SBD/January 10, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
Redskins Exec VP & GM Bruce Allen sees new coach Jay Gruden as a "man who can put the focus of the organization back on football after a tumultuous year of off-field drama," according to a front-page piece by Michael Phillips of the RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH. Gruden was formally introduced yesterday after signing a five-year deal with the Redskins, but financial terms were not disclosed. The press conference was "most notable for what it didn’t include." Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder "took a seat in the auditorium alongside Gruden’s family, and left the franchise’s Lombardi trophies, usually a staple at these events, in their hallway display case." The Redskins have had eight different coaches in Snyder's 14-year ownership tenure, but Gruden "didn’t see any red flags." Gruden: "I can tell when I’m being lied to, and I can honestly tell you this: Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen have the fans’ best interests at heart, and the players’ best interests at heart, and all they want to do is win" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 1/10). In DC, Mike Jones notes Allen and Gruden "worked together" with the Buccaneers from '04-08. Gruden and Allen said that "evaluating and improving the roster will be a collective effort." Redskins Dir of Pro Personnel Morocco Brown and Dir of Player Personnel Scott Campbell "will evaluate pro and college prospects, respectively, with input from Gruden." Allen said that he "will make the final decisions" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/10). Also in DC, Zac Boyer reports Allen "insisted that the interview process was thorough and that he did not enter it expecting to hire Gruden" despite the "obvious connections" to him (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/10).
A NEW MOLD: ESPN.com's John Keim wrote Gruden is "not the typical Redskins coaching hire" under Snyder. Gruden "lacks the sizzle of coaches such as Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan," but he also "didn't come out of nowhere like Jim Zorn" (ESPN.com, 1/9). In Richmond, Paul Woody writes Snyder has "hired almost every type of head coach imaginable: proven NFL winner (Schottenheimer), big-name college coach (Spurrier), Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl winning coach (Gibbs), unknown position coach (Zorn) and two-time Super Bowl winning coach (Shanahan)." Yet he "never had hired the 'hot' young offensive coordinator, the guy who seems to have the potential to be an outstanding NFL coach ... until now" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 1/10). In DC, Rick Snider wrote it seems Snyder "was tired of paying big money for legendary coaches and getting little results, so why not try someone ready to move up?" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/9).
ADVICE FOR GRUDEN: In DC, Mike Wise gives his advice to Gruden, writing, "Statistically, there is a very good chance you will eventually be fired." However, it is "not your fault." Wise: "You will simply be caught up in a vortex of an owner and a management structure that really, sincerely wants to win but still hasn’t shown it knows how." Snyder "means well; he really does." But "almost unconsciously he could soon make you compromise your values and beliefs about this game in ways you can't imagine" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/10). In Orlando, George Diaz writes under the header, "Jay Gruden Lands Dream Job -- Only To Step Into Redskins Nightmare." Diaz: "Unfortunately, it doesn't get any lower than becoming an employee" of Snyder and the Redskins. Coaches "go to Washington to lose, be humiliated and then fired" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/10). Meanwhile, ESPN's Dan Le Batard wondered why people "aren't looking a little bit higher" for the cause of organizational problems. He asked why Allen has a job "that allows him to make this decision when he's responsible" for bringing in high-profile players such as QB Donovan McNabb and DT Albert Haynesworth who have not panned out. Le Batard: "Why do we keep focusing on the Shanahans and the Grudens instead of the more important person, which is the one making this decision above them?" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 1/9).
MLS Toronto FC's reported signing of Serie A club AS Roma MF Michael Bradley, along with this week's additions of DC United MF Dwayne De Rosario and EPL club Tottenham Hotspur F Jermain Defoe, "should jolt life" into Toronto FC "while further adding lustre" to MLS itself, according to Neil Davidson of the CP. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is "shelling out millions to turn what has been the MLS doormat for seven years into a world force." Toronto FC GM Tim Bezbatchenko said that for a team yet to make the MLS playoffs, the club's ownership "is thinking big -- well beyond mere post-season play." Bezbatchenko: "We want to be internationally recognized as a top club." Davidson writes, "Up until now, the only thing world-class about Toronto FC has been its training centre." Poor on-field results "have led to management and player turnover which have led to poor results which have led to management and player turnover." MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke "is not one for half-measures and, with the backing of the MLSE board, has opened up the vault for Bezbatchenko and manager Ryan Nelsen" (CP, 1/9). REUTERS' Martyn Herman writes after Toronto FC finished second from the bottom of the Eastern Conference last season, the signings of Defoe and Bradley are "a signal of intent" from MLSE (REUTERS, 1/10). ESPN The Magazine's Doug McIntyre said, "Fans have suffered for a long time in Toronto but there's a sense with Tim Leiweke in charge that maybe things are going to be better going forward" ("ESPN FC," ESPN2, 1/9). ESPN's Alexi Lalas said Leiweke "wants to create a super club and in order to do that you've got to spend big and you have to do big, bold things. And make no mistake about it, this is what this is all about" ("OTL," ESPN2, 1/9).
