The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football.”

Predictably, the NFLPA also issued a statement claiming victory, which rings closer to the truth than the NFL’s statement.

“We believe that when a fair due process takes place, a fair outcome is the result,” the statement said. “We are pleased that Paul Tagliabue, as the appointed hearings officer, agreed with the NFL Players Association that previously issued discipline was inappropriate in the matter of the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty program. Vacating all discipline affirms the players’ unwavering position that all allegations the League made about their alleged ‘intent-to-injure’ were utterly and completely false. We are happy for our members.”

While the NFL is seeking to put a face of victory on this news, Goodell knows that this is a blow to his status as Commissioner. Tagliabue seems to try and let Goodell off the hook, while also trying not to help Jonathen Vilma’s defamation case against Goodell, by blaming those within the Saints’ organization for corrupting the case, but in truth the “we were just following orders” defense rings hollow; the reason that player discipline had to be vacated was because the Commissioner’s office botched the case, and Goodell himself acted as though he was accountable to no one.

In the end, it seems fair to conclude that a strong message has still been sent to all 32 teams that bounties will result in serious disciplinary action against the organization and its staff. It also seems fair to conclude that Roger Goodell will not be allowed to act as the tyrant that he has been trying to be. If the owners are smart, they will force the Commissioner’s office to develop better systems for the conduct of investigations and disciplinary proceedings, while looking for a successor to a flawed and damaged Commissioner.

Dec 102012

Roger Goodell is out of touch.

While Goodell has been one of the key people responsible for the NFL’s explosive popularity and thus made the league a multi-billion dollar business, the man’s decision-making process seems to be rather confusing. For our first piece of evidence I submit Goodell’s mishandling of the NFL referee’s lockout. I won’t get into which side was “right” or “wrong” but will simply focus on the fact that Goodell knew well in advance of the lockout that there was trouble brewing, and he did nothing to insure that the NFL had a qualified group of officials waiting in the wings in the event of such a lockout. The result? A travesty of officiating that still may impact the playoff landscape for the 2012 season.

As a second piece of evidence, I point you to the bounty scandal involving the New Orleans Saints. Did the Saints use a system that violated league rules? Absolutely. Should coaches and players have been suspended and/or fined? Absolutely. So why is the league in a position where its case against the players involved is melting? It is chiefly due to the fact the Goodell thought that he could act by proclamation and without challenge, failed to present a compelling case, and acted without regard for due process. Information has only been provided after the fact, and generally is incomplete.

Finally, we have the most recent piece of Goodell’s bone-headedness. In an interview with Time magazine, Goodell proposed eliminating kick-offs and replacing them with giving the “kicking” team the ball at their own 30 yard line with an automatic fourth and fifteen, thus giving the team the choice to go for it or to punt. What?

My immediate reactions to this puzzler are best articulated by former NFL VP for officiating Mike Pereira, who called the proposal “ridiculous”. Pereira looked at the impact that kickoff returners have had on the game historically, noting Gale Sayers, Brian Mitchell, and Devin Hester, as well as David Wilson’s monster return performance yesterday that sparked the Giants in their rout of the Saints. I will add to this the impact of the onside kick; think back to the Saints’ onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV, which stunned the Colts and turned the momentum in favor of the Saints. It was one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history.

And Roger Goodell wants to eliminate it.

Yes. kickoffs are one of the most dangerous aspects of a dangerous sport. So where does it end? Rob Gronkowski broke his arm on an extra point play, so I guess those should go as well. Just make teams get the ball in the end zone from the two and a half yard line for the extra point. And we know that quarterbacks and receivers have had the rules skewed in their favor in the past few years in order to protect those players who are at most risk, so it just makes sense, in the interest of player safety, to eliminate the forward pass from the game entirely. No more roughing the passer, and no more illegal hits on defenseless receivers. The number of concussions should come down dramatically. Just run the ball, play after play. But we also want to be careful about illegal blocks and head shots, so hitting can only take place in the baseball “strike zone” from above the knees to the armpits. There… now the game should be much safer. And just to make it easier, targets will be painted on the front and back of each jersey. This not only makes it much easier for the defensive player to know where they can hit, but also provides a natural marketing opportunity for Target stores. Roger should be very happy with that.


