Texans owner Bob McNair and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue both spoke to the media Friday following the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's annual luncheon at the Hilton Americas Hotel, where Tagliabue was the keynote speaker.
Following are excerpts from their press conference.
**Texans owner Bob McNair
(on talk of commissioner Paul Tagliabue's retirement)** "I think it's tirement, not retirement. I think he's tired right now, as we all are. He's worn out. We've been working on this (collective bargaining agreement), really, for two years. This is not something that we've done in the last few days. We've talked about a number of issues, and things that can be done that will be very positive for the league that I know he's interested in. I think that it would be easier for him to go ahead and complete some of these other tasks at this point in time than it would be for someone else new coming in. So I think there are some important things yet to be done.
"We talked about the question of high-revenue and low-revenue teams. My belief is that our focus in the NFL should be to eliminate the need for any financial subsidies. That's what the focus should be. How do we get the lower revenue teams up to the point where there's no issue of revenue sharing because there's no need for it? So that gets into best practices. Now, how do we develop best practices so that we all, each of the 32 clubs, learn from each other? We all do certain things better than other things. The idea is to pool that knowledge and make it available to everyone and bring the standards up for everyone."
(on the new CBA agreement) "There were a number of plans that were submitted, and the plan that was ultimately adopted was the plan that we had put together that we could live with—the high-revenue teams. By that, I mean there were about 12 or 15 teams that were working on it. The problem we were running into was that in the collective bargaining agreement, the revenue that is related to that agreement and payment to players is gross revenue. Yet a large portion of our revenue now, part of it comes from national revenue, but at least half of it now comes from local revenue. With national revenue, which is television and the other media, we have very few expenses associated with that—basically, the league office. In terms of local revenue, we have very high expenses involved. So the net versus the gross on local (revenues) is entirely different than it is on national (revenues). But the labor agreement does not recognize that. So that is one of the difficulties.
"The program that we came up with is structured in such a way that in spite of the fact that the expenses are not recognized the way I think they should be, and debt service from our investment is not recognized, the plan that we have agreed to would allow us to handle those expenses and handle the debt service. Is it going to cost us money? Yes, it will cost us money. But it was important to us to avoid any kind of disruptive labor situation. Frankly, we did it for our fans. I think it's important. We went through a rough year last year. We've got a lot to look forward to this year, and the last thing I wanted to see happen is something that was disruptive. I want this to be an exciting year for all of us in this community. I think we have the opportunity to make it happen."
(on what facilitated the CBA negotiations) "What it really boiled down to was a combination of things. How do you structure a program in which you can gain enough support for a collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing combined? We put together a program that we thought made sense and we negotiated for that. Ultimately, that was the program that was accepted, and I think rightfully so because basically we're the ones that are paying for it. I think that the high-revenue clubs just looked at it and said, 'Well, this is something we can live with. This is something that does cost us, but we'll just have to be smart enough and ambitious enough to go out and figure out how we can generate enough revenue to offset it.' That's our approach. That's what we plan to do."
(on how the Texans are doing related to the new salary cap) "We'll still operate at the cap and, probably because of the draft picks and the cash bonuses we'll have to pay, our cash will be over the cap. But it has to be within the restraints of this new agreement. It is a lower level of spending over the cap. It's basically two percent. So we have to take that into consideration. But I don't think that it will alter any of our plans. It will just take us a little bit longer to pay off our debt. But it's not going to alter how we operate."
(on how often the team goes back-and-forth on what to do with the top draft pick) "There is an element of it that we don't control. That is: What will people offer us for the first pick? That's a large part of the consideration. If someone came along and offered us a deal that we couldn't turn down, we would give up the first pick. But unless it's something that strengthens our team, we won't do it. But we just won't know that until it happens. And probably we won't know that until draft day."
**NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue
(on how he convinced the high-revenue owners to give up such a large share in the new collective bargaining agreement)** "It really wasn't about that big of a share. It was about elements of structure and whether they did make sense or didn't make sense. In the end, there were about three elements that did make sense to everybody, and that's how we got it done. We came upon the fact that everybody was willing to have a fund set aside to help the teams that really need help in terms of revenue support to help them with their player costs. Secondly, we had developed in all of the work that we did a bit of a standard for saying that if the teams can pay at the salary cap…and not use more than 55 percent of their own revenue, then that's a fair standard to ensure that they could be competitive on the field. Then the third thing was to have the commitment from the high-revenue teams to contribute some of their own revenue into the pot, and to use the future digital media revenue and Internet revenue that you're not yet giving to anybody…and pledge those to fund the revenue sharing over time. Those three elements, in the end, were elements that everyone agreed to. It didn't polarize the membership…It was a compromise, but it was a pretty good one because it's institutionalized. It's not an ad-hoc thing."
(on the difficulty of this CBA agreement compared to all of the things that have happened on his watch) "Clearly, the two toughest things to get done were this disagreement and the first time we did this agreement in 1992. I haven't had the time to figure out which was the most difficult. They both took a lot of compromise and commitment to the game to keep the focus on the game and on the field—and for people to stretch in ways they might not have wanted to stretch, but it was best for the overall interest of the league. Of course, in the early 90s, we were departing from 40 to 50 years of how player contracts had been allocated and players had been drafted and traded and so forth. This was a little bit less complicated than that, although we were making some very significant changes in the way people have been doing business in this league almost for the last 15 years. We're dealing with the evolution of the league in many, many ways, and it will continue to evolve. It will be as different 25 years from now as it is now from what it was in 1980."
(on what there is left for him to do now that the CBA is extended) "I think there's always going to be a great opportunity for new, challenging and important things. Bob (McNair) and I were talking this morning, and now that we have a CBA extended, we still need to work with a lot of teams on their stadiums. More important than that, we need be looking and asking questions about what we can do with the game outside of the United States. What can we do with the game in the inner cities and rural areas, where kids need to get access to athletic facilities? The one thing I've learned is that whenever you think you've done everything in the NFL, you go to work the following morning and there are about 40 new things to do. I don't remember where I was, but I think it was when we did our mega-TV contract back in 1998. People said, 'Well, what are you going to do now?' We never stopped, and I think that's the way the league is."
(on if retiring is even on his radar) "It's not on my radar. We've been so busy in the last year with TV negotiations, labor negotiations, (Hurricane) Katrina, New Orleans, working with (New Orleans Saints owner) Mr. Benson and his group, that I haven't had a chance to think of much other than what I've been doing. Now that we have this done, maybe I can figure out what the future holds. But I haven't given it any thought."
(on how he feels about the report that he's going to retire) "It's not about me. It's about someone leaking an element of my contract. All that reflects is the fact that when I did extend my contract two years ago, we had a committee of six owners…go over the terms of my contract. At that time, I believe it was in 2004, we did focus together—the six owners and myself—on a timeline for me and a transition for the league, because it's not about Paul Tagliabue. It's about the leadership of the league. It's about having a smooth transition and trying to have a transition that is smoother than it was in 1989."
(on if the Texans could be a team that plays in Europe this coming season) "Well, they've got a chance, but I don't think that's at the top of their priority list. We are talking, as I said at the luncheon, to a couple of teams about a game at Wembley Stadium—a regular season game—but I don't think it would involve the Texans. I think in doing these international regular season games, the first thing on the priority list is the teams. In some cases, it's going to be a team moving into a new stadium trying to get the fans excited about a new stadium. Obviously, with Gary Kubiak coming on, the focus is going to be on getting the team back to where it appeared to be headed several years ago with the strong win-loss record. International travel is inevitably disruptive, so I don't think they'd be the team."