Rest In Peace, Bud Grant

Bud Grant died over the weekend at the age of 95.  If variety is indeed the spice of life, Bud Grant led one of the spiciest lives in the sports world:

  • He lettered in baseball, football and basketball at Minnesota.
  • He played in the NFL for the Eagles in the 1950s.
  • He played in the CFL for the Blue Bombers in the 1950s.  [Aside:  In one playoff game in the CFL, Grant intercepted 5 passes.  Not surprisingly, that record still stands.]
  • He played for the Lakers in the NBA – – and won an NBA Championship in 1950.
  • He coached the Blue Bombers in the 1950s and 60s and won 4 Grey Cups there.
  • He coached the Vikings for 18 seasons making it to the Super Bowl 4 times.
  • He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
  • He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Rest in peace, Bud Grant…

I want to spend the rest of today on the subject of Lamar Jackson’s contract impasse with the Baltimore Ravens.  Please do not get the impression that I have taken sides in this contretemps because I do not know enough about the details of how we got to this point in the standoff to have come to a reasoned decision.  From observing Jackson’s performance over the past several years with the Ravens, I am confident in saying:

  • Lamar Jackson is the best QB on the Ravens roster as of this morning.
  • Lamar Jackson is better than at least 15 – – and maybe 24 – – starting QBs for other NFL teams as of this morning.

Will Rogers used to say that he only knew what he read in the newspapers.  That quip applies to me and this subject.  The newspapers – – and websites today – – have reported two things that I think are germane to the stalemate here:

  1. Jackson seeks a fully guaranteed contract that is at least equal in value to the $230M contract given to Deshaun Watson by the Browns.
  2. Jackson does not have a professional agent representing him in the negotiations; he is doing this along with his mother as his advisor.

I am going to steer clear of any references to racial undertones here because I really do not think they are pertinent nor will I weigh in on any allegations of “collusion” because I have no idea if there has been, is, or will be any acts of collusion involved here.

I believe that Lamar Jackson looked at the contract that Deshaun Watson got from the Browns and said to himself:

“I am better than Watson is – – and more accomplished in my time in the NFL – – so I should get a contract at least as good as his.”

I tend to agree with Jackson’s presumed conclusion that he is at least as good as – and probably a tad better than – Deshaun Watson as a QB.  At the same time, I believe that the Ravens’ owner and GM look at Watson’s contract as something other than a benchmark.   From their perspective, the fully guaranteed contract for $230M is a huge gamble in a sport where career-ending injuries – – or at a minimum significantly debilitating injuries – – happen frequently.  I would not be surprised to learn that their conclusion regarding a contract for Jackson went something along these lines:

“Jackson is a really good QB but we think the Browns were out of their collective mind giving up a contract like that and we are simply not willing to do the same.”

Now comes the tricky part …  The non-exclusive franchise tag applied to Jackson gives him a limited opportunity to see what the free agent market place for him might be.  I say it is a limited opportunity because there are two economic factors working against Jackson:

  1. Other teams may opt to steer clear of negotiations with Jackson because they may feel that they are doing the Ravens’ work at the negotiating table in lieu of the Ravens.  Remember, the non-exclusive tag allows the Ravens to match any offer that Jackson gets and tentatively accepts from any other team.
  2. The price a team would have to “pay for Jackson” with the overhang of the non-excusive tag is whatever economic deal a team and Jackson might reach PLUS two first round picks to the Ravens if they turn down the matching opportunity.

The other significant factor that I see in this impasse is Jackson’s lack of an agent.  Yes, agents cost a player about 3-5% of the revenue that comes to the client; at the high end of that range, 5% of $230M is $11.5M and that is a significant amount of money.  Nonetheless, in this case an agent may provide four significant benefits to Jackson – – even if you discount the cynical view that an agent is motivated to get the client to sign any deal because he gets no recompense without that signature:

  1. An experienced agent has contacts around the league and has probably dealt directly with three-quarters of the execs who have the authority to make team commitments.  Assuming he has not been a humongous pain in the ass in prior dealings, that agent can probably get through to any exec that he wants in less than 48 hours.  He also knows how to approach negotiations with various teams and team execs from prior experience.  If Lamar Jackson and his mother can match that level of experience, I would be surprised.
  2. An experienced agent can chat up his contacts around the league and get to a point where he develops a range of possible deals that are out there to be made.  He will know that unless he can start an active bidding war for his client, there is a ceiling as to what deal can be done; he also will know that there is a floor below which he and his client will not go.  If indeed, Jackson’s’ “floor” as of today is above the “ceiling” for other teams in the league, then an agent is in a better position to break that news to Jackson than execs from around the league are.
  3. An experienced agent would probably be able to assess whether the “fully guaranteed deal” is a hill to die on.  If the reports by NFL insiders are correct about how negotiations have gone here for the last year or so, it seems that Jackson has concluded that this is indeed a hill to die on.
  4. An agent – experienced or not – provides a buffer between the team and his client. Negotiations are adversarial encounters; people on both sides of the table say things and hear things that sting.  If an agent is the one at the negotiating table, he can take the rough edges off something said by the team; if Jackson and his mother are at the table, they can take such comments as demeaning or insulting and that gets egos involved.  And getting egos involved is usually not how deals get done smoothly.

Finally, since today is “Pi Day”, let me close with this observation about pies by chef Yotam Ottolenghi:

“Custard is controversial: what makes it a custard, how to cook it and, crucially, is it to be eaten or put in a pie and thrown?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



8 thoughts on “Rest In Peace, Bud Grant”

  1. Also, the quickest way to ruin a custard pie is to dress it with coconut. Why is it so difficult to find custard pies without coconut added?
    Inquiring minds want to know!

    1. Willie:

      My long-suffering wife makes wonderful custards – – and usually omits coconut…

  2. The Cleveland contract was ridiculous and should not ever be used as a comparison.

    1. Kenneth Nallinger:

      I agree. However, Lamar Jackson, his mother and the NFLPA seem not to agree. Hence …

  3. I think any discussion of Lamar Jackson must include a paragraph on Mr. Jackson’s disappearance from the playing field as the Ravens fight for a playoff win or appearance.

    1. and even the sidelines for the playoff game. He couldn’t even go? severe family issue (like someone VERY close is dying/just died) you get there. even on crutches.

    2. TenaciousP:

      I am sure that subject has come up in the discussions among the Ravens’ brass. I have no idea if they have broached that to Jackson directly, but I am sure that they noticed his absence.

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