5 things I've learned as an NFL agent
This October marks my 28th year as an NFL agent. As the game rules change, the CBA evolves and the faces change, here are five things that may never change.
There are 32 owners and the rest of us: Players, GMs, coaches, agents, scouts, media, and anyone else in the NFL are expendable. Look at all the big name coaches doing TV with Super Bowl rings. They didn’t all get there by choice you know. Many of them got a little too big for the owners to handle. So they just moved on from them. The well of talent is everywhere for players, coaches and front office people. The owners do what they want, they run the show and people like GMs and Commissioners take heat and bullets for them because they want to keep their job and they get paid very well to do so.
If an agent, coach, or player ever thinks he holds all of the cards or has all of the leverage they will find out they are wrong. When you work in and around the NFL you make sure you don’t step on any of their (the owners) toes. They aren’t going anywhere, they have no competition and they get richer every single day. We are all actors in their theater.
There are no secrets in the NFL: I’m not sure why, but people in the NFL gossip like teenage schoolgirls, especially the coaches. Now I’m not saying everything eventually makes it to the media but I’m saying that there are factions of fraternities where news travels faster than the speed of light. If a position coach gets in hot water in say Cleveland (for example only), within minutes the information is out the door and people are lining up for his job while others around him start distancing themselves from the potential castoff.
On the contrary a really competitive and experienced scout may keep a secret about a player he really covets. An agent will keep quiet about a client nursing an injury. A local beat reporter may keep dirty laundry about a coach or GM buried in his vault in fear if he airs it he will be blackballed by the team he/she covers. But for the most part, no intel is considered sacred.
These silos of fraternities (coaches, scouts, front office execs, agents) usually act more like gossip groups when there is something juicy going on. Coaches are constantly leaning on their players to keep things super quiet. One AFC head coach tells players all the time about his conversations, “don’t you tell your wives, friends or agents: it stays here!”
It’s pretty commonplace to hear the words, “ what are you hearing” during the Senior Bowl and at the Combine.
Take your foot off the gas, you are done! The healthiest players who conquer longevity have a few things in common. They are usually mature, work the hardest year round and go the hardest everyday in practice. There is a direct correlation between the workout gym rats that are always doing something year round and those who obtain longevity (12 years or more). Yes, genetics plays a big part but I’ve seen the guys who took off for long periods, say one full month after the season, get hurt often and have short careers. My clients with longer careers such as Al Harris, Kelly Gregg, Tim Dwight, and Jonathan Babineaux, for example were/are workout warriors 50 weeks out of the year and took/take great care of their body.
The guys who take long periods off, do as little as possible, drink too much and abuse their body seem to fall by the wayside.
The majority of NFL organizations are dysfunctional: There is a high degree of mistrust, jealousy, and backstabbing amongst coaches, scouts and front office execs (kind of like the agent business). It’s a functionally dysfunctional environment. Everyone in the NFL works hard and just keeps plowing through it every day. But the lack of communication is unbelieveable. There is one GM who doesn’t share any scouting reports with anybody else in his building. He hoards all of the team data.
You wouldn’t believe how many coaches don’t know which of their own players are struggling and rehabbing from an injury. It’s rare when you can find the medical staff, trainers, strength coaches, GM, team personnel men and the coaches sharing all of the same exact information about a player. There are offices where people just don’t talk to each other and their doors are closed all of the time.
Sure, sometimes having some good coordinators and a lot of talent, especially at QB, can hide the dysfunctions but it still exists in the majority of NFL buildings and will eventually take its toll on an organization.
Young players will keep making mistakes: If you have youth, status, time, and more money than any of your peers you went to school with between the ages of 21 and 29, I promise you that you would have made the same mistakes as many NFL players. That’s the part people don’t understand. Most of us didn’t make enough money or have enough time out of high school or college to make fiscal and social mistakes. Many of us have done many stupid things, but without the cell phones, reporters, and millions of people watching and recording our every move, it goes unseen and undocumented.
I really get tired of people criticizing players’ behavior and stereotyping all players as careless, foolish and selfish. The majority of players in the NFL are actually very good citizens.
We can throw all of the education, seminars, and player development programs at NFL players but the behavior isn’t going to change much. The life skills training, the accountability, speeding up the maturation process and learning proper social and fiscal behavior has to start at an earlier age. It has to start at home, in junior high and in high school. Colleges have to do their part too. They use the talent of young athletes in exchange for a scholarship but they let too many things slide and don’t coach a lot of life skills they will need. It is very easy to see how people get around athletes and when they are close to them they stop holding them accountable and make excuses for their behavior.
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