Plus, your mailbag questions on Brady’s compensation and L.A.

By Andrew Brandt
October 29, 2015

A couple of NFC East defensive ends are making some news this week, for very different reasons.

Greg Hardy continues to be the NFL’s poster child for lack of awareness. After being away from the game for more than a year, he could have at least pretended to be contrite and show some change of behavior. Instead, before his 2015 debut, he chose to comment about Tom Brady’s wife and used the unfortunate phrasing “guns blazing.” Now, for good measure, he was insubordinate to a coach on a national stage. His employer's response? Well, he is a team leader and a player with whom the team wants a contract extension. The vicious cycle of enablement continues for someone who clearly surrounds himself with those who tell him what he wants to hear rather than what he needs to hear. However, it is one thing for friends or agents to enable—fearing they would be cut out of the loop if they did not. But it’s quite another for the Cowboys to do it. And as for a potential contract extension, what exactly are the Cowboys worried about? Hardy had virtually no market this year, and after his “leadership” the past few weeks what team is going to make a serious run for him next year, let alone sign him for any money at all? The Cowboys, once again, are talking about negotiating against themselves for Hardy.

• GREG HARDY EXPERIMENT HAS GONE AWRY: After Hardy shoved a coach in Sunday’s loss to the Giants, Jerry Jones backed the embattled defensive end and the locker room tried to ignore the ugly truth: Big D now stands for Dysfunction.

Jason Pierre-Paul was, as of July 4th, scheduled to make $14 million in 2015 as a Franchise Tag player by simply showing up before the season. Then, of course, a fireworks mishap put an end to that. Pierre-Paul returned to the team this week, signing a one-year deal that is likely similar—albeit under far different circumstances—to Hardy's deal with the Cowboys (heavy on active roster bonuses and performance thresholds). As to why it took so long, my guess is that this became a case of dueling doctors: The player’s personal medical team versus the Giants’ medical team about when Pierre-Paul could return to the field. And yes, the Giants could have simply moved on from Pierre-Paul and rescinded the Tag, but there were bigger issues involved here. Pierre-Paul has been a longtime member of the team—he was warmly welcomed back—and his agent, Eugene Parker, has done and will continue to do a lot of business with the team. The Giants did not need to risk either relationship and were able to finally work out a deal. When we look back after the season, however, it is likely Pierre-Paul will have cost himself $7-10 million due to (literally) playing with fire.



The Revolution Is Here

The “Yahoo game” represented the NFL’s first step into the new frontier. To many, the idea of a game only available through streaming over the Internet (except for the local markets) sounded revolutionary. However, to tens of millions of younger viewers who consume much of their programming on a smaller screen, it was business as usual. The NFL, despite its unparalleled success, can often appear stuck in its ways, but the Yahoo game is a necessary step in its evolution of delivery methods.

From the league and ownership point of view, the primary driver for the Yahoo game was a new—pardon the pun—stream of revenue. Yahoo paid a reported $20 million to gain entry into NFL programming, albeit a Sunday morning (in the U.S.) game between two of the league’s less popular teams (Bills and Jaguars). As for the audience, whether Yahoo’s reported 15.2 million unique viewers and 33.6 million streams across all devices is real or not (and I doubt it is), the league is probably happy with any numbers, as this was a game that would have gone out to less than 10% of the country on broadcast. Also, Yahoo and the NFL can now drill down into the analytics of viewership in ways they cannot with a traditional broadcast audience.

Having viewed parts of the game, with varying degrees of clarity and freezing, I was disappointed at the lack of innovation. With this pioneering delivery method of an NFL game, it seems that Yahoo and/or the NFL missed a real opportunity. Whether advanced statistics, choice of replay angles or any number of other interactive options, I expected new and innovative viewer options that a digital platform could provide.

Although the NFL mantra continues to be that its product will never leave free television, the Yahoo game appears a first move towards incremental adds each year. Next year’s offering could be a better matchup, perhaps at a traditional time slot. The following year could feature a couple games, then more and then—gasp—maybe even a digital-only offering every week. Again, the Yahoo game was not a one-off; it seems to be the start of an inevitable build toward more robust offerings.

