Chris Doleman: Today’s NFL is played by soft millennials


The millennials, the generation now entering adulthood, are sometimes decried as entitled and privileged. One Pro Football Hall of Famer believes we’re seeing the effect of that generation on the NFL.

Chris Doleman, who played defensive end from 1985 to 1999 and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2012, said on Inside the NFL that he thinks players in today’s NFL are unwilling to make the kinds of personal sacrifices for greatness that players of Doleman’s own generation made.

“There’s a lot of soft players out there. Soft, soft players,” Doleman said. “I watched a piece on 60 Minutes that talked about the millennials and really touched on the quarterbacks and the players out there today — this is a class of players that feel like they deserve so much more. I don’t know if the work ethic is still there. I think these guys want to win, I think they want to be good players, but are you willing to do the hard stuff? This ‘I’ll ease into the game’ type of attitude is just not good enough. You have to be able to step up there and make it happen.”

Doleman said his fellow Hall of Famer Mike Singletary is a perfect example of a coach who couldn’t succeed with today’s players because Singletary expected players to accept the kind of coaching that was commonplace in the previous generation.

“It’s just the way it is — it’s the generation,” Doleman said. “When I was playing . . . a coach didn’t mind getting into your face and really saying, ‘This is what you need to do.’ There was a certain kind of accountability. Singletary took that approach in San Francisco and it didn’t go very well.”

Maybe the millennials are soft and football was a better game when men were men, or maybe Doleman is a crabby old coot. But the NFL changes with the times just like the rest of society changes, and the men of Doleman and Singletary’s era have given way to the next generation. Whether they like it or not.

104 responses to “Chris Doleman: Today’s NFL is played by soft millennials

  1. Well those same sacrifices your generation made is now costing modern day football. If former players didn’t sue the nfl then the stupid rule changes never would have come about.

  2. Worst generation ever. Even X Gens know you gotta work to get what you what. Millennials expect it to be handed to them.

    When the world is short on food, I’ll be happy knowing Millennials will have to eat insects to survive.

  3. Dead on….. I’ll never forget the Vernon Davis situation with Singletary it was classic and you know he sure seems to have been a much better player since then,something to it??
    You NEVER saw a QB crying for a flag every time he smelled someone’s breathe near him or dare I say the Jonathan Martin crap things like that these guys today are doing it’s just pathetic!

  4. I’m not saying hes wrong, but the generation before Doleman said the same thing. And they are probably both correct.

    That said, its probably a product of evolution of our species.

    Thinking you are tougher because you made less money and played with debilitating injuries that still affect your quality of life if natural, but wishing that same fate on the next generation is selfish.

  5. Every generation thinks it’s tougher than the one that comes after it. Wake me up when Chris Doleman splits the atom.

  6. We’ll see the truely soft millennials on display next season in the Minnysoda, Land of 10k Trailer Park Cesspools when they and there team will be attending home games outdoors for 2 seasons while their new Monument to Their Stupidity is crudely cobbled together.

    I’m predicting an alarming drop in season ticket sales. They won’t be able to fall off the bandwagon fast enough when the temperature drops to zero. You heard it hear first. Nuff said!

  7. What Doleman says has nothing to do with the rules. He is speaking of players being more concerned with how something is said to them,or that something is being said to them at all in an attempt to make them do something they don’t want to do………instead of listening and doing…getting paid is considered the goal and the proof that good enough is good enough….

  8. He is right, but then again what do you expect when we let players do whatever they want and get away with it.

    It isn’t just in sports, but is our society as well.

  9. I think Mike Singletary is not the best example you could use to make your point. He failed for a bunch of other reasons with Millennials just being a convenient scapegoat.

    Doleman would have a lot more credibility if he had a Superbowl ring to back up his words. But unfortunately, he only got as far as 1 NFC championship game and they lost. Being a Viking is equal to being ringless, that applies to the Millennials as well as Doleman’s generation.

  10. I think the biggest problem is that the game is played by soft millionaires not soft millenials.
    The pay has gotten to the point where players associate more with celebrities than they do with the common fan.

  11. There are a lot of soft players today. The game is much different and softer than the one I grew up watching in the 60s and 70s.

