The (Other) Pro Bowl Problem

Sure, there are a lot of issues with the annual Hawaii game from the fan perspective, but teams dread the game too for an entirely different reason. Plus, my thoughts on Richard Sherman and Kevin Greene's abrupt departure in Green Bay

By
Andrew Brandt
· More from Andrew·

Before touching on this week’s topics of note, a word about The MMQB colleague Richard Sherman and his now-famous rant following the Seahawks win on Sunday. I sense Sherman is shrewd enough to know how to draw a national reaction, and keep the conversation going far beyond the hours-long cycle that defines news today.

Much has been said already about Sherman, but here are a couple thoughts from experience. First, the raw and unfiltered emotion by Sherman is noteworthy more for its rarity than its content; many players think they are superior to their competitors, especially after winning individual battles, but few express it. Sherman’s words about Crabtree, which he continued to own in his column here, were refreshingly candid in an age of scripted clichés from athletes. Whether one agrees or not with his views on Michael Crabtree (who I think is a difference-making receiver), we saw unique outspokenness.

The episode illustrated the reason for the “cooling off period” after games before the media is allowed to enter locker rooms: to allow players’ emotions to diffuse in the sanctuary of the locker room away from public view. Of course, that “cooling off period” does not apply to post-game interviews on the field.

Finally, in my experience, the team position groups that were most difficult to manage were defensive line and defensive backs. They consistently had the most issues both off the field and internally with coaches, and sometimes even other players. In talking with colleagues from other teams then and now, they agree. There is no generalized answer as to why, but one thought: we ask these players to engage in 65-70 street fights per game, the more vicious the better, and then want them to be model citizens after the game. This is not to rationalize Sherman’s angry rant; rather, to point out the dichotomy of his job on and off the field.

Regardless, I am glad to have fellow Stanford grad Sherman and his raw commentary on our team here at The MMQB.

Now to some topics I found interesting this week …

The Pro Bowl problem

And now a different view of this week’s Pro Bowl. Although there is a new format, the “Pro Bowl Problem,” as I call it, has not changed. Players, especially players playing in the game for the first time, can become emboldened with an inflated sense of self. In managing player contracts, I always dreaded the weeks following the Pro Bowl.

First, as to the actual money received for playing in the Pro Bowl, it is not insignificant. This year, players on the losing team will make $26,000, whereas winning shares are $53,000 (players playing in the first two round of the playoffs made less than players on the losing team in the Pro Bowl). As to Super Bowl participants selected to the Pro Bowl under this new format without conference affiliation, they will earn $39,500, the midpoint amount between the winners and losers shares.

(Marco Garcia/AP)
(Marco Garcia/AP)

As to contractual Pro Bowl bonuses, language usually requires that the player is “selected on the original ballot” to the game, foreclosing any claim for bonuses for the many players named to the game as alternates.

Now the “problem”: with the top echelon of NFL talent all gathered in one place, there is a toxic mix of people around these star players. I call them the “Whisper Crews”: agents, financial managers, marketing reps, advisors, enablers, family members, sycophants, groupies, etc. whispering in players’ ears about the need for better treatment from their team, their agent, their marketing rep, their wife, their girlfriend (or both), etc. The clear point made to the player is that they need a change in their lives, usually one that the member of the Whisper Crew should be a part of.

Player agents are ubiquitous at the Pro Bowl, mostly “playing defense” against agents known as poachers: those who creatively find ways to visit players who are not (yet) clients, using their significant powers of persuasion, sometimes accompanied by striking women.

The Pro Bowl atmosphere plays on the emotions and heartstrings of top NFL players. In all of my dealings with athletes, I keep this mantra in mind: never underestimate the power of ego and insecurity. They are powerful emotions.

As I regularly experienced, players will return to the mainland with newfound stances about their ability and, often, post-Pro Bowl contract discontent. Teams around the league will be having some difficult conversations starting next week.

A football life

January is the season for coaching transition in the NFL, when coaches disembark from what I call the six-month “submarine tour” they boarded in late July and come ashore to view the shifting horizon. Head coaches are fired and hired, and staffs are reshuffled, culminating at this week’s Senior Bowl—a job fair for coaches seeking continued or renewed employment. After this week, the game of musical chairs will end, with those unable to find a seat waiting until next year.

(Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)
(Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)

Beyond the usual turnover, however, a different type of coaching transaction caught my eye. Kevin Greene, the Packers’ outside linebackers’ coach, resigned from the Packers to spend more time with his wife and two teenage children. In a profession where people often find it difficult to imagine doing anything else, Greene’s decision is noteworthy. It also resonates personally, albeit under different circumstances. I also left the Packers, six years ago this week, and now lead a life more under my own terms, with family in mind.

I don’t know Kevin Greene—we were not in Green Bay at the same time—but I have seen the atmosphere where one can become consumed with football, both internally and externally. Many people involved in NFL team operations have “football lives,” often to the exclusion of other interests. They think and talk about football when they eat, when they drive and even when they are at home. Some find it hard to be truly “present” with their families.

These football lives take on regimentation similar to players, but with longer hours and less pay. I regularly saw coaches and scouts use the team facility for their meals, their laundry, their workouts, even their wardrobe, wearing team-issued gear wherever they went. Social time is largely with others leading similar lives. As for family time, it can come in fits and starts.

Although as a front office executive I did not have the all-consuming life coaches and scouts did, my family still felt the impact. My sons, who were quite young when I was with the Packers, saw football as something that took me away from them, especially on the weekends, and we could never actually watch a game together as I worked during home games and traveled with the team. We now cherish watching games together.

Greene was with the Packers for five years, I was there nine years, the same length of time as my first boss, general manager Ron Wolf (and two years longer than Mike Holmgren). When Ron retired, I remember saying he felt “the walls were closing in” and grew to understand that comment.

Packers fans are warm-hearted people without pretense or edge and the Green Bay community is very welcoming; we made some wonderful life-long friends. Yet at times, it became hard to talk about topics beyond the team. I remember pumping gas and being tapped on the shoulder and asked, How’s that Donald Driver contract going? or being asked everywhere I went about Brett, Aaron or some other part of the team. And I was not even a coach or player; they felt it much more than I. The constant encirclement and year-round consumption of the Packers, although a special relationship, led to feeling, as Ron said, like the walls were closing in. I sense Greene felt that as well.

Often when we hear someone leaving to “spend more time with family,” we wonder about a back story. And many who state that reason for leaving have children that have already left home. I take this, though, for what it is: Kevin Greene chose to transition from a “football life” to a more impactful presence with his children at a formative time in their lives. And as every parent knows, that time is fleeting.

41 comments
goodall
goodall

People are cynical about the "spending more time with my family" BS because of scumbags like Urban Meyer.  When you see it being used as a cover often enough, it starts to ring hollow in your ears.

MorphySmith
MorphySmith

"I sense Sherman is shrewd enough to know how to draw a national reaction"??  LOL


Sherman shrewd? like a moron. he acted like a thug and this will NOT help him in any way. how is that shrewd?

TheDistrict
TheDistrict

We are just eating from the hands of Miley Cyrus and Richard Sherman. Both of them knew/know exactly what they were doing and we're just eating it up. I give them full credit. Way to cash in. 

docrailgun
docrailgun

If there are "65-70 street fights per game", there's something wrong with the game.

" There is no generalized answer as to why, but one thought: we ask these players to engage in 65-70 street fights per game, the more vicious the better, and then want them to be model citizens after the game."

Chris10
Chris10

The problem with the Pro Bowl is that it exists at all

RevisGoodworth
RevisGoodworth

As to the Pro Bowl, it seems that the NFL, given that the old format was moribund, intends to conduct its own version of Frankenstein - pulling out one legend (Rice) and one has been (whoever he is) and then to seek to bring the game back to life.


Unfortunately the Pro Bowl itself is meaningless - you get named to it - and then through the course of the following weeks, cowards, the injured, and those who are presupposed to being above it all, fall off the roster and fourth cousins five times removed are inserted and pretty soon a ball boy or jock sniffer is inserted as having "made the pro bowl" when really they did nothing than become the filler in a meatloaf of sports repugnance.


The real solution is to abandon the game in its entirety.   If the players cannot show up as awarded with the ONLY exception being injury-related, then there is no point having the game at all.    And since it has become apparent that today's athletes like Richard Sherman are gutless, spineless, overpaid prima donnas who have no integrity, the game has been a mockery - these guys half-step through the game or give up as the NFC did on Cam Newton (although it was delicious that they did what they did to a clown of the NFC).


The Pro Bowl should be discarded - let's just have an all-pro selection - no alternates - no replacements - a list of the best of the best in their game - intentionally remove from consideration of anyone who plays dirty and is caught in any drug penalties - lets remove from consideration the lowlifes - and let's have a man's man list of the true athletes who do their best and do it on the field.    Then let's have an award's show for them with their highlights - and then - perish the thought - have the player announce the CHARITY that will receive his prize money and why he chose that charity.    Let the men stand up and be noticed as men - not as thugs and miscreants like Crabtree and Sherman.   Let these men shine and give of themselves and be recognized for it.


