Lockout Hits Coaches … Tuesday Cup O’Combine

From Indianapolis, Indiana

If the NFL follows through with its plan for a lockout on Friday, the players won’t be the only people on the outside looking in.

About a dozen of the league’s 32 teams – including the Chiefs – plan to immediately cut the salaries of their coaching staffs, including in some cases the head coach.

According to Larry Keenan, the executive director of the NFL Coaches Association, those cuts range from 10 to 40 percent and there are some teams that will layoff or furlough coaches rather than have them continue to work in the team’s offices.

“Players will be affected (by a lockout) because they’ll lose bonuses, but they don’t lose salary in March, April or May,” Keenan said. “The coaches will lose pay.”

Every coaching contract in the league has language covering the possible ramifications with a lockout/strike/work stoppage. Speaking at the NFL Combine, Keenan said 10 to 12 teams have already told their coaches they will operate as business as usual and will not lay off coaches or cut their salaries.

“Those teams are not a surprise, they are the best run organizations in the league,” said Keenan. “Teams like Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Houston, New York Giants, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Denver. They’ve already told their coaches nothing will change.”

Another eight teams plan to operate as normal for the first 30 days or so; it would be after that time when they could force furloughs and salary cuts, or continue to operate without changes.

“The majority of the owners think coaches are valuable parts of their organization,” said Keenan.

That leaves about a dozen NFL teams that obviously disagree because they plan to immediately cut coaches pay with a lockout. That group includes the Chiefs. How serious the salary cuts are is not something the organization is willing to talk about. But apparently Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt doesn’t mind being the bad guy with his coaching staff – league sources have described the cuts to the team’s coaching payroll as “radical.”

“I know from what I’ve heard from our coaches it’s going to be among the most massive cuts in the league,” Keenan said of the Chiefs lockout scalpel.

Head coach Todd Haley would not address the subject while at the Combine. “I’m not going to talk about that,” he said.

Other teams expected to immediately cut the salaries of coaches are San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco, Atlanta, New Orleans, Buffalo, Jacksonville, New England, Dallas, Houston, Washington and Tampa Bay.

“Every team has a clause that says their salary will be rolled back at a certain point in time,” Kennan said. “The good teams say they won’t roll back salaries for six months. The bad teams say they’ll roll it back immediately and certain teams have it written into the contracts that they can be terminated immediately. That’s for all coaches and head coaches.”

It certainly sets up an uneven situation in the league. If the doors are locked, then every team will not have access to its players. But the same can’t be said about coaches. If the Chiefs coaches are asked to take a pay cut because of the lockout, it’s hard to imagine that they will continue to work the kind of hours that coaches normally put in.

But say the Denver Broncos plan to operate business as usual, with their coaches not facing any pay slash or furloughs. The advantage goes to the Broncos in a football sense and we won’t even touch the feelings created within the coaching staffs when it comes to loyalty to the organization.

“If one team is going to cut the defensive line coach 30 percent, and another isn’t going to take the opportunity to cut the defensive line coach’s pay, which team is going to have the kind of cohesive team feeling that every head coach is working towards on his staff?” asked Keenan.

“I’ve told them if you can save some money do it. There’s enough stress on these guys without being docked 25% of their pay.”

For 32 years, Keenan (right) was a football coach. He worked at the high school, college and pro levels. He was a head coach, a coordinator and a position coach and faced many pressure situations over those years. All of that prepared him for his role now as executive director of the NFLCA. His constituency faces potential problems that coaches have never before seen. It’s one of the reasons that they are seriously considering forming their own union to deal with the league.

“We’ve talked about that and talked about that with the league,” Keenan said. “We’ll have to wait our turn as the league and players work on their deal. Once that’s in place, we will be knocking on their door.

“We want respect and dignity and recognition of how valuable coaches are to the NFL.”


  • BEARS – released DT Tommie Harris, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer and OT Kevin Shaffer.
  • CHARGERS – former DL Shawn Lee died over the weekend. He was 44 years old.
  • JAGUARS – signed QB Luke McCown.
  • JETS – plan to release DT Kris Jenkins, OLB Vernon Gholston, OL Damien Woody and DE Jason Taylor.
  • REDSKINS – released RB Clinton Portis.
  • SEAHAWKS – re-signed CB Kennard Cox.

12 Responses to “Lockout Hits Coaches … Tuesday Cup O’Combine”

  • March 1, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    I think we kind of have rose-colored glasses when it comes to this stuff. The NFL is a business and there are certain people who run their business like a family and those that don’t. I get the impression that Lamar did, perhaps even to a fault, but he seemed loyal to his people and his people loyal to him. Loyalty can get you far, but it has it’s limitations. Ever since Clark has come in it seems like it’s more of a business. He got rid of a lot of the old organizational people just for the sake of change. We know your thoughts on that Bob. Given that move, it’s not too shocking that he would also do this. I have to say that it does seem a bit draconian, however, if you’re business can’t work because of a union walkout then why should you pay your staff their full wages if they’re not working a full day?

    I know you lose that loyalty, but you’re also not bleeding cash. Also, these guys make more money in a year than I make in 10 years… I’m not sure I feel sorry for them. I’d be more worried about the office jockeys who make 30-50k losing a few paychecks than a head/asst coach.

