Offseason Review: The Lockout


The NFL season is upon us, but I would be remiss if I didn’t look back at the events that shaped the current roster, and at the circumstances that made this offseason unique. Lets start by examining the biggest event of the offseason; the lockout.

I was consistently always amazed whenever I read the comment threads from any account of the lockout. There was so much misinformation out there, and so many assumptions that being made that were wildly incorrect. So lets set the record straight, FAQ style:

What was the cause of the lockout?

Contrary to what the spin machines for the players kept spewing out there, the real reason that a new CBA was needed was because the old CBA was broken. At least 2 teams, Buffalo and Jacksonville, were losing money each year. A few others, including KC and San Diego were barely breaking even.

While the NFL was wildly profitable as a whole, the NFL needed to change the system to keep the smaller market teams from going under. Also, the way the salary cap number was established each year in the old CBA, the problem was only going to get worse.

The easy solution would to just change the profit sharing model used by the owners. That’s definitely true. The problem is that player salaries are based in part of those profit sharing numbers, so the structure of the profit sharing was a part of the old CBA and couldn’t be easily changed. This is why the owners used their opt-out clause of that was part of the old CBA.

Ok, but that happened 2 years before the lockout. Seriously, wtf?

You got me there. The league and players had 2 years to get a new CBA worked out and didn’t get it done. Mostly this was because neither side really tried to get it done until the old was was set to expire.

So who’s to blame?

Both sides really, but the players had a bigger hand in it.

Once the negotiations got underway, the owners were making rather outrageous demands. The players responded by really only participating in the negotiations in theory. They didn’t ever respond to the owners proposals, nor ever offer up their own, other than to say they liked the old CBA, which as I’ve already pointed out wasn’t sustainable.

In the final hours before the lockout, the owners caved in dropped a lot of their demands, and the players simply ignored this and walked away from the negotiating table. Had they stayed, agreed to extend the deadline, and negotiated in good faith, the lockout might have been avoided.

But don’t let the owner off the hook either. Let of greed on their part added to the problem. See 3 questions below this one for more on their part in this mess.

Wait, I’m a little lost. Is there something I can read to help me understand?

Sure, click on this link and  start from the top.

Why did it last so long?

Simple, because the courts got involved. Nothing moves quickly once the courts get involved. The players’ tactic of decertifying and filing lawsuits worked, but it also caused the process to drag out for months longer than it needed to.

The decertifying of the union was a sham. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They operated as a union the entire time, including negotiating the new CBA. And while it did help the union’s bargaining power, it also stretched out the process months longer than it should have taken.

So the players are evil and we should hate them for the lockout?

Umm… no. I never said that! While they did make the process much harder than it needed to be, they didn’t completely do so without cause. The owners were asking for fundamental changes in the financial structure of the league, changes that would drastically decrease the players’ slice of the financial pie. They were also doing so without offering much in terms of the motivation for doing so. Even once the owners started backing off on their demands, the end result was still going to be that the players would get less, and for an industry as profitable as the NFL, that seemed out of place.

Why is it so complicated then? Just increase the profit sharing and call it a day, right?

If only it was that easy. The problem is that the league’s financial success is dependent on the large market teams give vast sums of cash to the small market teams. Normally that isn’t a problem, since the rich teams rake in a really nice profit anyways. The problem is that you’re never going to get Jerry Jones and the other large market owners to agree to suddenly making a lot less money. That’s just not going to happen.

So in order to make this happen, the league needed the players to make a little less. That way enough profit sharing could be built into the system to make things work, and that the larger market teams wouldn’t actually agree to the proposal.

So you’re saying we should all hate Jerry Jones for his mess?

Yes… that’s exactly what I said. Are you even paying attention?

So who won? 

The owners. In the end they got what they wanted. Less cash to the players, and more profit sharing to the small market teams.

The ex-players also won, gaining massive increases to their medical coverage and pensions.

Who lost?

We did. The fans lost by having to put up with all this crap.

Now that football is back, should we still care about the lockout?

Nope. Not all all. In fact, why did you even read all of this?