Sunday, June 17, 2012

5 comments Scoop It's Not Unfair, It's Just Business

I was thinking of tackling the Bill Simmons-Malcolm Gladwell litany of emails today, but even I don't hate myself that much. There's probably three posts worth of discussion contained in the emails sent between two people who count themselves as their own biggest fans. I'm not sure I can subject myself to that much self-congratulatory and backslapping among two writers who have the potential to break the Insufferability Scale, which is a scale I just created. Fortunately, Scoop Jackson is always here to help us out in a pinch. He thinks its just so unfair these games NFL front offices play with running backs. He uses Matt Forte as Exhibit A when it comes to players who suffer because of these games, mostly because there is really only an Exhibit A (Forte) or Exhibit B (Ray Rice) in regard to this issue. Most other elite running backs have gotten paid handsomely for their services, which calls the idea NFL teams are constantly playing games involving contract extensions for elite running backs into question. Of course Scoop admits $7.7 million is a pretty nice figure for one season, but it just covers up the unfairness of this entire contract mess in his opinion.

And yes, if I was Matt Forte I would want a new contract. And yes, if were the Chicago Bears I would be slightly nervous about giving him a new contract.

Let's put this Matt Forte dilemma into a different perspective.

Apparently Bill Simmons wrote this part of the column because there is a long, drawn-out analogy that not only appears to serve no purpose other than to kill space, but it isn't a very good analogy either.

Say you are a young chef doing a stint at a very successful restaurant,

Ok. You are a young chef doing a stint at a very successful restaurant.

Now the restaurant isn't yours and you aren't the head chef, but you are at the sous level. The plates you create begin to get recognized around the country and you are being called one of the nation's best young chefs -- one most other five-star restaurants would kill to have in their kitchens. You're career is beginning to buzz.

As is my brain buzzing because I would most likely be sampling the wine as I cook the food. In related news, I would probably be a terrible chef who cooks while drunk. Carry on with your long, drawn-out analogy.

Say the restaurant at which you work recognizes your talent, but doesn't honor it.

Ok. The restaurant at which you work recognizes your talent, but doesn't honor it. What's the point of me saying these things again?

"We need to take these people to a hospital."

"A hospital? What is it?"

"It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now."

The owner, perhaps the chef whose name is on the establishment, doesn't necessarily want you to leave, but he's not giving you any reasons to stay. You have options and are in demand. So you leave. Time to test the market.

But what if the chef offers you a 1100% raise to stay at the establishment for one more year? I can't believe the horror this scenario creates! Not only would you have to continue working the same job you have worked at for the past few years, but you would get a large raise to do this. How unfair is this?

(I've gone ahead and spoiled the point of this story. This is a long, drawn-out example to prove how unfair the Bears have treated Matt Forte. Of course, in order to prove his point Scoop Jackson leaves out the part where the chef would get a 1100% raise to essentially do the same job. See, that would help to sink Scoop's point. As we've learned repeatedly when dealing with sportswriters, they leave out facts if these facts don't support their position.)

Say you then open your own restaurant, and within a few years, you get the James Beard Foundation Award as the best chef in America and after that your restaurant is voted the best restaurant in America by Gourmet, Food and Wine and Travel and Leisure magazines.

This would be a shocking turn of events for a chef who cooks drunk and his specialty dish would be white rice, butter, cayenne pepper and salt mixed in.

A few years later Time includes you in the TIME100, a list of the "100 most influential people in the world."

I would prefer to be on People Magazine's "100 Most Beautiful People List." I'm willing to have my picture taken without any makeup on, if necessary.

The point?

There is no point of course! Scoop just managed to kill space AND our brain cells while making such a terrible comparison. Two birds. One stone. Zero grade for the bad analogy.

Finding your true worth when others might not see or fully appreciate it has its privileges.

