Though we didn’t anticipate it like we usually do, the release of the 2011 regular-season schedule brought a much-needed escape from a locked-out NFL. Like going to a good movie at the end of a crappy day, studying the slate of games gave us a two-hour respite from reality.
But reality is back, and Commissioner Roger Goodell has tried to reconcile the decision to pull the sheet off of the configuration of 256 games with the fact that, if the season were to start today, 16 of the games, at a minimum, wouldn’t be played.
“Clearly, we have some uncertainty with respect to the labor situation, but this is a great day for the fans,” Goodell told Albert Breer of NFL Network. “We’re doing all we can to prepare for the 2011 season. We’re announcing the schedule as usual, around this time of year, because we know that is an important point where fans start looking forward to the season, and I think there’s every reason for them to do that. We have every intention of playing a full schedule, and that’s why we’re releasing it as we normally do.”
So will the games be played?
“We’ve set the schedule up to play the full 16-game schedule, and that’s certainly our intention, that’s how we put the schedule together, and we certainly are working towards that,” Goodell told Breer.
Really, what else can Goodell say at this point? The fact remains that, until there’s a deal (or an order lifting the lockout), there’s no guarantee that any of the games will be played.
Still, some think the NFL shouldn’t have released the schedule. Count Steelers safety Ryan Clark among the some.
“Instead of saying, ‘You know what, guys, we’re gonna hold the schedule off until we can figure out this situation,” Clark said Tuesday on ESPN2’s First Take (via SportsGrid.com), “until we can make sure that the fans have football this year,’ no, ‘We’re gonna put the schedule out and find another way to put my face on TV.’”
We think that’s a little much. But that didn’t stop Clark from taking it even farther.
“[Former Commissioner] Paul Tagliabue was a guy [who’s] gonna get people in the room [who] can make decisions, whereas throughout these negotiations . . . [Goodell] has to leave for hours to make conference calls and call people who can make decisions,” Clark said.
All due respect, Clark is wrong about that comparison. For deals of this magnitude, 24 of the 32 owners must approve of anything that is done. Goodell doesn’t have the ability to overcome that, and neither did Paul Tagliabue.
But we can see why the players would prefer Tagliabue, given that Tagliabue pushed for the bad deal that the owners are now desperately trying to overturn. The players love the 2006 CBA, and thus they should want the guy who’s doing the current deal to be acting more like the guy who did the last deal.
Either way, there was no reason to hold the schedule until some later date. Folks need to make plans for the months in which football may happen, whether it’s booking hotel rooms or scheduling weddings (or vasectomies) or planning for a golf weekend when the home team is on its bye. It makes no sense to determine the schedule and then not publicly share it with the media and the fans.
Though we realize Clark and the other players are getting increasingly frustrated about the lockout, it doesn’t help their cause to make accusations that simply miss the mark.