8 Things We Learned from the NFL Owner Meetings
So the NFL owner meetings are officially over, closing out one of the last big to-dos before the draft on April 26th.
Owners, general managers and coaches gathered in Florida to discuss rules, attend pressers and mingle over breakfast.
We got a glimpse of how a couple coaches are shaping things up for the 2012 season and gained clarity on a new rule or two.
Here’s a look at eight things that we learned from the NFL owner meetings last week:
The Rules That Were Changed
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Outside of the bounty scandal with the New Orleans Saints, the big talk at the NFL owner meetings down in Palm Beach was about the rules that were voted on for the upcoming season.
Perhaps, the most notable of the proposals argued were those to change the turnover rules.
The passed proposal, which will now be exercised during the 2012 season, is to “automatically reviewing turnovers via instant replay, just as scoring plays are automatically reviewed.” This will take eliminate the option for coaches to throw their red flag on turnovers.
And although the Buffalo Bills put up a good fight to allow “the upstairs official to decide replay reviews,” they were unable to convince a three-fourths majority that would’ve taken the final say over replays away from referees on the field.
The only other failed rule proposal was to make changes to the horse collar tackle rule, in which the quarterback cannot be “yanked down by his shoulder pads or the collar of his jersey.”
In addition, the NFL will enforce that “no regular-season games will be ended on a field goal on the first possession of overtime...so that the postseason rule will be used in the regular season as well.”
Well, Maybe They Didn't Change All the Rules
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Four bylaw alterations discussed at the owner meetings, dealing with roster rules and trade deadlines, have been tabled for the time being. Those bylaw changes, as presented by ProFootballTalk via NBCSports.com, are as follows:
1. Moving the trade deadline from Week Six to Week Eight.
2. Increasing the off-season and training camp roster limit from 80 to 90.
3. Allowing one roster exemption per week for a player who’s inactive with a concussion.
4. Allowing a player who’s put on injured reserve early in the season to return to the field after eight weeks, rather than having all players on injured reserve automatically out for the season.
NFL owners decided that they “needed more time to consider the proposed changes.” Competition Committee Chairman Rick McShay said that he “didn’t sense much resistance from the NFL owners to any of those bylaw changes,” but that they simply wanted more time to consider them.
The proposed bylaws will be voted on when the owners meet again in May.
Tom Coughlin Might Be the Happiest Coach in the NFL
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Moving on from all the rules, let’s take a look at some familiar faces that were present at the meetings. And let’s start with reigning Super Bowl champ Coach Tom Coughlin.
Remember back at the beginning of the 2011 season when not making the playoffs was a threat to Coughlin’s job?
There was no sign of such thing at the owner meetings, where the notoriously red-faced coach was all smiles and soaking up the congratulations thrown his way.
Coughlin, who will enter the final year of his coaching contract in 2012, told media at the NFC coaches’ breakfast on Wednesday during the NFL meetings that he and the Giants are working on a long-term extension that will keep him in New York for a very long time.
And while he admits that it can be difficult to coach in the competitive New York sports world, Coughlin said that he’ll “take the lumps to get what's at the end of the rainbow. Anytime."
And after winning two Super Bowls in five years, who can blame him?
...But Maybe Not so Happy About Jim Harbaugh Snatching His Players
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The only thing that seemed to dash some of coach Coughlin’s happiness was that two of his championship players—wide receiver Mario Manningham and running back Brandon Jacobs—are now going to be playing for the 49ers.
You know, that team that the Giants beat in the NFC championship game...in overtime...in the rain and the muck.
Safe to say, it isn’t easy to know what’s going on in the head of San Francisco’s quirky head coach Jim Harbaugh. But perhaps, he looked at the free agents coming out of the team that beat his team and though: “Hey! If we can’t beat ‘em, let’s take a snag at some of their players.”
The 49ers have been busy this offseason, signing free agents—Harbaugh himself threw passes to the newly-un-retired Randy Moss—and even managing a little drama regarding quarterback Alex Smith. And they are expected to be equally as competitive this season having had “a full off-season to prepare.”
