Sunday, August 3, 2008

Goodell the Bad Guy? I Don't Get It.

With Brett Favre's reinstatement on Monday, Packer fans and the national media are calling this a major coup by Favre over the Packer administration, who didn't want him back on the team. But, they are giving the "save" to Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, who is accused of pulling strings to force this controversial move.

I don't get it.

I'm trying to stay pretty balanced here, but I really don't see how Goodell was working against Murphy/Thompson and the rest of the organization. Certainly, from a marketing standpoint, he might have some reason to push the iconic quarterback onto a roster, but somehow, I think he's seen this whole ongoing saga as somewhat of a black eye for the league as well as the Packers.

It seems to me that the folks who wailed loudest about Goodell's potential involvement a few weeks ago were those who felt Thompson and the Packers had the upper hand over Favre, and were happy about it. I think that they thought that Goodell was going to tip the balance of power in Favre's favor, and given today's events, it almost seems that way, as folks like John Clayton are implying:

Goodell sided with Favre in the sense that the commissioner wants Favre in the league as a quarterback instead of a franchise marketer. For now, Favre has won, and Packers management looks embarrassed.... It's sad to see that Goodell wanted Favre back on the field more than his bosses.

I can't wait to see the commentary from the GBPG writers tomorrow. I'm sure it will be much of the same. "Goodell Lets Favre Win."

I don't get it.

And here's why:

Brett Favre had the upper hand from the beginning. We've all slowly come to learn the process for retired players to become reinstated back to their teams or the league, like clues being slowly released on "24" or "Lost". But these processes were on record for the people who needed to know it from the very beginning, including Brett Favre and Ted Thompson.

No one is going to pin any medals on Brett Favre for his lack of decisiveness this offseason, and many have lost a level of respect for him and the position that he has placed the team in. He's been obviously emotional and borderline irrational.

That stated, however, the process is still quite simple and straightforward. If at any time, Brett Favre wished to come out of retirement, the Packers were obligated to put him back on the roster at his contracted salary, or relinquish their rights to him through trade or release. Period.

And, they knew that whomever they traded him to would have to be willing to take on and be able to afford a $12 million cap hit. Period.

And, they knew that Favre had the ability to negate any trade by refusing to report, thus reverting his rights back to the Packers. Period.

This is something that the Packers had to be prepared for, given his indecision in late March. The move to go forward with Rodgers was a logical consequence for Favre's actions. But, this soap opera that escalated was the consequence of the Packers' decision to wish those unretirement processes already set it stone would go away, and they didn't.

You would imagine that this was in the back of Thompson's mind, as he continued to allow a huge amount of salary cap space to remain unspent. While eschewing free agency is usually part of his mantra, this offseason was suprisingly striking to see no major names brought in, despite having over $30 million available with Favre's departure. I'm guessing that Thompson didn't want to overcommit his cap space in the event that Favre waffled again.

But, when all the chips were down, no matter what Thompson and the Packers wished would happen, if Favre wished to come back and play football, it was going to be as a Green Bay Packer for $12 million. The only recourse Thompson had was to cut him or trade him, and this was set in stone long before Favre's retirement announcement.

Goodell didn't reinstate Favre because he wanted to spite Packer management. There's no doubt that Goodell would like to see Favre in the league, but to construe the reinstatement as an intentional undercut of the Packer brass is a twisting of the facts.

Favre is a member of the NFLPA, and has rights just like any other player. If Goodell were to choose not to reinstate Favre upon receipt of his request, he would have to give one heck of a good reason, or face action from the player's union.

Goodell really had no choice but to reinstate Favre. A player who has a contract and wishes to play has the right to seek employment in the league, and having the commissioner block that for no reason but to prove a point against the player for being indecisive isn't going to cut it.

Goodell had to do this eventually. The fact that he took nearly a week to approve a request that should have taken 24 hours is already a statement that he didn't want to force himself into the negotiations, or force a bad situation onto the team without giving them every chance to fix it.

Goodell protracted this reinstatement process to encourage a peaceful resolution for both sides. I'm not sure how you can interpret this in any other way, particularly an interpretation that would have favored Favre over the Packer brass. In fact, I'm surprised that the player's union didn't begin a grievance process for the amount of time that Goodell took. Can you imagine if Goodell decides to protract every decision as it pertains to players and their rights?

This protraction was done for the Packers to exhaust every opportunity they could to work this out before Favre played his own trump card. Had Goodell approved the reinstatement within 24 hours, as would have been expected, we never would have heard about the trade talks with the NFL North teams, or the $25 million dollar "incentive" offered to Favre to just retire and continue to be a part of the Packer family.

However, each side of the argument have priorities that they aren't willing to bend on. Brett Favre apparently isn't coming back for the money, but to play the game and for competition. Ted Thompson and Mark Murphy aren't willing to give Favre a release or get anything less than what they see as fair value for his services.

The result of these two sets of priorities? Favre is coming back to the Packers, whether he wants to or not, and whether the Packers want him or not.

This isn't because of Goodell's bias towards Favre, but because of the rules that are in place as it pertains to player contracts and the two parties' own stubbornness in sticking to what they value.

If you want to blame anyone for the uncomfortable situation they will find themselves in on Monday. blame Favre for his indecisiveness, blame Bus Cook for his Rosenhaus-esque handling of his client, blame Thompson for not having a proper Plan B in place in case this happened, and blame a collective bargaining agreement that tied the hands of the Packers when they wanted to remain steadfast (and stubbornly) in the direction they chose with Aaron Rodgers.

But blaming the commissioner?

I don't get it.

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