There is not much news during or after the first day of the Deshaun Watson disciplinary hearing. One specific fact that has emerged cries out for further analysis and interpretation.
From the Associated Press’s Rob Maaddi: “I’ve also been told that despite pushing for an indefinite suspension, the NFL wants to avoid the appeals process — the source said ‘a terrible situation for everyone involved’ — so the league is more likely to stick by the verdict of Sue Robinson IF she would come back with 6-8 games.”
It’s a surprising revelation. If it’s true and accurate (and in that regard we’ll postpone Maaddi), the question becomes what does it mean?
For starters, why would the NFL leak this critical concession? Does it fear that if Judge Robinson believes the NFL is destined to seize an inherently manipulated appeals process, she’s more likely to not discipline Watson at all? After all, that is the only way under the Collective Labor Agreement to prevent any appeal, which will then be resolved by the Provincial Executive.
It’s hard not to wonder if it’s all a ruse to have her put up some discipline so that the league could then appeal to the commissioner, whose employees have already decided that Watson should be suspended for at least a year.
Remember, the Commissioner cannot afford to be seen as too lenient towards Watson. It would be hard to sell to anyone the idea that the league simply accepted something far less than what the NFL wanted, simply to keep a “terrible situation” from prolonging. Given the steps of the process that the NFL and NFL Players Association have collectively negotiated, the league has an absolute right to refer to the commissioner any decision by Judge Robinson, except a decision not to punish Watson at all. Why would the league simply accept Judge Robinson’s decision if it falls far short of what the league wants?
Frankly, it feels like a competition maneuver. By leading Judge Robinson to believe that the league wouldn’t appeal her decision if it came in the 6-8 game range, she might be less inclined to feel that Watson shouldn’t be disciplined at all, as that would otherwise the only ones wanting to prevent the commissioner from inflicting the punishment the league currently wants. By leaking this to the AP after the first day of the hearings, the league may be using the media to negotiate moderate discipline with Judge Robinson, with a wink that its decision wouldn’t be upset if it ended up in the supposedly. preferred range.
If it leads her to impose 6-8 games on the assumption that the league won’t challenge it, the league can start the appeals process and ask what it wanted in the first place.
Really, how much more “horrible” would the situation become if the union appealed Judge Robinson’s decision to the commissioner? It’s not like there would be another full hearing. That’s happening now. The appeal to the Commissioner would be much more streamlined and efficient. It would take less time and effort. And according to the CBA’s terms, it would allow the commissioner to carry out the sentence his office is currently trying to secure.
Anyone who knows anything about the way the competition bureau led by Roger Goodell has behaved for nearly 16 years knows that the competition will be as aggressive as it gets. Despite periodic missteps (most notably the botched handling of the Ray Rice case), the commissioner has lived up to his reputation as The Enforcer. Why would anyone believe he would accept a 6-8 game suspension for Watson when the league office is currently pushing for a minimum suspension of at least one year?
No, it looks and feels like an attempt to trick Judge Robinson into thinking her ruling will be safe, to minimize the temptation to slam the door on the commissioner’s appeals body by finding that Watson would not be punished at all. must become. And if we can see this, so can she.
Under the line? We don’t buy it. And neither should she. Nothing leaked to the Associated Press or anyone else is binding on the NFL. Once the league gets the 6-8 game suspension it wants now, the league can appeal this to the commissioner. Some will say, “But I thought they wouldn’t appeal a suspension of that duration?” The league can either ignore those questions at the time or just say, “We never said that officially.”
Since this is the first application of the new process stemming from the 2020 employment contract, there is no precedent, no history, no past practice. Everyone plows new ground, sailing through unknown waters.
The league has a long history of doing everything it can to get everything it wants. It currently wants to suspend Watson for at least one year. It’s very hard to imagine the league just shrugging its shoulders and accepting 6-8 matches, knowing she can appeal the matter directly to the person running the league office for more. Our guess is that the league wants to make sure Judge Robinson imposes some discipline so that the commissioner can then impose the full scope of discipline the league wants.