by Andrew Brandt
November 04, 02009
Why did the Browns terminate their general manager "with cause"?
We may not find out the reason until there’s testimony at a potential grievance. The Browns decided Tuesday to release the general manager they hired nine months ago, George Kokinis. Were he fired "without cause," meaning the team had decided to move on without him, he would be entitled to the remaining compensation of his contract (as is the case with departed GM Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel). In the event the Browns can show cause -- and they are scouring the phone records of Kokinis to find such evidence -- they will be relieved of their liability to him. This was the issue in the firing of Lane Kiffin from the Raiders last season when owner Al Davis made a very public argument to explain why Kiffin was terminated for cause.
The Browns now move from an organization with a general manager and head coach to one that appears to have a general manager/head coach. It appears that control is very important to coach Eric Mangini and that Kokinis became an obstacle to control despite his skills in personnel evaluation.
The Browns have not been averse to bringing in people and spending money on their football operation. Besides being big spenders in free agency and trades -- Eric Steinbach, Shaun Rogers, Corey Williams and others -- they have spent liberally on hires in their coaching staff and front office. Owner Randy Lerner uses the NFL office for advice on hiring and has brought in several people from that office, some of whom are no longer there. Now they’ve decided they had one too many people.
The team needs to decide on a structure -- general manager and head coach; general manager/head coach; head coach and consultant, whatever -- and move from there. At present, there appears to be a void in communication, leadership and trust that must be filled before they can move forward.
Why is today a potentially very important day in preparation for an uncapped year in 2010?
Today marks the fifth meeting between representatives of the NFL and the NFL Players Association in an attempt to forge a new Collective Bargaining Agreement after owners opted out of the current one. To review, the CBA between players and management was scheduled to expire in 2013, but the owners exercised an option to end it following the 2011 season. They realized that the CBA, agreed to in March of 2006 by a vote of 30-2, was not working for them. According to the CBA, the last year of the deal, now 2010, was always deemed to be an uncapped year. This provision was put in the deal, as it has been in previous deals, to spur action from both sides toward a new agreement.
Today’s meeting will include the principals: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Until now, progress has been marginal. The NFLPA has been frustrated by not receiving what it feels are solid proposals from the league nor a full understanding of the financial difficulties owners face with the present agreement. The NFL has been unfazed about the prospect of an uncapped 2010, perhaps the reason for the slow pace of negotiations to this point.
The idea of a “lock-in to avoid a lockout” -- putting both sides in a room until they get a deal done -- was advanced by Smith as a way to show players, fans and media that the union wants a deal by whatever means possible. However, the NFL has certainly not embraced the "lock-in" concept, frustrating the union's attempt to be proactive and further indicating the NFL’s willingness to wait out the union for a deal that makes sense to ownership.
My sense is that we'll have a better -- even if only marginally better -- feel for where this important negotiation is headed after today.
Why were Goodell and Smith on Capitol Hill yesterday addressing the StarCaps case?
Goodell is appealing to Congress to fix the fact that Pat and Kevin Williams could take their NFL suspensions and have them, at the least, deferred and potentially expunged simply by going to state and federal courts. Goodell wants Congress to intervene to affirm that labor agreements should trump state laws in this context.
As written here before, it would be hard to say what would happen to a player in the NFL should he test positive for Bumetanide, the banned substance at issue in the Williamses’ case. Goodell had to allow Will Smith and Charles Grant of the Saints to play even thought they tested positive for the same substance and theoretically would have to allow any other player the same latitude in the interests of competitive balance. Goodell now needs help, as the NFL’s testing policies cannot be at the mercy of state laws around the country, creating a lack of uniformity that the league needs for enforcement.
While Goodell appealed to Congress for help -- supported by Rob Manfred from Major League Baseball -- his counterpart on the union side sits quietly by his side on this one. In all likelihood, it will be Smith, not Congress, who provides the answer that Goodell is seeking, and the forum will be through collective bargaining rather than legislation. Indeed, Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) ended the hearings with a curious and awkward comment to encourage bargaining, saying: “Ask Rodney King for some advice: Can't we all get along?” As mentioned above, that process of “getting along” continues today.
Why did the Chiefs save the Chargers $2.4 million Tuesday?
The Chiefs claimed the contract of wide receiver Chris Chambers, cut by the Chargers on Monday. Had he not been claimed, Chambers would have been entitled to termination pay for the balance of his 2009 salary of $4.55 million, or $2.41M. He then could have also double-dipped, meaning he could have claimed that money and signed with another team for additional money. However, once his contract was claimed off waivers, any right to termination pay ceased.
The Chiefs might have felt they would have had competition for Chambers' services had he cleared waivers and been a free agent (unlikely) or that perhaps there would be some bidding for him to the tune of more than $2.4M for the rest of the season (doubtful).
Another explanation could be that the Chiefs, being the one team in the NFL that had teetered below the salary cap minimum of $108M, were eager to reach that threshold, removing them from the status of the only team not spending to the minimum. As to the bargaining with the union described above, the owners can now say that every team is spending to the cap minimum, something that may not happen next year since no cap will mean no cap minimum.
Why does the settlement between the Chiefs and Larry Johnson strongly resemble one a year ago between the Giants and Plaxico Burress?
Last September, the Giants, after re-signing Plaxico Burress to an extension during training camp, had become frustrated with Burress missing meetings and his general indifference toward his coaches. The team suspended him without pay for two weeks, one of which was a bye week. After Burress filed a grievance through the NFLPA, a settlement was reached in which he sat out one game of the suspended time frame yet was only docked one week's pay instead of two.
Now the Chiefs, after re-signing Johnson to a large extension in 2007, suspended him for two weeks after he twice used a gay slur and questioned coach Todd Haley's qualifications. The team suspended Johnson without pay for two weeks, one of which was a bye week. After he filed a grievance through the NFLPA, a settlement was reached in which Johnson would sit out the one game yet would only be docked one week's pay as opposed to two.
Although the amounts of the game check are different, the settlement terms for Johnson and the Chiefs are exactly the terms that Burress and the Giants reached 13 months ago.
Now we’ll see if Johnson is on the Chiefs’ roster the season after the settlement. Burress, of course, is not.
Check out the new Chiefs team page at the NFP — where the fans get to voice their opinions.
And my Pet Peeve Why of the Week:
Why is the NFL having these six-team bye weeks?
I understand the need to dispense with the byes before the season gets really interesting around Thanksgiving, but do we really need to remove 19 percent of the teams from the schedule last week and this week? There are only two teams left that have not had byes -- the Giants and Texans. They could have been joined by another two teams next week rather than six teams being off now. And why wouldn't the Bears and 49ers, playing next Thursday night, have their bye weeks this week? I know scheduling is complicated, but this shouldn't be too difficult.
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