When key players want to change teams, blame the teams not the players

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Khalil Mack wanted out of Oakland. He got what he wanted.

Antonio Brown wanted out of Pittsburgh. Then he wanted out of Oakland. He got what he wanted, both times.

Minkah Fitzpatrick wanted out of Miami. He got what he wanted.

Jalen Ramsey wants out of Jacksonville. He may get what he wants. Other great players, like Jamal Adams, may want out of where they currently are, and they may get it.

Some think that’s a bad thing. That it makes the NFL too much like the NBA. ESPN’s Steve Young, a lawyer who should know illegal collusion when he’s advocating for it, wants NFL teams to band together to stop players from talking, or tweeting, their way out of their current cities.

Of course, Young wanted out of Tampa Bay after the Bucs drafted Vinny Testaverde in 1987, and Young got what he wanted. He got what he wanted because the Buccaneers gave him what he wanted.

If today’s teams are willing to give players what they want in lieu of playing hardball under the labor deal to keep them in place, that’s for the teams to decide. Having a trade market for a disgruntled player becomes irrelevant if his current team tells the player, “Play for us or play for no one.”

The problem ultimately traces to the failure of the team to keep a key player happy. If Ramsey no longer wants to play for the Jaguars, and if the Jaguars want to keep him, shame on the Jaguars for letting it get to the point where he wants out. The coaching staff failed to establish and maintain the right relationship with Ramsey, the front office failed to take care of him financially when the opportunity arose, or both. (In this case, the right answer indeed seems to be “both.”)

The best players in the NFL at their various positions get special treatment because they deserve it. If supreme talent can secure umpteen chances for guys who get in trouble off the field, why shouldn’t model citizens who also play the game at ridiculously high levels merit extra care and feeding in order to ensure that they choose to continue to be cared for and fed by the team that holds their rights?

If the Jaguars want to keep Ramsey, it’s not difficult. Kiss his ass. Pay him. Make him feel wanted. Make him feel special. Because he is.

And if the Jaguars don’t want him — if they don’t want to treat him in a way that makes him feel wanted — they should get what they can and trade him.

Still, the goal of the draft is to select players who have the potential to become great and then to keep the ones that become great. It’s for the teams to do whatever needs to be done to make the great ones want to stay. If the relationship becomes fractured, it’s not the player’s fault. It’s the team’s fault.

46 responses to “When key players want to change teams, blame the teams not the players

  1. It’s fun how sports fans want sports players to be treated differently than employee’s at other firms. Imagine being stuck in a job that you couldn’t leave if you were unhappy there. Feel sorry for anyone who puts themselves into that position.

  2. How does someone want to get traded after 1 game? As a Dolphins fan, I’m glad that Minkah Fitzpatrick got traded to another team without a Quarterback. He shouldn’t ask for another trade because he got his wish!

  3. Teams just need to stop drafting the selfish me first diva type players as high. At one point they will learn that these selfish guys arent worth the high pick even with high talent. Get hard working yet good players instead.

  4. i think each situation is different. We drafted Minkah “the swiss army knife” and tried to play him in positions where we needed his ability and intelligence. He felt he was out of position regardless of him being the “swiss army knife”. Obviously that was a crock as he became unhappy not playing what he considered his natural position. This regime in Miami want players that want to be there and he did not so why keep him there if he’s unhappy. As the phins draft i think they’ll draft players that are coachable “team-first” guys and Minkah is obviously not a team first guy. Good riddance. I for one am excited to see this rebuild as it is different than the hole plugging we have attempted in the past. No one is really to blame it’s just not a good fit and so part ways, get what you consider good value and then MOVE FORWARD.

  5. The gold standard for NFL franchises doesn’t exist because it caters to important players differently than any other player, it exists because it finds players who put the team first. Each player makes his own choice about what is most important for himself or his family.

  6. Sorry, but to me the idea that a millionaire athlete needs more money to feel appreciated just doesn’t work. These guys need to boost their own self-worth, not by buying another house and car but by doing things for the many, many people who can’t even hope to ever have 10% of what the player has.

