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Tag:Roger Goodell
Posted on: December 13, 2012 5:52 pm
 

NFL '12 Cherry Picks Wk-15

All Process That is Due

The longer Bountygate dragged-out the more likely Paul Tagliabue does exactly what he did in his ruling on Tuesday: found middle ground.

At least that’s how NFLPA is selling it to members. In truth, DeMaurice Smith and other union sharks hope their clients don’t read too deeply and stick to the pro-player headlines, as Tags re-buffed the jocks in validating NFL’s fact-findings (bounties existed & players participated) and then slammed Saints’ coaches & cufflinks for “broad organizational misconduct“ and “contamin(ing)” the bounty case (“Paul” / NFL.com Wire / 12-11).“

Roger Goodell comes out vindicated (though the extent of his “authority” to discipline in such cases, if and when they arise again, isn’t all that clear), players get table scraps in having their punishments “vacated,” Jon Vilma’s def-suit should get tossed (he hopes), Drew Brees tweet tantrums get front page ink and it’s back to the business of football.

Fall of the North

What a difference a month makes. Northerners were ridin’ high back in November, positioning to send two, maybe even three teams each to the post-season party. Now both North Division winners will be lucky to bring a friend to the festivities.

In the NFCN, Green Bay rebounds nicely (9-4 / 4-0D) after early stumbles, correcting in Texas but has feasted on easy-prey since, excepting yearly rough-up from NYG Wk-12.  Vikes stave off elimination (7-6) and dug deep last week in mild upset over banged-up, fading-fast Bears (8-5), talented but snake-bit Lions (4-9) seem determined to find new way each week to lose a winnable game and only Pack likes its remainder.

Despite dire reports, Ravens (9-4 / 4-1) still team-to-beat in AFCN after booting a W in DC and then oddly cut their OC after the defense bungles late. Ben rallies in Chargers loss but shoulder hurts can linger, though Pitt’s (7-6) remaining schedule is no scary tale. Like Ravens, Bengals (7-6) can’t close vs Dallas and have mettle slate ahead while intra-State rival Browns (5-8) are learning to win (3-0) but given tough row to hoe rest of the way.

Kick-off Krazy

As reported this week in Time, Goodell has floated an NFL Rules Committee idea to replace kick-offs with a pre-set field position in the interest of reducing excessive danger. I’m more concerned with defender cheap-shots and NFLPA refusal to test blood (PEDs), but RG1’s been consistent in his player-safety agenda and its apparent non-money motive. Upside: scraping k/o's eliminates football's weakest play, the on-side kick.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

It’s that time of year when baseball & golf hibernate, it’s too early for b-ball & hockey to matter much and NASCAR, F1 & MLS have all crowned winners. And that means from November through early February, the NFL is king.

Andy Williams sang about the season, more specifically, Christmas time. He crooned one of Yuletide’s most memorable songs in my title above (‘63 / Pola & Wyle). It might grate on you after hearing it the 100th time in the shopping mall as your back aches and nerves fray, but it’s still a gem. Williams died this fall at the age of 84 from bladder cancer (Wikipedia). He strayed into the bizarre his final years but gave us wonderful musical memories that will live on forever. 

Cherry Picks Week 15

New York Giants (8-5) @ Atlanta Falcons (11-2) (12-16 / Fox 1:00)

NFL might just invite Pack and 49ers to join these guys and settle the whole NFC thing right then & there. Better still, get the old Tudor electric football game out and settle it with style. Brother Kev & I loved that game. A-bird’s ticked, NYG’s enigmatic, Falcons win.

Indianapolis Colts (9-4) @ Houston Texans (11-2) (CBS 1:00)

Colts are nice story in ‘12 and who knew? Not this writer. Indy 1st-dwn & TOP ratios are pluses, but don’t be fooled by Texans’ New England flop. Vet Schaub rebounds, HOU-D stuffs run (2), boxes (37S) Luck into misfortune (18 INT / 10 FUM) and Texans win.

