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Bigger Football Story: NFL Playoffs or Looming Lockout?

The NFL Divisional Round Playoffs take part this weekend with some great matchups. In the NFC it’s the Packers vs. Falcons with perhaps the best 6th seed in the history of the sport playing a 1 seed that rarely looses at home and the Seahawks vs. Bears matching the "worst team in NFL playoff history" (from a division winning record standpoint) against a 2 seed that hasn't been given much more credit this year than the 'worst team in NFL playoff history' it's playing.

In the AFC, somewhat predictably the 4 teams with the best AFC records have moved on. Some very familiar divisional foes square off this weekend as the Ravens vs. Steelers in what by all accounts will be an MMA match where a football game is expected to breakout and “round three” of the much anticipated Jets vs. Patriots matchup where the two teams split the season series with the Patriots walking all over the Jets 45-3 in their latest meeting in what was a much anticipated battle of 9-2 teams.

Lost in all the hoopla, excitement and anticipation of who will ultimately hoist the Lombardi Trophy this year is the big elephant in the room; will there be any NFL season next year at all? It’s not often that there are reports of missing elephants however, we have one here. This topic has received little coverage by the main stream media to date yet this something that NFL fans are going to be bludgeoned with getting hit squarely on the head they day after Super Bowl XLV is over.

Last week in an interview with David Feith of the Wall Street Journal, titled Will the Lights Go Out in the NFL?, Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the importance of negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before the current CBA expires on March 4.

Feith cited an October Wall Street Journal story stating that “losses could amount to $1 billion by August—even before a single regular-season game is cancelled. The report noted that March alone could see $400 million in lost season-ticket sales and concession contracts.”

Said Commissioner Goodell, “What’s the final moment? What we’re trying to convince the players of is that it’s March. Because [then] the damage starts to increase dramatically.”

“What is true of the NFL is that it has been well-managed over the years,” Commissioner Goodell continued. “And that has been beneficial to the fans, it’s been beneficial to the game itself, it’s been beneficial to the players, coaches and everyone involved.”

“There are lots of businesses that are well in excess of $9 billion that have gone into bankruptcy, that have been mismanaged,” Commissioner Goodell concluded. “And that has not served anyone very well.”

Despite the public’s apparent assumption that the two parties couldn’t possibly strike over agreeing on a way to split billions of dollars, the two parties involved are currently at a stalemate with regard to reaching an agreement with no side willing to give an inch. At this point, unless there is a major breakthrough, the prospects of having an NFL season next year as we have come to know it is d dubious proposition at best. Take a look at some of the public quotes the past two weeks since the calendar has turned to 2011 from some people directly involved with the process or “in the know”.

January 3, 2011 - Carl Banks(Former player & radio analyst for WFAN and Sirius XM and an NFL apparel licensee)

“I think it will be the dumbest thing to happen if the players and their union can’t find a way to work this out. There’s so much at stake. If it happens, football will recover, but I don’t know if the players will recover.

Businesses will be hurt, mine included. There is so much prosperity in the league now, there is a healthy compromise in there somewhere. It’s a league of haves and have-nots. The guys with the $20 million signing bonuses will be O.K. But the guys who have short careers — the average life span of a pro football player is 3.4 years — there are a lot of those guys who just can’t withstand a lockout.”

January 4, 2011 - Jerry Richardson(Former Baltimore Colts player (1959-60) & Current Carolina Panthers owner, co-chair of the NFL’s 10-member Management Council Executive Committee which is responsible for labor negotiations)

“There are 32 owners and 32 opinions and as you know I am the co-chair of the committee and I have been chair for a number of committees through the years. I would say that we are the most united we have been. In 2006, ‘07 and ‘08 we generated $3.6 billion in new revenue. The players have gotten $2.6 billion of the revenue and 32 teams have gotten $1 billion. And we have a negative cash flow of $200 million. Now, I don’t think many business schools would say that’s a model that’s going to sustain itself and we have tried to explain that as best we could to the representatives of the Players Association.

I am not as optimistic as some are that we’re making much progress. I get a lot of letters each day from union representatives from all over the world and somebody is spending a lot of time on things like that which I believe are counterproductive and we’re not spending enough time trying to come to some resolve.“No one has fought for labor peace more than I have.

The realities are that states, counties, cities and nationally, things are not well economically and I don’t know what to believe on unemployment. I don’t know if it’s 9.6, 9.8 or 10 percent, but it’s a bad number and we can’t sustain revenue production like we have had in the past and it’s just a reality. One of the first things that was said to me when I meet with union lawyers is, ‘Mr. Richardson, we want more money, more benefits and we want to work less.’ And then they say, ‘Let’s begin negotiations.’ And I’m not optimistic we’re making a lot of progress.”

January 5, 2011 - Roger Goodell(NFL Commissioner)

“I’m not satisfied with the current pace. There has not been enough progress in collective bargaining over the last three or four weeks that there should be. There hasn’t been a sense of urgency from the union side. We would like to see those negotiations continue very aggressively because we have a very short period of time to get this done. We believe this deal should be done by the March period. If it’s not done by March, it is going to be harder to reach an agreement and it is going to be less attractive for the players, the clubs and the fans. This is something that needs to get done quickly. It needs urgency and it needs a very strong commitment to making progress and not just meeting but making progress.”

January 5, 2011 - Antonio Pierce(Former Player and current ESPN NFL analyst)
* This one is pretty funny btw as Antonio clearly took too many blows to the head…..

“What if the players stood up right now and walked out during the playoffs? The Owners have all the leverage right now. Players/NFLPA need to make a Strong stance soon. All players make the same amount in the playoff per round. Would TV/OWNERS panic if players made a stand right now during the playoffs?”

Here’s to hoping that you all enjoy the last few weeks of this year’s NFL season, it might be quite longer than you expected before you see more NFL games. - Mike Cardano

Mike is the founder of Around the Horn Baseball and Xtra Point Football.

You may email Mike at or follow him on Twitter at MC3 SportsMedia

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