  7. Play hardball. If a player wants out, they need to perform to increase the teams ability to get the most out of a trade. If player would rather sit or not show, they can rot on the roster until free agency… without stats, they’ll receive less in FA. I’m probably not getting a GM job anytime some, so what do I know…

  8. If I’m not mistaken, Mack didn’t want out of Oakland, he wanted a new contract and Oakland didn’t want to pay him. The same is true for Ramsey. Ramsey showed up for training camp in a Brinx truck and made it clear that he wanted a big contract FROM Jacksonville. Guys eventually will want out when a team doesn’t want to pay them.

  9. There was a time when children got in trouble at school, parents punished the child.
    Now, if the child gets in trouble they yell at the teacher.

    That is what this is.

  10. I’ve been saying all along that the Steelers should have told Brown ‘play for us or play for noone.’ If I were GM, I’d have told him that, except if he was really causing the trouble for the Steelers like he was for the Raiders, I’d have traded him a while ago before it blew up and while I could get a king’s ransom for him. Instead the let him go for nothing. I also would have traded Bell to the Giants for their #2 overall pick and drafted Barkley. I was saying it back then. But here I sit online musing, while people way dumber than me make millions to make bad choices.

  11. Can the media this time get Jalen Ramsey calling Tom Coughlin something derogatory to his face on video if it happens this time? Would pay good money to see how that turns out…

  12. Oh please, it’s not the employers job the coddle the employee. Antonio Brown wanted out because his QB was mean to him. Ramsey wants out because his coach was mean to him. Man up and either play for millions of dollars or sit out and get a new job.

  13. Sorry, but this isn’t really right in a lot of cases. Look at Antonio Brown or TO. Sure, special players. They also angered teammates to the point that several of them made it a point during and after to talk about what terrible teammates they were. Some people are more trouble than they’re worth. If I guy has earned the pay raise and out-performed their contract, that’s one thing. If they’re just terrible people to be around, that’s entirely different. Antonio Brown quit on his team in a must-win game because, from most accounts, he was jealous that people on the team liked another WR who wasn’t spectacularly selfish more than him. It absolutely makes sense to not want that guy on your team.

  14. “Khalil Mack wanted out of Oakland. He got what he wanted.”

    =========================

    Come on Mike, you’re much smarter than that. That’s the party line that was given by Gruden & Son-of-Al and they’re not renowned for their honesty. The reality is that there’s no evidence that Khalil Mack wanted anything more than an extension that paid him market value for his level of play and that Gruden’s ego was too big to deal with a legitimate star & leader who didn’t need to ingratiate himself to the “coaching legend” as his preferred “Gruden Grinder” type players do.

  15. Did Mack really want out of Oakland? I’m sure he didn’t like the way the negotiations went but I thought that was more about the money than him wanting to leave.

  16. I disagree with AB and his Oakland situation, they bent over backwards for him through his feet and helmet issue’s. They kissed is ass, PAID him, and catered to him until it became too much with his many antics, skipping practices, etc., and asked to be released. The team defiantly did it’s part. It makes no sense to hold up $30 million for a player that acts crazy and is not committed.

    I could also argue that Mack didn’t want out of Oakland, he just wanted top dollar, and Oakland wasn’t willing to pay it. Whether that was a right or wrong call can be debated on Oakland’s part, but I don’t recall Mack saying he wanted out of Oakland. He wanted to be a Raider, he just wanted a boatload of money.

  17. Jaguar’s drama

    You are absolutely right.
    For the past three days I’ve been saying exactly the same thing .
    Hopefully somebody in the management start making some sense , make the right decision before this team will go down the gutter.
    Without a good coaching staff no matter how good is your team , and obviously is not only the fanbase that are frustrate……..now the team started getting frustrated knowing that they are very talented but held back buy a very poor coaching.
    For year’s I’ve been watching the jaguars management get ready of their most talented players including the two Alen’s wide receivers, extended Lee’s contract (the white tiger !!!), Most of the great teams are keeping their talent and add more talent !!! That’s the only way jaguars could win a Superbowl……….. Till then we just watching a talented team struggling.
    The upper management including the owner have to start thinking not only in making money, and start to commit themself to a higher standards starting with coaching staff !!!!!