Green Bay Packers (9-4) @ Chicago Bears (8-5) (Fox 1:00)

Not Packers’ biggest rival (Vikes) but they’re not telling. Even with Bears’ losing teeth it’s still historical high-ground. Monsters best shot for upset: alarm Aaron often and with all due speed. And of course, protect your own guy Jay. Not easy for Chicago. From Halas to Smith, only Ditka had GB's number (Papa won a few). Packers push on & win.

Denver Broncos (10-3) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-4) (CBS 1:00)

Rebound-effect flies-by CHI and makes stop in Poe country. Ravens bunged-up D lets prey get away in DC but need only heed FDR’s advice that saved humanity: “(O)nly thing we have to fear is fear itself (‘33).” Broncos feel their oats, look like the money-pick and Elway looks…wise. He did matriculate at Stanford. Pey-dirt looks sublime and O-line OK (19S). Rice is nice but GI Joe (good indicator) is key & needs time (31S). Baltimore wins.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (7-6) (CBS 4:25)

Dallas plays through pain and comes up big vs talented Cincy crew. But Big Ben’s back, tossing rust and moving in 2nd-half in SD loss. Should expect air-show as both pedestrian ground-games (24 / 30), and that’s just when you feed ’em the ball (Dwyer / Jones?). Hurts hit Cowboys' key cogs (Murray / Bryant / Ware) while Roethlisberger (shoulder) needs shield (20S). Steelers win.

San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) @ New England Patriots (10-3) (NBC 8:20)

Team that should’ve faced Pats in SB46. Now new look under center. Kaep Krusader’s #s last 3: W2-1, TD1-1. Remind you of anyone? Guy who should be under center (AS). San Fran bread & butter ball, solid all-around and even pass-D (26) maturing. But you know where this is headed. 49ers pan-out dry as Patriots looking good as gold. New England wins.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Posted on: September 28, 2012 1:55 pm
 

NFL Barometer Wk-4

Not So Fast, football America. The regular referees are back in business but there are grades to be handed out in wake of ‘Replacement-Ref Whine-fest 2012.’

Roger & The Regulars: B

Denying anyone who’s not employed in public safety the right to use all leverage in negotiating a contract (strike) would be un-American. Unfortunately, the regulars have now been vested with special status of indispensability by the same cry-babies who ragged on ‘em before their strike, bitched about the replacements during, and will piss & moan again in Wk-4.

When the firestorm over Monday night’s controversial “simultaneous catch” call flared-up this week, both the Commissioner and strikers contained the blaze by acting with due speed. And if you think the new referee deal was a result of poor job performance by the replacement referees, you need to pull your head out of…the sand. Most likely it was serious concern over the safety of the replacements that proved primary motivation for compelling both parties back to the bargaining table to hammer-out an agreement.

Fresh in their minds may’ve been recent tragic events in Libya and the Middle East, triggered by parties using YouTube to fuel the fires of ignorance & violence. With anger over the disputed Hail Mary call that ended the Packers v. Seahawks MNF contest rising rapidly during the week and becoming a national embarrassment, coupled with knowledge that more touchy-calls would result in Wk-4 games, those professionals in security who monitor such situations must’ve been speculating about dangerous acts that nut-jobs might undertake.

Replacement Referees: B+

These guys head home wondering why they ever took such a thankless job. It couldn‘t be the pay. Roger Goodell’s apology-in-appeasement notwithstanding, the replacements, as imperfect as they were, deserve commendations just for taking the field.

Golden Tate of the Seattle Seahawks: “The Man with the Golden Arm.” The left one, to be exact. It’s pretty well hidden from view in the film-replay of the infamous Hail Mary, but either his left arm and / or hand are initially on that football, simultaneously with Mr. Jennings (Packers), or it disappeared into the 4th dimension like “Tina” did in that classic Twilight Zone (“Little Girl Lost” / 1962). It’s one, or the other. Take your pick.

