Posted on: September 4, 2009 4:45 pm

Blackouts solution? Send teams packing to London

There are reports that as many as 10 to 12 NFL clubs could face blackouts this year, prompting outraged observers to call on the league to change its TV policy. But I'm not sure that is necessary. In fact, I'd try another approach with teams having trouble selling out, and it looks like this: Send them where they're appreciated.

Send them to London.

You heard me. London, England. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this week said that regular-season international games have been so successful the league is considering "the idea of playing multiple games in London as early as next year."  Wow, now that was sudden. But so was the drop-off in league-wide season-ticket sales, which got me to thinking the two could be ... no, should be ... related.

Feeling unwanted at home? No problem. Go where people will stand in line to see you. Go where you're a unique attraction. Go where fans care more about the product than the people endorsing it. In short, go to England. 

Look, the economy in this country isn't going to pick up overnight, which means that a city like Jacksonville isn't about to start packing the house next year. The Jags are an extreme example of a good football team gone bad, and I'm not talking about their play on the field; I'm talking about their season ticket sales, which plunged from 42,000 to 25,000.

Trust me, the league has noticed. In fact, Goodell said he was "a little disappointed" with the Jags' lagging ticket sales and was working with owner Wayne Weaver "to see what we can do to support him." Well, I'd like to pitch in, too, so here's my idea, Roger: Offer your support by taking one game out of a half-filled stadium and exporting it to Europe where, I guarantee, there will be a lot more than 25,000 people who show up.

Yeah, yeah, I know, naysayers tell me you want a marketable product -- like New England and Tampa Bay this season -– and that Jacksonville isn't a sexy sell. New England is one of the league's premier franchises, while the Bucs are owned by the same family –- the Glazers -– that owns Manchester United, one of the premier soccer teams in the world. So the game is easy to market from either side, which it might not be were the Jags involved. At least, that's what critics contend.

But what about Miami two years ago? The Dolphins not only were in the midst of a 1-15 slide; they were coming off a 6-10 finish that got their head coach fired. And while their opponents, the New York Giants, were a playoff team the previous season, they barely made it to 8-8 -– with coach Tom Coughlin escaping the firing line when he beat Washington in the regular-season finale.

Granted, the Giants have a storied history. So does Miami. But neither was particularly attractive in the middle of the 2007 season.

That's why I put clubs like Jacksonville and, say, Oakland on the table for discussion. The Jags have been to the playoffs two of the past four years. The Raiders haven't done anything but just lose, baby, since reaching Super Bowl XXXVII, but they have the long history and passionate following that made Miami an attractive export. Both teams experienced local TV blackouts, with Jacksonville facing the potential of eight blackouts this fall, and both would like to solve the problem.

So solve it. Send them to London where they can sell tickets and won't have spectators disguised as empty seats.

My point is this: You can kill two problems with one bold move here. You want a show of hands for teams willing to move one of their eight home games to England, and good luck. Clubs don't like to forfeit the competitive advantage that goes with a home game. But they don't like to play in front of empty stands, either.

We already know there are 10-12 clubs facing possible blackouts, and those teams seem like logical candidates to put in front of 80,000 people in London. So start taking names –- Jacksonville, please stand forward -– and start collecting passports.

"It would not be far-fetched to think this is something that should be talked about," said one league source.

I couldn't agree more. It's time to start talking to Jacksonville.

Posted on: June 18, 2009 5:13 pm
Edited on: June 18, 2009 5:23 pm

Only shock will be if Stallworth plays in '09

So Donte Stallworth is suspended indefinitely. Where's the surprise? That was a slam-dunk. Now let's see what happens next, and I'll be surprised only if Stallworth is allowed to play this season.

Remember, the Rams' Leonard Little was suspended eight games when he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a 1998 accident -- and that was under a more lenient commissioner. Roger Goodell is a guy who sat down "Pacman" Jones one season for a series of run-ins, even though he never was never found guilty, and that should serve as a guide here.

Goodell is all about cleaning up this league -- or, at least, trying to clean it up -- and there's no way he goes soft on Stallworth. Stallworth's attorney said the wide receiver "acted like a man" in stopping after hitting a pedestrian "and cooperated fully." Great. He still killed somebody while driving drunk. Now he suffers the consequences. He got off easy with a 30-day jail sentence only because he entered into a plea agreement, but Goodell won't be as forgiving. There are no deals with the commissioner.

I say Stallworth is gone for this season, and that's not exactly going out on a limb. As Goodell pointed out, Stallworth's conduct was "inexcusable," and his actions caused "irrepable harm to the victim and his family," as well as the NFL. The hammer comes next. Donte' Stallworth doesn't play this year.
Posted on: October 14, 2008 6:00 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2008 6:44 pm

Roy Williams traded to Cowboys

I give the Roy Williams deal two thumbs up, which means I think it benefits both teams.

Detroit is in the process of blowing up the building and starting all over. Williams is a first-round talent who wasn't happy about being with the Lions and wanted to go to Dallas when he became a free agent after this season.

So the Lions gained something for him while they could, and what they gained were first, third and sixth round draft picks, and that's decent compensation for a guy who wasn't helping them anyway.

The rumor was that this trade was close during this year's draft but that then-president and CEO Matt Millen blocked it. Well, Millen is gone, and so are the Lions' hopes of doing anything this season.

So build for the future with draft picks.

The question, of course, is what they do with those draft choices, but at least there's hope with a new GM. For the record, the Lions had four top 10 draft choices from 2002 through 2005. One was a quarterback, three were wide receivers and all of them are gone.

That is no way to build a franchise. Starting over is, and the Lions' tear-down project began today.

As for Dallas, Williams gives them a legitimate threat opposite Terrell Owens and will make it difficult for opponents to defend their passing game. Take your pick of Owens, Jason Witten and Williams, and tell me whom you want to double.

Now, add to that picture the prospect of defending Marion Barber and (when he returns) Felix Jones, and, suddenly, the Cowboys have weapons galore. Williams should make Owens more dangerous because he will draw some of the coverage that, otherwise, might have tilted in T.O.'s direction.

Plus, he's young (he hasn't turned 27), is from Texas and desperately wants to play for a team that matters. The Cowboys matter, especially to a young man who grew up watching them.

"If there's a question," said one NFC coach, "it's with the chemistry. Owens and Witten have it. So how long does it take for them to get it with Williams? And how do they keep everyone happy? If Patrick Crayton or Miles Austin don't get passes it's not an issue, but it could be if they're not throwing to Williams."

Maybe. But that's a problem I'm willing to live with if I'm Wade Phillips.

Williams was expected to join the Cowboys if and when he became a free agent, but Dallas couldn't take that chance. For one, Detroit could have made him its franchise player; for another, another suitor could've offered him a richer contract.

Dallas had a conviction about him, and he had a conviction about the Cowboys. It was situation that was too appealing not to happen. Credit Dallas for making a trade that makes it better now and for the future.
Category: NFL
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