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.


What it’s like to retire from the NFL


The End of a Football Career

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Say what you want. Call him this or call him that but what you can call him is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game of football. He is a first ballot hall of famer and no one prepared harder for games than he did.

Hhe set the standard on and off the field for what an NFL player should be like.

The saddest part about Peyton’s retirement is that we will get less funny TV ads. All the more reason to get NFL Redzone.

Changing of the Guard

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

504. That is the combined wins at the collegiate level between newly retired South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and soon to be retired Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer. It’s more than wins and losses though, it’s a changing of the guard in college football and one we have seen before.

BeamerSpurrier has been on the sidelines at the collegiate level (off and on) since 1978 while Beamer has been strictly a collegiate coach his entire career which reaches back to 1972. Both have built programs from the ground up multiple times and both have decided to step aside at or around the age of 70. The reasons differ but the fact is that being a head coach has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Think about it, social media wasn’t really a factor in recruiting back in 2005 and now players have been seen tweeting at halftime!

Being a head coach is a middle – aged job. The successful coaches ruling the college football roost today like Ohio State’s Urban Meyer (51) and Alabama’s Nick Saban (64) are well under the 70 year mark and both have adapted to change well. They have embraced new technologies and still have the energy for the late nights and endless recruiting trips.

Dr Tom OsborneWe have seen this passing of the torch before. Maybe not within the same season but we’ve seen it before. Lou Holtz left Notre Dame in 1996 and former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne stepped down in 1997 (Holtz would later come out of retirement to coach South Carolina for six seasons). Think about the changes that were occurring when they stepped down. The Internet was being born and satellite TV was becoming ubiquitous (NFL Sunday Ticket launched in 1994). Shortly thereafter, they moved on and left the head duties to young, more energetic assistants.

Spurrier and Beamer will be greatly missed by the fans, players, and media but this isn’t the end of college football in Columbia or Blacksburg. As we’ve seen in Columbus or Tuscaloosa, sometimes new blood is just the doctor ordered. As a former coach once said, change is inevitable, growth is optional.

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.

The Changing of the Guard

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The end of the MLS season mark the beginning of a lot of change that’s far from finished. From coaching changes to player movements and it’s not even January. Some of the bigger changes come with retirement. Quite a few of the players who helped build MLS into what it is today have decided to call it a career and the list may shock you.

Brian Ching: He played in some 330 games, scored 118 goals, three MLS Cups and an MVP. To this day no one knows why a US National Team having trouble scoring goals didn’t put in Ching during the 2006 World Cup. Either way, he was one of MLS’ most dangerous strikers and a great representative of MLS. 

Brian Ching

Pablo Mastroeni: The ultimate captain on the field. He would definitely check your papers if you went through the midfield. He had upwards of 335 appearances, 65 USMNT appearances and an MLS Cup.  He was the one you would build a team around.

Kevin Hartmann: The only MLS player with 400 plus appearances. Most career victories and clean sheets to go along with his two MLS Cups. He is the standard of what an MLS Keeper should be.

Ramiro Corrales: The man has been around…since the inaugural season of MLS. Yes, his first MLS stint was with the San Jose Clash back in 1996. He had some stints elsewhere but he will always be the anchor of the San Jose Earthquakes. He went off in style too. 

Matt Reis: A captain’s captain. He anchored the New England Revolution since 2003. He had multiple chances at an MLS Cup but kept coming up short. He was still a rock between the pipes in MLS for a long, long time. He’s also a hero.

Chris Albright: Mr.Versatility. He played just about every position for five separate clubs and had two dozen appearances with the USMNT. Under-appreciated by the media and maybe by the fans but never by his teammates.

To these players and others, a big thank you for helping make the league what it is today.

Should They Call It A Career?

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Previously in on this site we talked about pro players retiring. Some on their own terms and some because they really had nothing left to prove. Now we’re presented with two more cases. Two players who are possibly staring at the end of their careers because of injury and looming suspensions.