As for Mr. Tate shoving a Packers’ defender just before the ball arrived, don’t forget the first rule of end-game drama: never let a referee’s call decide the outcome. Before Thursday night’s Browns / Ravens contest, where the just-back regulars were extra cautious and playing-it-safe with Cleveland’s game-ending Hail Mary (flag), the regulars would’ve followed precedent on MNF, just like the replacements: no-call on the shove.

The precedent here is on point: Dallas Cowboys v. Minnesota Vikings, Metropolitan Stadium, 1975 NFC playoffs. This is the original game-winning Hail Mary. It came from Cowboys’ QB Roger Staubach and involved another decisive push-down by receiver Drew Pearson of a Vikings’ defender. Difference is, this one sent the winner to the Super Bowl and one of the referees to the hospital after getting hit in the head with a whiskey bottle thrown by an idiot in the stands. Roger & the regulars may remember.

NFL Players & Coaches: D+

The jocks and gurus must share blame for the hostility heaped upon the replacements. A few choice words, spoken at the right time could’ve quelled much of the outrage. Instead, the behavior of men like Bill Belichick (ref-grabber) and Aaron Rodgers’ (whine-pro) was typical. But in the Age of Enablement there are no grievances so small, so selfish, as to go unheard & un-redressed. I guess 'suck-it-up’ and ‘take the pain’ are old school.

The Ravens’ Anquan Boldin stated the prevailing view in post-game interview when pressed on the referee issue after Thursday night‘s Browns v. Ravens game: “I think the guys respect the regular referees.” And that was the crux of it, these past four weeks. Most of the players & coaches, it seemed, had no respect for the replacements.  A prejudice, you could say. When prejudice is the mind-set, rational thought cannot happen.

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Had the players wanted to show solidarity with the regulars, the same guys they regularly berated on & off the field before their departure, they could’ve gone on strike with the zebras. But then nobody, not the owners, not the fans, not the players nor the media wanted the games cancelled, right? Right.

Sport Media & Entertainment: F

Lucky for these guys the NFL / referee contract was resolved when it was, otherwise all hell may’ve broken loose. I cringe to think.

ESPN, self-anointed “leader” in sport coverage, set a match to a highly-flammable situation. Normally neutral anchors freely weighed-in on the MNF controversy, making it clear to viewers that the field call (“simultaneous catch / Seattle TD) was pure buffoonery, while ex-jock analysts did their part to fan the flames of discontent. Post-game comments by Steve Young (“It’s an emergent situation and I pray that an emergent doesn‘t result”) and Trent Dilfer (“You get so frustrated with incompetence that it turns to anger“) are noteworthy in their poor judgment and apparent invite to fan-rage.

Because it’s unlikely ESPN acts in such manner solely on behalf of regulars refs, the best explanation might be the favored status of the Green Bay Packers’ organization. The same inexplicable hostility emerged shortly after Brett Favre’s jet hit the Twin Cities tarmac in 2009. The message here: When Packers’ fans get angry, ESPN listens.

And if ESPN’s bigwigs think “Sport Science” guy John Brenkus is a persuasive voice in photo-finish analysis, they’ll never graduate to the next grade. John’s head-spinning, sales-pitch is like that fast talking carnival barker. Before you can spot the con-job, he’s got you by the arm and going for your wallet. You could lose the smirk, too, JB.

But the regulars are back. And with the glowing comments I’ve read from players, coaches, fans and media, football America is pleased as punch. Maybe this signals a new beginning, a greater respect between players, coaches and the officials. Less on-field rage and fewer post-game crying-jags? Stranger things have happened. If this is a by-product, it’s another reason to thank the subs.

Steven Keys
Posted on: September 9, 2012 12:51 am
 

Saints Joy Won't Resonate

Congratulations go out to Saints’ linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Not for winning a vacation from his season-long Bountygate suspension he was handed by the NFL earlier this year, but rather, for his choice of celebratory shout-out.