    The NFL has become a league run by attorneys whose primary goal is to avoid any tiny liability to the league, and so many crybabies in the league now to. Every single incomplete pass almost every receiver on every team cries for a flag.

    All a guy has to do when he’s getting hit is snap his head back and the officials call it a hit to the head if the tackle is anywhere on the upper body.

    I feel the NFL has peaked and its only a matter of time till the diluted, wimpy product that’s being put out now with the awful officiating starts driving fans away

  12. Maybe because they actually have the brainpower to understand there is life after football, and they don’t want to be disabled or dead by the time they’re 55.

  13. How is it “millenials” fault that every position is getting faster, bigger and stronger than ever before? I guess he doesn’t know that the players aren’t the ones that decide in the rules and penalties.

  14. As a GenX’er, i couldn’t agree with Chris more.
    take, for instance, the majority of gbtrolls.
    While given everything as spoiled brats, they all jumped on the cheesewagon when they heard of Lord Favre in the SB.
    (previously, they were all about soccer)

  15. I have to disagree with Mr. Doleman. Today’s players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before. All you have to do is see yesterday’s players and today’s players in person and you’ll see what I mean.

  16. Look no further than Green Bay. Hard-nosed Favre is a hell of a lot tougher than Marshmallow Rodgers.

  17. As a former player, how and why would he question work ethics of other players??!!

    He knows damn well what it takes to get to the League! Is it easier now than 30 years ago?! C’mon!! Hogwash.

    The rules are the issue, not millennials. Can’t hit, can’t touch QBs, can’t be physical. THAT is what’s killing the game as he knew it.

  18. “Millenials are just the first generation that is actually standing up for themselves and not just doing what they are told”

    You ever heard of the 60’s?

  19. Singletary didn’t succeed in San Francisco because he had the worst offensive coordinator/ playcalling (Jimmy Raye) in NFL History. Run on 1st, run on 2nd, and draw play on 3rd & 7 doesnt work in today’s game. Singletary wanted a team so tough they could run on 3rd and 6, and when it didn’t happen Singletary would go ballistic as if his team was soft.

    He was a rah-rah coach and admittedly not an X’s & O’s coach. But his approach did work well on Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis and bunch of other players.

    And most importantly, if any millenials are soft nowadays its because the NFL and old timer NFL lawsuits have made them that way with these ridiculous rules

  20. That’s funny, because I would consider Jim Harbaugh a bit old school as well. I mean, he played in your era bro. He got about a 1000 times more out of this team than Mike Singletary could. I don’t think it was because of his style of coaching, he just wasn’t a very good X’s & O’s kind of coach. He knew nothing about quarterbacking or offense. Alex Smith actually had a career resurgence after your boy Mikey left. It’s not shocking that some great players are not good coaches, it happens all the time.

  21. hes right… for example Favre and rodgers
    Favre is tough as nails and made huge sacrifices for his team
    Rodgers is soft as toilet paper and doest make sacrifices for his team

  22. I think it’s so Funny that the older generations blame the millennialist for all of the current sociological and political issues

    I’m 25 and been able to vote in 2 elections, I don’t recall the “baby boomers” handing us a perfectly working system, yet it’s the “kids” who have voted once or twice that have forced the downfall of the nation, and somehow the 30 years of downfall of society since the ’50’s is the fault of a generation who have had one or two chances to make a difference.

    Translation: “back in my day, I used to walk uphill both ways after milking cattle all night. Dang kids.”

  23. One of the greatest DE to play the game and this coming from a Lion fan.

    The NFL is soft. I watch the hit Whitner put on Steven Jackson Monday night (good clean hit) yet the refs called a flag. Its gotten to the point where it’s ridiculous.

  24. The rule changes have traded old-school toughness for modern day athleticism.

    I think the game has suffered as a result.

    I prefer to see a bone-jarring collision over a spectacular touchdown.

  25. I dont think preferred treatment of quarterbacks is a new thing. Pretty sure thats where the entitlement comes from. Otherwise, I blame the parents aka dolemans generation.

