SBD/January 4, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Black Monday "turned out to be uncharacteristically sunny" for NFL coaches as "only one move was made on the day normally reserved for franchises' house-cleanings," according to Matthew De George of the DELAWARE COUNTY DAILY TIMES. The Browns fired coach Eric Mangini yesterday, but the "prevailing mantra" yesterday was "You're hired," not "You're fired." The Vikings removed Leslie Frazier's interim tag, "installing him as the permanent head coach," and the "embattled Jack Del Rio and Gary Kubiak both were retained" by the Jaguars and Texans, respectively. De George: "Perhaps a part of the stand pat mentality is the looming labor uncertainty and the doubt that the 2011 season will be played. If there's no assurance of a season, why worry about who'll be sitting at home with nothing to do like the rest of the league?" But De George notes the "lack of shuffling" yesterday "isn't fully representative of the staff turnover experienced this season, as the four coaches sacked midseason was a greater than normal contribution to the nation's sky-rocketing unemployment rate" (DELAWARE COUNTY DAILY TIMES, 1/4). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "With this whole lockout situation … it seems like owners are reluctant with that uncertainty to commit (big money to a new coach).” They are “not sure how many off-season activities they're going to have the players for. That plays inasmuch as, say, 'I want to get rid of this guy.' They're just holding steady for now" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/3).
NOTHING DOING: USA TODAY's Mike Lopresti tracked yesterday's NFL moves with a running diary. Mangini was fired at 10:15am ET, but at noon, Lopresti wrote, "It's quiet out there. Too quiet." He wrote at 2:00pm, "Did the NFL declare a firing freeze?" He ended the diary at 5:00pm, writing, "This has been Reprieve Monday. Except for Mangini, the day has been as bloodless as pin the tail on the donkey. Could it be the NFL owners have grown patient? Or did they just take Monday off?" (USA TODAY, 1/4).
FIRE DRILL: ESPN's Bob Ley noted with the "economic uncertainty staring" at the NFL with a possible work stoppage, "some teams would hesitate to make moves, but the Browns are not in that camp" after they fired Mangini ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 1/3). Browns President Mike Holmgren said that the search for Mangini's successor "would have no timetable and money would be no object." But "in a mild surprise," Holmgren "eliminated himself as a candidate 'right now'" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/4). ESPN.com's James Walker wrote, "This will be the most important decision Holmgren makes during his tenure in Cleveland. The stakes are raised even higher considering the next coach -- fair or unfair -- will be compared to what Holmgren may have accomplished had he coached the team" (ESPN.com, 1/3). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto writes Holmgren "has to make good on the promise 'to get this right.'" That process "should include Holmgren remaining in his current job with Tom Heckert staying as general manager -- and the two of them finding the best coach available." Pluto: "Until the Browns have a powerhouse front office, they will never win on the field -- no matter the coach. A reason to feel confident about the latest hunt is that Holmgren is the man at the top of the organization" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/4).
NO TIME FOR A CHANGE: Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf, as he formally introduced Frazier yesterday as the eighth head coach in franchise history, said that he "saw little reason for a shakeup." In Minneapolis, Judd Zulgad notes Wilf and his brother, team President Mark Wilf, "took the interim label off Frazier's title and rewarded him with a three-year contract." The Wilfs "did not come out and say it," but it is "clear they realized [former coach Brad Childress] had too much power and they feel Frazier will be better at getting along with others." Meanwhile, there "had been speculation" that VP/Player Personnel Rick Spielman "might be named general manager, but there will be no title changes" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/4).
Raiders Have Until Jan. 18 To Decide On
Picking Up Cable's Two-Year, $5M Option
The Jaguars “didn't have any games blacked out this season," but selling tickets was “still more difficult than in other markets and they also did not have any true sellouts,” according to Tania Ganguli of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. One of the “major problems, perception-wise, for the Jaguars has been the trouble they've had selling club seats in the lower bowl in the middle of the stadium.” The seats “don't count against blackout numbers, but empty seats appear very glaringly on television.” Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver: "That's the biggest challenge I've given this (administration) side of the building next year. We've got to figure out a way to sell out our premium seats. ... You look across where I sit over in the east side, it's an eyesore." Weaver also “laid out the gains the Jaguars had made in ticket sales this season and how he hoped the organization could continue on that same path.” He said, "I challenged ... the administrative side of the building, and I thought that they responded brilliantly.” He added the team “sold 15,000 new season tickets, 87,000 group sales.” Weaver: “We've got a template there. Hopefully those people will stay with us” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/4).
