Culture: Why the Patriots Usually Win and Browns Usually Lose

This week, we’ve turned our blog over to Donovan Martin of Ft. Wayne, Ind.-based Donovan Mental Performance. Donovan and his team are doing exciting things to help athletes bring their very best to the court, diamond or gridiron. We introduced Donovan in November on our Friday Wrap, and he’s addressed topics like the mental side of being a kicker and how two great teams prepare for a showdown in this space. 

For the second consecutive Sunday, the Patriots lost. In the aftermath, national sports outlets are buzzing about the team’s decline. Is the dynasty crumbling? Is the offense irreparably broken? Is Tom Brady finally done?

It’s an outsized reaction to a two-game streak. Still, it’s understandable, because since 2001 (Brady’s first year starting) the Patriots have only experienced back-to-back losses nine times. They’ve won 230 times. When you almost never lose, losing becomes news.

The Browns, on the other hand, won on Sunday, notching only their 98th win since 2001. Two years ago, they didn’t win a single game. But thanks to an influx of talent (including the acquisition of WO Odell Beckham Jr.) in the offseason, they entered 2019 with national pundits on their bandwagon and their sights set on the Super Bowl.

When you almost never win, the chance of winning becomes news. Now, after seven losses, they have a 4% chance to make the playoffs. Why do the Patriots consistently win while the Browns consistently struggle? It’s not talent; arguably, the Browns are more talented this year.

It’s culture. Poor cultures impede high performance. Strong cultures cultivate high performance.

Here’s how.

Strong cultures encourage humility: Winning teams don’t have ego issues. Ego issues represent distractions. Strong cultures don’t tolerate distractions, which means that humility is mandatory.

Brady, for example, has famously taken team-friendly contracts, prioritizing the team’s success over his immediate finances. As a whole, the Patriots are known for merging big personalities seamlessly into their team environment (think WO Randy Moss in 2007) while moving on quickly from players who don’t conform.

Humility leads to limited distractions and team success.

Strong cultures align individuals to a purpose: The Patriots are purposed to win football games. It’s why Bill Belichick never answers questions about anything other than football (and why he barely spends any time answering questions at all). It’s why the team gets accused of running up the score on bad teams (because they’re continuing to strive for improvement).

Yes, ostensibly, all teams are purposed to win. But weak cultures create contexts where players are quick to break ranks – to go for big plays, to focus on stats, etc.

As for the Browns, Beckham’s rumored to be asking opposing coaches to “come get me [out of Cleveland]” after games. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has laid the blame for Beckham’s frustration on the team’s training staff.

In team sports, alignment is crucial.

Strong cultures build leaders: Finally, in strong cultures, leaders create leaders.

The Patriots are known for making nobodies into winners despite constantly picking at the bottom of the draft. Julian Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State who was taken in the seventh round and converted to receiver. Former Patriots receiver Wes Welker went undrafted. Even former linebacker Tedy Bruschi was taken in the third round. And of course, Brady went in the sixth. Each turned into a star.

The team simply has a culture that builds people into higher performers and better leaders.

How to build strong culture: The idea isn’t to hate on the Browns or to idolize the Patriots. The truth is that every team wants to build a strong culture. It’s simply not easy to do.

But mental training can help. I work with teams to develop and refine strong cultures using proven techniques, including mantra identification, visualization, and goal-setting. These tactics help to build a culture of unity and strength that, in the long run, must be set by leadership and carried by players.

That’s why it helps to have a coach like Belichick – even if he’s lost two straight games.


How the Ravens and 49ers Put On A Show of Peak Performance

This week, we’ve once again turned our blog over to Donovan Martin of Ft. Wayne, Ind.-based Donovan Mental Performance. Donovan and his team are doing exciting things to help athletes bring their very best to the court, diamond or gridiron. We introduced Donovan in last week’s Friday Wrap

The Ravens beat the 49ers on Sunday in a showdown between, arguably, the NFL’s best two teams. There’s no arguing that these were two red-hot teams performing at peak levels.

In a steady rain, both teams traded blows, playing out a heavyweight matchup nearly to a draw until Justin Tucker drilled a 49-yard field goal as time expired to give the Ravens the win.