  26. Dingleberry failed at a coach cause I don’t think he ever game planned for another team and never watch any film on any team ever just care about making sure his players were tough and get billions of flags for late hits and injure themselves in the process due to horrible coaching

  27. LOL, I’m betting 80% or better of the comments are from millenials! Explains the attitude I sense in their comments. Fact is, and it had been reported on time and time again, millenials are a very entitled lot. No particular dedication to anything other than themselves. That is what Doleman is speaking of. His generation wasn’t so self-absorbed. It isn’t about the rules. It is about players doing what needs to be done to be great and not just expecting to be hailed the hero because you’re the #1 pick. I work with millenials and the amount of positive reinforcement needed to feed them is astounding. My generation doesn’t expect it and find it weird. After all, I’m doing what you paid me to do. As long as you keep the check coming, I’ll keep doing it. That is all the positive reinforcement we need. Millenials? Not even close.

  28. Wall St Journal had a piece about 6 months ago where professional college graduates’s moms are calling in to talk to the boss if there are problems at work, or their kid gets a bad review. This is the current generation. Whole damn country is turning soft, not just football players.

  29. Players are bigger, faster, and stronger then even when he retired in 1999, and we know way more about how football related injuries cause issues later in life, and the NFL and NCAA makes more money than ever, and college players are pimped even harder then ever for no (legal) monetary compensation. ( the debate over scholarships and such is a different argument to be had another time)

    Players now know their risks a lot more then even 10 years ago, and they also know THEY are the reason the NFL exists, and they know that they are one head shot away from a lifetime of barely being able to walk, and one knee injury away from being jettisoned like garbage.

    Sorry, Singeltary ( who is one of my favorite palyers ever) failed because he wasn’t head coaching material. Getting in someones face is one thing, but the guy mooned his team during halftime in the lockerroom. I know for a fact that if I was player I wouldn’t take that guy seriously regardless of his NFL resume. Plus, he is an employee of a multi million dollar organization and he mooned people? If i was an owner and someone pulled something absurd like that, it better work and translate into winning, and for singletary it didn’t.

    And on another note, I’m so sick of this “millenial” garbage being spouted. Buy the books I am technically at the end of spectrum of a millenial ( born in 1981, 32 years old)
    I love that I get lumped into something and called soft and people say that I want everything handed to me, and that I have an entitlement mentality.

    I did well in high school, went to a modestly priced state school, worked the whole time, and manged to finish with minimal debt. I have a batchelors in buisness and I understand that’s not exactly chemical engineering, but it’s not art history either.

    Then I was dumped into one of the worst economies in decades and I found NO ONE hiring anyone.

    I fertalized lawns and worked side construction jobs to make ends meet for 9 months after graduating before I finally got a entry level “real job” with a big company, and even then I barely was making more then before that. (I actually at one applied for a second job making sandwhiches at night just so I could bank a little extra cash.) I did my time there for 3.5 years and built the resume, untill things finally started to turn around and I got into the company I work for now where I finally make good money.

    I am college educated, married, 30 something homeowner who has worked hard for everyhting I have , and the vast majority of my friends and people I know are the same way.

    We got it beat into our heads by the ruling generations our entire adolescent lives that as long as we studied hard, and attended college at any cost, that when we graduated everything would work out for us and jobs would be a plenty.
    Instead we were dropped into a economic situation where everything was destroyed due to the generations before us buying a new 500k house every 3 years on adjustable rate and interest only loans, and driving fuel inefficient 50k SUV’s that they can barely swing the payments on.

    So now the baby boomers are starting to push 70 years old and can’t afford to retire , and the gen xr’s are all broke because buying that McMansion and driving that Escalade 70 miles each way to work was more important than paying off a modest ranch house and saving money.

    So what it comes down to is the generations before us didn’t live within their means and now the older ones can’t afford to stop working and are clogging up the job market by preventing upward mobility for everyone else which is keeping people a generation below them from reaching their income potential, which in turn severley limits the amount of entry level positions, which new college grads find themselvs competing with people 15 years older then them for.

    So sorry if us “millenials” seem a little irritated. and I personally do think that we are entitled to one thing- that the people above us hekp fix the economic mess that they caused with bad financial decisions and then dumped onto us, instead of just pointing fingers and making jokes about us.

  30. Every generation says this crap about the following generation. It was always better during “their” generation, they did it right and the people today are doing it ALL wrong. Because the world today is different, and people will always have trouble changing, so instead it’s just “anything new and different is wrong and we did it right.” Does he think the generation that came before HIM thinks any differently?

