by Jack Bechta
June 01, 02009
The agent business is one of the most competitive and rewarding on the planet. It’s also one of the most insecure.
I don’t think Drew Rosenhaus is going to lose much sleep over his recent firing by WR Anquan Boldin, but his ego will be bruised. What he may worry about is that potentially others among his 100-plus clients might find a reason to do the same. It’s happened before!
The King has no clothes!
I’m sure many of you remember the fable of the little boy who was brave enough to yell the five words, “The king has no clothes,” which made all those around him realize that the king indeed was a phony.
In 2001 that kid was Drew Bledsoe. The king was Leigh Steinberg.
That year, while visiting close friend and client Todd Rucci in New England, he and I went to play pool and have a few beers one night at Bledsoe’s house. I got to know Drew pretty well after he and Todd became good friends during their rookie year in 1993.
As soon as I walked through the door, Drew immediately pulled me aside and said, “I have to talk to you. I’m going to fire Leigh as my agent, and if his assistant, David Dunn, can’t represent me, I want you to do it.” Of course, I said I’d be happy to.
To my knowledge, Bledsoe fired Leigh for personal reasons, none of them football-related. Leigh apparently did some things that Drew had little tolerance for because he was, and is, a high-value family man. Leigh crossed the line somewhere, which made Drew lose respect for him. I believe he called David and asked if he would represent him independent of Leigh. Unfortunately for me, David agreed and went on to represent Drew and just about every one of Leigh’s 50 high-profile clients. Bledsoe started the avalanche by saying what others were obviously thinking. It was the beginning of the end for Leigh and a windfall for David, who went on to start one of the industry’s biggest agencies, Athletes First.
I doubt the Rosenhaus firing by Boldin will start the same kind of domino affect that wiped out Leigh. Drew doesn’t have an ambitious David Dunn-type working for him; he knows better. In addition, Leigh was asleep at the wheel. Drew works 12 hours a day servicing his clients. But he might be checking the fax machine more frequently this week.
The fax machine
All it takes to fire your agent is a letter that sounds like this:
Thank you for all you have done for me to date. However, I am going in another direction, and therefore I am terminating you as my agent.
I wish you the best of luck.
C U Later
That’s it! I know because I’ve received about five of these in my 23-year career, and a few of them still sting. Once you receive one of these letters, your career as an agent will never be the same. The insecurity of being fired takes the fun out of the business. Most agents will tell you that they stay clear of the fax machine at all costs. I would estimate that 95 percent of all termination notifications come via fax -- and a lot of times without any warning.
I have a home office, and my fax ringer is perpetually turned off. Even though I may have one of the best client retention records in the industry and a loyal clientele, I still peek cautiously at my fax machine just like I would check a rat trap that I might set up in my garage.
The thing that sucks in my industry is that most players fire their agents because another agent placed a seed of doubt in their minds about their agent’s ability to get a deal done. Or they played the greed card and convinced a player they could get a better deal. And in many cases, players fire agents because they think they should have more endorsement deals such as free cars, cell phones and clothing. And sometimes they are right!
I once lost a client to another agent because he told the player, “You can pay me whatever you want. You should have more endorsements, and you need to send a message to the front office.” He also told him that he would get him a radio show that never transpired. The front office let the player go to free agency and didn’t re-sign him.
We as agents can file grievances through the NFLPA against other agents for tampering in a relationship, but the problem is that your only witness is the guy who just fired you. Needless to say, the grievance process doesn’t work.
Believe it or not, there is some client loyalty in the business. I’ve been told by my clients which agents approach them and what they say. My client, Styles G. White (formerly Greg White) of the Buccaneers, for example, was approached last year by Rosenhaus at a charity event that I believe was put on by one of his clients. Greg told me that Rosenhaus approached him and said, “You have some story, Greg (he had played in the Arena League the year before and had 8½ sacks and seven forced fumbles in 2007). Do you know who I am?” Greg said he did. Drew replied, “Well, you need to talk to these guys here about me. They’ll tell you what I’m about. They’ll tell you how to get in touch with me.” As Styles was telling me this, he said to me, “Where was this guy when I was playing Arena ball for three years?” He had no idea who I was then. You stuck with me for five years until I made it. You’re my guy.”
Styles, I appreciate your loyalty.
Another of my clients, ironman offensive lineman Chester Pitts, was recently recruited by one of the largest high-profile agencies in the business. They wined him, dined him, flew him all over and made some BIG promises. You see, Chester is one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets because he plays for the low-profile Texans. He’s due to become a free agent next year (an uncapped year) and is one of the few linemen in the league who has successfully managed Albert Haynesworth twice a year as well as several other top D-linemen. And he’s only missed seven plays in seven years.
This firm and others know that Chester has a chance to be one of the highest paid O-linemen in the history of the NFL. He’s also a smart businessman and was curious to hear what they had to say. At the end of the day, he told me that he realized they couldn’t do anything for him that I couldn’t do. I’m not offended that he listened, not at all. He has a right to get a second opinion. However, I do take offense at how the mega-agency, and one agent in particular, blatantly tried to recruit him.
Chester, I appreciate your loyalty as well, and I’m going to do a kick-ass job for you on your next deal, just as I’ve done for all my O-linemen.
Losing clients is a part of the agent business. It’s not fun, especially for a mid-size practice like mine, but having predator agents out there actually makes me work a little harder to keep my clients happy.