Behind the Gridiron 

NFL Under Fire

I've been sitting here for the past week listening, as have all loyal football fans, watching and anticipating the next move in Maurice Clarett's (RB, Ohio State) temper tantrum, hoping some way, some how this is going to start making sense. There are so many issues wrapped up in this giant snowball, it's hard to know where to start. I have been reading for days and have a headache. I do not envy the judge who must eventually decide on the injunction. It will be difficult in the extreme to render a judgment solely on whether or not the NFL is in violation of US Anti-trust laws when so many other issues are being used as either smokescreens or adding fuel to the fire. How is this a racial issue? How is this an exploitation issue? Why must the NFL defend a rule enacted to protect the health and well being of young football players? Why is he still whining? O.k., strike that last question. But seriously, I'm annoyed and offended by this whole process; by the sheer arrogance Clarett has displayed throughout.

The situation began with some minor indiscretions at Ohio State. A small matter of "extra help" with his studies (read: cheating) and "slightly" exaggerating the value of stolen goods (read: lying), that may not have warranted the athletic department's season long suspension. I find it odd that they are willing to oust their golden boy over something so trivial. That's issue number one. Certainly suspend him; he done wrong, but all season? That seems illogical and certainly worthy of investigation, but not here and not right now.

Regretfully, Clarett is far from contrite. He chose not to "keep his nose clean" for a month and then ask for an appeal. He instead opted for fame and fortune, his name in lights - a career in the NFL! Slight roadblock there, he's not eligible for the draft because of the NFL ruling that states players are not eligible for the draft unless they have completed three years of college or it's three years past the player's high school graduation date. That would be issued number two. After some consideration, he decides to petition the NFL for eligibility in the 2004 draft. The two parties meet and the NFL says they'll get back to the Clarett family. Without waiting for further response, the lawsuit was filed in the Southern District Court of New York suing the NFL for violating anti-trust laws. I'd call that issue number three. And then comes the Complaint. Have you guys seen this thing? Here's my personal favorite listed under the title FACTS: "... 31. Had Clarett been eligible for the 2003 Draft, it is almost certain he would have been selected in the beginning of the First Round and would have agreed to a contract and signing bonus worth millions of dollars..." Anyone have a dictionary to look up the word "fact"? There other issues brought to light in the Complaint; serious issues that should be addressed by the NFL. A vague and imprecise Collective Bargaining Agreement that does not protect the NFL rule being one of the more serious ones.

From a legal standpoint, the NFL is on shaky ground. The ramifications of a decision favorable to Clarett deserve serious consideration. If the matter is decided on the basis of anti-trust laws alone, the courts seriously undermine the NFL's right to determine and regulate eligibility requirements. The rule in question was established to protect the safety of players after similar draft situations resulted in substantial injuries. The NFL was called to account for its decisions then and held responsible for the consequences of its actions. I argue that you cannot hold someone responsible and then take away his or her right to govern that responsibility. To call it unlawful or contend that is in some form discriminatory (Count One, 35. The Rule is a group boycott and a concerted refusal to deal with individuals such as Clarett) renders the NFL powerless to protect itself against litigation and claims of irresponsible actions. It would be like insisting a business provide Workman's Compensation yet disallow any regulation of safety procedures. If the rule is flawed or does not accomplish its desired intent, it should be reviewed and possibly revised. Look at the case history of Curt Flood and the St. Louis Cardinals. MLB's infamous reserve clause gave the team owners the right to renew the contract each year; in other words, they owned the contract, and consequently the player until such time the decided not to renew or trade said player. Flood challenged his trade to the Phillies on the grounds that the clause violated anti-trust laws and the 13th amendment. Ultimately, the Flood lost his battle. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of MLB, but the issue was far from over. The team owners were forced revamp their policies and free agency in baseball was born. In this similar situation, decades later, would it not behoove the NFL and the NFLPA to sit down and discuss whether or not the rule satisfies the intended goal? If not, an agreement should be reached by negotiations between the players and the NFL - not in a courtroom.

