The majority of NFL fans may not have any interest in the Green Bay Packers' annual financial report that was released on Wednesday. They may not pay much attention to the issues that surround the labor talks between the league and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). After all, in a battle between millionaire players and billionaire owner, what fans think hardly matters anyway, right?
Fans can have a direct impact on negotiations over the next eight months because the power of public opinion is very real. That's why they will be smart to educate themselves as much as possible and let their voices be heard. The owners and players are listening.
The negotiations will determine whether there's a 2011 season -- or at least a full 16-game schedule. More importantly, teams are already being affected. Just ask the Chargers fans who are worried about Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil agreeing to financial terms and playing for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Or the Patriots fans who, like stud nose tackle Vince Wilfork, realize just how important unsigned left guard Logan Mankins is to setting a physical tone along New England's offensive line.
The important takeaways from the Packers' financial report is that the team had record revenue of $258 million but its operating profit was halved from over $20 million in 2008-09 to $9.8 million for the 2009-10 fiscal year that ended on March 31. Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy attributed the decrease primarily to increased player costs, saying they've risen at a rate of 11.8 percent annually since the current CBA was negotiated in 2006 while revenues grew at a 5.5 percent clip. He called the current system a non-sustainable model, and he's right.
It's not possible on a league-wide level for player costs to increase at twice the rate of revenue, but it can happen on a team-by-team basis because NFL franchises have shared and unshared revenue. Simply put, the large amount of unshared revenue brought in by teams like the Cowboys, Redskins, and Patriots eats away at the profits of smaller market teams like the Packers because it counts toward the total that is used to calculate the salary cap. The NFL's owners really need to figure out among themselves a better way to share their revenue. That's easier said than done in a league where owners like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder already dislike the fact that they have to share as much as they do.
That's the first major issue of the CBA talks. The second is that the league insists that its non-player costs are rising so rapidly that giving the players their current sizeable share of overall revenue just isn't working. The players have asked for proof in the form of the financial information for the other 31 teams. The league has refused. That's where the fans can come into play. The power and sway of public opinion could be enough to force either side to relent on the sticking point of making the league's finances completely transparent.
Union leadership, such as executive director DeMaurice Smith and president Kevin Mawae, don't understand how the owners can opt out of an agreement they previously agreed to without showing why they opted out. Or how the players can have a true financial partnership with a business partner that won't show them the company's performance numbers.
When asked about this, the Packers' Murphy said, "The players have all the information. They have audit rights to all of our revenue. They have everything they need to reach an agreement. [Late former union head] Gene Upshaw never had access to the owners' books and was able to negotiate several extensions." (Commissioner Roger Goodell said the same thing to me when I interviewed him for Sirius NFL Radio at the Super Bowl.)
The union disagrees, and until both sides can find some type of arrangement that works for each in terms of the transparency of information, this impasse will continue. Let's just hope it doesn't reach the point where dozens more articles like this one are being written in September 2011.
And now, some of your mail ...
Ross, I have a bit of an issue on your "Eagles appear to be stuck with Vick" article. I wholeheartedly agree that this is a grown man at the age of 30 and he should be held accountable for ALL of his actions. I do not agree that the Eagles organization should be 'closely' monitoring all of his actions and future engagements (like the birthday party). If he's a grown man, why should anyone have to be held accountable for monitoring him?
This brings me back to my old days as a Senior Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. When one of my sailors did something stupid on his own time, I was called on the carpet to answer for it. "Why didn't you know about this before it happened?" When management/leadership is held responsible for employees' actions away from the workplace, it takes away responsibility on the individual's part. That, to me, is a detriment to our society and it would be foolish to find fault in the Eagles organization for not handling the birthday party any differently that it did.--Chris Bonin, AGCS USN, Retired, Gonzales, La.
I agree with you as it relates to 95 percent of NFL players, but if a team brings in a guy like Vick with his history, it is incumbent on that team to monitor him very closely. It's kind of like the borderline academic qualifier who receives a scholarship from a university. That school provides him with tutoring and has someone make sure he attends all of his classes. Rightly or wrongly, the Eagles probably need to keep close tabs on Vick.
About Mike Vick being an abject failure... I can only say that insurance always looks stupid unless you actually need it. -- Bill, Richmond, Va.
I hear you, but from what I have seen, he doesn't appear to be very good insurance. Or worth the risk.
What/when do players eat before a game? If you eat too close to the game, won't you get sick? Do you get hungry during one? -- Arctic16 @SI_RossTucker
Players usually eat about four or five hours before kickoff, so that's somewhere between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. for a 1 p.m. game. How much they eat really varies. Some guys eat a ton knowing they won't again until after the game. Other guys can barely get anything down because of nerves or just personal preference. Either way, everybody is pretty much starving by the time they eat something eight or nine hours later.
Where does T.O. end up, if anywhere? -- JoeCReel @SI_RossTucker
I don't know, but I do know that T.O. has finally reached the stage of his career where his on-field performance no longer outweighs the risk that he will be a locker room disruption. That's one of the beautiful things about the NFL: the stuff you do will eventually catch up with you. T.O. is paying the price for his antics in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas right now.