After the game, both teams were upbeat. They’d been tested. They’d delivered. Each team’s belief – and drive – were unshaken. Mentally, both were champions: two elite teams maintaining high levels of performance.

Let’s break down how they did it.

Pre-game: Excited, not intimidated

Poor mental performance coincides with anxiety or doubt. But when you’re performing at a high mental level, challenges don’t intimidate you. They excite you. That’s where both of these teams were prior to Sunday’s game.

“Anybody can be stopped,” 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said before Sunday’s game when asked whether he was worried about Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. No intimidation there, despite going against the league’s MVP front-runner.

On the other side, Ravens players welcomed the challenge. “We respect the heck out of them, because, shoot, they’re 10-1,” said wideout Willie Snead IV. “It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Peak mental performance means getting excited about challenges.

Game time: Locked in, not distracted

The highest level of mental performance happens in “the zone” – a state where distractions aren’t recognized, challenges are embraced, and peak performance happens effortlessly. Throughout Sunday’s game, even as they traded momentum-setting highlights, both teams were consistently in the zone.

Take Jackson’s big fumble in the third quarter. He kept the ball on a third-and-one and went streaking 20 yards around the left edge when he had the ball poked out via a spinning tackle. The 49ers recovered it in what seemed to be a game-shifting play.

However, Jackson didn’t let the miscue take him out of the zone. He jumped up, patted himself on the chest as if to say, “my bad,” and immediately got set to go back to work. He didn’t let it become a distraction. Eventually, he led the game-winning drive.

He was locked in.

Post-game: Focused on the process, not the result

Finally, high-level mental performance requires a focus on what’s controllable: the process of improvement. Results are secondary. After the game, both teams’ demeanors were proof of their peak mental performances.

Fans might’ve expected Jackson to be happy with the win, but the QB was actually focused on what he wanted to improve. “Horrible,” Jackson said when asked how he felt about his passing performance. “Oh, man. I was throwing passes behind receivers. . . it was ticking me off.”

The 49ers were focused on improvement, too. “Yeah, I thought it was a real good football game,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said in the post-game presser. “We knew it was going to be a very physical dogfight . . . I liked how our defense played. There’s still things they can do better.”

A focus on improvement, win or lose, is a sign of peak mental performance.

Mental Training Empowers Peak Performance

Reaching the levels that the Ravens and 49ers did on Sunday isn’t easy. Mental training can help athletes get there. Donovan Martin can teach individuals and teams how to embrace challenges, eliminate distractions, and stay in the zone with clinically proven techniques.

And, as both teams showed on Sunday, those things pay off.

For more on peak performance in the business of college and pro football, make sure to register for our free Friday Wrap.

What Could Joey Slye Have Done Differently?

Panthers’ rookie Joey Slye has made 19 field goals in 2019.

He hasn’t missed from between 30-39 yards. He’s made six kicks from beyond 50 yards, tying him with Graham Gano for the most 50+ makes in a single Panthers’ season. After last Sunday’s 34-31 loss to division rival New Orleans, however, he may be out of a job.

Slye missed two extra points and a field goal with two minutes left, all wide to the right. The Panthers lost by three to the Saints, an outcome that essentially ended the team’s playoff hopes. Slye confessed he “felt terrible” about the result, and while teammates were supportive of the rookie, the Panthers announced on Monday that they’ll be holding kicking tryouts – a sign the team’s coaching staff doesn’t have much patience for his struggles.

What could Slye have done differently? And is there anything he can do to recover? We asked Donovan Martin of Ft. Wayne, Ind.-based Traction Athletic Performance what he would recommend to a placekicker struggling with in-game anxiety.

Here’s how kickers can maintain focus, enter the zone, and nail kicks.

  • Don’t focus on results

Kicking is as much about regulating anxiety as it is about nailing mechanics. If you focus on the results, your head will start spinning with the gravity of the situation and your anxiety will throw your mechanics for a loop. It’s like rock climbing or walking a high wire; you don’t look down and you don’t think about what will happen if you make a mistake. You focus on the next step or the hold in front of you.

Envision a perfectly executed process and control what you can control.