Wait a minute! Clarett is not an NFL player and should not be able to mandate changes in the approved form of negotiations between the NFL and it's players. Let's address for a moment the questions that must be answered for the injunction:

? Will Clarett suffer irreparable damage if his situation is not remedied immediately?
(Absolutely not. Unless, we are now defining irreparable damage in monetary terms. And if we are talking about a couple million dollars, next year when he has a $20 million contract, do you think he'll miss that first $2 mill? -gd)

? Does Clarett have a good case? Not necessarily a winning one, but a strong one.
(No. Points 15, 16, 17, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30 & 31 are either erroneous or misleading that can be successfully argued by Defendant attorneys. In fact, the only allegation that holds any water is the violation of anti-trust laws to which the NFL is subject. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, however, is not as a union subject to those same laws. The NFL will argue that although the exact wording may not appear in the text of the CBA, the rule is understood inherent in the language of the document. Upshaw, the NFLPA's Executive Director, has publicly stated his concurrence. -gd)

? Balance of Harms -- Is Clarett more harmed by this rule than the NFL is?
(No. I honestly don't think so. No one is saying that Clarett cannot play for the NFL. No one is denying his talent. Some may argue that he is losing out on millions of dollars by not being able to be drafted in the 2004 season, but I disagree. He cannot lose out on something he is not entitled to. And if he is entitled, is not every other person who has ever been eligible for the NFL draft, but been required to wait the mandatory 3 years? I believe the harm to be much more costly for the NFL, for their reputation, for possible additional legislation as a result of the courts decision. I don't doubt that this rule, if declared unlawful, will be replaced with another version to try to maintain some control over eligibility requirements and their own responsibility for the health and safety of players. There's also the cost of mounting their defense in this current matter which will be undoubtedly monstrous. -gd

? Would the injunction be in the best interest of the public good?
(Other than being a juicy bone of gossip for football fans at large, I don't see how the public good would be affected either way. When I think of public good, I think of healthcare, lack of poverty, government-assisted programs - not football. -gd)


So my headache has reached migraine proportions and I still have a lot to say. I want to talk about the "free farm issue" and I want to talk about Rep. John Conyers D-Mich and his comment "Like a lot of young kids, he's made mistakes, but he has been the subject of an Orwellian procedure where a university acting to protect its own hide (has) acted as Maurice's prosecutor, judge and jury," Conyers said in a statement. "Now, like (baseball free-agency pioneer) Curt Flood before him, Maurice is . . . challenging a draft rule which the league tells us is designed to help kids, but really seems to institutionalize a farm system that reaps huge financial rewards for the colleges and pros; and operates primarily at the expense of African American teenagers." And I want to talk about Spencer Haywood and the NBA, but not now, not tonight.

4th and Goal, Where's Jack Nicholson?

Gabrielle D'Ayr for SBS

The biggest problem facing investors who would consider investing money in an LA team is how to make their team successful in less than 60 seconds. Some people don't think that can happen. LA is not a football city, it's a basketball city, and really, it's just a Laker city. L.A. has managed to chase two NFL teams away. To which I reply, "I'm sorry, how many years were the Rams in LA? 49 years? And yes, the Raiders left too, but only after 12 years of calling L.A. home and attracting a loyal contingent of fans that are still Raider fans even after their spontaneous departure. L.A. can most definitely support a football team - if it's done right.

We've explored over the last couple of weeks the issues of where and who. Both those issues aside, if there is no solid marketing plan, the project will fall flat on its face. The smart investor will hire the best marketing firm LA has to offer and make sure they can deliver what LA fans want and need. Keeping in mind, of course that there are two types of fans there: So Cals (native Californians)and the LA Crowd (transplants).

If we start with the premise of moving a competitive team (you'll recall my pick was the New Orleans Saints. That could change if the Saints' first game against the Seahawks is any indication of their season to come), the first order of business is getting fans to the game. The stadium is a huge part of that. Were a new stadium built, people would come just to see the new stadium. Over the past couple years; about 10 teams had a new stadium built for them (or renovated, in the case of Lambeau Field). Statistics have shown that the general public finds a new stadium has enough draw to go and see it "just because". Give them a good game to watch as well, and you're off to a good start.

