Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This Is Supposed to Be My Off-Season

Writing an NFL blog is a time-consuming task.  Particularly in a year when your team wins the big dance.  Like the Packers themselves, I was spent at the end of this season.  My creative juices were squeezed.  I was ready for a little R&R.  Maybe watch some March Madness.  Get ready for the NFL Draft.

But NOOOOO...  Instead, I have to listen to hours of endless bickering between millionaire players and billionaire owners about financial disclosures, union decertification and collective bargaining agreements.  It's enough to make your head explode.  Last week, the proverbial shit hit the fan as both parties walked away from the negotiating table.

Although I've speculated that a lock-out may, theoretically, help the Packers, I'm already growing impatient for this blood feud to get resolved.  For those of you with the good sense to tune out the madness, here's a recap of where things stand:

  • The NFL owners decided they wanted a bigger piece of the $9 BILLION that the NFL makes, so they opted out of the existing "CBA" or collective bargaining agreement.
  • Presently, the owners skim $1 billion off the top before the revenue is split with the players.  The NFL owners want to double that to $2 billion under the argument that they are losing their shirts paying for all the expenses of running an NFL franchise, like hot dog vendors and towel boys.
  • The NFL Players Association has asked, for two years, for the owners to provide some evidence that their expenses have, in fact, doubled.  But the owners are un-willing to share their financial information.
  • At the deadline (which was extended one week) for negotiation, the NFL owners brilliantly forced the NFLPA to decertify their union.  This action enables players to sue, but it also allowed the owners to claim the high ground -- asserting that it was the players who walked away, when, in fact, it was the owners who triggered this whole thing.
Now, we're in what one might describe as a "f*cking mess!"  Words like "sham" and "liar" are being thrown around by parties on both sides.  It's feeling increasingly likely that this will end up in court, which would be like watching a slow-motion car wreck -- too horrifying to watch, but too intriguing to turn away.

Here's my bottom line on the whole thing: you guys are arguing over about 10% of the pie!!!  Just come to a frickin' resolution.  Please, look to Major League Baseball or the NHL, or your own disastrous player strike in 1987, to understand how quickly you can destroy value in your game.  As you bitch about this billion dollars, this 10% of the pie, ask yourselves how quickly you can destroy that much equity in the league.  It's not worth it!

You are pulled up to a ridiculously bountiful trough at a glorious, never-ending buffet and you're whining about who gets to put his napkin in his lap first.  For God's sake, shut up and slurp down on the river of money that we fans, through our tireless devotion, have created for you.  Don't turn the game we all love into... baseball.  You assholes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Could an NFL Lockout Actually Help the Packers?

The owners and players extended their deadline by 24 hours yesterday, though nobody seems to feel very optimistic a deal will be reached today – except perhaps another extension to get more negotiation time.  It is a pretty depressing scenario all around.  The prospect of a player lockout lasting into the regular season is, obviously, a worst-case scenario.  The very thought of losing part or all of a season in which the Packers hope to repeat as Super Bowl champions and many of our key players are at their prime is horrifying.  Obviously, the ideal scenario is this all gets sorted soon and we get on to the draft, free agency, and all the fun leading up to next season.

But I have found myself lately thinking that a lockout, assuming it is resolved before the start of the regular season, could actually be a good thing for the Packers.  Perverse logic?  Perhaps, but here’s my rationale:

First, most Super Bowl winning teams get their personnel raided faster than Rex Ryan cleans out a refrigerator.  Suddenly, talent and depth are lost as teams swoop in to sign away as many free agents as possible in search of that championship mojo.  However, given the uncertainty around the CBA, the usual free agency shuffle hasn’t happened so far this season.  The Packers top free agents are in limbo, and the longer that lasts the fewer will leave for other teams.

Second, though there’s no free agency, there will still be an NFL draft (though the players drafted won’t actually be able to sign contracts until a new CBA is in place).  A draft-only means of building your team suits Ted Thompson and the Packers perfectly.  They have demonstrated an incredible ability the last few seasons to pluck high-impact players at every round of the draft.  So the Packers seem to be in a good position, particularly compared to teams that rely more on free agency, to augment their roster this off-season.

Third, one of the big potential consequences of a lock-out will be team preparation.  Players will be prohibited from going in to the team facility, working with position coaches, practicing new schemes, etc.  For any team that has even minor rebuilding to do, this lack of preparation time is going to be a big problem.  If your team has a new head coach, new quarterback, or key new players coming into the 2011 season, you may have very little time to get them game-day ready.  The Packers, by contrast, have a great team, personnel, coaches, and overall system in-place already.  They just need to get some of their guys healthy (the one thing they can do in a lockout), and they should be ready come opening day kick-off.

Of course, all this assumes there even is an opening day kick-off.  As stated above, a lockout that runs into August, September or beyond would be almost as big a disaster as Brett Favre's decision to return last season.  But there could be a silver lining to this labor strife, even if today marks the start of a lockout.