  31. Some of the comments made,obviously by Millenials are hilarious.

    Doleman is “spot on” with his assessment. Not only in the NFL, but in life across the board can this metamorphic transformation be seen. His example of Singletary’s coaching difficulties, like it or not, can be laid at the foot of a spoiled, entitled,
    generation of players.

    Can you imagine Lombardy, Ditka or George Hallis coaching in today’s NFL? The “Tears would flow like wine”!

  32. Do the hard stuff to win? What exactly did Doleman win? Unlike Doleman, many of these millennials have actually won a Superbowl.

    p.s. The Vikings have a losing record dating all the way back to the beginning of this millennium.

  33. Tired of the people who complain about the next generation. Hope the young people remember this when they start to complain about the next generation.

    These guys are were so tough they sued because of how the game, they choose to play, had left them. Real tough guys there.

  34. we had a guy that hit so hard, it made me wince when someone came across the middle (Robinson). He got let go last year. William Moore, our safety, is one of the hardest hitters I have ever seen.
    Doleman was a good lineman, but he isn’t paying attention. There are a ton of big hitters out there.

  35. Doleman is right. When players like RGKnee can complain to the owner about the coach, and his treatment, then entitlement has gone Amok in this day and age.

    I shutter to think how business will be handled in 20 years. Will these entitled children compete, or will they roll over and cry if they do not win?

  36. I love all the down-talk on the millenials.

    It’s like they taught themselves to be soft, they taught themselves to be selfish….

    Hey! I wonder where their tough, non-selfish parents are??? Damn those kids, because we all know the parents aren’t to blame!

  37. The players that came before Doleman’s said the same thing about his generation of players. The truth is that the players improve generation after generation. Overall, today’s players are bigger, faster, stronger, better trained, and more intelligent (film study is more advanced) than previous generations. Chris “Back in my Day” Doleman needs to remember that the players from the 60’s looked down at his generation of football as soft.

  38. Are we really choosing to forget that Mike Singletary was a terrible coach who wasn’t good for anything but making a scene? Hat aught went in there with almost the same core talent and made an actual football team out of them with actual coaching skill.

  39. I think Doleman is making a huge generalization for players that just isn’t true for a lot of players in the league. Anquan Boldin broke his face, absolutely as brutal a hit as you will ever see, and was back in three weeks. AP blew his knee out, and was back the next season and ran for 2k yards. Ben Tate just played half a season with multiple broken ribs. Doleman might see some players as entitled, but there are still a ton of guys who put themselves through alot to get themselves onto the field every week. There are plenty on both sides of the fence, just like there have always been.

  40. Doleman is one of the guys that sued the NFL in the concussion lawsuit. He’s saying the players are soft, but he loved the tough league so much when he played that he sued the league for not making it safe enough.

  41. It’s disappointing that you chose to present this false choice rather than approach Doleman’s concerns intellectually. Are you suggesting that the Millennials are the natural evolution of men? Are we evolving to softness? What happens if all the facades of organization and comfort suddenly fail? My fear is that we are raising a generation of people, specifically Americans, who are incapable of effectively meeting the challenges of a still dangerous and brutal world.

    We can make the game safe until it is sterile and unenjoyable, but we cannot sterilize the world.

  42. Can we all agree that Packer fans are freaks? Keep focusing on the Vikings even though your team might go to the playoffs thanks to Jay Cutler starting and not McCown.

  43. Todays players are soft they should be wearing flags and panties. A bunch of over paid prima-donnas. Guys like butkus and lampert and tatum and singletary could play and play tough not like todays pansies.

  44. The softest generation are current Packer fans. Have you seen how they wedge their huge doughy soft bodies into Lamebeau Field where they proceed to increase their softness by gourging on cheese and brats for three hours? I guess that fat does help them tolerate the elements though so I give them that.

  45. He is spot on. This NFL is soft compared to the players in the late 80’s early/late 90’s. The QB’s in this day and age look at the refs to help them out.
    Favre would take the hit, he loved it, then he’d get up and say is that all you got? QB’s now a days get hit hard and look at the ref for the flag….it’s weak sauce.
    If you don’t want to get hit or you can’t handle the hits, DON’T PLAY FOOTBALL. Go into Sales or something.
    This is a tough guy game and it always should be.
    I rest my case and point.
    one more thing……Doleman was a BEAST!! He used to CRUSH QB’s, I mean CRUSH THEM!!