“Victory is mine!!!! -Stewie Griffin,” texted Mr. Vilma after he received the joyous news. Classy move, Jon. Had you quoted Bart Simpson instead I would’ve been seriously disappointed in you, dude.

As for the liberation of Vilma and his co-appellants: Because I have no good basis for doubting or supporting the soundness of the appellate panel’s legal ruling on Friday (9-7), meaning, I don’t have all the facts, I’ll leave the deep analysis to the talking heads.

It was a different story last spring in the case against Ryan Braun. When Braun’s PED suspension was vacated by MLB’s 3-person arbitration panel (2-1), the facts were fewer, more clear and I felt at ease in criticizing what still seems an erroneous decision.

But Bountygate’s a different kettle of fish.

There are questions of power (Goodell vs. arbitrator), standards (CBA articles 14 & 46), pay parameters (bounty-$ vs. NFL contracts & salary caps) and what constitutes an ‘intent to injure’ beyond game rules, that all require homework this writer didn‘t hand in.

Even so, I side with the NFL and Goodell in this Bountygate travesty. Why? Because I trust them. When the NFL Suits negotiate those billion dollar deals with networks & merchandisers, I know they‘re all greedmeisters to the core and wouldn’t trust ‘em as far as I could throw ‘em. Like I wrote, Bountygate’s different.

There are half a dozen reasons why Saints’ personnel might avoid the truth and claim innocence in the face of bounty evidence. But I can’t think of one good reason why the NFL would have anything but the good of the game in mind as cause for their Bountygate investigation. The Saints and Katrina-ravaged New Orleans had become a source of inspiration for all Americans. When the NFL got wind of something terribly wrong in the Saints’ playbook, they had to take action, as over-reaching as it may have proved.

'The road to hell is paved with (the NFL’s) good intentions?' Hardly the case here. More like, ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’

And I have a feeling I’m not alone in my sentiments. Apart from Saintsland and the captured media who are talking compromise today, most fans voicing a view have been in agreement with the League’s strong action prior to the recent vacation of bounty bans. The evidence aired was plenty persuasive while much of the defense played in public has consisted of only indignant denials. So what’s new?

There’s one image connected to Bountygate that will resonate long and which no panel can overturn in the minds of football fans across the nation. That’s the sight of ironman Brett Favre crumpling like a crushed Dixie cup after that wicked, over-under tackle by Saints’ defenders in the 2009 NFC title game. Whether those particular players were acting on bounty is not important, as that play has come to symbolize the nasty scheme, one that culpable players could’ve rejected. And acting on (coaches) orders often proves a poor defense in such a circumstance as this.

What is important is that a precedent, of sorts, has been set. Besides the lesson given both the NFL and NFLPA in the art of CBA interpretation, the message that bounties are wrong and will not be permitted is still crystal clear.

How the New Orleans Saints would respond to effects of Bountygate was a big question entering NFL 2012. Before the appellate panel’s decision, many believed the suspensions would be a source of motivation, something New Orleans might rally around. Non-player suspensions still remain in place but things have changed a bit. Now the bigger question is, how will the rest of the League respond to the Saints new claim of vindication?

Steven Keys
Posted on: April 26, 2012 2:22 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2012 3:15 pm
 

Goodell Looking Presidential

It’s a job that should come with a warning: “Careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

The hours are long, there’s nearly no off-season, travel-time is taxing, fan-mail is sparse and the endless speeches, interviews & negotiations vacillate between dreary routine and stress-city.

But there is an upside.

The pay is sweet, prestige is high, there’s job security (if you keep owners happy), great seats anytime you want ’em and someone’s always around to carry your bags (pre-10PM).

The post is NFL Commissioner.

And nobody in the history of professional American football has been more skilled, more effective at doing the Commissioner thing than its current title-holder, Roger Goodell.

