MMQB Mailbag: Players face big decision if owners open their books
I raised the issue in
I've also thought for some time that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell knew it would probably come to this, once the pathway of these negotiations resulted in running afoul of Judge David S. Doty again. And last week, when Doty ruled against the NFL in saying the league didn't have the right to use a $4 billion pool of TV money to use as lockout insurance if games were not played in 2011, Goodell knew he had to show the financials.
Why? Because if the players decertified their union, and if the owners locked out the players, the likelihood was the next step would have the players going to court to try to get their way. And in court, the league would have to show the kind of detailed financial information that the league has been blocking. So, in some ways, I wouldn't be surprised if Goodell, deep down, wasn't unhappy with Doty's ruling. Because it would be a message to the hard-line owners that they were going to have open their books at some point anyway. Why not do it in negotiation instead of litigation?
So let's try to fathom how this could work this week. First, we won't hear much about it. I think after word of this leaked out in my column Monday -- and, mostly, after the inside detail Jim Trotter had in MMQB about how close the talks came to complete collapse last week -- mediator George Cohen likely reminded each side Monday what the definition of a "news blackout'' is. So we likely won't know what's being discussed.
If the books are opened, the union has to decide if it's getting enough detail. Are the owners showing the players enough for the NFLPA to fathom whether the Titans made $4 million in profit in 2010 or $44 million? The players will have to know they're getting a true picture. Then the players will want to examine the figures to know if, in essence, the Seahawks are wasting $20 million a year on employing relatives of the owner. I use both of those things as examples. Neither is true. But the players will want to see how much perceived "waste'' is on the owners' side of things.
The owners would hope, of course, that the players realize owners are legitimately in need of some financial relief, that the $1 billion in additional funds they want exempted from revenue-sharing is legit. I doubt that will happen. But if the NFLPA sees some legitimacy in the owners needing relief, maybe the two sides can agree on, say, $250 million in additional funds per year that would be credited to the owners and not shared. I think the owners are willing to compromise greatly on that issue. Now it's just a matter of whether they can agree on what's a sensible number.
But the key is simple: Will the owners open the books, and if they do, will the players trust they're getting the real-deal information? I think the books will be opened. I hope, for the sake of these negotiations, that the players trust the information they're seeing. Then, and only then, will we be on the road to an agreement that doesn't involve going in front of a judge.
Now for your e-mail:
• ONLY IF AN OWNER THINKS IT'S A GOOD WAY TO DO BUSINESS.
I doubt it, Robert. I think the decline of the NFL is a big exaggeration, even if the owners take a beating in these negotiations, or lose in court if it goes that far. I think if the owners feel they can make money by selling a team to the public, one or more of them will urge their fellow owners to pass league rules that allow them to do so.
• THE MARKET FOR MCGAHEE.
Maybe a fifth-round pick. Maybe. He's going to be 30 this year, he hasn't rushed for 1,000 yards since 2007 and he gets hurt. I'd rather use a good draft choice on a running back of the future. Especially in a season with so much uncertainty about how players can be acquired, draft picks are going to be gold. One last point: If you ask me if I'd trade a 2012 fifth-rounder for McGahee when the games actually start and there's a new CBA, I'd be more inclined to do it.
• OWNERS ARE GREEDY AND FANS NOT SMART FOR SUPPORTING THEM, HE SAYS.
You have lots of company.
• MAYBE. BUT HOLMGREN DID SAY HE WASN'T READY TO RETURN.
Hey! I almost moved to Cleveland Heights once. Nice place. Regarding your point, you could be right. It could be that Cowher simply didn't want to coach in the division. All we can go by is what Mike Holmgren said -- that Cowher told him he wasn't ready to return. That isn't to say he won't be ready to coach at some point. But this will be his fifth season out of football. Even though he's still young, Cowher's reticence to coach up to this point tells me if I were the owner hiring a coach in the future, I'd definitely want to look into Cowher's eyes and see if he still has the hunger to be a 15-hour-a-day head coach.