One of my pet peeves is people who complain that college football is just NFL-lite and then proceed to complain about all of the ways college football is different (no/small playoff, unpaid players, too many teams, teams lose money…). I thought about that when I read the complaints of Tom Cable, a line coach for the Seattle Seahawks:

“I’m not wanting to offend anybody, but college football, offensively, has gotten to be really, really bad fundamentally,” Cable said Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle radio. “Unfortunately, I think we’re doing a huge disservice to offensive football players, other than a receiver, that come out of these spread systems.

“The runners aren’t as good. They aren’t taught how to run. The blockers aren’t as good. The quarterbacks aren’t as good. They don’t know how to read coverage and throw progressions. They have no idea.”

As Costa Tsiokas says…

That teams without the “fundamentals” are winning championships suggest that the “fundamentals” aren’t that fundamental at that level.

College football is not actually there to prepare players for the NFL. The vast majority of players have no NFL career ahead of them. The vast majority of them know it.

On the other hand, a fair number of players are hoping for a shot to play on Sundays. It is entirely possible at some point that those players will start defaulting to programs that will make them more desirable to NFL teams, if those teams start discriminating during the draft.

And it’s not entirely the job of college football coaches to prepare players for the NFL. Or, at least, that job is secondary to actually winning games. And the rise of the spread has occurred as a bottom-up phenomenon, with lower conferences and lower teams in major conferences using it for their competitive advantage. It managed to rise because it was relatively effective, putting programs like Baylor on the map. If other programs need to adapt in order to win games, they’re going to do that. Because one of the reasons for its success is that it has allowed teams with inferior talent to beat teams with superior talent.

For now, at least. There are a lot of fads in offenses that last only as long as it takes for defenses to catch up with them. There used to be the Veer, and then the Run and Shoot, and both of those went down as defenses adapted. Will that happen with the Spread? History suggests it will, but it’s been a while and it hasn’t yet.

So anyway, Costas is correct. If the NFL wants a development program, they need to pay for one. Of course, I would say that, as I’ve been saying for a while that we do need to better differentiate between student athletes and those preparing for a career.


Category: Theater

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6 Responses to CFB is not D-NFL

  1. Peter says:

    Players would benefit the most from an NFL farm system. Consider what things are like in baseball: players who aren’t quite ready for the majors, or who were journeymen whose skills are slipping, can still make money playing in the minor leagues. Sometimes they even can get called up to the big leagues. Or take basketball. While the NBA has no minor leagues to speak of, players who are a step or two lower often can play on foreign teams.
    Not so for football. With the lack of minor league teams and the NFL’s worldwide monopoly, going unchosen in the draft or being cut from a team normally means that an athlete’s playing days are over for good, often at age 21 or 22.

    • trumwill says:

      That’s not quite correct. Some cut and undrafted players end up on practice and scout teams. This happened to a recent quarterback from Sotech. He was cut, ended up on some other program’s scout team, and then when there was an opening from the team that cut him, they took him back.

      But otherwise, I think you’re quite right.

    • Or take basketball. While the NBA has no minor leagues to speak of, players who are a step or two lower often can play on foreign teams.

      Well, the NBA does have a minor league called the NBA Development League, but most people refer to it as the D-League. It’s an interesting product as there’s a mix of older guys trying to come back to the NBA, drafted players who get playing time instead of sitting on a bench in the NBA, and undrafted guys who are trying to expose themselves to scouts for a shot at the NBA. The foreign leagues are still there and some guys do end up on top flight teams in the Euroleague or within the individual Spanish, Italian, or Greek leagues with the hopes of coming back to the States, but some players prefer the option to play here in the States for $25K a year in the D-League than to take $100K to play in some backwater European or Asian league in the hopes that they’ll get better exposure to the NBA scouts.

      • trumwill says:

        Huh. For some reason I thought the D-League had gone defunct. I must be thinking of the CBA.

        • While it’s become much stronger when compared to how it started, and a sizable number of the first wave of teams died off in the early years of the league, it’s somewhat stable now with more and more teams seeing the value in holding an affiliate to have rookies and potential talent play instead of waiting around to do nothing. OTOH, you still don’t see top flight talent going to the league, and with most high level prospects opting for the college route before going to the NBA. Plus, the D-league has no real media exposure outside of the respective small town markets where the teams play, and while games are available on YouTube, very few teams have regional sports network distribution. It’s nowhere near what college sports gets in terms of media attention, and it’s partially why college is still attractive despite the actual income earning that comes with going to the D-League.

    • being cut from a team normally means that an athlete‚Äôs playing days are over for good, often at age 21 or 22

      In contrast, in basketball, there’s always the hope that an agent can find a spot in some second division league overseas if one is desperate, and there are a lot of basketball leagues. Although, despite being an international sport, I suspect that the same isn’t true for US soccer players that can’t get into MLS, as there’s a glut of players around the world willing to play in second and third division teams.

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