While much of the chatter surrounding the recent NFL owners' meeting in Carolina focused on Mark Davis's dalliances with Las Vegas, and awarding three new Super Bowl host cities, there was plenty of talk once again about London. Chances are you didn't hear about it. But it was going on.
Although it hasn't been receiving much public attention recently, with the owners voting to allow multiple teams to relocate to Los Angeles a few months back and with the stadium situations in Oakland and San Diego still very much in the news, don't be fooled: The movement to London is alive and well.
It was a major topic of conversation among the owners last week, according to numerous league sources. Mark Waller, who heads the NFL's International arm, gave a detailed progress report and presentation to the owners at that meeting that led many teams to come away more convinced than ever that this is something Park Avenue very much wants to happen.
According to those privy to the presentation, there was discussion of some of the obvious potential ongoing hurdles -- how players will be compensated, the ability to recruit players and coaches there -- but those seem like labor issues that can be fairly easily mined. Sources said the NFL continues to fine tune how it will approach these quandaries, but they are not considered to be deal-breakers to any degree. I could see a guy like Tom Coughlin being willing to coach a team in London right now. There are only 32 of these jobs and only 32 of these teams, and there will be enough money over there to get players and coaches to come.
Believe it or not, what the league is most concerned about sorting out lately is how it would handle a London franchise once it inevitably reached a playoff round and faced a team from beyond the Midwest. Yes, that's how far down the line the NFL is in addressing London contingencies, and these are the types of things owners are being asked to consider as further preparations are made toward moving a team to England.
Nothing is imminent; it's all still years away. But more regular season games being played over there every year, and teams now aren't guaranteed a bye when they return to the U.S. The games in London are being played within a short frame of time to replicate the feel of a season over there, and more stadiums are becoming involved in hosting the games. It's easy to see the direction the wind is blowing at the league office.
And it remains a riddle how to handle scheduling and broadcasting should a London team hypothetically have to go to somewhere like San Diego or San Francisco during a playoff round. How can you accommodate both clubs in terms of rest and travel during a period of the season in which no bye is possible? Do you build in buffers to play games on a Tuesday or Thursday, say, if the two teams involved prefer that? How amenable would the networks be to such a fluctuating situation?
There would obviously be some significant logistical obstacles for both teams involved, as well as whoever is broadcasting the game, and the NFL is considering how to best sort through that from a competitive standpoint. Let's face it, every extra 12 hours off is a huge factor come the postseason, and the schedule needs to be as fair and balanced as possible.
"That was the thing they seemed to have the most difficulty figuring out," said one team exec who closely watched the session. "They aren't sure how to handle that from a competitive standpoint, but judging from how Waller spoke about, it's definitely something they are spending a fair amount of time working on."
So, yeah, if owners are being briefed on matters that seem as esoteric and potentially remote as this (a London vs. L.A. hypothetical playoff game), then it's safe to assume they are trying to plan for everything as the march across the pond intensifies the deeper we get into this decade. As for how to solve this riddle, maybe you give the road team the option of playing the game a few days sooner or later than the norm? The teams I spoke to guessed maybe something like that eventually carries the day, but rest assured, there will be plenty more work done behind the scenes preparing and planning for it.
Fitzpatrick-Jets saga: The more things 'change' ...
I find the preponderance of recent Ryan Fitzpatrick "news" stories a little odd. It's a function of the fact there is really nothing going on in this league for a change more than anything else, I figure, as nothing has actually changed between the Jets and their former starting quarterback in months.
As reported too long ago to remember, the Jets were offering Fitz a short-term deal worth around $8 million a year, and were refusing to guarantee any real money beyond the first year of the deal. He could make over $10 million in the first year of the deal, but the team's true commitment wouldn't go beyond one year on a three-year structure. Meantime, Fitzpatrick believed he merited $15 million per year with multiple years essentially guaranteed.
So, um, yeah, that's always been the case, and still is the case, and no one is going to budge now. Not after the draft and not with no other teams in the league offering any starting money either, and not with NFL rosters flooded with cheap rookie passers right now.
And barring a contending team losing a starter in a minicamp to injury, nothing will be changing anytime soon. Both sides are dug in; the Jets understandably so, and Fitzpatrick not so much. The journeyman has no leverage and has never had any real leverage. The market has spoken repeatedly, and the Harvard man is smart enough to know to eventually jump on that $12 million in 2016, because that kind of cash is never coming around again. And it's always been most likely that when he does comes to his senses, it'll be right around the start of camp, and certainly not now during the banality of OTAs.
So, what'd I miss? How is this situation any different now than what was pretty firmly established months ago?
Training camp can't get here soon enough. Between the parsing out of Fitzpatrick's offer and the triviality of teams being stripped of OTAs for offseason violations, I can't wait until there is actual football to report on again later this summer.
Enough with the complaining, overpaid QBs
The Offseason of (Woeful) Quarterback Discontent just refuses to go away. It wasn't ridiculous enough that guys like Sam Bradford and Brock Osweiler and Nick Foles (last year) got heavily overpaid, but now they can't stop making waves with ill-conceived, whiny, passive-aggressive, wanna-be power plays.
Please, enough from all of you.
At least Bradford came out and issued his mea culpa a few weeks back, at which time I was praying the spring quarterback uprising was over. No such luck.
Now we have Osweiler skipping out on the Broncos trip to the White House while still trying to pretend there is no bad blood here (sorry bro, but your introductory press conference, when you raved about the ownership/management of the never-won-anything Texans after leaving the Lombardi winners, told us all we need to know).
And we have Nick Foles skipping out on OTAs, because he's all bent out of shape the Rams traded up to first overall for a quarterback after losing his starting job to Case Keenum last season.
Nick friggin Foles, people! When will it end?
This guy was arguably the worst regular starting quarterback to throw a pass in the NFL last season. His stint with the Rams has been an abject failure, and he should be thanking them every day for the lavish contract they extended to him after the trade (which was borderline insane). Yet now he can't lower himself to take part in OTAs, when he is the very poster boy for someone who actually needs a spring tune-up? I give up.
If a marginal quarterback throws a temper tantrum in the woods, does it make a sound?
I'm not the only one grumbling. I asked my colleague Bart Scott about Bradford's short-lived hold-up/trade demand when he joined me on my "B-More Opinionated" podcast, and as always the former linebacker did not hold back, launching immediately into the following response:
"As a defensive player, man, that's why I look at a guy like Muhammad Wilkerson," Scott said, "and I say, 'Man, why can't I get my money when you're paying these bums?' Right? Muhammad Wilkerson, who does everything right. He's not a distraction. He's very charitable in his community. He's from his community ... I think he's exceeded expectations, because a lot of people, when he came out of Temple, were probably looking at (Jets coach) Rex (Ryan) like, 'What the hell is he doing is he doing?'
"And this guy has been one the best guys other than J.J. Watt and at times Geno Atkins at that position (defensive tackle), and now you're talking about Aaron Donald, and you have to put those guys as the top five guys who play that spot. But he has to fight for his money. But meanwhile some of these other quarterbacks, man, who couldn't play dead in a Western, get paid all this money."
Preach on, Bart.
As Scott put it, "Even quarterbacks that suck make more money than the great defensive players." Now they need to keep their mouths shut, show up for voluntary work and compete for their jobs without throwing a hissy fit about it.