I am not normally one of the Bud-drinking (I prefer imports, unless it’s a Sam Adams seasonal) crowd who bemoans that we should just put skirts on the players and turn it into flag football. Frankly, that crowd is populated with people who think that professional wrestling is real and to whom the show “Cops” is a family documentary. But the guise of player safety seems to be making some of these folks seem pretty reasonable compared to Goodell.

What do I mean by the guise of player safety?

I am absolutely convinced that Goodell is far more concerned about lawsuits than he is the actual safety of the player. If Goodell had such conscience about player safety and long-term player health, then why are former players being forced to sue the NFL to get the league to accept culpability for player injuries and assist with medical care? And why would the NFL protect quarterbacks and receivers while allowing cut blocks that jeopardize the careers of defensive players? As Jared Allen said, “My knee is just as valuable as Tom Brady’s”, and he is right.

Football will always be a dangerous sport, and I am all in favor of rules that mitigate the risk involved for players, but that maintain the integrity of the game. Eliminating the kickoff, to me, is a horrible idea that unnecessarily alters the substance of the game itself, and it takes away an exciting play that can often change momentum and even the outcome. The league’s rule changes have already reduced the number of kickoff returns, making an effort like the one we saw from Wilson yesterday even more special. Concussions and injuries are down on kickoffs, and will continue to go down with additional tweaks to the rules. Add to that improvements in equipment and penalizing, fining, and suspending players for illegal hits, and we will see injuries minimized in what is by nature a violent contact sport.

If the NFL Competition Committee knows what’s good for the game, they will pass on Goodell’s proposal, and focus on more serious ways to improve the game.

Dec 102012

It looks like our voters have faith in Tampa Bay and Washington as candidates for the post-season, but see St. Louis and New Orleans making fishing plans for January. The Saints certainly look ready for the off-season after getting plastered by the Giants yesterday, while the Rams staved off near-certain elimination with a last second win against the Bills.

Our results from last week’s poll:

Poll #17: Which NFC “bubble” team is least likely to make the playoffs this season?

St. Louis (30%, 7 Votes)
New Orleans (26%, 6 Votes)
Minnesota (17%, 4 Votes)
Seattle (13%, 3 Votes)
Dallas (9%, 2 Votes)
Washington (9%, 1 Votes)
Tampa Bay (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 11

This week’s poll deals with the proposal made by Commissioner Roger Goodell to eliminate the kick-off from the game, and instead replace it with the “kicking” team receiving the ball at their own 30 yard line with an automatic 4th and 15, and being given the decision to either go for the first down or to punt the ball away.

Poll #18: What do you think of Roger Goodell’s proposal to eliminate kick-offs and give the kicking team an automatic 4th and 15 at their own 30 yard line?

Bad idea. Kickoffs are an exciting and important part of the game.
Good idea. The improvement for player safety offsets the loss of the kickoff.
Good idea, but not enough. Make it 4th and 20, or even 4th and 30

Oct 092012

Commissioner Goodell has reaffirmed the suspension of four players for their connection to the bounty scandal in New Orleans. As noted on the NFL website, the decision is carefully crafted to focus on “conduct detrimental to football” and avoid any jurisdictional challenge from the players or from the NFL Player’s Association.

The complete release can be viewed here. Here is the shorter release, taken from the NFL website:

Discipline Reaffirmed for Four Players Suspended for Participation in Saints’ Bounty Program

Commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed the discipline for four players in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty matter today, but adjusted certain aspects of it following recent meetings with each of the players, the first time those players had agreed to speak directly to the NFL to give their side of the story.

In letters to each player and a memorandum to the clubs, Commissioner Goodell clarified that his decision was based entirely on his finding that the bounty program represented conduct detrimental to the league and professional football. The Saints’ bounty program operated over a three-year period and offered incentives to players for plays including “cart-offs” and “knock-outs,” which were plays that caused injuries to opponents.

