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SBD/March 22, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The Saints' "lack of institutional control that resulted in the worst black eye the organization has ever experienced," according to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Their "cavalier attitudes and carelessness left the league with no recourse and has caused irreparable short- and long-term damage to the organization" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/22). ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas noted Saints Owner Tom Benson "was not implicated for doing anything wrong by the league," but he "suddenly faces a huge challenge." He must "decide if he’s going to fill [head coach Sean] Payton’s spot," and he "also has to decide who’s going to make personnel decisions in [GM Mickey] Loomis’ absence." The Saints are "more popular and beloved than they’ve ever been," and it is "up to Benson to find a way to keep them there." Yasinskas wrote, "Most importantly, it's up to Benson to make sure his entire organization plays by [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell’s rules" (ESPN.com, 3/21). Also in New Orleans, John DeShazier writes given the breadth and depth of the Saints' bounty system, the "carelessness with which it was instituted and operated from 2009-11, and the hubris required to continue the program even after principal figures were warned and instructed to cease, just cause exists" for Benson to replace Loomis, Payton and assistant coach Joe Vitt. Benson should "dismiss them because the stain on the Saints' name also is a stain on his, which he tirelessly, and fairly effectively and successfully, has worked to rehabilitate since that ill-advised flirtation with San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina" in '05. DeShazier writes, "It would require courage for Benson to add on to the stiffest penalties ever levied against an NFL franchise" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/22). ESPN.com's Yasinskas wrote Benson’s "reputation in New Orleans has improved quite a bit in recent years." But it is "up to Benson to finish the job by putting good people in the places of Payton and Loomis." Yasinskas: "Most importantly, it's up to Benson to make sure his entire organization plays by Goodell’s rules" (ESPN.com, 3/21). CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge wrote the Saints "took a good thing and covered it in disgrace, disrepute and shame." No longer are they the team that "lifted the city with a come-from-behind victory in Super Bowl XLIV." They are the club that "practiced 'Bountygate'" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/21).
TOUGH FOR OWNER: When told of the punishment, Goodell said Benson’s reaction was “disappointment.” Goodell: “He knew that this was a serious violation. He wants to, obviously, win and he wants to do it the right way. He's disappointed and sorry that the Saints were being portrayed this way, in a position where they haven't upheld the rules the way he believed them” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/21).
FRANCHISE FACE: Also in New Orleans, Brett Duke writes Benson should "hand the football side of his franchise to the face of the franchise," QB Drew Brees. Considering the circumstances, there has "never been a time when one player, one voice, meant more to the immediate future of an NFL franchise" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole wrote Brees is "not literally going to be the coach," but in "every significant way in which the Saints will have to replace Sean Payton ... Brees is the guy who will take over" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21). Brees' agent Tom Condon said yesterday that Brees will "keep the Saints on the right path." Condon: "I haven't spoken to him since these sanctions have come down, and they seem extraordinarily severe. At the same time, Drew's a great leader, he tries to make the best of any situation" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22).
RIPPLE EFFECT: In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon notes "Bountygate" has left a "big stain on the NFL and some of it splashed onto the Rams." The scandal broke shortly after the Rams hired Williams, and coach Jeff Fisher said, "Had we known about this, would we have hired him? Absolutely not" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/22). Meanwhile, in DC, Mark Maske notes the Redskins, where Williams was the defensive coordinator from '04-08, have "escaped punishment, at least for now." A source said that the NFL's "active investigation of the Redskins was closed, but left open the possibility of reopening the probe should new information surface" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/22).
