NFL

Bonkers NFL coaching changes – Dallas Cowboys

Every year, a bunch of NFL coaches at all levels are fired.

Whether they should be fired is a whole different debating point. The history of the NFL shows that the teams that achieve consistent success, apart from having stable ownership groups, have another factor in common. They change coaches and General Managers infrequently.

The tendency in recent years has been for some Head Coaches to be fired after one season. This year, the Denver Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett during his first season, and the Houston Texans, having fired David Culley last year after one season, fired Lovie Smith after one season. Indianapolis also fired Frank Reich during the season, although it was not his first year in charge, and, in a fairly unusual move, replaced him with ex-player Jeff Saturday, a man with no coaching experience in the NFL. The results say that was a bad idea, as Saturday went 1-6 after taking over.

The entire firing and hiring cycle is distorted by the involvement of the most successful coaches until after Superbowl. Paradoxically, being a co-ordinator or senior coach on a Superbowl team is bad for your promotion prospects, since you are not free to interview and prepare for meetings with interested teams until the second week of February, at which time many franchises seeking new coaches have already made their hires. Eric Bienemy, the offensive co-ordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, is constantly talked about as a potential head coach, but is seemingly always busy until mid-February because the Chiefs keep making it to the Superbowl.

While some teams are installing a whole new coaching staff, some teams are seeking replacements for co-ordinators and mid-level coaches who were deemed culpable for poor team performance, and fired or have contracts that were allowed to lapse without being renewed.

The Dallas Cowboys, who actually won a road playoff game for the first time in 25 years, but then lost their next game to be eliminated from the playoffs, are a team that decided to change the offensive coaching. They persuaded Dan Quinn, their defensive co-ordinator, to not take any head coach offers, so his excellent defense will continue.

However, on the offensive side of the ball, the usual bonkers Cowboys decision-making has once again reared its ugly head.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy, a coach notorious for poor game management skills, has decided to take over offensive play-calling in Dallas. Unsurprisingly, this has led to the departure of Offensive Co-ordinator Kellen Moore.

My guess is that Moore’s contract with the Cowboys contained a clause stating that he would get to call offensive plays in games. So, if McCarthy made it clear that he intended to assume that role, the Cowboys were in breach of the contract with Moore, which effectively gave him carte blanche to seek alternative employment. He had 1 year left on his contract, and it seems that the contract was indeed terminated by mutual agreement, as the Cowboys stated.

The move had been telegraphed last week when McCarthy was unable or unwilling to answer media questions as to whether Kellen Moore would continue as offensive co-ordinator. To be fair, McCarthy was in the usual rock-meet-hard-place situation. If he had said what was going to happen, he would have been throwing Moore under the bus, potentially embarrassing the franchise. If he had denied that something was going to happen, the media would have ended up politely asking why he lied, once the news became public. So he had no alternative but to stonewall media inquiries and try to slide out of the discussion at the time.

As to why McCarthy has decided to take over play calling, well, he is an offensive coach, and the decision effectively signals that he thinks he can do a better job in games than Moore. That will be a big task. Moore’s offenses have been consistently good in the 4 seasons that he was the OC in Dallas.

The real underlying challenge is that the Cowboys cannot win through the playoffs. They look good in the regular season, but often disappoint in January. This has been a perennial problem going back 20+ years. It was a major complaint against previous HC Jason Garrett. The suspicion was that Garrett was unable to motivate the team to raise it’s game in the playoffs. McCarthy, already a Superbowl-winning coach, would provide that extra oomph. That was the theory.

So far that theory has not been vindicated.

The dismissal of Kellen Moore has been greeted with glee by the significant number of Cowboys fans who grew to hate Jason Garrett (or “coach clap”, as he became derisively known). They saw Moore as the last remaining holdout from a failed regime. They now expect better things with…

…well, whoever runs the offense. Which is a challenge. As I always say, firing somebody is the easy part. Now you have to decide what or who to replace that person with.