BIG UPS TO THE LEAGUE: In DC, Steven Goff writes Bradley's move to Toronto FC is "terrific for MLS." The league "would gain the U.S. national team's most important player ... in the prime of his career in the build-up to a World Cup." Bradley by "cutting short" his time in Europe "further bolsters MLS's credibility at home." It is "an unbelievable coup for the Toronto organization." However, Bradley "is to join the most dysfunctional operation this side of Chivas USA" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/9). In N.Y., Billy Witz writes under the header, "Deals Show MLS Is No Longer An Afterthought." Witz writes when a player like Bradley or Sounders F Clint Dempsey, who signed with his MLS team last summer, returns to the league "in his prime, it is another promising sign for a league that is also making steady progress in franchise values, development programs and popularity" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). ESPNFC.com's Jeff Carlisle said, "This is a statement of intent from MLS. It was easy to think that Dempsey's arrival last August was a one-off but here we are five months later and another big U.S. international is coming home to MLS." He added, "They've made it clear they want to be one of the top leagues in the world by 2022. Now that can viewed with a fair amount of skepticism, of course, but if you’re actually going to try to reach that goal one of the things that you have to do is get the best American players playing in North America and from that standpoint it definitely is a trend" ("OTL," ESPN2, 1/9). ESPN’s Ian Darke said Toronto FC adding Bradley is "brilliant for Major League Soccer and I hope the other clubs get the wherewithal to attract other players who are at their peak" ("ESPN FC," ESPN2, 1/9).
MARKETING EXPORT: The transfer agreement sending Defoe from Tottenham to Toronto FC includes an advertising rights agreement between the clubs. Toronto FC and MLSE will provide Tottenham with promotion, advertising, broadcasting, social media and digital rights across all of MLSE’s properties and media platforms. MLSE will also carry official Tottenham merchandise at its retail outlets (Chris Botta, Staff Writer).
The Sabres chose new GM Tim Murray in part because they felt his "philosophies matched the mindset" of President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine, according to a front-page piece by John Vogl of the BUFFALO NEWS. Murray believes that a team "should be built through the NHL draft, which is the path the Sabres have chosen." He also was "open to the Sabres' committee approach" and is "willing to give popular coach Ted Nolan a chance." There were "certainly other things that moved Murray to the forefront during the Sabres' two-month search to replace Darcy Regier, but holding a ticket to that trifecta was important." Murray has "more knowledge of the Sabres' roster than some other candidates" because he spent the last seven years as Assistant GM for the Senators, who play in the Atlantic Division with the Sabres. Murray is "not going to ship out players by the boatload just to make a splash, but he won't be shy after finalizing his reports" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/10). The AP's John Wawrow noted the Sabres also hired Hockey HOFer Craig Patrick "to serve in a newly created role of special assistant and adviser." It is a role "similar to the one Patrick had over the previous two years" with the Blue Jackets. Patrick will "serve as a sounding board for Murray and LaFontaine in helping rebuild a franchise that has missed the playoffs four of the past six seasons" (AP, 1/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote Murray is "an interesting hire, in that he doesn't fit the assumed criteria for a leading candidate." Murray has "no ties to Buffalo," but does have "extensive front office experience that has prepped him for this gig." Murray "may never have been a general manager in title in the NHL, but he knows the job thoroughly; and he's considered one of the most informed and insightful talent evaluators in the game" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/9).
CAN'T BUY ME LOVE: CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote Murray faces "a daunting task," and he "knows what's ahead of him, telling everybody that patience needs to be a virtue as the Sabres undergo this rebuilding phase." Stubits: "From the sounds of it Murray won't be afraid to be aggressive" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote the Sabres "are a mess," but "not all messes are the same." If you "have to build from the ground up, you want to do it in a place like Buffalo." Sabres Owner Terry Pegula "is a billionaire." He has "upgraded the facilities and given his employees every resource to do their jobs, and he has been patient with his coach and GM even as the critics howled." Cotsonika: "Expectations should be relatively low and realistic, and Murray should have the time to do this right" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/9). In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote Murray "sure seems a solid fit for Buffalo, or at least a better fit than was Terry Pegula as owner." Murray "knows what it's like to work within limits." Pegula still has "bags of money, but it seems there is a new understanding that throwing that cash at Buffalo's hockey problems isn't going to work" (THESTAR.com, 1/9).
