NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s credibility and authority took another hit today as Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension was overturned by a judge in court. Deflategate initially seemed like a bad joke, and spawned limitless actual bad jokes: Tom Brady deflated his balls and the NFL was going to pound him for it. The NFL spent a lot of money reinforcing its own narrative that Tom Brady and the Patriots, cheaters in the highest degree, repeat offenders, had to pay and pay heavily for putting another blemish on the sterling “SHIELD.”
So where did the NFL and Roger Goodell go wrong? This seemed like a layup for the league. They have the lawyers, they have the power, they have the collective bargaining agreement on their side, they even had public sentiment (outside of Boston) on their side. How did they screw this up?
What the NFL lacked, was evidence. What Roger Goodell seems to often lack are facts to back up his decisions. Why did Roger Goodell take so much heat over Ray Rice’s suspension? He didn’t have enough information; important information to make an informed, rational, and well-sourced decision. He didn’t have the video. When that video surfaced, it exposed the corner-cutting, one dimensional thinking of the league and its commissioner.
In Deflategate, the had plenty of incentive to make a decision, but what they didn’t have was evidence. At no point could they directly tie Tom Brady to a conspiracy to commit fraud against the game - and that’s if you even think deflating footballs at marginal levels “fraud against the game.”
Goodell and the league were arrogant and ignorant, which is a dangerous combination. They didn’t have enough information… they spent a lot of money on the Ted Wells report to dress up that lack of information as enough and then got called out on it. They thought they could plant fraudulent information in the press, mislead good reporters, and stick to the company line and their omnipotent power granted in the CBA and do whatever they wanted. They were wrong.
What Goodell did in one swift frontier justice style ruling against Tom Brady was abuse his power as the commissioner, undermine his own authority, expose the lopsided and unfair collective bargaining agreement AND make himself out to be a patsy for the owners - bad one at that.
In keeping with the initial ridiculousness and now ultimate seriousness of this controversy, I quote Tobey MaGuire’s Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Goodell undermined his own power by abusing it in the punishment. Had he not, and instead levied a 50 thousand dollar fine, we wouldn’t know what we know now and we wouldn’t have such depth of understanding of just how incompetent the NFL’s front office can be with its extraordinary power.
Ultimately, the NFL’s power over the players is going to remain an important issue, but not one that will derail the league’s ability to generate revenue and constant attention around its brand. The NFL still prints cash, still has the most addictive product in entertainment, still has the most popular show on four networks. It may not matter Roger Goodell always gets it wrong because he’s a one-dimensional thinker who doesn’t do his homework and is little more than living South Park caricature of himself. The NFL has seen unprecedented growth under his watch.
I just hope someone realizes sooner rather than later, that would be true of anyone in his position. If Roger Goodell, who has botched controversies over domestic abuse, integrity of the game, concussion lawsuits, player safety and owner-player relationships… nothing ever will.
Alex Smith is set up to have career numbers this season with the addition of Jeremy Maclin to the Chiefs offense. The best player comp for Smith since joining the Chiefs has always been Donovan McNabb. It follows Smith could be similarly impacted by the addition of a Maclin this season the way McNabb was impacted by Terrell Owens in 2004 - a year McNabb had the best statistical and accomplishment seasons of his career.
I drew a lot of criticism in 2013 for comparing Smith to McNabb before the season began. I contended that Smith would have numbers similar to McNabb in 2007 based on a number of factors including surrounding personnel, coaching staff similarity, history of injury and years of experience.
In 2007 Donovan McNabb threw for for 3324 yards, 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions at a 61.5% completion percentage. In 2013 Alex Smith threw for 3313 yards 23 touchdowns and 7 interceptions at a 60.6% completion percentage. Not to gloat, but I nailed that one. If you take into consideration screen-pass-a-palooza against Oakland wherein Jamaal Charles scored three times on screen passes from Alex Smith (who had 5 touchdown passes in the game), even the disparity in touchdowns between McNabb in 2007 and Smith in 2013 is explained. Once again… I was off by 11 in total passing yards, 4 in TDs, zero in interceptions, and .9% in completion percentage. I FREAKING NAILED IT!
… Just needed to get that off my chest. (I’m wrong about plenty, but given that I got so much grief for this comp, I felt the need to gloat a little.)
