What's working and what's not with the NFL's efforts to further involve women? Melissa Jacobs explores that, plus proposes a rule change that would make Andy Reid nervous, suggests some NFL candidates for The Bachelor, and more in her new column.
Get all of Melissa Jacobs's columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
Welcome to Week Under Review, my brand spankin’ new column where we’ll discuss compelling storylines from the past week, introduce new ideas, throw in some random thoughts, have some surprise guests and generally try not to put you to sleep on a lazy Sunday.
Let’s start in Florida where some powerful NFL women were roarin’…
As part of the lead-up to this week's NFL owners meetings, the league hosted its inaugural Women's Career Development Symposium on Friday and Saturday in Boca Raton. The featured speakers, who ranged from Dolphins executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte to professors from Dartmouth and the Wharton School of Business, participated in panels with titles such as Meeting the Ever-Changing Challenges of the NFL, Leading with Impact: How to Think, Communicate, and Lead Strategically and even What the NFL and National Security Have in Common. The Symposium was the first piece of action following Roger Goodell’s announcement during Super Bowl week that a Rooney Rule mandating that women are interviewed for open executive positions would be instituted at the league level.
It’s been a fascinating, thoroughly topsy-turvy couple of years for women in all facets of the NFL, and my mindset remains conflicted, but hopeful. Ever since the commissioner botched Ray Rice’s initial discipline—and dealt with the backlash that will forever tarnish his legacy—the league has unquestionably poured copious resources into convincing its female fans that it knows we’re more than just accessories who purchase Fanicures and download Football 101 apps.
Some efforts have been better than others, but, truth be told, if there was an obvious solution to the complicated question of how to market to female fans, the NFL would have enacted it by now. And so they experiment.
I attended a similar event to this past weekend's Symposium during Super Bowl week in San Francisco—the NFL's Women's Summit—and got goose bumps listening to Condoleezza Rice recount her travails of navigating corporate board rooms and Oval Offices filled with white men. (It was also cold that day, but seriously, I don’t know if there exists a more impressive public speaker.) And while I missed the Women’s Career Symposium, I’ve spoken with a couple of media members in attendance and it seems it had a similar "girl power" element to it, with even more layers of practical career advice.
Interestingly enough, this weekend's event, while well intentioned, was probably not necessary at the league level. For all its previous missteps in the realm of women’s outreach, the league has been quite progressive in hiring and promoting women—there are currently 31 women who hold a title of vice president or higher. Add in the Rooney Rule for women and Goodell’s direct pipeline isn’t as nearly as devoid of female representation as is publicly thought.
The real issue is that the Rooney Rule for women doesn’t extend to the team level, and it’s probably with good reason. With very few exceptions, the path to x’s and o’s decision-making roles for women is almost non-existent. It would be great if there were a pool of women who could interview for the 17 general manager openings that become available each year, but that’s simply not the case.
The league will, and should, continue its efforts to reach female fans in a variety of inventive ways. But I just don’t see any magical program or algorithm at that level that will drastically change the narrative of women as bit players in a man’s sport. Instead, it's the organic x’s and o’s hires, and the variety of men behind them—like Rex Ryan promoting Kathryn Smith and Dean Blandino doing the same with Sarah Thomas, like Bruce Arians hiring Jen Welter as a training camp coach, Mark Davis enlisting Beth Mowins to call Raiders preseason games, and Sean McManus embracing Amy Trask as a CBS analyst—that are making women (or at least this woman) feel more empowered and embraced within the NFL sphere.
A rule proposal that will make Andy Reid shudder in fear
As mentioned, the NFL owners meetings begin Sunday, and the competition committee’s big proposed rule change is mandating ejections for players who commit two unsportsmanlike conduct calls. The “Odell Beckham Jr. rule,” inspired by the Giants' star receiver curiously being allowed to remain on the field after racking up three personal foul calls in a Week 15 game against Josh Norman and the Panthers, should pass with flying colors.
But when I think of possible rule changes that actually make the playing field more equitable, I always come back to instant replay challenges. It’s entirely preposterous that a coach gets a third challenge if he gets the first two right but doesn’t if he wins the second challenge after losing the first. In a utopian NFL, a coach would have two challenges to lose. If he loses the first, he can challenge five times, 10 times, as many times as he wants until he loses that second challenge. This would reward coaches who have a shrewd understanding of the rulebook (John Harbaugh) and further expose those who have been previously careless with their authority to challenge (Andy Reid). It would also expose the weakest officials and hopefully lead to improvements on that front (ahem, make them full time!)
The knee jerk reaction to my above suggestion will be that allowing coaches a chance to possibly use as many challenges as they want will increase the length of the games. The solution to that? Let’s centralize the actual review process through the replay command center New York, like is done in the NBA. This would avoid the time-consuming process (and oftentimes comedy of errors) of the ref slowly jogging under the hood, conferring with his crew, and wasting all of our time trying to determine where to spot the football after a call is reversed. Plus, you ensure consistency in how replay decisions are applied.
We've seen too many examples of incorrect calls either within two minutes or when a team is without challenges (and yes, occasionally when in replay). With these two changes, we could actually save time and achieve a more equitable result. How nice would be it be to go one NFL Sunday night without Dean Blandino explaining how one of his officials botched a call?