And then let us take the NFL's fine money that it so unfairly administers and conducts itself after the fact in a spineless wimp way and let's distribute those funds on this show as well.    Let the top vote getter get first dibs on reaching into a hat or holding tank and picking the charity to receive funding - and then let us limit this to the top 10 players - each getting a staggered amount commensurate with their placement in the top ten hierarchy.    Let the men show their manhood in a positive light - helping others who are less fortunate.   Let the prestige of the actions elevate the game and hold it the night before the Super Bowl in prime time.    And then have the two team owners whose teams will play match the award to the fine money distribution winner so that the winner is truly those who are the fans and not the athlete.   


Let's make the Pro Bowl about being professionals and not about a gimmick for ratings.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

I read every year how the pro-bowl gets great ratings but I don't know anyone that actually looks it. Who does watch that game? Just curious.

bobmidd
bobmidd

Richard Sherman is a very intelligent man, anyone can see it. But I don't need to see his "raw emotions" anymore than I need to see his underwear, everyone knows it's there because everyone has them. Just like clothes have their place so does humility and a guard on "emotions". But more importantly it's just unflattering for him and everyone else. We should aspire to be better, and we don't need a demonstration we aren't.

jpbulldog1979
jpbulldog1979

I loved two thirds of the article, but the pro bowl "problem" section sounds like it describes the exact same stuff that happens to every star athlete all the time. Calling it a problem that is unique to the pro bowl comes across as poorly thought out space filler. 

CarterSeamer
CarterSeamer

Wow loved the article till you had to go and say you were a part of the Packers...... I'm so sorry for your loss :'(

Beast2424
Beast2424

Its funny we want the truth from the player but then we bash them when they give it to us i thought it was pure entertainment to be honest my niece is even imitating it lmao.

DrMad01
DrMad01

The Article was briefly about Richard Sherman.  I think I would like everyone to take a moment and see the big picture that this is just a game!  yes it's emotional.  Yes we all get excited.  but when you walk away from it all what do you have?  A few memories, and a brief recollection of history which will need prodding to recall.  but your family lasts forever!  Kevin Greene's story is one I'd like to see more athlete's, coaches and armchair quarterbacks take to heart. We are raising the next generation and if you don't like where this one is going, then you need to make a difference now.  Take time away from making the big bucks, sacrifice a little now for our future.  Time flies way too fast.  Volunteer, become a big brother/sister, coach, make time for your kids.  They will be out of the house before long.  That Cat's in the cradle folks.

BillyBearkat
BillyBearkat

Cooling off period?! Every year, we see dozens of, immediate, post-game interviews with (winning) players. They are typically handled with the cliches that they've learned along the way. Sherman, no doubt a great player, gave, what no reasonable person can argue, an inappropriate response to 2 questions. C'mon ... sorry player! That's just over the line and Richard has now admitted the same himself. This is a very smart guy who, in the heat of the moment, lost it. He's not a thug, it's not a "black thing" or any other such nonsense. He was just hot and went off ... most handle it in these situations. For this particular interview, Richard did not. I think that's really all there is to the story.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Planned. From start to finish, it was planned. Sherman is loving the attention, dozens of writers have weighed in (not to mention tens of thousands of commenters), his name is on everyone's lips for good or ill, and he is reveling in it all. It is, in a word, genius. Those that mock his low SAT scores despite the fact that he's a Stanford grad may not want to admit it, but he has orchestrated the entire incident. I don't think that headphone commercial that has just shown up on TV was shot since last Sunday. It even has the word 'thug' as it's climactic point. Richard Sherman figured out how to take ALL the pressure off his teammates by taking it all on himself. Genius.

John Schneck
John Schneck

Andrew,  I think a lot of people who only watched the 'game' missed something very important with Richard's rant.


He didn't do it just once, on the field that everyone saw and is talking about.  He ranted about Crabtree a second time, probably 15 minutes later in front of his locker (to, I think, NFL Network) and then he did the exact same rant again, but this time, after he showered, dressed, had time to relax and did it in a 'media' room probably 1 hour after the game.   


I have no problem with the 'live' rant on the field.  Stick a mic in front of him and you get what you get.  But the second and then the third... I was really hoping that the third one he would of pulled back, just a little.  Nope.


