Team owners in the National Football League will never be accused of having more brains than money. The truth of the matter is, these billionaires don’t own professional football teams to get rich – they’ve already accomplished that. It’s an ego trip, plain and simple. After all, there are only 32 owners in the entire world. That’s a pretty small group, which means they can act like fools whenever they want to, and, by my count, that’s fairly often.
They throw around money when they shouldn’t, and they tighten the purse strings when we wouldn’t. Remember Ryan Leaf? Hilarious.
Anyway, 2012 is under way with a bang and a single down of football has yet to be played. Here’s a look at some of the lowlights already in the books.
Starting last year, when it was obvious Peyton Manning was going to be sitting out the entire season with a neck injury, an injury many were calling career-ending, there was talk of the Indianapolis Colts selecting Andrew Luck, star quarterback at Stanford. A savvy move regardless of the status of Manning as the future Hall-of-famer could mentor Luck for a season or two.
Enter Jim Irsay, owner of the Colts. Manning was due a $28 million bonus this season and instead of paying him the money, or even renegotiating with Manning to bring him into the front office of the Colts, he held an embarrassing, sappy press conference where nothing resembling the truth was spoken. Together with Manning they announced that number 18 was done a Colt, thanks for all the memories, etc.
About two seconds after the press conference was over, Manning’s phone was blowing up with calls from around the League. What a sham, eh? So much for loyalty from either of them. Manning brought fame and glory to the Colts, which they hadn’t seen since Baltimore, and that should have been rewarded. I won’t say that $28 million is chump change because it’s not, but Irsay could have figured out a way to reward Manning as well as keeping him inside the organization and off the field of competing teams.
Manning, to my great surprise, shopped a few teams in what can only be described as an exercise in who would write him the biggest check. He and his agent found their suckers in the Mile High City.
Pat Bolen, owner of the Denver Broncos, and his whipping boy John Elway have reportedly agreed to pay Manning $96 million over 5 years! $19 million this season, and if he passes a physical in March 2013, then $20 million guaranteed for 2013 and 2014. Forget about 2015 and 2016 where he could make another $19 million per season. He’ll never see those years as a Bronco.
So, here’s the $96 million question: Don’t you think the Colts would have offered the 36-year-old quarterback a similar contract if they thought he was up to the task? Something tells me Manning will be laughing all the way to the bank while Bolen and Elway rue the day the tossed aside Tim Tebo like yesterday’s garbage.
It’s amazing that Calvin Johnson, nicknamed “Megatron” by his teammates, is even a Detroit Lion. He was drafted in the first round in 2007 by Matt Millen, arguably the worst general manager in NFL history. Talk about your dumb luck. The “Wall Street Journal” said that NFL executives admitted in private that Millen “has made more bad draft decisions than anyone else in two centuries.” Ouch.
Anyway, Calvin Johnson is the real deal as evidenced by the Lions doing , in principal, what the Colts should have done with Manning: They rewarded the two-time Pro-Bowler with a seven-year, $132 million contract, with at least $60 million of it guaranteed. With numbers like that they must think he’s a Major League Baseball player.
Not bagging on Johnson at all. The market suggests he’s worth this kind of money, and his on-field performance backs it up. But I do have to wonder what football fans in one of the areas of the country with the highest unemployment rates are going to have to fork over in the way of ticket prices? There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, eh? Still, fans will pay the price to see their beloved Lions this year. They could legitimately make it to their first Super Bowl since 1957.
Here’s a guy that’s been traded away to a new team, complete with a lousy contract, all because he started to believe his press clippings.
As much as die-hard Cleveland Browns fans want to blame owner Randy Lerner for not offering running back Peyton Hillis a new contract, it’s hard to conceive of him doing anything less than cutting him loose.
In 2010 Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hillis was described as “blue collar”, “hard working”, and an “every man” for his work ethic. He was largely seen as a team player. For whatever reasons we can imagine, he lost sight of all that during the off-season and in 2011 racked up 587 yards and three touchdowns in a season in which he was described as a “locker room diva.”
Word has it he was pretty upset he wasn’t offered a contract extension for his 2010 efforts, which could be the reason he sat out the first game of the 2011 season, on the advice of his agent, with strep throat. Cough.
Enter the Kansas City Cheifs and Hillis’ old offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. They gave Hillis probably the best deal he was going to get this side of anywhere: A one-year, $3 million contract. Not bad considering the 2010 season was pretty much an anomaly. He’s going to have to show up every day in Kansas City. Head Coach Romeo Crennel is a no-joke head coach, and the Hunt family is a group of owners who won’t hesitate to cut a “locker room diva”.
Here’s your wakeup call, Peyton Hillis. You’ve got one year in a division that’s up for grabs. Make your mark and you’ll get a new contract. Lose track of where you’re at in your career and you won’t make it out of the pre-season.
Wide receiver Laurent Robinson’s career can be summed up thusly: disappointing. His career, which began in 2007, has been filled with injuries, particularly a recurring hamstring problem that has sidelined him for what feels like half of his career.
Robinson did have a decent 2011, making the most of an opportunity with the Dallas Cowboys that had him signed, released, and re-signed over the course of 13 days. He wound up having a career season, complete with 54 receptions for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, which was actually the most touchdowns caught by any Cowboy in 2011.
Still, one has to wonder why the Cowboys would let him go? For all his insanity, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is actually a pretty good judge of talent, and is one of these owners who isn’t afraid to put a lot of zeros after the first number of a contract. After all, he’s paying Tony Romo something like $67 million. Based on that alone you’d figure a guy like Robinson would merit at least another one-year deal from the team, perhaps with options for additional years if he could stay healthy and continue to catch balls.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, desperate for a wide receiver since Jimmy Smith retired some six seasons ago, stepped up to the bar and ponied up some real cash. The five-year, $32.5 million contract reportedly has a guarantee of $14 million.
Like Peyton Hillis, Robinson is arguably at a crossroads in his career. He also has some lucky stars to thank, since free-agent wide receivers Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne, and Marques Colston were no longer available. Given his injuries, and particularly his poor performance in San Diego in 2011, where he was cut after training camp because of dismal performances, Robinson should see this change with the Jags as a genuine blessing.