  • Don’t overanalyze

Slye’s mind was on his mechanics after the game. “If I’m pushing right, it usually means I’m planting too deep,” Slye said, according to the Panthers’ official website. “My heel was past the ball, that’s going to leave my hips open to miss right.”

He’s right, but the knowledge didn’t help. Actually, Slye was probably too worried about mechanics when he lined up for that final field goal.

You drill mechanics every day. Trust them. Fixing them in-game is nearly impossible because it introduces thinking into a process that should be automatic, leaving room for doubt and anxiety. Envision nailing the process. Don’t pick apart your mechanics.

  • Know how to enter ‘the zone’

The best way to regulate the zone is through routine.

Like golfers or free-throw shooters, kickers need to make what they do repeatable. You should have a sequence of events leading up to the kick that allows you to lock in. And you need to have the focus to not let that routine be disturbed by any distractions –- even a previous missed kick.

Entering the zone can also be facilitated by practicing mindfulness or meditation. These practices can help to mitigate distractions (something kickers must excel at), allowing your unconscious mind to regulate the kick.

  • Mental training helps

As Slye revealed on Sunday, performing under pressure is difficult. Mental toughness is a necessity. For Slye (and maybe for you), the good news is that it can be improved.

Donovan Martin can teach you how to practice and apply the focus required to set up a sequence, turn off the anxiety and doubt, and enter the zone to confidently execute every kick with peak performance.

What I’ve Learned About The College Recruiting Community

For the last three months, I’ve been crisscrossing Texas meeting with people in the college recruiting, personnel, operations and analytics community (which I’ll call the recruiting community in today’s post). It’s been a pleasure getting to know them.

To a man, they are impressive and knowledgeable. Many have been receptive to the ITL Recruiting Symposium that’s ahead in Fort Worth Jan. 3-4, and others haven’t (for good reasons). Either way, it’s been very educational. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  • They are smart, hard-working, passionate and love football: But you already knew that.
  • Most people at the “executive level” of college football operations are in their late 30s and 40s: This was a real revelation to me. I guess I’ve gotten used to the idea of these departments being populated by young grinders, and to some extent, that’s true. But the ones driving them are often approaching middle age.
  • Evaluation has been devalued: Maybe one or two of the schools I’ve met with have a formal evaluation training protocol. The lion’s share do not. Some just try to identify volunteers who played in high school. Some have monthly scouting sessions where a coach tries to impart wisdom. Others just figure they’ll take whatever they get from their volunteers and low-level employees. The thing is, in college, at least, there’s a long bridge between identifying good players and actually signing them.
  • They are intimately aware of the value of “sex appeal:” These people know that flash sells. They know young people prize this. In fact, you could almost draw a line between the schools that have multiple employees on the graphic design side and those who have volunteers, or just one designer. Those who’ve fully committed to the Photoshop and social media artisans are having more success. This lesson was ingrained in me even more after I asked people in the industry whether they’d rather hire an ex-NFL scout or a bullet-proof graphic designer. The results were unanimous and one-sided.
  • They aren’t as awed by the NFL as I thought they would be: There are a lot of reasons for that. One, I think most realize that if they aren’t scouting assistants by the time they’re 26-27, it’s probably too late. Two, they realize their skillsets are not really in evaluation, and they are loathe to start over. Three, their salaries are creeping up, and they’re starting families. Four, they know that getting NFL opportunities is often as much about who you know as it is how good you are.
  • They are not as beholden to scouts as I expected: Most of the people I’ve spoken to see the NFL as something that happens or doesn’t, and it matters little to them if it does. It’s not that they’re insensitive. It’s just that they are so overworked that they don’t have time to set aside to truly promote their kids (outside of the specific NFL liaisons, of course).
  • They are very beholden to their head coaches: NFL scouts often travel in packs and get to know scouts with other teams; they develop a heavy sense of fraternity. Not so in the recruiting community. They work extremely hard and most are very gifted, but they know that their fates are essentially tied to what happens on Saturdays. If their head coach goes, they go, too. And they might not ever resurface unless he gets another chance.
  • They’ve paid a heavy price to work in football: They start in early August. They’re working long days and every weekend all the way until Thanksgiving. Then, while most students are focused on finals and vacation, they are in overdrive until the week before Christmas. Next up for many/most is bowl play, so they’re out with the team until Christmas (some until New Year’s). They get a little time off until the AFCA convention starts in early January, but then it’s back to work for February signing day. Then spring ball begins, and the rush of spring and summer recruiting, when prospective players are visiting. And remember, most of these people are volunteers, part-timers, or making less than $30,000 annually while working 60-70 hours per week. They are essentially putting their social and personal lives on hold to chase a dream. No one’s putting a gun to their heads, but it’s still a lot to process.

