2012 NFL Predictions: 5 Controversies Sure to Surface
It has been said that no publicity is bad publicity, and one way to get any type of publicity is through a juicy controversy.
Controversy sells newspapers, grabs television ratings and website hits and becomes trending topics on Twitter. It's good in the sense that you're talking about the league when you normally wouldn't—see "The Decision," which was very controversial and took place in July of 2010, keeping people talking about the NBA all summer.
Controversy also works when it comes to other forms of entertainment. It grabs attention, and attention usually equals money. Case in point: the number of terrible musical acts that went platinum because of the "Parental Advisory" sticker slapped on their CD's.
But while controversy does give the NFL publicity (even though it's often not good publicity, like Pacman Jones), it can tear teams apart.
Today I'm going to put on my fortune-telling cap and try to see what potential controversies we might see in the coming months of this 2012 offseason. So far it looks like it will be a juicy one, which football fans will likely welcome after a 2011 offseason that was shortened from the usual six months to six minutes because of the NFL lockout.
Now, I'm not guaranteeing that these will happen at all, but here are some potential controversies that you could see spring up between now and when training camp begins this summer.
Carson Palmer vs. New Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie
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After losing Jason Campbell to injury, the Oakland Raiders swung for the fences last season by trading their 2012 first rounder and a conditional 2013 second-round pick to the Bengals for quarterback Carson Palmer, who was not even playing for the Bengals and in fact was essentially retired.
New Raiders general manager (and boy, does it feel weird to type that) Reggie McKenzie said he understood the trade when he took over as Raiders GM:
No. 1, as a personnel guy, I love my picks…more, I love good players. Now, bringing in Carson at the time the Raiders brought him in, to me, as a player, that’s a good move. You have to get players that can help you win games. Now, did the situation present itself favorably for Cincinnati? Absolutely. But you do what you have to do. That’s just the way it is, the cost of doing business.
Does that mean that McKenzie himself would have made the deal or that he's even happy with inheriting Carson Palmer? I'm not so sure.
The trade was made by former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson and owner Mark Davis. Jackson is now gone while Davis has given most of the control of football operations to Reggie McKenzie. McKenzie comes from the Green Bay Packers, an organization that values draft picks as they prefer to build through the draft.
Oakland only has two draft picks in 2012 (but that number could go up with compensatory draft picks awarded by the league). Their first pick comes with the 96th pick which is the final pick in Round 3. McKenzie might have to do whatever it takes to jump back into the first two rounds.
Trading Carson Palmer might be one idea entertained. However, Palmer's value isn't that of a first or second rounder right now.
Then there's also Palmer's history when he's not happy with a team. That certainly won't help matters in Oakland at this point in time.
Could this become an explosive situation? We shall see.
Another thing to look at is the fact that Oakland's original 2011 starter Jason Campbell is a free agent. With Palmer on the roster, there is no room for him in Oakland and will have to go elsewhere. How bad would the Raiders look if Campbell succeeded on another team in 2012?
Whether the comparison is fair or unfair, Palmer will be compared to Campbell since all Campbell did was get hurt (while he was having a good season) and because of that lost his job.
Keep an eye on Oakland this spring and summer.
NFL Network Expands Schedule
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At Roger Goodell's annual "State of the League" address prior to the Super Bowl, one of the topics addressed was the NFL Network's plan to expand their Thursday Night Schedule starting in 2012.
The expanded schedule will mean that the NFL Network will now carry a Thursday night game every week from Week 2 until Week 15 and that every NFL team will now have at least one prime-time game every season.
This sounds like nothing but trouble to me.
Before I get to the messiness that will ensue between the NFL Network and the cable companies, let's start off with the fact that every team will have at least one prime-time game a season.
Remember how you cringed last year when the Falcons took on the Jaguars on Thursday night? Or remember that Monday night game in 2010 between the then-terrible San Francisco 49ers and the then-even worse Arizona Cardinals? Yes, more prime-time games and guaranteeing that every team has at least one will mean more turkeys like that.
There's a reason that not every team gets a Monday night or Sunday night game every year and why Sunday Night Football uses flex-scheduling: to ensure that the NFL's prime-time games are games that we might want to see.
Getting a prime-time game is usually based on either market size, national prominence (the main reason that the Cowboys could go 1-15 and still appear the next season on three Sunday night games and two Monday night games), and merit. We want the best matchups possible on prime time each week even though there are no guarantees of how good a match up will be when the schedule is released in April.
This also means that at least one game per week that would normally air on FOX or CBS will be taken away. While officially both networks seem OK with this arrangement, their local affiliates might not be too keen on this. The local team usually brings in big ratings for that station when they air those games.
However the biggest reason why this will become an even bigger storm of controversy is the fact that the NFL Network still isn't available in as many homes as ESPN or other cable outlets that would like to bid on the package. If you don't live in your teams' local market, it will be difficult for you to view your team when they play on Thursday nights if you don't have NFL Network.
Then there's the long-running dispute between the NFL and Time Warner Cable and Cablevision. As stated in the article I linked this to, this move appears to increase the pressure on TWC and Cablevision to carry NFL Network, especially since those are the two biggest cable companies in the New York area.
