Grey Area Politics

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At 12:51 p.m. yesterday, the NFL.com reported the NFL’s announcement of the punishment for the New Orleans Saints regarding the bounty system they had. The Punishments are as follows:

  • Head coach Sean Payton suspended for one season without pay.
  • An indefinite ban on former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
  • Loss of the teams’ second round draft pick in this year’s as well as next year’s draft.
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended for six games
  • GM Mickey Loomis has been banned for the first eight games of 2012
  • The team has been fined $500,000

Yeah. These bounties were totally worth it...... http://cdn.bleacherreport.net

It is an incredible bit of news for the NFL. It means Sean Payton is now the first head coach to be suspended. For anything. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t even done there. According to several sources, 22 of the 27 Saints defensive players were in on the bounty system. What Goodell will do with these players remains to be seen.

A good majority of fans, players, and media types are quite upset over this news. And it is not for reasons related to how justly or unjustly the Saints were treated. A good majority in that clump of people believe this confirms that the 2006/2007 Patriots got off easy for cheating in the Super Bowl.

There really is no more despicable act outside of cheating. http://sijoeposnanski.files.wordpress.com

While I will not argue with anyone that says the Patriots got off easy, I will not say the Saints penalty should be lessened because of it. Let us not forget what they are being punished for. The team had a bounty system that reward players (with money) for hurting opposing players. There have been rumors of bounty systems for years and this is time a team actually got caught.

Having a bounty system goes against everything football is about. Yes I know it is a violent sport, but the objective is not to hurt the opposing player. On defense, it is to prevent the other team from scoring. The second reason this goes against sports is the notion of taking players out of the game.

From my perspective, I want my teams to beat their rivals when they are at their best. It feels better and most of the time it results in a better game. A good example is the last two times the Steelers have beaten the New England Patriots. The first of those two came in their Super Bowl run of 2008. Tom Brady was out with a season-ending knee injury and the Steelers cruised to a 33-14 win in Foxboro.

This past season, the Steelers once again prevailed 25-17 at home against the Patriots. This time Brady was playing and as a  result, the game was closer. As a fan that felt a whole lot more satisfying.

If you are purposefully taking or attempting to take another teams’ QB or what have you out of the game, then you are cheating everyone: yourself, your team, fans, and the game. It is about as despicable an act as I have ever seen in the NFL or sports in general. That is why I am in full support of these actions by the league.

That being said, I would be lying if I said I did not feel the league should be more consistent with punishments. The Patriots got off lucky an they know it. A  It is part of the reason they were able to make that Super Bowl run in 2007. The NFL should have come up with similar sanctions for the Patriots.

Instead, what did the league do? They destroyed the evidence. We all know that, of course, but it still makes one wonder what was on those tapes (it couldn’t have been good).

Business man first, Commissioner second. http://www.thesportsbank.net

I am not sure what kind of advantage it gave the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, but the footage had to help in some way. Goodell enjoys handing out massive fines for repeat offenders of “illegal” hits. Yet, when a huge scandal such as cheating comes about, the league goes all Nixon on everyone. A little consistency would go a long way, Mr. Goodell.

However, in a league that is more worried about TV ratings than transparency, it is clear that this kind of horse manure will continue. As for the Saints, they have a long road to recovery. Make no mistake, they will feel the effects both this year and beyond. For once, the punishment fits the crime, but that does not erase years of inconsistency.

And so it begins……the search for answers……..

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When Tom Brady’s last-gasp Hail Mary fell incomplete, the 2012 NFL offseason began. Super Bowl XLVI will go down as a very good installment in the greatest sporting event on the American Sports calendar. With the beginning of the offseason comes slew of rumors, heresay,, and oddball news. The shocker of the past week goes to Roger Goodell for talking about closing down operations for the Pro Bowl.

In this Pro Football Talk post,  it says the Goodell met with DeMaurie Smith to talk about closing it down. This is a very usrpring move, if it is done, by a league that is headed down the path of high TV and flag football a more passive style of play. The rules in recent years have been adjusted so that:

  1. Quaterbacks are well protected. These are priceless commodities and the NFL simply cannot have guys like Brady, Brees, and/or Rogers go down like the older Manning brother did.
  2. Offenses could score a boatload of points. The new way of NFL fans love high-scoring games. A lot. Which is funny because the NFL playoffs this season featured one game in which both teams were in the 30s in points.

Now the NFL is nowhere close to ending the Pro Bowl.  Even still, what is the big deal if the NFL All-Star game is a bust? It is only a pointless football game played between the Super Bowl and Conference Championship Sunday. But that might be one of the game’s current downfalls. No matter what game or games are in that two week gape before the super Bowl, the focus will always be on the Super Bowl.