If you’re interested in learning more about college football behind the scenes — or any other part of the football business — make sure to register for our weekly Friday Wrap. It comes out tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. CST. Sign up here.

Do Marketing Reps See the NCAA NIL Ruling Having a Major Impact?

As you know, the NCAA has ruled that student-athletes will be able to profit off their names, images and likenesses (NIL) as soon as a uniform policy can be developed, which might be as soon as January 2021. Obviously, it’s a radical change, and one we’ve already dealt with to some degree (here and here).

The move was met with alarm by most people in the college football community that we spoke to, but we decided to get a different perspective. So we decided to reach out to people who work with NFL players on the marketing side. Would this be as big as some think it will be?

We asked: Let’s say the NIL rule came into effect this January, and you’re representing Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. Who’s your first call? What’s your first move? What does the market look like?

Here’s what we were told.

  • “A lot of it would deal with what Trevor was interested in doing. People have this idea that there’s gonna be this overabundance of money going to these kids, and I think it’s gonna temper things. It will be interesting to see. These universities, I feel like, when the rule goes into effect, will be a huge push with their third parties (IMG College, Learfield  Sports, etc.). IMG is the go-between with corporate sponsors, so they’re gonna tell these players, ‘you need to work with IMG. IMG is gonna bring you all these opportunities,’ which I think for a lot of kids make sense. For the vast majority, it will make sense, but for a guy like Trevor Lawrence, really, his competition is the school, from a marketing standpoint. A guy like Trevor Lawrence, his marketability extends beyond what Clemson is providing. He would need to go outside the Learfield/IMG model and have his own representation that looks out for his interest. . . The shoe companies will be in a predicament. Adidas is gonna want to sign a Trevor Lawrence, but Trevor may not be able to wear Adidas cleats on the field. Where (the shoe companies) will run into trouble is, all the schools that Adidas has a deal with, the schools will want the shoe companies to spend their money with their top guys. . . Would definitely limit his exposure, where he’s on TV and print media. initially it’s a bad look if he’s plastered everywhere, and I think most guys aren’t gonna want that. Maximize your value, minimize your time commitment. Some guys are as big in college as they’ll ever be. Maybe a (Oklahoma QB) Jalen Hurts is a little different. Really don’t know what kind of NFL prospect he’s gonna be, so you capitalize on his marketability now.”
  • “First move, contact my most deep-pocketed financial advisors and partner with them to come up with a very large marketing guarantee for someone the stature of Lawrence. Let’s call it $10M up front. Obviously the player doesn’t collect on the marketing deals until the $10M is recouped. Next, I negotiate multi-year deals with all the major apparel and trading card companies. After that, I reach out to up-and -coming companies in various business segments and try to acquire equity stakes in those companies for my client. Smaller upfront payout to my client, but fair-sized equity stake in that company. Lastly, I reach out to various Hollywood agencies such as WMA/Endeavor, ICM and CAA and gauge their interest in co-repping my client for any opportunities in the movie/TV world.”
  • “Shoe and apparel, then beverage, then local memorabilia. Then regional car dealership. Also, probably the opposite brand from who the school is in bed with. It would benefit the shoe company to have one person on the team to wear something completely different.”

Want more football from a business perspective? Make sure to register for our Friday Wrap, which comes out every Friday at 6:30 p.m. CST. You can do that here.

Ask the Scouts: How Could NFL Liaisons Be More Helpful?

We try to use this blog to educate people. These days, we’re digging into the NCAA recruiting and personnel communities, trying to learn as much as we can about what people in this community do and what they need. That’s why launched a new weekly series, the ITL CFB Recruiting and Personnel Newsletter. Here’s this week’s edition.

