Hype And NFL Contract Disputes: A Power Grid Case Study
And in many ways--as these teams are finding out--this game, when going poorly, can be far more distracting to a team than any problem faced during the regular season. And, as fans are finding out, it can be far more nerve-racking.
A factor that doesn't help quell concerns any? Media hype.
And with the contract disputes in question being in relation to high profile players (all have been voted to or played in at least one Pro Bowl), recently, there has been a lot of it.
Let's take a quick look at what's going on:
The New York Jets:
Jets' coach Rex Ryan told us all that the Jets were "going to be the biggest show in town." Although he was right (for now the Jets rank #2 in News Buzz while the Giants rank #8), we are going to classify this one as a 'Pyrrhic Victory,' as a lot of the media attention is likely the product of the Jets' current inability to negotiate a new contract for star cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The source of the inability? Revis is demanding the highest salary ever for a cornerback, a contract that would require the Jets to surpass the 3-year, $45.3 million dollar contract that the Raiders gave to Nnamdi Asomugha last year. And while such a contract seems implausible for the Jets, it hasn't helped their bargaining position any that Coach Ryan went on record as saying that Revis' season last year was, "The best year a corner has ever had, the most impact a corner has ever had in the National Football League."
Revis has highlighted a larger issue, moreover, and has challenged the Jets' loyalty to other soon-to-be-free-agent impact players whom the Jets also drafted, namely center Nick Mangold, tackle D'brickashaw Ferguson, and linebacker David Harris (who, if you check out their news buzz, rank fairly high if you think about the number of skill position players in the NFL).
"It's about loyalty," Revis said. "You sit here and tell guys you're the best player in the league and you're our No. 1 priority, but you're not showing loyalty in terms of keeping your core guys here. If you want to build a dynasty, you have to be loyal to your players."
The Jets are certainly the talk of New York right now (GM Mike Tannebaum is #3 in News Buzz as well) - not at all, however, in the way they'd like to be. If there's one positive, though, Revis did have this to say yesterday:
"This is the beginning of stuff turning bad," Revis said after a minicamp practice. "I'll talk to Rex today and we'll try to see eye to eye and try to do it the right way. [Monday] was a little frustration going back and forth, but he wants to keep things positive."
The New England Patriots
Not to be outdone by their AFC East rival, the Patriots are struggling with contract disputes of their own--a fact that has contributed to their high standing in News Buzz as well. Pro Bowl guard (what's a guard? Is that on the offensive line? I'm supposed to care about offensive line players? Yes. Yes you are.) Logan Mankins, who is a restricted free agent, said yesterday that, "I want to be traded. I don't need to be here any more."
But that wasn't the end of it. Mankins explained:
"After the 2008 season, me and my agent approached the Patriots about an extension and I was told that Mr. Kraft did not want to do an extension because of the [uncertain collective bargaining agreement]," Mankins said. "I was asked to play '09 out, and that they would address the contract during the uncapped year. I'm a team player, I took them at their word, and I felt I played out an undervalued contract.
"That's the big thing," he continued. "Right now, this is about principle with me and keeping your word and how you treat people. This is what I thought the foundation of the Patriots was built on. Apparently, I was wrong. Growing up, I was taught a man's word is his bond. Obviously this isn't the case with the Patriots."
If the Jets are disloyal, apparently the Patriots are dishonest. Although... it seems the Pats are being accused of disloyalty, too.
Star quarterback Tom Brady, who is in the final year of his contract, still remains unsigned after this year. Although both parties have tried at an extension, none has been reached, and yahoo.com's Michael Silver argued on June 2nd that there is a growing disconnect between Brady and the Pats. As far as media speculation goes, this is about as large a source of hype as any, and if this persists, we'd expect it to pick up even more.
Too Much Hype?:
Yet, ESPN Insider's KC Joyner pointed out last week that all this hype may, in fact, not be entirely warranted. In relation to Revis, he had this to say:
Let's start with Revis. He is absolutely -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- the best cornerback in the league, something backed up by his No. 1 ranking in the cornerback yards-per-attempt (YPA) numbers from the KC Joyner Metricmania section of ESPN's Fantasy Football Magazine.
With that being said, it should also be noted which cornerback ranked No. 2 in YPA -- that was Revis' teammate, Dwight Lowery. The Jets also placed a third cornerback, Lito Sheppard, in the top 20 in that category last year, making them the only team in the league to reach that statistical distinction.
Thus, while he concedes that Revis is the league's best corner, Joyner notes that the defensive system unique to the Jets could be largely responsible for his outrageous numbers.
This theory could also hold true for Mankins, who plays on an offensive line that has produced Pro Bowl players before--like tackle Matt Light and Dan Koppen--and has recently also shown itself to be the site of young talent (rookie Sebastian Vollmer promises to be a force at left tackle, having been fantastic last year).
And, hell, as the Patriots went 11-5 two years ago when Brady went down in week 1--his replacement Matt Cassel, under the tutelage of Josh McDaniels, threw for over 3,600 yards that year--to some degree, the system may be largely responsible for Brady's gaudy numbers (do not overreact Patriots fans. I said to some degree. Key word: some. Deep breath. Deeeeeep breath. I am aware that he won his rings with a poo-poo plater of receivers. Deep breath.).
Now, we're not advocating that these teams don't resign their free agents or soon-to-be-free agents. In fact, they probably should. But you cannot forget that coaching schemes, especially in football, are as influential as any other factor, and when you look at the grid, you will see that, with the exception of Mankins, these players are all overhyped.
Just as Joyner said in his article: "It takes a team effort to post wins and not even the best players can do much to change that."
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