At one point in our weekly football gathering, Carol looked up from her phone and said, “Oh my God. The season’s only half-over.” I had to look it up myself, just to make sure. And there it was. Practically every team is either at, just past or just short of the eight game mark.
In one way, it’s not such a mystery. The fantasy season only goes 13 weeks, so OUR season is two-thirds complete and everyone’s thinking about the stretch run. In another, deeper way, though, the season has been one ugly headline after another. It’s been marked by the anthem controversy, the Roger Goodell contract drama, the Ezekiel Elliott legal kerfuffle, continued discussions about player safety regarding concussions and Thursday night games and, oh yeah, the actual football. The result is that the season feels like it began right around 2005. I hope I make it through the rest of the season.
Meantime, while I still have the strength, let’s do this.
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Hal
After a horrendous start, Hal has quietly started to assemble a hell of a team; likely making up for conducting the draft like he was suffering from an open head wound. All of these moves, from picking up Adrian Peterson to sticking by Matt Forte and Marvin Jones, paid off when he stacked up over 80 points in beating Lars. The rest of the league has to hope Hal’s slow start torpedoed his playoff chances, because the dude may be formidable in the post-season. Oh, by the way…
KICK IN THE NUTS AWARD: Lars
Lars’ total of 63 points would have beaten EVERY other team in the league…except the one he was playing. Hell, he outscored two GAMES this week. The dude is fairly sanguine and even HE had a vein sticking out in his forehead by the end of the weekend.
IRON MIKE SHARPE AWARD: Andrew Luck
Named in honor of the pro wrestler who spent the last 30 years of his career nursing an arm injury, Andrew Luck becomes this year’s recipient. This week, the Colts announced (finally) that they were shutting their franchise QB down for the season. It’s worth mentioning that Luck first suffered his shoulder injury during the 2015 season. Had he been operated on at that time, he would have been ready to go for the beginning of the 2016 season. Instead, he tried–and the Colts signed off on this–to play through it. The result is that injury has now dragged on for three seasons. During all of this, Colts’ owner Jim Irsay was essentially this guy:
Hard to believe a guy who loves prescription medication that much wouldn’t be able to feel other people’s pain…
TREND OF THE WEEK: Screwing up in reverse
I would have loved to award a Dumbass Owner of the Week, since there were plenty of candidates. But, as you may know, the prerequisite is that said dumbassery must cost an owner a win. That requirement proved to be a moving target. Mike decided to bench Jay Ajayi, thinking he would see limited playing time after his trade to the Eagles. In one sense, Mike was right. Ajayi only carried the ball 8 times, but it was enough for 77 yards and a TD. T.J. didn’t read the news wire and left Leonard Fournette in his line-up, despite the Jags RB being suspended for the week. Chuck put Blake Bortles in his starting line-up, which should NEVER result in a victory. And ALL of those guys won this week. The Peter Principle, ladies and gentlemen.
ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: A.J. Green
The Bengals WR showed the kind of calm in the heat of the moment that we’ve come to expect from this franchise/prison colony. For reasons not entirely clear, Green decided that murdering Jags’ DB Jalen Ramsey during the second quarter of this week’s game was a fine idea. The officiating crew, however, did not agree and invited Green to leave the game. Afterwards, Green said of the incident, “That’s not me.” It’s not clear if Green meant it wasn’t reflective of his character or if he was claiming he wasn’t even there at the time. With the Bengals, it could go either way. On a related note…
MYSTERY CALL OF THE WEEK: Jalen Ramsey gets tossed
Despite having analyzed the incident like I’m watching the Zapruder film, I’m not certain what Ramsey did to get thrown out of the game alongside Green, unless taking a hellacious beating is some kind of offense. Clearly, Ramsey should have known better than to show up for the game.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Bruce Arians
When asked about the large number of carries by 57 year old Adrian Peterson, the Cardinals head coach/curmudgeon said, “The ball’s not heavy.” (I don’t say this nearly enough, but: I love that man.)
HYPOCRITE OF THE WEEK: Jerry Jones
We’ll get to the full picture of the Cowboys’ owner in just a second. In the meantime, he issued this gem: “Make no mistake about it: There is zero tolerance, complete zero tolerance, complete zero tolerance by me and by the Cowboys about domestic violence.” This is the same guy who signed Greg Hardy, a psychopath who nearly beat his girlfriend to death. But we’re just getting warmed up with the hypocrisy you’ll find in Jerry World. Let’s get to it, shall we?
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (we still need you, brother) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The Roger Goodell contract negotiations
The long-simmering tensions regarding the negotiations for a new contract for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell boiled over this past week when Jones threatened to sue the members of the league’s compensation committee if they went ahead with the contract they’re negotiating for Goodell. It’s always an extraordinary moment when an owner declares war against the rest of the league. Something like this hasn’t been seen since Al Davis took the NFL to court for the right to move the Raiders to Los Angeles (and then eventually move them back again.) Let’s take a look at how we got here.
Last spring, the league’s owners voted unanimously (note that word) to extend Roger Goodell’s contract, which expires at the end of 2018. They empowered the compensation committee to handle the nuts and bolts of the new deal. Jerry Jones was allowed to sit in on the meetings as an ad hoc (i.e. noisy, but non-voting) part of the committee. In that regard, Jerry saw himself as somebody representing the interests of the other 26 owners in the league. (Because when you think of someone who’s completely self-less and willing to do right without taking any of his own interests into account, you OF COURSE think of Jerry Jones. That tells you everything you need to know about the current state of the league.) Everything seemed to moving along swimmingly this past summer and the commish’s new contract looked like a done-deal.
Right around, August, though, we hit a mysterious bump in the road. This may have been due to Goodell suspending Cowboys’ star RB Ezekiel Elliott for six games on evidence that was shaky in the extreme. Jones was said to be furious at Goodell and shortly after that, he was advocating that the committee put the brakes on Goodell’s extension. Jerry’s objections were not enough to scuttle the deal, though. So Jones, in the manner of all toddlers with legal representation, told the committee that he planned to sue them if they ratified Goodell’s new contract. It hasn’t killed the deal, but it HAS resulted in Jerry’s invitation to sit in with the committee being rescinded.
In fairness, the exact reasons for Jones’ objections SEEM to be varied. He believes that Goodell has been too heavy-handed with discipline. He also believes that Goodell’s been too weak in allowing the anthem protests to continue and to disrupt the league’s profits. He also feels that the deal is too one-sided for Goodell. While both Jones and those in his inner circle insist that the Elliot suspension is not Jones’ motivating factor in going after Goodell, the fact that Jones turned on Goodell right after it seems a little too coincidental. Still, there are points to be made on both sides.
For Goodell, he’s perfectly within his rights to decline any kind of incentive-laden contract. That’s the kind of deal you offer to someone who’s under-performed at the job. When Goodell took over as commissioner in 2007, the league was a 6 billion dollar a year enterprise. It’s currently an 18 billion per year deal. Goodell successfully negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement in 2011. And in his mind, I’m sure, has followed through on being in charge of league discipline. It’s not hard to picture him pointing at Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft and saying, “You didn’t seem to have any problem with how I did discipline until Deflategate.” And then turn to Jones and say, “And you didn’t have a problem until I suspended Ezekiel Elliott.” It’s reasonable to believe that Goodell would have a hard time imposing discipline on a group of people who don’t want the rules to apply to them. As for the anthem issue, Goodell pretty clearly sees that imposing discipline isn’t going to get him anywhere. Force the players to stand for the anthem and you’ll get widespread protests as a result. This is one of those issues that really, truly will go away if it’s ignored. Less than 20 players routinely kneel for the anthem. Fans will eventually calm down. If people like Jerry Jones and Bob McNair could shut their mouths long enough, everything will be fine.
This does not, however, mean that Jones doesn’t have some legitimate complaints. The increase in revenue over the last 11 years is admirable, but this is football. The cash cow of North American sports. An inanimate carbon rod could have presided over the league during that time and oversaw the same kind of growth. The player discipline thing has ranged wildly between overly-harsh and incredibly lenient (Ray Rice, anyone?) The one constant has been how poorly all of them have been investigated. If Goodell’s intention is to protect the shield, it’s hard to think of someone who’s done more damage to it. The result is that the commissioner has poisoned his relationship with the players; the same players with whom he will have to negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement. And, much as I disagree with Jones on this issue, I can understand how it would mystify Jerry that Goodell can levy such harsh suspensions to players, but acts like his hands are tied when it comes to enforcing the anthem issue (an issue that seems to be hurting the league’s bottom line far more than anything that’s driven the suspensions.)
Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges recently failed in her bid for re-election. One of the factors–probably the main factor–in her defeat was her failure to handle tensions between the Minneapolis police and the African-American community. In fact, Hodges handling of the issue was so bad, she wound up with both sides disliking and distrusting her. Clearly, it was time for her to go. It’s one of those universal rules of leadership: you can’t do it in a vacuum. You only lead if people are willing to follow you. It seems a little trivial to make this kind of transition, but Roger Goodell is in a similar spot. Right now, Goodell is despised by the players and the fans. The only ones who seemed to strongly have his back were the owners. But he’s managed to alienate two of the league’s most powerful owner. If Jerry Jones finds some allies in this fight (and he’s never had an issue coming up with those), Goodell’s days might be numbered.
And while I would love to see Goodell get ousted, I’m not entirely certain these are the circumstances that would benefit the game. As I’ve pointed out, “altruistic” is not a word you’d generally apply to Jerry Jones. If he can topple a commissioner simply as petty revenge for something done to his team, then, no matter who takes Goodell’s place in the commissioner’s office, Jerry Jones is the most powerful man in the NFL. I’m not sure anyone outside of Dallas would sleep well at night knowing that.
The Rat Pack (Me) 6-3
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 6-3
Chuck (Chuck) 6-3
The Defenders (Mike) 3-6
Brian’s Song (Carol) 2-7
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 7-2
The People in the Band (Lars) 4-5
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 4-5
Rodgers Blows (Robbie) 3-6
Lethal Injection (Jack) 3-6
JOE DAVIS is the main character in a series of mystery novels by Randall J. Funk. Mr. Davis and Mr. Funk are delighted by the shocking similarities in their opinions and writing styles.