McCarthy’s announcement that he intends to call offensive plays has two immediate impacts. One, it increases his game-day workload, which, for a coach who has a reputation for poor game-day rapid decisions, is not a logical move. Second, it more or less ensures that any established offensive coach will not want to come to Dallas. Byron Leftwich, who was being seriously touted as a Head Coach candidate 2 seasons ago, was fired by the Buccaneers this off-season, but since he called plays in Tampa, I do not see him, or any other OC that has called plays, being willing to come and work at Dallas, if the Head Coach is going to get the game-day glory.

It is always possible that McCarthy may give up his play-calling plan if a top-flight OC says to Jerry Jones “I’m not joining unless I get to call the plays”, but I suspect that McCarthy will want an offensive coach who is not a threat to his position. He is effectively looking over his shoulder at Dan Quinn, who has built an excellent Cowboys defense, and who is clearly highly valued, and was a head coach previously. If the Cowboys decide to fire McCarthy, Quinn is going to step straight into that job.

Ultimately, the results in the future may come down to an open question:  just how good is Dak Prescott? According to the Moore naysayers, he is a potentially great QB who was hobbled by rinky-dink play-calling that does not play to his strengths. So, if that is correct, a new OC might unleash all of that un-realized potential.

I have my doubts. When I watched Prescott throwing the ball downfield in game against the 49ers, when the Cowboys went vertical, his lack of accuracy on deep balls was obvious. The Cowboys may find out the hard way that Moore’s playbook, far from obscuring Prescott’s talents, was maximizing them, and the replacement playbook may show that Prescott, while a very good quarterback, is not good enough to take the Cowboys to the Superbowl.

In the meantime, Kellen Moore, who clearly knew or suspected in advance that he might be moving on, has already joined the LA Chargers, who have an excellent young quarterback in Justin Herbert. He will have total offensive control, and may take several coaches from Dallas and elsewhere with him, since the Cowboys let a lot of coach contracts lapse without renewing them. There is also a backup quarterback in Dallas named Cooper Rush, who looked surprisingly effective in games where Dak Prescott was injured, who is a free agent. It would not surprise me if the Chargers make a run at Rush in free agency, in order to bring in a QB who knows the Moore offense and can rapidly teach it to the other offensive players.

 

 

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The NFL’s anthem kneeling controversy escalates

In the beginning…Colin Kaepernick knelt when the National Anthem was played.
Then other players joined him, not only on the 49ers, but players from other teams also joined in.
Then the President of the United States had a hissy-fit and made a lot of noise about the protests, and was joined in the condemnation by lots of people with no understanding of the law, the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, or the Constitution.
Then Colin Kaepernick found himself unable to get a job in the NFL. Eventually he filed a collusion complaint.
Then Eric Reid, who had also kneeled for the anthem, found himself also unable to get a job, and also filed a collusion complaint with the support of the NFLPA.
The blackballing of Reid and Kaepernick (whether this rises to the level of collusion is still to be determined) has pissed off the NFLPA. Remember that 70% of the NFL’s players are African-American.
The NFLPA has now filed two complaints of its own. The complaints are the first time that the NFLPA has become involved in complaints that are broader in scope than one specific player. The players are now beginning to push back collectively in one of the few ways that they can legally do so, via the grievance processes built into the Collective Bargaining Agreement. One thing to realize is that there is an underlying resentment of the current CBA on behalf of the players, who feel that the owners got too large a share of league revenues, and who believe that the Commissioner has abused his powers in the areas of player discipline. (Remember that the owners opted out of the previous CBA, and then took a very tough line in negotiating the current CBA).
The NFL owners, many of whom are used to getting their own way in business, having run privately held businesses for most of their lives, have spent too much time and effort in recent months listening to the President, and not enough time listening to their employees. This may be about to backfire on the NFL.

