August 26, 2014

Collusion is good for the NFL


I was happy when the NFL came down on the Redskins and Cowboys, because it seemed like they gained an unfair advantage in the uncapped 2010 NFL season. It is a complex scenario though, and some of the people angry about the NFL penalizing the two teams make some good points. Still, I couldn’t help but think the Redskins and Cowboys were trying to get away with something and create an unfair advantage.

First of all, is it collusion? Absolutely. Of course it is collusion, but let’s not pretend like it isn’t a delicate balance between running a league with rules that everyone has to follow and a league that is so unique in terms of standard businesses that it requires special anti-trust exemption. That being the case, you can’t really compare it to any other kind of business. And with that being the case, it sometimes looks a bit messy if you don’t put it in the vacuum it normally lives in.

Therefore, it makes little sense to try and apply wide-sweeping legal standards and platitudes about right, wrong and technicalities. The NFL, in the end, is its very own ecosystem and it relies heavily on self-governing so that scoring points unfairly on technicalities in order to get around the rules isn’t allowed. Were the contracts that the Redskins used in 2010 legal, technically? Sure, but those legalities were determined based on an ecosystem that had salary caps.

This cap system punished teams fairly for signing players to bad contracts for the express purpose of making it so everyone competes on a somewhat level playing field. It is the anti-Yankee provision that people all over the country love about the NFL. The best thing about the NFL over the years has been competitive balance. The reason that the NFL is so popular is that J.D. Drew can’t sit on your bench making $14 million so he can have his only big hit in the playoffs.

The NFL still ends up with dynasties, but there ends up being a respect for GMs and coaches who achieve success because they’re viewed as doing their jobs better. Nobody looks at Yankees GM Brian Cashman with the same respect they look at Ozzie Newsome as far as I know. There’s a good reason for that. I hope someday people think of Tom Heckert the exact same way.

And with that, I can’t understand why so many NFL pundits want to obsess over this issue like attorneys and judges looking for technicalities to excuse anti-competitive behavior. This isn’t an actual legal issue involving laws or the U.S. Constitution. This is about preserving the entertainment value of a product that plays out on TVs and in stadiums around the country. They should be looking for ways to justify the penalties or say nothing at all.

Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones were trying to buy their way out of trouble so that they could set themselves up to be in a better position than other teams. What was good for them was decidedly worse for all the other teams with fans around the country. The NFL was right to step in and protect the many by regulating the few. As much as I hate the Ravens and Steelers I respect them for the way they operate. I’d prefer that to having a Brian Cashman type GM emerge in the NFL anytime soon. If collusion stops that and keeps the NFL on a level above the things I despise most about Major League Baseball, then there is no other conclusion than that collusion is a good thing.

  • bridgecrosser

    I have an employee handbook.  But if my boss sends a memo to every employee saying Do Not Do Activity X, we can all still get in trouble if it’s not in the handbook.  This is exactly what happened w/ the salary cap manipulation.  I think most level-headed people realize this.  It’s not like most of the 32 NFL teams couldn’t have realized and executed this very strategy.  It was discussed in web forums plenty last summer.  These two teams made a terrible choice and will pay the price.  

  • TC

    Meanwhile a team caught cheating gets a slap on the wrist.
    A number of teams acted the same way but got no punishment but yet you say it is fair!

  • bridgecrosser

    Not being smart here, but what examples are you referring to where no punishment was meted?

  • Bob

    How about Tampa, that manipulated the salary cap, not by being “anti-competitive” but by being deliberately non-competitive to save space for this year?

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    That’s not “manipulation.” Manipulation is taking a $141 million dollar payroll and increasing it to $170 million in one year to clear out all your bad contracts.

    What the Buccaneers did is a lack of manipulation, if anything.

  • TC

    GB and TB are a few….Adam Scheftler went thru a whole list of teams doing similar actions that the Skins and Boys did. 

  • TC
  • Mike

    I don’t think you really understand what happened. The owners were committing a crime, these two teams (actually more) refused to join in the collusion. The NFL couldn’t penalize them at the time and approved all the moves they made with review. The NFL then waited until they had leverage on the NFLPA and took revenge.

    It’s nothing like your boss and an employee handbook. It’s more like you go into business with 5 friends and your 5 friends commit a crime that you refuse to take part in. They then sit back and wait for the right moment to take their revenge on you because you followed the rules.

    People might not like the idea of what the Redskins and Cowboys did, but they are the ones that followed the rules set out in the CBA, the teams colluded with one another and conspired to drive down player salaries were actually the ones committing a crime that is a federal offense.

  • bridgecrosser

    I won’t pretend to know all the legalese of labor rights in a closed market.  I guess I’d need to know the commissioner’s rights to execute a policy in special circumstance. Sadly this sounds like the lawyers will get rich on this act.  

    I don’t agree that the NFL sprung this on the two teams however  (per the site back and wait for the right moment comment), sounds like the teams knew this was in the pipeline, and I think the timing was due to the start of the NFL calendar so the teams knew definitely their cap situations.

    *I will state I’m definitely not pro Goodel, or anti-any team.  A lot of discourse on this I’ve read is apples to orange comparison of why these 2 teams got hit.  I’ve got no dog in this fight.

  • bridgecrosser

    I won’t pretend to know all the legalese of labor rights in a closed market.  I guess I’d need to know the commissioner’s rights to execute a policy in special circumstance. Sadly this sounds like the lawyers will get rich on this act.  

    I don’t agree that the NFL sprung this on the two teams however  (per the site back and wait for the right moment comment), sounds like the teams knew this was in the pipeline, and I think the timing was due to the start of the NFL calendar so the teams knew definitely their cap situations.

    *I will state I’m definitely not pro Goodel, or anti-any team.  A lot of discourse on this I’ve read is apples to orange comparison of why these 2 teams got hit.  I’ve got no dog in this fight.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I wonder what Randy Lerner thinks about all of this, LOL!

  • Mark

    Why?

  • Kunal

     I bet Randy Lerner doesn’t even know that this happened

  • BenRM

    “some of the people angry about the NFL penalizing the two teams make some good points”

    Once you realize that those people read at a third grade level, their points become good. 

  • BenRM

    you have 0 clue what you’re talking about. 

  • Btothey

    The NFL committed collision and then tried penalizing the teams for not going along with rules that didn’t exsist, even though the NFL had to approve the contracts that they are now saying were front-loaded.