Tagliabue makes Saints bounty appeal ruling

New Orleans Saints LogoFormer NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue released a 22-page decision (PDF) in the appeal of the four players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty case on Tuesday afternoon in which he upheld NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s original findings of “conduct detrimental” in the case of three players — Scott Fujita was cleared —, but vacated the suspensions given to all four — Fujita (one game), Anthony Hargrove (seven games), Will Smith (four games) and Jonathan Vilma (full season).

In making the decision, Tagliabue condemmed the Saints organization for its’ actions in the affair, but also found fault with how the league came to the decision to suspend the specific players involved instead of fining them. The league had previously fined the Saints $500,000, took away future draft picks and suspended former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, head coach Sean Payton for a full year, general manager Mickey Loomis eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games.

The key portion of Tagliabue’s decision:

“I affirm Commissioner Goodell’s factual findings as to the four players. I conclude that Hargrove, Smith and Vilma — but not Fujita — engaged in “conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football.” However, for the reasons set forth in this decision, I now vacate all discipline to be imposed upon these players.

“Although I vacate all suspensions, I fully considered but ultimately rejected reducing the suspensions to fines of varying degrees for Hargrove, Smith and Vilma. My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, as explained in my discussion below, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization. Moreover, the League has not previously suspended or fined players for some of the activities in which these players participated and has in the recent past imposed only minimal fines on NFL Clubs — not players — of a mere $25,000 or less.

“Given the three years of investigation, discipline and intense acrimony surrounding the Saints’ Program and the alleged bounty, it is in the best interest of all parties for me to resolve this matter as completely as possible, so that everyone involved with the NFL has this matter put to rest, enabling the League and the NFL Players’ Association (“NFLPA”) to move on to address the many serious issues of player safety that they confront. To be clear: this case should not be considered a precedent for whether similar behavior in the future merits player suspensions or fines; rather, I have decided not to issue fines this time for the reasons stated in this decision and the sake of the best interests of all involved in professional football.

“I strongly condemn the misconduct of the Saints’ coaches found by Commissioner Goodell and confirmed in the record developed during this appeal. That severe misconduct played a substantial role in my deciding whether to sustain, in whole or in part, or vacate the discipline to be imposed upon these four players. Equally, in vacating the players’ suspensions I do not in any degree condone their behavior. I do not approve any of the misconduct in which Commissioner Goodell found the players to have engaged, though I do not find Fujita’s conduct equivalent to the other players. But each player made choices that do not reflect favorably on him. Moreover, there is evidence in the record that suggests that Commissioner Goodell could have disciplined a greater number of Saints’ players for the events that occurred here. This sad chapter in the otherwise praiseworthy history of the New Orleans Saints casts no executive, coach or player in a favorable light.”

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Could fourth-and-15 replace NFL kickoffs in the future?

Roger Goodell appears in a Time magazine cover story in the December 17, 2012 issue: “The Enforcer” (Photo credit: Time)

This morning, ProFootballTalk,com reported that this week’s Time magazine has NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the cover (“The Enforcer’), and the accompanying cover article by Sean Gregory (“Can Roger Goodell Save Football?” – subscription required) mentioned an idea to replace kickoffs in the future.

The idea, given to Goodell by Buccaneers’ head coach Greg Schiano, would be to, instead of a kickoff, place the ball at the kicking team’s 30-yard line for one scrimmage play needing 15 yards for a first down and continued possession or a punt from the 30 — essentially a fourth-and-15 play.

So, we looked into how NFL teams have done on fourth-and-15 in 2012 through the NFL GSIS site. As you would imagine, there are not many 4-15 down-and-distance situations in a given season. And for purposes of looking at the numbers, we did not factor in down-and-distances other than 4-15. There have been seven such plays (through Week 13), with two successful attempts (28.6 percent).

The results (by team):

2012 NFL Team Success on 4th-&-15 (through Week 13)
Team4-15 AttemptsType of PlayNo. of YardsFirst Down?
Cincinnati1Pass-12No
Detroit1Pass0No
Indianapolis1Pass26YES
Kansas City1Pass27YES
Miami1Pass14No
Pittsburgh1Pass-5No
San Francisco1Pass7No
TOTALS77 Pass57 (8.1 yd avg.)2/7
Source: NFL GSIS

According to Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Play Finder, Indianapolis converted their fourth-and-15 on Sept. 9 against Chicago when Andrew Luck hit Donnie Avery for 26 yards from the Colts’ 38 with Indy trailing the Bears 41-21 with 1:59 remaining.

Kansas City converted on Nov. 12 against Pittsburgh when Matt Cassel completed a 27-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe from the Chiefs’ 45 with 22 seconds to play and Kansas City trailing the Steelers 13-10. The completion led to the tying field goal two plays later, but the Steelers eventually won in OT.

Additionally, since 2000, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com (full list here), there have been 89 such 4-15 attempts. Teams have converted 20 (22.5 percent) for first downs with four touchdowns, eight interceptions and six sacks on 78 passes and 11 rushes.