WHAT'S MONEY GOT TO DO WITH IT? Weaver yesterday confirmed that coach Jack Del Rio “will return for the 2011 season,” but in Jacksonville, Vito Stellino writes the move to bring Del Rio back "won’t be popular” with the local fan base. However, Weaver “isn’t rolling over the contracts of the assistant coaches whose deals expire after” next season. That means Weaver “won’t owe them any money if he fires Del Rio and his staff after next season although he would still owe the head coach" more than $5M for the final year of his contract. Weaver said that the money he “would have had to pay Del Rio ($10 million) and his assistants if he fired them this week didn’t play a role in his decision.” However, he did acknowledge that the NFL’s “looming labor unrest might have been a factor because a new coach would have had problems installing a system if the players were locked out” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/4). Also in Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote the decision to keep Del Rio is a “risky move with fan cynicism alarmingly high.” Weaver said money "had nothing to do with it.” But Frenette wrote, “It sure had something to do with it. Any NFL team hiring a new coach, with an owner lockout of the players looming, has to be concerned that the replacement coach’s program won’t be implemented until summertime or later” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/3).
The Knicks and NHL Rangers are "winning back fans by winning games in entertaining fashion" at MSG, according to a sports-section cover story by Brady & McCarthy of USA TODAY. This season is "shaping up as the first time both will make the playoffs" in the same year since '97. Rangers RW Ryan Callahan: "You have two teams from New York that are relevant at the same time -- and both making a push toward the playoffs. It's good for the city of New York -- and for the Garden." The timing of the Knicks-Rangers resurgence "couldn't be better for MSG." There is "construction everywhere" around the arena, which is "in the midst of a three-year, $775 million inside-out transformation." The Knicks are "playing to 99.6% capacity and the Rangers to 98.9%." The Knicks are "sold out of season tickets for the first time since 2001-02, and they have attracted 17 new corporate sponsors," while the Rangers "have 18 new corporate sponsors." In addition, national networks are "back to broadcasting New York games." The Knicks "were scheduled to be on ESPN seven times this season compared with three last season -- and on TNT four times compared with none last season." Likewise, Callahan believes that the Rangers' success is "good for" the NHL. Callahan: "There's no question New York's a big market and a big selling point for the NHL. We sell out almost every game. To have that for the revenue is really big, too. We're constantly trying to sell the game" (USA TODAY, 1/4).
FULL-COURT PRESS: The N.Y. POST reported the Knicks have introduced an "innovative All-Star campaign including a mash-up video featuring" C Amar'e Stoudemire, G Raymond Felton and F Danilo Gallinari, as well as an interactive fan voting site, VoteKnicks.com. The "One Step At A Time" video, produced by DJ Steve Porter, "features exciting highlights of the three players on the All-Star 2011 ballot." The website "has a unique element where fans can get involved with the campaign by uploading personalized videos of their 'number one reason' to vote for the three Knicks," and "step-by-step instructions can be found on the site along with some of the top prizes for the best video submissions." The deadline for the fan video submissions is Jan. 10 (N.Y. POST, 1/2).
The Indians concluded the debut run of their Snow Days winter carnival at Progressive Field with a final attendance of more than 50,000. The figure was not quite the 60,000 previously projected by club officials for the five-week run. Snow Days, however, proved effective at attracting not only children and families, but also young adults. "Our evening crowds were full of people aged 25-35, and that was a demo we did not necessarily expect," said Indians Senior Dir of Merchandising & Licensing Kurt Schloss, who served as Project Manager for Snow Days. Final financial figures for the effort are still being compiled, but revenue at least in the high-six figures was generated. A fiscal loss is likely and was expected due to the initial capital expense of equipment such as snow-making gear. An official decision on whether to revive the winter-themed attractions at the ballpark -- including snow tubing, ice skating and several other activities -- has not yet been made but future iterations are highly likely. "We definitely accomplished our goal of creating a family-friendly event that didn't exist before and brought people back down to downtown Cleveland," Schloss said. "The intent was never to have this as a one-year event." Prices for Snow Days ranged from $5 to a $100 family pass, and the revenue is not subject to MLB revenue-sharing rules. The peak day for Snow Days was Wed. Dec 29 with a draw of more than 4,000 (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
LET IT SNOW: MLB.com's Jordan Bastian noted the first year of Snow Days, which ended Sunday, "served somewhat as an experiment in an effort to find a way to utilize the stadium in the winter and as a way to hopefully create more revenue for the team." The Indians now "plan on going to work on finding ways to make it even better in the future." Snow Days also "caught the attention of other teams." A handful of other MLB clubs "asked if they could send people to get a first-hand look at Snow Days," and teams from other sports inquired as well. Bastian: "That is a sign that the Indians found an attractive event for their stadium's offseason" (MLB.com, 1/3).