I say that to say this: Alex Smith is primed to have the best season of his career, and the comp for 2015 Smith is 2004 McNabb. In 2004, McNabb had a legitimate number one wide receiver for the first time in his career - Terrell Owens. Smith now has Jeremy Maclin, who a season ago was targeted 143 times had 85 receptions, 1318 yards and 10 touchdowns. Maclin hasn’t fumbled a ball in three years. He’s incredibly sure-handed, runs crisp routes and perhaps most importantly has a personality that meshes perfectly with Alex Smith. T.O. had 1200 yards and 14 touchdowns. Maclin can have similar production numbers in 2015.
The first concern about Maclin’s production is always, “what if he’s double-teamed? Who will take pressure off of him, there aren’t any other targets.” First, that isn’t true - Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles will demand plenty of attention from defenses - and second it didn’t matter for T.O. in 2004, why should it matter for Maclin in 2015? The Eagles second best wideout in 2004 was Todd Pinkston. TODD. PINKSTON. Having a number one wide receiver dynamically changed the Eagles offense and Andy Reid’s playcalling and Donovan McNabb’s effectiveness despite fundamental limitations.
McNabb threw for 3875 yards, 31 touchdowns and 8 interceptions at a 64.0% completion percentage in 2004. That’s significant for a couple of reasons. If Smith is to match that production it would not only be the best statistical season for him personally, it would be the highest touchdown total in CHIEFS HISTORY. Sidestepping how sad it is that the franchise record for touchdown passes (Len Dawson, 30) has stood since 1964, that would be an amazing feat for Alex Smith who is largely, and accurately, considered to be the most average quarterback in the league.
I cannot predict the Chiefs making the Super Bowl, as Philly did in 2004; but I do think they are a playoff team and should be considered the favorite to win the AFC West. The fact Smith is more well equipped to succeed this season than any he has played prior to this coupled with what is set up to be an elite defense even without Dontari Poe means high expectations for the Chiefs are justified.
There have been plenty of times you may have been rooting for me to be wrong, and I often say I would be happy to be proven such. This year, I’m hoping I’m right for the right reasons. If I am, the Chiefs will be one of the best teams in the NFL in 2015.
CHIEFS TRAINING CAMP NOTEBOOK: ROOKIE DAY 2
- St. Joseph, Missouri
- In team drills Marcus Peters and Stephen Nelson looked good at times. Nelson worked some at the Nickel and broke up a pass.
- Da’Ron Brown had some issues knowing where to line up today working in a role as H-back and slot receiver. Brown can catch, but working a lot as the motion man today, he seemed to struggle, especially when asked to get down into a 3-point stance.
- James O’Shaughnessy continued to look good and with the absence of Demetrius Harris could compete for the no.2 TE spot. The Chiefs have not brought in a veteran to fill that hole, so that is something to continue to watch.
- Offensive Lineman worked mostly in drill work. Andy Reid actually spent a lot of time today working with the offensive lineman watching technique and stance.
- Ramik Wilson, Demetrius Harris, Tyler Bray and Chris Conley all sat out practice.
- Chris Conley sat out practice after suffering a knee strain yesterday. He is currently day-to-day.
- Keyshawn Hill suffered a hamstring injury and will be evaluated further. Chase Daniel actually played some running back in his stead
CHIEFS TRAINING CAMP NOTEBOOK: ROOKIE DAY 1
- St. Joseph, Missouri
Berry is back with the team and will be evaluated on a practice by practice basis by the coaching staff and head athletic trainer, Rick Burkholder. News broke late last night that Berry had been clear to play, which by itself is remarkable. While Berry did not participate in team drills he took part in all other facets of practice with the rookies today. To test his strength the coaches had him do some lifting. He benched 275 pounds five times and squatted 300-plus pounds five times. Burkholder said, “He sailed through every test we gave him.”
Berry didn’t get a PICC line put in for his chemotherapy because we wanted to continue his workouts through treatment, which is clearly unorthodox. Burkholder added that he gained a pound during his cancer treatment. The context of the comments made it seem as though that was also rare in Berry’s case during treatment. A LOT more on Berry will come in a separate article on 810 WHB.
- A clarification on Dontari Poe’s back surgery. The disc in his back was only partially removed, not wholly removed. This would affect his recovery time. Yesterday Rick Burkholder had mentioned the disc had been removed, but did not specify whether it was partial or whole. Now we know.