The decision was made in response to the CBA Appeals Panel that asked Commissioner Goodell to make a redetermination of the discipline previously imposed on those players and clarify whether any of it was related to salary cap violations.
For decades, the commissioner of the NFL has been empowered, including in the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players, to impose discipline on any individual employed by the NFL or its clubs that engages in specific conduct that he determines with due process to be conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL. This responsibility was most recently affirmed in the 2011 CBA.

“The quality, specificity and scope of the evidence supporting the findings of conduct detrimental are far greater and more extensive than ordinarily available in such cases,” Goodell noted in a memorandum to the clubs.

“In my recent meetings with the players and their counsel, the players addressed the allegations and had an opportunity to tell their side of the story,” Goodell also wrote. “In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for ‘cart-offs,’ that players were encouraged to ‘crank up the John Deere tractor’ and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play.”

The NFL PA, of course, has already issued its response, stating “For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever. The only evidence that exists is the League’s gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league’s refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake… We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players’ rights with vigilance.”

Thus, here we go again. I have a distinct feeling this case will be dragging on even longer, and will get even uglier in a hurry.

Sep 282012

Here is an open letter from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to fans that was issued this morning by the league. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

To NFL Fans:

The National Football League is at its best when the focus is on the players and the action on the field, not on labor negotiations.

All of us who love the sport appreciate the skills and dedication of the players and coaches. That is why we are focused not just on what happens on the field but what our game will be like in another decade or two. The NFL has always tried to look ahead, to innovate, and to constantly improve in all we do.

We recognize that some decisions may be difficult to accept in the passion of the moment, but my most important responsibility is to improve the game for this generation and the next.

I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better.

As a lifelong fan, this wasn’t an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances.

Our new agreement gives long-term stability to an important aspect of our game, officiating. More important, with this agreement, officiating will be better in the long run. While the financial issues received the most attention, these negotiations were much more about long-term reforms. For example, beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field. In addition, the NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games.

We are moving forward with the finest officials in sports back on the field. It’s time to put the focus where it belongs – on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion.

Roger Goodell

I believe I have already spoken my peace (twice) about the Commissioner. While he professes to believe in “accountability”, I question what real accountability he is facing. This Commissioner holds himself above the game, above the players, above the officials, and above the fans. But as long as he has the support of the owners there will be no real accountability for Roger Goodell.

Sep 272012

Sometimes I wonder what the criteria are for being censored on Pro Football Talk are… besides what NBC has told me when I have written in seeking clarification, since about three out of every five posts I make seem to vanish into the abyss of the internet. According to NBC, moderating comments is not an exact science (no kidding), but they look for the following criteria… curse words, attacks on others, religious and other non-football posts, and external links are all criteria for getting a post to PFT deleted. That seems like pretty solid criteria to me, and is very consistent with what we use at GiR.

So how does this relate to the subject?

This morning Mike Florio of PFT wrote a post stating that, instead of criticism, Commissioner Roger Goodell actually deserves a raise. As you can imagine, most of the seventy-plus comments currently showing up are rather critical of Florio, and most are critical of Goodell as well. What I wrote was very close to the following:

I just lost a lot of respect for you, Mike. You have said a lot of things on your site over the years that I have disagreed with, but this is the least founded yet…

I went on to say, as I said on this site yesterday, that I thought Goodell should resign. I did so without curse words, personal attacks, religious or political commentary, or any third party link. Yet my post was immediately deleted by NBC, despite the presence of posts at least as strong as the one I wrote.

I will start by saying that I love PFT, and find it to be an excellent source of news and inspiration. But since Mike Florio’s NBC crew doesn’t find it appropriate for me to comment on his opinions on the site they control, let’s review his commentary on a site that we control.

At 8:48 am EDT, Florio posted an article entitled, “Goodell deserves a raise, not ridicule“. This brief article (with accompanying video) stated that Commissioner Goodell was serving more as a minion of the owners than a steward of the game with regard to the official’s lockout, and that criticism should really be directed to the owners who held up real negotiations (my phrasing).

