Saturday, November 26, 2005

TO: Bloched

Now that arbitrator Richard Bloch has ruled against Terrell Owens and the NFLPA's grievance, what now?

For starters, Bloch will be fired as an arbitrator by the union, according to ESPN's Chris Mortenson. Terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement permit either side to request termination.

Anyone remember Peter Seitz? Same circumstance (following an arbitration) that case Seitz was fired by Major League Baseball immediately following his award of free agency to Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally.

And what got the NFLPA so riled up about Bloch's ruling? Perhaps the fact that it was a complete legal victory for the Eagles. Bloch addressed three key points made by the union: that the severity of the punishment was unwarranted due to the player's actions; that Owens was not properly warned of the consequences of his actions, and that the team had a contractual duty to release Owens should his services no longer be desired.
The point of progressive discipline is to properly advise an employee of unacceptable behavior, to warn that their tenure is becoming increasingly challenged and to attempt to provide for the possibility of better behavior in the future. The repeated, unambiguous warnings accomplished all of this....
But the critical issue that continues to elude the Player is that, without regard to who was right on the true meaning of the statements, the team and McNabb were upset by them. Owens knew this. And, he knew that any suspension could be immediately avoided by addressing his teammates, and McNabb, in an effort to make things right. Yet, with full knowledge that discipline was hanging in the balance, he refused to take these steps.......The Association argues that, to the extent the Coach wished to keep the Player from the fields or the locker room, he should have released him. It is a mark of the highly unusual nature of this case that this should be regarded not only as not disciplinary, but as the desired goal of the Player and his representatives. More to the point, while releasing the Player is an available option, it is not a mandatory one.
Reaction was mixed. Stephen A. Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who should no longer be confused with a TO defender, retorted that
They just didn't rob Owens of the right to work. They slapped him, then threw him change for good measure.
Phil Sheridan, also of the Inqy, writes that
The more the Eagles hurt Owens at this point, the more they ultimately hurt themselves. Other players are watching now, around the locker room and around the league. They are watching, and they are forming lasting impressions about what kind of organization the Eagles are running....If this is winning the battle with Owens, what would losing look like?
Bottom line is, there really are no winners here. The Eagles made their point that no player is above the team. But at what cost? Their season is over, with TO out due to suspension and quarterback Donovan McNabb out with season-ending surgery. And as Jason Whitlock of ESPN and the Kansas City Star notes, it's not like a lot of McNabb's teammates came to his defense in the TO mess. I agree with most of what Whitlock says. The Eagles' players are looking at McNabb's $115 million contract, looking at the team drag its feet when re-signing Brian Westbrook and David Akers, and looking at veterans heading into free agency with little hope of re-signing with Philadelphia. Above all else, Eagles President Joe Banner wants cap space. But exactly what did extra cap space help with this season? What veteran wide receiver did the Eagles sign to replace injured WR Todd Pinkston? What help did the Eagles get for the defensive line after letting free agent DE Corey Simon go after slapping him with a franchise tag?

And speaking of defense, this season hasn't been entirely McNabb's fault. The fact that McNabb was hampered by his hernia injury, coupled with some horrible throwing decisions and poor late-game clock management, resulted in bad losses to Washington and Dallas. But the defense is nothing like the unit that has dominated the NFC the last five years. They're giving up big plays (Lito Sheppard and Shelden Brown, for starters), yards and points. And as Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote on the eve of the second Dallas game, the Eagles' pass rush has a lot to do with this year's problems, too:
One more stat thing, outlining the impotence of the Eagles' pass rush. Last year, in the 14 games when the starters played, the Eagles got pressure (a sack or hurry) on the quarterback 37.3 percent of the time. In 2003, when they had multiple defensive line injuries and such an alarmingly weak pass rush that Andy Reid reacted by spending a billion dollars to sign Jevon Kearse, they got pressure 30.5 percent of the time.

This year, it is down to 25.7 percent of the time, which is a lot weaker than alarmingly weak. It is the killer stat of the season so far, a number so bad that it exposes not only the pass rushers but also the people left to clean up the mess behind them. That it has nothing to do with McNabb is self-evident.
Of course, that night McNabb proceeded to throw the interception from hell to Roy Williams and put the spotlight back on himself. The next six games won't be fun, folks.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Next Question

Now that agent Drew Rosenhaus torpedoed Terrell Owens's chances of getting reinstated by the Eagles, Ralph Nader and Rev. Jesse Jackson have joined the fray. Nader argued in a letter to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue that Owens should be reinstated as a consumer protection measure, since there are fans who bought tickets to see Owens play. Jackson noted that
"This does not warrant a one-year ban from the game" and is "much too severe for the charge"
Given that Owens played seven games for the Eagles and may not play for nine, that doesn't add up to a one year ban. Oh, and as for Rosenhaus's argument that the media caused all this trouble, just remember that Owens generally refused to talk to members of the media other than ESPN, and when he appeared on ESPN, his comments didn't exactly shy away from controversy. The Eagles should have cut Owens in the summer, but that's another story.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

No go on T.O.

T.O.'s greatest dream comes true: The Eagles lose after suspending Owens for the Washington game.

T.O.'s nightmare comes true: the Eagles punt T. O. for the rest of the season, which means possibly no money for four games.

And did you catch T.O.'s wink at Monday's press conference after a reporter asked agent Drew Rosenhaus what else he had done for Owens other than getting him kicked off the team? Rosenhaus quickly said "next question" while T.O. (behind Drew) smiled and then winked at the questioner. As Sam Donnellen of the Philadelphia Daily News observed, it's what would have happened if Quentin Tarantino had written the screenplay to "Jerry Maguire."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Hurricane T.O. Blows Over

"It has been brought to my attention that I have offended the organization and my teammates."

Terrell Owens was suspended by the Eagles Saturday for "conduct detrimental to the team." Of course, his worst nightmare came true Sunday: Brian Westbrook got the long-term deal he wanted (at least 5 years) and Reggie Brown (T. O.'s replacement) scored the Eagles' first touchdown against Washington.

And as for Owens wanting Brett Favre over Donovan McNabb? Going into Sunday's games, McNabb had a higher passing rating, more yards and the same number of TD passes (15). Favre had a higher completion percentage but six more interceptions than McNabb. Maybe he can talk with T.O. about how some of his picks killed the Packers' momentum in their 6 losses.

Sorry, that's 7 losses after today's wipeout against the Steelers. And even McNabb can't fumble as well as Favre can - just ask Pittsburgh's defense.