So, maybe Goodell is a little right on this.  Maybe Richard did cross the line.  I doubt most of the media even knew he did it 3 times, or you wouldn't be so kind.


js

sociosaintfan
sociosaintfan

So glad Sherman did what he did.  It's amazing to me how "offended" everyone was.  People complain about the repetitive nature of post-game interviews, and now that they get something different they can't handle it.  Make up your mind people.


Anyone would find it hard to contain the emotion that was occurring on that final play.  Such an amazing play would get anyone pumped up.    

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

I'm not sure what the cooling off period would have done in this instance.  He was spewing the same nonsense in press conferences hours after the game was over.  This wasn't an instance of a player raw with emotion right after a game.  This was an instance of a player going out of his way to attempt to publically humiliate a colleague in multiple interviews over the course of hours.  Not to mention, as you stated, a day later in his very own article. 

Buck2185
Buck2185

You are proud to have fellow Stanford grad, Richard Sherman, on your writing team?? Wow, we have just found someone less intelligent than Richard Sherman....Stanford's credibility has now gone from the toilet all the way into the California sewer system.

AlanDay
AlanDay

Sherman is now playing the race card. The word thug is unused with mobsters and gangsters. You are a thug Sherman.

TheDistrict
TheDistrict

@docrailgun I don't think street fight is a good analogy. It's more like 65-70 professionally refereed boxing matches. It's all controlled and monitored. I mean, Richard Sherman screams into a microphone for thirty seconds and people think it's the end of the world. Not exactly street fights. 

UrsaMajor
UrsaMajor

@docrailgun Uh, I think that Andrew's phrase about "65-70 street fights per game" was meant as much in the figurative vs. the literal sense.  And let's face it, the collisions that happen during a game would probably be subject to criminal charges if committed out on the street.

SportPage
SportPage

@ayoyo His approaching Crabtree was to gloat and taunt, not to compliment him. And his classless behavior continued through the evening, not just the moment after winning.

ll316
ll316

@ayoyo So he could show class immediately after the play, but we're supposed to pretend as if his adenaline was the cause for the classlessness he showed in the post game interviews?  

MorphySmith
MorphySmith

@bobmidd

sherman intelligent? you mean like Obama thinks HE is intelligent also?

IdahamCooper
IdahamCooper

@bobmidd Then the media owns the responsibility to back off... Don't think FOX isn't giddy that this event happened on their network....

SportPage
SportPage

@BillyBearkat And he continued the same rant long after the game was over, so it's not just an immediate response to the elation of winning.

Kenny2Thorough
Kenny2Thorough

@Ilovemesomeme

Sherman took honors classes in statistics. Let's see if the stats justifies some of Sherman's assessments about Crabtree.

"Josh Gordon needed 14 games to produce almost double what Crabtree can do in a full season." - Richard Sherman

That's actually a statistically accurate statement. First, let's eliminate Crabtree's 2013 season since he was hurt most of the year. Also let's eliminate both Gordon's and Crabtree's rookie years. That leave's Crabtree with and average of 906 yards a season. Gordon with 1646 yards a season.


Gordon produced 1.82 times more aggregated average yards than Crabtree. So that's almost twice as much. 

Sherman also said that Crabtree is mediocre and that he's not in the top 20. If you excluded 2013 as well as Crabtree's rookie year than he'll average 906 yards a game. That would rank him 31st this season. Even if you took just Crabtree's best year of 1105 than he would've been 25th in yards this season. 

I know that stats aren't everything but Sherman's assessments were factually accurate at least statistically. Is it fair to describe Sherman's comments about Crabtree nonsense if they are statistically accurate?


**********


Regardless of the accuracy of Sherman's statements. I get the impression that you're upset with the tact of Sherman disclosing aspects of his feud with Crabtree publicly. Do you think their rivalry as too intense or is it mostly the public nature that bothers you?

Ryan19
Ryan19

@Buck2185  "Wow, we have just found someone less intelligent than Richard Sherman"


Yes, we have.  He goes by the name Buck2185.  

adeeri
adeeri

@AlanDay he is NOT  a thug. yelling that you are the best does not make you a thug. 

mr.burtonwolff
mr.burtonwolff

@AlanDay I think the twitter explosion of n-words and monkey/jungle allusions were the race card thrust AT HIM by others.

Mel
Mel

@mr.burtonwolff Ahh yes, according to him others called him "the n word". Wonder how many times a day Sherman uses that exact same word. But then it's okay for him....

Newsletter