  18. So wrong. Some players are just ridiculous in their behaviour and are just not worth the headache. You pander to them, you’re setting the wrong example to the rest of the team.

  19. I agree to disagree, football more than any other sport is a team sport and even though Jalen Ramsey is one of the best in a league his position does not dictate that you have to go out of the way to keep him happy because he alone is not going to win a championship for that team unlike a Tom Brady who you do have to do whatever you can to keep him happy for the most part.

  20. That’s oversimplifying a complex issue in most cases. Blame just one side and not the other? Especially in AB’s case who deliberately schemed his way off two teams.

    Here’s a better rule. Assign blame to whomever deserves it. Sometimes it’s the team. Sometimes it’s the player. Sometimes it’s both.

  21. Yeah, not Antonio Brown’s fault, Pittsburgh and Oakland’s fault. This could be true with some players but come on, some players are just complete douche bags, Antonio Brown being a prime example.

  22. So you are saying that a player can never be unreasonable or have a problem with getting along with others and it is always the team’s fault. I disagree.

  23. Great idea. Let the players decide what team they want to play for; and let them decide what they are worth. I am sure all of the other players would be cool with that.

  24. You have to look deeper than that.
    the problem started from coaching staff with poor decisions and lack of discipline

  25. If you have a garbage organization players won’t want to stick around.

    Why didn’t the Raiders try and negotiate with Khalil Mack the day after his 3rd season when the price would have been lower?

    Why didn’t the jags try and negotiate with Jalen Ramsey in the offseason when the price would have been cheaper?

    IF a good player is set on leaving (i.e. wants a lot of money) then trade him in advance and get as much as you can for him.

    Teams also need to do their due diligence when giving players big contracts (AB and OBJ). They may need to start structuring them to protect themselves in case a player starts acting up and wants out, so they don’t take a big cap hit if they trade him.

    Having said all this, a few players can ruin it for all players because now teams will be hesitant in how they structure all veteran contracts. As an organization you can’t allow a player to get paid then one or two years later start acting up and complaining.
    A team may be better of keeping him, letting him act up, but not getting his way. This will show other players that the organization wont cave it.
    Better to take some short term pain than allow this to become common behavior.

  26. I read an interesting article comparing US football with European football (soccer). The point was that US football operates on a socialist model, while European football operates on a hyper capitalist model.

    Here, we have a system that rewards poor performance with better draft picks, shares revenues among all the teams, and imposes a salary cap. In Europe, teams can spend whatever they want and players move around readily. If a team spends too much, it won’t be rescued; it could go bankrupt. The teams at the bottom are relegated to an inferior league until they improve enough to earn their way back into the top league.

    I would hate going into the draft and having no ability to control where I ended up. I’m stuck with whatever team drafts me, and in most cases stuck there for my career. Given how short careers are, it’s no wonder top players will do whatever they can to break out and force a move to a team they prefer. But allowing these top players to more readily change teams goes against the whole economic model of the NFL.

    Now that the whole parity system seems to be showing its weakness, maybe it’s time to revisit the whole economic system of the League. Not that that is at all likely to happen.

  27. >>remizak says:

    >>I read an interesting article comparing US football with European football (soccer). The point was that US football operates on a socialist model, while European football operates on a hyper capitalist model.

    I disagree. With no cap and revenue sharing then super rich owners will have a huge advantage and small market teams will be at a disadvantage.

    I despise Belichick but lets credit him for being a genius and way smarter than 80% of the other GMS and HCs many of which shouldn’t have jobs.

    Its not that parity doesn’t work, it helps, but mismanagement can counter act it.

    I get the pleasure of watching the Jets and Giants because of where I live.
    The Jets are owned by a clown who wants to meddle and hire his own guys. Guess whet? They are awaful.

    Robert Kraft hired Belichick and doesn’t interfere.

