Roger Goodell/Jim Harbaugh; Hall of Fame vote; Brandon Jacobs; Al Davis/Reggie McKenzie/Dennis Allen
by Glenn Dickey
Dec 12, 2012

12DECEMBER

IT WAS A topsy-turvy week for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The good news was that he was on the cover of Time magazine. The bad news is that former commissioner Paul Tagliabue overrule had been allowed to keep playing while their cases were being heard.

Meanwhile, the whole NFL program of treating concussions seriously – brought about by the lawsuits from former players – is being undercut by Jim Harbaugh’s decision not to go back to Alex Smith as a starter, even when he was cleared medically. I hope that doesn’t mean quarterbacks will take Bill Romanowski’s advice and ignore concussions but who knows?

I was one of those who felt Goodell overreacted with his “bounty” penalties but I got a new perspective on the commissioner by reading the Time piece particularly the segment that dealt with the influence his father had on him. I had forgotten about his father, a Republican member of the House who was appointed to fill the final two years of Robert Kennedy’s Senate term after RFK was assassinated. In 1972, he ran on an anti-war platform, knowing that he would be defeated. The “Conservative” candidate, a rough approximation of the Tea Party Republicans of today, won while Goodell and Democrat George McGovern split the votes of those against the war.

Roger Goodell has the same devotion to principle, which is why he has been so vigilant about the bounty program. He is also examining the possibility of eliminating kickoffs, to cut down on injuries and concussions. One plan would have a team that scores a touchdown get the ball at their own 40 – but with fourth-and-15. That would almost certainly result in a punt. On a punt, teams line up opposite each other. On a kickoff they are several yards apart and are going full bore when they collide. Thus, the possibility of injury and concussions is much higher on kickoffs.

Eliminating kickoffs would be an unpopular move with fans but obviously, that will not be a factor in Goodell’s decision, with his family background.

I hope that devotion to principle will also make Goodell work seriously with the players’ union to reduce the use of steroids. The union would have to agree on blood testing but if union leaders truly are concerned about the best interests of their players, they’ll do it.

The increase in serious injuries, including concussions, is clearly the result of increased steroids use. Players are much bigger, stronger and faster, and their collisions are thus much more dangerous. It’s a simple matter of physics: If two Priuses collide at 40 mph, they’ll do much less damage than two SUVs colliding at 60 mph.

The future of football at all levels is at stake here. No matter how popular the sport is now, it can’t sustain that if a significant number of athletes have crippling injuries and brain damage that lives with them for the rest of their lives.

HALL OF FAME: It’s always seemed absurd to me that, while fans and writers seem blind to the dangers of steroids in football, they’re obsessed with steroids use in baseball, where athletes are not running into each other. There may be lifetime problems but that’s only speculative. The main reason for the obsession with steroids in baseball is what it means to records.

There is no logical reason for this devotion to records. Baseball statistics are often affected by elements beyond the control of the players. Check the offensive statistics in the 1930s. They’re off the charts – because the owners ordered that baseballs be “juiced”, which can be done simply by just wrapping them more tightly, because they were desperate to get people to the ballpark in the Depression. Offense in any sport is always more attractive to the majority of fans. So, there are a disproportionate number of hitters from that era in the Hall of Fame.

Now, though, many writers are balking at admitting players who are linked to steroids. To me, this is silly. The Hall of Fame should measure accomplishment. It is not a church. If the HOF wants to put something about players being part of the steroids era on their plaques, fine. They could even have a separate area for them. But to keep the best players and pitchers of the era out of the Hall because they’re linked with steroids is stupid.

TWITTER PROBLEMS: Athletes just can’t resist the temptation to record their every thought on Twitter, and it cost Brandon Jacobs when he vented over his lack of playing time. He was being foolish but 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh overreacted by suspending Jacobs for three games. That’s Harbaugh’s way, of course, a real “my way or the highway” type of guy. More and more I’m thinking that his NFL coaching career won’t be a long one. His ubercompetitive stance – which makes room for virtually everybody in the media as the enemy – is wearing thin. I expect him to self-destruct in a relatively short time. Bill Walsh lasted only 10 years with the Niners, and he was an emotional wreck at the end. Harbaugh won’t come close to lasting that long.

CHRONICLE COLUMNIST C. W. Nevius scolded the Giants for opposing the Warriors’ plan for building a massive arena/performance center on the Embarcadero, saying that the Giants had had the same opposition to their park. I guess that means C. W. read my columns on the issue in the ‘90s because he, like all other sports columnists at the time, never came near that story. Except for Ray Ratto, who was predicting the park would never be built almost up to the day it opened.