It is still my contention, however, that NFL wants the LA Coliseum to house a new Los Angeles team. And in general, what the NFL wants the NFL gets. Personally, I think it's the best choice for quite a few reasons, Location, Location, Location being one of them. There are some things that worry me. I think we can get around the "shiny new stadium" fairly easily. I saw pictures for the previous renovation proposal and wow. That was something. The concern I have, which Commissioner Tagliabue shared, is parking. And really the problem is finding a way to work with the city. Parking needs to be close to the Coliseum and there needs to be a lot of it.

My other concern is naming rights. In the grand scheme in my mind's eye, I saw a group of private investors going in together on a stadium and relying on the revenues from other events at the stadium as well as a substantial sum from Sony or one of those big entertainment companies that are dotted all over LA. The potential problem here is that the Coliseum is publicly owned. Although the government contributes no money to its upkeep (the Charter states that it will be funded solely by the revenue it generates), a group of private investors may not have the right to sell naming rights to Universal Studios, say. Unless they do something similar to what 3Com did with Candlestick Park. Officially, it was 3Com at Candlestick Point. So maybe they could call it Universal Stadium at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and just put Universal Stadium on all the promotional material? Although, I think Sony Stadium has a better ring to it. I hope they're reading this.

Let's assume that it's a perfect world (meaning I got my way) and the Saints are going to LA and will be living in their newly renovated Sony Stadium Coliseum, complete with cool sports memorabilia and a kids play area. And can we please have many, many women's bathrooms with an inexhaustible supple of TP? Is that too much to ask? Anyway, I digress. Plenty of parking is also included in this little whimsy of mine. What do they need to do?

Some specifics:

Low ticket prices - I mean from like $100 for 50yd line - Field Level to $15 for the nose bleeds. Make it an introductory offer so they realize that the tickets will go up and not be surprised when it happens.

Season tickets - do a promotion on that as well; if they buy the second year up front, they'll get them 25% cheaper.

Box/Club Seats - offer them to all the big companies; especially talent agencies with the understanding, of course, whichever stars then give the tickets to will get a certain amount of camera time. If the boxes aren't selling, consider donating one to the Boy Scouts or the March of Dimes and make it a tax write off as well as endearing yourself to the community.

Guest Cheerleader - There's a lot of hotties in LA; have a raffle and let 10 lucky girls be guest cheerleaders and send them home with pom-poms.

T-Shirt Giveaway - For the inaugural game; give away team shirts to everyone. After the first game, scale down and just shoot some into the crowd. Everyone loves free stuff.

Famous Guests - You're in LA! Milk it and have the best and the brightest doing the National Anthem and halftime shows.

Advertising - Radio spots, autograph rallies, send half the team to a Laker game and make sure they get on camera, put the owner on Sport Center's hot seat, the standard stuff. Any good marketing guy can point you in the right direction.

Have good vendor food and lots of beer stands.

Now all that is for the fans. That's to get them in the door and keep them coming back. The So Cals will want a team that they can care about (and will win). The LA crowd will want to see and be seen (and a team that will win).

The other side of this is the plan. You have to have a plan. A good example of having a plan and following it is the Houston Texans. You know those guys that kicked Miami's butt and broke their Season Opener record? That team that we all thought was going to LA? These guys who, starting their 2nd season, are already worth almost $800 million dollars. They're one of the reasons that possible controversy about naming rights bothers me. Reliant paid $300 million for 30 years. That's almost half of what owner Robert McNair paid for his team. The Texans went 4 and 12 in there opening season and I know what you're thinking, but I've got one word for you guys - Bengals. These guys are a great model for LA to look at. There are some smart business folk behind these scenes.

