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January 26, 2015

NFL’s pattern of idiocy can’t put a dent in Teflon shield

After a week of lying and cheating and hiding, the NFL has now established firmly that it is idiot-proof. Even when its poster boy falls from grace and when its most rebellious coach finally combs his hair, nothing can harm the popularity of America’s favorite sport.

Roger Goodell is scheduled to end his self-imposed exile Friday for his annual state-of-the-NFL address, and it’s a safe bet that the commissioner’s million-dollar smile will be right back on display despite a year filled with misery.

The mere fact that Goodell is still in charge after botching the Ray Rice controversy and now fumbling his latest challenge, Deflategate, will resonate louder than anything he says this week. The NFL can’t help but succeed, even with the idiots now fully in charge of the asylum.

Those footballs in New England may have been deflated, but nothing can take the air out of the National Football League.

When this season of turmoil ends Sunday at the Super Bowl in Arizona, two images will remain: Ray Rice in that elevator and Tom Brady at that news conference last week.

In a world governed by basic morality, Rice’s vicious punch to the jaw of his girlfriend would have knocked Goodell off his pedestal and out of the league, but all the insulting two-game suspension and the ensuing furor actually did was send him into hiding. The commissioner has made no public statements in over four months, including in the week since one of his Super Bowl teams cheated.

What is the next chapter in this NFL soap opera, you ask? You can expect record TV ratings at the Super Bowl, more revenue than the billionaire owners can count and a thrilling game waged by teams populated by loudmouths and cheaters.

Instead, Tom Brady was left to defend himself after it became clear that someone tampered with the balls in New England’s easy win over Indianapolis. Brady, the closest thing to a movie star in American sports, managed in 45 minutes to torpedo 15 years of good will.

His insulting, illogical defense was so infuriating that the many former NFL players who get paid for preaching the company line on TV suddenly were moved, against all odds, to speak their minds. Never has a current star in American sports taken such a verbal beating by the members of his own fraternity. Tom Brady had such a bad week, he said yesterday that his “feelings were hurt.”

Meanwhile, against all odds, the resident grump of the Patriots, coach Bill Belichick, convinced many fans that he was not the architect of this latest bit of chicanery. All he needed to do was replace his hoodie with a crisp sweater and comb his bed head for two bizarre news conferences. Left unsaid, of course, is that this latest scandal is simply an extension of the culture of cheating he created with Spygate a decade ago.

Both Belichick and Brady will be full participants in the Super Bowl because the NFL needs more time to determine exactly who was behind Deflategate, despite its original vow to mete out justice before the big game. In an effort to quiet its critics, the league said it had already talked to 40 people during its investigation. My guess is, 38 were lawyers.

So what we have here in the NFL right now is a commissioner who is still at his job despite a season of stunning ineptitude, a coach whose team got caught cheating again but accepts no blame and a quarterback who lied so brazenly that even his fellow players won’t protect him this time.

What is the next chapter in this NFL soap opera, you ask? You can expect record TV ratings at the Super Bowl, more revenue than the billionaire owners can count and a thrilling game waged by teams populated by loudmouths and cheaters.

The NFL is so powerful now, nothing can harm it. Not even the NFL itself.


There is no truth to the rumor that Howie Roseman timed his pool attendant in the 40-yard dash during the ex-GM’s unexpected Turks and Caicos vacation earlier this month.  That story is believable only because everyone knows how much Roseman loved scouting talent for the Eagles.

For the past month since Chip Kelly won his epic power struggle, the coach has been developing a draft strategy while Roseman has been . . .. well, no one knows what Roseman has been doing. Owner Jeff Lurie said Roseman would be managing the salary cap, negotiating deals and overseeing the training and equipment departments.

Unfortunately, none of those duties adds up to a real job, especially at $1.7 million per year through 2020. The Eagles already have someone doing all the work on contracts and Roseman has no background in deep tissue massage or jock straps.