    There are a few good organization, but most are not well run, and through luck will occasionally have a good couple of years before sinking back to mediocrity.

    The system is fine, it’s the owners who are the problem.
    If I buy an expensive car, I will hire someone to maintain it.

  28. It’s absolutely crazy that people say players can’t leave their jobs for another gig like regular people because they are under contract. The front office side usually don’t honor the stipulations of the contract, so why should the players be held to a different standard. They have to look out for their best interest. At the end of the day, they don’t owe anyone but themselves and their families. These guys have a one in a million talent, and people need to stop being jealous of the fact their talents are rare and generate billions

  29. It illustrates that teams use personal services contracts with little to no teeth. A player wanting out should buy his way out or wait until his contract has expired. Greater penalties need to written into these contracts for disciplinary problems. These conditions should be part of the signing bonus package. The entire concussion nexus should be covered there, as well. This contractual approach should be league wide. IT ALSO GIVES PLAYERS THE FLEXIBILITY to not opt in on those stipulations. Maybe Canada would be a better league for them.

  30. intrafinesse says:
    September 18, 2019 at 9:46 am

    >>remizak says:

    >>I read an interesting article comparing US football with European football (soccer). The point was that US football operates on a socialist model, while European football operates on a hyper capitalist model.

    I disagree. With no cap and revenue sharing then super rich owners will have a huge advantage and small market teams will be at a disadvantage.

    I despise Belichick but lets credit him for being a genius and way smarter than 80% of the other GMS and HCs many of which shouldn’t have jobs.

    Its not that parity doesn’t work, it helps, but mismanagement can counter act it.

    I get the pleasure of watching the Jets and Giants because of where I live.
    The Jets are owned by a clown who wants to meddle and hire his own guys. Guess whet? They are awaful.

    Robert Kraft hired Belichick and doesn’t interfere.

    There are a few good organization, but most are not well run, and through luck will occasionally have a good couple of years before sinking back to mediocrity.

    The system is fine, it’s the owners who are the problem.
    If I buy an expensive car, I will hire someone to maintain it.

    ***************

    I agree that with no cap and no revenue sharing super-rich owners will have a huge advantage and small markets will be at a disadvantage. I also agree that current owners are a real problem. You can be extremely wealthy and still stupid. Under the current system, there’s insufficient remedy or punishment for stupid owners.

    I’m not advocating that we dump everything and go to the European system. We don’t need to choose between that and keeping everything exactly the same. What I would like to see is an acknowledgment that there are some serious and systemic problems with the way things work now, and an open discussion of changes that could be made to address those problems. Of course that won’t happen, either, because the League is run by ultra-wealthy owners, many of whom have shown they are none too bright.

  31. sorry – the only ones who get CEO pay are QB’s. All these guys who want to be the highest paid at their position especially on defense will bite their team in the butt long term. The price for a QB right now is 35 million. Mahomes might be the first 40 million per QB , and he will be worth every penny. Lets just use an easy number and say the cap is 200 million. If you are going to “have to pay” your qb 35 per, and now defensive players want 25 to 30, that is 1/3 of your cap space going to 2 guys. That leaves you only about 140 for the other 51- a little over 2.5 per player…..you get watered down very quickly and will have the inability to retain any of your own free agents. Nobody will ever give 2 #1’s for a defensive player again. R

  32. A lot of teams don’t want these players, but they’re trying to get top dollar, so they don’t want to seem desperate to get rid of them. If the team thinks a player is a “winner”, they’ll find ways to keep them on board.

  33. youngnoize says:
    September 18, 2019 at 10:02 am

    It’s absolutely crazy that people say players can’t leave their jobs for another gig like regular people because they are under contract. The front office side usually don’t honor the stipulations of the contract, so why should the players be held to a different standard. They have to look out for their best interest. At the end of the day, they don’t owe anyone but themselves and their families. These guys have a one in a million talent, and people need to stop being jealous of the fact their talents are rare and generate billions
    ____________________

    Good Lord, man.

    Teams abide by every word of their contracts and the CBA. WHAT don’t you understand about this??

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