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Offseason Predictions (1 Viewer)


Packers' Legendary Quarterback Favre Will Call It Quits

Star's Heart 'Isn't in It' in the Five Things We Have Learned This Offseason


Sports Commentary

There are few down times in the NFL’s calendar, but this is one of them. Teams have hired their coaches and, with the possible exception of Baltimore, settled on their quarterbacks for the year. The frenzy of the first weeks of free agency is over, the owners have had their major annual winter meeting and the draft preparations are entering their final stages.

With that in mind, here are five things we learned during the first full month of the offseason, and how they will affect the league in the months to come:

1. Brett Favre is really conflicted about playing another season

That Favre has made it into April without making a decision on his future makes it all the more likely that he's planning to call it quits. Pro football is a tough enough game without going in half-hearted, and if Favre really wanted to play another season, he'd have decided that by now.

Instead, the latest word is that he's still watching what the Packers do, that he hasn't made up his mind yet, but that if he does play, this would be his final season.

From all of that, it's hard to draw any conclusion other than that Favre's heart really isn't in it, anyway, and if that's the case, he and the Packers would be better off with a retirement decision now. The man has had a great career, but he was clearly in steep decline during the 2004 playoffs and 2005 season.

Green Bay, under a new coach (Mike McCarthy) and fairly new general manager (Ted Thompson has been on the job a year), needs to begin moving forward. And Favre needs to realize that his ambivalence is understandable. It's always tough to say goodbye, but it seems clear that’s what he's trying to say.

2. The NFL owners are in no hurry to replace Paul Tagliabue

On Tagliabue's watch, the owners and players went from rich to filthy rich, with the explosion of television rights, marketing and new stadiums.

Tagliabue announced his retirement plans a week in advance of last week’s meeting, supposedly so that owners could begin to think about how to replace him and begin to make some decisions at the meeting.

But there were no decisions. Tagliabue did not even get around to organizing a search committee of owners. And despite his avowed intention of retiring by the summer, that appears to be an unlikely goal.

The search for a new commissioner may not be as contentious and as long as the search that led to Tagliabue and, before him, Pete Rozelle, but, despite the NFL's success, there are too many factions among the owners to avoid a long, drawn-out process. At this point, it's not certain that a replacement will be in place before the next Super Bowl.

3. Instant replay is still a controversial topic

Some tinkering was done with the process, the biggest being the inclusion of down by contact plays. Another proposal, by Tampa Bay, that penalties be subject to replay, drew very little support, but seems certain to at least be on some minds in years to come until the memory of the last Super Bowl and its controversial calls fades.

Many of the former replay opponents have come to accept the procedure. But not all. Baltimore coach Brian Billick was among those who said he would prefer to junk the system rather than expand it because it’s clear that replay has gone beyond the scope of the original intention: To correct the egregious errors.

All too often, replays are used to micro-manage the game. While a dispute over forward progress for a first down might be a significant play during a game, for example, it hardly falls into the category of the egregious error that replay was intended to prevent.

The NFL took a small step toward the original goal by reducing from 90 to 60 seconds the amount of time a referee can study a replay before making a decision. But even 60 is too long if replay is to be used to its original goal of correcting the obvious, major error. If it's obvious, it shouldn't take but a couple of seconds.

4. The players won in labor talks

Owners, even the rich ones, are concerned about where the league is headed financially after the latest extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association.

The deal includes a re-opener in four years, and the expectation was that it would be only the low-revenue teams that might want to take another look at it.

But even owner Robert Kraft of New England, one of the richest teams, is worried that the league might have conceded too much in the latest agreement. Kraft said the deal was "too much one way," and added, "I think it will be a real struggle to keep it going."

The general consensus around the league and among impartial observers is that the extension was a very good deal for the players. The low-revenue teams already are concerned about making enough money, even with somewhat enhanced revenue sharing, to pay the bills. But, as with Kraft, even the high-revenue teams see problems. Good luck to the next commissioner.

5. There is still no timetable for the NFL's return to Los Angeles

The nation's second-largest city has been without pro football for more than a decade now, and there still is no firm timetable or, for that matter, any process, for a return. Club owners were told last week that the estimated cost of a new stadium in the LA area had risen to $800 million.

While the NFL has had problems getting its act together regarding Los Angeles - the league's LA committee was nearly doubled from six owners to 11 last week - the delay is hardly all the league’s fault. Competing groups in the Los Angeles area can't get their act together to decide on a site for a team to play, although the LA Coliseum and Anaheim are the leading candidates.

Then, of course, there is the discussion over whether an existing team would move there or the league would expand. And if it expands, would it be a one- or a two-team expansion? Any expansion would present a unique, but not insurmountable, challenge to the symmetry of the NFL’s current 8-division, 32-team setup.

A return to Los Angeles is inevitable. It's just too rich a market for the NFL to continue to avoid. But the same would have been said a decade ago, too, and there is no real indication the league is any closer now than it was then.

Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football league for three decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is the national columnist for The Sports Xchange and his blog can be viewed at www.mysportspage.com.

I don't get the whole L.A. thing...for that matter, its hard for any team in the so-cal area to make $$..everyone is out enjoying the weather..i know its a huge tv market, but if both the Raiders and Lambs couldn't get football to stay in L.A., no one will!!


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