5 reasons why you should let your son play football

One of my clients who played a long time in the NFL and is now coaching in the NFL, made a comment to me that is a sign of the times. He said, “Man, these guys have it made (referring to current NFL players). They practice half as much as we did and only have about 10% of the contact we had. These guys will play for a long time”.

Yes, it’s true, say goodbye to two-a-day full contact practices, brutal practice rituals and barbaric head banging drills. Today’s football coaches and organizations are producing a safer game with less risk for injury.

Here’s why:

Helmet to helmet hits are greatly diminishing: The helmet to helmet hit will never be totally eliminated from the game of football, but it has and will be significantly reduced. Unless you have been under a rock for the last three years, anyone involved with football has been made aware of the brain trauma associated with concussions. Therefore, coaches at all levels of football should be more proactive than ever in teaching proper head placement for tackling and blocking techniques.

Liability: Coaches from Pop Warner to high school have been made aware that they could face potential liability for creating and/or encouraging unsafe methods, techniques and practices. I’m certain everyone knows the NFL is facing lawsuits from their own players, so what’s to stop college, high school or youth players from doing the same? The growing shadow of liability should keep those in charge (coaches, trainers, and conditioning coaches) honest about making sure the players don’t put themselves at risk, especially for head trauma.

I doubt we will see anymore contact drills called; “The Nutcracker”, “Oklahoma drill”, and/or “The bull in the ring”.

Trickle down education: The NFL is spending millions on educating youth players on the proper techniques of blocking and tackling. Programs such as Play 60 have reached tens of thousands of children already. Just like in rugby where it’s second nature for players to tackle with their shoulder, a new breed of football player is emerging that’s better educated through camps and clinics on how to protect themselves, and their opponents from injury.

Death of the barbarian coach: I was taught in both high school and college to lead with butt of helmet when I wanted to block someone. I suffered four concussions. My coaches weren’t being barbaric but they were teaching techniques of the game that were taught to them.

What we like to call “old school” coaches, are rapidly dying off. When Bill Walsh came on the scene and started winning Super Bowls with short, crisp, cerebral and non-contact practices, the football world took notice and started adopting his philosophy. In addition, as the game continues to speed up with spread offenses, coaches stuck in teaching strictly a physical brand of football are being weeded out and left behind.

The mindset has changed: Anybody watching will notice more penalties and more reprimands by the announcers when a hit seems either too low, too high, unsafe and/or just too vicious. It’s just not cool anymore. We all still love a great hit but not when there is a risk of concussion or serious injury. And what the pros do, the kids and their coaches will imitate.

The majority of my retired clients are pretty beat up. They’ve suffered torn muscles, labrums, cartilage, and most have had at least one concussion. These same clients now have boys between the ages of 6 and 17. And every one that I represented is letting, if not encouraging their kids to play football. So if you’re on the fence about letting your child play football, do some homework first and I believe you will find a beautiful game filled with less contact, safer methods and better coaches than you imagined.

Sure, there will always be a risk for injury but the risk of suffering a serious injury while skateboarding, surfing, and/or mountain biking may be even greater.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