If you follow the history, the NFL did everything in its power to give LA the 32nd expansion team. Houston's McNair had a plan and had financial backing and then had to wait while the Expansion Committee delayed their decision, voted to give LA more time, and then finally award the team to them. LA's mistake? Never addressing the financial issue the NFL begged them to resolve. The NFL is a business after all; it's not going to do this for free. Houston had all their ducks in a row. They were the first to bring their proposal to the table, received a pat on the head from the NFL and within two days of that had a commitment from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo to push for a new stadium. A year later, they had the financial commitment in cement while the NFL was still fiddling in the hopes that LA and Mike Ovitz would get their stuff together.

The team was awarded officially October 6th 1999. From that moment on, they did everything in the public eye. They involved the community, had pep rally's and naming contests and kept everyone informed each step of the way. By the time the Texans played their first game, there were already old friends to most Houston families.

Now I will admit to the Los Angeles crowd being a tad more cynical, but we're giving them a team that will kick butt and take names. One of the reasons I vote no on an expansion team is the time it takes to get a team to win. I mean the Cowboys have Bill Parcells now and still no one expects them to be amazing for at least 2 seasons. Where Houston has embraced the newest member of their community, you're gonna have to impress LA. But first things first. You need a place for the team to play and you need to pay for it.

Oh and Psssssst! Don't forget the Corporate Sponsors!

The LA Who?

by Gabrielle D'Ayr for SBS

Leaving the argument of where exactly L.A. will house their team and accepting the premise that a team will indeed call Los Angeles home. Who's going? There are three teams that come immediately to mind when answering the question: the San Diego Chargers; the Indianapolis Colts; and the Minnesota Vikings. In the simplest terms, none of them are happy at home. All three teams have legitimate stadium issues, so if Los Angeles get either a new stadium or a billion dollar renovation, any of the three would be happy little campers. But the issue here is not who is L.A. good for, but who is good for L.A.? If the NFL wants to capitalize on the Los Angeles market, that is.

The San Diego Chargers currently call Qualcomm Stadium home, along with the Padres and the SDSU Aztecs. It's also the home of the Holiday Bowl. Already on the old and decrepit side, it is a very well used stadium. NFL teams in general don't like to share their home with MLB teams. The seasons overlap and that's just a lot of mileage to put on a field. As it happens, the Chargers have recently asked the city to consider a proposal for a new stadium. Negotiations have been in progress for some months now and the Chargers just recently agreed to extend negotiations to May of 2004. It is difficult to project how successful this current attempt will be. In the past, attempts to pass a bond to pay for similar proposals have failed. It is a positive sign that negotiations are continuing, and perhaps the threat of losing the team to Los Angeles has inspired city officials and team administrators to find a way to work together.

Of course, none of this matters to the NFL. Would the Chargers be good for L.A.? Possibly. First of all, they're very close in proximity. Logistically, moving them would be a cinch. That same proximity also allows San Diego fans to keep their team. They are not moving so far away that games could not be attended. Moreover, many Los Angeles fans adopted the Chargers when their two teams departed unceremoniously. You have a semi-established fan base. It might be easier to sell Los Angeles on another California team. Then again, it could work exactly the other way. The Chargers showed a marked improvement during the first half of last season, which makes them a viable option. You absolutely have to give Los Angeles a team that can win. If you're not a winner in Los Angeles, you don't exist and that rather defeats the purpose of having a football team in L.A.

Me, I say no. The Chargers don't have the kind of pizzazz that Los Angeles can get behind, they belong to a rival California city, and purely nostalgically, the Chargers are one of the original AFL teams; they should stay where they belong.

So how about them Colts? Similarly, the place they call home is very old, practically unserviceable despite renovations as late as 1997, and has acquired quite a pronounced and unpleasant odor. But their fans love them. Jim Irsay has affirmed his intention to remain in Indianapolis and continue negotiations with nemesis mayor Bart Peterson to keep the Colts from leaving. Admittedly, the talks are going slowly, very slowly at the moment. The Mayor has an election to worry about and Irsay has a football season to contend with. I believe the talks will continue.