The Jets' trade for QB Tim Tebow yesterday “reminded us of what we already know to be true of these attention-starved Jets: they are a franchise without a plan, a team without an identity, and they remain content being the league leaders in chasing headlines,” according to Tara Sullivan of the Bergen RECORD. The Jets’ move brings “a roving fan base inspired by Tebow’s deep Christian beliefs, a segment of believers who will follow Tebow anywhere and who will waste no time rallying for him to get more playing time.” To Jets Owner Woody Johnson, a player like Tebow “represents so much more than football.” He represents “jersey sales and television ratings and national games” (Bergen RECORD, 3/22). In, N.Y., Brian Costello writes the Jets “made one of the most dramatic trades in franchise history Wednesday -- twice,” as they “swung a deal with the Broncos for polarizing quarterback Tim Tebow after the trade nearly fell through earlier in the day.” The deal got done “just before 9 p.m., some eight hours after it originally was thought to be completed” (N.Y. POST, 3/22). On Long Island, Roderick Boone notes the trade reportedly “hit a snag when ... the Jets learned they would have to pay Denver $5 million because of a clause in Tebow’s contract.” But in the end, the Jets “sent a fourth- and sixth-round pick in April’s NFL draft and half of the $5 million to Denver for Tebow and a seventh-round pick” (NEWSDAY, 3/22). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes, “If you are talking show biz, pure entertainment, the acquisition of Tebow is a brilliant move, right out of Sonny As In Money’s playbook.” All the talk “may not lead to selling tickets and PSLs, but it improves the chances of it happening -- big time.” Raissman: “Does anyone think [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell is crying because Tebow has landed in our nation’s largest media market?” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/22). YAHOO SPORTS’ Maggie Hendricks wrote one thing Tebow “will do is bring plenty of interest to a team that needs to pay for the New Meadowlands.” A QB controversy “that involves one of the most divisive players in the league may not help win games, but it will sell tickets” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21). SportsNet N.Y.’s Marc Malusis said, “I believe this is an attention, get money, sell seats, sell jerseys maneuver by this Jets organization. Clearly, they’ve been run over by the Giants. ...This is what the Jets want to go out there and try and do, grab a little bit of headlines. This was not a football decision, this was a PR decision” (“The WheelHouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 3/21).
WEIGHING IN: Pro Football HOFer Joe Namath yesterday appeared on ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y.'s Michael Kay show and said, "I'm sorry. I do not agree with this situation. I can't agree with it. I just think it's a publicity stunt. I really think it's wrong. I can't go for it" (NEWSDAY, 3/22). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes the Jets “go out and get themselves a rock-star backup who happens to be one of the most famous athletes on the planet, and tell their fans he’s going to pitch middle relief.” Lupica writes, "The circus really can be a lot of fun. You just have to make sure you don’t end up looking like clowns in the end” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/22).YAHOO SPORTS’ Matthew Darnell writes Tebow to the Jets is “such an odd fit,” but a “bold and splashy move for the Jets.” No team closed the ‘11 season “on a more dismal note” than the Jets (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21). In N.Y., Greg Bishop writes under the header, “Splashy Move, But Suspect Thinking.” What becomes “eminently clear is the risk in the acquisition, which has little to do with Tebow’s passing acumen and everything to do with the organizational culture the Jets have created, the desperation with which they operate” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22). ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said, “This solidifies a level of ineptitude, a level of futility that the New York Jets have enjoyed for over 40 years...This is the reason why they are second-tier status, and this is the reason the New York Giants will always be the team in New York” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 3/22).
MAN WITH A PLAN? In Newark, Steve Politi writes whether the move “is a success or a flop will come back” to Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, who has “tied himself to the most scrutinized player in the NFL.” How Tebow impacts the Jets “will be one of the more compelling stories in the league next season,” and it will “go a long way to defining the legacy of the man who brought him to the Meadowlands” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/22).
In one of the "biggest opportunities in franchise history, the Jaguars dropped the ball by not agreeing to pay a reasonable price to acquire" QB Tim Tebow, the "most popular football player in Jacksonville history," according to Gene Frenette of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan, who was "clearly driving the Let's-Get-Tebow train," said in a statement that he was "satisfied with the outcome because general manager Gene Smith made a concerted effort to land the hometown legend." Khan said, "We're looking ahead with zero regrets." Frenette: "Maybe so. But whether it was the Broncos' decision or Tebow's call, likely seeing the Jets as a better opportunity to play quarterback and certainly a greater marketing bonanza, it's hard to not view this as a Jaguars loss." Forget the "potential bump in season-ticket or jersey sales, which can never be accurately gauged." The "real loss here is the Jaguars missed an opportunity to bring a dynamic element to their franchise" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 3/22). In L.A., Sam Farmer notes many had "believed Tebow would be shopped to his hometown of Jacksonville, where he could draw fans in a place that had difficulties filling the stands" (L.A. TIMES, 3/22). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes it is "too bad that the Jacksonville Jaguars' prayers to land Tebow didn't work." Bell writes Tebow's hometown of Jacksonville would have been the "perfect landing spot" (USA TODAY, 3/22).
