Redskins

Column: Memo to Goodell: Tips from Tags good idea

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Column: Memo to Goodell: Tips from Tags good idea

Paul Tagliabue has become one of those guys we come to appreciate much more out of office than we did when he was in it. Part of that is because history has been kind, so far, in assessing his 17-year run as commissioner.

Some of it may have to do with his successor.

Tagliabue lacked charisma, but never smarts. Low-key and pragmatic to the end, he rarely made himself the story. He reminded us of that again this week by giving both sides in Bountygate enough to tone down their feud, even as it was about to get uglier. Instead of bluster or threats, Tagliabue used legal jujitsu to solve a problem quickly and quietly, so everyone could get back to the field and the real business of making money. The same principle he applied in that decision could have characterized Tagliabue's no-nonsense reign: It's the game, stupid.

Contrast that with Roger Goodell. While the current commissioner doesn't suffer in any comparison on the business side, he should learn to tone it down. The NFL has never been more popular and a look at this weekend's slate of games demonstrates why. There are so many matchups between contenders spread over a half-dozen towns that Week 15 looks like the playoffs have already begun. It would take considerable luck and scrambling for the postseason to come up with three games that look as entertaining as San Francisco at New England, Denver at Baltimore and Chicago at Green Bay.

But that wasn't enough for Goodell.

Speaking after an owners meeting Wednesday in the Dallas area, Goodell took issue with Tagliabue's ruling in Bountygate, contending his predecessor let the players off the hook too easy. Never mind that Tagliabue did the same for Goodell, shoring up the shaky scaffolding of an investigation that couldn't afford to take many more hits.

``My personal view is I hold everyone responsible,'' Goodell said. ``Player health and safety is an important issue in this league. We're all going to have to contribute to that, whether you're a commissioner, whether you're a coach, whether you're a player, and we all have to be held accountable for it.''

Considering the week he just had, and the two previous weekends trying to soothe grieving families and teammates following senseless tragedies, you would think Goodell would be laying low. So naturally, he went against the grain and let slip that the league will charge a committee with looking into expanding the playoffs to 14 or even 16 teams. Not surprising, it drew about as much support from players as an earlier proposal he floated for an 18-game regular season.

In a tweet, the Packers Tom Crabtree suggested that while Goodell was at it, he might as well lengthen the preseason, too, expand the regular season to 82 games ``(like nba)'' and turn the playoffs into a ``like triple elimination?''

More to the heart of the issue was this from Sports Illustrated magazine's Peter King:

``The NFL has to stop thinking of ways to make more money, and start thinking of ways to keep the game the best game in America.''

To be fair, Goodell has tried. He might have been reluctant to take on the concussion-related issues that cloud the game's future - the same ones that flew under the radar during Tagliabue's tenure, and those of his predecessors. But he's made a largely good-faith effort since. No doubt it's difficult striking a balance as both CEO of an enterprise that rakes in $9 billion a year while at the same time protecting the employees that make the game go. With mounting litigation over those very same player-safety problems, everything he says is likely to be parsed for its value in a court of law one day.

But the more he stubbornly defends every one of his positions - even the ones, as in Bountygate, where Goodell cherry-picked evidence and arrived at the wrong conclusion - the less of an honest broker he becomes. Not to mention a bigger distraction. The more headlines Goodell grabs, the less there are for the games themselves, which is where a commissioner's focus should be directed.

Besides, the league has plenty of high-priced lawyers to help it chart a course through what already resembles a legal minefield. And nobody rushes generals to the front in fights anymore. So maybe a few weeks in the background and away from the bully pulpit would do Goodell's reputation a lot of good right now.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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Ron Rivera describes situation with Trent Williams as 'fluid,' has no update on guard Brandon Scherff

Ron Rivera describes situation with Trent Williams as 'fluid,' has no update on guard Brandon Scherff

Redskins head coach Ron Rivera was asked a plethora of questions when he addressed the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday, such as what impressed him about quarterback Dwayne Haskins and what players the team will consider with the No. 2 pick.

