Photo: Dan Harrelson/Flickr
The NFL lockout is over and like the end of any good football contest, it’s time for the post-game analysis.Who came out on top? Who had the best game plan? Who was the hero? Who was the goat?
There’s still a lot that needs to shake out over the next few weeks (and years) as players, teams, agents, and fans sort through the wreckage of the offseason and learn just what has been won and lost.
But it’s never too soon to break down the game film and hand out some much deserved hardware …
The union is not necessarily better off than they were under the old CBA -- which was incredibly favourable to them -- but they managed to hold firm and deny the NFL most of their hardcore demands.
There will be no 18-game season. The owners are not taking a extra $1 billion off the top. Minimum salaries are going up. They will actually have fewer practices now.
The players always maintained that they wanted to keep the status quo and since most of their concessions and changes are pretty minor, that's basically what they got.
The only players who aren't going to be happy are the rookies, specifically the top 10 first-round draft picks.
Rookie contracts are now capped in years and dollars, and based on a sliding scale (determined by their draft order and playing position).
This year's No. 1, Cam Newton, can make a maximum of $22M over four years. The 2010 No. 1, Sam Bradford, got $50 million guaranteed over six years. Tough break.
However, the league minimum salary has been raised (as has the salary cap floor) and certain pay 'escalators' are built in to reward late-round draftees who 'outplay' their initial contracts. So as a group rookies will actually make more than in the past, but they'll do so by taking money away from the elites.
Players have grown increasing frustrated with the NFL Commissioner in the last several years and he did himself no favours with his patronizing, tone deaf, and occasionally inflammatory negotiating posture.
Even in the afterglow of glorious compromise players continue to insist that they don't like or respect Goodell and the way he lords over them like a disapproving father.
Yes, the deal was delivered on time, but the supposed leader of the NFL ownership is getting almost no credit for it. (It was nice guys like Robert Kraft who got all the hugs yesterday.)
Not only was Goodell not the hero, his ability to lead may have been seriously compromised by the ugly labour fight.
Unlike Goodell, Smith wasn't hired to make friends. He was hired to get a deal. He got it by treating the labour fight like a war.
Smith spent two years preparing his troops for the ultimate siege. He built insurance funds, educated players about what was at stake, drafted the game's biggest stars to be his generals, crafted a nuclear fallout legal strategy, and even dismantled the union to build a defensive bunker like the league had never seen.
It turns out that he didn't need to unleash his full arsenal, but simply by having it ready and letting the NFL owners know they were facing a mutually assured destruction, he was able to hold off the doubters (and there were plenty) and close the deal on time.
Several of the league's top players (like San Diego's Vincent Jackson and Peyton Manning) signed on to anti-trust lawsuits in the hopes of ending the 'franchise' tag, a loophole that allows teams to hobble their star players and keep them from hitting the open market as free agents.
They didn't get it. The tag lives on.
It's totally unfair to those few who suffer under it, but that handful of unlucky ones had to be sacrificed for the greater good.
Remember when the Hollywood writers' strike crippled primetime television for months and forever cemented our current era as the domain of unscripted reality TV?
A year without football would have been that times 1000 (and with more 'Two And A Half Men' re-runs.)
Sunday Night Football was the popular show on all of TV last year and to not be able to broadcast games -- that they had already paid for and sold ad on -- would have been a crippling blow to the networks that rely on football so much.
Plus, now they have even more storylines to fall back on during blowout games. Win-win.
Albert Breer, Jason LaCanfora, (both of the NFL Network), Andrew Brandt, (National Football Post), Liz Mullen (SportsBusiness Journal), Mark Maske (Washington Post), Adam Schefter (ESPN), Judy Battista (New York Times).
These are the first-string reporters (though there were many, many others who contributed to the effort) who staked out courtrooms and league meetings, burned holes in their BlackBerries, and (probably) climbed through piles of garbage and PR spin to keep the rest of us informed.
It was an annoying, sometimes thankless task, but hopefully they all got a lot more readers and fans this summer. We're glad they did it. (So we didn't have to.)
It's not easy or fun to be the bearer of bad news -- or the parrot of even worse propaganda -- but for the last few months that job has fallen to the George Atallah of the NFLPA (left) and Greg Aiello of the NFL.
Fans fed up with spin, misdirection, and the occasional insulting jabs, directed most of their ire at Greg and George, who seem like perfectly nice guys who should go jump in a lake.
Kidding! We know they were just doing their jobs ... but it was our job to hate them for it.
It was the most annoying summer in recent memory as we were flooded and frustrated by what turned out, in the end, to be a complete non-story.
But ... we didn't lose any football and won't for another decade. It's hard not to feel good about that.
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