NFL Analysis: Breaking Down Roger Goodell's New Op-Ed

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You can read Goodell's piece in full here.  Not shockingly, that's the website of the ownership group.

Quick word count:  "players":  13 times.  "fans":  11 times.  "owners":  once! (and in a quote from Kevin Mawae at that).  "Teams" is the code word for owners, and it is used 7 times.  You can't trust a group that won't even name their actual role, but instead hide in synecdoche.

Let's start here--Goodell writes, "The status quo means no rookie wage scale and the continuation of outrageous sums paid to many unproven rookies. In 2009, for example, NFL clubs contracted $1.2 billion to 256 drafted rookies with $585 million guaranteed before they had stepped on an NFL field. Instead, we will shift significant parts of that money to proven veterans and retired players."

Let's leave aside for now the whole issue as to whether drafts aren't inherently unfair to the young men forced to participate in them, and just focus on these numbers a bit.

They are, I'm sure, accurate, but disingenuous.  The problem with talking about the draft this way is it makes it sound as though the entire system is broken.  Let's look at that 2009 Draft money.  Of that $1.2 billion, $479 million of it went to the first ten players drafted.  Of the $585 guaranteed, $267 million went to those first ten players--that's 40% and 46% of all that money, respectively.  It isn't the entire system that's broken, theoretically, from the owner's standpoint.  It's not even the entire first round--ask the Packers how they feel about their 5 year, $13.2 million for Clay Matthews (selected at #26).  I bet they are pretty ecstatic about that investment, seeing as it led directly to a Super Bowl.  Hell, they are probably feeling pretty good about BJ Raji's deal, even though since he was selected at #9, he's getting paid about twice as much.  The problem isn't the draft--it's the amounts being handed out at the very top.  And I imagine there's a lot of room to negotiate there with the players.  They know the salaries are a zero-sum game, and that veterans get hurt when rookies get paid that much.  But it's a much smaller problem than Goodell makes it sound.  Cap rookie signing bonuses at even $25 million, and you would save a ton of money within the system.

Goodell:  "The status quo means 16 regular-season and four preseason games — even though fans have rejected and dismissed four preseason games at every opportunity. We need to deliver more value to our fans by giving them more of what they want at responsible prices. This can be achieved if we work together and focus on more ways to make the game safer and reduce unnecessary contact during the season and in the off-season."

Fans don't have to be the final arbiter of how the league is run, and just because fans aren't willing to pay full ticket price to see preseason games doesn't mean that they will chomp at the bit to see, for example, last year's Vikings and last year's Drunken Savages play one more game in Week 18 to see who gets to 7-10 and who falls to 6-11.  As it is, the league has a pretty good balance, schedule wise.  If you want to pare a couple of preseason games off the schedule, go right ahead--but if you aren't willing to do that without adding games to the regular season, we can stop pretending that this is a move for anyone but the owners (the noun that must not be used!).  This is about trying to stuff as many human money sacks into seats as possible, end of story.

Fans reject preseason games for all the reasons that coaches love them--they use those games to figure out the bottom of their rosters--who is a good special teams gunner who could be a 2nd kick returner, or a 5th receiver?  Who is our third best quarterback?  What combination of all these athletes gives us the best chance to win?  I'm guessing coaches need those games, and are probably quietly fuming about the idea that their real game simulations that are the preseason are being threatened.

Goodell:  "The status quo means failing to recognize the many costs of financing, building, maintaining and operating stadiums. We need new stadiums in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego; and the ability for more league investment in new technology to improve service to fans in stadiums and at home."

On a personal note, Roger--screw you.  The people of the Twin Cities know how much it costs to operate stadiums, and arenas, and ballparks.  We can't go a year without some billionaire, hat in hand, begging for more money.  We've got the Vikings offering to pay for one third of their new stadium.  And yet, I haven't heard much in the way of a trade-off, like offering the city 2/3rds of all concessions, or parking or whatever.  And never mind that the state is in massive debt.  Let's create a tax, raise a bunch of money, and instead of using it to fix our crumbling infrastructure, or keep schools open, or any of the things that actually improve a community--let's give it a billionaire who inherited all his money from Daddy (no offense, Zygi!).  Quick note--the Vikings were valued at over $835 million in 2009.  When the Wilfs bought the franchise in 2005, they paid $600 million.  The man they bought The Vikings from--Simpson's Cowboy Businessman come to life Red McCombs--bought the Vikings in 1998 for $250 million.  That's a company whose value has more than tripled and gone up almost $600 million dollars in value in just over 10 years.  And they need our help to build a new dollhouse for their toys?  Maybe they can sell 5% of their stake to the city of Minneapolis to help offset the cost.  Or has that been made illegal under NFL rules?  Again--screw you, Roger.

One more quote, and one that has one simple response, that the owners have reacted to as if the players were asking for their first born.  First, here's Roger, "The status quo means players continuing to keep 60 percent of available revenue, in good years or bad, no matter how the national economy or the economics of the league have changed. From 2001 to 2009, player compensation doubled and the teams committed a total of $34 billion to player costs. The NFL is healthy in many respects, but we do not have a healthy business model that can sustain growth."

Prove your assertion, sir.  Show your work.  OPEN THE BOOKS.  Whatever simple phrase you choose, it comes down to the same thing.  We know how much the players make.  That's all public.  How about we make the process open and fair, and the owners show at least the NFLPA how much they've actually made.  "Open the books" is as simple as a request as an union can make, and yet so far, the NFL and Goodell have bristled, or have claimed that the Packers books are an adequate source of information.  They are not.  They don't even represent 4% of all franchises, and it is wholly unique in the NFL besides.

The 2011 season can be saved, but the first step belongs to the owners--enough of the obfuscation, enough of bemoaning your financial straits, but not showing the proof, enough of sham complaints to the NLRB, and certainly enough of walking out on discussions at the first disagreeable thing you hear.  Sit down, please realize that there is no way in hell you deserve getting $2 billion off the top without opening your books, and go from there.  Thanks, ya d-bags!