Roger Goodell opens his state-of-the-league press conference at the Super Bowl every year by reciting what a great season it’s been for the NFL.
I’ve known Goodell for 35 years, so feel I can give him some advice:
Lose the script.
The NFL is halfway through one of its dreariest and dissension-filled seasons of all time.
Roger Goodell can spin it anyway he likes, but this NFL season has been a dreary mess.
(David J. Phillip/AP)
Goodell shouldn’t attempt to spin that 2017 has been a great year or play around with the numbers to show ratings are up and the fans are more engaged in fantasy football and social media and what a great host Minnesota is and what an incredible stadium for the Super Bowl – helped by the public kicking in $ 500 million, half of the cost, by the way — and the games are closer than ever or strides are being made to make the game safer and the money keeps pouring.
By any measure, the NFL stinks this year and has more problems than ever, including a revolt from the most powerful owner against the commissioner.
Maybe it runs in cycles and this is just the NFL’s turn to head for cover after being built up as the model league for so long. No matter how many sponsors drop out over the anthem controversy, it will still just seem like tossing deck chairs off the Queen Mary, which is how Bill Parcells used to characterize it when he lost a few pounds. In other words, if Papa John’s wants concentrate selling pizza to NBA fans instead, the NFL is a $ 14 billion enterprise that can handle losing a few slices out of the pie.
So, what’s been so dreary in 2017?
Players kneel during the national anthem
The Anthem: Fewer than 10 players kneeled for the National Anthem in the second week. Then, Donald Trump called any player who doesn’t stand “sons of bitches,” and all hell broke loose with more than 200 players kneeling in week three.
It has become the most divisive issue in NFL history. The owners backed the players’ right to kneel but want them to stand. They are facing backlash from major sponsors, including the pizza guy. Jerry Jones threatened any of the Cowboys who don’t stand that they won’t play. None of them were kneeling anyway and none of them challenged Jones.
The players’ intention is not to disrespect the flag or the military, but many see it that way and refuse to watch games anymore. The owners are stuck in the middle between supporting their players and protecting their business.
“People come to our stadiums to be entertained and have fun, not to be protested to,” Goodell said last week at a Bloomberg event.
Anthem protests have become the most divisive issue in NFL history.
Goodell vs. Jones: This makes the league look so dysfunctional.
At the spring meetings in Chicago, NFL owners voted 32-0 to give the six-owner compensation committee, chaired by Atlanta’s Arthur Blank and including the Giants’ John Mara, the authority to negotiate and complete a five-year contract extension with Goodell through March of 2024. Jones has been fighting the contract terms – he wants it more incentive based and perhaps he even wants a new commissioner – and has threatened to sue.
Jones said Friday his unhappiness is not in retaliation for Goodell suspending Zeke Elliott six games for domestic violence. He wants all the owners to review and approve any new deal. “The committee that basically negotiates salary with our commissioner is taking the view, especially the chairman, that they in a limited group can complete this agreement. I disagree,” Jones said on a Dallas radio show.
It may be too late: Jones was among the owners who approved the process. Even though he says it’s not about Elliott, it’s about Goodell and Article 46, the clause that allowed him to suspend Elliott. “We’ve given him a lot of power. I think we need checks and balances of ownership” to “not just suggest but approve of his decisions. So that’s what this is about.”
Quality of play: Name five memorable games from the first nine weeks.
Injuries: Seattle’s Richard Sherman is the latest superstar to suffer a season-ending injury, joining Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, Odell Beckham, Deshaun Watson, Eric Berry, Joe Thomas, among many others.
Television Ratings: Through nine weeks, ratings are down 5.5% from 2016. Last year, the ratings over the first nine weeks were down 14% from the first nine weeks in 2016. By the end of the ’16 season, the ratings had rebounded to being down 8%. The presidential election was a main reason for the drop the first half of last season. The anthem protests are being blamed this year.
One more reason: Three prime-time nights of games. Monday Night Football used to be special. Now SNF, MNF and TNF in addition to Sunday doubleheaders – all the games run together.
Roger, you now have the floor.
