Rift opening up among NFL coaches

BY Alex Marvez • May 27, 2011

The NFL and its players aren’t the only ones at odds during the league’s lockout.

A schism has developed in the NFL Coaches Association, which filed an amicus brief earlier this week supporting the plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit. That legal action didn’t go over well with Washington Redskins assistants.

The NFL Network first reported that head coach Mike Shanahan’s staff members sent a letter to the league on Thursday stating “we stand united with our ownership and the brief does not reflect our thoughts on the matter."

NFLCA executive director Larry Kennan said Friday that he takes the blame for a “misunderstanding” with Redskins assistants. Kirk Olivadotti, who was the NFLCA’s liaison in Washington, left the Redskins earlier this offseason to join the University of Georgia’s staff.

Quoting a source, the Washington Post reported Thursday that some Washington assistants are concerned that being connected with the NFLCA following the legal filing could jeopardize their job standing with Redskins management.

“I emailed all the coaches to tell them we were going to do this,” Kennan told co-host Jim Miller and me on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “However, I didn’t do a very good job of communicating with the Redskins. It kind of caught them blindsided. Before they had a chance to read the Amicus brief and see that it was strictly about being for coaches, they panicked a little bit and maybe got some outside pressure to do something.”

Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie told FOXSports.com that team owner Daniel Snyder didn’t lean on coaches to rebut the NFLCA filing.

“Dan Snyder had no knowledge of the statement made by the coaches,” Wyllie said. “He wasn’t aware of it until it was released. Any assumption otherwise is not true.”

Redskins assistants weren’t made available for comment through the team’s media relations department.

Kennan said the NFLCA executive board followed the group’s bylaws in filing the brief on behalf of its members. Kennan also added that has no regrets about doing so despite Washington’s protest.

“If there were a whole bunch of teams (protesting), I’d be concerned. I’m not concerned about one,” Kennan said. “I know what happened there (with the Redskins). They didn’t have all the facts. A lot of us make decisions because we’re in a pressure situation and get caught up reading about something and don’t have all the information. I’m OK with that. Most of the guys I talk to are really in agreement that this is the right thing to do.”

Kennan, though, may face more internal dissension.

New Orleans linebackers coach Joe Vitt told the New Orleans Times-Picayune late Friday afternoon that Saints assistants were “appalled” by the filing.

“It was awful presumptuous on their part that they would represent all the coaches on our staff,” Vitt said.

Kennan said the amicus brief was only intended to show support for the lifting of the lockout and was not an endorsement of other elements of the Brady v. NFL lawsuit that asks for damages for unfair labor practices.

Kennan said the work stoppage is endangering the livelihoods of NFLCA membership because of their inability to work with players during the offseason and possibly beyond, depending upon the lockout’s length.

“We’re not picking sides with anybody,” Kennan said. “We’re for coaches. The lockout has had a negative effect. They don’t want to be sitting around. They want to work.

“In January, teams are going to be judged on wins and losses and how many (games) the owner thinks they should have won and lost. Coaches are going to lose their jobs over this deal. That’s not right.”

A three-judge panel will hear arguments next Friday in St. Louis about whether the lockout should be lifted. The eighth circuit court already has ruled in favor of the NFL by temporarily reversing a federal district court’s order that the league lift its lockout.

Should the judges rule for the Brady v. NFL plaintiffs, the league must resume personnel moves and player practices toward an on-time start to the regular season. A favorable ruling for the league would be a major blow to players, who will begin missing paychecks in September if the season is delayed or even cancelled.

NFL assistants have already started feeling the pinch. Many have taken salary cuts after the work stoppage began in mid-March following the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and the players.

Kennan, though, also lauded the “dozen to 15” team owners who haven’t enacted pay reductions despite having the contractual right to do so.

“But there are a number of teams who are taking up to 50 percent of coaches’ salaries,” Kennan said. “There are a couple teams who are not paying into their pensions … Those things bother us.”