NFL summer observations

Not much going on around the league this time of year. However, here are four interesting notes worth mentioning:

1) The Manti Te’o media madness goes quiet: At one point, Manti Te’o was projected by just about every draft analyst as a first round pick. Some had him going in the top ten. Manti was drafted 38th overall. The media attention, scrutiny and subliminal barbs must have felt like ten thousand razor blades for a young man trying to saddle his dream of playing in the NFL. So did the media add to his slide into the second round? Most likely! I had one GM, from a big market team tell me, “we had him as a late first rounder but we collectively agreed that we didn’t want the media attention that goes along with this city”.

The truth of the matter is that we aren’t hearing much more about Manti because he went to San Diego (where this agent also lives). San Diego is considered a soft media market, especially since Jim Trotter left for SI. Cities like Buffalo, Seattle, Jacksonville, Green Bay, New Orleans, and San Diego offer a refuge for players from media mercenaries looking to stir the pot on a player with a popular name. If Chargers GM Tom Telesco was in Philly or New York, I doubt he would have made the same pick at the 38th slot in the 2nd round.

2) Less OTAs, means faster more intense coaching sessions: All the clients and coaches I spoke to lately said, that most NFL head coaches are turning up the heat in mini-camps and organized team activities. One assistant coach said to me, “we worked our guys hard and fast. Man they were tired when we got done with them.” Another O-line coach told me something similar. He said, ‘I’m speeding up the reps and drilling my guys more than I ever have. I’m squeezing six coaching sessions into four.”

Last year, Dolphins HC Joe Philbin introduced us to, via Hard Knocks, his simultaneous two-team practice system, where he was able to get more players more reps fasters. Look for more coaches using similar methods to get the most repetitions out of the reduced on field practices given to them under the new CBA. Young players better stay in their playbook during their time off and maybe get a subscription to Luminosity to keep up with the quickening mental speed of practices.

3) How Jim Harbaugh thinks: I spent a good amount of time around Jim Harbaugh when he coached at Stanford and USD. One thing I learned is that he reverse engineers every football decision he makes by first asking himself, “how would this decision affect the locker room?” Jim, being a former player is very sensitive as to how the players will react to his decisions. He will and has turned down endorsements because he thinks it’s not good for the team. Notice his Visa commercial had players in it. As he once put it to me, “Endorsements are the players turf, I don’t want to take away from them. I remember some of my Bears teammates didn’t like it when Ditka start doing a lot of TV commercials.”

4) General Managers are being more conservative in the first round: Drafting a first round QB, who turns out to be a bust can quickly get a GM fired. So what do they do, take an offensive lineman who most likely can start in his rookie year. Then he points to Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and tells his owner that he can get a QB in the mid rounds and develop him.

Many of the scouts I spoke to have told me that they think there has been an overreaction by top brass against drafting QBs early. Did Matt Barkley really deteriorate from being the top consensus pick in 2012 to being a fourth rounder in 2013? Only time will tell but I doubt it.

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