The effort to negotiate a new labor deal continues to languish. On Monday night in Cincinnati, Commissioner Roger Goodell offered a sobering assessment regarding the lack of progress.
“We continue to have discussions, but we’ve got to focus on having
productive discussions where there’s actually progress being made,”
Goodell told Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’re getting closer and closer to that March deadline,
and I think for the good of the game, for the good of the fans, for the
good of the players, we need to reach an agreement that’s fair to
everyone. We have a lot of work to do and we’ve got to sit down and work
on it. We owe that to the game.”
There’s also another reason for urgency. As Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports explains it, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones may not be able to afford a truncated offseason of labor uncertainty.
“Jones will need every bit of the offseason and the manufactured
excitement that goes with it to market his suddenly moribund franchise,” Cole writes. “To put it another way, if Jones expects Cowboys fans to take those
grocery bags off their head and instead use them to buy Dallas apparel
and, more importantly, tickets, he better keep the business open this
It’s a good point. If a deal isn’t done by March, who knows when free agency will begin? Even if the union decertifies, it could take weeks if not months for the NFL to impose across-the-board rules that would be designed to withstand an antitrust challenge. It will keep Jones from using the full offseason to properly market his team to an increasingly fickle fan base.
But there’s a small glimmer of hope in the comments from Goodell. By saying “the March deadline,” Goodell is signaling that the league views March 1 as the moment by which a deal needs to get done. Though we’d prefer both sides to view the end of the regular season as the point at which the clock strikes 12, it’s good that one side is willing to recognize the time for action.
Now, if the two sides can agree on the “March deadline,” we could be getting somewhere.
Meanwhile, we’ll keep the eggnog on ice until February. They’re going to need every drop of it.