  • March 1, 2011  - Butler says:

    I think this whole thing STINK’s
    Let’s Play Football and QUIT ACTING
    like Children !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • March 1, 2011  - RW says:

    A key part of this story revolves around the players and their pay continuing through May, so I wouldn’t look for any genuine movement toward a new CBA until well after Memorial Day. In other words, until the players (and their wives, especially) start feeling the pain, little pressure will be directed toward their labor boss to get a deal done.

    The owners know the players will eventually cave once that pain is felt so I stand by my prediction of a new CBA being tendered sometime in mid to late August and losing 2-3 weeks on the 2011 season. As far as the coaches losing salary until we see a new CBA?

    Life is tough in the big city.

  • March 1, 2011  - Tim says:

    If Hunt & Pioli do the heavy-handed thing with the coaches immediately, they’re fools. I believe they’ve made great moves rebuilding the franchise, but this would be a BAD move. If you waited 6 mos. before doing anything, that might be a different story. IF this happens, I hate to say it, but Clark may do it just because his father would never think of doing it. The son continually getting out of his father’s shadow thing but at the expense of what his father built. He’ll never inspire the kind of loyalty he professes to want in an orgaization like the Steelers if he does this.

  • March 1, 2011  - el cid says:

    Unfortunately with the current 24/7 mentality of fans has turned over some rocks we would rather not know. We are worried about millionair players arguing with billionaire owners, so we can enjoy our games. We forget about all the others who support the operation. From a guy that keeps the towels clean to a camera man, no need if there is no game. I guess sometimes it is not important if we miss a game or two at the start of the season when others are not getting a pay check/reduced pay check.

    Wish we had some imput into this situation but we do not.

  • March 1, 2011  - el cid says:

    Tim, I like thought prevoking comments but think the Chiefs would disagree with every comment in totallity.

    Chiefs “fools”, not hardly look at all the money they keep in the “bank”. During the last lockout/strike, did saint Lamar cut his overhead, bet he did, just did not get reported. “Loyalty” to who or what, not employees (or employees to owners), fans (no you will pay in the end not matter how long it lasts), players (will be replaced in 3-4 years anyway), or the game (got money in the bank and that is what really matters in the end). Sorry.

  • March 1, 2011  - Mike says:

    I’m a little disappointed that the Chiefs are cutting salaries immediately, if in fact this is true (one can only assume it is correct based on this story). I understand the whole situation, but everyone else is suffering except the owners and players and it’s their fight. This is very unfortunate for the coaches and staffers.

  • March 1, 2011  - Haley's Ego says:

    Bob, your calender needs adjustment. Today is not Wednesday, and yesterday was not Tuesday.

    Nicely written article, though. Like it or not (and I don’t), the “game” we all love is a business. Big business. They’ll all meet in the middle somewhere. Eventually.

  • March 1, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    The coaches read the contracts, their attorneys read the contracts and contracts are signed and agreed with their prospective employer.

    A player lockout has been looming for several years with little progress or hope. Owners, coaches and players knew the odds of an agreement prior to an expiration date, were slim to none.

    One can assume that the owners, coaches and players have set aside the necessary funds to survive what I would call a “temporary layoff”. Any sorrow or feeling bad for the affected is certainly not a worry for me. The price of a game ticket, food, beverages and parking, not to mention any item or merchandise with an NFL logo which fuels the leagues Multi Billion Dollar budget leaves me no sympathy for the cause. Just simply irritated and dismayed at the thought of my favorite pastime being hijacked by “greed”.

    I always end my opinion or in this case a rant with a “Go Chiefs”. I think in this case I will end with “This sucks”

  • March 1, 2011  - Tim says:

    el cid, I’m sure they might disagree w/ what I’ve said. My only point is they shouldn’t cut their nose off to spite their face. They have plenty of resources to continue on for a bit without further disruption of the preparation of their product. As I indicated in my comments, I would fully expect them to take some pretty strong action in the cost area after a period of time…just not immediately. Its very hard to rebuild the credibility of an organization once it gets a reputation. If there is a lockout, it won’t last forever. My thoughts are that waiting a bit before taking “heavy handed” & drastic action that could put your product at a competitive disadvantage & damage the environment they’ve worked hard to change would be worth the financial costs. Everybody knows the culture there has changed, but they can’t say they want to be a “family” aka the Steelers & be SO heavy handed. Its one thing to create a culture of accountability & not being too comfortable. Its entirely another to cross the proverbial line of being harsh & potentially damaging to your end product (the team) when you know you’ll have to compete again.

  • March 1, 2011  - Topeka-T says:

    Wow! Clark is not at all like his Dad!! This is likely to bite him in his elite little bottom at the worst possible time. Loyality from those coaches who are going to pay the price will show itself at some point in time. These guys have very long memories!!

  • March 1, 2011  - Bob Gretz says:

    Kudos to various readers for pointing out my mistake of the day of the week on this post. The Combine is very much like “Groundhog’s Day” the movie – the same day over and over again. The calendar means nothing. I think I know what day it is now!

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