View Full Version : NFL teams must be wary of fans' psyche when letting star players go

03-12-2009, 07:46 AM
A comedian (it was Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal or maybe Kenny Banya) once explained that free agency has converted baseball into an exercise in rooting for laundry.

Over the past 15 years, that same concept has taken root in pro football.

As a result, rosters experience significant turnover every year, and the only constant is the laundry.

For the most part, NFL fans have adjusted to the concept of rooting for laundry. Besides, the pads and the helmets and the face masks make it easier to not notice the fact that the laundry is the wrapping paper on a revolving door of players.

In some cases, however, the players still transcend the laundry. And while the departures of veterans like safety Brian Dawkins from the Eagles, Matt Birk from the Vikings and linebacker Derrick Brooks from the Buccaneers might make good football sense, the trauma inflicted on the fan base could be hard to overcome.

That's the irony of the process. The teams market the best players aggressively, plastering their images anywhere that images can be plastered in the hopes of selling jerseys bearing the players' names and numbers, and of strengthening the bond between fan and franchise.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the team decides to move on.

So what's a fan to do?

The easiest answer (far easier said than done) comes from avoiding any emotional attachment to the players.

Pro football has become a year-to-year proposition, with each season a separate and independent experience. Once one ends, all bets are off as to what might occur over the seven or eight months until the start of the next one.

College football once had a temporary feel to it, with roughly a fourth of a team turning over annually, and the NFL was perennial, with only a handful of players, at most, not coming back to a given team.

In less than a generation, the roles have flipped. College rosters, even with a maximum stay of four years, come off as more consistent and stable. NFL teams, on the other hand, are erratic and unpredictable, with players who have been and presumably will continue to be part of the core of the roster suddenly discarded, in some cases without advance warning.

As a result, the only way for a fan of an NFL team to deal with this new era in pro football is to focus on the laundry, and to ignore the names, numbers and faces.

But emotional detachment from the players will result in a certain amount of emotional detachment from the team itself. Really, how can a fan care passionately about a team without having that same passion about at least some of the men who play for it?

As humans, we can't. And thus the challenge falls back to the teams, to include as a factor within their decision-making processes the impact that a given move will have on the fan base.

It's more art than science, requiring the Eagles' front office and coaching staff, for example, to predict whether allowing a guy like Brian Dawkins to sign with the Broncos will be met with a shrug, a stampede of pitchforks and torches, or something in between.

Still, the consequences to the psyche of the fans -- and in turn to their willingness to continue to be fanatical -- are far more important to the long-term viability of the franchise than, say, the hit to the salary cap that will result from the move.

In some of the recent cases, it seems that the teams didn't even consider the possibility of a backlash. It's almost as if some teams simply assume that, come opening day, the fans will show up, with paint on their faces and $200 jerseys on their backs.

Given that the NFL has weathered storms of steroids and off-field player misconduct without any real impact on the bottom line has likely emboldened some teams to believe that they can do whatever they want and still churn out huge profits.

Still, if the fans ever stop caring, the sport will suffer. And there likely are more than a few fans in Philadelphia, Minnesota and Tampa who need to have their passion restored.

Eventually, those fans will figure out that, by focusing their passion on other players wearing the same laundry, they'll be only setting themselves up for another heartbreak.


What U guys think?

03-12-2009, 07:59 AM
I think teams that let fan sentiment make personnel decisions for them (see how the Browns caved to fan sentiment and started Quinn over Anderson this past season before Quinn was really ready) are doomed to failure. Where would the Steelers have been this past season if Porter was still on the team starting and Harrison was still relegated to the bench? A LOT of Steelers fans squawked when Porter was shown the door, but it turned out OK, didn't it? A front office worth its salt doesn't let fan sentiment dictate personnel decisions. Period.

03-12-2009, 08:20 AM
It could be worse, Matt Millen any one.

Dino 6 Rings
03-12-2009, 08:27 AM
This is not something new. Where did Franco Harris end his career? Seattle?

Namath? with the Rams I think?

It happens, people move around. Montana as a Chief. Rice as a Seahawk.

You root for the guys that are on your team that Sunday. Sure you may follow a guy and hope he does well when he switches teams, but I do not hope that Joey Porter gets sacks when he plays the Steelers, in fact, I hope I never hear his name the entire game.

03-12-2009, 09:34 AM
i kinda understand the heartbreak of seeing your favorite playr move on, but also i understand teh FO side. We do not know reallyu what goes onbehind the closed doors the guy might be a problem or wants to much cash. So i trust what the Rooneys do even though i am still mad when i think about rod woodson leaving.:noidea::tt03::tt03::tt03:

03-12-2009, 11:23 AM
I think the salary cap is an OK idea in principle, but it really goes too far in terms of the number of players you are forced to let go on an annual basis. I can understand if they put something in place to stop teams from going all Synder or Davis in overpaying for other people's free agents, because that could get out of hand if left unchecked. But they also ought to have ways that let you re-sign your own players, other than the franchise tag and the ridiculous effects it has, such as bums like Starks and Cassell getting eight-figure salaries.

03-13-2009, 11:42 PM
The worst thing is sports to see all time was Brett Favre in a Jets jersey. That will never look right.

03-14-2009, 12:01 AM
The worst thing is sports to see all time was Brett Favre in a Jets jersey. That will never look right.

It was an abomination of the Natural Order of Things