Predicting the Biggest Controversies of the 2012 NFL Season

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIJune 30, 2012

Predicting the Biggest Controversies of the 2012 NFL Season

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    Every season in the NFL seems to have some controversial moments, which is inevitable when you have 32 different teams that are literally fighting for the same goal—to become world champions.

    Whether it is controversy over which players will make final roster cuts, a team that is on the verge of being relocated from one part of the country to another, players upset with coaches and vice versa or controversial decisions by the referees and/or video review officials, there is a wide variety of subjects that could fall under the parameters of controversial topics for the 2012 season.

    With an eye towards topics that are generating some degree of attention already, we will predict the top controversial topics for the 2012 NFL season.

The Franchise Tag Issues

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    Even though the NFL and the NFLPA went to great lengths to reach a new labor agreement, the first time that the teams and players are allowed to work together during the 2012 free-agency period, we wind up with a number of highly irate NFL stars that want no part of having a franchise tag designation.

    Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Drew Brees, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Dashon Goldson and Cliff Avril are just some of the examples of franchise tags that have resulted in key players sitting out of OTAs and minicamps. Those players missed the chance to get in some work with new coordinators or other new players on their unit.

    To the extent that both sides thought they had worked out a reasonable solution in the latest CBA, for all parties involved, the 2012 free-agency period and subsequent franchise tag holdouts prove that the system will remain controversial as to what is the best way for teams to be able to retain their best players.

Did the Miami Dolphins Really Need to Do Hard Knocks on HBO?

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    The Miami Dolphins are trying to get back to their old glory days and sell season tickets. I get that.

    With a new head coach and new coordinators on both sides of the ball, it is somewhat strange that the Dolphins would allow HBO to come into their training camp and allow for such a distraction as the filming of the show Hard Knocks.

    With all the regular media around, why would you want to expose your players to even more distractions by having film crews on the practice field, in the locker room and in coaches' meetings?

    Players will undoubtedly hear and see the results of the shows, which might reveal some things that the coaches would have wished the players hadn't heard or seen.

    Players can get their feelings bent out of shape, and things can get twisted when you don't know the whole picture or just see an edited version of the whole dialogue.

    If I was trying to make a sweeping change of my organization, the last thing I would want is to have the whole thing filmed and available for the public (and the rest of the NFL) to watch.

NFL Schedule Controversies

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    There are always going to be NFL teams that are upset with their respective schedules. Factors include too many road games in a row, traveling coast-to-coast in consecutive weeks and games in prime time that leave less time to prepare.

    But there are other kinds of unique twists to the NFL schedule that can create a disadvantage to certain NFL teams and will be a source of controversy.

    The following is just one example of how an NFL schedule can go against a team; in this case it is the Buffalo Bills, and the following quote comes from senior writer Chris Brown:

    As disappointing as it was to hear that the Bills have to play the Patriots on the road before hosting another important division game just five days later, there’s another issue with respect to extra preparation time for their upcoming opponents during the heart of their 2012 schedule.

    I can’t take credit for uncovering this. A Bills fan, who only goes by the initials B.H. emailed me this eye-opening schedule quirk between Weeks 6 and 10 of this season’s schedule. After checking myself it’s legit.

    After playing what is expected to be a physical contest with the 49ers in San Francisco in Week 5, the Bills then face the Cardinals in Arizona in Week 6. The Cards will have the benefit of three extra days of prep time for Buffalo as their Week 5 game is on Thursday night.

    The very next week when the Bills play host to Tennessee, the Titans will also have three extra days of prep time for Buffalo because they’re playing on Thursday night the previous week (Week 6) as well.

    The Bills look to get a break as they’ll have a bye week in Week 8 to get two weeks to prep for the Texans in Houston. But that extra prep time will be a wash because Houston also has their bye in Week 8.

    Finally while the Bills are battling the Texans in Houston, the Patriots will be on their couches watching at home while their head coach grinds tape for two weeks to prepare for the Bills who travel to New England in Week 10 as the Pats have their bye in Week 9.

    That’s followed by a second division game in five days against Miami on Thursday night in Buffalo. 

    The only advantage Buffalo will have in terms of extra preparation all season will be the extra three days coming off that Thursday night game with Miami to play Indianapolis 10 days later…on the road.

    I don't know if any other teams have schedule quirks like the Bills do, but somebody in NFL headquarters that is involved in creating the schedule should be aware of factors like this that can clearly be a big advantage to one team and a huge disadvantage to another team.

    The Bills have a hard enough time getting into the playoffs as it is. They don't need the deck stacked against them as well.

The Bounty Suspensions

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    While most NFL fans are left to guess at how extensive or damaging the evidence is against New Orleans Saints players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith, one thing is very clear: The suspensions handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have been extremely controversial.

    Saints linebacker Vilma is suing Commissioner Goodell for defamation of character, and my guess is that we have not heard the end of this situation. While the arbitration hearings and subsequent rulings have gone in the favor of the NFL to date, that doesn't mean that the Saints players and their representatives are going to roll over and play dead.

    The ability to show proof that warrants being suspended for a full year seems like a very reasonable consideration, but in this case proof appears to be a difficult thing to get a handle on. That is why there is so much controversy surrounding the suspensions. Legal battles over this could be going back and forth for years to come.

There Will Be Another NFL Team Fined for Getting an Unfair Edge

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    NFL teams continue to try to push the envelope to find ways to gain an advantage over their competition.