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Kaepernick vs. the NFL and The First Law Of Holes

In November, Colin Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL alleging collusion.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, grievances are processed within the NFL according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This means that a discovery period occurs, where both sides get to review the evidence, and where depositions can be requested and taken under oath from witnesses and interested parties.
We are now entering the deposition period of this grievance. One of the underlying weaknesses of the NFL is beginning to undermine the NFL’s whole defense to the collusion allegations.
What is known in the public eye as “The NFL” is really 32 independent businesses, all of which (with one exception, the Green Bay Packers) are privately owned, usually by a family that controls the majority of the equity in the team. The NFL organization, with Roger Goodell as its commissioner, has very limited authority over the 32 teams, because it really functions as a head office, PR front, and mechanism by which the NFL, under its limited anti-trust exemption (codified in the Sports Broadcasting Act) can negotiate broadcasting and other league-wide contracts.
Roger Goodell is employed by and is subordinate to the NFL owners. As one might expect from a collection of businesspeople who own private businesses and have (mostly) total control, the team owners are a feisty bunch of sometimes-cranky folks who mostly intensely dislike being told what to do by ANYBODY. They are also, with one exception, elderly white guys.
Because Goodell has no ability to tell owners what they can and cannot say in public on any subject, the NFL is now slowly, but inexorably, digging itself into a hole over the Colin Kaepernick collusion complaint. Any lawyer with a functioning brain would gather all defendants and persons of interest in a case like this into a room and the first piece of advice would be “stop talking in public about this case or any subject related to this case NOW”. Roger Goodell may have already told the owners this, but his words do not seem to be getting through. Via their own public comments, and a slow but growing number of leaks of information (possibly from Kaepernick’s team), the NFL is being backed into a cross between a corner and a hole over the collusion complaint. In the last 2 weeks the following information has become public:
– Steven Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, apparently announced that he would require all Dolphins players to stand for the National Anthem (despite the reality that he cannot legally do that), only to walk that statement back publicly a few days later
– At least 2 NFL player agents reported that the Houston Texans are “not interested” in signing any player who has protested during the playing of the National Anthem
– John Harbaugh, the coach of the Baltimore Ravens, was apparently advised by a military officer that signing Colin Kaepernick was not in like with the core values of the NFL

None of these actions (and two of them are rumors, not fact) prove that collusion occurred. However, they are slowly placing the NFL in a situation where, even if they win the collusion grievance against Colin Kaepernick, they will emerge having lost in the court of public opinion. The picture that is emerging from the unguarded public comments of owners, and rumors and leaks, is not a flattering one. It shows a league whose ownership is determined to squash dissent from the players, and which is more scared of offending hyper-patriots than it is in supporting social justice.
We can be sure that Steven Ross, John Harbaugh, and the two player agents are now on the list of people who will be requested to give depositions. Their names are going to be added to a lengthy existing list which includes Roger Goodell, his wife Jane Goodell (who ran a fake Twitter account on his behalf), Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, Bob McNair, and Steve Bisciotti.
Kaepernick’s lawyers also want to depose ex-Pappa John’s CEO John Schattner, but that is unlikely to occur since the NFL no longer has a relationship with Pappa John’s (notice how quickly they have been replaced as the NFL Official Pizza supplier?) and Schattner had no direct contractual affiliation with the NFL.
The NFL has emerging challenges that are unavoidable, with viewership steadily declining as more people bail on network and cable television, and its core viewing demographic is ageing.
At the point where the NFL needs a positive relationship with the players, it does not have one. Goodell is widely distrusted by the players over the bruising negotiations at the time of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, and his approach to player discipline which is seen as capricious and arbitrary.
These are challenges that will be difficult to overcome, and the drip-drip of negative news about the Colin Kaepernick case is making matters worse. If the NFL does not have a plan to settle the grievance in advance of a hearing, it needs one, and fast. Winning the hearing will be a loss if the public perception is that Kaepernick was railroaded out of the NFL.