This will likely get ugly. Between the potential for more prime-time turkeys and more games that most of the country will miss, this will become a big story in 2012 unless the NFL either lowers their price demands for cable companies to carry NFLN or opens up the bidding for other networks to carry the games.
None of those will happen, sadly, so be prepared for missed games.
But don't worry, some of those games are games you would want to miss anyways.
Santonio Holmes vs. Mark Sanchez
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The Jets have a quarterback who made it to the postseason in two out of his three seasons with the team, and in both those years they advanced to the AFC Championship game.
Said quarterback also had his best statistical season in 2011 despite the fact that his No. 1 receiver likely hated his guts and his offensive coordinator was Brian Schottenheimer (cue Sam Bradford cursing his luck).
So how do the New York Jets instill confidence in their investment who made it to two AFC Championship games in his first two years with the team?
Well, you start by bringing in an offensive coordinator who was known more for field goals followed by fist pumps and who is somewhat responsible for "developing" Chad Henne (who up until last season actually had numbers similar to Mark Sanchez). However, that won't be as bad as one would think because new Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano also helped develop Tony Romo while he was coaching the Cowboys and is more of a run-first coach--which should fit the Jets philosophy well.
However, you also decide to bring back Santonio Holmes, who quit on the team last season partly due to his problems with Mark Sanchez.
The Jets are attempting to mend the fences between the two players, and they even spoke last week. However, the Jets bringing back Holmes will not turn out to be a good idea. Remember, the guy was a Super Bowl MVP, yet only one year after that Super Bowl the Jets were able to acquire him in exchange for a 2010 fifth-round pick. Holmes has a history of baggage, a history that Mark Sanchez doesn't have.
This is going to be one juicy storyline to follow throughout the off-season and then the regular season. HBO should give the Jets another run on Hard Knocks if only because of the potential meltdown from these two. If the Sanchez-Holmes relationship falters even further, Rex Ryan will likely have to look for a new job next January.
Denver Broncos Selecting a New Quarterback Via Free Agency or Draft
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The gentleman in the picture is Ryan Tannehill, senior quarterback out of Texas A&M and potential first-round pick.
Mock drafts have him going anywhere from the end of the first round to the beginning of the second round. If the Dolphins or Redskins lose out on Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning in free agency and can't complete a trade with St. Louis or Minnesota for the No. 2 pick to draft Robert Griffin III, then one of those teams will attempt to trade down into the late first round to acquire Tannehill. He's not a first-round talent, but thanks to Matt Barkley and Landry Jones deciding to stay in school, he could go in the first round.
The Denver Broncos own the No. 25 pick in this year's draft. Sure, John Elway might say that Tim Tebow is the starter going into training camp, and sure, the Broncos have a lot more pressing needs than a new quarterback. Despite both of those factors, they might want some competition for Tebow at quarterback and could find that Tannehill can provide that.
Since this involves Tim Tebow, I'm sure you know what would happen if the Broncos reach to draft Tannehill. It immediately becomes the biggest story in the draft and the whole NFL offseason. Skip Bayless will take time away from bashing LeBron James and Russell Westbrook to start crying about how Tebow isn't getting a fair shot as the Broncos' starter, and everyone who likes Tebow will defend him while everyone who hates him will become fans of Ryan Tannehill (even Longhorn fans).
Actually, come to think of it, this might be good business for the Broncos. Tebow does have great trade value should the Broncos decide that Tannehill is their man, and one team in the AFC South would be a natural fit for him (Jacksonville).
Peyton Manning vs. Jim Irsay
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At this point, it has all been he-said/he-said between Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning.
Manning and his doctors say that he's doing fine, while Irsay says that Manning isn't. Sources have talked to reporters and dropped hints at either the progress that Manning is making or lack thereof.
I really have no idea what's going on, but I do have research such as this:
Nearly 3 out of 4 (72 percent) of NFL players who were treated surgically for CDH returned to play and continued to play in an average of 29.3 games over a 2.8-year period after surgery.
Now, before making up his mind as to whether to return in 2012 or not, don't you think a man as smart as Peyton Manning would have done research like this?
Now, round up 2.8 years and that's three years, which is about what everyone would expect out of Manning even if he had been healthy and played in 2011.
However, Irsay does want to move on to Andrew Luck, and you can't blame him for that. There's a reason why other teams' fans wanted their team to "Suck For Luck"—he's that good. When you have the chance to pick up a franchise quarterback, you do it.
But Irsay seems to want to push Manning out of Indianapolis yet have Manning retire as a Colt, which I understand. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. Unfortunately for the Colts, he statements from sources around both of them seem to imply that their relationship has gone south.
In other words, methinks someone is not being 100 percent truthful here. I won't accuse anyone of lying, it's just that there are so many conflicting reports that you have no idea who to believe. There's also the chance that both sides are somewhat correct. One day you'll have one source look at Manning and say he's throwing well, while the next day Manning might not look as good. It's all part of the recovery process.
The scientific research does tell me that Manning will recover and likely has recovered a bit already (but not at 100 percent). At some point, Manning will not only be good enough to play, but he will be in great shape to be the Peyton of old again. I'll take odds at two out of three.
The question is, what will be the fallout prior to March 8th? That's been the story of the 2012 NFL offseason, and it will continue to be the biggest controversy.