A peek behind the Jarryd Hayne Curtain

I’ve been getting asked a lot of questions lately since Jarryd Hayne signed with the 49ers. Thus, I figured I would incorporate some answers into my weekly post.
Media, what to expect: Jarryd arrived in the states on October 14th, 2014. As soon as he landed he went off-the-grid, sought NFL friendly workout facilities, quarterbacks, coaches and anyone who could help him get some position basic training. He did this all on his own for a month, paid his own way and did something every day to learn the game. A month later he started interviewing agents and eventually settled on me/my firm.
On Tuesday, he had a big press conference in Sydney when he announced his team selection. We/he didn’t do this for the attention; we/he did it so he wouldn’t have to speak continuously to the numerous media outlets over the next few weeks. The goal was to get all the questions answered at once, and move on to training.
I learned by being around him that he cared less about getting attention, as he is used to being in the spotlight, and more about dedicating himself to the game of the NFL. He was his league’s MVP three different times so he is used to the attention, and doesn’t need more of it. Going forward, I would expect the same from Jarryd, flying low under the radar and eating as much football as he can every single day. Over the last 48 hours, I’ve received over 40 requests for interviews and I doubt Jarryd will do more than two of them. That’s what we should expect going forward.
What’s next: This is really simple. Jarryd will start doing what all the other NFL players are doing. And that is starting to tune up for the off-season workouts. He will make his way back over to the states in a week or so and start training with veterans. March is the month where vets start getting on the field again. They run routes and do some field work on top of doing weight room work and conditioning. Jarryd doesn’t want to do a media tour and/or try to dig up every potential endorsement. He just wants to go to work and attack the learning curve.
Why do I want to represent him? I had enough contacts down-under and throughout the sport that confirmed to me, that Jarryd Hayne is the “real deal”, a “special player”. I am a huge rugby fan (attended many matches) and never got to experience rugby league (there is a difference) in person but always thought it was the closest game to the NFL game. On top of that, I really admire the culture of rugby and rugby league. It’s the greatest fraternity in the world. The guys spend a lot of time with each other, and are really supportive of one another through long seasons, always putting the team first.
Even though Hayden Smith of the Saracens didn’t make it with the Jets for a second year in 2013, he accomplished something no one has ever done before (outside of punters). He went from never touching a football in March to playing in a game in October and catching a pass in December. It was a positive experience for all involved and getting to be a part of Hayden’s journey was worth more money than I could make. We remain great friends.
I strongly feel Jarryd’s journey will also be unique, fulfilling and rich. I for one, love being a part of something groundbreaking in my industry. The young man has been dreaming about this chance for years, is taking a big pay-cut to make this happen, and has a deep dark determination that can’t be measured by tapes and stopwatches. That’s the type of people I love busting my ass for.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

Time to change the Combine

When you hear Mike Mayock and Rich Eisen talk about how much bigger and faster the players are getting each year, you have to wonder where the comparison should stop from players of the past.
The whole reason why drills, schedules and formatting of the Combine remain the same is so evaluators can always compare to the prior years attendees. However, this thinking/formula is flawed now because the evolution of training and preparing for the Combine has accelerated so dramatically over the last fifteen years. If I were an evaluator I wouldn’t compare a player’s combine performance to another player going back more than eight years.
In 1999, Mark Verstegen launched his first Athletes Performance (Now Exos with 7 locations) facility in Tempe, AZ. I know this because I sent him half of his first class. Other trainers like Chip Smith of CES, Tom Shaw and several others have been prepping players for over fifteen years now and have continually gotten better at having participants peak for their Combine workout. As of late, a bigger focus has been on nutrition, speed mechanics and bringing in former NFL players and coaches to tutor each player in drills and interviews.
The main reason for the Combine still remains the medicals and physical component. And everyone believes it is the most necessary and most important component of the Combine. But players and agents are growing more resistant to this current format and a change is needed or the NFLPA could force one to happen in what could have a showdown like capacity.
The current format has players getting in line for physicals at 6:30 am, standing in line for hours, then having their limbs, joints, knees and shoulders being pulled, pushed and rotated to their limits. Some doctors are more aggressive than others and some have minimal experience in the field.
Numerous players, including 310 pound plus lineman are crammed in an MRI machine for up to 30 minutes or more. Some players reported that the air in the MRI machine was not working and when they asked to be removed because they were feeling claustrophobic, they wouldn’t immediately do so and told them to be still for 15 more minutes. If you ever been in an MRI machine you can relate to these issues. Then imagine you are 6’5” 315 pounds. These machines are not made for these size men. It’s truly a “cattle call”.
So after very little sleep (most players settle down about midnight after their interviews and snacks), much standing around without food or sometimes even a place to sit, being pulled at, tugged at, even accused of hiding an injury, it’s on to an energy draining cybex test, having up to seven or more vials of blood drawn, and then off to more meetings. That coupled with another long evening and they are supposed to be fresh for the biggest audition of their life that also takes place on national TV? Oh, and all performed in some really tight fitting florescent clothes you are forced to wear.
Of course, this is a stressful time for these young men trying to get drafted as high as possible, not embarrass themselves, make great impressions, begin their dream and perform at their very best under duress in a stressful environment. I know there are worse things, but the Combine needs to grow up, mature, get with the times and make some more adjustments that are simply common sense.
For starters, here are some changes that should be made:
Players should be allowed to come a day earlier if they choose. The Combine started an extra day earlier this year. The extra day was meant to allow for more sleep, travel recovery time, more/longer informal interviews, and make for a more civil pace for everyone. But for some reason none of the players felt any more rested than years before. I believe just more things/activities were crammed into that extra day.
Physicals, drawing of blood and even opportunity for interviews should be “AFTER” the players perform all the on-field drills and forty. Essentially, the schedule of the combine should be flipped around. Would this mean all the players who would perform under these more friendly conditions would do better than all those before them? Perhaps, but it’s a new era and now is the time to make these adjustments.
Formal interviews should be increased to 20 minutes from 15. Juniors and QBs should be 30 minutes and the players should have the right to choose which teams they want to meet with in case there is limited time for them. Additionally, all player meetings should cease at 9:00pm. They currently run to 11:00pm. Having the extra day on the front end could help the whole process.
No physicals, scans, X-rays, tests or meetings should start before 9:00am. Players come from all over the country and come from different time zones. Players from Pacific time zones who have to be at the doctor’s for MRI’s at 7:30am are getting up at 3:30am Pacific time and will be up for the remainder of the day (their first full day in Indy).
Each player should have their own room: There are some really funny stories floating around about the roommate situations at the Combine. Players get stuck with roommates who snore, want to sleep with the TV left on, stay up late on the phone and keep the other player awake. The NFL makes good money on the Combine so buck up and give the players their own rooms.
I did run into NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith and player president Eric Winston one day. They were making their rounds and talking to a lot of agents and players and getting a feel for the whole environment and listening to grievances from agents. So don’t be surprised if the Players Association asks for a bigger role in shaping future Combines.
Follow me On Twitter: @Jackbechta

2015 NFL Combine Musings

If you watch the NFL Combine this year you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Players have been preparing for this week since their last college game. It’s also the official unofficial kickoff of free agency. There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.
Here are few highlights of the events of the 2015 NFL Combine
Evaluators: Agents and NFL brass have a love-hate relationship with the likes of Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Daniel Jeremiah, and all the draft pundits (side note: if you are a parent of a 2015 draftee, please quit reading the internet about your sons draft grade). These evaluators have never met your son, been to his campus to watch him work, interviewed him, read his medical records, talked to his position coach, nor watched hours of tape on him, and/or know what makes him tick).
Now, these guys do put in some work on the top 100 rated players. However, there is a huge drop off in work after the top 100-120 draftees. Last year many of these guys gave my client LB Anthony Hitchens of the Cowboys a late round to even a free agent grade. When the Cowboys took him in the 4th round some even mentioned it was a “reach”. Anthony ended up starting 11 games for the Cowboys and played like he was a 2rd round pick or better. I do think Mayock and Jeremiah are more in tune to the process than the others but they are limited to getting the same type of intel Ted Thompson gets or the grinding area/regional scouts.
Now on the flip side, we want these evaluators talking up our clients. A little media hype never hurts.
What do players really think about the Combine?
I’ve been representing players since 1986 and have had well over 100 clients attend Combine. I make a practice of asking players what they thought about their experience there. The answers are pretty consistent:
Here are the typical replies I got, including from some players who attended in 2013 and 14′.
“What a bunch of hype for a total of 30 minutes of work.”
“The meetings are a joke, it’s basically a few handshakes, and a few questions that could be answered by going to my college bio.”
“I’ll never want to do anything like that again. So stressful for what it was actually for. Those conditions will rarely show the best an athlete has to give.”
“I wish I spent more of that time preparing on football position stuff like studying film, formations, schemes, and NFL rules. The hype doesn’t match the actual performance of what we are asked to do. I felt I spent more time running around, waiting around, and standing around than being evaluated”
The Combine is in desperate need of tweaking. Now that it has become a moneymaker for ESPN (analysis/results) and the NFL Network (aired on NFL Network) the tail is wagging the dog. Meaning that it’s now another method exploiting free labor for profit. If any changes are made to the Combine they will be for the consideration of the TV/Media Networks first and their needs. Never the players. Maybe the NFLPA should ask the NFL to pay players to perform. I know, this sounds like greedy agent talk, right? Well not everyone of these players make it, the NFL and its partners are making money from the event so why not trickle it down from the billionaires to the guys we are turning on the TV to watch.
Front office traits: Attending the combine can give one an idea of how front offices are run, the standards that the owner, the president and/or the head coach and GM command from their employees. For example, some staffs will rarely ever be seen out about the town after 9:00pm getting a drink with the boys. Some front offices out work many others by getting as many interviews as possible, tracking down agents, meeting several times discussing personnel, free agency and draft grades. Others attend Indy rudderless without a plan and let their scouts, coaches and front office people act independently.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

Looking back on the 2014 season

Last year I made some good and worthless predictions. Looking back on some of the off field happenings I see some positive trends unfolding.

Diagnosed concussion decline continues: In 2013, concussions were down 13% from 2012. In 2014, concussions were down 25% from 2013. Hopefully this trend will continue because concussions are serious injuries with long-term consequences. Players, coaches and trainers are realizing it’s no longer acceptable for the tough guy to hide the injury and keep on playing. Props to everyone in the food chain who is helping to make the game safer.

The blackout rule finally getting blacked-out: In September 2014, the FCC unanimously voted to end the long-standing blackout rule, which prohibits games in local markets to be televised only when a team sells out. The spirit of the rule was to force fans to buy tickets to see a local game and to control what NFL games are seen locally on “FREE” TV.

The blackout rule still exists with the NFL but it’s no longer a Federal rule or law. The NFL can still encourage or even demand that its broadcast partners not show a game in the local market. However, they have to be careful not to piss off the federal government. But with live streaming for pay (or certain media plans) here now, they will most certainly use it arguing the game is available in all local markets, regardless of sellouts.

Personally, I want access to all NFL games, on every screen I own, wherever I am located and I am willing to pay for it. And the NFL knows you are willing to pay as well. It’s simple supply vs. demand economics.

2014/15 season NFL player and employee behavior: Being a former investment consultant, I always take a contrarian view on everything. With all the attention given to the Ray Rice incident, Adrian Peterson’s fall from grace, Johnny Manziel entering rehab, Terrence Cody being charged for animal cruelty, and Warren Sapp being arrested for soliciting prostitutes, there is a silver lining in the number of off-field social issues facing the NFL.

In 2014, there were about forty NFL players arrested, mostly for DUI’s/DWI’s and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Considering there are over 2,400 coming on and off rosters every year, the percentage of arrests compared to all US males in this age range is well below the national average. Additionally, these young alpha males have more time, money and status on their hands, which is the perfect cocktail for even more potential trouble. There are also over 3,000 NFL employees who for the most part, according to arrest records also behave better than the overall population. Given the circumstances, NFL players and employees as a whole are better well-behaved citizens than we give them credit for.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

Tony "The Tongan" Moeaki

One client I’m happy to see in the Super Bowl this year is TE Tony Moeaki. Tony has had some tough luck since entering the league. In his rookie year it was looking like he was going to be the next coming of Tony Gonzalez. Tony was drafted in the 3rd round and in his rookie campaign he caught 47 passes for 556 yards and 3 TDs. Including this spectacular TD catch.

Going into his second season it was looking like he was about to surpass his rookie numbers. However, while carrying the majority of the load during camp because two other tight ends were hurt, Tony was left in late in the 4th quarter. Due to the injuries to the other players, the coaching staff had Tony in the game playing against the two’s and three’s, mostly players who would be released and playing for their lives. A hit eventually came to the knee that gave Tony an ACL tear that knocked him out for the season.

In his third season, Tony wasn’t quite recovered from his ACL tear but went full speed in camp anyway and ended up carrying a lot of the work load again. You see he’s the kind of player who never complains, and loves to compete so he will never turn down a practice, preseason or game rep. It seems the University of Iowa breeds these kinds of players (Tim Dwight, Pat Angerer, Riley Reiff, Bob Sanders, Aaron Kampman, Marshal Yanda, Jon Babineaux and countless more.)

These types of players are their own worst enemy when it comes to managing their bodies. They want to compete so badly and at any cost that they will continue to risk injury as opposed to taking a day off, cutting back on their reps and/or communicating to team docs or trainers in fear of potentially losing their job. Tony is one of these types that just keep going, sacrificing his long-term career to compete right now.

After Tony labored through his third season with 33 catches and only one TD he got his knee scoped again and things were looking up for year four. His knee was finally healed and was feeling like his old self again and was planning for a big year. Then, in the third preseason game, late in the game against the Steelers, he got hit after making a catch that resulted in a non-displaced fracture of his scapula. An injury where you could do nothing but let the bone heal for about ten weeks. KC put him on injured reserved and I eventually did an injury settlement to try to get him on another roster by the end of the year and hopefully help a team in the playoffs.

The Bills ended up signing Tony and gave him a premium contract for the remainder of 2013 and 2014. The Bills didn’t make the playoffs and Tony was held back from being activated but practiced with the team as if he was going to play. Regardless, the Bills brass and coaching staff were excited to have Tony in their arsenal for the 2014 season.

Early in camp Tony had a mild hamstring pull and was rehabbing back to play in the final two preseason games. During his rehab Tony pushed hard during multiple 100 yards sprints, and pulled his hamstring again. It was extremely frustrating because he’d never had a hamstring issue. In speaking with the Bills, we mutually agreed it was best for us to part ways and have Tony rehab on his own with a therapist of his choice. Therefore, I did an injury settlement with the hopes Tony would be ready to workout for teams about week six of the regular season.

(Side note: It’s a really unorthodox and uncomfortable situation for a player to go into a team training room everyday during the season, knowing that as soon as he is healthy the team is going to release him. He has to see his teammates everyday knowing they won’t be his teammates in several weeks. In the meantime, the front office is always trying to do injury settlements to remove the player form their trainer’s workload. A seasoned agent won’t try to play doctor and predict when the player will be 100%. So it becomes like two people who filed for divorce but are still forced to live together everyday until it’s final. It’s not a fun way to go to work everyday).

We found Tony a great personal trainer in his hometown of Chicago to rehab and train him. After six weeks, Tony told me he was ready to roll. However, there was a great challenge ahead in finding Tony a job. GM’s don’t like bringing players in who didn’t have a healthy preseason camp or play in any games. They also worry that they won’t be in shape and will most likely get hurt again and the team has to eat their salary for a year while being on IR.

After two weeks of burning up the phone lines trying to get Tony a job, a workout or a sniff, I kept hearing the same thing, “love the player but worried about the body”. It wasn’t looking good. So I went to Chicago on or about week 9 of the regular season. I went and watched Tony workout to see first-hand what type of shape he was in. I watched him work and was so impressed I filmed the workout on my phone. My conviction was so deep about his health I started bugging every team again that I knew could use a productive TE. I even asked the Chiefs if they would bring him back. I was literally badgering the Seahawks front office until I wore them out. A few hours later GM John Schneider called back granting a workout, flying him in the next day. I could tell in his voice he was a little reluctant but we had a long working history and he knew he could trust me.

(Side note: Agents are always trying to get their out of work clients tryouts and do anything to get it done. The agent usually has to rely on the client’s word that he is in great workout shape. There are times we send players for a workout in midseason and they just bomb. Then, the Pro Personnel Director or GM gets embarrassed in front of their coaching staff that usually runs the workouts. Thus, they become very surgical as to whom they bring in for workouts. In addition, it’s very challenging for TEs, WRs, DBs, and RBs to stay sharp if they don’t have access to a quality QB or a structured environment.)

On the following Tuesday (the typical workout day for street free agents), John called me and said, “Damn you were right Jack, he is in great shape. I think we are going to sign him.” I said what do you mean “think”, sign him now or someone else will.” They decided to sign him on the spot and he immediately impressed the coaches and they eventually activated him for the Chiefs game on Nov. 16.

I couldn’t believe how serendipitous it was that it would be the game Tony would show himself again. The Seahawks lost, but Tony played well and even scored a touchdown against the team that drafted him and released him. It was pretty special as even some of Tony’s former Chiefs teammates were caught celebrating for him. Even the classy Chiefs fans gave him some love. Everyone was happy to see Tony climb his way back into the league.

Since being signed by the Seahawks, Tony has only had eight catches but has been playing a contributing role by grading out high on his blocking scores, catching six of his passes for crucial first downs and helping a blossoming Luke Willson carry the load for the Seahawks TE friendly offense.

Everyone that knows Tony knows his warrior competitive spirit and is rooting for his success this weekend. When a young player sustains several injuries in his first four years he is usually out of the league by now. It takes a lot of desire and self-motivation to keep fighting by yourself when you feel the door closing on your career.

As and agent and friend to my clients, these are they guys I/we love to fight for and get great personal satisfaction when we can help make the difference in keeping a fragile career alive.

The NFL is littered with great comeback stories like Joh
nny Jolly
(Packers), Rolando McClain, and Willis McGahee. And behind every comeback is an agent with conviction and an NFL personnel man willing take a chance.

A taste of the Senior Bowl

Most agents and football people will tell you they have a love-hate relationship with the annual pilgrimage to Mobile. Although the focus is supposed to be on the players, there’s a lot more going on around town than meets the eye.

Here are a few things I noticed after my first 48 hours in Mobile:

Challenging practice schedule for evaluators on Day 1: I’m hearing complaints by scouts about the way the schedule was laid out on Tuesday. The North team practiced at 12:15 to 2:15 at one field, then the South team practiced at another field from 2:30 to 4:30. That field is about thirty minutes away. There is a very limited time frame to evaluate and get exposure to players, and the tight scheduling made it difficult for scouts. The players usually have team meetings in the morning and a mandatory media or social function in the evening. From 8:30 pm to 11:00, teams are allowed to conduct formal interviews with players. By this time, everyone is usually fried from the long day.

Its obvious the Senior Bowl caters to the “wants” of the local community. The event brings in millions of dollars to hotels, restaurants and local businesses. It helps to keep Mobile relevant in the football world.

Star power is waning: Before the media explosion (NFL Network coverage, hundreds of bloggers, etc.) hit the Senior Bowl, the likes of Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Al Davis, Arthur Blank, and the who’s who of NFL royalty were seen just five feet from one-on-one drills on the field, while followed by the ducklings that made up their inner circle. Many owners, head coaches and even general managers have decided not to attend the practices as frequently as they used to. I think the hordes of media that are here now make it less productive for them. Years ago the town was somewhat cloaked away from the outside world.

Jerry Jones is about the only owner who consistently visits the Senior Bowl. It’s great seeing him rolling around Mobile. He doesn’t have bodyguards, he’s accessible, engaging, stops for photos, and says hello to everyone. He simply enjoys people and is a constant ambassador for the NFL and his beloved Cowboys.

New coaches and GMs get slammed: If you are a new coach or just landed a GM job you wont be able to walk five feet without an informal resume hitting you in the face. If you are a new coach or GM you really need to be scouting the best college players. However, the job seekers and well wishers have other plans for your time. Some new head coaches avoid the Senior Bowl for this reason alone, as they can’t really ever get any scouting done.

Financial advisors, accountants, and other service hucksters are outnumbering the agents: I’m not saying this is a bad thing; they have as much right to promote their business as anyone. However, the players really don’t have the time, can’t pay attention to, or have an understanding of how to manage such introductions. One clever but unprofessional professional, has been witnessed going up to players with a clipboard after practice asking for the players’ email and cell number. Unsuspecting players think he’s a scout or somebody associated with the NFL. These are some of things players and agents have to deal with while trying to work and compete for higher draft slots.

The Senior Bowl has long been a staple for the NFL and its evaluators, however, many changes have been embraced and many have not. If you watch the game on Saturday, just realize you are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg. The heart and soul of the Senior Bowl is Monday to Thursday.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

The Final Four

There are a few things these teams have in common. I’ve always said that successful teams must have these four ingredients to be a Super bowl contender.

Lets take a look at some of the common DNA that makes up these teams:

System offenses: The Patriots and the Packers probably have the oldest system of the four-playoff teams. Mature offensive systems make it easier for teams to execute and game plan because they don’t have to worry about tweaking or teaching the offense to a young player. Everything is plug in and play.

(Note: If Kubiak stays put in Baltimore for a few more years they will have a system offense that will just keep getting better and younger players can see the field sooner and thus contribute, especially wide receivers.)

Mobile QBs: Sorry Tom, it’s about the only thing you can’t do but the other three can kill you with their feet. Rodgers is a little gimpy but can still get ten yards if needed. It just takes about three big plays from a speedy QB to run unaccounted for and break the back of a defense. This is where I give the advantage to the Seahawks (if Rodgers can’t run of course). It could be the deciding factor in these playoffs.

Next up/Scouting: The Seahawks finished third in the league with the most players on injured reserved this year with 16. The NY Giants had 22 and the Ravens had 19. The Ravens and Seahawks are two teams that many feel do a great job in teaching, developing and actually playing young players. More importantly they find and invest in players like LT James Hurst who was undrafted but helped dig them out of a hole when Eugene Monroe went down. They also started John Urshel (5th Round) who was more than serviceable. The Ravens 2014 sack count was 19 and the year before it was 48. So needless to say they are headed in the right direction as an offense.

The Seahawks had a similar experience last year along the offensive line where they were scrambling to use undrafted players and bodies off the wire. Having offensive line coaches like Castillo and Cable is a huge plus. However, credit has to go to the scouting staff to for finding serviceable hidden gems that can get you deep into the playoffs.

Chemistry: Us NFL agents get to hear a lot about what goes on in NFL teams training rooms and locker rooms. I can’t emphasize enough how important a team's training staff is. If the players don’t trust them they don’t trust the organization and perhaps the coaches. If the trust is gone the coaches can't get that extra 10% they need out of their players. At least three of these four teams have training staffs that players trust (I cant attest to one team because I, not players, have yet to have enough experience with them).

Sometime early in the season when the Seahawks were struggling, the players called each other out. They actually criticized themselves for getting too soft, doing too much stuff off the field and not working as hard as they did before. It’s important for players to hold each other accountable and it's very hard for the coaches to manufacture it. It has to come from the players. Not all teams have this type of locker room.

The Patriots and Packers also have very special locker rooms. I’m hearing the Colts players all really like each other and the younger players are really setting the bar for a contagious blue-collar work ethic.

There are several other teams that have these components but may lack the QB, the coaches or the playmakers to get them over the hump. Enjoy the games!

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

Just getting started

You ever wonder why some teams fail and some consistently win? Besides measuring a roster for talent and a head coach for brains, there is a lot more moving parts to the NFL than meets the eye. Those teams that make all the right moves after the regular season seem to be consistently in the win column (along with having a great QB).

Here’s what coming down the pike:

Jan 15th: Final date for Underclassmen to declare for the draft: Most underclassmen that will declare have declared. Those players on Oregon and Ohio Sate may hold back out of respect for their team to make their announcement. Some teams who didn’t anticipate these players coming out might have to play catch up with those who did.

Jan 11th to 17th: The 90th East West Shrine Game held in St. Petersburg Florida. The Shrine game is usually full of players drafted between the 4th and 7th rounds. Don’t be surprised to see Packers GM Ted Thompson and other high profile personnel men here looking for mid-round gems. Two years ago, I had Packers rising star and DB Micah Hyde play in this game. His position coach for that week was former Packers CB Al Harris. This is the game where scouts can make their money by confirming their opinions on players they have on their short list. It’s also a game where a QB can make a big jump, like Jimmy Garoppolo did last year to the 62nd over all pick.

Jan 19th to the 24th: The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. About one hundred of the best college players will descend on this bayou city to show NFL teams why they should be drafted. This is also the unofficial NFL convention of NFL coaches, agents, front office execs and top media. Behind the scenes, coaches and personnel men will be interviewed, hired, and fired. Agents will start to gather intel for interest in their draft picks and upcoming free agents. Media scribes will be milling around watching, listening and gathering for any scoop they can find. Those team’s evaluators who stay out of the bars at night and away from the gossip at practice may walk away from the week with meatier reports on the top draft prospects.

Jan 25th: 2015 Pro Bowl (University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona)

Jan 25th: An assistant coach whose team is participating in the Super Bowl, who has previously interviewed for another club’s head coaching job, may have a second interview with such club no later than the Sunday preceding the Super Bowl. Those head coaches who aren’t afraid to wait for the best coaches to scoop up may be rewarded.