I'm not sure if there is a worse analogy than comparing Matt Forte's inability to get a contract extension from the Bears, followed by him getting hit with the franchise tag, to a chef who becomes very good at his job and opens up his own widely successful franchise. Maybe a worse analogy would be comparing Matt Forte to an aging pornstar, but I know Scoop doesn't want to infringe on Bill Simmons' copywritten vaguely sexist material of athlete/pornstar comparisons.

(Sometimes I think if Bill Simmons got fired by ESPN he would end up writing his own blog which at some point would feature a20,000 word column on pornstars and who their athlete comparable would be.)

Sometimes, it becomes your blessing in disguise. In the case of Matt Forte with the Chicago Bears, he may need to follow that lead.

Absolutely he should do this. Matt Forte should leave the Chicago Bears the first chance he gets to sign a contract with another team. He will do this. Right now, he is getting paid $7.7 million dollars to play for the Bears next year and he should enjoy this pay raise while he can and hope he doesn't get hurt this season. Scoop will now begin to whine about how unfair Forte is being treated, but it is business. The fact Forte can go somewhere else in one year (assuming the Bears don't franchise him again) shows you this is a business.

Follow the path of a world-class chef and use it as a guide and inspiration for what can happen to someone when he does the opposite of what everyone seems to be telling him to do.

What? No one in Scoop's analogy told the chef to stay at his current restaurant and not try to open his own restaurant. Why do I remember Scoop's analogy better than he does?

Sometimes it's just not smart to listen to the world when your heart is telling you to do something different.

The world seems to be telling Forte to take what the Bears are currently offering him and run. And catch … and block … and continue to be the second-most important offensive player on the roster.

So it would be smarter to hold out of training camp in order to demand a new contract or just ouright demand a trade? How's that working out so far for Forte?

Stop holding out and accept the franchise tag, which will pay him $7.7 million this season (a significant upgrade from what he made last season, when he was paid $600,000), have the same season he had last season before he was injured then come back to the table and get the contract from the Bears that he was looking for when this whole thing began.

Matt Forte can do whatever he wants. So far he hasn't accepted the franchise tag tender and that is his choice. $7.7 million is a lot of money to do the exact same job he was doing last season and I think the odds of the Bears franchising him two years in a row aren't exactly great. I could be wrong. I know Forte wants to get paid, but $7.7 million for one year would make him one of the highest paid running backs in the NFL. Then next season he can chase his big contract. Yes, it will suck he gets a contract one year later than he wants, but $7.7 million can buy a lot of other things Forte wants.

But when Forte's contemporaries around the league are continuously being compensated with more secure, long-term packages, why should he be the one in the group to settle for less?

Because it doesn't appear as of now he will be getting a long-term contract whether he signs the franchise tender or not. It is June, so it is still early. That's important to know. There is still time for an agreement to be reached. I'm not saying it is right or it is wrong, but the Bears and Forte can't come together on a deal, so Forte may not get a deal. Why not get paid $7.7 million to play this year and hope to become a free agent next year?

Take a look at these deals:
  • LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia (five-year extension/$45M/$20M guaranteed)
  • Chris Johnson, Tennessee (six years/$56M)
  • Adrian Peterson, Minnesota (seven years/$96M)
  • Arian Foster, Houston (five years/$43.5M)

  • McCoy and Foster are younger than Matt Forte and they both got the shortest deals among these four running backs. Not to mention, the Chris Johnson contract may only serve as a warning to NFL teams wanting to prevent a player from continuing to hold out by giving him a large contract. I feel like this is important to know.

    His play has earned him the right to be in the same conversations with those other running backs. His play has also allowed him to decline the "strong offer" (words of former GM Jerry Angelo) Chicago initially put on the table or the franchise tag that they've placed on him since his initial decline of that offer.

    At least Chicago has shown some willingness to negotiate. That's somewhat of a good thing. I agree that Forte's play has earned him the right to be in the conversation with those other running backs. He believes this too, which is why he hasn't signed the franchise tender yet. At a certain point, and we aren't at that point yet, he is going to have to decide whether it hurts him more to sit out or hurts him more to be on the field making $7.7 million. For Scoop Jackson, this seems like an easy decision, but I would argue the Bears and Matt Forte need Forte on the field for the first game of the season.

