March 02, 2010

NFL update: Thoughts on Golden Tate, the new overtime rule, the NFL labor situation, and why Urban Meyer should be nervous about the Tim Tebow saga.

4) I've never been one to get too worked up about labor issues in professional sports, but I will admit that I'm nervously paying attention to this upcoming NFL stuff. As a small market NFL fan, i don't like the idea of the NFL adopting a Major League Baseball model with a handful of teams in DC, Dallas, New York, and Boston as the major players and a bunch of hopeless pretenders in line behind them. I'm really hoping something can be hashed out that preserves the status quo.

As for the possibility of a lockout/strike, I do find it strange that NFL teams are allegedly having such a difficult time making money when the NFL has had record tv ratings and record interest in the league this year. I've read on multiple occasions that Bengals owner Mike Brown pockets anywhere from $25-50 million a year with his taxpayer-paid stadium and luxury boxes. Not only that, but the value of NFL franchises have shot through the roof in the last decade.

And yet owners are claiming that the league is in huge financial trouble?? It just smells of crying wolf a little bit. It's not like NFL players are getting these bloated, franchise-killing contracts like you see in the NBA. NFL players are already making less than NBA and MLB players as it is, and they don't have guaranteed contracts. And now you're asking them to take a 25% pay cut even though the Super Bowl just set an American television record?? Cmon.

Anyway, this labor thing is coming to a boil, and I see two big issues that concern me a little bit as an NFL fan.

1) Big market owners -- It's no secret that Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones would love nothing more than to become the George Steinbrenners of the NFL. Those two are revenue goliaths, and they have been hinting for awhile they'd like the big market teams to get a bigger piece of the revenue pie and don't want a salary cap getting in the way. Sort of like what the big market baseball owners did in the 90s (which basically killed major league baseball for the other 90% of the teams).

Color me concerned. If the NFL goes away from its parity model, I think it would be a disaster. The reason people love the NFL is that it's far and away the most equitable league. It's the only league where teams like Green Bay and Pittsburgh and Indianapolis can be championship-caliber franchises. This year, we had Indy and New Orleans in the Super Bowl, and no one even batted an eye. I don't think I read one story all week that two small market teams were in the Super Bowl. And ratings were as high as ever. Hopefully the NFL noticed that.

If you adopted a baseball style model, you risk creating a class structure that would permanently damage the small market teams. I can't even begin to explain how depressing it is to root for a baseball team that has no chance to win because of economics, and it hurts my interest in the game. Why should I care if Big Market Team A (Yankees) or Big Market Team B (Red Sox) happens to win the title this year with their $200 million payrolls?

If the NFL is dumb enough to follow that same model, I'll probably take the same attitude. If the Redskins and Cowboys have triple the payroll of everyone else and meet every year in the NFC title game, my interest in the league will fade.

The good news is that outspending everyone might not matter as much in football as it does in baseball. Signing a bunch of mid-career free agents who have grown up in some other NFL system is not a formula to win. It's not like the NBA or MLB where you can sign a guy and plug him in. In football, it's hard to do that. You are far better off drafting and developing your own players.

2) Rookie salary cap -- Ordinarily, I would support a rookie cap on salaries. The NFL Draft has been hurt by the fact that every team in the top 5 wants to trade down because they don't want to hand out huge contracts to guys who haven't played a down in the NFL. It's almost like a punishment when you get a top 5 pick. And no one wants to trade up into those spots because they don't want to pay those guys either. It sort of has killed the excitement of draft day trades.

So ideally, a slotting system would be in place where everyone gets a 3-4 year deal that is pre-negotiated like you see in the NBA. Then, the guys who prove themselves can cash in after that rookie deal with a big second contract.

Only one concern, and this goes back to the big market teams. Let's say Gerald McCoy signs a 3-4 year rookie deal with the Lions. That sort of stinks for the Lions because they'd only have control over him for the first few years of his career instead of 6-7 years like they have under the current structure of the CBA. Under the current CBA, the Lions can keep McCoy until he's almost 30, and by then, they're probably fine with him moving on If you put in 3 year rookie contracts, he'd like 25-26 years old and just entering his prime. So suddenly, he's running off to the Cowboys, and they're going to get him for his best years.

For the players, this would be a great deal. The good players would get huge deals for their prime years, and the busts would fade away. For teams, it's not a horrible deal since you don't have to shell out all that upfront money for draft talent, but you run the risk that you'll lose the good players that you draft after only three years.

Definitely going to be interesting to see how those two dynamics play out. The league has thrived under this current model of parity and revenue sharing and equity. I can understand why the bigger market teams want a bigger piece of the pie, but I think it would be a major mistake for the NFL to cave and go to a baseball model. Stay strong, Goodell!! No one wants a league where only 2-3 teams have a chance to compete every year.

3) Love the possible new NFL overtime rule. I’m not necessarily one of those guys who gets bent out of shape about the current overtime setup, but I’m tired of hearing about it. I think Mike & Mike are contractually obligated to talk about the NFL overtime rules at least twice a week during the season.

This new proposal is really good though and would make the league better. If you score a touchdown after winning the toss, you win. If you kick a field goal, your opponent gets another crack. I think that’s perfect. And teams will have a little risk/reward strategy on those 4th and 1s around the 30-40 yard line. Do you go for it and try to get six to end the game, or do you play it safe and get the points on the board and force them to match you?? Would anyone defer on the kickoff knowing that they’d get the ball back as long as the other team didn’t get a touchdown on the first drive?? It could happen, especially if you have a great D.

