We’re developing a bit of a thorn in our side regarding the inability of some football writers to grasp the realities of a contract — or their conscious effort to distort such realities in order to stir up the audience.
Here are the realties.
A contract is a document pursuant to which two parties enter into an agreement. Each side gives what the law calls “consideration.”
In an employment contract, the employee’s consideration is his time, effort, and attention. The employer’s consideration is the pay and benefits that the employee will receive.
For NFL coaching contracts, the duration of the deal is one of the key terms. The longer the contract, the greater security the employee has, given that the coach will receive the balance of the contract (less coaching money earned elsewhere) if he is fired before the contract expires.
The only downside for the employee is that he loses the ability to take another job for the life of the deal, unless it’s an NFL head-coaching job or unless his current employer allows him to do so.
But the folks who have penned the recent wave of articles slamming teams like the Browns and the Chiefs for allowing assistant coaches under contract to twist in the wind need to keep two things in mind.
First, the teams have the right to do it.
Second, the coaches will get paid if they’re ultimately fired.
As to the Browns, Pat McManamon of the Akron Beacon Journal recently took issue with the decision of the new regime not to allow some assistant coaches to interview for other jobs.
But why is that a problem? It’s one of the rights that the team secured by providing employment and significant sums of money to the employee.
It’s the same reason why the Jets had no reason to allow offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to leave, despite the obvious media campaign that Schottenheimer and/or those close to him launched in order to push the Jets into making Schottenheimer the head coach. At the end of the day, Schottenheimer realized he had no other option — and so he opted to secure even further job security by signing a contract extension.
Though McManamon (whom we know and respect) seems to suggest that the Browns are possibly trying to frustrate their assistant coaches to the point that they resign and thus won’t get paid, the truth is that forcing the assistants to stay potentially costs the Browns money.
If one or more of the assistants ultimately are released at a time when it’s too late for them to find other work for the 2009 season, the Browns will be on the hook for their full salaries. If the Browns let them leave on their own for other jobs, then the Browns owe them nothing.
So while whining about a situation that seems shoddy on the surface might score points with the readers, few of them would be feeling badly if they knew that the men in question will earn well into the six figures this year regardless of whether they work for the Browns, work for someone else, or don’t work at all.


  1. Excellent points Florio. A contract represent an agreement that shoudl represent the interests of both parties. If either of them has more leverage or the potential for a better deal, they use it during negotiations and settle on a mutually agreeable compromise.
    Indulge me with a couple other thoughts on football contracts. We often hear how unfair it is that football player contracts are not “guaranteed”, and that a (non-injured) player can be released at several points through the season and not be paid. In almost every case, the player has received up-front bonus money – the team is actually accelerating payments for the term of the deal in to an up-front bonus. So the team takes substantial risk that the player will perform, and most specifically, that he won’t turn into a fat cat after he gets paid. So…the player already got the bonus, and if that get released in year two, three, or four…well, they already got paid *extra* for year one in terms of a signing bonus.
    One other point…sometimes, we hear how a veteran play “re-did his contract to help the team’s salary cap situation”. The press treats these players like they are giving to charity and that the town ought to have a parade for them. In every one of these cases, the player is simply converting salary for the next season into a signing bonus on a LONGER contract. So, the player actually gets more cash now, and team benefits by not taking the season salary hit in one year – instead, it gets spread over the life of the new deal because it’s a signing bonus and not salary. I cannot recall of one single instance where a player actually got less cash when “helping” the team in this way.

  2. Amen, Florio. I always wondered why there was such pity for men that get paid handsomely to take a year’s vacation. If you can’t find another job while being paid for 365 days, or longer, then the problem is you, not the boss. And let’s be honest, NONE of them would be out of work if the team they coached was doing well, so some job performance issues are involved here. Since most of these guys SHOULD have been able to set aside well over 250Gs while working (head coaches, well over 750Gs) AND they are continuing to get and cash their checks, where is the “betrayal”? Sounds like a damn nice “golden parachute” to me. How many of us have the same deal in place if we lose our jobs due to under performance and/or outright incompetance?

  3. Florio, I think you would make a great Contacts 1 prof…I am surprised you didn’t cite to Restatement of Contracts Section 71 or make reference to the “Peppercorn Theory” (if there is merely a peppercorn supporting the promise, then we will enforce the promise).

  4. I think you’re missing the point on McManamon’s comments. You have nailed the legal side of it, but the PERSONAL side of it stinks – and it’s one more way that the Browns’ franchise is making a mockery of themselves.
    They are handling everyone differently.
    Some coaches can interview for one open position, but are denied permission to interview for others.
    Some coaches cannot interview at all.
    Tucker’s agent had to file a grievance to be allowed to interview for the J-Ville DC job, which he has now gotten…while the Browns already had a new DC (wink, wink) working in the building.
    Same with Chud – although he’s been allowed to interview in SF, he is being held to his contract although the team already has a new OC in place.
    This is about how you treat people – and all of the sudden the Browns are treating their people BADLY. They may be within their legal bounds, and their staff may still be under contract…but I’m sure the staff is well aware of the fact that they will not be with the franchise next season. Mangini made that pretty clear by his “non-answer” in his initial presser and his actions since assuming Dictatorship have not led anyone to believe otherwise.
    Since it’s obvious that most of them will not be back next season, these coaches should all be allowed to interview for other positions.
    At least the vast majority of them seem like they WANT to go out & find other jobs (hello, Mike Shanahan).

  5. Way to flex the law muscle(not the prostate) Florio. This is why I come here, put them in their place.

  6. I don’t know. If I were coaching the Browns, I would want more than six figures to make up for the fact I would have to admit I work for the team.

  7. Every once in a while you write a great blog that is unbelievable honest and thought provoking. Not full of cheap shots and media sensationalism (hey, l’il florio needs new shoes, I understand that), but actual unpopular but reality based information.
    The world is not full of roses. There is a big difference between a business conducting itself ethically and unethically. Is it right to leave these guys with families to twist in the wind? Of course not. But these teams paid for the right, and they will have to compensate the employees. Ethical? no. Legal? yes.
    Kinda like banks signing people to insane loans. Was it ethical? Of course not! But you had free will to have a lawyer look over that contract questioning why in the hell you qualify for a $400k+ house on a $50k salary. Therefore it was legal.
    You are an inspiration for want to be honest, thought provoking writers who never had a platform. Other times you’re just-a spicy-a meatball-a!

  8. Like ProFootball America said, at the first post I might add, not everybody goes at everything as pragmatic as an attorney Florio, so givem a break. But….great point….but shit like that gives you the soapbox……

  9. I love the logic, but that’s why they have lawyers…come on…love the article is excellent & this is exactly my first post, on this or the pimped out sitersite……..but…neverhteless……that’s why the attorney’s have jobs…..

  10. well unless these coaches, who are very well paid, are living way beyond their means (uh, i would rent if i was them, due to lack of job security)… they should have lots of cash.
    so, the toss out an old saw, if i had their kind of money, I WOULD BURN MINE.
    and i am not poor.

  11. Yo, Florio
    Didn’t Benito say he was goin’ treat the coaches like a family and take care of them in a timely manner? What father would leave his children and grandchildren in limbo? True love.
    So they get paid – doesn’t include insurance – I checked with the franchise near my home.
    Suppose a coach wants to work? Doesn’t want to sit on his duff for a year feeling totally useless? Is it fair that his “father” hangs on to play mind games with his child?
    Sure it’s a contract. Sure it should be respected. But with the upheaveal in the NFL coaching arena, shouldn’t one, with or without a contract, get treated in a timely, family fashion.
    Benito is playing mind games with his staff, seems to me, reading all the articles.
    Hope he can call a play faster than make staffing decisions.

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