The biggest difference between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his peers arises from the fact that, in our view, Goodell hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a fan of the sport he runs. And so he thinks and communicates like a fan, especially when talking to other fans.
After he finished calling out draft picks on Friday night from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, he held court for an extended period of time with a throng of fans near the ESPN broadcast platform. On Saturday, Goodell talked to a group of fans at the draft who won a chance for a sit-down with the Commish, and he spoke about the issue of rookie pay in a manner that surely will resonate with everyone who hears his words.
Except the rookies and their agents.
“I love [Rams quarterback] Sam Bradford, and I hope he’s great, but he
probably made somewhere between $40 and $45 million the night before
last,” Goodell said. “He has not even hit
the field yet and that’s a guaranteed contract. So if Sam Bradford
can’t play, what good does that do any other NFL player? As much as I
like these young rookies, and I do think they’re terrific, it’s crazy
to give someone who hasn’t proven themselves on the NFL field $45
“I think over these three days, we will give $600 million in
guaranteed money to these rookies that you’re hearing their names. $600
million. And if let’s just say half of them don’t make it and the money
is equivalent to this, that’s $300 million out the door. It doesn’t go
to veterans, it doesn’t go to owners. It goes to somebody who couldn’t
play the game. That’s wasting money.”
He’s right. Now that the draft is over, we can focus on the fact that history tells us roughly half of the players picked will indeed be busts. And so roughly half of them won’t live up to the huge contracts those taken at the top of the process will receive.
It’s an issue on which the NFL and the union appear to now agree, and a deal likely would be reached on this point if/when a consensus can be established as to the broader issue of pay and benefits for all players. Still, there’s a strong sense in league circles that 2010 will be the last year of the “free money” — and any rookies who don’t like what they’re offered in the coming months and who contemplate sitting out the year and re-entering the draft should keep that in mind.