The Trend Is The New Normal

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Last March I wrote a blog at the rash of younger players retiring from the NFL. The most notable of which being San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. Well as training camps get under way there have been another slew of quality players (if not Hall of Fame candidates) 30 and under who have decided that another season on the gridiron just isn’t worth it.

We all know about the high profile retirements this off-season of Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson. Those were expected but Charles Johnson, aka Megatron, hanging it up along with Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch came as a shock to some. They were joined by wide receiver Greg Jennings, linebackers Jerod Mayo and AJ Tarpley, defensive backs Walter Thurmond and Husain Abdullah, offensive linemen Phil Loadholt and Eugene Monroe just to name a few.

The oldest member of the group listed outside of Manning and Woodson, was just 30 years old. As the video above shows, some people just can’t believe that 30 years olds like Lynch and Johnson are walking away from millions of dollars.

Everyone has a reason but as Tarpley stated in his piece with MMQB, it was about concussions. It is a reasonable conclusion to make that with all of the publicity surrounding CTE that it is influencing players in their late 20’s, veterans, to take the money and run.

Last March I said that we will have to wait and see if this was a trend. Over a year later I would say that it isn’t a trend but a fact of life moving forward. Yes players like Manning and Woodson will still be around but overall NFL teams should expect players to give them between five to seven years of service before they hang it up.

While this seems like a ‘crisis’ for the NFL it really isn’t. Back in 2011 an NFL study said that the average NFL career was around seven years. The league and teams should plan on players pushing very hard for a bigger and bigger signing bonus after their rookie contracts are up and that in all reality shouldn’t be coming as a great shock to anyone in the NFL.

The NFL is smart. They will adjust salary caps and such to fit what is going to be the ‘new normal’ for the sport.

EXTRA READING:

What it’s like to retire from the NFL

From Sports To Tech

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


I came across an uplifting article on Mashable this week about former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis. Willis retired from the sport a year ago and now works for storage company in Silicon Valley. Not exactly what you were expecting from the former linebacker was it? Funny thing, he won’t be the only former athlete in tech.

Patrick Willis LinkedIN

Sam Laird’s article touched on how Willis went from gridiron to boardroom and it’s really refreshing to see. There are so many stories about players having health and financial issues after their playing days are done. To see a man go from the poorest of the poor in the deep south to first round draft pick and now Executive Vice President of a tech company. Pretty impressive stuff.

Willis isn’t going to be the exception. Golden State Warriors forward and 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala signed with Warriors a few years ago in part because of the tech industry. He works closely with Andreessen Horowitz, invests heavily in tech and it’s pretty clear that he will join the industry after his playing days are over.

Willis and Iguodala are showing other athletes how it can be done especially if you live in the Bay Area. You don’t have to be a megastar to be able to pivot and find success in another industry. While you will always hear the story about the athlete who lost it all, you will also be hearing, I hope, more stories like the one about Willis and Igoudala.

Bay Area Oil Spill

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

(Full disclosure, I was born & raised in Northern California and raised a 49ers fan.)

The San Francisco 49ers could be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2015. They have pretty much blown up a team that was in the Super Bowl three seasons ago and replaced just about everything but the janitorial staff (they even traded the All Pro punter). It could be worse but not by much.

49ER DEPARTURES

Jim Tomsula is the new 49ers Head Coach. While he is a well respected defensive line coach, he has never been a coordinator or a head coach at the NFL level. He replaces Jim Harbaugh who while successful (44-19-1 with three NFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl appearance) was also abrasive. So he is out and the player friendly Tomsula is in.

Somewhere after Harbaugh’s departure over 16 players from the 2014 team moved on. This included the retirement of three main pieces to the defense, chief among them was future Hall of Fame linebacker Patrick Willis. His replacement Chris Borland retired shortly there after and then All Pro defensive lineman Justin Smith. This preseason rising star defensive end Aldon Smith was released after yet another DUI arrest, All Pro punter Andy Lee was traded and the teams all time leading rusher Frank Gore was allowed to sign with the Indianapolis Colts.

The most notable addition is someone who has never played a down of collegiate or professional football. Jarryd Hayne was NRL Superstar in Australia (that’s rugby for those of you keeping track at home) who played his first pro football game in the 49ers preseason loss to the Houston Texans. Hayne impressed but it’s still one game and we didn’t even see if he could pick up a blitzing linebacker.

Then there is the quarterback position. If 49ers have pinned there hopes on Colin Kapernick. If he doesn’t turn the corner and become a top line NFL signal caller than it could be a long couple of years for the 49er Faithful.

All these questions can be traced back to GM Trent Baalke. We criticized his strategy during the draft and firmly believe that if the 49ers finish in the NFL West basement then blame falls squarely on his shoulders.

And let’s not even talk about the field they play on. It’s possible the worst in all of sports.

Time will tell if the moves the 49ers made will pan out. Consensus is that they will not and the 49ers will be worse than the Oakland Raiders. If that happens you can probably expect a long road to recovery with a new GM at the helm.

 

 

 

The Difference In The End

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

There were several surprising retirement announcements in the last few days. First, the San Francisco 49ers Patrick Willis followed by Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker, former Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds. Common factor, all under the age of 31 and could still command top dollar. It came as a surprise but it shouldn’t be, especially in the age of CTE.

Patrick Willis could, and probably will, be considered for induction into the pro football hall of fame. He’s been that good. In fact he’s been the cornerstone of the 49ers for the eight years that he’s been in San Francisco. Through thick and thin, he’s been the constant.

Patrick Willis

Willis said goodbye to the 49ers and the NFL on Tuesday in a surprise to just about everybody. Reason, his feet and not being able to play at a high level. Later in the day came news that Jake Locker was walking away from the game, only four years removed from being a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft. Locker, like Willis, had been suffering from constant injuries. Unlike Willis though, Locker played 30 games and never lived up to the franchise quarterback tag that people branded on him when he was drafted.

Finnegan and Worilds are two more players who could have commanded top dollar on the free agent market but chose instead to walk away. Finnegan after a nine year career and Worilds at the age of 27. Worilds reason is a bit more interesting, he wants to devote more time to his religion (he is a Jehovah’s Witness). Finnegan did leave us with a great / not-so-great moment, when he and Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson got into a fight during a game.

While each player has their own reason for walking away from a high profile, lucrative career you have to believe that the reports about CTE had to play a part in their decision. What is all the money and glory for if you can’t remember what you did and enjoy your life after football?

Other players have retired at a young age such as former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. He wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post last year as to why he left the game at the age of 26. He is currently pursuing a screenwriting career in Southern California.

Could this be a new trend in the game? Players leaving after five, six, seven years? Cashing out while they are up? Convincing themselves that to go any longer would cost more than it’s worth? Time will tell but it is a distinct possibility.