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Professional negligence in the NFL

I am not watching any NFL games right now. I think you know why. At least, I already told you.
However, I can read numbers, and my Twitter feed is alive.
The numbers and Twitter told me that Nathan Peterman, promoted to the starting quarterback position today for the Buffalo Bills to replace Tyrod Taylor, who, in the age-old jargon of pro football, was benched, came into the game at the start today against the San Diego Chargers and proceeded to throw 5 interceptions in the first half. Whereupon, he was removed from the game, and Tyrod Taylor, the man he replaced, was re-instated as the quarterback.
The Bills were down 40-7 at halftime when Peterman was replaced. They ultimately lost the game 54-24.
In other words, with Peterman under center, the Bills were outscored by 33 points. With Tyrod Taylor under center, the Bills gained back 17 points on offense, but gave up another 14 on defense.
Peterman was a good college quarterback not playing on a title-winning team. The Bills had drafted him in the 5th Round this year, and he had won the number 2 spot on the quarterback chart in the pre-season. So, with the Bills seemingly no longer convinced that they could win with Tyrod Taylor, he was The Man when they decided to bench Taylor.
Now, I keep reading all of the time these days that the NFL is nothing like college on offense. Most college teams do not run NFL-style offenses any more, relying heavily on read-option-based offensive schemes that require limited check-downs by mobile quarterbacks. The lament I read is that many college quarterbacks are nowhere near ready to run an NFL-style offense out of college. This implies that many rookie quarterbacks are essentially “project” players, not expected to play for at least 2 seasons.
Peterman’s scouting reports out of college reveal a smart, fairly accurate passer, but one lacking the deep-throw arm strength prized by many NFL coaching teams.
So, I wonder: just what the hell were the Bills doing throwing a 5th round draft pick with limited pre-season game experience and only mop-up regular series experience into a game at a crucial point in the season, with the Bills’s season finely poised at 5-4?
What possible improvement could he provide over Tyrod Taylor?
He does not have a cannon for an arm, so the idea that the Bills could suddenly become a vertical passing team makes no sense. That is before you even look at the Bills’ receiving corps, which does not scream “deep threat”. In fact, it doesn’t even scream “receiving threat”. The Bills do not have a single top-drawer receiver, and their best current receiver, Jordan Matthews, was inactive for today’s game. So Peterman did not exactly have much in the way of likely downfield targets. He can scramble, but lacks the fleet-footed elusiveness of Taylor, who has excelled in the past at escaping from seemingly hopeless broken-play situations and making something happen, usually with his legs.
At this point some bright spark will say “but…Tom Brady!”.
OK Weisenheimer, let’s look at Tom Brady.
Brady was drafted in the 6th round out of Michigan. He was the number 3 quarterback for all of his first season, mostly inactive on game days. In his second season, he moved up to the number 2 spot on the quarterback chart. He was then promoted early to starter after Drew Bledsoe suffered a serious chest injury.
At the time of his promotion, Brady had already been in the Patriots’ system for over a season, and had played in 2 seasons’ worth of pre-season games. By any objective standards, he was far more experienced in the NFL than Peterman was when he ran out on the field today. As history shows, Brady was ready and able to assume the quarterback role for the Patriots at the time of his promotion. As today shows, Peterman was not.
But this is not just about Peterman.
It’s also about the team. Peterman was not expected to be the starter, so he had limited work with the first-team offense in the pre-season, and he and the team had 1 week to prepare for the game. Peterman is a fundamentally different player to Taylor – he is basically a pocket passer with some scrambling ability. Taylor is a scrambler first and foremost, and his pocket skills and check-down abilities are said to be weak, which is probably part of the reason that he was benched.
Most importantly, this decision is about leadership.
Bad leadership.
The decision to insert Nathan Peterman today was professionally negligent. If it was mid-December, with the Bills at 4-9 or similar and already eliminated from the playoffs, the decision would have made a lot of sense. With Taylor on an option year for his contract, it would be time to play the rookie and see what he can bring to the team. But, for crying out loud, the Bills were at 5-4, and still very much in the hunt for a playoff slot. Playing Peterman has resulted in a blowout loss, which leaves the Bills at 5-5, and in a much weaker playoff position.
Now…I can think of a reason why the decision was made to start Peterman today. The head coach for the San Diego Chargers, Anthony Lynn, had been the offensive co-ordinator for the Buffalo Bills the previous season, and the coaches may have decided that Lynn, experienced in the play and behavior of Tyrod Taylor, would create a game plan for the Chargers to disrupt a Taylor-led offense.
While this is all logical, swapping quarterbacks at the last minute only works if the team and the new quarterback are prepared to execute a different sort of game plan. As we saw today, that was not the case.
The decision and resulting loss has left the quarterbacks in a bad place. Taylor was benched last week, a signal (probably already received) that he has no real future in Buffalo. Peterman was thrown into the fire, and has been severely singed, with 5 interceptions in 30 minutes of play ringing in his brain. That will shake any quarterback, especially a rookie.
But the bigger negative message will have made its way to the team. By benching an established starter and experimenting with an unproven rookie, the Bills leadership has essentially told the team that they are quite prepared to throw away the season. That is a horrible message to send. It may actually cause the team to quit on the coaching staff.
No matter which way you analyze the decision to play Nathan Peterman, it was a terrible decision. The only saving grace is that the coaches realized that they had made a big mistake and re-inserted Tyrod Taylor for the second half, but with a leaky defense, and a second-rate offense, even Superman would have struggled to bring the Bills back from a 40-7 hole.
It would not surprise me if one or more heads roll in Buffalo next week. There was no saving grace, no visible upside from today’s events. There is nothing that the coaching staff can point to that was obviously good. They might argue from game tape that Peterman did X better than Taylor, but 54-24 as a box score will blow any of that pretty-pretty analysis to hell and back. If Twitter is any indication of fan reaction, the Bills fans were furious with the outcome, and they blame the coaching staff. Something may have to change.

