If you follow me on Twitter, you know the number of would-be NFLPA contract advisors was down a bit this year, off by maybe 50-75 candidates (based on the number of people taking the agent exam this year). I have a number of thoughts about this.

  • The fact that the numbers are off a bit from the past 2-3 years isn’t a big deal. Recently, having about 300 in the room was pretty routine, but this was easy to explain. The new runner rule, which outlawed any contact between a prospect and an agent’s non-certified representative, prompted many agencies to certify any and all of its employees.
  • Then again, it’s possible there are fewer people with a passion to work with players, for a couple reasons. One, it’s been a long, long time since ‘Jerry Maguire’ was in theaters. Of course, maybe ‘Ballers’ will reignite that spark. Two, I think the move to analytics has probably attracted a lot of people who might previously have seen agent certification as their surest route to fulfilling work.
  • If more people really understood what was in store for them once they became full-time contract advisors, maybe fewer really would get certified. I mean, check this out. It’s a copy of the minutes from the last players association meeting, and it shows that the players are actually considering dropping the standard commission on contracts from three to two percent. If this happens, it will be nearly impossible for new agents to recover their expenses.
  • The NFLPA is a very good thing for players in some ways. It has been a leader in demanding certification for agents, and ensuring that they actually know what they’re doing with regards to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is very important. On the other hand, the union regularly runs over the agents who are supposed to be advocating for the players. To wit: the NFLPA is assisting a top NFL player who’s trying to negotiate his own deal, and it very rarely intervenes when an agent tries to poach another agent’s clients.
  • When there’s no justice and no reason to have a presumption of fair play, it’s pretty demoralizing. The upside for the union is that so few people know how this business really works. So many young, idealistic people get into this game thinking the players are the victims; it’s a narrative that’s advanced by the media and people around the game. What you find out quickly, however, is that most of the people on the ground floor of the business — the less-established agents, trainers and financial planners who are trying to earn a foothold in football — are actually pretty earnest and fair-minded. Not all of them, mind you, but most of the ones I’ve met.

This is one reason why I’m pretty enthusiastic about ‘The Agent,’ which kicks off in about a week and a half (Tuesday, Aug. 11, on the Esquire Network). It’s a chance to see contract advisors conducting business in jeans and collared shirts rather than three-piece suits or leather jackets. It’s a chance to see them operating alone and uncertain, instead of talking fast and with total confidence.

I hope, for better or worse, it’s a great learning tool for anyone interested in the business side of the game. I think it will be.

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