Humans have an inherent knack for accepting their circumstances when those circumstances can’t be changed. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa accepts his current circumstances that can’t be changed. If they could be changed, Tua quite possibly would not accept those circumstances.
That’s the vibe the Alabama quarterback created in a recent interview with Zach Gelb of CBS Sports Radio. Here’s Tagovailoa’s take on the rule that makes mandatory a three-year wait following high-school graduation before a player can enter the NFL.
“I honestly think that is a good rule,” Tagovailoa said. “I mean, I’d say because when you go the NFL, I mean, you’re playing against grown men. This isn’t something that you need to take lightly. And you’ve got to take into consideration that it’s a job. It’s a job when you go to the NFL, and just being able to stay in college for another year, for me — I mean, being able to hear all these people, these speakers come and talk to us, you know, about how to be accountable for your money. How to be accountable in things you do. You learn so many lessons before you even reach that stage, too, where when things do happen, you’ve heard it from other guys. You have contacts to go to.
“Just little things like that, I mean when you come out of high school and you only play a year in college, I mean, how fast it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be ridiculous. I hear guys who have played in the league that come back that are from Alabama and they say you can’t compare the two. College is definitely a lot different than the NFL, in all aspects, in every aspect. So I think the three years is fine for me.”
It’s fine for him, because he has no choice but to accept it. But what if he had a choice? Would he make the jump despite the litany of concerns that surely have been drilled into him and the rest of his teammates by a head coach who would prefer they continues to stay and play for him as long as possible?
“Well, I’d probably have to sit down and talk with my parents, see what the best decision would be for me to do, and if they would want me to go I would do everything possible to prepare for it,” Tagovailoa said. “There wouldn’t be any other way.”
Since he doesn’t have a choice, that conversation won’t happen. The conversation should be allowed to happen. Each player should be able to make the decision as to whether he wants to go straight to the NFL out of high school, to leave college after one year, or to exit after two.
The notion that college football, the NFL, and the NFLPA are collectively protecting players from themselves masks the reality that they’re actually protecting college football. Adults should have the ability to make their own decisions regarding potential employment, and the 32 NFL teams should have the ability to decide whether to hire them. An artificial rule premised on the idea that 18- or 19-year-olds would be maimed or worse by grown men overlooks the reality that their employers wouldn’t draft them if they weren’t ready and, if they pick them for developmental purposes, they wouldn’t put them into the fray prematurely.
But the NFL doesn’t want to get in the business of making those decisions about unfinished products. The NFL would rather let the college football system take the raw product and make it pro-ready, or not. Otherwise, NFL teams would have to add to their college scouting burden the task of scouting high-school players.
Thus, the free farm system works for the NFL, and the NFL is in no rush to change it. Hiding behind trumped-up notions of concern for the safety of young players ensures that it won’t change.
But it may change, if/when the XFL opens the doors to players ineligible for the NFL — and if/when someone launches an in-season alternate football league that plays on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and that offers players who can’t yet get paid by the NFL cash money in exchange for their skills, services, and sacrifices.