Welcome to Wednesday War Room, where Yahoo Sports’ NFL experts kick around the key topics of the day. Got a suggestion for a topic? Email us. Today, we’re talking owners seeking fans’ input, and Hall of Fame alpha dogs. Onward!
Question 1: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti made headlines this week when he indicated he’d be consulting with fans about whether to sign free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Should an owner or general manager ever seek the input of fans on personnel decisions?
No. Never. There’s a reason for GMs, coaches, scouts and players, right? That’s who you consult. Owners don’t ask the public for their opinions on football decisions, just like GMs don’t ask for help on trades, free agents or draft picks, coaches don’t ask for help with depth charts or play-calling. There are people in place for this, and those people are not the general public.
Yes. There is no downside and all upside to affording fans the opportunity to assume the role of GM for a day. Besides, not like there is an obligation to actually listening to the advice. NFL front office jobs—like the NBA—are the ultimate high for fans. Seriously, what fan doesn’t believe he/she can’t step into their favorite team’s building today and start orchestrating a roster?
Realistically, however, the reason these jobs are so hard to come by is because they are that hard to do. The NFL specifically, is a salary-driven league. By opening up a public forum for people to weigh in on which free agent to pursue and sign, teams are allowing their fans into the one place they never get to go. Practices, games, even film sessions thanks to shows like “Hard Knocks” and “All or Nothing”—we’re used to seeing those kind of things. Solicit the advice of your fans and who knows, maybe it will come to something. Worst case scenario though? Your fans are happier with you than they were yesterday. And in this business, that’s always a good thing.
No. No, no, no, no. Never. Don’t even think about it. Did I say no? This is one of the worst ideas imaginable. People think they can be general managers because they beat their college buddies in a fantasy league, but scouting players a hard, intensive process. And crowdsourcing moves to gauge fans’ feelings on morality and politics … I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s a nightmare waiting to happen. Make a decision. Live with the consequences and the feedback. You can’t please everyone and you’re an absolute fool if you think it’s smart to check the opinion of millions of fans before signing or drafting someone.
Think of the most ridiculous, absurd, nonsensical idea you can imagine—the earth is flat, a hot dog is a sandwich, the greatest album ever recorded is anything other than “Appetite for Destruction”—and then realize that probably a third of your fellow Americans believe that lunacy with all their hearts. Look, I love every one of you reading this, but a good chunk of y’all are flat-out crazy. (Not you. I’m talking about other readers.) A decent chunk of Americans can’t be trusted to turn off the TV when [insert your least-favorite TV show here] comes on, and we’re talking about trusting them with a decision on a football team? Nnnnnope.
In all seriousness, what Bisciotti is doing is just giving himself cover. He knows that a huge chunk of very loud fans will say what he wants to hear, whether it’s in favor of or against signing Kaepernick, and he can just point to that particular noisy chunk to dodge the heat for making the hard decisions on his own. Don’t want to sign Kaepernick? Fine. Stand up and say so yourself, don’t throw the fans out there as cannon fodder to avoid the blowblack.
You mean any team that isn’t the Indoor Football League’s Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, which is run entirely by fan vote? No.
Question 2: Imagine this: you gather every NFL Hall of Famer in one room. They’ve got to choose their own leader. Who comes out of there in charge? Who’s the NFL’s ultimate alpha dog?
I’ll admit: I crowd-sourced this one on Twitter, because I was curious to see the answers I’d get (see, I’m not an NFL owner or GM contemplating someone’s employment, so I can do this). Names that came in more than once? Vince Lombardi, Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Mean Joe Greene, Deacon Jones, Al Davis. Great choices all. But for myriad reasons, I’ll go with Lombardi. It isn’t just that he was a great football coach; more importantly, he sought the best players, regardless of race, and insisted that they all be treated the same, and not just within the team. Lombardi abhorred Jim Crow laws, making it known to Green Bay businesses that they were either to welcome all Packers players or not have any players as patrons. The same was true for players and others he knew to be gay; he would not allow them to be discriminated against. Everyone gravitates toward great leaders, and Lombardi was one of the very best.
This needs to happen, if only to watch Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin each furiously courting voting delegations. Me, I’m going with Joe Namath, the absolute coolest human being ever to strap on a football helmet (outside of Burt Reynolds in “The Longest Yard,” of course). Broadway Joe always has that look like he knows 10 things you don’t, and nobody rocked a fur coat like that man in his prime. He’d sweet-talk his way right to the front of the line. (But I wouldn’t bet against new Hall of Famer Jerry Jones to work the room and swing an unexpected victory.)
If you’ve ever been in a room with John Elway, you know he’s the answer. I can’t tell you all the famous people Elway has met, but there aren’t too many people who can overshadow him. When Peyton Manning announced his retirement, it still seemed like John Elway was the most important person there. Elway has a pretty amazing blend of leadership, charisma and flat-out cool. People of all walks of life are drawn to him. Teammates were drawn to him too, because he had a rare combination of unbelievable physical skills, work ethic and toughness. Elway played with some great football players, yet they all speak about him with a reverent tone. He’s the only great pro quarterback to ever have meaningful success as an NFL coach or general manager, and there’s a good reason why. Elway is the biggest deal in any room he steps in, even a room with every Hall of Fame football player throughout history.
He may be 81 years old, but Jim Brown still commands a room full of Hall of Famers with a level of charisma and respect few can even dream of achieving. It’s not so much Brown’s brilliance as a player — though that certainly helps — as it is his bold presence. Players and coaches think of him as a pioneer. Why? Because he’s never been afraid to speak of social injustice, just as he’s never been afraid to be himself. That is the ultimate between contemporaries, especially for someone who dominated the league in the manner which Jim Brown did.
“I am who I am,” Brown once said. “And if you don’t take the time to learn about that, then your perception is going to be your problem.”
Mike Ditka. It has to be him. Hand him a cigar and have him flip on the aviators. There’s your leader, right there.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know. And if you’ve got an idea for a future War Room, hit us up right here. Only a few weeks ’til football!
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.