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Hell hath no fury like a quarterback scorned

Today’s news gets more and more interesting, or more and more worrying if you are running PR for the NFL.
Hot on the heels that the Houston Texans went out and signed two quarterbacks today to replace DeShaun Watson, neither of whom is named Colin Kaepernick, comes the news that the legal team acting for Kaepernick in his case against the NFL has officially asked that several NFL owners, including Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, and Bob McNair, be deposed. Additionally, other teams are being asked to turn over all communications that might be related to Colin Kaepernick, including emails and mobile phone records.
Now, I have one question for you all: what are the chances that a voluble self-promoter like Jerry Jones, who cannot publicly keep quiet about the anthem protest, and who is now busy claiming that Pappa Johns’ founder John Schattner is a “fine American”, kept quiet privately about Colin Kaepernick?
I assess those chances as somewhere between diddly and squat. Ditto Bob McNair, whose “inmates running the prison” comment maybe revealed a lot more about his underlying attitude to players than he intended or wanted to reveal. Robert Kraft was probably a lot more careful. He is usually very measured in all of his public pronouncements, and, by all accounts, has been a key figure behind the scenes in mediating disputes between owners and between the NFL and the players. But Jerry Jones? No. Jones cannot stop yapping in public, so I regard it as highly likely that he has said some things in private that Kaepernick’s legal team would love to read and/or hear. That is, if they can be included in discovery.

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And the circumstantial collusion evidence pile keeps growing…

With the expiry of the trade period in the NFL, any team needing a quarterback can only sign a free agent.
Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts officially owned up to something that was becoming rather obvious – that Andrew Luck will not play this season. He underwent major shoulder surgery in the off-season and has not recovered enough to even practice properly. The Colts had already traded for Jacoby Brissett from the Patriots to be their starting quarterback for the season, so this does not impact any free agent moves.
Meanwhile, down in Houston, DeShaun Watson, the new starting quarterback for the Houston Texans, ruptured his ACL in practice yesterday and will miss the rest of the season. The Texans have Tom Savage as a backup, who was benched after 1 game for Watson. Watson is a running quarterback whose playing style is close to that of a free agent quarterback named Colin Kaepernick. However, at time of writing, the Texans appear to be about to sign another free agent not named Kaepernick.
These kinds of decisions by NFL teams are simply adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence that will be pointed to by Kaepernick’s legal team as evidence of collusion. There still needs to be a “smoking gun” uncovered in discovery for a ruling of collusion to be possible, but even if the arbitrator rules against Kaepernick, the overall impression of a sports league bent on punishing a player engaging in peaceful protest is likely to be difficult to ignore.