I didn’t like some of the other ovetime proposals either. I didn’t want the NFL to adopt a college-style “put the ball on the 50” overtime since it is sort of gimmicky and creates too many 4th overtime type games. I also didn’t like the “play a full 5th quarter” idea. It’s almost a punishment to make teams play a full 5th quarter when they’ve already been slugging it out for three hours. Plus, that is really hard on the fans who have been down there all day watching football on a Sunday. If you're some Green Bay fan who drove up from Milwaukee and know you have a 2 hour drive home, do you really want to sit there for an entire 5th quarter in the freezing cold just because the game went into OT?? Some variation of sudden death is still preferable for me.

2) This “Tebow changing his throwing motion” thing is fascinating to me, and even more so from an Urban Meyer perspective. How does this whole thing affect Urban?? Did Urban Meyer not know how to fix the problem?? Did he not care?? Urban’s explanation was that they tried to work with Tebow, but that he reverted back to his old ways whenever they got into game conditions. I guess that’s a reasonable explanation, but I find it hard to believe that an incredible athlete with a work ethic like Tebow couldn’t have fixed this problem in college. If it was so impossible for Tebow to embrace change in college, why does he appear to be embracing the idea now??

My guess is that Urban was never that enthusiastic about it because he didn’t want to risk any transition period. I realize his job is to win college football games, but doesn’t Urban Meyer owe it to Tebow to do everything possible to get him ready to play in the NFL?? If you spend four years with a kid who gives it everything he’s got for you, the least you can do is give him the basic tools that he needs to succeed in the league.

I realize the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but would it really have hurt the team to change Tebow’s throwing motion?? If anything, it would make him better. More compact, able to get rid of the ball more quickly, more accurate down the field. Wouldn’t that open up things for your offense and make you more versatile??

How will this affect Florida's recruiting?? I mean, if you are an elite QB, wouldn’t you be leery of going to play for Urban Meyer now?? Wouldn’t you wonder if he had the desire/knowledge to prepare you for the NFL?? I realize that NFL preparation is not the only thing that matters for high school recruits (winning is a huge factor of course), but isn’t it something that would have to be considered?

As for Tebow, I am pulling for him. I hope he can fix his mechanics, sit on the bench for a couple years, and play his way into a starting role in the NFL. I don’t know if he can pull it off, but I hope it works out for him. And if he can’t get it done in the NFL, there’s always two other options:

1) Republican politics
2) The next Billy Graham

He could be a superstar in either role, especially the second one. Can’t you picture Reverend Tim Tebow speaking at some White House “African hunger crisis” conference in 2026??

1) Fantastic combine for Golden Tate. It seemed like the elephant in the room for him was that 40 time, and he hit it out of the park. I was a little worried that he was going to pull a Peter Warrick and run a 4.6 or something like that, but 4.42 is a very solid 40 time for him. Now that scouts know that he has legit NFL WR speed, it seems like people are starting to get really excited about him. I can understand why. He brings so many other things to the table (body control, low center of gravity, explosiveness, spectacular hands, tough as nails, versatile), and now teams can really start thinking about him in the late 1st/early 2nd knowing that he’s got the requisite NFL speed.

To me, Tate is going to be one of those Hines Ward/Steve Smith types who just always seem to be open making plays or breaking free. I prefer taller receivers, but I can live with a shorter guy with all these spread offenses nowadays. If you use a guy like that right, you can get him the ball in a lot of different ways (Wildcat, returns, screens, reverses, bubble screens, long balls, underneath stuff,etc).

I’d love to see the Bengals take him in the late first round. He could be our Desean Jackson or Harvin or Steve Smith type guy. I know Bengal fans are scarred by Peter Warrick when it comes to smaller receivers, but Warrick is a different player than Golden Tate. Warrick was more of a finesse player with not much explosiveness. I don’t think he broke a tackle in five years in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, Tate is like a running back playing receiver. You give him the ball in the open field, and he was almost impossible to tackle with one guy. If Marvin and his staff were willing to be creative with how they used him, he could be a great fit on this team.

P.S. I just looked up Peter Warrick to check his stats. This is crazy. Peter Warrick is currently playing for the Bloomington (Il.) Extreme in the Indoor Football League. I’m just going to assume that he did not manage his money well if he’s still hanging around doing that.

1 comment:

INCITEmarsh/Mike Marchand '01 said...

I wouldn't mind seeing the NFL overtime be a "fifth quarter," but only in the playoffs. Sudden death is a passable way to decide a game, but it's a terrible way to decide a season. I'm willing to accept a seven-minute-thirty-second "half-quarter" as a compromise.

But this method can't stand. It really isn't hard to drive down and get a field goal when a defense MUST cover all the way back to the end zone. The counter to the argument -- that the team that wins the coinflip wins roughly half the time -- is irrelevant, because many many many of those times the team that wins gets a drive to a field goal far, far easier than they would under game conditions.

Re: Tebow -- there's a team who's just lost their H-back/Wildcat QB, whose starting quarterback is getting older (and not particularly popular), and drafts late in Round 1. That team is the Philadelphia Eagles. If I'm them, I'm taking a flyer on Tebow at #24.