Happy holidays and Merry Christmas! When you think of those in need this holiday season, there are few in NFL circles who immediately come to mind. After all, money trees are plentiful in this $12+ billion industry. But there are some gifts that no amount of money can buy. That's where we come in....
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I would give NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a state-of-the-art crystal ball and generous gift certificate for a session with his local psychic/fortune teller, to help him divine a solution to the league’s three-team mess of a Los Angeles relocation process. Because at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any easy way out of this corner the NFL is rapidly backing itself into.
The commish needs to get to 24 votes and a final decision at that January owners' meeting in Houston, and nobody seems to know the pathway to that kind of consensus when it comes to the question of where San Diego, St. Louis and Oakland will play in 2016. The permutations are many, but so are the problems to be solved. Do the Chargers carry enough sizzle factor to go it alone in big-market L.A.? Can the Rams be placated enough to stay in St. Louis, or can they be teamed up with San Diego in Inglewood or Carson? And how do you solve Oakland’s long-standing stadium issues if you leave the Raiders as the odd man out once a two-team Los Angeles solution presents itself? Hello, Santa Clara, perhaps?
The art of returning the NFL to Los Angeles has been a two-decade Rubik’s Cube-like exercise, and now we’re supposed to believe the league is going to figure out such a complicated end game in the span of two days next month in Houston? Roger, you’re going to need that fancy crystal ball and a little time with a mystic.
I'd give the Browns a new division. That organization continues to have top to bottom issues, but being stuck in the AFC North has done nothing to help hasten the rebuilding process.
The Bengals are as consistent a regular season team as there is in the NFL right now, shy of perhaps the Patriots. The Steelers are on track to make the playoffs for the 10th time in 15 years. And even though the Ravens are in a down year, their front office has proven more than enough that it knows what it's doing. So where does all that leave the Browns? As the clear fourth-best team in a four-team division, with minimal chance of moving up in the near future. Get them into a division where there is more turnover and less consistency, and their situation may not look as dire as it does now.
Oh Jed York, here's the one gift you clearly don't have: a full-length mirror. Now please take a look at what you've done to one of the league's most storied franchises—replaced an elite NFL coaches in the midst of another golden era with someone unsuitable for the position, all immediately after dangling a yellow brick road to get fans to purchase PSLs in drives for your new stadium. The first step is realization, coming to grips with the error of your ways. The second step: fix it. Apologize to fans. Own up to your mistakes. Get a respectable head coach that will energize the downtrodden fanbase. And when you do talk, don't promise Super Bowls any time in the near future. Be honest—this is an era of rebuilding.
Bonus gift: six therapy sessions with former team president Carmen Policy. Policy was the brilliant mediator who kept your uncle, Eddie DeBartolo at bay when he wanted to fire Bill Walsh over personality disputes, helping preserve the owner-coach relationship at the heart of accumulating Super Bowls. Hopefully Policy can help you see the big picture and keep your ego in check so when the next head coach worthy of the job lands in Santa Clara, you keep him this time.
Greetings John Jastremski and Jim McNally!
I hope you had, well, a good year despite your unfortunate situation (glad to hear that you were rehired!). Anyway, I hope this air pressure gauge helps prevent any future mishaps with the pressure levels of Tom Brady's balls, and keeps your pre-game routine from ever coming under the NFL's (and an independent investigation's) extreme scrutiny again. A friendly reminder: Make sure the footballs are inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch.
And yes, I do realize that if I had given you this Christmas gift last year, it would have eliminated the biggest scandal in the NFL this season (and the second moment on SI.com's top 115 moments of 2015).
P.S. I think you can use this air pressure gauge to also test the pressure in your car tires.
Here's a proactive gene for Roger Goodell. Throughout his decade-long tenure as NFL Commissioner, Goodell has far too often been in reactive mode, failing to provide vision when necessary and overcompensating with truly bizarre trips down the rabbit hole at times as a result. His obsessive continuation of the Deflategate case is but one example. It would be much better for Goodell and the league he governs if he was more visionary and proactive in matters important to the NFL.
Why does the concussion protocol still stink? Why will a team with a losing record most likely get a home playoff game for the third time in this decade? Why is officiating so God-awful? Why, why, why? In part, it's because Goodell is either too paralyzed by his own inefficiencies, or too beholden to the owners, to strike out on his own and make the tough call. When you think of the true visionaries in sports management, you invariably find that they had the courage to do things they were pilloried for at the time. No matter. They had the courage of their convictions, and they saw the big picture. Goodell is more of a middle manager, and in a general sense, his sense of the big picture is non-existent. It doesn't matter to the bottom line, but it would be nice for the nation's most popular sport to have a person in charge who was really leading for the present and the future. Not a guy so concerned with the ways the wind blow that he can't see past his own face.
I want to give Chip Kelly a mobile quarterback. This is one of those gifts you give to someone because you really want it. But the great Oregon offense to the NFL experiment isn’t interesting when there’s no option on the read option play. Sam Bradford has improved throughout the season, but he’s not a threat to run and he’s getting hit too often. I’m wrapping up a Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III or Johnny Manziel and forcing Kelly to at least try one mobile guy before he leaves the NFL to go back to college. I may get Kaepernick for Christmas and give Kelly RGIII for Chanukah as a backup.