Ar­ro­gance, ig­no­rance come at a steep price in NFL

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather -

Thirty-six mil­lion dol­lars? Thir­tysix ? (We pause here while mil­lions of Washington Red­skins fans do a group spit take.) The Red­skins just can’t help them­selves, can they? They pull off a big deal de­signed to land Robert Grif­fin III, the won­drous quar­ter­back from Bay­lor, and the Era of Good Feel­ings doesn’t even last a week. By Mon­day af­ter­noon, we were hear­ing that they stood to lose $36 mil­lion in cap space be­cause they front-loaded con­tracts dur­ing the un­capped 2010 sea­son, even though the NFL told them not to.

That’s no small sum, $36 mil­lion, even if it’s di­vided over two years — an op­tion the team will have. With the cap at roughly $120 mil­lion, $18 mil­lion rep­re­sents a 15 per­cent pay­roll de­duc­tion. No won­der Pey­ton Man­ning doesn’t want to make a visit here.

This is sim­ply . . . a dis­grace — even for a fran­chise that seems to know no shame. It’s also neg­li­gence of the high­est or­der. What right-think­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion ig­nores the warn­ings of the league, which was con­cerned about clubs cre­at­ing a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage with this be­hav­ior, and draws up ques­tion­able con­tracts nonethe­less?

Here’s what it re­ally smells of: Ge­orge Allen. He was the guy who, when he was or­ches­trat­ing things for the Red­skins in the ’70s, traded three draft picks twice. For that cute lit­tle ma­neu­ver, he was hauled be­fore the own­ers, reamed out by the com­mis­sioner, and the team was fined the max­i­mum amount. He also had to make amends with the clubs he had wronged, which in one case in­volved up­grad­ing a sec­ond-rounder to a firstrounder.

Allen, a mi­cro­man­ager who paid at­ten­tion to ev­ery chin strap and pa­per clip,

copped a pre­dictable plea: “The dog ate my draft list” (or some such silli­ness). Prob­lem was, it wasn’t the first time he’d pulled the stunt. He’d also done it when he was with the Los An­ge­les Rams, though it didn’t be­come public knowl­edge un­til he lapsed again with the Red­skins.

Any­way, 40 years later, the Red­skins run afoul of the NFL once more, and who’s their gen­eral man­ager? None other than Bruce Allen, Ge­orge’s son. Of course, he and Mike Shana­han are es­sen­tially col­lat­eral dam­age. The buck re­ally stops with Dan Sny­der and his pre­vi­ous GM, Vinny Cer­rato. They were the ones who tempted the fates by green-light­ing these strangely struc­tured deals. And let’s face it, Sny­der has al­ways had a rep­u­ta­tion, de­riv­ing from a fair amount of doc­u­men­ta­tion, for mak­ing it up as he goes along.

One time, if mem­ory serves, the Red­skins traded a draft pick to New Eng­land, then tried to pull a fast one on the Pa­tri­ots and tell them the deal ac­tu­ally was for pick, a lower one in the same round (that also be­longed to Washington). Also, wasn’t there some sort of “mis­un­der­stand­ing” about the prac­tice squad rules a while back that got the Red­skins in trou­ble with the league?

And now this lat­est “Oops” Mo­ment. What’s truly galling, from the fans’ point of view, is that Al­bert Haynesworth’s deal is one of the con­tracts in ques­tion. Few play­ers in Red­skins his­tory have done less to earn their keep than Haynesworth. And while Shana­han and Allen in­her­ited Al­bert from the Vinny regime, they could have cut their losses with the reluc­tant de­fen­sive tackle and not paid him a $21 mil­lion bonus in the un­capped year, money that now will be taken away from the Red­skins. (The other $15 mil­lion at is­sue, The Washington Times’ Rich Camp­bell has con­firmed, went to Dean­gelo Hall, who made the Pro Bowl in 2010 but hasn’t ex­actly been an elite player.)

We’ll find out more in the days ahead. The Red­skins and Dal­las Cow­boys, who got socked them­selves with a $10 mil­lion cap penalty, might have some ba­sis for a law­suit. It would be in­ter­est­ing to know, if these con­tracts were ob­jec­tion­able, why the NFL didn’t just in­val­i­date them when they were sent in.

Red­skins sup­port­ers are cry­ing col­lu­sion, ac­cus­ing the other own­ers — in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, which had to sign off on it — of stick­ing it to Sny­der and Dal­las’ Jerry Jones. But the NFL is built on col­lu­sion. The draft is col­lu­sion. The rookie salary scale is col­lu­sion. The league’s TV con­tracts re­quire an an­titrust ex­emp­tion. Col­lu­sion helped make the NFL great. This is just one in­stance where it hap­pened to work against the Red­skins. They played with fire, and they got burned.

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