As the lockout continues and the litigation continues and everything but actual negotiation continues, one of the points the owners make from time to time to justify their quest for a new deal now relates to the fact that they did a bad deal in 2006.
“We made a mistake, no question about it,” Giants co-owner John Mara told Mike Lupica of ESPN 1050 in New York, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. “And we deserve criticism for making that mistake. The players, themselves, have acknowledged that they made a great deal back in 2006 and there were a number of us, myself included, who didn’t fully understand what we were doing in 2006. We understood pretty quickly, within about a year after that. At the end of the day, we’re businessmen who love football and we want to get a deal done that makes sense for our businesses and that’s good for the game and allows the game to grow. There is a deal there to be made that would be fair for both sides.”
Whether there’s a deal to be made remains to be seen; for now, the players haven’t even made an offer in response to the league’s proposals of March 11 and May 16. The fact that the owners are so willing to publicly chastise themselves for the last deal shows how badly they want a new deal done on very different terms.
And such talk puts even more pressure, in our view, on Commissioner Roger Goodell to persuade himself that the best interests of the game and all of its constituents mesh with the owners’ interests. Though the last deal commonly is blamed on former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Goodell was essentially Tagliabue’s right-hand man at the time. If the league office were ever to get the ESPN book treatment, we’d find out why folks at 280 Park Avenue believe Goodell allowed the deal to happen. Maybe he tried to resist it. Maybe he thought it was a good deal. Maybe he sensed that, without labor peace, Tagliabue wouldn’t retire in the months after the deal was finalized, and by the time he chose to leave maybe Goodell wouldn’t have had the inside track to the top job.
Regardless of those possible reasons, the mistake now haunts the league. The manner in which the mistake will be rectified possibly is being shaped by owners who supported the last deal, and by a Commissioner who was in position to join with Ralph Wilson and Mike Brown and declare the deal to be a bad one. Now that the last deal has been flagged as a failure, the only option is to fix it. Anything less than a fix will only amplify the responsibility of the folks with their fingerprints on the last deal.