By FLIP ARGENTI
The Sporting Rant
NEW YORK -- The National Football League confirmed yesterday it was considering layoffs of "non-essential office staff" after an internal report suggested fine income from Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson "could drop precipitously this year."
The expected drop comes as the Bengals face vastly-improved opponents within the AFC North Division as well as outside it. NFL researchers believe the Bengals could fare as badly as 4-12 this year as their offensive production stalls against tough defenses, particularly in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Less offensive production means fewer touchdowns for Mr Johnson -- and that's a key metric analysts use to predict the fine income the NFL will reap from the flamboyant wideout. Mr Johnson is believed to pay 75 to 80 percent of his salary in fines to the league office.
"While there is no indication Johnson will be any less effective a player this year, the troubles facing an alarming portion of the Bengals squad on and off the field make it probable Johnson will score fewer touchdowns, and as a result, engage in far less of the zany antics that have proven such a revenue-generator for the head office," wrote Steve Lashinski, a revenue analyst with the NFL's accounting department. "Any significant fall in these revenues will force the NFL to consider a reduction-in-force, perhaps as soon as October."
"As such, managers should start considering which personnel could be downsized in the event of a layoff. I've already focused on Billy Weston, the lowly-paid intern who screwed up my lunch order and got me tuna fish instead of pastrami. He has failed me for the last time," Mr Lashinski wrote.
While a natural solution would be to markedly increase the fines assessed against Mr Johnson -- for instance, a $250,000 fine for mocking a cornerback following a touchdown -- league officials believe that won't fly, as the NFLPA would complain of disparate treatment. As a result, league officials are considering creating new fines that could be meted out against any and all players or other staff. These include:
* A FINE for coaches having a "constant look of amazement and befuddlement on their faces," particularly when "faced with circumstances everyone else figured out five minutes ago."
POTENTIAL REVENUE: $100,000 per season from Tom Coughlin alone.
* A FINE for players "vainly attempting to swing a penalty call in their favor, or otherwise crowding the officials."
POTENTIAL REVENUE: $50 million.
* A FINE for players "who engage in unsportsmanlike actions in response to good plays, even though their team is behind by three touchdowns."
POTENTIAL REVENUE: $3 million ($2.95 million from Florida State alums).
*A FINE for players who try, "despite all reason and common sense," to imitate the Ickey Shuffle after touchdowns.
POTENTIAL REVENUE: $2.1 million.
League officials also considered handing out fines against broadcasters for using hackneyed, tired catch-phrases, a manuever they believed could raise millions of dollars per year, particularly if Brent Musburger returned to calling pro games. But they decided against this after realizing it could damage the value of the league's television rights.
The NFL will continue exploring the issue as the pre-season goes on, but are quite cognizant the clock is ticking. While they search for a solution, the league is already warning staff to prepare for the worst.
"Save us, Ocho Cinco!" wailed file clerk Ted Casper as he filed papers in the windowless basement of the NFL's New York office. "They said if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere -- but I'm stuck living with three roommates in a one-bedroom, three-story walkup in Queens! If I lose this job, I'll -- I'll have to go back to Des Moines! I can't take Des Moines!"Posted by Benjamin Kepple at August 8, 2007 09:39 PM | TrackBack