In his critique, Nevius overlooked an important point: The Giants weren’t building on the waterfront and blocking the view, as the Warriors would be. AT&T Park, in fact, has really changed the area around it for the better. There wasn’t much there before but the area is thriving now with restaurants, expensive condos, businesses. In other words, it’s done for the area what other new baseball parks around the country have done.

The Warriors have countered the Giants talk of increased traffic on game days by saying there would only be about six days when both teams had games scheduled. But, that’s a fallacious argument because there would be many other events at the new arena which would occur when the Giants have night games. And, any additional traffic on the Embarcadero is too much. It’s already a heavy traffic area.

To me, the most important issue is blocking the view. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake forced the tearing down of the Embarcadero Freeway, and when it was gone, everybody realized what a blight it had been on the area. Without it, the whole area has opened up and it’s beautiful. I’ve walked along it many times, though the number is lessening every year, and there are always people walking or jogging, cyclists on the streets and sidewalks. It’s a great example of how an urban area which is densely populated, as San Francisco certainly is, can have open areas where people can enjoy the waterfront.

There are other areas where the Warriors can build; another Chronicle columnist, John King, has written about that. Of course, that wouldn’t be the testament to Joe Lacob’s ego that is obviously the driving force behind this project.

COACHING MERRY-GO-ROUND: I was glad to see Mike MacIntyre get the head coaching job at Colorado. MacIntyre, who had also been a candidate at Cal, did a terrific job at San Jose State this season but moving to the Pac-12 is obviously a step up.

Meanwhile, Bobby Petrino got a new job, going to Western Kentucky, after losing his job at Arkansas when a motorcycle accident exposed the fact that he was having an affair with a young woman in his department. As the axiom goes, there’s no fool like an old fool. Petrino says he’s learned his lesson. Losing a multi-=million job can do that for you.

DUH RAIDERS: Al Davis is the gift that just keeps giving. In the last years of his life, Davis was so desperate to get a winner that he signed bad players to worse contracts. The best he got out of it was two 8-8 seasons, neither of them good enough to get the Raiders into the playoffs, and now, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is trying to dig his way out of the mess.

One problem was that Davis made no attempt to check the character of players, so he wound up with some real bad ones. JaMarcus Russell is the leading example but Rolando McClain is just as bad in his way.

Worse, Davis backloaded the contracts, paying relatively little early on but with balloon payments due later, when he knew he wouldn’t be around. McClain is an example again. He was making $950,000 this year but would have escalated to about $8 million next year. The Raiders suspended him for two games (not two days, as I erroneously wrote last week) but reinstated him this week. As of this writing, he still hadn’t apologized to coach Dennis Allen for what he said in a practice that got him suspended. He probably won’t, which means he won’t be playing for the Raiders in their remaining four games. Not that it matters because he was playing so poorly.

But when the Raiders release him after the season, his huge salary cap number for next year of nearly $8 million will count against the Raiders cap. That’s true of other players that were dumped, too, which means McKenzie will have very little wiggle room, even though he dumped a lot of players – 27 and counting – to get under the salary cap this year. There’s even talk that the Raiders won’t re-sign Shane Lechler, their great punter, when his contract expires at the end of this season.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Raiders traded out of the first round, so they won’t have both the salary and salary cap problems created by a high No. 1 pick. They might be able to pick up two second-round picks. McKenzie and his scouts are going to have to work very diligently to find players who can help in the lower rounds and in the group of undrafted free agents.

Meanwhile, they have a quarterback decision to make. Carson Palmer is due $13 million next year, a hefty contract for a team strapped for money. Allen said this week they want to take a look at Tyrrelle Pryor, to see if he’s a true quarterback or just another top athlete who looked good in a college offense.

There has been media criticism of Allen and his coordinators, Greg Knapp (offense) and Jason Tarver (defense), which is silly beyond belief. They simply do not have the players they need to build even a mid-range NFL team.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may have quieted the rumors that the Raiders might move back to Los Angeles, by saying that there were no plans to build a stadium anywhere in the L.A. area and no plans for an NFL team there.

The logical place for a Raiders move would be to the new stadium the 49ers are building in Santa Clara. They need the money a new stadium can generate and Oakland certainly isn’t going to build one. A high percentage of the Raiders fan base lives south of the Coliseum, so they’d be close to the 49ers stadium, which is being built with facilities to accommodate both teams. The Giants and Jets have done it for years in the Meadowland and are now on their second stadium. A shared stadium for the 49ers and Raiders makes too much sense not to happen.

NEW CAR: I finally got a new car, a VolvoC30, to replace my totaled Toyota Celica. The car arrived Friday from Sweden via the Panama Canal but I waited until Monday to take possession. I went to the 49ers game on Sunday and I wasn’t going to risk another accident!

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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