First, Roger Goodell sent a statement to all 32 NFL teams that cheating would not be tolerated. The Patriots, the team that outside of New England bore an asterisk next to their season was docked a 1st round pick in the draft along with heavy fines for both their coach and owner. Today, Roger Goodell levied yet another hefty price, this time to the San Francisco 49ers. This recent forfeiture of a draft pick makes you wonder if Goodell is good or just plain hell on the NFL.
Surrendering a 5th round pick in this years draft, the 49ers will also swap picks in the 3rd round as punishment for what is being called “tampering” by the league office. A phone call to the NFL offices in NY was met with a standard “The Commissioner feels that this is a just penalty and he wants other teams to know that this conduct is not condoned“. The league media rep asked for his name to not be included.
The penalty stems from the 49ers contacting the agent for Chicago LB Lance Briggs prior to the league’s trade deadline during last season. Briggs, who at the time was rumored to be on the trading block was thought to be a target of the Bay area franchise. The tampering accusation came just prior to the start of this years free agent period when the Bears asked for an investigation. Briggs again was the hot rumor to land in SF.
The league today imposed their penalties. The last time that a team was sanctioned by the NFL was when Don Shula joined the staff of the Miami Dolphins as it’s 2nd head coach in it’s young history. Shula left Baltimore and the former Colts immediately sought action against the south Florida team. The Dolphins were docked draft picks.
With the latest round of draft pick forfeiture, it’s apparent that Roger Goodell is a no nonsense commissioner. The “everybody does it” mantra does not ring in the Commish’s ear. So is Goodell good or bad?
For many fans, the actions of the commissioner is swift but some question whether acting fast is acting with justice. Many still believe that the Commissioner’s decision on the SpyGate issue was more lenient than it should have been. Even now their office is seen as dragging it’s feet in regards to the Matt Walsh situation in SpyGate II.
With labor peace heading toward a quick downturn, the current CBA is expected to be canceled in November by the owners, the NFL is facing a 2010 uncapped season which the players association has stated will never be implemented again. With reports of steroids running rampant in baseball and NFL owners speaking out publicly in regards to the rookie contracts being signed, it seems that the Commissioner has not inherited a league that is at the top of its game but a league that has a shiny surface with paint that may be starting to bubble from within.
So while the Commissioner churns out draft pick forfeitures, his kingdom is headed down more bumpy roads. By comparison, this 5th round snatch and swap of 3’s pales in comparison to the heft fines administered to NE, however, the draft picks still seem a tad on the high side. The Patriots manipulated the system to give themselves and edge in real games against real opponents, the 9’ers manipulated a system that would have allowed them to trade for a player receiving no direct guarantee of in game success. Wrong yes, just yes, too much? Debatable.
Roger Goodell is the new sheriff in town. Teams like the Miami Dolphins who struck quickly at the free agent outside will have to take things a tad slower in the future as it appears that quick free agent after mid-night signings may signal a premature contact which could result in tampering charges.
The Dolphins have not been implicated in any wrongful doings, however, on at least a few occasions they could have been pointed at. Tony Sparano, Jeff Ireland, Pasqualoni, Bowles, and of course Justin Smiley.
This is the new NFL where cheating and stepping over the lines will no longer go unpunished. For now, the punishment seems to be on the high end, it is a dangerous precedent to say the least.