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The Mark Geragos 10 day claim over Kaepernick

When I wrote the essay on the Mark Geragos claim that Colin Kaepernick would be signed within 10 days, I was discounting (for now) the possibility that the weight of circumstantial evidence would become too great for the arbitrator to dismiss it.
I may be about to revise that viewpoint. The NFL is constantly adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence.
Two attempted quarterback trades occurred at the trade deadline. The 49ers succeeded in acquiring Jimmy Garroppolo from the Patriots. Then an apparent fiasco unfolded right at the trading deadline, with the Cleveland Browns attempting to acquire A.J. McCarron from the Bengals for draft picks, only to have the trade fail to complete, seemingly due to internal SNAFUs in the Browns organization.
From the viewpoint of Kaepernick’s legal team, here are two more clear examples of teams with a quarterback performance issue desperately trying to find another starting quarterback without even asking Colin Kaepernick if he was interested.
The situation will now only get worse for the NFL. With the trade deadline now having passed, if an NFL team loses its starting quarterback to injury, or suddenly becomes desperate for a new option at quarterback, they cannot now trade for a quarterback from another team. They have to sign a free agent, or (far less likely) win a waiver claim contest for a quarterback suddenly released from a team. (That latter scenario is extremely unlikely, since most NFL teams only have 2 quarterbacks on their rosters, and they would not release a quarterback in the season since it would leave them with no backup quarterback in a game).
Colin Kaepernick is a free agent.
So…from this point onwards in the season, any team that signs a free agent quarterback not named Colin Kaepernick is simply adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence that Kaepernick’s legal team will point to as evidence of collusion.
Another underlying challenge in all of this is that Roger Goodell is relatively powerless to influence NFL team behavior. He works for the teams, not the other way around, and since NFL teams are officially forbidden from colluding on any issue other than broadcasting rights, Goodell is now unable to say anything of substance on the Colin Kaepernick issue, especially now it is the subject of a lawsuit, since anything that he does say can be parsed though a viewpoint that asks the question “so were the teams colluding?”. This, by the way, is also why Goodell spoke very carefully about the anthem protests. He cannot be seen to be suggesting to the teams, collectively, what they can or cannot do, and in the case of the anthem issue, his hands are also tied by the CBA, which does not specify any requirements on player behavior for the National Anthem.

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Colin Kaepernick vs. the NFL – lawyer makes a big claim

Mark Geragos, the lead lawyer for Colin Kaepernick in his collusion grievance against the NFL, made a bold claim today, during an appearance on the Adam Carolla Show:

“I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,” he said. “I think somebody’s gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses, and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.”

Now…that is a pretty bold and specific claim. Several possible motives for the claim spring to mind:

1. Geragos is trolling or bullshitting
2. Geragos believes that discovery will uncover evidence of collusion against Kaepernick
3. Geragos believes that discovery will likely uncover other evidence of collaboration or collusion between teams and owners that may put the NFL in a difficult legal position

