I don’t know about you, but I sure wish I was sitting on the veranda at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort in Dana Point, California. I’d be gulping down the fresh orange juice and enjoying a bagel while soaking in the morning sunshine and staring at the Pacific Ocean.
Instead, I’m in the basement with a cup of Tang and a piece of toast, and the only rays I’m soaking in are coming off the computer screen.
Oh, to be one of the power elite at the NFL’s annual spring meeting that began yesterday in SoCal.
There is no lack of items on the agenda to create conversation for the owners and power guys. There is the current economic situation to discuss. There’s preparation and a look down the road to the negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement. There are questions about expanding the regular-season schedule to 18 games, and other items like roster limits and regulations and playing rules around the game.
One item should be considered by the owners, but it probably will only be talked about over toddies at the nightly cocktail party or over a cup of coffee and Danish on the terrace in the California sunshine.
That would be a complete change in the NFL’s off-season calendar.
Right now, it’s out of whack. In the upcoming negotiations with the NFL players, the league should consider moving the draft back into late February or the first part of March and pushing free agency into April. They need to swap these events and when they play out for the sake of their teams and executives.
If I’m an NFL owner concerned about expenses – supposedly they all are these days – then the one department that probably drives him crazy is the personnel department and most especially what happens between the end of the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft.
If I’m an owner what I hear all the time from my GM, my personnel director and my coach is that we need to send people here, there and everywhere. It’s especially true during this two-month period between the Combine and Draft where, player personnel types are flying all over the country to attend these private workouts and Pro Day sessions at college campuses.
If I’m an owner, I get pretty steamed when my team is paying all this money to get people to these workouts and then my GM, personnel guy or coach describes them as underwear Olympics and not nearly a prime evaluation tool. If I’m an owner, I want to know why my share of the Combine expenses each year doesn’t cover this information already.
This is a case where the league’s time, attention and money is being jerked about by two groups of people: players who have never taken a snap in the league and the agents for those players. There’s no reason a player can’t do all the things at the Combine that he does at his private workout.
If I’m an owner, I don’t like getting manipulated by some college punk and his agent. Moving the draft up would eliminate all this unnecessary travel and workouts. Evaluations of talent would be based on what’s important: what they did on the field the previous fall.
Let’s say the league goes to a set schedule where the Scouting Combine is held two weeks after the Super Bowl, and then the draft is held three weeks after that. As an example under this schedule in 2009 the Super Bowl was played on February 1, the Combine would start on Feb. 15 and the draft would be March 8. Free agency would begin April 8.
We must remember that the league has talked about adding two more regular season games, slicing the pre-season down to two games and playing an 18-game regular-season schedule. Now, the league has learned through experience that playing regular season games before Labor Day means poor TV ratings.
So if the league wants to basically add two weeks to the end of the schedule, then Super Bowls will be played in the middle of February. Then, they should set the Combine for March 1 and the Draft for March 15. Make free agency’s start date April 15; there’s an ironic twist to that given it’s the deadline for filing taxes.
But this would put the cart (free agency) back behind the horse (draft), where it belongs. As we are seeing this year, more and more teams are coming to understand the free-agent market for what it really is: a chance to fill in holes the draft hasn’t been able to handle.
Until 1977, the league held its draft in February. That early date helped the teams that were well prepared. The later date over the years has allowed teams time to catch up if they are not very good at evaluating college players. It’s dumbed down the process.
Thirty years later, the league needs to regain control of the process and move the Draft back to late February or early March.
CHIEFS AT THE MEETINGS
Not sure of the total travel party, but chairman Clark Hunt, GM Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley are at the meetings in California.
What does not appear to be on the agenda this year are two items that the Chiefs have introduced at previous meetings: expanded playoffs and hair.
First introduced several years ago by the late Lamar Hunt, the Chiefs have pushed several times for an addition to the field for the conference playoffs each year. Right now the number is six. The Chiefs in the past have suggested a seventh team.
Last year at the urging of Clark Hunt the Chiefs wanted the league to discuss rules for the extra long hair coming out of the back of some players helmets. This met with a lot of resistance and never was discussed in the meetings last year.
Word as of late last week was that neither item was on the meeting agenda for this week.
LIONS ARE NEGOTIATING
No one is saying who the Detroit Lions are talking too, but the club’s president admitted over the weekend that the team has begun preliminary contract discussions with a potential No. 1 pick.
And before they are done, the Lions plan to talk with the agents for several players.
“By the rules, we could agree to terms with somebody tomorrow if we wanted to,” Lions President Tom Lewand told the Ann Arbor News. “We have to have robust dialogue with the agents of the players we’re interested in. We’ve started that process and we’ve made it very clear to all of them that we have to have that as this month draws to a close. We won’t put a timetable on it.
“If we make the decision and (general manager) Martin (Mayhew) and (head coach) Jim (Schwartz) and everybody else is comfortable with it and we can come to a contract with the guy, there’s no reason we can’t do that tomorrow. If we can’t – and any one of those pieces isn’t in place – and it doesn’t get done until the night before the draft, that’s fine, too.
“Whenever the muffin rises above the tin, it’s time to eat.”
Not sure what a muffin has to do with this, but the Lions are working the situation, as they should.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on March 23, 1966 in Beaufort, South Carolina was RB James Saxon, who was with the Chiefs as a player and assistant coach. Saxon was a sixth-round choice in the 1988 NFL Draft out of San Jose State. He played four years with the Chiefs (1988-91), appearing in 54 games with six starts. He carried the ball 127 times for 497 yards and five touchdowns, while catching 37 passes for 323 yards. Saxon was an assistant coach for seven seasons (2001-07).
Born on March 23, 1963 in Orlando was DT Tim Newton, who finished his eight-year NFL career with the Chiefs in the 1993 season. He appeared in 16 games and did get one sack.
Born on March 23, 1951 in Lackawanna, New York was QB Ron Jaworski
(left), who wrapped up his 15-year NFL career by playing the 1989 season with the Chiefs. Jaworski appeared in six games and made three starts in that ’89 season. He hit 36 of 61 passes for 385 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions.