Since I’m sticking around for Monday night’s game between the Vikings and the Jets, there was no reason to get up and rush out to catch the train home. So I actually got almost a good night’s sleep, after writing most of the 10-pack and letting it stew while I sawed a stack of logs.
The log-sawing is over, the 10-pack is done, and there’s actually a little news that has been incorporated into this week’s collection of story lines.
So read on. It’s Monday morning, and you’re just sitting there doing nothing anyway.
1. League needs to better educate players on sexual harassment.
More than any one game, the question of whether and to what extent Vikings quarterback Brett Favre will face discipline for his interactions with former Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger dominated the NFL weekend.
You’ve heard by now the reports. Yes, the league will pursue the matter. Yes, Favre could be in some trouble, especially if evidence of a pattern of misconduct emerges. The league has no choice in this regard because, unlike the behavior of other men who has been disciplined under the Personal Conduct Policy, Favre’s behavior created potential liability for the Jets and the league.
For the same reasons the NFL and the Jets moved quickly and decisively in the Ines Sainz case, the NFL and the Jets must move quickly and decisively in this case. Even if Sterger won’t be making any claims (and by all appearances and accounts she won’t be), the league and the Jets need to be thinking about the next case — the one in which a $50 million lawsuit will be filed. To win that next case, the league and the Jets need to be able to show that they properly addressed all past cases of potential sexual harassment.
In this regard, “sexual harassment” means many possible things. The days of the boss chasing his secretary around the desk and threatening to fire her if she didn’t agree to sleep with him have given way to notions of a “hostile work environment,” a much more vague and fact-specific analysis that encompasses conduct like repeated, unwanted advances and the transmission of lewd and objectively offensive messages or pictures.
Many employers provide annual training to employees regarding the types of sexual harassment, the situations in which it may arise, the procedures for reporting possible sexual harassment, and the process for investigations claims of sexual harassment. We’ve learned over the weekend that neither the league nor the Jets have provided sexual harassment training to players — a surprising disclosure given the fact that many view the locker room as the wild west without the guns. (Or, perhaps, without as many guns.)
Moving forward, it’s a safe bet that players will be getting sexual harassment training. Until then, players need to realize that there’s a fundamental difference between the women they encounter in the workplace and the women they encounter in a nightclub.
Though the lack of training won’t supply Favre with the “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?” defense, plenty of guys aren’t smart enough to figure out on their own what they should and shouldn’t do — and some of them will be more likely to respect the rules if someone else tells them what the rules are.
2. Labor pains could be ending.
Many believe that the ongoing labor unrest will linger into 2011, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming if at all between March and September. However, recent developments suggest that the impasse could be resolved sooner than later.
The NFL Players Association initially attempted to deal with the situation by persuading the NFL that the current labor deal is a good one for the teams. The union has since decided to that the wall won’t be coming down, no matter how many times they bang their head against it.
Plan B entails trying to place as much pressure as possible on the league to come to the table and engage in meaningful dialogue. The process began with an attack on the league’s broadcast contracts, which purport to continue to pay the NFL in the event of a work stoppage. The process will continue within the next month with the filing of a collusion case arising from the absence of activity in the 2010 free agency market.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the collusion case is coming, and we’ve confirmed that, indeed, it is.
The union’s thinking is that, eventually, the NFL will realize that the potential consequences outweigh the benefits of dragging out the labor fight. And the union believes that the strategy is working.
Whether that’s the case remains to be seen, especially with the next round of ownership meetings scheduled for Tuesday in Chicago. But the possibility that the strategy will force the league to the bargaining table should be regarded as good news by those of us who simply want the games to be played.
3. Farewell, Carson.
With each passing week, it’s becoming more and more clear that Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer no longer merits the inclusion of the term “franchise” in his official title. On Sunday, Palmer’s three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown and another of which set up the game-winning field goal, sent the Bengals to 2-3.
Next year, Palmer has a base salary of $11.5 million. At this point, we’d be shocked if the Bengals pay it.
These are, after all, the Bengals. The notoriously frugal Bengals. And these Bengals know that they’re not getting their money’s worth from Palmer.
Barring a quick and decisive turnaround, it could be over for Palmer in Cincinnati. The question then becomes whether someone else will want to bring him in as the starter.
4. Farewell, Coach Fox?
The Panthers limp into their bye week at 0-5. For a team thinking about making an in-season coaching change, it’s the best time to rip off the Band-Aid and move on.
In Fox’s case, his contract lasts only through the end of the year, and it’s widely believed there will be no new deal. If owner Jerry Richardson doesn’t want Fox to stay, why delay the inevitable?
If nothing else, the Panthers could find out whether defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, or assistant head coach/running backs coach Jim Skipper would be a viable candidate to carry the job into 2011.
Though there are no indications (for now) that a change is coming, we wouldn’t be shocked if one of the headlines that emerges at a time when Brett Favre desperately is hoping for a new headline to emerge involves the Panthers doing now what they most likely will do at the end of the season.