SMALL POTATOES: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi wrote Tebow is "going to the Big Apple and, sadly, the Jacksonville Jaguars remain small potatoes." The Jets made an offer for Tebow "because they wanted to," while the Jaguars "made an offer to Tebow because they had to." The Jaguars, who have had "trouble selling tickets and creating interest in their franchise, had a chance to make a deal for the most popular player in the NFL." They had a chance to "make a deal for a cultural icon" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 3/21). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes Tebow "chose right," as he "picked football over marketing." That the Dolphins "didn't chase him," is "smart for the franchise." It said that "important football decisions aren't made by the ticket department" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/22).
MR. FIX IT? SPORTING NEWS' Matt Crossman noted Khan’s friends and family feel that he has a "unique ability to fix ailing companies," which is what he is "trying to do with the Jaguars." Khan has hired former MLB Cardinals President Mark Lamping to "run the business side of the team." Lamping "sees parallels between the Cardinals and Jaguars because they are both in relatively small and regional markets." The Jaguars will "focus on strengthening their ties to Jacksonville while reaching out to the surrounding areas." Khan also "wants the Jaguars to lead the NFL’s push into the international market." Crossman noted none of those initiatives "will be easy or cheap, and Khan is expected to invest heavily in the team" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/20).
A report that the Heat had partnered with member-based website Goldstar.com “to unload excessive ticket inventories and compete with other secondary ticket brokers” has “already stirred the ire" of team execs, according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth, who “normally plays public comment close to the vest, called the claim ‘nonsense’ in a written response posted on the Heat's web site.” He went on “to term as ‘idiocy’ a contention in the article that demand for tickets in Year 2 of the Heat’s Big Three has fallen to the point that the team is having to offer tickets [at] bargain-basement prices.” Woolworth wrote, “The fact is that every home game this year has been sold out and attendance on a per game basis is actually up over last year because we have sold more standing room only tickets than we did last year.” He continued, “The fact is that Goldstar.com apparently bought some limited number of tickets through our Group Ticket department at the full Group price like any other ticket purchaser could do. Beyond that we have no relationship with them” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/21).
Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi said, “There’s absolutely no reason why the Dallas NHL market can’t be Top 10 again. Being ownerless and rudderless really hurt the franchise, for sure.” Stars President Jim Lites said, “The players are no longer playing for a faceless entity. They’re playing for a real person. That’s incredibly important.” In Dallas, Cheryl Hall noted Gaglardi is “president of Northland Properties,” and he runs the “family-owned company with more than $2.5 billion in assets.” Northland Chair Bob Gaglardi, Tom’s father, said, “If he can bring his enthusiasm and business acumen to that arena, I’m looking forward to that.” Hall asked Tom Gaglardi if owning the Stars is "a business or a rich guy’s toy?” Gaglardi: “I can tell you, we consider it a business. I always laugh at people who make comments like, ‘You’re rich. You can afford to lose money.’ I’ve never met a rich guy who liked to lose money.” Since Gaglardi “lowered ticket prices in December, the Stars’ home-game attendance is up 31 percent to an average of 15,000-plus.” But even with the “surge in attendance, the Stars are expected to lose $30 million this season after losing a combined $91.5 million in the previous three” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/18).
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: In Toronto, Frank Zicarelli noted CFL Toronto Argonauts Exec Chair & CEO Chris Rudge “was adamant that Rogers Centre can once again serve as a vibrant football venue.” Rudge admitted that the team “needs to draw an average of 25,000 paid tickets per game this season to break even.” The team last year “had a paid average of 15,000.” Rudge “speaks regularly” with Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston as “the two try to hash out a new lease deal at Rogers Centre.” Zicarelli wrote what is necessary for the Argonauts “is a full-time, state of the art practice facility, an issue Rudge raised but could only say the team recognizes the need for a facility and is working to establish one” (TORONTO SUN, 3/19).