The NHL Panthers say that the team is "losing more than" $20M per year, and that it "needs more public funds to survive," according to Brittany Wallman of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The "struggling team is asking for a rewrite of its contract" with Broward County. Under the Panthers' proposal, the county would "use additional tourism taxes to pick up" $70M in BB&T Center costs currently being paid by the team. The Panthers organization runs the arena, "bringing in more money from concerts and other events" than from NHL games. Financial records show that the Panthers "make a profit from arena operations." But team President Michael Yormark said that the Panthers are "losing money." Yormark: "This organization has lost between $20 and $30 million on an annual basis, and those dollars have been funded by our owners." Wallman notes the team's current arrangement "has the county paying" $8M a year toward the debt for arena construction. Another $2M "comes from state funds," and the Panthers pay $4.5M. The Panthers organization also "pays for maintaining and insuring the facility." Under the proposed change, the Panthers "would shed" the $4.5M annual payment for the 14-year balance of the current contract, and it would be "picked up by the county." The county also would "contribute $500,000 a year toward maintenance, and would pay any of the property insurance tab" that exceeds $1M. The Panthers would "swap the land it has rights to build on, 12 acres south of the arena, in favor of 22 acres on the arena's north side." County officials said that they "didn't want to rush to a vote." They will "vet the proposal at a workshop in the near future." Yormark said that new team Owner Vincent Viola "hasn't threatened to take the Panthers out of Broward" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/10).
Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross on Thursday pledged to give the team's next GM "autonomous control over the roster and the draft," according to Adam Beasley of the MIAMI HERALD. The pledge followed "a week of speculation that Ross might strip his next GM of power." The new GM "will report directly to Ross," rather than Exec VP/Football Administration Dawn Aponte or coach Joe Philbin, "as some around the league feared." However, it "does not appear" that the next GM "will have power to fire either Aponte or Philbin." Ross "will lead the interviews" for the next GM. Former Chiefs President & GM Carl Peterson has "agreed to serve as an adviser during the process." However, Peterson "will not have a role with the organization once the next general manager is picked" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/10). In West Palm Beach, Andrew Abramson notes Aponte until recently was a "mostly anonymous figure in charge of the team's salary cap," but has long been "highly respected around the league." Now she is "expected to have a key role" with Ross in hiring a new GM and "could wind up directly supervising that person." Aponte "could stay in her current role or could become a 'football czar,' the position held by Bill Parcells when he joined the team" in '07 (PALM BEACH POST, 1/10). Also in West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda writes the next Dolphins GM "will have to walk a tightrope." The Dolphins "are at risk of further dysfunction while newcomers try to blend into a business in disarray." The five years in succession "without playoff participation or even a winning record have turned Miami into an NFL inconsequentiality." The turmoil from the bullying situation "turned the Dolphins into a laughingstock." The team's brand "is tarnished" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/10).
GET TO KNOW ME: In Miami, Armando Salguero writes if the new Dolphins GM "must mesh with" Aponte and Philbin, then they "should meet during the process so that both sides can vet, inspect, screen, assess, scrutinize, and evaluate the other." For Ross, who "reads everything about his Dolphins and is aware of the well chronicled mess, finding someone who can mesh" with Aponte and Philbin is "very important." The Dolphins have "fostered a circumstance whereby the past GM had clashes with two consecutive coaches." The team "cannot get it wrong on this issue again," so "everyone involved should get to know each other before they get to work with each other." Ross "wants people working together and [singing] kumbaya in harmony." But two of those people are "being pulled in from disparate searches by different parties" with Ross and Peterson searching for the GM and Aponte and Philbin searching for the offensive coordinator (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/10).
FRANCHISE FLAWED? In Ft. Lauderdale, Omar Kelly writes observers have been "waiting five years for Ross' business savvy, the real estate expertise that made him a billionaire four times over, to pay off for the Dolphins, a franchise lacking a solid foundation." The "problem is our wait might be in vain because the last GM Ross committed himself to wasted time and money." Ross' GM search begins "with a laundry list of qualified candidates, but none of them will have the juice they need to make franchise altering decisions." What the Dolphins franchise "doesn't need is another failed regime, another era of finger pointing, more rounds of mismatched pieces that don't fit the puzzle the head coach is putting together." What the team needs is "synergy, and Ross better find it" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/10).
