By: Bill Washinski
Remember three weeks ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers were 10-0 and coming off back-to-back dominant performances? The offense was averaging 30 points/game despite a three-game stretch of struggling running the ball. Due to the Tennessee Titans COVID-19 breakout, the Steelers made concessions that effectively stripped a bye week and had to fight their way to back-to-back wins in extremely physical games. They were really getting into rhythm and any successful person will tell you that the power of habit is essential to success. With team confidence at a season high and playing as a cohesive unit, they were a clear favorite to eliminate the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving and get some very deserved rest with the extended week off before playing the Washington Football Team.
HOW THE NFL EXPOSED THEMSELVES
When the Ravens experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, it revealed the NFL’s COVID/Disaster Recovery Plan as a complete farce. The first step of an incident to properly identify and assess it: FAIL. They instead made a series of official announcements that indicated they contained, isolated and remediated the incident and rescheduled the game: FAIL. They did this multiple times, leaving all stakeholders in a state of limbo.
They made a bad situation worse when inquired why this incident wasn’t resolved with the same expediency as previous occurrences in the season. Multiple games were reasonably rescheduled, and teams were forced to play without key players. It happened that very week as the Denver Broncos had to play without a QB. The response was a series of double talk corporate speak that said absolutely nothing.
Just when you thought Roger Goodell couldn’t be any more incompetent, he went ahead and totally “redeemed himself.”
As a PMP, I knew the league must have a Risk Management Plan in place and assumed the NFL had experienced professionals that had Identified Risks and assumed there were Contingency/Managerial Protocols and planned Risk Responses in prepared to execute.
Instead, all it did was expose the NFL to their real agenda this year to anyone paying attention. The solution to the problem was actually simple. If the NFL were truly bound to the protocols they have repeatedly said were in place, the proper response would have been to re-evaluate the Risk Management Plan, suspended the season for a defined period (1-2 weeks) and which would have isolated and contained the problem. But the NFL placed greater concern on the impact it had with it’s broadcast partners vs. its players.
THE RAVENS THREAT TO BOYCOTT
Despite being the organization responsible for creating the incident by not following prevention control protocols, the Ravens threatened the NFL with a boycott of the game citing safety concerns, not over Covid, but the NFL’s botched response. The NFL made every effort to placate them, despite the Ravens own culpability. Curiously, the Broncos petitioned the NFL regarding their situation and were immediately declined.
Instead of threatening to boycott, the Ravens should have been facing investigation and punishment. Bottom line, based on available information, nothing short of fines and loss of draft picks is acceptable.
The team that truly felt the brunt of the final decision was the Steelers. Not only did they lose an official bye week and an extended period off, but there is also legitimate cause to challenge the NFL for breaking the CBA.
DID THE NFL VIOLATE THE CBA?
While the NFL has strongly promoted their protocols designed for player safety during the pandemic and strongly pushed forward the narrative of safety and protecting the players, they conveniently ignored the risks of playing multiple games with minimal preparation and recovery time.
Perhaps the only thing they did “right” in the situation was cover up their own fraud.
Per the CBA:
- There is a limit of 14 padded practices per season, 11 of which must be used before week 11 and the final 3 must be spaced out over the final 6 weeks.
- Players are also guaranteed 4 days off during bye weeks.
The NFL’s rescheduling decision violated both provisions and the Steelers paid the consequences. Consider that the Steelers have never blown a 14-point lead in franchise history, but by the time this game was played, the Steelers were playing a game on 3 days rest while the Washington Football Team had 11 days rest. As the game wore on, the Steelers injuries mounted at an astonishing rate and when the team with no name scored their 4th quarter TD, 7 of the 11 Steelers defensive starters were sidelined.
IN CLOSING: CONSIDER THIS DATA
- Over 330 players have been placed on the Covid-19/Reserve List in some capacity.
- To date, all have come off the list suffering no adverse affects.
*Source: Data Compiled from individual research of all 32 teams.
- 12 players have been injured in a 3-game/12-day stretch.
- 3 have been placed on IR.
- 3 were out the last two games.
- 5 are Questionable vs. the Bengals.
Well done, NFL. Player safety comes first.