I was talking to one of my friends this morning. He’s one of the few people I know who’s successfully transitioned out of the agent business and into a related world where he can still travel in the same circles.
In our conversation, we were discussing the players that will be invited to Chicago to be in the vaunted ‘green room’ on draft day. These are the players, their agents and the rest of the extended party that sit at grand tables and wait for the names to be called. He told me, to my surprise, that one major firm won’t be attending the draft this year.
I guess it’s not that surprising, really. The firm has been hit by transition in its contract advisor lineup of late, and the entertainment company that owns the firm probably lacks the big margins that come with other parts of the football industry at large. What’s more, this hasn’t been a big year for the agency, and it doesn’t have the long list of highly touted players it normally has, for a number of reasons. But it reminded me of the old bromide credited to ex-NFL head coach Jerry Glanville, that the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long.’ It’s a joke, but it’s really true.
One of the things I always tell new agents is that this business turns over about every 3-4 years. When I launched ITL 1.0 in 2002, the famous lawsuit pitting Leigh Steinberg and David Dunn was under way. Leigh was on top of the business and Dunn was an upstart. That was almost 15 years ago. Things have changed quite a bit since. Now look back 30 years and you see the names Howard Slusher, Mike Trope and Jerry Argovitz on all the headlines. Those guys are nowhere near the business now. History gives us dozens of agents who made a major initial splash and are now completely out of the business. Master P, anyone?
Here’s another example. Combine prep was not even a thing in ’02, but now it’s the accepted training method for virtually ever player near an NFL team’s radar. The same is true of money and the way players are recruited (legally). A decade ago, very few players got anything before the draft. Now, we’re talking marketing guarantees, signing bonuses, stipends, and all manner of funding. It’s gotten crazy.
Believe it or not, if you’re new to the business, this is great news. When there’s not a lot of stability at the top, that means people are pushing up from the bottom successfully. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, but the opportunity is there for those who are willing to look at the business differently, use their smarts, and be persistent. I hope you believe this, and that it gives you hope. I also hope ITL can be a small part of the business’s change for the better.