    They have options.

    And the reason they are continuing to hold out is because they are tired of the games.

    It's not games. It is business. Refusing to give a player a long-term contract and offering him the franchise tag isn't a game. It is a strategy the union has approved of by approving the use of the franchise tag. The Bears can't agree to a long-term deal with Forte, so they offer him a lucrative one year deal in lieu of a long contract extension.

    Games -- not all, but too many -- teams play in which they want the player to overproduce and when the player does they hold it against them in contract negotiations;

    Teams do tend to use running backs a lot and then worry about the mileage on that running back once he is prepared to be a free agent. Think of it this way though...if a running back like Forte doesn't get as many touches he has gotten over the four years, then he may not be among the best running backs in the league and may possibly not be due such a large contract. It goes both ways. If Forte's receptions and rushing attempts are decreased for each season, he may not be considered an elite running back. Maybe he would be. Maybe he would be Michael Turner or DeAngelo Williams and still receive a good contract offer when he is a free agent because he doesn't have a lot of mileage on him. It's hard to say for sure.

    ownership saying the "shelf life of a running back is short" as a new way of devaluing a player regardless of what he does and using it as leverage against the value of the player's pending contract.

    Unfortunately, this is true. Running backs do have a low shelf life. Teams use this against a player in negotiations. Of course, as Scoop Jackson pointed out, this is simply a negotiating tactic and it hasn't prevented NFL teams from signing running backs to large contract extensions prior to this season.

    But in the contract talks, the team will bring up the fact that Rice has averaged over 280 carries and 72 receptions a year over the past three seasons.

    So now he's overworked. Now, they'll use that as the reason Rice's 25-year-old body is closer to 32 in football years.

    While this does sound silly, Ray Rice is a small running back so there has to be a natural concern about the beating his body has taken. Again, if Rice were used less then he may have less value on the free agent market or the Ravens may be less inclined to offer him a large contract.

    And the reason he's damaged? The same people refusing to extend his contract are the people who had coaches call his number and run plays for him to outperform his previous deal.

    The idea Ozzie Newsome is telling John Harbaugh what plays to run and who to run those plays for is sort of laughable to me. The Ravens have used Rice a lot, but Ozzie Newsome isn't dictating to the Ravens coaching staff how often they have to use Rice. The Ravens coaching staff use Rice because he is a great running back. Let's not forget the Ravens have so far refused to extend Joe Flacco's contract as well, so the Ravens aren't exactly handing out money right now.

    (If this is the new standard procedure of how NFL teams are going to monetarily access running backs, the entire structure of rookie contracts for players at that position needs to change.)

    So is Scoop Jackson suggesting running backs should receive more money in their rookie contracts because they have a shorter shelf life? If he thinks the market for running backs being taken early in the draft is soft now, just wait until running backs request bigger contracts or more guaranteed money in their rookie contracts. Teams will definitely not be eager to draft running backs high in the draft at that point.

    It's straight games.

    It's really not straight games though. It is business. No, NFL teams don't always treat their players kindly. The Bears are concerned with giving a declining running back big money in a new contract. The Bears claim to be concerned that Forte's knees won't hold up. This may be a real concern or it may be a bullshit reason given by the Bears so as not to offer Forte a long-term contract. I don't believe it is "straight games" any more than it is "straight business." I think Forte has earned a long-term contract, but his worth to the Bears doesn't seem to match Forte's own perceived worth. The Bears do have an obligation to their fans to spend money on players the Bears deem worthy of money being spent on. The Bears can't only do what the fans want. Many fans are idiots. They want Forte re-signed, but will immediately criticize Forte and the Bears if it turns out he struggles and isn't able to live up to his contract.

    Games that the NFL seems to be playing, games certain players are tired of having to play.

    Talk to the union about that. I believe there was a great chance for something to change last offseason during the lockout. If the players are tired of games, that was their chance to say so and they didn't do it.