- Cyrus Gray has been released for football reasons. This came as a surprise because Gray had been one of the more reliable special teamers and seemed relatively productive when given the rare opportunity to carry the football. The Chiefs drafted Gray in the 6th round in 2012.
- Chris Conley, who was drafted in the 3rd round out of Georgia in this year’s draft, sprained his knee near the end of practice.
- Da’Ron Brown (WR) and James O’Shaughnessy (TE) both Chiefs draft picks were able to snag some big receptions in practice today. Brown worked primarily out of the slot and showed some nice hands throughout the day.
- Demetrius Harris has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
- Linebacker Ramik Wilson, along with Tyler Bray and Demetrius Harris, did not practice at all today.
What if college athletics were exactly what everyone thought they were? The casual fan, the cynical fan, the passionate fan, the media types, the sports types, the academic types. What if we all looked at college athletics the exact same way? I have a plan, that could make this happen.
Last year the Pac 12 proposed a national initiative that would make freshman scholarship athletes ineligible for competition. It’s now gaining national traction again with a lot of conferences. It’s a myopic, passive-aggressive warning to student athletes to stop asking for things; things like money and honesty and fairness. It’s an attempt to control college athletics’ biggest social issue, pay for play, on the premise, “hey look, we really do care about academics!”
The “adults” in college athletics, the administrators, athletics directors and coaches hate being questioned, and they’ve been questioned by a lot of people over the last five years. This initiative reminded me of Walter Byers.
Walter Byers was the first commissioner of the NCAA. He’s the guy who came up with the phrase “student-athlete” to create legal cause to absolve NCAA member institutions of liability in workmen's compensation cases. He was notorious for finding ways to control the NCAA’s greatest lie to the public: Colleges deserve the money they make off of athletics, not the students. Byers was also the man who later wrote in his book Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes that the NCAA had established a "a nationwide money-laundering scheme." He also wrote, "collegiate amateurism is not a moral issue; it is an economic camouflage for monopoly practice, one which operates an air-tight racket of supplying cheap athletic labor.”
Byers would know, he’s the one who made the NCAA what it is today. Pay for play is a response to the reality of what college athletics is, not what it purports to be. The initiative to make freshman ineligible is a rouse. But what if it weren’t? What if we all decided to unanimously make college athletics a pure thing? Let’s take universities at their word. If we want to graduate more athletes and genuinely make college athletics an enriching experience, lets do it. Here’s my plan:
Guarantee full four-year scholarships to all athletes.
Completion of graduation is mandatory for eligibility in professional sports drafts in any sport unless exemption from this rule is granted. (see number 3)
Exemption from mandatory graduation can be applied for at any point in an athlete’s academic career. Exemption will be decided on by a committee divided into thirds equally between academic administrators, college athletics representatives and representatives from the professional sport (both former players and current league reps) the student wishes to enter.
Okay, lets stop here for a minute. Try to find problems with this. I want you to. I want as many holes poked into this system as possible. It represents a clear commitment to academics and graduating student-athletes. It acknowledges not all athletes are on the same trajectory and development path and some deserve an opportunity to go pro early. It eliminates the need for professional sports to have minimum age requirements to enter the draft.
Some of you may be saying, well, there’s still a lot of money being made in college athletics and it’s not going to the athletes that play the sport. The NCAA is allowing schools to increase compensation, that should remain and continue to grow as time goes on. More importantly, how that money is being spent is also important. This is where I might lose some people. Any time money gets involved, power and control come into play, and directly attacking those who have it gets dicey. Money is a real-world thing. It is in fact, the realest real-world thing in any conversation. We suspend the rules of the real world for sports. We do. Drafts and contract requirements and trades and revenue sharing and salary caps are not things that any other businesses in America do. In fact, most would say these things are un-American and anti-equal rights. But these are games, and these are the rules of the game. College has rules and the rules of the game are different, they are allegedly designed to enhance and benefit the students. Lets work on the premise college could and should do this better.
Coaches salaries are massive. Let’s make them direct participants in the education of the athletes they take responsibility for in those living rooms across America.
4. All college coaches must be required to teach a minimum number of course hours per semester. (moral ethics, leadership, bracketology is taught at a major university, we can find something for coaches to teach. Don’t like it coach? Tough, you can go coach in the pros if you don’t want to be an educator.)