While Rivera talked in detail about meeting with top quarterback prospects and what his view on free agency is, the head coach did not offer much insight about two offensive linemen: Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff.

Rivera confirmed recent reports that he had spoken with Williams, the team's cornerstone left tackle, but would not go much further than that.

"Trent Williams and I have talked. We had a good conversation," Rivera said. "Again, that's a work in progress and we'll see how things unfold. It's a fluid situation."

Williams, of course, did not play a snap for the Redskins in 2019, holding out after believing Redskins doctors misdiagnosed a cancerous growth on his head for nearly six years. But after the organization had practically a complete reboot this offseason, firing longtime team president Bruce Allen and athletic trainer Larry Hess.

Rivera stated he has a plan to get Williams to return. A report last week stated No. 71 will return to the Redskins because of Rivera. But thus far, nothing has amounted.

"I think where it is, we're still working through details," Rivera said. "We're in a good place. We had a good conversation and we're going to go from that."

The head coach was also asked questions about right guard Brandon Scherff, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Scherff reportedly turned down a hefty extension last year that would have paid him upwards of $13 million annually, but did tell NBC Sports Washington last October he wants to remain in Washington for the entirety of his career.

Rivera was asked about his plan with Scherff and whether the franchise tag was a potential option. The head coach gave a vague response while avoiding answering the question directly.

"Well, the biggest thing again, is that we like our guys," Rivera said. "We like our guys that are free agents. We want to try to bring those guys back, we'll see how things go."

The head coach's answer did not sound like he's confident the Redskins will be able to retain the three-time Pro Bowler.

"You have to look at everything," Rivera said. "What happens if they don't come back? It's a pretty fair free agency, but you never know, because guys are trying to re-sign their own players."

The Redskins have until March 12 to place the franchise tag on Scherff, should they decide to go that route. Until then, the two sides are expected to continue to work on reaching a long-term deal.

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Carter Kieboom’s early defensive struggles at third base aren’t a major concern--yet

Carter Kieboom’s early defensive struggles at third base aren’t a major concern--yet

Carter Kieboom is getting his chance.

The 22-year-old infield prospect is competing for the Nationals’ starting job at third base this spring following the departure of Anthony Rendon in free agency. A natural shortstop, Kieboom has started just nine games at third in his professional career but is shifting across the infield because that’s where the Nationals need him.

So far, the early returns have been—well, not great. On Sunday, Kieboom dropped a line drive off the bat of Miami Marlins slugger Jesús Aguilar then sailed the throw over the head off first baseman Eric Thames for his first error of the spring. He picked up his second miscue against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, when he charged a groundball and missed his target while throwing on the run.

The plays aren’t pretty, but that’s what spring training is for.

Competitions are held, young players get their shot, everyone has something they’re working to improve. Kieboom is trying to earn a job at a position he hasn’t played regularly since he was a kid. Mistakes shouldn’t be reasons for alarm, they should be expected.

That being said, Kieboom will only be granted the it’s-still-early grace period for so long. Opening Day is less than a month away, meaning manager Davey Martinez is going to have to make a decision in the next few weeks about what he’s going to do with Kieboom.

If these errors continue, then he won’t be forced into playing Kieboom in the majors. The Nationals have a backup plan in Asdrúbal Cabrera ready to assume the position should Kieboom need more time in the minors to work at the position. Washington is already faced with few clear opportunities for Howie Kendrick to get at-bats, so sending Kieboom down makes it easier for him to make regular starts.

But for now, there’s no reason to panic over Kieboom’s first few errors. As NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes pointed out on the Nationals Talk podcast, the Nationals’ spring training leader in errors was none other than Victor Robles (he had three). You know, the Victor Robles who was a Gold Glove finalist in center field?

Kieboom is getting his chance. It’s just a question of how many the Nationals are going to give him.

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