At the same time, we hope to help them learn more about their own industry, as well. To do that, this week, we asked a handful of our friends in scouting this question: If there was one thing you’d like to tell NFL liaisons, that would make your job easier, what would it be? 

Here are their responses.

  • “It would be nice if across the board they were all open and honest. Remove restrictions and make sure we all got everything we need on their guys. I always say, often times, scouts and schools hurt each other and the players because of ego. We are a guest and should act as a guest at these schools. Coaches should look at us as a chance to help further careers of their players and make friendly connections in the NFL. By being open and treating the other side with kindness and being wide open just helps everyone. They don’t need to withhold info or be cynical. We (also) need to be honest and open with them. So not really one thing, because everything is needed. Honest info, details, open policy, make sure we have film access, etc. Give medical details and all that.”
  • “I think the No. 1 thing is honesty. We want to know the person that we are buying.  If you lie about the guys, you really are hurting the guys that do work hard.” 
  • “I would say the handful of schools that restrict practice access (and which days they can visit), Michigan and Michigan State being the worst. It’s a really bad look and it truly hurts their players. Imagine Cass Tech (High School) in Detroit telling those two (teams), “you can’t come watch practice, but you can swing by and watch them work out one day a week”?! That’s what Michigan does in-season. Michigan State lets you stay for like 5-10 minutes.”
  • “They do a good job. . . taking the direction and cue from the head coach. So they have (much) to consider in their jobs. My experiences have been good over the years. I feel I would be knit picking (if I was critical).” 

We’re asking questions like this every week in our newsletter series. If you work in college football recruiting and personnel — or even if you don’t, or would like to — and you’d like to be added to the list for this series, just let us know at nstratton at insidetheleague dot com. Another way to learn more: register for our Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening. You can do that here.

How Will the NCAA’s NIL Decision Affect College Recruiting?

If you work in the college and/or pro football space, or you would like to someday, you probably heard about the NCAA’s decision to allow players to profit off their names, images and likenesses. There’s still a lot to be decided about how it will work, and we’re a year-and-change away from it actually happening in college football, but it’s coming, and it’s a bombshell.

While many in the media and elsewhere have applauded the NCAA’s decision, we wanted to talk to people who work where the rubber meets the road. We asked several  recruiting directors at NCAA schools, big and small, this question:

The NCAA has voted to allow players to profit off their names, images and likenesses. How do you see this affecting recruiting? Will the rich get richer as big schools with major followings dominate the skill positions? Will schools in less populous or rural settings (Illinois, Boise State, Texas Tech) struggle to attract major talent? Will it have a negligible effect on competitive balance as the best schools attract the best players and others make do with the rest? Or will have some other effect?

Here are some of their responses.

  • “This could be a benefit for schools located in major cities. You can now sell the idea that a player’s product is being presented to a bigger market than other schools in less populated areas. More people = more money. QBs and skills players will most likely benefit from this rule. Looking at the NFLPA top 50 jersey sales, you see that majority of players are QBs, RBs and WRs. Not one OL is listed. It’ll be interesting to see how schools will create a plan to promote player brands for the players in the trenches to the skilled positions.”
  • “A top WR in Texas that would once not think about leaving the state because they had Tech or Baylor dominating the passing game may now waiver because a school in Los Angeles has presented the possibility of commercial or billboard opportunities for them throughout their college career.”
  • “This is really opening Pandora’s box. (Nike founder and Oregon mega-donor) Phil Knight and (business magnate and Oklahoma State mega-donor) T. Boone (Pickens) were the first two donors I thought of when this news came out. . . .”
  • “I think it will make the gap (between big schools and small schools) bigger. It benefits the bigger schools who generate huge revenue like Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, (Texas) A&M, ‘Bama, etc. . . . I’m not sure people know the implications of what this will mean. It certainly changes things, and I’m sure there will be a lot that’s discussed in coming years about how to govern this. But certain schools will use this as a big selling tool in recruiting. . . I heard (former Ohio State head coach) Urban Meyer say on (the Big Ten Network) a few weeks ago say, what would he do if (ex-Buckeye running back) Zeke Elliot was making $600,000 his (sophomore) year at Ohio State? How’s he supposed to say, you gotta go to class? What kind of message would that send to his teammates?”
  • “I question if your recruiting staff is now going to essentially need to have an agent on staff to set up promotional appearance and endorsements. . . I’m not sure how the rural vs. big city will affect recruiting and likeness as a whole though. I think it all depends on if there’s a cap on how much a kid can make and where they get the money from. The more interesting thing to me is, will you see the money from boosters that went to facilities, gear, travel, graphics, etc., now be redirected to the players? Will you lose out on staffing because the operating budget shrinks? I think this is going to be a major issue with group of five schools. the elite programs will not be affected as much.”
  • “(One) interesting question will be how the pay will differ from starters and backups and walk-ons. I do ultimately think it will affect the landscape of recruiting if the higher-tier Power 5 schools are able to offer a lot larger monetary package to recruits compared to the more remote and lower-tiered schools. . . If the money that players receive is similar to the scholarships they already receive, and if you only see just extremely popular college athletes getting the endorsement deals, then I don’t think it will have an enormous impact on recruiting.”