  46. As a 49ers fan, I can say Iron Mike didn’t fail because players weren’t responding to his type of coaching……..I mean look at Vernon Davis, he even said that Mike was the reason hes the great player he is today and he needed him to kick his butt as a wake up call. Iron Mike failed, because he can’t coach offense and second guesses all his coordinators and even himself………….some of the 49ers players said that when Harbaugh came on it was refreshing because the opposing defense didn’t already know the plays they’d be running.

  47. And the generations that came before Doleman’s thought his was soft too. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. Because someone was born somewhere between the mid 80s to early 2000s they’re soft or lazy? That simply doesn’t make any sense to a rational human being. No wonder it was on 60 Minutes.

  48. “The millennials, the generation now entering adulthood, are sometimes decried as entitled and privileged”.

    If we feel as if we are entitled and privileged now that we are reaching adulthood, what does that say about the Generation that raised us? (Doleman’s) I am pretty sure that entitlement is not some revolutionary concept or way of life that the millenials came up with. We learned it from somewhere.

  49. Generation x: the gap between the baby boomers who made a difference and the millennials who are trying to make a difference.

    Did anything good even come from the 70s,80s and really early 90s other than good tunes and rock hard cocaine?

    Singletary kicked Vernon Davis off the field because “you can’t win with them”, yet someone is still dominating the league at TE and the other is, unfortunately, still in Minne I believe.

    I guess what he meant was ” I don’t understand them, and I’m not going to try.”

  50. As a Gen X-er, I actually like a lot of the younger people coming up now. Not all of them, but a lot of them. Most are informed, polite, hard workers – at least the ones I’ve met.

    Every demographic will have exceptions, but they’re an impressive group, taken as a whole – though I do resent the “everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality” that is being driven into people’s heads these days – but this mentality comes from Gen X and Gen Y types.

    The best generation (IMO) is probably the generation or two that pre-dated the Baby Boomers. Those really old (and largely deceased) folks really had to nut up hard in circumstances so challenging that none of us can even begin to fathom what they had to deal with — for very protracted periods of time (1929-1945 was less than pleasant). Absolutely massive respect (and appreciation) for them.

  51. The NFL is not being played by “Soft Millennials” it’s being governed by soft Baby Boomers and be sued by soft Baby Boomers.

  52. Chris Doleman NEVER had to play against the aggregate speed and strength thats in the NFL now, every year it increases exponentially!

  53. Look no further than Al Davis … in his younger days the Raiders were always on top … with today’s players he could never win.

  54. It’s a message that’s more than about football. It’s a message of how frail and delicate men are today. Can’t hurt somebodies feelings! Can’t say something that might be OFFENSIVE!

    Getting yelled at isn’t seen as instruction like it used to be. It is seen as ‘HE IS NOT RESPECTING ME!!! I’m calling my union and my agent!’

    There is no freedom from being offended in this country, or life. If you’re offended and you’re feelings are hurt, that’s your problem.

  55. I love how old players always cut up the new players even though half of them sued the NFL because of concussions. “Soft” is volunteering for a game where you are hit everyday and then suing the league looking for money for the repercussions of the sport. All the players are doing now adays is playing the game just like the old guys did. Except the old guys are jealous with the money they make.

  56. He’s right. To those that think something to the effect of “well, that’s why the old generation is suing” I say that it’s wrong. It’s wrong because the hard coaching and suck it up attitude isn’t the problem. Its that WHEN there was a problem “I.E. concussion, playing on a torn ligament, playing with a bulging or full on sequestrated disk” that the proper health care was hardly ever administered BECAUSE if that was the case, then they would have to have expanded the rosters and THAT is partly an owner problem in that their greed exceeded the need to keep their players safe and the PLAYERS PROBLEM because they allowed themselves to be bullied into playing under contractual circumstances that THEY AGREED TO!
    Working with young athletes as an athletic trainer over the past 13 years, you can see the difference in young athletes even from just 4-5 years ago. Coaches simply cannot get in the face if they need to, of today’s kids because of the entitlement attitude bestowed upon them by crummy parents who refuse to believe their child is anything but the ‘real deal’. “Hard, CONSTRUCTIVE Coaching” is what’s required at times because there are days when the player or players simply aren’t bringing it and now-a-days, if a coach starts getting on a kid it’s more commonplace for that kid to ‘shut it down’ and go home and complain to mommy and daddy. Good job by Doleman pointing it out.