And what about punting from the 30 facing a fourth-and-15? Well, Pro-Football-Reference.com lists 15 such plays from 2000-12 (none this year). Punters averaged 41.5 gross yards per punt (average to the opponent’s 28.5-yard line). A total of 8 of the 15 punts were returned for an average of 5.5 yards per return with no touchdowns. As a comparison, the average starting yard line on kickoffs this year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the opponent 22-yard line.

UPDATE: The fourth-and-15 percentage this year (28.6 percent) is actually higher than the current onside-kick recovery percentage (6-45; 13.3 percent), according to NFL.com stats (OSK, OSKR categories).

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2012 NFL Week 14 announcers (Dec. 6-10)

NFL on FOX/FOX College Football play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to work schedules, I had not been able to update the blog for several weeks. I apologize to those who enjoy these posts each week, and those who visit this site on a regular basis. –Chris Pika)

The return of Gus Johnson to the NFL on FOX airwaves and no changes in the schedule due to flexible scheduling highlights the NFL announcer assignments for 2012 Week 14 (Dec. 6-10).

Johnson will pair with his partner, FOX College Football analyst Charles Davis for a NFC South rivalry matchup between Atlanta and Carolina in Charlotte. Kristina Pink, who normally works with Ron Pitts and Mike Martz, will serve as field reporter for the Falcons-Panthers tilt.

Johnson and Davis worked one NFL game last season for FOX — Minnesota at Kansas City in Week 4.

With Pink’s move to the Johnson/Davis crew, Krista Voda will be the field reporter for Pitts/Martz at St. Louis-Buffalo.

The NFL announced no changes to the full Week 14 slate under the flexible scheduling guidelines, so Detroit-Green Bay remains as the Sunday Night Football game on NBC. There will also be no changes in next week’s schedule (Week 15).

The NFL utilizes flexible scheduling on Sundays in Weeks 11-17. Flexible scheduling will ensure quality matchups in all NFL Sunday time slots in those weeks and give teams a chance to play their way onto primetime and into the late-afternoon 4:25 pm ET time slot on CBS and FOX.

For each of the flexible scheduling weeks with the exception of Week 17, the NFL will announce the start times of games on Sundays no later than 12 days prior to that weekend. To ensure a Sunday night game and doubleheader games with playoff implications in Week 17, the flexible scheduling decision for that Sunday may be made on six days notice.

FOX will broadcast seven games and CBS will televise six games on Sunday in Week 14.

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2012 NFL Week 9 announcers (Nov. 1-5)

All is right back in the NFL on FOX world as lead play-by-play announcer Joe Buck returns to football duties after calling the San Francisco Giants’ four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series that was completed Sunday night in Detroit. The return to normalcy highlights the NFL announcer assignments for 2012 Week 9 (Nov. 1-5).

Four teams (New England, New York Jets, San Francisco and St. Louis) are on bye weeks. The NFL has 14 contests in Week 9. FOX has six games, and CBS will telecast five games.

Buck will be back with Troy Aikman and field reporter Pam Oliver for Arizona-Green Bay. Thom Brennaman returns to the C crew with Brian Billick and field reporter Laura Okmin for Chicago-Tennessee. The B crew of Kenny AlbertDaryl JohnstonTony Siragusa rolls along untouched at Carolina-Washington.

The FOX G crew of Ron PittsMike MartzKristina Pink (field reporter) is back in action after four weeks off at Detroit-Jacksonville. Sam Rosen is off after filling in as play-by-play for higher crews in three of the past four weeks.

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2012 NFL Week 8 announcers (Oct. 25-29)

NFL on FOX crew of Tony Siragusa, Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston (Photo courtesy: FOX Sports)

There are plenty of NFL crew shifts as FOX is in the middle of its World Series coverage, featuring its’ top play-by-play man Joe Buck, but the shifts are not contained to FOX this week. Those changes highlight the NFL announcer assignments for 2012 Week 8 (Oct. 25-29).

Buck will call Game 4 of the San Francisco-Detroit World Series on Sunday night (8 pm ET) in Detroit’s Comerica Park. FOX will be right across the street in Detroit’s Ford Field (Seattle-Detroit) earlier in the day, and Buck would just have to walk a short block to the ballpark, instead of riding a bus as he did between stadiums in San Francisco in Week 6. Buck will not double up as Chris MyersTim RyanJamie Maggio will call Seahawks-Lions at 1 pm ET.

For the second straight week, Thom Brennaman will work with Buck’s A crew of Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver at New York Giants-Dallas.

The B crew of Kenny AlbertDaryl JohnstonTony Siragusa remains untouched in Week 8 as they will call Carolina-Chicago. Sam Rosen continues in Brennaman’s play-by-play position on the C crew with Brian BillickLaura Okmin at Washington-Pittsburgh.

The G crew of Ron PittsMike MartzKristina Pink (field reporter) will be off for the fourth straight week. Pitts is keeping busy as one of the play-by-play announcers for the Pac-12 Network on Saturdays.

Four teams (Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Houston) are on bye weeks. The NFL has 14 contests in Week 8. CBS has six games, and FOX will telecast five games.

For CBS, the F crew of Bill MacateeSteve Tasker are back in action, after a week off, at Indianapolis-Tennessee, and Spero Dedes, who normally heads the G crew with Steve Beuerlein, will take the place of Marv Albert with his D crew partner Rich Gannon at San Diego-Cleveland.

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