SBD/Issue 76/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Goodell To Push For Incentives For Teams To Play Starters

Goodell Looking For Solution To Playoff-Bound
Teams Resting Starters At End Of Regular Season
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will "push hard on the Competition Committee to develop solutions that will give teams incentive to play their healthy starters through the end of the regular season beginning in 2010," according to league sources cited by ESPN's Chris Mortensen. The incentives "could include extra draft picks." Mortensen noted NBC studio analyst and former coach Tony Dungy told Goodell he "believes coaches wouldn't object to such decisions being taken out of their hands." Mortensen: "Goodell also had a cordial phone conversation with Colts Owner Jim Irsay and John Madden, who is now a special advisor to the commissioner on football matters, who suggested that coaches should be required to declare before a game which players will play or be removed." Sources indicated that Goodell "really believes that for fans who buy" season tickets, teams not playing their healthy starters is a "broken trust, maybe even more distasteful than what happens in preseason" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 1/3). SI’s Peter King said Goodell “is not just disturbed” by teams resting players but “angry about it." King: "He’s angry because six of the 16 games (yesterday) on a regular-season week could have been used by a team for something other than trying their best to win the game.” Goodell "wants some way to make this more of a level playing field so that the fans, who pay regular-season prices, don’t see a preseason game in Week 17” (“FNIA,” NBC, 1/3).

PLAYING CRUCIAL TO GAME'S INTEGRITY: Goodell appeared in the broadcast booth during CBS' coverage of Steelers-Dolphins yesterday and said the "integrity of our game is the most important thing we do." Goodell: "We want our players to play, and our teams to win. I think we have to do more structurally to incent people to win and to play. ... How do you incent people to do it or reward them? I don't think you can punish people for not playing. The other thing that has to happen is you have to make it clear to the public that you're not going to be playing somebody, just like we do with our injury reports." But Goodell added he does not blame the Colts for resting their starters in Week 16 against the Jets, a game that could have made the Colts 15-0. Goodell: "I understand exactly what they did, but we've got to create that incentive" (Steelers-Dolphins, CBS, 1/3).

NOT WORTH THE INCENTIVES? The Saints rested starters for yesterday's game against the Panthers after clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and Saints coach Sean Payton said the No. 1 seed is "something that teams earn." Payton: "The idea of getting a draft pick and having your quarterback not healthy for a divisional playoff game doesn't sound real appealing to me" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/4). Dungy said he does not believe "there’s enough compensation" to keep starters in games after teams' playoff seeds have been set. Noting the season-ending injury to Patriots WR Wes Welker during the team's game yesterday against the Texans, Dungy said, "Look at the injuries today. ... How many draft choices am I going to get to lose Wes Welker in a meaningless game? It wouldn’t matter to me as a coach" (“FNIA,” NBC, 1/3). CBS' Charley Casserly said during his stint on the Competition Committee, the committee "could not ever figure out a rule where you could enforce to tell the teams, 'You've got to play the players.'" Casserly: "It's just not enforceable." But Casserly added, "I think you could incentivize teams playing harder at the end of the season by ... reseeding the playoffs based on the best record" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 1/3). In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes the idea of giving teams that have made the playoffs draft picks to play their starters is "so idiotic, it's stupid." Canepa: "The have-nots are going to OK giving the haves more draft choices so they can get better and beat their brains in some more? The NFL is too smart to be so silly" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/4).

THE TEAM'S PREROGATIVE: Titans coach and Competition Committee member Jeff Fisher said teams "have a right to do what they choose or see fit from the standpoint of what's best for the club" when it comes to making the Super Bowl. Fisher: "I think that's always going to be the case" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/3). In Pittsburgh, Scott Brown wrote, "Teams like the Colts, Patriots and Bengals have earned the right to do what they please in their final game -- or games in the case of Indianapolis" (TRIBLIVE.com, 1/3). In San Diego, Tim Sullivan wrote under the header, "Risking Starters Not Worth Gamble" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/1). However, one AFC coach feels the Jets may have gotten an "unfair advantage by playing two teams in the last two weeks that already had playoff spots secured and weren't playing the way they'd play a regular game." The coach said, "It's a matter of fairness. I don't know what can be done, but I'd like to see every team that plays a game with playoff implications have to play their best players" (SI.com, 1/4).

Welker's Injury Could Cause More Teams To
Take A Tentative Approach With Week 17
FIFTH PRESEASON GAME: In Ft. Worth, Scott McCoy writes, "When exactly did it become OK to treat the final week of the regular season like the final week of the preseason?" Goodell "understands there is a bit of a credibility issue at stake for the league with fans who buy season tickets for eight games, then are sometimes treated to seven games and a glorified exhibition." But McCoy writes the "worst news of the day" was Welker's injury, which "means that across the league, coaches and general managers saw their shadows, and we're guaranteed six more winters of bleak Week 17s" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/4). But the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes, "The question remains: Was it really necessary for Mr. Welker to suit up for the last game." It is "easy to do this with the benefit of hindsight" -- had the Patriots beaten the Texans and Welker remained healthy, Patriots coach Bill Belichick "would have been lauded for his courage in securing the Patriots the No. 3 slot, since the Patriots have been putrid playing on the road" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/4).

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