    Recently we have the New York Jets (Trip Gate) and New Orleans Saints (bounty hunting), and there are probably other teams that have done things that haven't hit the light of day yet but likely will down the road.

    Whether it is due to some high-tech development or some NFL personnel or assistant coaches that got a little carried away in trying to help their team, there will be some new controversy that surfaces in 2012 that results in Commissioner Goodell either fining the NFL team in question, suspending a coach or personnel for their actions or stripping them of a key draft pick for trying to get an unfair advantage on the rest of the league.

Los Angeles Seeks to Seduce a Franchise

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    Whether a new NFL team in Los Angeles wants to play its games in the Rose Bowl, the Coliseum or in a totally new stadium, the threat of a team heading to Los Angeles will be looming as a threat to every NFL franchise that is in any way struggling or not getting the full support it needs from local government entities.

    Whether the threat is real or more smoke and mirrors, NFL teams must know that the majority of owners would like to see a NFL team playing in the No. 2 market in the country. If the vote in Minnesota hadn't gone favorably, there might already be controversial hearings that the Vikings would be pulling up roots and getting the vans ready to head out west.

    Will Los Angeles just be one of several new cities that get a team via expansion, or will they just loom large over the current NFL until some city cries "uncle"?

    With Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots talking about how great it would be to have a team in London, maybe there will be a larger expansion on the horizon, turning the game into more of an international sport than it is now.

    According to this article from, Kraft thinks that the NFL is starting to tap out in the U.S. He is in favor of having a team in London.

Replays Will Delay Games Enough That It Will Upset Fans

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    You have your hardcore NFL fans and then your casual fans that have a wide array of interests. The NFL is moving ahead with plans to delay kickoffs on West Coast games by bumping the opening kickoff from 4:15 to 4:25.

    Factor in the normal length of games, and then consider the amount of time that games are stopped to verify every touchdown, every turnover and every coaches' challenge and cause the game to stop so that the instant replay booth can make sure that they have the correct call.

    When the major networks realize how much later the games will eventually be ending and how badly the rest of their Sunday evening programming is messed up as a result, people will be flooding the networks with complaints.

    The late games on the West Coast will be running right up to Sunday Night Football, meaning that the rest of the family can forget about seeing dad on Sundays. Networks will be caught in the middle, trying to pacify their football audience, while trying to soothe their non-football audience as well.

    Sounds like controversy to me.

NFL Teams Will Be Caught Violating Practice Rules

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    With the new CBA in place from the 2011 NFL season, we have already seen the NFL take action against the Seattle Seahawks for conducting practices that were too physical in nature and take away some of their offseason practices as a result.

    Once the teams get into training camp mode and then into the regular season, it will not come as a surprise that some NFL team will be found guilty of breaking the new CBA rules for practicing during the season. It could be wearing pads too many times, letting a practice run too long or breaking some of the other finer points of the new practice rules.

    Writing this presentation gives me the feeling that we are getting ever closer to George Orwell's 1984, in that "Big Brother Is Watching You" and you will never be safe from his watchful eye.

The Way the Chicago Bears Have Dealt with Matt Forte

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    The Chicago Bears and Matt Forte have seemingly been on a collision course for years.

    Until Forte's rookie contract expired, the Bears have been pushing Forte's need for personal security aside. Now that they have applied the franchise tag to their star running back, it is time for things to heat up and explode in their faces.

    Forte has been a good soldier so far, playing in 60 out of a possible 64 regular-season games since he was drafted by Chicago. The only thing that he has asked for was to be fairly compensated for the level of his play. His performance has warranted a big raise, yet the Bears come back with some negative issues, trying to browbeat him into accepting a smaller deal.

    Forte will probably wind up signing his franchise tender, but it would not surprise me if he bolts Chicago after this season. The way that Bears management has treated him to date, he deserves to play in a city that actually wants him there. That should result in plenty of controversy in Chicago.

Does Commissioner Goodell Have Too Much Power?

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    As a fairly common theme so far in this presentation, it is clear that the actions of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have led to a number of controversial moments already in the 2012 offseason.

    As the 2012 season unravels and Goodell decides to hand out multiple fines and suspensions for flagrant hits, uniform code violations, celebrating touchdowns in the end zone and a wide array of other assorted acts that fall under his jurisdiction, one has to ask the question: Does Commissioner Goodell have too much power?

    There will be incidents in 2012 where a specific team or a specific player will state that Goodell has targeted them unfairly, and a groundswell of support will result in trying to determine if the NFL has created a monster.

    Where will all of these fines and suspensions eventually stop?

Tim Tebow vs. Mark Sanchez: When Will the Drama End?

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    With the amount of press coverage that Tim Tebow has already received in his short time with the New York Jets, you know full well that the 2012 season is going to be a crazy year for the Jets and the local media coverage.

    No matter what Tebow does or says, it just seems that there is going to be some level of controversy that surrounds him. Is he a legitimate starting quarterback? Does he use the proper mechanics? Does he think he can overtake Mark Sanchez and become the starting quarterback in New York?

    For every bad game that Sanchez has, there will be a certain segment of Jets fans and New York media that will create a controversy over who should be the starting quarterback. Sanchez could reel off three or four straight wins, and if he has one bad game, the noise would start up immediately.

    This could wind up being a long and very controversial year in New York City.


    Thanks for checking out the presentation.