Rosenthal recently posted the news that all 17 Redskins coaches applied their John Hancocks to a statement disavowing the brief filed by the NFL Coaches Association and expressing support for the owners in the labor dispute with the players.
Regardless of whether the move was instigated by head coach Mike Shanahan, owner Daniel Snyder, or by someone else within the organization or whether the coaches crafted the statement on their own, the decision of the Redskins coaches to affirmatively and unanimously break ranks from the NFLCA represents a significant departure from the coaches’ long-term self-interests. The NFLCA brief, which we’d be shocked to learn each man who signed the statement read and understood, argues that the legal tactics the owners are using against the players eventually could be used against coaches.
That said, the unwillingness of the Redskins’ coaches to allow their names to be associated with the NFLCA legal brief submitted in support of the players represents a recognition that their short-term self-interests are tied to embracing the folks who sign the paychecks. The speed and zeal with which the Redskins’ coaches reacted to the NFLCA brief demonstrates the true power that NFL teams continue to have over their coaches. Given that there are far more men with the skills to coach players at a high level than there are players to perform at a high level, any uprising by coaches would be handled faster than Ronald Reagan firing all of the nation’s air traffic controllers.
The ultimate message: “If you guys don’t want to do the job for the money we’re willing to pay, we’ll find someone else who will.”
Thus, to the extent that the NFLCA brief represented a trial balloon from an organization that has been toying with the concept of taking a stand on behalf of all coaches, possibly through the formation of a union, today’s development confirms that there’s a long way to go before the coaches will jeopardize their ability to coach by trying to collectively fight for more money or greater benefits or better terms.
Though the move has given the owners a leg up when it comes to their relationship with coaches, the Redskins could — key word, could — face a specific consequence at some point in the future. When the labor dispute ends, and end it eventually will, players could be less likely to join the Redskins, if they have options elsewhere. As a result, Snyder and company possibly will have to overpay for free agents in order to lure free agents to D.C.
The specific impact, if any, on the ability of the Redskins to attract players against whom the coaches have necessarily taken a stand depends on various factors, including whether and to what extent the NFLPA* makes a stink about the move. (Given that NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith is a lifelong Redskins fan, it’ll be interesting to see whether a stink is indeed made.)
Finally, the statement from the Redskins’ coaches illustrates a point that we recently made regarding the filing of a “friend of the court” brief by the so-called “Sports Fan Coalition.” Any group that purports to speak for all members of a class absent clear and complete authorization to do so necessarily doesn’t speak for all members of a group. If other coaching staffs follow the lead of the Redskins’ coaches, there’s a chance in this case that the NFLCA ultimately will have spoken for no members of the group it purports to represent.