The Measure of the Man(kins)

This is a convoluted mess to put together, so bear with me as I trace a picture around the various sources. Firstly, we had the news in June that Mankins was unhappy with his situation. As he put it when talking to ESPN's Mike Reiss

After the 2008 season, me and my agent approached the Patriots about an extension and I was told that Mr Kraft did not want to do an extension because of the [uncertainties around the Collective Bargaining Agreement]... I was asked to play '09 out, and that they would address the contract during the uncapped year. I'm a team player, I took them at their word, and I felt I played out an undervalued contract.

At this point, there's no real issues - he's stated that he wanted an extension and believes he did the team a service by honouring an undervalued contract. However, Mankins can't help himself and he veers into the vindictive. In the same interview, he continued:

That's the big thing... Right now, this is about principle with me and keeping your word and how you treat people. This is what I thought the foundation of the Patriots was built on. Apparently, I was wrong. Growing up, I was taught a man's word is his bond. Obviously this isn't the case with the Patriots.

Mankins gave the distinct impression that the Pats hadn't offered him a contract despite explicitly promising they'd do so - "they said they'd address the contract... I took them at their word... this is about principle [and] keeping your word".

In fact, Kraft did want to do an extension - but 'only' at the market rate of a top-5 Guard; around $7M per season.

Mankins's real issue, then, wasn't that they didn't offer him a contract. It was that that contained in the last sentence of the first excerpt - that he felt he had played out an undervalued contract. He wanted to make up for that, and he intended to be measured by the yardstick of the best Guard around - Jahri Evans's contract at $8M per season.

At this juncture, then, you had the makings of a garden-variety contract dispute. The employer wanted the contract limited to 'only' $7M per season - the reasoning being that being the Patriots wanted to pay a top-5 Guard top-5 Guard-money. The employee wanted the contract upped to $8M per season - Mankins wanted to be paid like the top-1 Guard in the NFL, because that's what he felt he was. Basic Negotiation 101 suggests you find somewhere in the middle at which both parties are fairly, but not entirely, happy - not exactly rocket science, merely pretty basic business sense. 

So what had the Patriots promised to do, exactly? By Mankins's own words: "to address the contract". It might be my years of legal training, but my inestimable wisdom suggests that offering a guy $7M per season to continue to do his job fulfills the promise to "address the contract" pretty well, no matter which way you stretch the imagination. Mankins might not like the terms  of the contract on offer, but he couldn't legitimately say the Pats weren't addressing the contract - they clearly were. 

In short, Mankins was accusing the Patriots organisation, and the Krafts in particular, of being duplicitous liars without principle or any intent to honour their word.

So was this personal attack on the honour of the Patriots organisation destined to poison the well? Surprisingly, not at all. I'll explain why after the jump.

Firstly, Mankins's diatribe about the untrustworthiness of the Patriots organisation was not the first time the Front Office has come under withering fire of one of its key players. In 2003, Ty Law made the same allegations, almost word for word. From the Boston.com article at the time:

Law first told the Globe at a Route 1 restaurant a few miles north of Gilette Stadium that he didn't want to play for the Patriots anymore, that he couldn't see himself wearing the uniform again...

Law, who was under contract for two more years at hefty salary cap charges of about $10.21 million and $12.56 million, once was adamant about playing elsewhere after the Patriots "insulted" him with a four-year, $26 million offer that included a $6.6 million signing bonus and two guaranteed years, then cut off the negotiations when Law's agent countered with a proposal of seven years, $63 million and $20 million to sign.

[Several times this offseason] Law publicly accused coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli of "lying" to him during negotiations over a contract extension

So far, so Mankins - the "they insulted me!" line, the "they lied to me!" line, too, the Patriots offering a player what they think the market rate is (the lower rate), and a player demanding what the player thinks they're worth (the higher rate). That's 4-for-4 when looking at the bare bones of the current Mankins-Patriots dispute. Yet, as history tells us, the Patriots did re-sign Ty Law, and he got a shiny ring in 2004 to show for it. So obviously this kind of contractual standoff is in fact possible to fix, and the Krafts/Patriots Front Office have done so before with aplomb.

It was not a complete surprise, then, there was news that the Pats and Mankins had come close to nutting out a deal. Unlike Ty Law's contract, however, the pending Mankins-Patriots accord fell through at the last second. As Mike Reiss reports on how it eventuated:

Mankins and his agent Frank Bauer arrived at the Patriots training facility in Foxborough, Mass., with both sides intending and believing they would be able to hammer out a long-term deal similar to the seven-year, $56.7 million contract that Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans signed with New Orleans in the spring.

Mankins went in on good faith - that he'd play if he was paid, despite his declarations he wished to leave. The Patriots went in with the good faith that the'd entertain the idea of paying Mankins more than they had originally offered him - dousing that "the Patriots never pay their players" rumour that always does the rounds. It seems clear that both sides were at least considering a Jahri Evans-like deal. Thus far, as clear as mud.

Reiss continues:

Shortly before the deal could be consummated, the Patriots asked Mankins to apologize to Patriots owner Robert Kraft for comments he made in June questioning the New England owner's integrity. Mankins did. He called Kraft, apologized and explained why he spoke out in the way he did. It was a nice conversation and it paved the way for Mankins' long-term deal to be consummated.

What's the relevance? Factoid 1: Mankins apologised. Reading between the lines, Mankins apologised both for implying Kraft didn't offer him a contract when he in fact did ("comments he made in June questioning the New England owner's integrity"), and also an apology for going to the press and calling into question the integrity of the Patriots organisation in the most public way possible ("apologized and explained why he spoke out in the way that he did"). 

