The Pro Bowl Problem

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FROM ANDREW BRANDT:

I always hated Pro Bowl week. It wasn’t so much the week before the game that I dreaded, but the week after the Pro Bowl, when players returned to the mainland with lots of new thoughts, ideas, opinions and demands that were fresh in their minds from their trip to the islands.

There is no other gathering on the calendar of NFL mega-talents like there is in Hawaii the first week of February. Because of that, there are also plenty of agents, advisers, enablers and hangers-on. The “whisper crews” are out in full force, whispering in players’ ears about how their team is not treating them right, how they are underpaid, how their agent should be fired based on his lack of aggressiveness in pursuing a better contract, better treatment, etc.

The ringleaders of the whisper crews at the Pro Bowl are usually agents, using the trip as a productive way to spend time amidst the cream of the crop of NFL stars, many poised to cash in significantly in the coming weeks, months or years.

Drew Rosenhaus is always an omnipresent sight during Pro Bowl week, whether at the players’ hotel, at official events, in the lobby, at the pool, in their rooms, wherever. Drew finds a way to visit with players who may be potential targets for future representation, telling them that he is the one who can make them wealthy, be there for their every need and make their career aspirations come true. Drew usually has plenty of clients in the game who echo his message in hopes of converting the unenlightened about his prowess, among them motor mouths such as Chad Johnson, Clinton Portis and Terrell Owens.

In different years, I experienced the post-Pro Bowl dissatisfaction from players such as Mike McKenzie, Ahman Green, Javon Walker and Donald Driver . In the cases of McKenzie and Walker, both became clients of Drew — and the calls to remove themselves from the Packers began in earnest. Green and Driver did not demand trades, at least not right away; they felt they deserved more money after spending a week listening to the whisper crews about how underpaid they were.

One rule of negotiating that I always keep at the forefront: Never underestimate the power of ego and insecurity. Pro Bowl week played on the heartstrings of countless players and made for some difficult conversations after their return to the mainland. As soon as the game was over and the flights landed, I braced myself for the calls. I knew they were coming; it was just a matter of when, and what the demands would be. Teams around the league will be dreading – and getting — those calls next week.

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