Or a member of the Manning family (more on this later). http://blogcertified.com

More to the point: the ratings were up for the Pro Bowl this season. According this article, the ratings were the higest of any program on TV that night and day. this is due largely to the popularity of the NFL and not the interest of the game. Fans are still excited to see some of the games super stars . The problem is that some of the stars fans want to see are in the Super Bowl.

If the game already means nothing, then moving it . There are only two options moving forward for the NFL: make it matter or make it fun. The fun aspect is probably the more important of the two. I do not see a way for the NFL to make it matter in terms of post season play. Beyond just conference pride and money, there is not much there.

Although the game is not going anywhere any time soon, here are some things I believe would improve the quality of the game:

Move it to the end of the season

The NFL is one of the few sports that has its all-star game at or near the end of the season. Moving it back to the week after the Super Bowl gives the season a nice fun closing act. It reinstates players who would normally miss due to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are two names this seasons Pro Bowl desperately needed. Not only do these players provide better entertainment but they are bigger names.

No offense to Andy Dalton, but he is not biggest draw in the world. What he did as a rookie was phenomenal, but he has a ways to go in terms of Marketabilitiy. The point of an all-star game is to conceivably have all the good eggs in one basket. Although ratings have been good, if every player the fans voted in played, then TV ratings might just rise.

Pay these men

I know it is their job to play football and that some players have contract clauses with Pro Bowl benefits. I get that. But sometimes it seems like the players are lolly gagging out there. Aaron Rogers blasted his NFC teammates for their lack of effort. If that is the case, then there need to be added incentives outside of just conference pride. These men need a payday.

the NFL is a billion dollar franchise that can throw money at teams for a new stadium. I think they can provide money to get the effort of players up. But in case that does not work……

Insert some real football rules

Having real football being played is a key. The game has just gone too vanilla with simple plays that even the dumbest coach would not call during a preseason game. The current rules take any intensity out of the game. Let the defensive players run wild and hit people. After all that is their job and why they were selected.

Let them play! Let them play! Let them play! http://media.sacbee.com

People still talk about the hit that Sean Taylor (may he rest in peace) put on former bills punter Brian Moorman. It was a vicious hit and (while yes it was on a punter) it is something this game needs.I know it kills some of the more intense players like Patrick Willis and James Harrison that the game has gotten soft.

While player safety is important, so is their right to play. They know full and well what it could mean to their health to to play this game. So in that case, just let them go out there and play. They do not need to loosen up the rules to playoff level, but do not make it so we are one unnecessary roughness away from touch football. That is no fun.

Keep it in Hawaii and broadcast it on ESPN

When people think of the Pro Bowl, I can almost garauntee that the first image that pops into their head is Alhoa Stadium in Hawaii:

It is simply a beautiful venue for a sporting event. The weather is almost always perfect down (unless there’s a hurricane). So why would the NFL change it to where the game is being played at the same site of the Super Bowl? For marketing purposes alone, the NFL just needs to keep it in Hawaii.

However, the NFL is once again messing with the location. Pro Football Talk is reporting that the game is in talks to be held in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII. changing sites like this is a bad idea when the appeal of Hawaii is so much greater.

If they do not stick with one site, then they need to stick with on broadcast station: ESPN. Look at the last time the game was on ESPN. It set a ten year record for the Pro Bowl. MLB and the NBA both use ESPN as an outlet to broadcast their respective all-star games from. It is time for ESPN to buy the exclusive rights of that game. The fact that ESPN’s one-year stint as the game’s outlet should have sent a huge signal to the NFL.

Instead they kept experimenting with different locations, times, andgimmicks. I mean what was having players tweet from computer kiosks supposed to do? It is not like we were likely to see Megatron tweet something outrageous. This was a lame attempt at connecting with an audience the NFL thinks it is bound to lose.

I'm sure fans were dying to know what players had to say........ http://media.whosay.com

They will not lose them if they make the experience fun for the fans. Think of the MLB and NBA all-star games once more. Major League Baseball has the Homerun Durby and the Celebrity All-Star Game. The NBA has the Dunk and Three-point contests. That is exactly what the NFL should be doing.

Fun and creative events and challenges during the week leading up to the game

Why exactly did the NFL get rid of the strongest man contest again? I thought fans loved that stuff. where is the NFL’s version of the Homerun Derby? They should be pitting Maurice Jones-Drew against Clay Matthews in an Oklahoma drill with no blockers. They should be having foot races between Devon Hester, Mike Wallace, and DeSean Jackson. They should be having Brees, Rodgers, and Brady go head-to-head in passing competitions.

Alas, they are not doing these things to engage fans. They sit and watch while the game’s popularity and positive PR goes out the window. If the NFL really cared about this game, then it would be exerting every creative juice it has to make it better. It is a profitabe product and if they insert some of these modifications, it might make it better. One can only hope.

P.S.: I also hope that the competition committee will consider revoking the defensive rules put in place last year. But that won’t happen.