Irsay’s Call for Sanity Well Timed

Jim Irsay’s Twitter feed is a wonder to behold.

It can be filled incomprehensible song lyrics, goofy personal messages, old fashioned cheer-leading, riddles and contests, but it is far from trivial.

Saturday, he sent a welcomed shot across the bow of the faction of NFL owners unhappy that there is progress toward a new CBA. With rumors swirling that a small splinter group is forming among NFL owners who are unhappy that too much compromise is occurring (as if there could be such a thing in negotiations like this), Irsay stepped up to put his fellow owners in line:

I hope Owners n Players really hate this new CBA,with a passion,when we’re done..then Fans r happy n the media will chirp n heroes crowned!

Replete with standard Twitter syntax, the simple statement may not seem like much, but it’s a strong message to those owners who don’t want the lockout resolved:  In this case, the best deal is one neither party is entirely thrilled with.

There are several reasons this statement is significant.  Irsay is a small market owner; Indy is among the smallest in the NFL. Granted, Lucas Oil stadium allows the Colts to financially function more like a middle-market team (as does Peyton Manning), but it’s one thing for Bob Kraft to tell Mike Brown to vote for the new CBA and an entirely different one for Irsay to do it. 

Throughout the process, Irsay has called for ‘statesmanship’ from his other owners and from the players union.  That finally appears to be what is happening with both sides making real concessions and a deal rapidly coming together. There are still significant hurdles to clear, and mistrust looms around every corner.  Despite the obstacles, every NFL scribe and pharisee seems to be brimming with hope that a deal is forthcoming.

The players will almost assuredly vote in favor of any deal their union proposes, but the owner’s situation is different.  For a new CBA (or technically a settlement deal to the lawsuit allowing for a new CBA) to pass, the NFL requires a 3/4th vote.  24 of the 32 owners have to ratify any deal, which makes talks of a splinter group potentially devastating.  Word is that the malcontents don’t have the votes to block the deal yet, but it’s important their ranks don’t grow.

All of this informs Irsay’s message, and confirms what we’ve suspected all along: he desperately wants this season to happen. There has always been a contingent of owners who wanted the NHL model of complete shut down. That model cost a full season but led to an immediate rollback of costs by 25%.  That result would mean tens of millions of dollars per franchise per year. The end game of some owners has never been a better CBA. The goal for some has been a scorched-earth campaign of total victory.

Irsay is standing tall, telling his fellow owners to stand down. The players have always been willing to take a worse CBA than the last one, having made concessions from the start. Now is the time for the NFL owners to show that they are willing to listen to reason and accept a new deal as a compromise instead of holding out for total surrender.

It’s a timely and welcome message.

I just hope the renegade owners know how to read Twitter.

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