    Players in the NFL already have very little power. The only true leverage they have in contract negotiations is the value of their past productivity.

    Most employees of any company have very little power. I can't demand a raise or simply not show up to work because I want more money. If anything, Forte has more power because he has a specific set of skills that allows him to be highly compensated by his current team and greatly wanted by other teams. $7.7 million is nothing to sneeze at and Forte doesn't have to worry about being fired if he doesn't show up for work in August because other teams will make offers for him immediately should the Bears release Forte. So I would argue while Forte is stuck with the Bears for the time being, he has more power than the average American employee has. He can not show up for work and doesn't have to worry about the results of being fired due to his specific set of skills. Forte has some sense of leverage.

    But then again this is business, and we are dealing with an organization that underpaid -- and at times undervalued -- Walter Payton.

    Let's remember that right now the New Orleans Saints have franchised Drew Brees and appear to be undervaluing him, if you believe the low contract offer is why Brees hasn't signed their contract offer yet. Brees is a quarterback, one of the top 3 players at his position and the Saints are not exactly piling money up at his door (in Brees' opinion) to re-sign him. Organizations franchise their best players and sometimes have tough negotiations with these players. NFL teams want to pay as little as possible for as much production as possible and NFL players want as much compensation as possible for their skills. Sometimes each sides reach an impasse and this is business.

    So regardless of how you feel about Matt Forte and how he and his agent are handling this contract situation with the Bears, understand this: They have just as much right to hold out as the Bears do to play the contract game the way they seem to be playing it.

    I'm not sure anyone is arguing otherwise. Understand this: The fact Forte can hold out shows how much leverage and power he truly has as an employee. If Scoop Jackson refuses to write for because he wants more money, he is getting fired. If I refuse to work until I get a raise, I am getting fired as well. The difference in Forte, Scoop and myself is if Forte gets fired he gets exactly what he wants, which is free agency, and he will probably be signed by a team within two weeks while probably making more guaranteed money than he has ever made before. He would get exactly what he wants. If Scoop and I get fired there is no guarantee we aren't collecting unemployment for six months hoping someone will hire us, while also praying we make as much money in our new job as we made in our old job. Forte has bargaining power and he is currently using it. I don't cry for him.

    No side is right in this situation, but Forte shouldn't be looked at as being wrong. He is standing his ground and doing what he feels is necessary for his career.

    It's his career. Just as it is their team.

    Which is why you shouldn't accuse the Bears of playing games by negotiating difficultly with Forte. It seems Scoop sort of understands the position the Bears are in, but he doesn't want to fully acknowledge the business aspect of it, but instead accuses them of playing games. It stinks for Matt Forte the running back market is soft and the Bears aren't handing out huge extensions to running backs easily. He is making $7.7 million this year and will be a free agent next year. It's not a terrible short-term or long-term situation to be in as long as Forte has another great year for the Bears.


    jacktotherack said...

    I can't begin to grasp Scoop's point here. The players had their chance to get rid of the franchise tag last year during the lockout, they signed a new CBA which kept the franchise tag in practice, so how the fuck can Scoop or any player cry foul when teams utilize this negotiating tactic, a tactic the NFLPA agreed to in the new CBA?

    I am a Bears fan and have no problem with the way either side has handled this situation. Forte was the good soldier last year and hoped he would get his long-term deal this year. Then he had his season ended early last year with a knee injury, and now the Bears are using his health questions against him in the negotiations. That is the system the league and players have agreed to and it breeds this type of discontent.

    Combine that with the fact that the Bears are hesitant (and wisely so IMO) to commit big years to a RB coming off a season ending injury, and the fact that they have added skill players like Marshall, Jeffrey, and Michael Bush to lessen the blow should Forte actually continue his holdout into the season (not likely at all), and you can see why the Bears feel they don't need to be desperate when it comes to agreeing to a longer deal.

    Anonymous said...

    "What kind of plane is it?"

