The NFL Becoming a Players League Debate… For Love of the Blame

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

The NFL is being ruined right in front of our very eyes, and the players are to blame.

While I am normally the first one to suggest that a player or team with even a miniscule amount of leverage should exploit it to the fullest for their personal gain, even I can see that there is a limit. Clearly the NFL has reached its tipping point. Players have gone mad with power and the league presently teeters atop the precipice of a very steep and slippery slope. The empowerment of the modern era NFL player has come at a steep cost – the sanctity of contracts and the authority of the coaches – and sadly the game as a whole may soon suffer for it. For a very long time.

This, however, is not a new story, and the current state of affairs in the NFL did not just happen overnight. The writing has been on the wall for a very long time. Think back to the 2004 draft when Eli Manning was able to force his way to the New York Giants, rather than stay with the team which drafted him out right – the San Diego Chargers. Since then players have been able to threaten, pout, and generally blackmail their way on to the teams of their choosing with virtually no recourse.

The league could have – and more importantly, should have – stopped moves like this as they occurred. Instead, the league stood idly by while their authority was diminished in front of a league of hundreds of players just beginning to realize the leverage and power the NFL was allowing them to control. Now it is common to see players like Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall publically clashing with their coach and team management in hopes of agitating their way to a new team. Many times the players are successful, and sometimes they are not – like Albert Haynesworth this off-season (Editor’s Note: And, regular season too?). But, the point remains that players are very much aware of their newfound leverage in controlling the future.

The drama that unfolded between the Redskins and super star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth highlights the fact that the NFL is a player dominated league. Even though Haynesworth failed to force the Redskins to trade him or to rearrange their defensive scheme to suit him, he has clearly held the front office hostage throughout the season. His recent suspension demonstrates that the ‘Skins never gained control of the situation, and this “punishment” certainly does not serve as a deterrent to Haynesworth, who didn’t want to play for Washington this season anyways. It is no deterrent for any other player wanting to diva their way into a more preferable scenario.

This behavior is not limited to individuals, either. Through the sandbagging actions of NFL teams it can be ascertained that there is a much bigger problem on the horizon. Over the course of the 2010 season, both the Cowboys and Vikings seem to have made their lack of support for their head coach known through underachieving play. While it can’t be proven that players were throwing games, it seems fairly evident that they weren’t trying their all, and a large reason for this seems to be their lack of confidence in their head coach. Whatever the reason, both teams’ head coaches were fired and it certainly looks like the players masterminded the situations. This past off-season the players won’t just be screwing over one team with their actions, but rather the whole league when they force a work stoppage in 2011.

Like it or not, it has become a matter of fact that NFL players call all of the shots these days. There is a certain sad irony about a league which prides itself on parity would have such a disproportionate balance of power between players and the rest of the league.

Players are starting to wield some very real power in the league. They are forcing trades, demanding their own playing schemes, and even getting any employee who stands in their way fired. Perhaps the NFL should be renamed the NFPL – the National Football Players League.

While it’s not a very appealing name, and I seriously doubt that it will catch on anytime soon, it would be a far more fitting name because it would recognize those with all the real power and authority in the league – the players!

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