Pete Rozelle was a giant (1960-89). In facilitating the NFL / AFL merger (‘67), conceiving the Super Bowl and brokering the first big network, merchandising & labor contracts, Pete will always remain the League’s most significant Commissioner in its long history.

While Goodell faces many of the same challenges of his predecessors, he’s also faced with a slew of issues Rozelle couldn’t have even fathomed 30 years ago.

Bounties have been around for years, so the players claim. Believable enough. But the organizational guidance New Orleans gave its elaborate and sinister program had never before been uncovered nor contemplated by League admonishers.

Whenever money’s riding on the outcome or score of a sporting contest the risk of game-fixing exists. Though wagering on competitions goes back centuries, the explosion of fantasy prognosticating on individual player performance has created a whole new beast.

Alcohol has always been an issue in the pros, but it was in Rozelle’s day that illicit drug use burst onto the scene. Marijuana, speed & cocaine were the preferred poisons, ruining more than a few careers. Today it’s PEDs that taint the field. It’s the one test RG’s failed by letting DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA call the dance tune and avoid blood-testing.

There’s one vexing issue Roger’s been spared that gave his predecessors fits: competition. No more troublesome, rival football fraternities fighting to feed at the money trough (AAFC / AFL / WFL / USFL). The Courts & Congress have played ball in validating the NFL monopoly and the good times just keep rollin’ along!

Every issue that crosses Goodell’s desk seems to get the full treatment: public & press are kept informed, player input is sought and when a League decision is reached, it’s clear, appears decisive and is announced in a timely, prudent fashion.

Roger’s got a skill-set, a style you’d hope to find in every corporate Suit and elected official, from school board member to President of the United States. He’s an intrepid decision-maker reminiscent of Presidents past, Teddy, FDR and Harry Truman.

Our current leader gets high marks for decisiveness on matters of national security (bin Laden) and foreign policy (Libya). That should get Mr. Obama a 2nd term, despite a tendency towards wind-gauging on the home-front.  But his challenger Mr. Romney has proven an even bigger tweaker than he, excepting on high-end tax cuts, of course.

It’s no secret Presidents today work chiefly for America’s elite, regardless of party. Not much choice, given the Court’s broad interpretation of speech (donations) and the big war-chest required for a White House win ($1B+). Even so, the savvy leader knows when to throw voters (fans) a bone, something to chew on to make us feel we’re being heard.

Whether it was last year’s CBA, the on-going Saints saga or his recent Papal-like mission to Minnesota to bring the flock back into the fold with words of hope AND warning, Roger takes bold action and throws fans something to chew on. And in the end, after the griping is done and all the dust has settled, most parties are satisfied.

In contrast, his peers (Stern / Bettman / Selig) will often take half-measures, playing it safe by trying to please / appease all factions, accomplish little and please no one.

if Metta (Artest) had behaved as badly in the NFL as he did recently on the NBA court, League response would’ve been swifter & stronger (given the video) than Mr. Stern’s measured, 3-day think-a-thon before issuing the modest 7-game suspension.

Roger wouldn’t get my hypothetical vote for President just yet.

First rule of business: NFL’s gotta’ stop tinkering with the Rule book. Though it’s well-intentioned, too frequent changes (Nike college) weaken fan trust, creates confusion and threatens traditional, foundational aspects of the game that even younger fans appreciate.

Second, institute pricing relief. The NFL & affiliates have been on the gravy-train for decades. It’s time to give something back to fandom by rolling-back stadium prices and cutting-back excessive, momentum-killing TV commercials and late-hour games.

Thirdly, do some LBJ arm-twisting, get on your bully-pulpit and persuade players to finally submit to HGH blood tests. It’s about integrity, safety and sending a message to America’s youth. Besides, player refusal is weak and without merit.

Accomplish these, Roger, and voters just might draft you for the White House in 2016.

Steven Keys
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com