Thanks to a rush in ticket sales in the weeks before Christmas, the Portland Timbers have sold 10,000 season tickets and sold out 33 full sections at PGE Park for their inaugural MLS season. The club will cap season tickets at 12,000 at PGE, which will hold approximately 19,000 once construction on the east and south stands finishes in late March. Team Owner & President Merritt Paulson said the club’s $1,500 KeyBank Club premium seats were some of the first sections to sell out, as were the 23 $40,000 Sunset Porsche Audi luxury suites, which require a multiyear commitment. Paulson said, “When you look at the appetite for premium seats in this economy that has been hit with unemployment that is disproportionately high, it speaks to the conviction people have that Timbers games will be a great experience.” He added he expects the club to sell out its remaining 2,000 season tickets, which include 700 seats in the Timbers Army supporters section (Fred Dreier, SportsBusiness Journal). Meanwhile, in Seattle, Gerry Spratt reported the Vancouver Whitecaps also have "reported brisk ticket sales" for their inaugural MLS season, "with season packages exceeding 13,000." The Whitecaps will start the '11 season at Empire Field while BC Place Stadium, which ultimately "will have a soccer capacity of 20,000," is fitted with a retractable roof (SEATTLEPI.com, 1/3).
CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto wrote Pro Football HOFer John Elway by taking a job as Broncos VP/Football Operations is "making the mistake of competing against himself at something he is not as good at as his previous job with the Broncos." Elway is "being asked to return the team to the glories it knew under him, and this is an arrangement that almost never works." His name "never came up as a potential savior for any other team," and fans "find it easier to despise even a playing hero once he goes to Suitsville." Ratto: "History suggests ... that this 'conquering hero returning to save the day again' thing always is a lot harder than it looks" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/3). SI.com's Don Banks wrote the Broncos' hiring of Elway "strikes me as pure public relations for a franchise that has lost its way" (SI.com, 1/3).
WHERE'S THE GOLD RUSH? In S.F., Al Saracevic noted the 49ers have a 102-121 record since the York family assumed control of the franchise in '97. In that time, the Yorks "have fired four coaches," including Mike Singletary last month, and have "failed to realize multiple stadium plans." Saracevic: "They've strung together eight seasons without a playoff appearance. And they presently don't have a head coach or a general manager or a viable stadium plan. ... The Yorks need to find the next Bill Walsh. They need to build a shiny stadium in San Francisco. And they need to negotiate some very tricky waters this offseason in terms of labor negotiations" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/2).
CAST ASIDE: In N.Y., Peter Vecsey examines how NBA teams treat longtime employees, writing under the header, "NBA Turns Back On Some Of Its Own." Late Pistons Dir of PR Matt Dobek and former Celtics assistant coach Clifford Ray both were fired by their respective teams last year, while Basketball HOFer Connie Hawkins, who "had been doing community work for the Suns and showed up at the office on an irregular basis," was "taken off the Suns' books." Also, Basketball HOFer and former Wizards GM Wes Unseld "was stripped of his season tickets" by the team. Vecsey: "You'd think Wizards owner Ted Leonsis would want as many hostages as he could to take to fill the Verizon Center's crater of empty seats" (N.Y. POST, 1/4).
JETS NAMED IN LAWSUIT: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase noted the Jets were "named in the suit" brought forth by two former team employees against QB Brett Favre "for sexual harassment." The suit alleges the Jets cultivated a "hotbed of sexual harassment, sexism and inappropriate behavior." The women "are seeking unspecified damages" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/3). A Jets spokesperson declined to comment, citing a "pending legal matter" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/4).