Of course, the football business world is a big one, and there are other groups whom the new rule will affect. One of those groups is NFL agents. We spoke to several of them today to get their opinion on what happens next, and whether or not they see this as a net positive or net negative. You can read their responses in today’s Friday Wrap. You can register for it here.

Ask the Scouts: Why Are We Seeing Overnight Overall No. 1 picks?

This weekend, LSU hosts No. 9 Auburn. Two weeks later, the No. 2 team in the nation travels to Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama. It’s possible those two games could determine the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Think that’s a stretch? Consider the last two drafts. In 2018, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield entered the season as a late-rounder on most boards. After tearing up the college football world, he won not only the Heisman but the honor of being taken No. 1 by the Browns. A season later, Kyler Murray was just a baseball player (taken No. 9 overall in the 2018 MLB Draft by Oakland) who wanted to spend his last season as Oklahoma’s starter. He went on to replace Mayfield not only as the Sooners’ starter, but also as Heisman winner and No. 1 overall to Arizona.

This year’s Mayfield/Murray could be LSU QB Joe Burrow. The Athletic’s Michael Lombardi has been banging that drum for weeks now, and while NFL scouts are still on the fence (“I’m grading him next week, so I can’t give an answer,” said one; “I heard his arm strength is average,” said another), Burrow has passed every test so far.  But that’s not what interests us most. The bigger question is, why are these passers moving ahead of others with more significant bodies of work?

Here’s the questions we asked several of our friends in scouting: For the third straight year, there could be a No. 1 overall (Burrow?) who entered the season on almost no one’s first round board. Why is this? Is it college offenses that more closely mirror NFL offenses, so hot players have less of a learning curve? Is it a “now” culture that favors a hot season over a body of work? Is it the rise of analytics, which make forecasting the most NFL-ready players much harder? Or is it something else?

We’ll survey their responses in today’s Friday Wrap (register for it here). You can weigh in on the question in our Twitter poll here. Here are a few of the responses we got from scouts via text:

  • “A lot of people favor a hot season. Me, I like the body of work. I want a guy who has been good for more than 12 games. I’m not a fan of analytics for anything but helping with strategy.”
  • “Simple answer is that scouting is not an exact science. Every player has some sort of momentum heading into the draft, good or bad, but seldom is there a true “stock up, stock down” scenario. The process includes career trajectory, but the whole picture is much more than that.”
  • “I think the inexperienced GMs and the young scouts they hire around the league get excited about a one-year wonder. I also think today’s scouts look at social media and are afraid to dismiss what internet scouts say, when in reality they should trust their eyes when they evaluate and look at the track record of the player.

Make sure you check out our poll (and vote in it) and read all the scouts’ responses in today’s Friday Wrap (register here).

XFL Scouts, Executives Bullish on League’s First Draft

With lots of friends in the front offices of the new XFL, I have been pretty excited about the league, but a little nervous about the league’s two-day draft, which took place Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. How do you populate 70-man rosters from scratch? Especially when media coverage is minimal, players are scattered across the country, staffs are tight and budgets are limited?

