Opinion: Owners meetings create controversy

Who knew the NFL owners meetings could be so controversial? With a couple of decisions made in back-door style, the NFL isn't presenting itself in its normally professional way and could be hurting its credibility.

The owners meetings would seem to be a time of formalities and big-picture planning. But, even with the labor unrest and uncertainty pushing against the NFL, there were plenty of other topics that found controversy in the first couple days.

Primary among the complaints being filtered through multiple media sources were the coaches' reactions to the owners voting for a change to overtime in the playoffs. When the Competition Committee held a conference call last week to discuss the proposal it would put in front of owners, chairman Rich McKay admitted he didn't know if the idea would have enough support. That sentiment was still true on Tuesday before the vote.

However, with many NFL coaches – who represented much of the primary opposition to the proposal – participating in a golf tournament in Florida on Tuesday, NFL executives apparently swung into action and several national reporters took notice.

"Coaches and execs were supposed to be in the room. It was supposed to be done (Wednesday), not (Tuesday). These coaches are beside themself," tweeted Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com. "… Just involve everyone in vote. Don't backdoor it."

ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was at Space Mountain when the vote took place. The fact is that owners or their designated representatives are the ones that cast the votes, so in most cases that doesn't account for coaches voting. However, the owners often rely on coaches for their input on matters, especially in-game, on-the-field decisions like altering the overtime format. But with most coaches not around on Tuesday because a vote wasn't expected until Wednesday, NFL executives apparently went into a politicking mode.

"There was so much arm twisting on modified OT rule that it's as if Roger Goodell was Barack Obama and Rich McKay was Nancy Pelosi," Schefter tweeted.

For the record, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf voted against the measure, which represented one of only four teams to stand up against the NFL's wishes.

The problem here isn't that a modified overtime rule passed, it's the way in which it was done. The NFL has – or should have – a higher standard than trying to do things on the sly. At a time when it needs to keep its credibility among the fans with ensuing labor strife a hot-button topic, the league isn't presenting itself as straightforward and upstanding by changing the expected day of voting on a subject and "arm twisting" to get something down.

The overtime vote isn't the only source of secrecy either. Commissioner Roger Goodell opened the meetings by addressing reporters on Monday and basically poo-pooed a couple of questions dealing with the opening of New York's new stadium, a venue that will be shared by the Jets and Giants.

In order to decide which team will be allowed to open the stadium at home, the NFL held a coin flip. That's fair enough, but not when representatives for each team weren't present. The Giants won the flip, but the Jets were rightfully miffed that they didn't get to see their fate flipping through the air first-hand.

So far in the labor posturing, the NFL has looked mature in not bad-mouthing the players union in public. The union has continued to tweak the league publicly and generally looked unwilling to sit down and truly address the issues that are creating the league-vs.-union schism (couldn't resist the word).

From this view, these latest incidents with the overtime vote and the secret coin flip hurt the NFL's credibility as always doing things on the up-and-up.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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