Labriola on rescinding fines, writing rules

Posted Mar 25, 2016

The key to the effectiveness of the NFL's ejection rule will be in the way it's written.

Ready or not, here it comes:

* In the past fortnight or so, the NFL rescinded Mike Munhcak’s fine for the incident involving Bengals safety Reggie Nelson on the Steelers sideline during the Wild Card Round Game in Cincinnati; changed the rule regarding the kind of hit Ryan Shazier administered to Gio Bernard, which essentially confirms that Shazier’s hit was a legal play at the time; and Vontaze Burfict has gone on record as saying linebackers coach Joey Porter was not talking trash just before Pacman Jones did whatever it was he did to draw that unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

* Just keeping score.

* The 2016 version of the NFL Owners Meetings concluded a couple of days ago, and this spring session typically is the one that has most things get done. For that reason, the front offices of all 32 teams and a hunk of media covering each one descended on Boca Raton, Florida, for several days. With so many live microphones concentrated in one hotel, there was a steady stream of items flowing through cyberspace.

* One of the things I found interesting was something Dave Zangaro of wrote after talking to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie about the power struggle between Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly. Roseman had risen through the ranks to General Manager after Andy Reid was fired, and a power struggle developed between Roseman and Chip Kelly, who was hired to replace Reid. Then sometime after the end of the 2014 season, Kelly was given control over all personnel decisions and Roseman found himself in the position of working for the coach instead of with the coach.

* Given total control, Kelly went about the work of blowing up the roster. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson had gone from the Eagles to the Redskins the previous offseason, and a year later Jeremy Maclin followed him out the door. LeSean McCoy was traded to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso, who was coming off ACL surgery. DeMarco Murray was signed for five years at $40 million as an unrestricted free agent to replace McCoy. Kelly signed cornerback Byron Maxwell for six years at $60 million. He traded quarterbacks with the Rams, Nick Foles for Sam Bradford.

* The Eagles finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs in 2015, and Kelly was fired. Murray has been traded to Tennessee after going from 1,845 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns to 702 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Maxwell and Alonso were packaged in a 2016 trade to Miami simply for a swap of No. 1 picks in this draft – the Eagles moved up from 13th to eighth in the first round.

* “I think it was a necessary way to go to find out if Chip was the right guy,” Lurie said to Zangaro for his story. “Let him be responsible for all the decisions that he wanted to inject and make. No question I have that it was the right way to dissect if Chip was going to be the right guy going forward or not. We dissected it and decided with all of the great things he brought, he wasn’t the right person going forward. And it was helpful for him to be accountable for those decisions so we could move on in a great way. The expense of the lesson is just time, it’s not money. It’s all about winning championships for Philadelphia. So we lost some time, we didn’t lose in the classic way of expense. It was a time expense.”

* Basically, the Eagles lost at least the year they had Kelly in power, and possibly more, depending on how irreparable the damage turns out to be.

* On another day of the meetings, at the AFC coaches’ breakfast, Mike Tomlin was asked about his experience as a young head coach. “I trusted the Rooneys, and I mean that. I found comfort in them knowing what they’re doing. If they thought enough of my abilities to select me as the coach, then I was comfortable with that. I mean that sincerely. There are a lot of elements of this job that you don’t know what you’re getting into until you do it. Being an assistant and being an effective assistant doesn’t necessarily lend itself to being a successful head coach. Just for me, I trusted the Rooneys.”

* For Pittsburgh’s professional football team, the organizational chart is a pyramid, and the guy at the top has been raised in the sports business. Which means he doesn’t usually need to spend a season or two trying to figure out if his current coach is the right guy to make all the decisions, because whoever is hired to be his coach doesn’t make all of the decisions. And never will.

* That’s the correct business model, and it doesn’t require wasting seasons. Or as it was put, “a time expense.”

* One of the many rules/procedure changes during these meetings was to the injured reserve/designated to return rule. Or more accurately, it was the elimination of the designated-to-return part. Teams still will be able to bring one player back from the injured reserve list during a season, but interested teams no longer will have to designate a single player and stick with that choice. Boiled down, the new version of the rule will allow a team to bring any one player back from injured reserve after said player was on the list for eight weeks.

* Last season, for example, the Steelers designated Maurkice Pouncey as the eligible-to-return-from-IR guy. The medical evidence available at the time was that he could come back, but then as the process went along, Pouncey wasn’t recovering at the anticipated pace and stayed on injured reserve. Under the new provision, maybe Senquez Golson could’ve ended up playing some at the end of the regular season and contributed in the playoffs.

* The player ejection rule was given a one-year trial, but it seems like the devil will be in the details. In general, the new rule mandates the ejection of a player “who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.” What ultimately figures to make or break this rule is what comes to be known as the “certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.”

* “There’s a list of specific conduct in there that includes fighting, punching, those kinds of things, and that really was the issue,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II, “to make sure that everybody was comfortable with the definition of the fouls that would be a part of the rule. It’s actually just a specific list of conduct. There are three definitions of what would count.”

* This rule needs to be written in a clear, concise manner, a rule that doesn’t require weekly interpretation that serves to make it arbitrary instead of being an effective tool to eliminate the kind of behavior that needs to be eliminated.

* Clear. Concise. You know, the opposite of the catch rule.

Series Archive