The Colts are a competitive team with a young core. This bodes well for the future longevity of the team. And that's the biggest selling point for Los Angeles. I know I've already said it, but you have to put a team that can win in L.A. I question, however, whether or not they will still be a winning team if they're pulled away from fans that love them, even if lured by a shiny new stadium. They also have some very marketable players and that is definitely something that Los Angeles can get behind.

But this doesn't work for me either. I think perhaps I'm just against putting and east coast team on the west coast, but something doesn't sit right in this scenario. Then again too, I'm still mad at the Colts for leaving Baltimore.

That brings us to the Vikings who, like the Colts have dome issues and a lot of things to offer a Los Angeles market. Throw in the fact that Red McCombs is desperate to sell the team and it seems we have a match made in heaven. The Vikings have great potential. They have Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, very marketable both. You know, they even have winning colors that L.A. already associates with: Gold and Purple Laker colors. No accident there, I'm sure we all recall that the Lakers were also originally from the land of ten thousand or so lakes. Hence the name.

The problem again here is how firmly entrenched the Vikings are up in Minnesota. I truly believe the state would collapse if you took their team away. The fan base there is reminiscent of the one in Cleveland, and look how that turned out. Perhaps a more financially sound reason for rejection is the marketing aspect. Just how do you market fierce fighting Norsemen in sunny So Cal? Well, you don't. Colors and talent aside, it kinda just doesn't work. Unless they pull a Houston Oilers, I mean Memphis Oilers, I mean Tennessee Titans deal. I see that as the only way it would work, but what a shame to break up the Lions and Vikings and Bears, and oh my those Packers!

That doesn't leave anyone to go to L.A. I mean who are our options? The Panthers? The Jaguars? I don't think either of those teams is strong enough to withstand Los Angeles. Here's my suggestion: The Saints. You've got to appreciate the delicious irony there. Just say it. See how well it rolls of your tongue? And when you first read that, didn't your eyes light up and all sorts of ideas pop into your head? They should have. The Saints are a very competitive team with a lot of winning potential. They too have marketable players in Deuce McAllister and Aaron Brooks. They have an "it". On the flip side, they're not exactly in love with the Superdome (Astroturf is so passe), although they do have considerable talent, it hasn't really clicked for them there. They don't have the fan loyalty that the Colts and Vikings have, and I don't know that New Orleans would notice if they left.

This works. I think I'd like to be there when the Saints go marching into the City of Angels.

SBS Flash Traffic - NFL

And They're Off!
Gabrielle D'Ayr for SBS

So the NFL 2003 Season has officially begun, and yes, the Redskins won as predicted by popular opinion and sports experts alike.

What it wasn't, was a blowout, massacre, did-your-team-actually-show-up-or-was-that-your-cheeleaders victory. It was damn close, or at least the score was.

Ramsey had a near perfect 1st half completing 12 of 13 passes for 156 yards and Coles had 5 receptions for 106 yards. Their 1st drive resulted in a field goal and their second, culminated in their only touchdown of the game.

Unfortunately, the second half wasn't so pretty. Ramsey threw an interception and was later stripped of the ball, the combination of which so boggled his faculties that he couldn't get his groove on for the rest of the game.

Despite recent quarterback issues, the Jets had a phenomenal 1st drive, also culminating in their only touchdown of the game. So moved were they by their success, they took the rest of the game off. Fortunately, the Jets' defense was able to keep them in the game, limiting a discombobulated Redskin offense to a field goal with 5 seconds left in the game.

Not exactly an auspicious start to the season.

SBS Flash Traffic - NFL

Shot Through the Heart

Gabrielle D'Ayr for SBS

As if Pittsburgh doesn't have enough problems with their pass defense and a number of personnel changes on both their offense and defense in addition to switching over from a run-dominated offense to a pass-dominated offense, they've lost the heart of their defense.

In a random drive-by shooting, Joey Porter was, for once, in the wrong place at the wrong time. He sustained one bullet wound to the buttocks which lodged in his thigh and was removed the following Monday by Steelers' physician James Bradley.