Then at 1:32 pm EDT, apparently in response to some of the criticism generated from his first posting, Florio felt the need to justify his position. His second article (“Owners skirt blame for officials debacle“) focused on what a difficult position Goodell is in by having to provide cover to the thirty-two owners. And thus, Goodell still deserves a raise.

I am thinking that Mike Florio is missing the point, and since I am apparently not allowed to explain it at PFT, I will inflict it on our readers (yes, both of you).

Florio is correct in asserting that Goodell has a tough job in representing thirty-two guys who can afford to wipe with hundred dollar bills. I get that, and I get that working for people like that would be no picnic. So fine… he did the owners a favor by taking the heat and being a convenient villain.

But Florio errs in placing all of the responsibility for this mess on the owners. While the owners were the ones fighting to hold on to every dollar that they could, it was the Commissioner’s agenda to make the accountability of officials a central issue, at a horrible time. You want to talk about accountability? Fine, then do so with enough advance notice to the officials that it is not bogging down a negotiation as the camps open, as the pre-season games are played, or as the first three weeks of the year are entered into the books. Because of his poor negotiation strategy, Goodell achieved only a fraction of his stated agenda, because he had destroyed trust with the Referee’s Association. It’s impossible to negotiate in good faith if you don’t believe that the “other side” is negotiating in good faith, and that is the dynamic that Roger Goodell created.

Second, and far more importantly, Goodell committed a horrific situation for players, coaches, and fans by failing to adequately plan for a lockout. The league saw this situation coming a long time ago, and it was Roger Goodell’s responsibility, not that of the owners, to work to line up qualified officials in the event of a work stoppage or lockout. By failing to do that, Goodell and his own minions had to scramble to throw warm bodies onto the field, including people who were not deemed qualified enough to officiate for the freaking Lingerie Football League. Seriously.

Therefore, it is the fault of the Commissioner, not the owners directly, that the brand of NFL football was compromised and the integrity of the game cast aside. The league would have been able to weather a lockout far better had the Commissioner planned in advance for what some were warning was an inevitable lockout of the officials. As a result, the outcomes of multiple games were gently or heavily influenced by people who had no business being on the field officiating a game. But Mike Florio glosses over these points just because Roger Goodell works for a bunch of rich pains in the asses.

Florio stated in the second article that his intent was to make his readers think. I can see his perspective on this. But for Florio to come out so strongly for the Commissioner and blame the owners, while giving Goodell a pass on the things he could and should have done, strikes me as strange at the very least. In my view, letting the Commissioner off of the hook is inexcusable. Roger Goodell controlled the preparations that the league did or did not make, and he chose to push an agenda item that served to help stall talks and diminish trust. Saying he deserves a raise is ridiculous; Roger Goodell has loss the confidence of many players and many more fans, particularly when you add his mishandling of the player lockout in 2011, his unequal treatment of player discipline, and his botching of the Saints’ bounty case . Roger Goodell may well have job security through the end of this decade, but he should still step down as NFL Commissioner. It won’t happen, but it should.

Sep 262012

So it looks like the real NFL officials are coming back to work…

Am I too into this sport that I actually felt my blood pressure drop when I heard Chris Mortensen on ESPN this morning? Maybe, maybe not. I know I felt my blood pressure rise on Sunday night when phantom call after phantom call penalized the Patriots and turned the hole they had dug for themselves even deeper. But then Monday night took the cake when I watched the replacement officials quite literally hand a game to the Seattle Seahawks. So thank you to the Green Bay Packers for taking one for the league and for the fans, because it would appear that the nightmare scenario of the replacement refs giving a game away was what it took to prompt the NFL to come to an agreement.

Roger Goodell and the owners who refused to compromise with the officials should be ashamed of themselves. Not so much because the lockout took place, but because they knew a lockout was coming and did nothing… absolutely nothing… to prepare for it. Instead of preparing to use Division I officials months in advance, the league sat on its collective ass until the arrival of the lockout, and then filled the gaps with people who had actually been dismissed from the Lingerie Football League for being poor officials, as well as high school and low level college officials. Such a failure to prepare is unacceptable for people that are running a multi-billion dollar industry. And the NFL will wear a big smile on its collective face and act like the league did the right thing for the game, when in actuality they did nearly everything wrong. And no one will be held accountable.