    "Oh, it's a big pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows and wheels and it looks like a big Tylenol."

    Well done on the reference sir.

    Bengoodfella said...

    Jack, that is my thinking as well. You can't really cry for the players b/c they had a good chance to get rid of the franchise tag during the lockout and chose not to pursue it.

    Personally, I think Forte deserves a long-term deal, but I also see why the Bears haven't given him one b/c of his injury last year, plus the state of the running back in the NFL. I see both sides. The bottom line is this isn't a game the Bears are playing, the tag is a tool teams use and the union seemed to have no problem with a team using.

    I like Michael Bush. I'm not sure he is Matt Forte, but I don't see Forte staying out a full year. If Forte doesn't play this year then teams are going to use his one year out of the league and his injury history against him. This is the state of the NFL, like you said, because this is how the union and owners agreed to do it.

    Anon, thanks. I hesitate to throw movie references in a post, but sometimes you just have to do it.

    FormerPhD said...

    Say the restaurant at which you work recognizes your talent, but doesn't honor it.

    Ya, how dare the Bears not offer to make Forte one of the highest paid at his position!

    Oh wait, I forgot, that's what the franchise tag does.

    I'm with Jack on this one. For the amount of complaining about the franchise tag being this awful thing, they didn't fight too hard to get it taken out of the new CBA.

    And here's the other thing - who exactly would be paying top dollar for Forte? I don't see many other teams throwing tons and tons of money at him even if he were available as a free agent.

    One last thing - Forte could easily say "I'll accept the franchise tag if you put it in writing that you won't use it on me next year."

    but he's not giving you any reasons to stay.

    Ya, 7 million dollars is nothing.

    Say you then open your own restaurant

    ... is Matt Forte going to start his own NFL team?

    and continue to be the second-most important offensive player on the roster.

    And make 7 million dollars.

    That point seems lost on Scoop.

    Chris Johnson, Tennessee (six years/$56M)
    Adrian Peterson, Minnesota (seven years/$96M)

    Peterson tore his ACL twice last year and Johnson wasn't an 8M running back last year.

    This is evidence that the Bears should tell Forte to fuck off.

    And how'd the Larry Johnson deal work out for the Chiefs? Got a lot of bang for their buck.

    teams play in which they want the player to overproduce and when the player does they hold it against them in contract negotiations;

    Here's where the players lose me.

    If you don't want to risk outperforming your contract, don't sign a long term deal ::glares at Osi::.

    Seriously, if you sign a 6 year deal, then you run the risk of outperforming the deal, but have the security in case you suck/get hurt.

    I mean for crying out loud, Revis held out last year, got a nice new deal and then threatened to hold out again this year.

    It's amazing how the media vilifies the owners while ignoring that the players play the same games back. Players want to have the long term security in case they suck, but the short term security if they outperform their contract.

    I have absolutely no sympathy for them. If that's how they want to act, then by all means keep the contracts only partially guaranteed.

    Bengoodfella said...

    I don't think the Bears will use it again next year anyway, but that's not a bad idea. The amount of whining from guys like Howard Bryant and Scoop about the franchise tag confuses me. Wasn't it just a year ago this tag could have been negotiated out of the CBA and the players didn't do it?

    I lack sympathy b/c the franchise tag is more money than Forte has ever made over his entire lifetime, given to him in one year. I found it interesting Scoop listed the players who got big contracts. It almost went against the idea of giving Forte a big contract. He was a bit older, but we can't forget Shaun Alexander getting big money and then stop performing. It's just the nature of the position.

    The cook/restaurant analogy didn't make much sense to me.

    I think Forte has deserved a new deal, but I understand why he isn't getting one. The players want LT security, but not outperform their contract, while the owners want the player to outperform their contract and make as little money as possible. They aren't game, they are negotiations.

    I would be the first NFL player to welcome the franchise tag. I know players mostly seem to hate it, but if I am Matt Forte it is making me a very rich man for one year. I go play well and then sign a bigger contract next year.