Much like Jets' quaterback shuffle, the Steelers found themselves in need of a someone to fill the hole Porter's absence leaves. And it's a big hole. Considered to be one of the best all-around linebackers in the League, the numbers he put up last season tell the story. Porter played in all 16 games, led his team in tackles (89 total), had 9 sacks, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries and a partridge in a pear tree. He was a busy guy.

I don't think you can replace someone like that. However, to fill the roster spot, the Steelers chose Erik Flowers, a first-round draft pick from Buffalo that ended up on the Texans discard list. A tweener (defensive end/linebacker) with a rather unremarkable record to date. Hmmm.

Well fortunately, also like the Jets, there is a light at the end of the Steel Tunnel: Joey is expected back in three to six weeks. I vote for three.

NFL Road Trip: Next Stop L.A.

Gabrielle D'Ayr for SBS

Ever since the Raiders left Los Angeles in 1995, the NFL has been restless. They don't like having the nation's second largest television markets devoid of football. There have been, since that time, a number of proposals and eager investors supporting the return of an NFL team to Los Angeles. There are any number of market analysts and specialists who are convinced that it will never work. They lost the Rams after 48 years and the Raiders after 12; both in the same year (for two distinctly different reasons). Although there are valid arguments to support this point of view, the bottom line is this. The NFL wants a team in Los Angeles and they will get their way.

Since this is the case, the subject for discussion turns from can LA support a successful franchise to what do they need to do to ensure a successful franchise. 1999 saw proposals from two separate groups, The Coliseum Partners and Michael Ovitz, to lure a football team back to Los Angeles. The former proposed a billion dollar renovation to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, while Mr. Ovitz supported a new stadium project in Carson. The plan included the new expansion team. As football fans know, the plan fell through and the team went to Houston.

I think it's important to note why the plan failed. In the simplest terms, the NFL, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue specifically, was not happy. There were parking issues in the Partners' plan that was resolved in Ovitz's plan but could not be realized without public funding. The local government has refused unconditionally. In light of California current financial crisis, this is not really surprising.

I also think the NFL has been very clear about what it does want. It wants a team in a renovated Coliseum. When presented with Ovitz's plan for Carson, which was well received, they asked him to join forces with the Coliseum Partners in an obvious attempt to resolve the issues inherent in that plan. The suggestion screamed the NFL's preference in location. When that failed, the negotiations were abandoned and the issue tabled. For the time being.

It has now resurfaced with the Pasadena Rose Bowl clamoring to be recognized as the preferred prospect, no doubt to gain public support and show the NFL that they can draw crowds and be successful. Ambitious city officials have submitted a proposal to give the Rose Bowl a face-lift as well as allowing it to once again earn its keep, while providing the NFL a viable stadium in which to house a Los Angeles football team. The renovations are estimated at $500 million and would support seating for approximately 64,000, reducing it from it's current 92,000 to add luxury suites. The NFL began talks and is considering the proposal, however at the recent owner's conference in Philadelphia, $10 million was approved to look into other options - like Carson, again.

Maybe they need to put it in lights on the scoreboards during halftime at all the games. They want to go back to the Coliseum. They want someone to come up with a viable plan, including parking. The Rose Bowl is a worst-case scenario for them, but they won't shut them down. They'll dangle the carrot in front of Pasadena and Carson, but it's the LA market they want with the LA name and the LA football history to use as a marketing tool to bring fans back. Because that's what's going to make an LA team successful. Marketing. Good marketing.

There have been many arguments about the bad neighborhood that the Coliseum is in to garner support in favor of other locations. That has nothing to do with the NFL, that's an LA problem - one that is already being addressed by the local government. Taxpayers have been lobbying for improvements and it's just not good for business, any business. The city has already begun improvement projects on behalf of the Staples Center, which is just down the street. If the city is successful in cleaning up the surrounding neighborhood, that's half the battle, and the Coliseum is more centralized in LA than the other locations being considered.

