Tuesday Thoughts

On a personal note, the Packers terminated the contracts of some friends I worked with and next to – my office was adjacent to the defensive staff’s offices – for several years. These were the same coaches who helped steer the team to 14 wins and an overtime away from the Super Bowl last season. These are some good coaches and solid people such as Lionel Washington, who arrived in Green Bay at the same time I did in1999, and helped develop and nurture Pro Bowlers Al Harris, Nick Collins and Charles Woodson. I have already received calls from teams asking for references on Lionel and a couple other of these men.

Some of the Packers players wanted more aggressive schemes and more input in the game plan. Coaches should not let players coach, although the way coaches manage their input – which happens on every team in the league -- says a lot. Tactful deference to players’ interests, without caving in to their demands, is integral to team dynamics.

Time, however, marches on, especially for coaches. They are working one day and packing up their belongings the next. It’s part of the business – coaches are hired to be fired – and the “We’re going in a different direction” speech becomes a necessary occupational hazard. Now there are several staffs in limbo, all working the phones trying to find a landing spot. This process will culminate at the Senior Bowl in a couple of weeks, where much backroom interviewing and schmoozing will result in staffs being filled out…

Speaking of the Senior Bowl, the staffs of the Jaguars and Bengals were named to coach the game. I know that when the Packers coached the game in 2001, it was a benefit to see players up close and personal in how they approached practice, meetings and interactions with coaches, scouts and other players. I remember being especially taken with a couple of cornerbacks that year, Ken Lucas from Mississippi and Fred Smoot from Mississippi State, one quiet (Lucas) and one loud (Smoot), who both went in the second round and have signed huge free-agent contracts in the league…

Speaking of coaches with terminated contracts, there have been a few things written about the need for a coach such as Mike Shanahan, due over $20M over the next three seasons, to pursue and accept similar employment as part of the duty to find and accept similar employment (the “duty to mitigate”) after the termination of his contract last week. Indeed, as written in this space last week that language is common in all coaching contracts to lessen the burden on the terminating team of its financial obligations. Though interesting in theory, as a practical matter the operative fact becomes whether the owner wants to pursue that angle with the coach. In most cases, there is a personal relationship between owner and head coach, as there certainly is with Shanahan and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and it becomes a bit thorny for the owner who fired the coach to be analyzing whether the coach is meeting the burden of trying to mitigate and work toward finding and accepting a proper job.

When Steve Mariucci was terminated from Detroit in 2005 with millions left on his contract, he was open about wanting to take time off and not look into coaching positions. There was no hint from the Ford family about not paying Mariucci. I suspect that whatever Shanahan does or does not do, the situation will be the same in Denver.

Conversely, there are lower-level coaches and front office employees who are terminated and then face having to prove that they satisfied their burden to mitigate and/or accept suitable compensation. At the Packers, I had to defend our compensation to a couple of employees after the teams that had terminated them filed arbitrations claiming we were not paying enough to offset their contracts. Both cases were upheld for the Packers, as the positions were not at the same level from which they had left.

Thus mitigation, in reality, is more an issue of team-to-team offset and market compensation for similar jobs rather than scrutinizing whether a fired coach is actually sending out resumes, talking to people and/or accepting the right type of job……

Upcoming Games

Aug 4th, 8:00 PM

Jacksonville +1.5 -110

Las Vegas -1.5 -110


Aug 11th, 7:00 PM

NY Giants

New England


Aug 11th, 7:30 PM