Andy Reid Is Still Shouldering All the Blame
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Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid is still shouldering the weight of the disappointing season his team had in 2011.
Sure, the Eagles rallied late in the season to finish 8-8, ranking ninth in the league in passing and fifth in rushing. But mix that dismal first half of the season with a reported power struggle in the Eagles' main offices and then add a very openly frustrated fanbase, and it’s a wonder Reid didn’t run for the hills screaming.
But he instead summed up talks at the owner meetings last Wednesday by simply saying that he “goofed” and that the team’s defense didn’t mature to where he thought they would capably be until the end of the season.
He took the hit for his defensive corps not being up to par at the beginning of the season, and he expressed his disappointment in the high number of turnovers that the offense gave up. (Second-highest in the league last season, behind Tampa Bay.)
ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano believes that the Eagles “need to make far fewer "goofs" on offense next year in order to get where they need to go.”
Here’s to hoping that there will be fewer of those goofs for Reid to take the blame for.
No Date for Those Salary Cap Hearings and More Questions Are Arising
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For all the things that Commissioner Roger Goodell had to discuss during the NFL owner meetings, he didn’t seem to have much to report about the salary cap penalties against the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys.
And what Goodell had to say on the matter during a 20-minute presser last Wednesday makes the matter of penalizing these teams a little more confusing.
Here’s what we know: The Redskins and the Cowboys are being penalized for front-loading player contracts during the uncapped 2010 season. Over the next two seasons, the Redskins will lose $36 million in cap penalties, and the Cowboys will lose $10 million.
Now, here’s where the rules and regulations get a little muddled: While it is reported that both teams were “warned by the league” to not front-load these contracts, both the NFL and the NFLPA approved all contracts that year.
And, as pointed out by Graziano, there doesn’t appear to be any written rule about contract structure during the uncapped year.
In response to questions regarding the actual definition of an uncapped year, Goodell said: "I think the rules were articulated. I'd have to go back and look at it again, but the rules were quite clear—the rules that were followed and the rules that weren't."
Not to cut Goodell down for his verbiage, but is the reason he hasn’t set a date for these salary cap hearings because he can’t give a clear definition of what an uncapped year entails?
The Saints Aren't out of the Woods Yet
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But there is one matter that Goodell is definitely not waiting to address: The New Orleans Saints and the bounty program.
There was no hotter topic at this year’s NFL owner meetings than coach Sean Payton and the ramifications imposed upon him and all others involved in the bounty system implemented by the Saints.
At the closing of the meetings, there wasn’t any word on whether or not Sean Payton or Mickey Loomis were going to appeal their suspensions. (ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that they are appealing their punishments and those appeals will be heard Thursday.)
But even with the rapidity that Goodell is implementing with the appeals, he still hasn’t given any indication as to what disciplinary measures will be taken against the players that were involved.
And the Saints still don’t have a replacement coach yet. Talks are still circulating about whether or not Bill Parcells will step into the Saints head coach position.
Saints running back Pierre Thomas expressed that he hopes the dark cloud over the team doesn’t “linger on while we're preparing for a season.” But it’s looking like all eyes will remain on the Saints for the time being.
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Commissioner Scorned
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Maybe it’s just me.
But it seems like Roger Goodell is out to punish anyone and everyone this offseason and then give the vaguest responses possible as to why he has chosen such harsh disciplinary action.
Doling out harsh punishment to the Cowboys and Redskins for front-loading contracts, but then not being able to give an articulate answer as to what rules either team actually broke during the uncapped season.
He was quick, definitive and clear as to the suspensions of Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis but not-so-clear in discussing what disciplinary action might be awaiting any of the Saints defensive players involved in the bounty scandal.
Sure, this NFL offseason has been eventful and has called for him to flex his executive muscle and punish people.
But it’s as if Goodell is working a hear-me-now-and-question-me-later angle as much as possible. He might as well be wearing a sign around his neck that reads “Think I won’t suspend you? Try me.”
Hell hath no fury like this commissioner scorned.