(1) still seems likely. Absent a clear communication between two teams along the lines of “remember don’t sign Kaepernick”, it is still likely that insufficient direct evidence of collusion exists. Whether Geragos thinks that the circumstantial evidence of collusive intent (via the intemperate public and leaked comments of the POTUS and several NFL team owners) is strong enough is open to debate. However, absent a “smoking gun”, the case may well become a trial in the court of public opinion. (there may well, of course, be other private comments from owners that will turn up in discovery that could be damaging. We just don’t know that those might be).
(2) and (3) would add up to multiple problems for the NFL. If (2) is proved, they would would be forced to pay Kaepernick a large pile of money for effectively running him out of the NFL – that sum could easily be more than $50m. They would end up with an enormous PR black eye.
However, (3) represents the more serious risk for the NFL owners. The NFL currently enjoys a limited exemption from anti-trust legislation via the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. This was passed specifically to allow the NFL teams to collaborate on negotiating broadcasting deals. That is the full scope of the exemption. The NFL teams are not allowed to collaborate on any other commercial matters, or they risk being found guilty of violations of anti-trust law.
This means that evidence of collusion on any matter other than broadcasting rights carries two risks for the NFL. Firstly, it may make it easy for the arbitrator to rule against the NFL in Colin Kaepernick’s grievance hearing. However, secondly, and potentially much more dangerously, it may open the NFL to being charged with broader violations of anti-trust law. The TV broadcasting rights exemption has already come under fire on multiple occasions in the past, with threats being made to repeal the 1961 Act. A clear-cut finding of collusion on any subject could result in the entire act being nuked, leaving the NFL unable to operate as a group in negotiating distribution rights for broadasts of games.
Now…this is where it could get interesting…if the Sports Broadcasting Act was repealed, then theoretically any NFL team could do its own deal for broadcasting rights. They could sign a deal with a network or they could set up their own broadcasting operation with live streaming of games and other exclusive or non-exclusive content. For teams in big media markets (like Dallas, Washington, Seattle, New York etc.) this could actually be more lucrative than the current mechanism where all broadcasting revenues are pooled then distributed equally to all 32 teams. In other words, some of the new-wave aggressive owners like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder might not care about the loss of the anti-trust exemption, since they may have done the math and concluded that they can make more money selling their broadcast rights direct to the public.
However, any evidence of any sort of collusion will be embarrassing to the NFL, and will increase the chances of a ruling against them on the Kaepernick issue. More seriously, it opens the entire NFL up to complaints of anti-trust violations, which could be very expensive, not for fines, but for other remedies that a court might order. Courts have a LOT of power when punishing violations of anti-trust law.

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Today’s For Fish’s Sakes moment: NFL player protests

Sometimes, The Stupid, it hurts.
And sometimes it goes beyond stupid into the For Fish’s Sakes zone.
The really bad arguments against NFL players have just gone into that zone.
There is a multi-part narrative (I’d call it a theory, but that would be giving it way way too much credit) that comprises the following assertions (again, I’m not calling them arguments because they never have any evidence to back them up):

1. NFL players cannot be oppressed or treated unfairly because they are paid a lot of money to play the game
2. Therefore, NFL players should shut up, be grateful, and play the game.
3. And they should respect the flag and stand for the National Anthem because…if my employer told me to stand to attention for the National Anthem every day I would have to do it, therefore those greedy whiny-ass NFL players should damn well do it too