For those with short memories, the 2011 season was nearly destroyed because the NFL allowed its lawyers to posture and posture and posture with the players, playing a PR game instead of negotiating in good faith. Only when Robert Kraft and a few others stepped in (and kicked the attorneys out) was progress made and an agreement reached. It took the efforts of reasonable people to get a deal done in 2011, and I don’t consider Roger Goodell to be one of those reasonable people. While I had previously been a fan of Goodell’s “get tough on player misconduct” approach, even that has not been done in an even handed and consistent way, and the recent striking down of Goodells’ bounty sanctions against several players indicate that he is not one to follow proper protocol or overly worry about due process. While I am convinced that the Saints did something wrong in terms of payment for injury, I am equally convinced that Goodell botched the process and de-legitimized the league’s response to very serious misconduct.

To paint with a broad brush, my recent impression of Roger Goodell is that he is a power-hungry dictator who approaches all matters with a “my way or the highway” approach. And while Goodell excels at bleeding every dollar of profit that he can for the NFL, he is inept at forming relationships, partnerships, and acting as a true ambassador of the game. To try and be fair to Goodell, he is exactly the type of executive that many of the owners wanted, and he was hired to manage in the way that he is. I have no doubt that owner confidence in Goodell is still high. But player confidence and fan confidence in the Commissioner have seemingly been eroding for some time, and Goodell’s willingness to sit idly by while the integrity of the game was laid waste for these past three weeks – all for the purpose of breaking the referee’s union – calls into question Goodell’s true commitment to player safety and his fitness to serve as the NFL Commissioner. It was Roger Goodell’s agenda, not the agenda of the owners, to improve officiating, and the net result of Goodell’s actions will be no significantly improved officiating while sacrificing three weeks of an NFL season to sub-standard… no… piss poor officiating. It is my hope that Commissioner Goodelll’s actions, and worse his inaction in preparing for a lockout, will lose enough of the confidence of league owners to push for his resignation. I won’t hold my breath waiting for it, but I do have a birthday coming up…

Side Notes:

– Another long-held grudge against the NFL’s business practices… In 2004, EA signed an exclusive license through 2009 with the NFL and the NFLPA to give the company the exclusive rights to use the NFL’s teams, stadiums, and players in a video game. This exclusive license prevents other official NFL video games. The deal, reportedly worth $300 million and later extended to 2013, has been widely criticized as it created a monopoly for NFL gaming and squashed competitive NFL game platforms. To make matters worse, since Madden ’08, EA Sports has not bothered to release a pc version of the game due to lower sales than platforms such as XBox, PS3, and Wii, computer gamers have been without an NFL product to enjoy. The league could care less, and EA Sports has no plans to reverse course. Thus, those of us who have high-performing pc systems with superior graphics who enjoyed the strategy of NFL football are left to want. It’s no wonder that I haven’t bought an EA product in five years.

– Thanks to all of the new visitors we have had to the site during the officials’ lockout. Our site hits have soared, particularly as we called for a boycott on October 4th, which will be off if they get the deal done later today or tomorrow. I rather suspect that it will get done after the Monday night debacle. Anyway, we had no desire for glory in calling for the boycott, but if we have a platform to help fans mobilize, then we should use it if the game we love is being negatively impacted. Thanks to those of you who assisted with our boycott preparations, most notably our Twitter followers and Mike at Patriots Life. We’re not sure yet, but it looks like we’ll go back to being a sleepy little NFL fan blog… and we are just fine with that!

Sep 252012

Well, you already know the story lines for how Week Three turned out, given the immense amount of chatter in regards to the NFL and officiating. We would have had this posted a bit sooner, but you’ve probably noticed that we’ve been a little distracted. While there was plenty of great action on the field, this week of play will forever be overshadowed by terrible officiating that influenced the outcomes of at least two games and directly decided one.

Here are the Week Three scores: