With the sports world at a standstill, the NFL is the only sense of (sort of) normalcy left. Sure, there aren’t any games. Tom Brady didn’t have an extravagant press conference at Raymond James Stadium. Teams’ official twitter accounts are citing Ian Rapoport for moves.
It isn’t normal. But in a world that isn’t normal anymore, it’s close enough. There are free agency signings. We still all get to freak out on Twitter when Halapoulivaati Vaitai gets $10 million a year to help us get through being stuck in our houses 24 hours a day. However, with the draft now four weeks away, and rookie minicamps and OTAs soon to follow, still so much is up in the air.
GMs want to move the draft back, as was stated Wednesday afternoon, while the league wants to stick Roger Goodell in front of a green screen and do it all over video conferencing. Understandably, with the NFL the only sports show in town right now, the league wants the TV numbers that would come from holding the draft during this next month or so. However, does that outweigh the potential costs?
I’m not going to pretend to be a pandemic researcher or a PhD. If you are coming to this for medical advice or predictions on when there will be a new “normal,” go somewhere else. Because, quite frankly, I have zero clue when this is going to end. And so do you. However, until it does, the NFL should look very similar to all the other sports leagues it brothers: silent.
The NFL has one main goal, to keep it’s players, coaches, administrators, team employees, and fans safe. Quite frankly, it is not safe for players to be in facilities working out or for general managers and their staffs to be in the office dissecting film for the upcoming draft. And thus, the draft cannot commence until it is.
Yes, the world is mobile now. Yes, anyone (including you and me) can google a draft prospect and find their film in a matter of instants, and then go make ridiculous takes about said player on twitter two minutes after that. If the draft process was that simple, then fine, you can proceed.
However, teams are now not able to get medicals on players that may drastically need it to prove they’re healthy. Players who weren’t invited to the combine, or tested poorly, can’t prove themselves, thus hurting their draft stock. Teams who think a player would do better in a different position or scheme now can’t run that player through drills that would prove that. Players with either intelligence or character red flags now can’t prove that to a whole front office. People whose film comes against weaker competition, who still need to prove themselves at a higher level, can’t be brought into facilities to be tested.
Therefore, to not be screwed over by the NFL draft not being postponed, you have to be a player with no question marks on tape, in testing, or in interviews. Guess how many guys that applies to? Zero. Absolutely none.
The draft is a massive business. There isn’t a team in the league whose war room for the draft would be less than 10 people, the CDC recommendation for the maximum number of people in a social gathering right now. This gives teams two options: either openly admit their football operations mean more to them than the health of their employees, or put themselves at a competitive disadvantage due to something out of their control.
Couple this with the fact that, at this current time, teams are barred from entering their war rooms, and facilities, by league mandate, the fact the NFL wants the draft to continue in April is not only short-sighted, but also dangerous and ridiculous.
There will be teams that put football over their employees’ health. This is the same league that has had coaches offer players money to inflict potentially life-changing injuries on to future hall-of-famers, and then give those coaches multiple jobs after that. You don’t have to be some angelic person to be a decision maker in the NFL, but you have the power to do a lot of harm.
So, let’s say the draft goes on as is. You are having a bunch of people risk their health, and possibly their lives, to go unprepared into a process which permanently alters the lives of more than 250 21-year-olds. Then, after that, you expect them to completely learn an entire NFL playbook in the same manner in which others their age are learning calculus, with zero live reps, all while hoping that they have a personal weight room set-up to stay lifting and in shape. Then, when (or if) it becomes safe enough to get them into your facility, you are going to expect these players to be key contributors on the NFL gridiron like this offseason was normal.
That’s just not possible.
It’s a lose-lose scenario for the NFL. However, it feels as if the world right now is in a perpetual state of lose-lose scenarios. One thing trumps everything else: peoples’ safeties and lives. By not postponing the NFL draft, Roger Goodell is partaking in an act of grand negligence, jeopardizing both those things for literally thousands of people, solely for the bottom line of a technical “non-profit” organization.
So, let’s make sure the world goes back to normal before we start worrying about football. Shut down the league. Postpone the draft. Postpone rookie minicamps. Cancel OTAs. Make sure everyone is safe. And then, and only then, let’s worry about football.
Anything else would be the pinnacle of a line of horrible decisions made by the judge, jury, and executioner of the National Football League.