Patriots' playoff-ticket prices "have been falling steadily" since the franchise played in the '11 postseason, as Boston's recent string of pro sports team success "means that fans seeking to rationalize pricey tickets can no longer rely on the old 'it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance' line," according to Beth Teitell of the BOSTON GLOBE. Data from SeatGeek showed that the average seat for Saturday's Colts-Patriots playoff at Gillette Stadium was selling for $171 on Thursday, compared to $356 for Saints-Seahawks, $324 for Chargers-Broncos and $273 for 49ers-Panthers. Tickets for the Patriots-Jets AFC Divisional game in '11 went for an average of $302. StubHub Head of Communications Glenn Lehrman said, "A lot of people want to go to a sporting event as much for the memory as the ability to tell people 'I was there.' But once you’ve done it, there isn’t as big a need to do it again." Teitell notes the "comparatively low prices for Patriots playoff tickets stands in marked contrast to the team’s wild and enduring popularity," but when the choice is "between shelling out big money to sit in the forecasted rain or rooting couchside, even some of the team’s biggest fans go for comfort." In the past year alone, "a diehard sports fan could have indulged in postseason splurges for the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, and the Patriots." Still, a Patriots spokesperson said that more than 90% of season-ticket holders "purchased their playoff tickets this year, 'slightly' more than in recent years" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/10).
The '14 MLB season will mark Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan's "first full season running the show," and "the juggling act for Ryan and his staff is ongoing," according to Evan Drellich of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Ryan said, "This organization basically has just been radically changed. So, in a lot of ways, we're still setting the new course of where we want to go." Drellich noted Ryan has "devoted a lot of time to information gathering, be it from fans, sponsors, community leaders -- even the media." The "elephant in the room is whether fans can watch Astros games at home as Comcast SportsNet Houston’s bankruptcy case unfolds." Ryan said, "I don't know what the carriage will be. ... Our goal is to get maximum carriage in our five-state region for everybody." Meanwhile, Ryan said that Astros season-ticket sales "are down" 1.5% from last year. But he "was not discouraged" by the figures, as the team's 51-111 likely "accounted for" the decrease. As for other issues on Ryan's plate, Drellich wrote, "Even when Minute Maid Park's roof can be open brings a level of intricacy." MLB rules governing when teams can open retractable roofs "need to be ironed out," and some "clarity could come next week." Ryan said that he is "looking into keeping the roof open" in a "response to fan demand." Ryan also discussed former MLBer Craig Biggio not getting elected to the Baseball HOF this week. The Astros "were planning promotions" around the induction announcement for Biggio, who played his entire 20-year MLB career with the team. Ryan: "We had had a whole kind of year planned around celebrating that" (CHRON.com, 1/9).
The MLB Rangers for the '14 season "have dropped ticket prices" 4-19% on approximately 94% of their seats and also have "lowered the number of 'premier' games by eight," according to Drew Davison of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. The club has "sold more than 20,000 season tickets" in recent seasons. Matwick said that this mark "remains the goal." Rangers Exec VP/Ballpark Operations Rob Matwick said that the team has "gotten some negative feedback" following the departure of CEO Nolan Ryan, as well as trades of 2B Ian Kinsler and CF Craig Gentry. But Matwick said that that feedback has "been offset with the buzz" surrounding the additions of 1B Prince Fielder and RF Shin-Soo Choo. The Rangers also announced that they will "use an expanded version of the dynamic pricing they put in last season." Additionally, the team is "replacing 1,098 seats in the upper-level suites, overhauling the suite kitchen on the club concourse level behind the press box and installing LED lighting on the relief panels on the exterior of the park." The Rangers have spent about $40M on improvements to Rangers Ballpark the past four seasons. Matwick said that the Rangers next season "might renovate the restaurant in the all-you-can-eat section" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/10).
JACK IN THE BOX: ESPN DALLAS' Richard Durrett reported the Rangers' Diamond Club is "now the Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Club and will have a new look in time for Opening Day." Jack Daniel's signed a "three-year deal with the Rangers and will have naming rights to the Diamond Club," which overlooks the field from the outfield. The 14,381-square-foot space has "had some walls removed to open up the area and will go through an altered seating arrangement and get a new bar near the center of the room." It will be "open to season-ticket holders." Matwick: "We've taken out the carpet and we will modify the rails to put in some different seating clusters. It has a new bar as well. This area hadn't been touched since the ballpark opened. The original carpet was 20 years old and it needed updating" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/9). In Dallas, Candace Carlisle noted the club now will "include a full buffet and bar, much like" the one Jack Daniel's has at AmericanAirlines Center (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/9).