Peyton’s memory lane is the longest memory lane
If you were not mentioned or thanked by Peyton Manning in either his retirement press conference last week or Colts presser this week, you probably don’t exist. Boy, does Manning have some amazing anecdotes.
The full list of those mentioned:
Marvin Harrison, Archie Manning, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Jim Irsay, Bill Polian, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Manning’s grandpa, John Madden, Pat Summerall, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders, John Elway, Pat Bowlen, Joe Ellis, John Fox, Gary Kubiak, Jim Mora, Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell, [agent] Tom Condon, Olivia Manning, Cooper Manning, Ashley Manning, [Manning’s kids] Marshall and Mosley Manning, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, John Lynch, Ray Lewis, Zach Thomas, Tedy Bruschi, London Fletcher, Brian Dawkins, Junior Seau, Brian Urlacher, Troy Polamalu, Rodney Harrison, Charles Woodson, Ed Reed, Jeff Fisher, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, Monte Kiffin, Wade Phillips, Ron Rivera, Dick LaBeau, Romeo Crennel, Dom Capers, Marvin Lewis, Jim Johnson, Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James, Demaryius Thomas, Tom Moore, Adam Gase, Tom Brady, [Colts chief operating officer] Pete Ward, [former Colts executive vice president] Bob Terpening, [former Colts staff member] Kenny Hague, [Indianapolis media member] Mike Chappell, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Tom Moore, Bruce Arians, [ex-NFL QB] Kelly Holcomb, Marshall Faulk, Aaron Glenn, [Colts broadcaster] Bob Lamey, [Colts receptionist] Carol, Devin Hester, Jimmy Johnson, Jim Mora, Bill Parcells, Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, [former Colts offensive line coach] Howard Mudd, [Colts equipment manager] Mike Mays, Bobby Knight, Brandon Stokley, [former Colts offensive linemen] Ryan Diem, Hunter Smith and Tarik Glenn, Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, [Colts video guys] Fuzzy and Marty, [Colts trainers] Dave Hammer, Wally and Aaron, [former Manning backups] Brock Huard, Jim Sorgi and Curtis Painter, [Indianapolis sportscasters] Dave Calabro and Jack Trudeau, [former Colts tight ends] Ken Dilger and Marcus Pollard, [former Colts kicker] Mike Vanderjagt, [Colts strength coach] Rich Howell.
As Peyton Manning delivered the retirement speech of a lifetime in Denver almost two weeks ago, it was hard to not to fast forward five years to Manning’s next speech—his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,
“I turned to my colleagues and suggested that this speech would have been one of the best enshrinement speeches we’ve seen in some time,” said Joe Horrigan, the Hall’s of Fame’s vice president of communications and resident historian.
At the exact moment Manning was running through his long list of thank yous in Englewood, Col., two of the people he mentioned, his former coach, Tony Dungy and favorite career target, Marvin Harrison, happened to serendipitously be at Hall of Fame headquarters in Canton, Ohio preparing for their own enshrinements this summer. “It was absolutely surreal,” Horrigan said.
Manning’s retirement speech clocked in about 11:36, a tad longer than the 8–10 minute window typically given Hall of Fame enshrinees. But Horrigan is not remotely concerned about Manning following instructions.
“Peyton will keep his speech to proper limits, and he’ll probably make sure his fellow enshrinees do as well,” Horrigan said.
NFL Bachelor candidates?
Speaking of future Hall of Famers in Denver, new Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez, while meeting with the media this week, suggested he could compete for the starting job because, well, in his words…
“I’m not married. I don’t have any a girlfriend. I don’t have kids.”
Sounds to me like Sanchez is making a public plea to be cast as the next Bachelor so he can follow in the footsteps of Ben Higgins and find a soulmate in less than :45 seconds.
The theater-loving, self-deprecating Sanchez would make a fine Bachelor (and major brownie points for getting the work-life balance issue that can crush married parents) but when it comes to available Bachelor candidates from the wide world of the NFL, he doesn’t make our top five. Here’s who does: (NOTE: If you’re not married or you haven’t put a "ring on it," you’re eligible. Sorry Olivia!)
5. Odell Beckham Jr.
He’s a great “catch” and comes with his own set of “rules.” Also, it’s absolutely abhorrent there’s been no black Bachelor in 20 seasons.
4. Tim Tebow
“Should you choose to forgo your individual rooms, please use this key to stay as a couple in the fantasy suite.”—Chris Harrison
3. Bill Belichick
Girl: “So, where are you from?”
Belichick: “On to Turks and Caicos.”
Girl: Tell me about your family.
Belichick: “On to Santa Fe.
Girl: “Can you believe this amazing journey were on?
Belichick: “On to the fantasy suite.”
2. Aaron Rodgers
“The most DRAMATIC breakup in Bachelor history.”
1. Von Miller
Hipster glasses, ironic nerdy style, Super Bowl ring and a quick first step, perfect for handling 30 potentially crazy women vying his attention.
A source close to the Colin Kaepernick situation, when asked for an update:
“That’s like asking what’s up with Donald Trump. It’s just the most abstract situation.”