5. Do-or-die bowl could be looming.
The Dallas Cowboys hope to finish their season with an appearance in the final game of the postseason. Next Sunday, the Cowboys could facing their final chance to stay alive for a shot at the postseason.
If the Vikings lose to the Jets on Monday night, Dallas and Minnesota will meet next week in a battle of 1-3 teams. The winner stays alive; the loser is for all intents and purposes (or, as I used to think the saying went, for all intensive purposes) done.
As we said when the Cowboys limped to an 0-2 start, owner Jerry Jones eventually could face an unprecedented (for him) brand of desperation, given that he very much wants to play in the Super Bowl his new stadium will host. With the NFC as wide open as it ever has been, that sense of desperation could get Jones to do something rash.
At this point, we’ll cue those who insist that, because Jones never has fired a coach during the season, he never will. But he’s never faced a situation like this, either. And the idea of watching an NFC team other than the Cowboys playing in the biggest game on the biggest stage in the biggest stadium, Jones could do anything.
6. Thanks, Tiki.
In years past, we’d force a big word into a blurb and include in parentheses a thank you message to Tiki Barber, who previously had a bad habit of gratuitously (thanks, Tiki) cramming 10-dollar words into everyday communications.
For now, the Giants need to whip out a “thanks, Tiki” for Barber’s
href=”http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/09/30/tiki-barber-tom-coughlins-control-slipping-away/”>verbal assault against the team for which he once played. Barber’s blasting of coach Tom Coughlin has been followed by two big wins against the previously 3-0 Bears and the previously 3-1 Texans.
The last time Tiki trashed the Giants, they responded by eventually winning the Super Bowl.
So there may be a few more thank yous for Tiki in the pipeline, if the Giants can continue to move in the right direction.
7. Niners still aren’t dead, yet.
In 1992, the Chargers responded from an 0-4 start to make the playoffs. In 2009, the Titans made a serious run at the postseason after starting 0-6.
The 49ers have fallen to 0-5 after a narrow loss to the Eagles. But the Niners remain in the NFC West, where anything can happen in the next 12 weeks.
San Fran’s final drive against the Eagles looked promising until quarterback Alex Smith didn’t put enough air under a screen pass to Frank Gore that would have put the team in position to force overtime if not win in regulation. Before that moment, Smith woke up and played well, digging the Niners out of a deep hole.
If Smith and San Fran can build on that spark, all hope is not lost. With the Raiders, Panthers, and Broncos coming up before the bye and the Rams and Bucs after it, the Niners could scratch and claw back to .500.
Then again, it seems like we say that every week. Sooner or later, the 49ers have do something out of character and win a game.
8. NFC remains wide open.
In two months, the NFC may be no more settled than it is right now. With the exception of the Panthers, every team has hope — and every team could still be alive.
Sure, it may be hard for the bottom-dwellers like the Lions (1-4) and the 49ers (0-5) to climb into contention, but that leaves 13 of 16 teams who could be jockeying for six playoff spots in December.
With no team in the NFC approaching dominance in any form or degree (the Lions came closest this week with a 38-point win over the Rams), the records could eventually smooth out, with more and more teams congregating at or near .500.
Though it makes it harder for those of us who are expected to identify and tout excellence to actually identify and tout excellence, it makes for an exciting season, a memorable scrum for playoffs spots, and a possibly unforgettable postseason.
9. AFC West remains wide open.
The Chiefs, who came off as being a little too desperate in their nothing-to-lose effort to beat the Colts, can’t be all that upset with Week Five. They played well at Indy, and the Chargers and Broncos lost.
The Raiders finagled a possibly temporary boost of adrenaline, thanks to the franchise’s first win over San Diego since the year after the last time the Raiders were any good. Until they can string together multiple strong performances, the Raiders can’t be taken seriously.
Still, the four AFC West teams are bunched together tightly. With the Chiefs at 3-1 and the next three at 2-3, any of them can get hot and take the division and the guaranteed home playoff game that goes along with it.
For the Chargers, the good news comes next week, when left tackle Marcus McNeill returns just in time for a trip to St. Louis, where the Rams have played well enough this year to win more games than they won in all of 2009.
Bottom line? Any of the four teams can win the division. Of course, given the quality of the teams in the other three divisions, the AFC West champion may have a short stay in the playoffs.
10. Marino’s record seems destined to fall.
In many NFL seasons, a quarterback emerges on a pace to challenge the single-season passing yardage record set by Dan Marino in his second NFL season. In the end, no one has topped 5,084 yards.
Two years ago, Drew Brees of the Saints came dangerously close, finishing with 5,069 yards. But one else ever has thrown for 5,000 or more yards.
This year, three quarterbacks remain on track to break the record. Three.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, with 1,609 yards, is on pace to throw for 5,149. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton’s 1,733 yards projects to 5,545. And Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who leads the way with 1,759, will finish with 5,628 on his current pace.
Though it’s too early to assume that Rivers will continue for the next 11 games that which he has done in the first five, the fact that he’s on track to break the record by 544 yards gives him a buffer of more than 10 percent after nearly 33 percent of the season has been played.
The fact that three men are on pace to break the record significantly increases the chances that one of them will.