Sorry for having to jump out on Friday. With the news of Roger Goodell replacing himself with Paul Tagliabue for the appeals, I had to jump on ESPN TV. But, as always, lots going on with the business of the NFL and the non business of the NHL. Let's get right to it.
What are you thoughts on the ethics and conflict of interest issues with respect to Mr. Tagliabue?
I have mixed feelings on Tagliabue taking over. On the one hand, I do think it's a big deal that Roger Goodell is taking himself out of the equation. He has made conduct detrimental his No. 1 priority as commissioner and has taken a personal stake in these bounty cases as an ultimate affront to conduct detrimental as well as player health and safety. So, the fact that he removed himself from the process of the appeal does carry some weight. On the other hand, Goodell has passed on appointments to the appeal hearing officers in the past, handing off to people like Jeff Tash and Harold Henderson, who are league VPs. So, in that sense, this is nothing new, so Goodell has had and continues to have that power to designate appeal hearing officers. The appointment of Tagliabue seems like someone partial to the NFL because of his background as commissioner and as attorney for the league. However, unlike Tash and Henderson, Tagliabue technically does not work for the NFL anymore and has a stature that allows him to be impartial. I think he will handle this hearing with independence and he will be perhaps more "legal" than Goodell would have been.
A final thought on this if players are upset with the appointment of Tagliabue, they were consulted on this. Roger Goodell did consult with the NFLPA's Smith before the appointment. In other words, their interests were represented.
Morning!, Can you give some insight to ANY positives to firing a GM (Panthers/Marty Hurney) mid season? and as a follow up, who are some of the names mentioned when people speak of up and comer GM candidates ?
I found that news interesting this morning. My sense is there is enough time in this season to shake things up and make some changes before we're in a "look towards next season mode." Whatever team is selling, more than anything else, is hope, and the Panthers seem to be running low on hope right now, based on recent results. The move to shed Hurney is owner Jerry Richardson's most immediate way to try to offer a different vision for the team.
Keep in mind, Richardson a few years ago fired his own sons from being VPs of the team, so he's not afraid to make these moves. Hurney is well liked and respected by his peers, but did have some curious moves, especially with the amount of resources allocated to RBs, with Stewart, Williams and Tolbert, almost $45 million of guaranteed money at a lower impact position. It will be interested to see if this energizes the franchise and somehow gives the team that elusive concept of hope.
do you think Goodell hired Tagliabue knowing how he would handle things so he can get the situation resvoled quickly?
I think that may be part of it, but Goodell was very clear in his statement on Friday that Tabliabue will have complete independence in this matter. From my experience under both commissioners, I did notice a bit of a looser attitude on conduct detrimental from Tabliabue than Goodell. As a lawyer and a litigator, Tabliabue would allow the judicial process to play out before levying discipline. Whereas Goodell is not going to be delayed by creative lawyering before he makes a call. Tagliabue will also know that the court in New Orleans is watching and seeing how fair or unfair the process is. As I said in the first answer, this decision to move to Tagliabue makes sense, it satisfies the players with a voice not currently working in the NFL offices and it gives the process someone of great stature and prestige in handling these appeals.
Does the league worry about setting a precedent after having appeal after appeal to force Goodell out?
That's a good point, where a constant griping by the players and attorneys seemed to have an impact on this and therefore has some precedential value. However, as I said, Goodell has the power to and has passed off the appeals to other hearing officers. I would think, and hope, that this is the unique case with four players facing discipline for the same actions, as opposed to the usual case involving just one player. In that sense, the precedential value here is small.
Obviously, at some point, the NHLPA is going to cave on the 57 percent, so what do you think they're using that as leverage to get?
Well, the most recent off from the NHL a week ago spoke of a 50-50 split which was publically announced and portrayed the NHL as the good guys trying to get a deal. It did not speak to some of the hidden points of the deal which required players sent down to the AHL now having their salaries included in the cap (which was not the case before) and other exclusions in the amount of money from the 50-50 pot. Therefore, we continue at a stalemate.
Don Fehr, the head of the NHLPA, was hired by the players knowing he is a tough negotiator that is not going to take a substandard deal. Therefore this could take a while. The question of course is where is the reckoning point that will provide a deadline for this deal. I always thought that was the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, which if you backtrack would require a deal made by about Thanksgiving, which I think is still reasonable. For now, after the brief fury of activity last week, each side has retreated to their corners upset at the recent offers and we wait. Look for the talks to jumpstart again probably next week.
You're the ever optimist in these labor issues...so when do you think we see a resolution with the NHL?
I think we will and I think it will start in January. But as you note, I'm always the optimist on these things. I think of the three lockouts, I think the NHL players seem the most prepared. Many seem to have realistic options overseas and they are all going to receive their escrow check from last season by the end of this month which gives them a nice financial cushion to sit for a while. The players' response is born out of the fact that the 2004 lockout changed the system for the betterment of the owners, yet now the owners need more changes to the detriment of the players. I think unlike the NFL and NBA players, we've seen no sign of fracture and they seem emboldened and not let the owners trample on them as they did in 2004. Having said that, I still think this will be resolved around Thanksgiving.
Andrew, how can the NFL say they take concussions seriously when RGIII gets put back out on the field one week after he had one?
Good question and it's one I dealt with in my most recent column on ESPN.com on the NFL page. Return to play guidelines do require independent neurologists, but we still have no true protocal when we see RGIII a week after a concussion and Joe Staley play 4 days after a concussion. On the other hand, Jahvid Best of the Lions is still not cleared more than a year after his concussions. I understand there are degress of concussions and that is a reason for the discrepancies. The point is that no one knows. This is not an ankle or hamstring or even a knee. This is new territory. Is a week enough? Two weeks? Five weeks? A year? Perhaps the best thing that can happen is a blue ribbon panel of neurologists to be made up after the season to have some firm protocal with concussions.
That way we do not wonder why one player is cleared and another is not for allegedly the same injury.
do you think the NFL looked even worse with Dale Jr. self reporting his concussion and taking himself out for two weeks?
I certainly applauded Dale for doing that. Unfortunately, that's just not realistic in the NFL. Players want to play: contracts are largely non-guaranteed and every player is worried about being replaced. Therefore, the pressure that NFL players have to compete is certainly more than an established and secure driver on the NASCAR circuit. This goes back to the previous question where I think an independent panel sets true guidelines for return to play to take away these decisions from teams and players to make the system as neutral as possible.
Great questions as always. I really enjoy the level of understanding that you have. Keep checking me out on Twitter: @ADBrandt. And my weekly column will be on Wednesday, either about the continuing bounty saga or the approved sale of the Browns for $1 billion.