By Scott Dierking
You and I, we are different. We are different because we are governed by our actions and expected to live by our word. This happens in both our personal and our professional lives.
Oh, there are boundaries so that we do not tempt fate. Every bank CD commercial crammed on our radio has the droning â€œSubstantial penalty for early withdrawalâ€? disclaimer masked in the background of its happy tune. We are asked to place earnest money down on a home, and in some contracts you risk losing that money should you get cold feet.
Personally, our word is our bond. To friends and family, it is probably this trust and succeeding reliability that we are gauged by more than any other. Family protects itself. Best friends continue on because we have their back, and we know they have ours.
Big business is even more rigid in its guidelines, ensuring that you act properly and that you abide by your bargain. When business mergers and acquisitions are in the final stages, often there is a â€œbreak-up feeâ€? attached, ensuring that at the last minute, one company does not back out, or even have the audacity to change its mind. These fees are often significant and meant to penalize the contract breaker.
Quite often, both large and small organizations require key personnel to sign â€œemployee agreementsâ€?. These agreements are a stipulation between a company and its key employees that state that by being in a specific position that these employees are in possession of certain knowledge and company confidential information. They require that for a certain period of time, that an employee will not work for a competitor, nor disclose any confidential information to any competitor.
The NFL, they are not like us. They have antitrust exemptions that have been afforded by legislative bodies, and the NFL will do everything to flex that muscle. At times it is flaunted. To the NFL, word is not bond, and trust is only thrown around in circles where it is scoffed and derided.
For the majority of time, it was the players that were deemed to be unworthy of trust. The NFL was one of the last of the major sports to adopt free agency. They did it begrudgingly, and even with that, they adopted the strictest of salary caps.
Player contracts as well, are not guaranteed. Imagine that. We can cut you at any time we feel like it, and whatever remains on your contract to that point, we donâ€™t pay. All you are guaranteed is your up-front money.
If this type of treatment existed outside of the NFL, in our little world of contracts and personal trust, we would feel like we were being strong-armed. Some might even say this was an â€œorganized crimeâ€? way of handling things, and that it should be broken up.
Well, the NFL has something that most competitive organizations do not. That thing that they have is cooperation among competing factions. Not only have these competing factions cooperated, but they have split profits, equally divvied most of its merchandising enterprises as well of its media earnings. The Golden Goose is alive and well in the NFL, and it has prospered unlike any similar entertainment vehicle.
Of course, in order to ensure that this prosperity continues, there has to be a bond between the owners within this special circle. And they have done a wonderful job of backslapping, bar toasting and co-existing. They have accomplished something that no other major sport has been able to accomplish, and that is to ensure that they do not kill the good thing that they have. They have managed just not to screw things up, mainly because it has been such a good thing.
Sure, there have been some mavericks. An Al Davis or a Jerry Jones may decide that they want to be a little bit different, and donâ€™t want to share toys with the others. But, for the most part, these little children have managed to play well together and share.
With some of the machinations that came down this week between the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs, I can sense a fracturing of that owner trust and coexistence. That bonk you just heard in the background was the Golden Goose doing a huge gulp.
Even with all of the games that owners play with playersâ€™ contracts, there has always been a seeming unwritten code that front office personnel contracts were closed to tampering and contract shenanigans. Of course there have been some curious and even bordering scandalous deals that went down, but in all of those, there were substantial â€œpenaltiesâ€? in the form of draft picks.
Most notable were the Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick deals that had to be brokered by the NFL office. Consistent in both those deals was a wanting divorce by at least one of the major parties, and in the end, at least everyone felt they got something in return. Maybe we should have all seen these as the cold sores, to what may now be a raging condition.
Also included in front office swaps were teams that traded amicably and did not need the help of NFL offices. In none of those deals did there seem to be collusion, and each side seemed to get something in return for hiring away a contracted front office agent.
That is why the Herm Edwards to Kansas City deal defies previous logic. The compensation nowhere matches any previous compensation for a contracted official. You may argue about the worth of an individual, but the fact remains that Herm Edwards was contracted, and that has to be the main point of considering value.
Here is the crux for the case for impropriety in this deal. Head coach is a unique position in the NFL. Heck, there are only 32 of these positions in the world. One can argue that it is well the most important position of an organized football club. That creates a perceived value, a status that is unique. That is why these positions are contracted and even more so, these contracts are GUARANTEED. (Ah, see the distinct status difference between player and coach?) Wonder why the NFL treats these positions differently?
The NFL has strict rules to make sure that teams do not even as much talk about the value of players of another team. It seems a somewhat odd paradigm to so strictly police these serfs, as it were, whose contracts are not even guaranteed, doesnâ€™t it? But when you consider the appearances the league wants to display, and the case for competitive camaraderie, it is a very understandable stance. It makes a lot of sense.
So, one can only assume that if the NFL wants to protect these players from collusion or tampering, it must hold the coaching position in a supreme light. One can only suspect that the near suggestion of tampering with a contracted coach, one of the most unique and upheld positions in the league, would be subjected to severe sanctions.
I wonâ€™t get into the smoking gun trail that exists between Kansas City and Herm Edwards. They have been fairly well documented and appearances are almost incestuous in nature. But, what does appear interesting is that Kansas City has seemed to affect the relationship between an existing contracted employee, to the point where that unique relationship was fractured. And like an amorous home wrecker, they have consummated a deal where they have essentially created their own new spouse. They effectively marketed their most important life-mate.
When divorce courts look at payments from one spouse to another, they do not look at the physical appearances of either party. What caused the rift, and who is in a position of unique earning status? How does the break-up affect either party to a financial and well-being detriment? It is a common sense approach, and for the most part, tries to compensate the damaged party.
Of course, the NFL doesnâ€™t work in this world of ours, as we previously discussed. But, they have in the past enforced validities of contracts and vehemently defended the rights of the contractor.
The point has to remain, why is this deal allowed to be different in precedence? Does the NFL not recognize the appearances of impropriety? Are front office personnel now assumed to be open game between rival factions like they are some minimum wage employees? The NFL does not allow this type of movement to occur with players, who are bartered on an almost slavish level. Why the double standard here? Why the double standard now? Why does the NFL appear to be looking the other way as a heist has been committed on one of its valuable members?
I donâ€™t claim to have all the answers. After all, I am only a fan of this mega-billion dollar enterprise. But I can tell you this–I know when a fraud has been perpetrated, or at least I can feel one. And for a league that wants to cloak itself in being above the board in all of its dealings, I find it oddly hypocritical that this has come down without a murmur.