Ranking the NFL’s biggest ongoing controversies

Greg Hardy's signing by the Cowboys ranks among the biggest controversies currently afflicting the NFL.
David T. Foster, III/Charlotte Observer/MCT via Getty Images

By Brad Gagnon

The owners meetings are over and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had very little to say regarding Greg Hardy’s signing, Chris Borland’s retirement, Deflategate, a lack of rule changes from the competition committee, or any of the other controversies surrounding the league early this offseason.

But what better time than now for a rundown?

1. Problem children and a double standard

Greg Hardy is a Dallas Cowboy and Ray McDonald is a Chicago Bear because those two are very good at football. The only reason Ray Rice isn’t employed? He no longer possesses enough value on the football field to merit a team taking the PR hit associated with signing him. It’s no secret that if you can play, you can pretty much literally get away with murder in this league. But if you’re not a star player and you’ve run into legal troubles, you’re toxic.

2. What we now know about football’s impact on the brain

I don’t know if fear of head trauma caused Jake Locker or Jason Worilds or Maurice Jones-Drew to walk away from millions of dollars quite suddenly this month, but it isn’t common to see that many young players hang them up without a nudge. And when you throw in the shocking retirement of 24-year-old 49ers linebacker Chris Borland — who did cite concerns regarding head trauma as his incentive to walk away — you begin to wonder if we’re witnessing the beginning of a CTE-related trend.

3. Deflategate

Ted Wells continues to investigate whether the Patriots deliberately took air out of footballs in order to gain a competitive advantage against the Colts in a January playoff game.

4. An over-complicated rulebook

This was a particularly bad January for the NFL when it came to officiating. The Lions got screwed by a botched call wild-card weekend against Dallas, and then the Cowboys got screwed by a bad rule in the divisional playoffs against Green Bay. It’s clear instant replay and the rules regarding what constitutes a catch need to be overhauled, but the league continues to take an overly conservative, tweak-heavy approach to addressing those two frequently barked about issues.

5. The Rams, Chargers, Raiders and Los Angeles

This could be considered a good problem, because new stadiums and a presence in the LA market would mean more dollar signs for the league, but it’s never ideal when you’re risking angering three of your 32 fan bases. Almost 10 percent of the NFL’s teams are flirting with moving, which at the moment isn’t good for business in those three markets.

6. The Browns and text messages

Cleveland is facing sanctions stemming from reports that general manager Ray Farmer violated league rules by sending text messages to the sideline during games.

7. The Falcons and fake noise

Atlanta has admitted to breaking NFL rules by piping artificial crowd noise into home games the last two years. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, “severe” penalties will be handed down to both the Browns and Falcons next week.

That’s about it. Seven issues involving more than a quarter of the league’s teams.

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