  57. How can a player be soft and make it to the NFL? It’s almost impossible to make it. They are the best of the best of the best and it’s a brutal game. They had to be the best on every team they played on just to have a chance and they certainly have already suffered some brutal losses over the years. Probably some injuries too. I really don’t think a guy like Doleman could keep up with the brute strength and speed of the athletes that play the game today. There’s nutrition, and training and film study and schemes that are way more complex then 20 or 30 years ago. One of the reason guys like Jerry Rice was so great, was that he had the current work ethic but 20 years ago. It’s much harder to dominate now because a conditioning advantage is almost impossible.

  58. gb4mn0 says: Dec 27, 2013 11:41 AM

    We’ll see the truely soft millennials on display next season in the Minnysoda, Land of 10k Trailer Park Cesspools when they and there team will be attending home games outdoors for 2 seasons while their new Monument to Their Stupidity is crudely cobbled together.

    I’m predicting an alarming drop in season ticket sales. They won’t be able to fall off the bandwagon fast enough when the temperature drops to zero. You heard it hear first. Nuff said!

    duece5 says:

    gb4 still angry Doleman kicked gbays asrse for years.

    Dude…..let it go!

  59. taintedsaints2009 says: Dec 27, 2013 4:24 PM

    It’s a message that’s more than about football. It’s a message of how frail and delicate men are today. Can’t hurt somebodies feelings! Can’t say something that might be OFFENSIVE!

    Getting yelled at isn’t seen as instruction like it used to be. It is seen as ‘HE IS NOT RESPECTING ME!!! I’m calling my union and my agent!’

    There is no freedom from being offended in this country, or life. If you’re offended and you’re feelings are hurt, that’s your problem.

    duece5 says:

    You are spot on taintedsaints! I have been echoing this for years on this board.

    We live in a liberal, don’t hurt my feelings media driven world.

    That is not to say when there is true injustice or racism, that it shouldn’t be ignored!

    The problem is, everyone thinks they are being dissed.

    The young star athlete in college has been pampered and “yessed” to most his life. they now want paid in college because they “bring in millions”.

    On the countrary…..there are VERY few who bring in millions their respective university.

    You have a SCHOLARSHIP, an education, a chance to market your gift to the entire country to get an NFL, NBA, or major league deal.

    Why don’t mellinnials look themselves hard in the mirror?

    You gain respect by showing respect….get it??!!

  60. @whatjusthapped: Doleman DOES have a ring. ’94 49ers.

    Also, “Soft Millennials” would be a great name for a rock band.

  61. They are softer – all flab. Guys now average 310 lbs. back then – 240.. Those famous hogs from Washington- 260… Ligaments didn’t get stronger but the beef got bigger.

  62. The new rules, especially the ones to protect the quarterback, may at least partly be based on a desire to protect the owner’s investment. The game has evolved into one of entertainment carried out by multimillion dollar performers. The audience comes to see them perform. If they are injured, they are on the sidelines or don’t perform as well. The team may then not win as many games or complete as many spectacular plays and become less attractive to the ticket buyers. And the franchise then loses value. In Doleman’s days the players were paid less and didn’t represent as big an investment, so the owners may not have minded having them banged around as much.

  63. I think that there is a lot of truth to what Doleman is saying. But it comes across as old man speak and it has been going on for a few generations now since world war two. Our american society has slowly lessened the role of men and has turned us into more like women then ever before and its has become more noticeable especially in this new generation. You dont see any men like john wayne anymore.

  64. Topcide, your post supports what Doleman is saying. Boo-Hoo… had to work hard and pay your dues before you started “banking” some cash???? Welcome to the real world. Stop expecting everything to be easy of you, and blaming others for your struggles. There are no 6th place trophies in the real world

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