THE NFL owners should be ashamed of themselves. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Jeff Lurie. You and all of the other greedy SOBs who hold the deeds to the league's 32 franchises.
Earlier this week, commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league would be cutting more than 150 of 1,100 jobs at its headquarters in New York, NFL Films in South Jersey, and its television and Internet production facilities in Los Angeles in response to the downturn in the nation's economy.
These are lousy times in America right now. Thousands of companies, including the one I happen to work for, are laying people off left and right. But most of them at least have a decent excuse. They're losing money. Lots of it.
The NFL? Not hardly. Oh, the number of marketing deals might drop a little as the recession worsens, and team sales reps might have to say "pretty please" a couple of extra times before companies renew the leases on their luxury suites. And some owners with new or relatively new stadiums have seen the adjustable rate on their construction loans jump. But the league still is making lots and lots of money.
Last time I looked, the checks coming in from Fox and CBS and NBC and ESPN still had as many zeros on them as ever. Which is why it's unconscionable that these silver-spooned billionaires are about to put people who live paycheck-to-paycheck out of work simply to brace for the winds of a worsening economic storm.
For the record, I put in a request to talk to Lurie about the job cuts. Through a spokesman, he declined. Next time he wants to talk about his football team or his "Go Green" initiative, he'll get the same answer from me.
The truth is, the NFL has been cutting costs for the better part of the last 3 years. The recession simply gives the league's owners an opportunity to do it with a much bigger ax.
"We're operating like we're going bankrupt," one NFL executive said. "Besides the job cuts, they're talking about a hiring freeze and things as insignificant as reducing the size of media guides and not letting low-level staffers bring their significant others to the Super Bowl and league meetings. It's absolutely crazy."
How can a league give pink slips to 150 employees and then trot out Bruce Springsteen as the halftime entertainment at the Super Bowl? How can the league's owners OK these job cuts and then hold its league meetings in garish, overpriced resorts like the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., or the Biltmore in Arizona or the RitzCarlton in Maui rather than cheaper joints?
The owners are so moneyhungry right now, they'd sell an official NFL license to any company willing to put up the bucks.
"This may be the one time you could get an NFL condom license," said an executive for one of the league's larger licensees. "If you'll give them a $50,000 guarantee for 3 years, they'll let you be a licensee."
According to one league source, there have even been discussions by some owners about the possibility of putting corporate logos on uniform jerseys, a la NASCAR and European soccer. That isn't expected to happen anytime soon because many of the league's longtime owners, like the Bills' Ralph Wilson and the Steelers' Dan Rooney, would never agree to it. But it's a good possibility down the road.
Said Goodell of the job cuts: "I would like to be able to report that we are immune to the troubles around us, but we are not."
No. Of course not. That's why you were able to get Under Armour to fork over $4 million to be the official sponsor of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February. That's roughly $3 million more than Reebok paid to sponsor the combine last year. If not for these tough times, I'm sure Under Armour would have given you $10 million, right?
Jeff, let me know how well you sleep after you and the rest of the owners put 150 people out of work. Because they won't be sleeping so well worrying about whether they're going to be able to hang on to their houses.
Around the league
* One thing that became very apparent Sunday in the Giants' 20-14 loss to the Eagles was that they are starting to feel the effects of the absences of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. The Giants notched 30 sacks in their first eight games this season, but have just seven in their last five. Their only sack of Donovan McNabb Sunday wasn't a sack at all. It was a gimme that was the result of McNabb tripping over the foot of one of his linemen. In an interview with Newsday this week, defensive end Justin Tuck admitted that both he and right end Mathias Kiwanuka are starting to wear down from being on the field so much. "I'm kind of getting beat up," Tuck said. "Renaldo [Wynn] comes in for a couple of series, but it's not as defined as it was last year with me, Osi and Stray. Osi and Stray were starting. I would go in for the next series and the rotation would continue. Now, it's kind of me and Kiwi will go, Renaldo will come in, and then me and Kiwi will go until basically we get tired or coach tells us to come out. It's definitely not as defined as it was last year."