Some people like the New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and others don’t. He is currently caught up in a performance enhancing drug scandal and has admitted to using steroids in the past. He does have however a couple of MVP’s, a World Series Ring, and pretty much Hall of Fame numbers too. But he’s had hip surgery twice in the last four years. Come next week he may be suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 2013 season.

Facing Retirement?

Stuart Holden on the other hand does not have a list of accomplishments like Rodriguez. While he has shown some skill that makes you wonder what could have been if he hadn’t suffered yet another serious knee injury. In fact it’s his third since 2011.

While Holden is only 27 you have to wonder how much is too much. Even for a 27 year old, another six plus months of rehab is a tough thing to stare in the face.

While Rodriguez’s career may come to end he did put in almost 20 years at the Major League level. Holden didn’t get that chance. He made it to one of the top flight leagues in the soccer world, the English Premier League, has had 25 caps with the US Men’s National Team and has even won an MLS Cup with Houston. But most people would say that if he hadn’t been injured he have done a whole lot more.

Are the injuries fair? No. Would both players like to go out on much better terms? Yes. Is retirement a realistic possibility for both? Absolutely.

The Retirement Pt. 2 of 2

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

At the end of the May there was a flurry of retirements. From football legends to a man who helped launch the sport of mixed martial arts into the modern day psyche. Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham and Forrest Griffin all at some point had to ask themselves this question, ‘what else is there left for me to accomplish?’

Sir Alex & Becks Retire

For the first time in 26 years Sir Alex Ferguson will not be the manager of Manchester United when they take the pitch next season. In those 26 years he has led the Red Devils to 38 trophies and 2 Champions League titles among other things. Along the way one of his most famous players was David Beckham. Beckham won 6 premier league titles and a Champions League title with United. He also won league titles with 3 other clubs ( Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and Paris St-Germain) and is one of the most famous people in the world.

Forrest Griffin Retirement

Forrest Griffin was on season 1 of the The Ultimate Fighter. He defeated Stephan Bonnar in the finale in what is consider the greatest fight in UFC history and pointed to as the fight that helped launch the UFC to where it is today. He later won the Light Heavyweight title by defeating Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. He’s also a 2 time New York Times bestselling author.

Each of these individuals accomplished a lot in the world of sports. Now each has to find a new endeavor to fill the void. Those outside of the athletic world know this feeling having encountered it on occasion. Maybe after losing a job, graduating from school, getting a divorce, etc. It’s the ‘now what?’ question that has to be answered.

Sir Alex will remain with United as a director. Beckham worked out a deal when he initially came to MLS that after he retired he could get a deal on an MLS club ($25 million to be exact) and now there is talk of an expansion team in Miami. Griffin will stay on with the UFC in a yet undetermined capacity.

Yet for these 3 there are hundreds more who don’t have a retirement plan per say or at least a very quiet one. Athletes, as the saying goes, retire twice but the first one may be the hardest to do if they are not prepared. The acknowledgement that at some point you’ll put your hands on your hips and say, ‘what else is there for me to do here?’ is a great first step. In other words, knowing that there is an end will allow you to begin.

CNN – The End Game

The Retirement. Part 1 of 2

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

All athletes retire. Some are forced to, others do because their bodies are breaking down, others lose the fire, and some do it to pursue something better. This past week Robbie Russell of DC United announced his retirement so he could pursue a career in medicine.

(L) Robbie Russell (R) John Frank
(L) Robbie Russell (R) John Frank

Russell is not the first professional athlete to retire and pursue a medical career. Former San Francisco 49er Tight End John Frank left football after 5 seasons and 2 Super Bowl wins to pursue a medical career. Frank retired after his second Super Bowl win and was on the field during a terrible injury to Cincinnati Bengals Nose Tackle Tim Krumrie in which Krumrie broke his leg. Frank is now a hair loss transplant doctor living in New York.

Russell did experience a lot of succes on the pitch. He scored the winning goal in the 2009 MLS Cup to give Real Salt Lake their first and only title. He played overseas from 2000-2008 and made 98 appearances in MLS matches. He’s had a solid career. One he can be proud of. And one where he is making the choice to walk away.

John Frank In Depth