BOSTON -- I've been trying to find reasons to justify the NFL pushing back the draft by a whopping three weeks next season, to Mother's Day weekend, May 15-17. I can't find one. I'm not alone.
Talked to one personnel czar last night on the phone. "Hate it. Absolutely hate it.'' Saw one owner at dinner last night, and he said (sarcastically) his GM "would just love this ... more time to obsess on final decisions he made a month ago."
The NFL will say if the change is made -- and it's all but done, and could be approved at the meetings here today -- it's because Radio City Music Hall isn't available next year on the last long weekend of April. I live in New York City. There are other venues. Lots of them. It's ridiculous to trot out that excuse. To say the league couldn't find another place at Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center in Brooklyn or any one of a score of other options in New York is insulting to the intelligence of any thinking person. Say what it is: three more weeks to hype the most ridiculously overhyped event on the NFL calendar. Three more weeks for spring-programming-starved NFL Network to be relevant. And less time for NFL coaches, GMs, scouts and coaching staffs to be human beings and have family lives.
I was a naysayer at first on the league moving the first round to Thursday, with Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday. But I get that now. I actually like it. You get to digest the big round before moving on to the next two. But three more hype weeks? Three more weeks of mock drafts and guesswork? Three more weeks of 64 draft analysts breaking down tape? Lord save us.
The upshot will likely be the elimination of rookie minicamps for many teams. In this age of more and more rookies playing opening day, that's like taking away Spanish 101 and moving right into the second year of it; catch up if you can, rookie. The league will be cutting the number of weeks between the draft and the opening weekend of the season from 19 to 16. It's another way to sacrifice quality to keep the NFL on the front pages longer.
Another factor: Teams will have three more weeks to work out players. Teams aren't going to go into caves and just watch more tape -- they're going to work players out more. Say there's a top-50 prospect rehabbing from injury next year, a player who couldn't work out at the Combine. Now, instead of 12 teams going to work him out individually, maybe 20 will. The rehabber, trying to put his best foot forward day after day, could get hurt exerting himself over and over, day after day, over six or seven weeks.
No one empathizes with NFL employees and their time off. Nor should they. But this is a tradeoff of more hype for less time off, make no mistake about it. Do you honestly think organizations will now say to their staffs, "Take two weeks off in February to make up for extra time in June you'll have to work now?'' No -- not with free-agency tape to study and with college-prospect prep beginning.
The larger question, really, is this: How much hype is enough? How big does the league need the golden goose to get?
Silly question. We see it answered every day by an insatiable league.
BURKE: 2014 Mock Draft
A very good batch of email came in this week. Here we go:
NO. "Once the Super Bowls reach 50, do you think the league will end the practice of using Roman numerals?"
-- David Weber, West Hollywood, Cal.
I've heard nothing about it, and I doubt it sincerely. It lends that haughty, bigger-than-life air the NFL likes.
MAYBE PETE CARROLL WAS RIGHT. "I recall that, when Mark Sanchez declared for the draft, there was a lot of press given to Pete Carroll's comment that Sanchez wasn't ready. With Sanchez's recent struggles, I haven't seen much press given to the fact that Carroll may have been correct. Do you think that time is proving that Carroll was actually correct, or do you think that there are issues to blame for Sanchez's struggles?"
-- Daniel Harthan, Charlotte
Good questions, Daniel. I've always thought that college experience for quarterbacks is a good indicator of future success -- not perfect (Peyton Manning career passes at Tennessee: 1,381; Tom Brady at Michigan: 665), though -- and Sanchez threw only 487 passes in 16 career starts at USC. That has something to do with it. Also, I believe, does the ability and experience of handling pressure. It's hard to explain the crucible Sanchez has been in since arriving in New York. You've got the shadow of no one ever replacing Namath, the longer current shadow of Eli Manning having won two Super Bowls across town, and the inconsistent team architecture that has plagued the Jets over the past few years -- and the pressure that puts on the most important player on the field. Add to that the fact that Sanchez's decision-making and accuracy is mediocre, and you've got a good chance of failure.
NICE PERSPECTIVE, DAN. "In answering your question about whether I feel sick for David Garrard? Nope. I do admire Mr. Garrard. With the Texans playing in the same division with the Jags - I was able to see him play us and beat us quite a few times and he had a big hand in most of those victories. But when I look at any pro athlete as compared to the folks in the general public - hey, they are lucky. There are about 18 million high school students in the US and the average size of a high school is about 800 students. The chance of being a QB at a high school is less than 1 percent. In any year there are probably about 35,000 high school QBs graduating (including the backups) - the chance of one of them ending up at one of the 125 or so FBS schools in the country are less than 1 percent. Of those QBs in the FBS schools, the chance of one getting a job with an NFL team is less than 5 percent. So, my point is that a guy like David Garrard, who undoubtedly worked his tail off his whole career, still basically won the lottery. Maybe not a Powerball lottery, but he has lived a life few will ever know. I hope he does well back here in the real world where most of us toil.''
-- Dan Peschong, Sugar Land, Texas.
Perfect email, Dan. Thanks for writing it.
BLAMING BRADY. "I am getting so tired of everyone focusing on the Wes Welker drop of a pass that was behind him as the de facto play that cost New England Super Bowl XLVI. If there was one play that was truly a game-changer it was the very first play from scrimmage for the Patriots when Tom Brady incurred an intentional grounding penalty in his own end zone. The Giants received the free kick and drove 78 yards in nine plays, with the key play the 24 yard Ahmad Bradshaw run becomes first and goal. They scored a TD quickly after to make it 9-0 New York. Nine points. That's the ball game.''
-- Todd Bross, Union, Maine
Good point, Todd. My biggie from that game is Rob Gronkowski having two yards on Chase Blackburn in the fourth quarter, open behind the defense way downfield, and Brady underthrowing the ball badly with Blackburn picking it off. Gronkowski was open, and that's a ball Brady has to get to him, and didn't. To me, that's the ballgame.
ANOTHER GOOD POINT. "I have a question about positive tests and players saying it was Adderall. I imagine this is part of the collective bargaining process, and I get why the league can't say what the substance was a player tested positive for, but shouldn't it be the case that the league has to be quiet unless the player himself puts out incorrect information? So, if a player tests positive, comes out in the media and says it was Adderall, the league should be allowed to set the record straight. Players should not be allowed to take advantage of the requirement for the league to keep tests secret and purposefully spread misinformation.''
-- Andrew Gordon, Boston
Great point, and it's one I'm going to ask league people about. Thanks for writing.