Borland situation creates new challenge for scouts

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Obviously, the 49ers wouldn’t have used a third-round pick on linebacker Chris Borland in 2014 if they’d had an inkling he may call it a career after only one season.  Borland’s decision introduces a new complexity for scouts — determining whether a player may decide to walk away from the game prematurely.

There may be no way of spotting a propensity to choose to retire early, especially since the phenomenon is new and still too rare to allow teams to articulate potential factors.  But in San Francisco, G.M. Trent Baalke undoubtedly has been asking himself whether he missed whatever evidence there may have been to indicate that Borland may not be long for the NFL.

Moving forward, look for teams to try to come up with ways to ensure that players on whom a draft pick will be invested will be invested in the profession.  Already, many scouts focus on whether a player truly loves football.  Borland’s decision raises the stakes for teams intent on finding players who have a high level of devotion to the sport.

“No offense to anyone but I’m playing until I can’t anymore. I love this game too much,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said on Twitter in reaction to the news.  That’s what teams will be looking for, especially in guys who play positions susceptible to concussions.

Ultimately, some teams may decide there’s no way to know how players who have never played NFL football will react to the intensity of the highest level of the game.  A kid who loves football after playing in high school and college may decide after getting a taste of it at the professional level that it’s not something they want to do for as long as they physically can.

But regardless of whether there is or isn’t a way to flag a player who may retire after only one NFL season, the Borland situation underscores the importance of at least raising the question before using the pick.  After the pick has been used and the player surprises everyone by retiring, the question definitely will be raised internally regarding whether the G.M., the director of college scouting, and anyone else whose fingerprints are on the pick should have seen it coming before the player was drafted.

22 responses to “Borland situation creates new challenge for scouts

  1. Maybe the NFL, its teams, and the media who cover them should spend more time and effort protecting players, than preventing wasted draft picks. If not, the game is doomed.

  2. Poor Scouts and Poor NFL teams, players deciding to quit before their contract is up… 🙁
    I mean its not like a team can cut a player whenever they want.

  3. We know for a fact (through info given by Brian Urlacher and other players with positive test results) that modern day NFL players are shot up with Toradol prior to kickoff. We also know players abuse Adderall and Human Growth Hormone.

    The result is hi-speed, maniacal, chemically enhanced soldiers hell bent on blowing up the target in front if them.

    Anyone with half a brain (Sirry Bobby Wagner but you don’t have half a brain left) can see its a losing proposition health wise. Stuff the bank account and become a vegetable at 45, or walk away and have a chance at normalcy?

  4. If Borland’s early retirement becomes more of a trend, I wonder if teams could include clauses in rookie contracts that would result in the teams getting at least a percentage back of the player’s salary if the player retires before the end of his rookie contract for reasons other than career-ending injury.

  5. I don’t expect any person to put their life and well being at risk for my entertainment. Money and career is their business. As a fan, I have no rights to believe they owe me anything. Game on.

  6. Teams can drop players at any time — makes sense a player could exercise the same option.

  7. This is no different than the kid who thinks he or she wants to be a teacher, or a doctor, or an architect. I have seen many kids get out in the real world and suddenly realize the profession is not they thought it was or isn’t worth the effort. My guess is they will find a way to amend the rookie contracts in the next bargaining agreement to take this into account.

  8. This is like saying, “The Patriots wouldn’t have drafted Robert Edwards in the first round, if they knew his knee would be shredded after his rookie year.”

    The average career is less than 3 years. And scouts are always trying to judge if a player is driven by the ‘love of the game’ or the ‘love of money’. Borland is a unique story, but can wait until a few more guys retire after one year to make this a trend?

  9. As a Wisconsin Fan, Wow, I am shocked. He played like his hair was on fire at Wisconsin his whole career. He was a guy who played better than he was because he wanted it so bad. We loved him. We probably will never know what the whole story is, he is a smart guy and is no doubt making the informed, correct decision.

  10. Of all the retirement statements I have read lately, Borlands was definitely the most interesting. He basically says that he knows if he keeps going he will do things like hide concussions and put his health in danger to stay on the field so he is taking himself out of the situation.

    Personally I commend him, it takes a lot maturity at 23 to think about the next 50 years a decide its time to walk away. Most people don’t make choices like that, they hit rock bottom and are forced into it.

  11. It’s only a very few guys who have done this. Let’s not make it sound like there is a mass exodus of young players. Chill.

  12. Newsflash. Your health is your ONLY wealth. If you are not right, all the money in the bank will mean nothing to you.

  13. Borland’s passion for the game was impossible to miss. He played far beyond his physical gifts through sheer effort of will, fire and smarts.
    Still a smaller guy, though, and smart enough to see that his body has a shelf life.

    People sure get mad at smart football players.

  14. Nothing new here- the game seeks out people who will do anything to win and don’t think too much for themselves.

    It’s the same reason they still ask the “would you rather be a cat or dog” question at the combine. The right answer is dog- dogs are loyal, hard working, and follow orders regardless of the risk to the dog. Answering “cat” is a red flag.

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