* Something for those of you who would have loved to have seen Tony Gonzalez in Eagle green to ponder: In the eight games since the October trading deadline, the Chiefs tight end has 57 receptions for 686 yards and five touchdowns.
* Despite his team's 4-9 record, Jags coach Jack Del Rio won't be fired, mainly because he has a $5 million-plus-a-year contract that runs through 2012. But James Harris, the team's vice president of player personnel, probably won't be so lucky.
FROM THE LIP:
* "Those two need their own show: 'Dumb and Dumber.' " - Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens, on ESPN analysts and former Cowboys Emmitt Smith and Keyshawn Johnson
* "When we were together in Tampa, we lost our first five one year and that seemed like a lifetime. So I can't really imagine what 13 is like." - Colts coach Tony Dungy, on the 0-13 woes of Lions coach Rod Marinelli
* "They have to find the right kind of guy there. He would have to understand what he's getting into, because that situation is probably different than any other situation. Did I say, 'probably'?" - NFL Network analyst and former coach Steve Mariucci, on coaching the Raiders
* "I don't think it sits too well that he got that 100. We need to get some of those yards back." - Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck, on Texans rookie running back Steve Slaton, the only runner to rush for 100 yards against the Titans this year
* "I just think that you got to have a short-term memory. You've got to really live in the future. You're never as good as you think you are. You're never as bad as you think you are, no matter what anybody thinks." - Bucs coach Jon Gruden
* "We're good enough to beat any team in the league, and we're good enough to lose to any team in the league." - Vikings coach Brad Childress
BY THE NUMBERS:
* The Patriots have been penalized a league-low 44 times this season. With three games remaining, they're on pace to break the league record for fewest accepted penalties since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. The current mark is 59 by the '07 Seahawks.
* The Texans lead the league in first-down yardage, yet their record is 6-7. They are averaging 6.55 yards on first-down plays.
* The Colts are just 19th in the league in scoring. They're averaging 22.5 points per game. They've been ranked lower than fourth just once in the last 9 years.
* The Chiefs haven't had a quarterback sack in the last four games and have registered just six the entire season. They are likely to break the league record for fewest sacks in a 16-game season, which is 13 by the Baltimore Colts in '81.
* Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has 12 career starts in December and January. He's turned the ball over 20 times (17 interceptions, three lost fumbles) in those 12 games.
Thumb things to watch
* To Falcons general manager Tom Dimitroff for the remarkable job he has done in turning around a team that won just four games last season. He hit on all three of his top draft picks - quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton - and has received major contributions from his top two free-agent signees, running back Michael Turner and free safety Erik Coleman. Turner is second in the league in rushing. Coleman and Lofton are key components of a much-improved defense that is 11th in the league in points allowed. They finished 29th a year ago.
* To Seahawks linebacker Lofa Totupu for his honesty when asked recently whether he deserved to make the Pro Bowl. "It's an honor, it's nice," he said. "But it's one I don't feel I deserve this year."
PANTHER DRAFT PICK WATCH:
Last week: beat Bucs, 38-23
This week: vs. 8-5 Broncos
Next week: at 11-2 Giants
Current draft position: 29-30
Current position of Eagles' own pick: 17th
1. Titans 12-1
2. Steelers 10-3
3. Giants 11-2
4. Panthers 10-3
5. Colts 9-4
6. Ravens 9-4
7. Bucs 9-4
8. Vikings 8-5
9. Broncos 8-5
10. Cowboys 8-5
11. Eagles 7-5-1
12. Falcons 8-5
13. Patriots 8-5
14. Dolphins 8-5
15. Cardinals 8-5
16. Bears 7-6
17. Jets 8-5
18. Redskins 7-6
19. Texans 6-7
20. Niners 5-8
21. Saints 7-6
22. Chargers 5-8
23. Bills 6-7
24. Packers 5-8
25. Browns 4-9
26. Chiefs 2-11
27. Jaguars 4-9
28. Raiders 3-10
29. Seahawks 2-10
30. Bengals 1-11-1
31. Rams 2-11
32. Lions 0-13
* Thursday night's Saints-Bears game not included.
Chat pro football with Paul Domowitch today at noon at philly.com.