God, it is said, must hate money for just look at who he (or she) gives it to.
Theology aside, we find proof in the adage in all kinds of news out of the National Football League.
For instance, here's a conversation we think may have taken place at Halas Hall in suburban Chicago the other day between GM Jerry Angelo and Coach Lovie Smith, each bearers of new, very long-term, very lucrative, very guaranteed contracts:
JA: Hey Lovie, it's Jerry. Now that we have those new contracts let's do something really nutty. Just for a goof.
LS: You mean nuttier than firing my defensive coordinator, hiring my buddy and telling the media to trust me? Nuttier than that? Sounds like fun, what do you have in mind?
JA: Trade Thomas Jones to the New York Jets for NOTHING.
And so it happened that Thomas Jones, starting running back in the Super Bowl and to my eyes about the only Bear besides Devin Hester who played a big game in the Big Game, went to the Jets along with a second-round draft pick and in return the Bears got, wait you'll love this, a second-round draft pick. Yes, the pick the Bears got is early in the round; the one they sent east is late. But still: Jones did have 1,200 yards rushing last season and the Jets were desperate for a new No. 1 running back. When last seen the Bears' anointed No. 1, Cedric Benson, was lying on the Dolphins Stadium wet turf with a knee injury.
So what gives? Smith, working at the lowest end of coaches' salaries in 2006, now has moved to the other end of the scale and has a guarantee of almost $5 million a year through 2011. Did the big money make him quickly dumb? Is that fair? Probably not, but what's the explanation that you'd accept?
- Jones wanted out.
- He was a malcontent.
- He had far exceeded expectations and his usefulness was at an end.
- Coach didn't like TJ's orange Ferrari.
Even with those reasons, you would think that Angelo, the GM with a new deal that guarantees him a slightly-above-the-poverty-level salary through 2013, could have gotten a bit more from a desperate team. These two guys have made a deal that is minimum risk for their security but might not be such a minimum risk to the team next season. And clearly the Bears are drawing some lines in the snow and telling players (and assistant coaches) not to cross. Ron Rivera, hailed by many (not you Chicago Al) for his work as Bears defensive coordinator, got back from one of his many unsuccessful interviews for a head coaching job and was shown the door.
To show that nuttiness goes both ways in Chi-town: Lance Briggs, all-pro linebacker, turned down a Bears offer of $33 million or so for six seasons and Angelo "slapped" the franchise tag on poor ol' Lance. For that, Briggs will be paid $7.2 million this season and is stewing about it. The streets in the NFL definitely go both ways.
A lot of the craziness we see each day comes from the rise in the team salary cap for the coming season to $109 million with free agents looking for a big portion of it and with the understanding that very little is guaranteed to NFL players.
This takes us to the KC Chiefs who have asked QB Trent Green to leave. Green made several mistakes that caused the Chiefs to let him go. First mistake: he's 37 years old. Second mistake: he had a severe concussion playing for the Chiefs last season and missed half the games and played indifferently after returning. Third mistake: he was to be paid (non-guaranteed) $7.2 million for 2007. No surprise that the Chiefs thought better of keeping Green around at that price when he wasn't likely to be the starter. But the Chiefs did agree to a contract for that with Green at one time. Remarkable that Green's concussion knocked some sense into the heads of the Chiefs' brass. Funny how that works.
And while we're on the subject of sense or lack thereof, we turn south to Miami, where the Dolphins last season had one of the NFL's best defenses and a weak offense; where their new coach Cam Cameron has great offensive credentials, and where they are no longer burdened by Genius Coach Saban's genius. So what do they do with the boost in salary cap? They give $20 million guaranteed and a $32 million contract to Joey Porter, who, of course, plays linebacker. Way to boost up that offense guys. Give Porter and his agent credit: the big-mouthed linebacker talked himself out of Pittsburgh and now he takes his act to Miami for guaranteed money that's four times what he would have made with the Steelers. And he has a whole new group of animal control officers for him and his dogs to deal with. Why the Dolphins thought this was a good decision who knows. It's nutty I tell you.
Other places, other looniness: the Denver Broncos signed RB Travis Henry, who somehow couldn't convince the Titans that he was worth the $8.3 million he would have been due this season. The Broncos welcomed Travis to Denver, apparently forgetting that they have made a market in creating mostly low-paid, mostly highly successful running backs because they have long had the best run-blocking offensive line in the business. (Consider Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns.) So naturally the Broncos give Henry a $12 million guarantee and a five-year contract that could be worth $22.5-million. All this for a guy who has had major ligament damage in his ankle and had a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy during his Tennessee years. Mahhhvelous.
A two-year-old bit of genius is keeping the Atlanta Falcons from getting any new talent for new (and hugely paid) Coach Bobby Petrino to play with. In 2004, owner Arthur Blank handed QB Michael Vick a $137 million contract and said, "Here Mike, ruin my team." That's r-u-i-n, not r-u-n. And so it has come to pass. The other day the Falcons made their one addition so far by signing FB Ovie Mughelli, formerly with the Ravens. Ovie has four seasons in the NFL and has a total of 50 yards rushing and 195 yards receiving. But you don't sign an all-pro blocker for his rushing skills so maybe he'd be a good addition to a team that has a stay-home QB who needs his protection. In case anyone hasn't noticed that ain't Michael Vick. "I told [Michael] as long as I'm playing, he doesn't have to worry about being touched,'' Mughelli said after signing. Uh, Ovie, dream on, pal.
One bit of crazy behavior that we encourage was given to us by the Dallas Cowboys who in the last few weeks have lost coach Bill Parcells, have surveyed the coaching options out there and decided that Wade Phillips was da man, have made clear (so far) that Terrell Owens, his damaged finger and his big yap will be back again. Then the other day they sign Leonard Davis to a $50-million contract along with almost $19 million in guarantees. This is all for a guy who mostly soiled the sheets for the Cardinals as the No. 2 pick in the draft and now comes to the Cowboys without a position. He might play guard, he might play tackle. And neither position is on the side that protects QB Tony Romo's blind side. This is a move that the inner Giant fan can praise. Hey, Jerry Jones, give Al Davis a call. He might trade you Randy Moss!