(3) is bullshit and hokum, and I already wrote about it here. Only idiots, assholes or totalitarian regimes think that it is OK to demand respect and fealty to symbols. Despite the whining of the POTUS, the NFL is not going to mandate that the players stand for the anthem for two compelling reasons:
(1) it is not a requirement in current player contracts under the NFL CBA,
(2) it will likely be ruled a violation of the Constitution by SCOTUS, which has ruled multiple times in the last 75 years that nobody can be compelled to perform those actions. (This is why Roger Goodell, a lawyer, deliberately uses the advisory “should” and not the instructive “shall” when commenting about the current NFL rules).
The argument about other employers not allowing employees to protest on company time is a false equivalence. Technically, the anthem ceremony is not part of an NFL game, and it did not exist prior to 2009 except on special occasions. Any employer, especially in the IT or tech sector, that tried to implement a rule forcing the players to stand daily for the national anthem would immediately drop to the bottom of the list of places to work, and would rapidly lose most of its best people. Young, mobile or highly qualified knowledge workers have a low tolerance for totalitarian horseshit. Most employers would not touch this idea with an extremely long barge pole. They are not stupid.
(2) is also bullshit. Being well-paid confers no obligation on any person to surrender their rights to public comment on any issue. If that were true, we would not be hearing a peep from corporate CEOs, television and movie stars, and famous musical artists. The idea that people should shut up because you might not like what they have to say reeks of totalitarian, intolerant conceit. it’s also an argument I have been reading and hearing for years. It has been bullshit all of that time, and it will continue to be bullshit.
I mean, I want world peace, but I am not entitled to get it any time soon.
NOTE to Daniel Snyder: You can claim that 96% of NFL viewers want the players to stand (wherever that claim came from), but here’s the reality, you authoritarian dickweed; opinion polls and fan surveys do not trump legal or constitutional rights.
(1) is also bullshit, for two reasons.
Firstly, most NFL players do not initially enter into freely negotiated contracts with their employers. They are drafted. A team selects them, and their consent to be drafted by a specific team is legally immaterial. (One or two players, most notably John Elway and Eli Manning, managed to maneuver themselves into playing for the team that they really wanted to play for, but the rarity of such outcomes tells you about how invariable the process normally is).
Secondly, once drafted, NFL players have next to no ability to negotiate their contracts. They are bound by the rookie wage scale, which “slots” player remuneration according to position and draft selection sequence. Any variation is financially minor. The deals are all for 4 years with the team having the option to unilaterally extend for a further year.
Once upon a time, in England, people could be “pressed” into service in the Royal Navy by being, essentially, kidnapped, and placed on board a navy vessel. They were then informed that they were serving in the Royal Navy. No way out existed, since by the time they were actually untied, the ship was already at sea. To me, the NFL entry process for many players looks remarkably like the press gang.
Most NFL contracts are not guaranteed, and a team can essentially fire a player at any time. Now…some players mitigate this via pre-paid bonuses. However, the bottom line is that players are, in most cases, press-ganged into the NFL, and are vulnerable to being fired at any time. I cannot recall that I was ever press-ganged into joining an employer like that.
Now…did the players enter into that sort of arrangement as part of the NFL collective bargaining agreement? Well, yes, and No. The NFLPA agreed to the CBA. However, college football players are not members of the NFLPA, and they certainly did not agree to the CBA. So the players entering the NFL, in most cases are stuck in a process they did not agree to that they cannot vary, where they have no real freedom to negotiate. Now, is that slavery? In the sense of them being forced to work in perpetuity while enduring grinding poverty…No. However, they have a lot less freedom than most regular folks to select an employer, negotiate a contract, and change employers.
Secondly, as most people soon find out, money does not cure all ills or guarantee happiness. The idea that if we all had 10 million dollars we would be happy is a superficially attractive one, but most of us eventually meet people in life, who have a lot of money, who are some combination of miserable or assholes. So the idea “you make a lot of money so you should be happy” is total bullshit. As the old saying goes, money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a better class of misery.

Some final thoughts.
An example of the reality that leading practitioners in sports do not forfeit their rights to push for improvements in their sport simply because they are well paid.
When he was driving in F1, Jackie Stewart began campaigning for improvements in car and circuit design and safety, and guess what? Exactly the same arguments being deployed against the NFL players were deployed against him, including “just shut up and drive, you highly paid ungrateful so and so”. People said that motor racing was intrinsically dangerous, and the drivers volunteered to drive, so they knew the dangers and therefore deaths were simply part of the sport. If you want to understand the results of casual acceptance of bad circuit design at the time, Google “helmuth koinigg” (WARNING – Not pleasant viewing).
Jackie Stewart ignored the pushback, and partly due to his advocacy, Formula 1 slowly changed from a sport where at least 1 driver died a year in an accident, and several were forced into retirement due to crippling injuries, to a sport where any serious driver injury is now a rare event.
The NFL is a collision sport, and this always carries risk of injury, although the worst effects seem to be occurring long after players retire, due to body damage and brain trauma. However, the idea continues to be espoused by many NFL fans that the game should be dangerous. This is nothing more than a relic of the prize-fighting mentality, and you don’t have to be a genius to see that a lot of the people making arguments that the NFL is being “wussified” are pretty much the same people who are demanding that the players STFU and stand for the anthem. They are also, from my personal Twitter analysis, mostly elderly white guys (some of them are bots, but that’s another story).
In other words, a lot of the people making the most noise about those nasty un-American players are precisely the sort of people the NFL should not be listening to, because they will not be watching the sport very much longer.

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