If anyone out there is interested in owning an NFL team, my suggestion is to forget public funding. Unless there's a significant change in political representation (also not completely out of the question), Los Angeles will not change it's position on allocating monies to such a project; nor can it afford to. Put together a small ownership group that can invest in the purchase of a team and negotiate a deal with Sony or one of the other entertainment heavies to go in with them on the overhaul of the Coliseum. Now everyone's happy. If the new team is not immediately successful, the owners and investors can still see a return from revenues generated by other events hosted at a multi-functional, shiny new Coliseum and the NFL can bring a team to LA that everyone in LA can share, right next to the wildly successful LA Lakers. Undoubtedly, some of that Laker magic will rub off.

So, now that we've sorted that out, who's going to LA?

I have an answer, but we'll save that for next week. In the meantime, all comments welcome, even if you're wrong.

SBS Flash Traffic - NFL

Duce Flying Again With Philly
Gabrielle D'Ayr for SBS

Sunday, August 24th, 2003 marked the return of favored RB Duce Staley to the fold of the Philadelphia Eagles. He had stayed away from the training camp and the first three preseason games for a total of 26 days to the tune of $135,000 in fines.

Interviews with Quaterback Donovan McNabb prior to Staley's return gave us some insight to the team's feeling about the holdout. The team wants him back, considers him an asset, but is not about to get into the Front Office's business.

Well Duce is back and all that nasty holdout business has been swept away under the carpet. It started out as a contract re-negotiation for an extension and more money, and all seemed to go quietly away with a phone call. No new contract, no recriminations from the team, no bitterness from Staley. Just "let's play football".

Amazingly. Holdouts always affect team chemistry and how smart is it to irk the front office? Things like this tend to undermine a player's credibility with the team. The Eagles and their coaching staff are putting on a pretty convincing happy face, but I'll reserve judgement until after I see them play a couple of games.

Hopefully, Philadelphia's notoriously bad-tempered fans will also find it in their hearts to forgive #21 for scaring them and threatening their next winning season as they prepare themselves to make another run for NFC East championship and the Superbowl.

SBS Flash Traffic - NFL

Bad New for Jets Fans

Looks like the Jets will be doing the quarterback shuffle. It may be more of a mad scramble. Chad Pennington, the Jets starting quarterback broke several bones in his hand and dislocated his wrist in yesterday's game against the New York Giants. He's expected to miss 12 weeks.

The Jets backup quarterback is Vinny Testaverde, a seasoned professional. But wait...didn't he lose his job to Chad? How many more seasons does Vinny have left? Evidently, Herm Edwards didn't think he had enough to warrant starting him. Third string QB is (drum roll)Brooks Bollinger, 6th round draft pick from Wisconsin. A Badger superstar and only the 7th player in that conference's history to rush for 20 career TD's and pass for 30. But, put it well, "NFL Experience: 0". Bollinger also sprained his knee in the same game Pennington was hurt.

The Jets need options. Fortunately, there's a lot out there. Among the out-of-work possibles are Jamie Martin recently of the Rams; Jeff George (despite personality issues); Elvis Grbac, currently in early retirement; Clint Stoerner, a former Cowboy; Todd Husak from their practice squad; and finally, Ray Lucas, last seen somewhere in Florida. There's actually a lot of talent on that list, although I've heard that Jeff George has already been cut from it. Maybe we could forward the list to the Panthers, the Cardinals and the Steelers - maybe the Falcons could use it with Michael Vick out for at least 6 weeks with a broken fibula.

The Jets finished strong last season winning a playoff berth by pounding Indiannapolis into the dirt before succumbing to the Raiders in a grudge match slugfest. What promised to be a bright season has turned dark and cloudy. Even if the options pan out, it might not be enough to overcome the dent to the team's morale. Nor enough time in which to do it.

On the bright side, they won the game.

Welcome to the Gridiron Weekly by SBS

Visit us weekly for updates, late-breaking news, and provocative opinions on the movers and the shakers off the field. Gridiron Weekly will provide you with information and insights on the business decisions that keep the drive going on the field. We welcome your opinions and questions, so feel free to add your 2 cents. After all, what is football without controversy?

Look for our first piece on the "L.A. Question" this Wednesday!

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