Posted on: May 26, 2011 5:26 pm

Players not the only labor that matter in the NFL

The coaches association filed an amicus brief in support of the players in regard to the 8th Circuit appeal hearing on Judge Day's injunction.  They are complaining that the lockout interfering with their employment through an amicus brief in support of the players here.  Make no mistake, the NFLPA is not watching out for the coaches.  The owners have negotiated favorable terms to protect the owners in these labor interruptions.  The answer for the coaches is straightforward:  organize into a union of their own.  There is no other real way to see that their interests are fully represented through in the NFL and through the CBA.

If the coaches were to organize as a labor union/association, there seems little reason to think that they would not be able to gain a seat at the table in the Collective Bargaining agreement negotiation process. If I had a client who was a coach I would be advising him right now to be getting on the horn with his buddies across the league to talk about organizing into a union. This is especially true for those coaches who are currently seeing their pay reduced by teams in the course of the lockout.

Arguably, there are NFL coaches who add as much or more value to the game as some of the players. There are a couple of indications of this. First, follow the money. Pay for head coaches and many key coordinators exceeds many player salaries. The importance of coaching in the game of professional football itself is its own key indicator of the value of coaching. No where else in organized sports is game planning so important as we see it manifested in the NFL. Players must not only be coached up to enhance and maximize their skills and utility in the game, but coaching is responsible for identifying those strengths and unique skills among players to devise and implement plays and game plans for teams to achieve success in games. There is no doubt that there is significant value added by coaching in the NFL as we know it.

There is no reason to think that coaches could not organize as another NFL labor component. We see multiple components of labor represented throughout industry. Airline travel sees separate unions for pilots, ground crews, and I believe flight attendants. In the more closely related entertainment film industry we see unions for actors and screenwriters among others. Is there a union for "Key Grips?" Basically, it shouldn’t surprise us if another labor component wants to organize and negotiate for a piece of this cash prize which is the current NFL.

As a fan, is the prospect of a union for coaches good or bad?

First, if it is the wage cutbacks by ownership that provides the impetus for coaches to unionize, that would likely to fall under the category of "unintended consequences" I would think. Adding more parties to the labor negotiations will only serve to make them more complex and probably more difficult to resolve. These labor negotiations are already filled with complex forces at work because there are 32 owners trying to come to an agreement from an employers’ perspective and 1600 or so players with a diverse set of skills and corresponding range of value to the game. In that way I believe it would also tend to serve to reduce the bargaining power of all the parties in the CBA negotiations. I would expect a greater negative effect to the other labor components negotiating, though. In other words, I believe that most of the bargaining power gained by the coaches through unionizing would be at the expense of the NFLPA.

As an outsider, if I were to speculate I would predict the following likely outcomes from the Coaches unionizing:

+ The coaches would gain a seat at the table and a significant increase in bargaining power.

+ The NFLPA would lose some bargaining power at the CBA negotiation table. They would remain the most critical labor component, but a clear slice of the revenue pie would go to coaches creating pressure to reduce the portion of revenue to player, even if marginally so.

+ If the mere presence of the coaches at the bargaining table would make negotiations more complex, I would expect that it would tend to cause the NFLPA to move away from the courts and to the bargaining table sooner rather than later if for no other reason than to maintain and assert their position in negotiating a CBA. However, in my experience, a parties that are hell-bent on litigating will in fact litigate until they are satisfied or their alternatives (or maybe resources) are exhausted.

As a fan, I want to see football. I believe that the key to seeing NFL football sooner rather than later is the completion of a CBA. Litigation ultimately will not yield a solution that is good for anybody (which is a discussion to itself for another day). The appearance of another labor component, in this instance the coaches, in the CBA process may be the impetus to bring on serious discussions needed to resolve the CBA and put games on in the NFL. But then, maybe I am just being optimistic.

(I originally posted this under the CBS article on the coaches' brief)

Category: NFL
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or