This week was the last best chance for the league and players to reach an agreement on a new CBA, but c'est la vie... late last night sources told the media that both sides will not be meeting today, which was to be the last scheduled meeting before the March 4th deadline. Both sides are now scrambling to point the finger at someone, and it appears that someone is going to be Jerry Richardson.
This morning on ESPN's 'Mike & Mike in the Morning' insider Adam Schefter reported that people inside the negotiating room on both sides were becoming "Leery of Jerry Richardson's hawkishness" and while Schefter was quick to try and cover himself saying he didn't want to single anyone out, ultimately it was kind of like insulting someone to their face and then saying "but that's just my opinion".
While there's little doubting that the NFLPA would have unkind words about Richardson, it does seem (if true) very curious that anyone on the league's side would single out JR as a distraction, or intractable entity. What exactly did they expect from the Big Cat? After all, this was a man who sacrificed his own team's season (at least in part) to prove a point about costs, and he was willing to cut his nose off to spite his face... what makes anyone think he'd give up anything? It was JR's intractability, his passion that lead to the owner's association naming Richardson their representative.
We'll look deeper into the negotiations... after the jump
I believe the national media lack even the most basic understanding of why Richardson, and by extension the negotiations are not going smoothly- it's about respect. Big Cat fought against, but had deep respect for former NFLPA rep Gene Upshaw, this was clear. We need to look no further than his statement after Upshaw lost his battle with cancer in 2008:
Gene Upshaw was a friend and adviser, whose legacy in the National Football League will be memorable and enduring. As an organization, we sought his counsel and his advice was always most helpful. He was dedicated to the League's players and cared about them on every level. Gene was respected, and he was also respectful. He was a man of his word, a strong leader, and played a prominent role in the growth of the game. Our sympathies are with his family.
Everything that Richardson said of Upshaw- friend, adviser, dedicated and respected are all qualities JR doesn't see in current head DeMaurice Smith. Even subconsciously rhetoric is a very curious beast, and when Big Cat is pottering about the stage during a conference, drawing pie charts with a Sharpie he's subtly telling the world that this is what the current NFLPA deserve; a child-like approach to negotiators he perceives as children.
When you go back and look at that first conference again Richardson is completely dismissive of the Union, his demeanor is that of a man who thinks his opponent has no clue how to play the game, let alone pose any challenge for him and if now he's being pegged as 'hawkish' then JR is doing his job, he's throwing around his muscle. In the upcoming months I have no doubt the Big Cat will be called any number of unkind things by the media the the near future, but hypocrite can't be one of them. He has remained resolute in his position and that's the reason why the other owner's picked him to represent them.