MVP: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
Offensive Player: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Defensive Player: DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys
Offensive Rookie: Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans
Defensive Rookie: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Saints
Coach: Sean McVay, Rams
Elliott will miss at least the Cowboys’ next four games: at Atlanta then home against the Eagles, Chargers and Washington before a Dec. 1 court date trying to get a preliminary injunction. If that fails, he will miss games at the Giants and Raiders and can return Dec. 24 at home against Seattle. The Cowboys finish the season in Philly on Dec. 31. Realistically, the Cowboys need to sweep the Eagles to win the NFC East. Alfred Morris will start for Elliott with Darren McFadden and Rod Smith the backups.. Josh McCown is the 2015 version of Ryan Fitzpatrick for the Jets. Combined they have played for 15 teams with the Jets and Bucs in common. They face each other Sunday. All former Jets who wind up with the Bucs have their reunion games against Gang Green in their first year away: Keyshawn Johnson (1 catch for one yard) in 2000 and Darrelle Revis (1 tackle, 2 passes defensed) in 2013. The Jets won both games…Can you imagine if Jimmy Garoppolo comes off the bench and leads the 49ers to a game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the Giants for the 49ers first victory of the season? Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese out to just stay out on the West Coast for a while… Last week the Giants lost to Rams coach Sean McVay, the grandson of their former coach John McVay. Rookie C.J. Beathard starts at QB for the Niners. He’s the grandson of former Washington GM Bobby Beathard… Here’s what I heard many times last week about the mess with McAdoo and the Giants: This never would have happened with Tom Coughlin. That is a blatant disregard for history. Remember, the Giants missed the playoffs in Coughlin’s last four years and he set the agenda for enabling Beckham by not sitting him for one play when he decided to fight Josh Norman for 60 minutes… Josh Johnson was the third team QB on the 49ers in 2014 behind Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. The Texans’ season was over as soon as Watson went down, but signing Johnson over Kaepernick last week was not based on ability. Even Warden McNair would have to agree. Did you watch Johnson play in the preseason a few months ago for the Giants? Houston is his eighth team in 10 years. He has not thrown a regular season pass since 2013 when he was with the Bengals, his third team. He has not been on the same team in consecutive seasons since his first four years with the Bucs.
Seahawks star Richard Sherman is latest to go down with season-ending injury.
(Ross D. Franklin/AP)
The NFL’s greed is staggering.
It says one thing – it’s trying to make the game safer – and does another – once a year it makes every team play on Thursday night.
Richard Sherman’s torn Achilles makes the point once again: Thursday night football has got to go. But with the money CBS and NBC are paying to the NFL to get midweek inventory for half a season each brings in $ 450 million a year, which is $ 14 million per team.
Let’s face it: Despite the safety concerns and injury risk playing two games with only three days in between, the quality of play, oversaturation, the disadvantage to the road team, bad matchups, etc., these games are not going away.
Two years ago, Sherman said after playing Sunday, his body is only 50%-60% recovered by Thursday. His Achilles has been bothering him all season, but he is a warrior, as well as being the best corner in the NFL, and he wouldn’t sit down. It’s only logical that playing Thursday night in Arizona expedited the Achilles to tear. “I’ve put a lot of stress on it,” he said. “Think it would have gone eventually.”
Ten Seahawks needed to be taken by cart to the team bus after the game in Arizona on Thursday night because it was just too tough to walk. For the longest time, only four teams played a Thursday game: The Cowboys and Lions and the teams they hosted on Thanksgiving. Then a Thanksgiving night game and four other Thursday night games were added in 2006. By 2008, it was half a season of games and by 2012, it was pretty much a full season.
The Seahawks are the most outspoken and honest group of players in the NFL. Sherman once called the Thursday night games a “poopfest.”
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin, one of the leaders in the social programs the players are working to start up with the NFL, provided the most telling quote about Thursday night football after Sherman was hurt.
“This s— should be illegal,” he said. “It is not okay. It’s not okay. You can quote me on that. Absolutely, guys do not have enough time to recover. You can’t recover in four days.”
Sherman said last year the NFL was hypocritical. “They make this huge stance about player safety and then they put the players in tremendous danger,” he said.
He even wrote a column for the Players Tribune. The headline was, “Why I Hate Thursday Night Football.”
Maybe the NFL can add Tuesday night games to make up for any loss of pizza money.