From the sound of things, without too much trouble. I reached out to several of the league’s scouts and executives after this week’s draft, and without exception, they were very excited about how well the draft went. Here are their responses:

  • “Players were following the draft online. Agents were great to deal with. Players and agents have seen the success the players had from the AAF and getting NFL contracts. The players were great to deal with, even ones that were high NFL draft choices. This league will benefit from what the AAF started. I thought it went very smooth.”   
  • “For the first time anybody ever tried to tun a 70-man draft, with 1,100 in the player pool, there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong, and really it went off without a hitch. The guys in the main office did a great job, and there were no problems communicating with the front office. We got the guys on the phone as we made the pick or right before, so we were able to get hold of all of our guys and I didn’t hear any bitching or moaning from agents or players. From what I heard, they were all excited to get the call.”
  • For the most part, agents and players were very accessible throughout both days of the draft. Players almost to a man were fired up to get another opportunity to play, and you could feel their emotion over the phone. Really excited to get to work with them in December.”
  • Thought it went surprisingly smooth. Out of our 70 guys drafted, I think 68 of them were very excited and pumped. We had called about 600 guys prior to the draft. Came across some that said they were not going to play for that little of money, so we took them off our board. But many many more are excited about the opportunity. For a 70-player draft, it went excellent. We are obviously excited about our draft and feel we knocked it our of the park, but the proof will come in (February).”

Of course, I wanted to get a fuller view of the draft, and to do that, I also reached out to a handful of agents to get the other side. I cautioned them not to rant; I only wanted specifics (good and bad) about the draft, with an eye toward constructive criticism. Nobody’s perfect, after all. They gave me several interesting and well-thought-out responses, which will be in today’s Friday Wrap that comes out this evening.

I hope you’ll check it out. If you’re already registered, it will be in your inbox at the customary 6:30 p.m. CT. If you aren’t, you can go here and rectify that.

Ask an NFL Agent: How Long Does It Take To Befriend Scouts?

With the results of this summer’s NFLPA contract advisors exam disseminated, dues paid and liability insurance policies purchased, the Players Association is slowly adding the names of newly minted contract advisors to its website. That means about 100 people being added to the NFL agent ranks are asking, what do I do now?

We field a lot of those questions. In fact, we’ve been answering them for our subscribers over the past two weeks with Monday emails. Here’s one from Sept. 30, in which we discuss the benefits and challenges of trying to join a big firm. Last Monday, we discussed how to get started on recruiting, and this Monday, we’ll talk about the practice of representing college and NFL coaches.

Today, we’re answering another one. One question we always get from new agents is how they can find out who to recruit. The bigger question is, how do they approach scouts to locate the sleepers that they have a shot at singing? With that in mind, we decided to pose this question to new agents: How long did it take you to develop relationships with scouts? How long was it before you could ask scouts questions about players and expect a reasonably timely, reasonably candid response?

Here are some of the responses we got back:

  • “Completely random scouts? I’d say my first draft cycle. I had (a big-school client) go to the combine, so some scouts reached out, and then I was able to create a friendship with them. It was really a year-by-year process . . . You can go up to random scouts at all-star games and introduce yourself and push your guy, but the chances of them ever picking up your call or answering your texts in a timely fashion after that on a consistent basis is slim. . . I’d be lying if I said I didn’t make new connections with scouts every single year, and I don’t see that really changing, especially with all the turnover in scouting departments today.”
  • “Like 3-4 years. They don’t tell you (anything) until they know you are legit and get quality clients.”
  • “My feel personally is . . . whatever time it takes to sign a couple guys that the scouting community realizes, ‘OK, you’ve got a little feel for what you’re doing, a little credibility, and it’s worth me having a conversation about who you’re looking at, who you might be recruiting, who you’re close to signing’ . . . you can almost always get a brief conversation rolling with a scout at some point.”
  • “I had one or two my first year that were nice enough to talk to me, but the network of scouts I talk to now has taken me years to develop.”

These aren’t the only responses we got. In fact, one of our friends in the agent community used the question to discuss a significant (and costly) way he’s seen new contract advisors be exploited by opportunistic scouts.

You won’t want to miss their comments, and you don’t have to if you register for our weekly Friday Wrap. You probably already have, but just in case you haven’t, now’s your chance to sign up. You’ll be among 5,000 people across the football industry who receive our review of the week in the game as it pertains to the business. If you haven’t already, please join us.