Feb. 1st: Super Bowl XLIX (University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona)

Feb. 2: Waiver system begins for 2015

Feb. 10: Beginning at Noon ET, NFL clubs may begin to sign players whose 2014 CFL contracts have expired.

Feb. 16: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

Feb. 17-23: NFL Scouting Combine (Indianapolis): This is where the fun really happens. New head coaches are rounding out their staff. Agents are getting bids on their free agents. Extensions are being negotiated for many players and draft prospects are actually being interviewed and evaluated.

March 2: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 7-10: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of Players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts. At 4 p.m. ET on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4 p.m. ET on March 10.

March 10: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.

Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain the exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer three accrued seasons.

All 2014 player contracts expire at 4 p.m. ET

2015 league year and free agency period begins (4 p.m. ET)

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

Is college football about to implode?

If you read my column you already know that I’m a big proponent of taking better care of college athletes. Not because I’m an agent, but because I’ve played it and have a front row seat for the inequities.

It would actually behoove the NCAA and its member schools to share more of the wealth produced by college football. Four or five years of banging your head, lifting weights and sacrificing your health takes a bigger toll than fans realize. In addition, playing college football is equivalent to have a full time job and taking a full school load.

The NCAA and the major conferences better get proactive right now.

Coaches salaries range from $1 to $7 million dollars a year because college football is a very profitable business. Good coaches exponentially pay for themselves by producing winning records, recruiting exciting players and getting their school to big paydays, oops, I meant a big time bowl game.

The NCAA’s $15 billion dollar football and basketball contracts can’t be ignored too much longer without more of that revenue trickling down to the players who help produce it. According to the department of education, the University of Michigan produced about $81 million dollars in revenue in 2012/13, had about $23 million in expenses and about $58 million in net revenues. The top ten most profitable programs had net profits ranging from $81 million dollars to $38 million dollars. The only places in the world where the economics work like that is in third world countries where factory workers who make luxury products for compensation equals about a dollar a day.

There are two lawsuits against the NCAA that have some big teeth to them. One is the Ed O’Bannon case, which alleges that the NCAA used players’ likeliness without properly compensating them. The initial ruling in that case went against the NCAA and may go all the way to the Supreme court.

The Kessler lawsuit is the scarier of the two for the NCAA and its biggest conferences. The lawsuit is trying to promote a free market system on what players can be compensated by a university to play football. The spirit of the suit is to lift the ceiling on what football players receive as compensation (a scholarship and some meal money). The lawyers and plaintiffs really just want the money that goes into the college football coffers, to trickle down to the players.

These two cases together can blow the roof off college football as we know it. So the conferences better get more proactive in offering up more financial benefits to the student athletes and try to settle these cases now.

The bowling madness needs to end or be reformulated

There are now 38 of them and attendance is pitiful for the lower bowl games. We have 66 teams playing on days where there are some TV earning opportunities. So the NCAA and its members employ the free labor of college football players to pick up the easy money from its media partners. However, the NCAA and their member schools still profit from these games even though some have less than 5,000 bodies in actual attendance.

There are players practicing and lifting for two weeks, during finals week, and many teams are flying out, and/or practicing on Christmas day or eve. In addition, there has been about five or more players so far this year that have sustained serious injuries in these meaningless games where most teams have 6-6 records or just slightly better. Two of those players were decent NFL prospects.

Last year, one of my clients sustained a fractured fibula in one of those worthless bowl games. He was slated to be about a third round pick, and after 49 straight starts at left tackle for his school, he was left with a plate and eight screws in his foot. He couldn’t play in the Senior Bowl, participate in the NFL Combine and could barely workout on his pro day. The injury cost him a few million dollars but the NCAA and the schools made their bowl monies. At least insure players against potential lost income.

Another issue with many of these bowls is that the families of these players can’t really afford to attend them but do anyway. I’m not saying get rid of them all but give the potential pro players and/or those serious students the right to opt out of the bowl game and practices. Why risk millions for a meaningless game?

College players are starting to figure out the economics and are getting close to standing up for more rights they deserve. The NCAA and the big conferences need to quit playing defense and start sharing the wealth before the courts make them.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta