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10 Thoughts on the NFL

Santa gave Bears fans an early present and the playoffs are close to set. On the eve of the last week of regular season football, here are some thoughts about the state of professional football.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Lester continues the holiday generosity by sharing this platform with the rest of us. Here are my thoughts on the NFL (and a few related subjects) for this week:

1). Jerry Richardson announced that he was selling the Carolina Panthers. It’s important to point out that although Richardson only owns 48% of the team, the entire team is actually for sale. As Pro Football Talk points out:

This necessarily means that, under the relevant operating agreements, Richardson has the ability to trigger a full and complete sale of the team, regardless of whether those who own the remaining 52 percent of the team don’t want to sell their shares.

Wow. I wonder who is going to buy the team, and I wonder how all of those other share owners feel about these events. For me, the real highlight though has been future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas sharing his ideas about what a team would look if he were in charge, including this key piece:

We would not sign a punter, for there would be no use when we go for it on every 4th down.

Go Joe!

2). In additional “football business” related news, Vince McMahon made major moves with selling WWE shares in order to free up more than $100 million. Most reports seem to indicate that he is interested in revitalizing the XFL. I like the thought of more football, and I would love a platform where players could develop. However, I am skeptical that this is going to work out that way.

As long as college football is out there with its “unique” labor structure, and as long as the NFL teams have access to a steady stream of players from somewhere (like the NCAA), the reality is that a secondary league will be a competitor and not a collaborator. Does McMahon sense a long-term opportunity or is this another project that’s going to fizzle out? His best bet is to target a niche market at exploit it on the basis of spectacle, but McMahon is good at that.

3). Since 2012, sixteen different quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round. Against all odds, the two to likeliest to start playoff games for the 2017 season? Blake Bortles and Jared Goff. True, injuries have played a major role in that, but it’s still a remarkable outcome. When the season started, who would have placed any money on that pair carrying the flag for the young QBs? I hope these results give more franchises a bit of patience when it comes to quarterbacks, developing them instead of assuming that they are lost causes after a season or two.

4). The five biggest contracts signed by free agents who changed teams were for AJ Bouye ($67.5 million to leave Houston for Jacksonville), Stephon Gilmore ($65 million to leave Buffalo for New England), Calais Campbell ($60 million to leave Arizona for Jacksonville), Kevin Zeitler ($60 million to leave Cincinnati for Cleveland), and Riley Reiff ($58.75 million to leave Detroit for Minnesota). Four of those players are heading to the playoffs. Clearly, a few players managed to get paid while putting themselves into a position to succeed.

5). Sticking with free agency, it’s way more of a mixed bag for the teams themselves. The Bears ranked 8th in how much they guaranteed free agents, one spot ahead of the Patriots. Only three of the seven teams ahead of Chicago are headed to the playoffs, and while the #2 Jaguars turned things around, the Giants seemingly lit a giant pile of money on fire for all of the good it did their competitive success this year when the injury bug sidelined a lot of their best players.

6). So, this weekend saw the Bills in a rematch against the Patriots, the first such rematch after professional coward and cheap-shot artist Rob Gronkowski got off with a meager 1-game penalty for his attack on Tre’Davious White. Up until this point, I had been keeping track of various suspensions in an attempt to track what the NFL thought it was doing.

I gave up.

How an after-the-whistles blow to a defenseless human being (who incidentally weighs about two-thirds as much as the larger, integrity-lacking punk who delivered the blow) merits a lesser penalty than in-game bang-bang action is ridiculous. It’s a pity the NFL can’t get even simple things right, like making sure this craven piece of trash wasn’t available for the game because he was suspended for the rest of the season, at least.

Anyway, the Bills had their hands full with the game itself, and they at least managed not to descend into retaliation antics.

7). Speaking of rules inconsistencies, multiple teams are reportedly asking why the Packers had an illegal move allowed by the league office. It stems from the way Aaron Rodgers was allowed to come off of IR and then go back on IR after a single game. The link above covers the details, but here is a quick summary:

If Rodgers didn't suffer a new injury but was placed back on injured reserve anyway, NFL rules stipulate that the Packers would have to release him -- which nobody expects will happen. It is why multiple teams raised the issue. Teams wanted to know why the Packers were being granted immunity.

The rules in this case are basically supposed to keep the Packers from doing exactly what they did. Again, the league approved the move, which to me seems like the real story. I guess the league “seeks parity” but enforces something else. It will be interesting to see if anything happens to the Packers and how the NFL explains this sort of favoritism.

8). I know opinions are split on celebrations, but I for one enjoy the players having the option to celebrate. To be clear, I prefer it when the players simply hand the ball to the ref and move on. I find it the classier move, for lack of a better term. However, I like it when the players get to decide for themselves. It was also fun getting to see the Bears make snow angels on Sunday. It doesn’t matter how much they get paid, it seems only reasonable that they get to have a little fun while working on a holiday weekend.

9). Supposedly Josh Rosen is considering staying in college for a final year if it looks like the Browns are going to draft him. Back in the days of multi-sport athletes, it was actually easier for a player to balk at being picked by a bad team. Athletes obviously can put out any message they want, and but I can’t help but think that this is a worse look for the player than the organization. It’s not a good look for either, though.

10). In less than a week, coaches will start finding themselves out of work. With McAdoo already on the street, who is going to join him? It should be obvious to anyone who reads WCG that most of the contributors here want Fox gone, and it’s all but certain Pace will be sticking around for better or worse. Oh well.