Based on reports from the Senior Bowl last week, Roseman’s main contribution right now is confusion. Agents don’t know whom to call to talk about contracts because of the dysfunction created by Lurie. For example, if Kelly really wants free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin back but Roseman balks at the cost, who wins?

Lurie needs to do something he has avoided for a month now. The owner needs to do to Roseman what Roseman did to personnel guru Tom Gamble one month ago. Lurie needs to show his best buddy the door, for the good of the Eagles. Unfortunately, there is no indication Lurie is planning to do that.

In fact, at the moment, there is no official word on anything involving the Eagles because, four weeks after Roseman’s demotion, not one management official has been available for comment. Last week at the Senior Bowl, Chip Kelly actually ran away from reporters looking for a comment on the muddle in the front office.

By the way, Kelly looked quick during that escape. Roseman timed him at 4.6.

For one glorious but fleeting moment last week, it looked as if the Phillies had found a sucker to take Jonathan Papelbon. The Milwaukee Brewers appeared willing to absorb part of the closer’s ghastly $13 million salary for this season. They were even OK with his obnoxious personality.

What finally killed the deal was a clause in Papelbon’s deal that insures yet another $13 million in 2016 if he finishes 48 games this season. What GM would be so insane to provide such a ridiculous extra incentive? Do you really have to ask?

For the past few months, Ruben Amaro Jr. has done nothing to discourage whispers that some of the most absurd contracts on the current Phillies roster were not his idea. As the story goes, then-president David Montgomery was so loyal to his 2008 champions that he insisted on keeping the heroes of that team at any cost.

This theory makes sense for Ryan Howard and his untradeable deal, but not for the crazy two-year, $16-million Marlon Byrd contract – which the Phils just sent to Cincinnati Reds along with $4 million – or the Papelbon atrocity. Those two stinkers are Ruben Amaro’s mistakes, no debate required.

So now, because the Brewers regained their sanity before agreeing to take Papelbon, the Phils are blocking their promising young closer-in-waiting, Ken Giles, from getting valuable experience in the ninth-inning role, and they are denying rookie Maikel Franco the same opportunity at first base because of Howard.

How exactly are the Phillies supposed to transition into the next era if they are still dragged down by these terrible Amaro deals? And how exactly are the Phillies ever going to be contenders again if the guy negotiating these contracts is still in charge?

Until Amaro goes, there is no hope for the Phillies.

And finally . . . .

•    Great news for former Eagle DeSean Jackson. He is no longer the biggest jackass in American sports. That dubious designation now belongs to Marshawn Lynch, the Seattle running back whose primary means of communication is grabbing his crotch. Lynch will do something stupid at the Super Bowl on Sunday. Bet on it.

•    The unsung hero of the Sixers is coach Brett Brown. Not only does a basketball lifer like him have to watch the dreck his bosses are putting out there, but now he is the face of the organization. GM Sam Hinkie won’t talk and CEO Scott O’Neill is available primarily for damage control. Bravo to Brett Brown. You couldn’t pay me enough to watch this sorry excuse for a basketball team.

•    Chip Kelly’s hiring of Ryan Day to be the Eagles quarterbacks coach was another clue of the coach’s intention to trade up in the draft for Marcus Mariota. Day, one of Kelly’s quarterbacks at New Hampshire, was ordered to lose weight because mobility is essential to the success of the read-option offense. In other words, he was told to be more like Mariota and less like Nick Foles.

•    The Flyers played their best game of the year just before the All-Star break when they dropped their gloves and pummeled the Pittsburgh Penguins. Notice a trend? When the Flyers fight, they usually win. Hey, it worked 40 years ago, didn’t it?

•    On Friday, my radio show on WIP will be holding it’s 23rd annual Wing Bowl before a sold-out crowd of 20,000 hooligans at the Wells Fargo Center. I have no idea what will happen, but please accept my heartfelt apologies ahead of time. I am genuinely sorry. Thank you.