Commissioner Goodell and other top league executives have visited Silicon Valley and companies such as Google, Apple and Netflix in recent years. That is certainly no accident; these are companies that the NFL goes to see rather than the usual vice versa. The rights fees currently paid by over-the-air networks—$1 to $2 billion a year—represent money found in the couch cushions of companies like those. Some level of partnership between the NFL and companies such as those is inevitable, increasing the chance of more delivery methods as the money flows in.

The revolution is here. The revolution will not be televised (only streamed).

• THE REALITY BEHIND YAHOO’S NUMBERS: Peter King on the misleading numbers being thrown out for the Yahoo game audience.

Just what is the deal with that Brady contract?
Elsa/Getty Images

On to the Mailbag…

As you have pointed out, Tom Brady is playing on a contract that is way below his market value. How does the union allow this? Wouldn't other teams suspect that he is getting compensated outside the cap?

The NFLPA has not formally intervened in individual player contract negotiations, even ones—this deal and last year’s Colin Kaepernick deal come to mind—that could potentially affect future contracts at the game’s most important position. They have, however, raised questions to agents about being more aggressive in negotiations, although it is not clear they had any involvement in Brady’s decision to take a vastly under-market deal in 2013.

The NFLPA is in an ongoing effort to try to cull the number of player agents—there are close to 900—in tightening its entrance requirements. While the usual pass rate for the annual agent exam has been in the 70% range, this year’s pass rate was less than 40%, a clear sign of wanting fewer, and more adept, agents working for the players.

As to suspicions of outside compensation to Brady, yes, that opinion is certainly out there among other teams and agents. However, as we have come to know this offseason, everything the Patriots do comes with a healthy amount of questioning from other teams.

• BARGAIN-BIN BRADY: Andrew Brandt breaks down the baffling contract of Tom Brady, an all time great who is compensated like a low-end journeyman.

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Can you explain why the league wants to return to L.A. so badly? Add that to the fact they didn't really support past teams I am clueless as to why it is so important.
—Scott D.

Follow the money. While the NFL has done just fine without a team in L.A. for the past 20 years, owners know that they are leaving money on the table by not having a presence in the nation’s second-largest market. And, in case you haven’t been paying attention, NFL owners never want to miss a revenue opportunity.

Support from local fans is important but the ancillary income streams from an L.A. presence far exceed ticket revenues. The NFL is a stronger brand with a team or teams in Los Angeles. Beyond local revenues, there will be incremental national revenue adds in licensing, sponsorship and, most importantly, broadcast revenues.

Finally, the new L.A. facility or facilities will likely house NFL and NFL Network offices and perhaps be a west coast wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Further, the synergies with the entertainment industry based LA will be limitless.

• THE RACE FOR L.A.: Andrew Brandt on the three teams that have emerged as L.A. possibilities, a breakdown of their home-city proposals, and the potential locations for each.

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How can the NFL allow the Rams to move, especially while the city is prepared to build another billion-dollar stadium?

The St. Louis situation is, to me, the most interesting. It is the market in which the politicians—both city and state—are doing the most to keep the team, yet it’s also the situation in which ownership is most intent on moving.

The city and state will continue to position that they are putting together an impressive plan for a billion-dollar facility. Conversely, the Rams’ camp will position that the plan is not as great as it seems and requires taxpayer dollars and other hidden costs.

Speaking of politics, Stan Kroenke appears to have the influential backing of owners Daniel Snyder, Jeffrey Lurie and Jerry Jones. Jones responded to the report of St. Louis’s $158 million National Car Rental naming rights deal by saying, “That would buy a lobby” in an L.A. stadium. We can see where he wants the team to land.

If, as expected, the Rams are an applicant for relocation, the L.A. Committee—Goodell and owners Kraft, McNair, Rooney, Hunt, Richardson and Mara—must tread carefully as to not turn their backs on a city and state that has truly “stepped up” to keep its team.