At this point, it's also pertinent to remember Factoid 2: that Mankins considered it a point of personal honour to hold out in order to defend his avowed principles. He said as much to the press (again, the wonderful Mike Reiss) via his agent:

"They have totally lost this player mentally," [Mankin's agent] Bauer told the newspaper. "For this young man to work like he has and play for the club for five years, and be promised he'd be taken care of, and to throw the offer they did across the table? It was never, ever a five-year deal. They wanted six years, they wanted seven. They have to do what they have to do, and we'll do what we have to do."

In an interview with ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss in June, Mankins said "I want to be traded. I don't need to be here anymore."

This is crucial. In a loose translation, "to throw the offer they did across the table?" suggests Mankins's pride was impinged; "we'll do what we have to do" means a contract holdout. It was beyond money at this point; it was answering the twinned calls of honour and insult. Mankins felt he was dishonoured and was willing to hold out on a $7M-per-season deal and vent to the press about how he was wronged.

Why point this out? Well, given his stance, it's safe to assume that he would not turn face and apologise merely in order to secure the cash. He clearly priced his dignity and honour above the money he'd lose by holding out for a year - $7M or so if he'd signed the long-term contract; or $3.5M if he'd signed his one-year tender. He clearly wouldn't apologise solely for money - he was willing to give up at least $3.5M on the point.

That can only mean that the apology he gave to the Krafts was not in order to secure his $8-million-per-year contract - it was because he was flat-out wrong, and he recognised that. His own "man's word is his bond" honour-code demands it.

I consider this a relatively important point. Mankins. Was. Wrong. In capitals.

To go back a little in time, we remember that Ty Law apologised in 2003, too. As Boston.com reported at the time:

Law, who several times this offseason publicly accused coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli of "lying" to him during negotiations over a contract extension, said yesterday he would like to retire with the team that two years ago he asked to place him on the expansion list and that in February he offered to pay in exchange for his freedom. Law and Belichick made up before yesterday morning's workout.

"It was a good meeting," Law said, withholding additional details, other than that the session concluded with a handshake. "I don't want to get into details, but we settled differences, and now we're out to accomplish the same mission. We're world champions, so you can't be upset or mad too long."

Given the demand by the Patriots that Mankins apologise in pretty much exactly the same situation, I can only imagine that the "additional details" Law withheld from the interviewer was that he made a personal and heartfelt apology to Belichick, Pioli and the Front Office for accusing them of a lack of integrity in public.

The apology was clearly sincere enough to "settle differences" between the two parties, and the Patriots and Law both felt they could move on together in good faith.

This is the crux of the Mankins matter, in my estimation. In Law's case, the dispute was settled face-to-face, was genuinely felt by both sides to settle the matter, and was concluded in a handshake. For whatever reason, the Patriots felt Mankins's private apology didn't go far enough. As Reiss puts it:

Then, about 90 minutes later, just before finalizing the deal, the Patriots requested Mankins issue a public apology. Not only did Mankins refuse, but he became offended, according to sources. The optimism that had been built, the momentum that the talks had generated, completely collapsed -- and even regressed.

What happened in that 90 minutes between the private apology and the demand for a public one? I can only hazard a guess, but my suspicion is that either the Krafts, the Front Office, or some subset thereof, decided that Mankins' private apology was not contrite or genuine or satisfying enough to salve the wounds the organisation suffered by Mankins's very public flaying of the Patriots. They needed a bigger gesture to preserve their reputation, and this demanded that Mankins declare he was wrong publicly.

The seed for this was long in germination. As Johnathan Kraft said in June when asked about it by Tom E. Curran

Asked if he felt an apology was in order, Kraft said, "Sometimes when credibility is called into question you have to address it, but Logan's not here, Logan's not under contract right now."

Clearly, the Pats felt they had to address the credibility issue for quite a while; and they felt that it was best done so in public, as that is where Mankins drew the credibility dispute in the first place. They wanted public contrition for a public wrong and told Mankins so; Mankins was insulted (and probably embarrassed), and flat-out refused to publicly flagellate himself upon the mound of the sporting press.

So the Pats and Mankins are currently at an impasse; most likely one that is insurmountable. The thought I want to leave you on is the one I started with. Mankins said:

That's the big thing... this is about principle with me and keeping our word and how you treat people. This is what I thought the foundation of the Patriots was built on.

How you treat people, Logan? Calling them out in public for being liars untruthfully, apologising for it in the safe confines of the Razor, but then refusing to dare say you were wrong in public?

Normally I'd be reticent to demand such a public apology of a guy in such a position.

But Mankins is the one who made it a personal attack on the integrity of the organisation. He made it a point of honour not to accept money when it was contrary to his honour-code - good for him. But we know he was ready to re-sign with the Pats to Jahri Evans-like money. We also know he apologised to the Krafts for not being entirely truthful or accurate in the press.

It's only fair to judge him by precisely the same honour-code that he declared, in public, that he holds himself to.

Assuming, then, that only apologise if he felt he needed to - if he had done a wrong by someone, and not merely apologise in order to secure a contract - then it's tantamount to an admission that he did wrong by the Krafts. He publicly called out the Krafts for being liars and cheats, and privately apologised for it. He refused, however, to go the extra distance and personally repair any damage he had done himself to the Kraft's reputation.

This is about...how you treat people

If he can't stand up and say that he was wrong in public about what he said about the Krafts in public (but he can consider accepting the Kraft's money, remember!), then he fails to keep his own word, his own principles, and is treating the Krafts poorly- he'll publicly slander them but won't publicly rectify that slander. 

This is what I thought the foundation of the Patriots was built on.

Maybe Mankins should examine his own foundations a little.

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