5. Hold coaches, athletics directors and college administrators financially responsible for any rules or regulations that are violated. Student athletes will be disciplined accordingly on a case by case basis. (want to stop cheating? make it financially irresponsible for any AD or coach to let it happen or do it personally. Stripping a team of wins and postseason eligibility not only unfairly punishes future student athletes it offers no incentive for ADs and coaches to strictly monitor and police such things)
If we want to take education seriously, lets take it seriously. If we believe college is often about getting the training necessary to become a productive member of society and acknowledge sports is a business, offering courses and degrees in those sports and putting appropriate focus back on education is doable without compromising the talents and integrity of competition that currently exists at the college and pro level.
A lot of ideas here are going to create more work for some people. You want to make money and work less and care about students less? Keep doing what you’re doing. Want to make me and everyone else believe you care about academics? Do the work.
This is my plan. Lets have this conversation.
By TJ Carpenter
MLBPA, MLB ANNOUNCE PACE OF GAME INITIATIVES, REPLAY MODIFICATIONS
Rule Will Require Players to Keep a Foot in the Batter’s Box; Timers Will Track Breaks During Non-Game Action Only; Managers May Invoke Replay from Dugout
Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, announced additions to the sport’s pace of game program, which will be effective in Spring Training, the regular season and the Postseason, and a series of modifications to the instant replay system.
PACE OF GAME
· The pace of game program will enforce the batter’s box rule, requiring that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. The new rule at the Major League level mirrors 6.02(d), which was in place in Minor League Baseball in 2014.
· A second new component to the pace of game program is the addition of timers that will measure non-game action and break time between innings and pitching changes during each Major League game. One timer will be installed on or near the outfield scoreboard, and a smaller timer will be installed on the façade behind home plate near the press box. Immediately following the third out of each half-inning, the timer will count down from 2:25 for locally televised games and from 2:45 for nationally televised games. An MLB representative attending each game will operate the timers from the ballpark and will track the following events:
· Pitchers will be permitted to throw as many warm-up pitches as they wish prior to the point when 30 seconds remain on the clock; however, pitchers will be deemed to have forfeited any of their traditional eight warm-up pitches that they are unable to complete prior to the 30-second deadline. Exceptions to these rules will be made in a variety of circumstances, including if the pitcher or catcher ended the prior half-inning at bat or on base.
· Batters will be encouraged to get into the batter’s box with 20 seconds remaining on the timer. This is the same time that the broadcasters return from commercial. The pitcher is expected to begin his motion to deliver the pitch as soon as the batter gets into the batter’s box and becomes alert to the pitcher. Batters who do not enter the box prior to five seconds remaining on the timer and pitchers who do not begin the motion to deliver the pitch prior to zero seconds remaining on the timer will be deemed to have violated the break timing rules.
· These rules will be enforced through a warning and fine system, with discipline resulting for flagrant violators. No fines will be issued in Spring Training or in April of the 2015 regular season. Donations will be made to the Major League Baseball Players Trust charitable foundation based on the level of adherence to the new rules.
Happy about pace of play changes, doesn’t think they’ll affect how the Royals go about their game much.
Happy Hosmer didn’t miss much time for arbitration. Believes he’s ready to take a big step forward for the Royals as a player and leader.
Believes Duffy and Ventura should both be 200+ inning guys this year.
Hosmer said he’s glad to get the business side of things out of the way because it was close to interfering with his preparation for the 2015 season.
He hopes his numbers are better in 2015.
He’s eager to embrace his role as a clubhouse leader. Says the clubhouse feel is totally different than it was this time in 2014.
Has a new sleeve tattoo on his right arm, he said it took 10 hours to do.
Finnegan doesn’t think there’s much difficulty in shifting between bullpen and starting roles.
He’d much rather be with the major league club as a bullpen guy than as a starter in the minors, but will do whatever the Royals want him to do.
He’s glad he’s getting an opportunity to go to spring training this year. He wasn’t satisfied with where he was progress-wise at the end of last season. He enjoyed the experience but wants to pitch better this season.
Has a goal to get to the 200 inning benchmark.
Said it’s understood among all the pitchers that everyone has more load to carry now that Shields is no longer with the club.
Duffy was grateful to Shields and to Guthrie for giving him pointers on how to play the game and how to get through the grind of an MLB season.
He described his new haircut as, “biblical.”
There are no games scheduled for today.