It’s a cliche to say it, but the truth is that is what we root so hard for every Sunday, and all offseason long we scour the internet for any bit of information that might tell us who will be wearing it next season.
Ever since free agency was born unto the National Football League, the meaning of “family” has gone by the wayside and loyalty is certainly a thing of the past in almost every instance. There have been a lot of reminder of this over the last couple of weeks.
The Vikings traded one of their most successful first round selections, Percy Harvin, to the Seattle Seahawks for a number of reasons that seem to all be business related for both player and team. Then, we learned that long time cornerback Antoine Winfield was abruptly kicked to the curb due to a high salary and an increasing age.
Now, the Vikings stole away yet another life long Green Bay Packer in wide out Greg Jennings, which is the football equivalent of William Wallace joining the British in battle. This is yet another example of loyalties meaning far more to the spectators than it does to the players or organizations.
Now, I’m not blaming the players. If Winfield’s situation taught us anything it’s that players owe it to themselves to take advantage of their premier skills in what sill be a truncated career before their organization deems them expendable. I also don’t blame an organization for wanting to part ways with a player as it is their job to field the best possible team that gives them and their fans the best chance at a Super Bowl.
The NFL feeds off of players doing a swap of jerseys every year, along with a new crop coming in via the Draft, because it provides all 32 teams with new hope. New hope, as a matter of fact, sells tickets and television ads. It is part of what makes NFL football so much fun, because “there is always next year,” and parody has its place.
Unfortunately, there are situations where this annual tracking of players moving throughout the league becomes a detriment, as evidenced by how the majority of Vikings fans reacted when they heard the news of Winfield’s release. This type of thing is bad for business, in my opinion.
New players on new teams create sales opportunities. A reason to renew season tickets, a reason to buy that new jersey, and a reason to attend that Draft player. Still, it feels weird that the NFL awards teams for parting ways with their players via the compensatory draft pick formula, which happened to be announced today for 2013 (the Vikings got none), and gives them a motivation to let players test the free agent market. In fact, as pointed out by Vikings Fan Page on Twitter, the Vikings kind of did them a favor by signing Jennings to such a lucrative contract. In 2014, they will likely get a third or fourth round pick as a result, especially since they have yet to sign any unrestricted free agents from another team this offseason.
Maybe I think too hard about this stuff or maybe I let myself get too personally invested into a certain player, but I think the NFL should seriously consider another award mechanism of some sort.
What I have in mind is something that actually rewards a team, and maybe even a player somehow, for remaining loyal. There is no award for the Jim Kleinsassers of the NFL, those players and teams that remain married throughout an entire career, or an entire generation. Wouldn’t it be cool if a player’s retirement benefited the team he played his last game with and, in turn, encourages both parties to see a contract for a player over 30 years old played out in its entirety… something of increasing rarity in today’s NFL?
Common decency is a prerequisite for common sense, in my assessment, and recent events have led me to believe common decency is tough to come by in the NFL. That means common sense isn’t far behind, which is apparent from the way Winfield was reportedly dismissed.
Today, in Arizona, head coach Leslie Frazier made it known he wanted Winfield back in the fold. Winfield supposedly hasn’t ruled out returning to the team that he played with for nine seasons. Common sense would indicate that a reunion is possible, but thanks to an initial lack of common decency make those odds increasingly slim.
It’s a business, but it is also a shame that the NFL doesn’t do something to better veil the business side of things, and create an incentive for keeping common decency, common sense, and loyalty in the game.
A real shame.