Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I’ll Take the Reins, Paul

With Tagliabue’s surprising announcement that he is stepping down this summer as NFL commissioner, I think it’s time for my ascent to global overlord to begin.  NFL commish seems like a good first step to me.  It’s not a broken system at all, but there are a few major rust spots that I’d like to overhaul.  This’ll let millions of Americans see how great things can be when I’m given unchecked authority.
First off, the notion of parity was the worst memo to ever go through the board of governors.  We might as well have GMs line up all 1600-odd players and re-pick teams each year.  I for one am getting tired of it.  I want rivalries.  I want superpowers.  When the Olympics come around, I can look forward to US vs Russia clashes.  When the World Cup comes, I like knowing that Germany, Brazil, Italy, and England are going to come with a thunder.  It’s helpful in my March Madness brackets to know Duke will be in the Final Four.  We need teams we can depend on to love or hate.  No one gives a flip about the Arizona Cardinals, yet it wouldn’t surprise me if they were in the 2008 Superbowl thanks to parity.  No one wants that.  We want butt-kickers, and if that means some cities are perpetual butts, so be it.  The Kansas City Royals haven’t gone anywhere and the Atlanta Hawks are somehow still in business, so I don’t see a need to rotate NFL champions to give every fanbase a turn.

The center of parity stems from the hard cap and revenue sharing.  I’m not looking to abolish these two things; I actually appreciate them to a good degree.  The Yankees and Knicks are examples of what’s wrong with the MLB and NBA systems, with payrolls that triple the league averages.  However, a system that forces teams to cut major pieces each year needs work.  The Cowboys drop Larry Allen?  Without the obligatory suitcase full of uncut crack cocaine?   Shameful.  And let’s see a raise of hands from those that get ill when trying to figure out all of the funny economics involved with restructured contracts and bonuses to cook the books for this hard cap.  It’s got to stop.  Here’s what I propose:

  1. Keep the hard cap, though it will need to be adjusted to maintain players receiving 56% of revenue after my subsequent changes take effect.

  2. Keep revenue sharing as it is currently conceived: based on licensing, TV rights, and other league-wide sources.  Knock down the shared ticket sales shared from a third to a quarter.  Revenue sharing should ensure that every team can financially meet the cap, which it currently does.

  3. (Here’s where I start swinging the hammer) No more backloaded deals – 10% annual raises max.   This means no more players being cut over ballooned final years or teams promising money that will never be there.  This should also cut down on a reworked deals.

  4. Bonuses are limited to 30% of total contract value (player agents will lose it with this).  Now again, the cap will get adjusted and total player revenue doesn’t go away.  Plus a key idea is to knock down the number of roster cuts each year, meaning that players get their cash.  Point with this is to get rid of the shenanigans involved with Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones moving bonus figures around like they were overseas shell corporations.  A bonus should be a bonus; not an under-the-table contract.  I may even choose to flip things around and make the bonuses all non-guaranteed annual roster bonuses and the base becomes guaranteed.  Haven’t made a firm decision yet, but I’m leaning toward it.

  5. To encourage team cohesiveness, draft picks get an exception to the above rule with 40% signing bonuses if they stay with their original team after their rookie deal.  

  6. On the other side of the table, teams get a crack in the hard cap: a luxury tax that is capped at 20% above the real cap, and is a $3 per $1 penalty (penalty becomes shared revenue).  It’s not much, and it’s a poison pill, but it’s also a release valve for those that are missing that one last piece or need just a little more room to keep their team intact.  The Patriots shouldn’t have to bleed off two franchise guys until it’s time to turn off the lights and rebuild.

  7. The Franchise tag has to be agreed upon by both the player and team.  That or lose it altogether and replace it with more restricted free agency.  It’s like watching a hooker try to walk away from an abusive pimp.  Give players the right to include an out clause to enter RFA partway through their contracts.  If they’re underpaid, they can shop for value, and the team can’t lose them without compensation or a right to match.

This is what you’ll get from me as commissioner of the NFL.  Teams that can have eras again instead of fluke titles.  Let teams stay together and you’ll have legendary runs and hot rivalries.  No more cap bloodshed and no more token musical chairs system for champions.  Because otherwise, you know that the Saints are going to be phoney Super Bowl winners in 2007.  So please, this week, write me in as your 2006 NFL commissioner candidate.


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