Over my 20 years in the NFL, a lot has changed. Free Agency was originated my second year in the league while I was coaching for the Chicago Bears. There has been between 20 or 30 rule changes. Most of the rule changes have benefited the offense. Offenses have become pass oriented and defenses have become more versatile and sophisticated. Defense has become more specialized as well.
Many teams have built new stadiums to make the venue more fan friendly. Reality shows have found popularity. Players’ and coaches’ salaries have improved dramatically. Games can be accessed now almost anywhere with a mobile device.
Today, players are better trained and are very proficient in this age of social media. Players are much more informed about health risks and the fact professional football will last only a short time and there’s a small window of opportunity for top earning power.
Most players now have to consider what they will do when the window of opportunity closes. They must prepare for a career after playing. Coaches must be prepared to find a new line of work as well since patience to win is a novelty. The popularity of sports on television or on your iPad or computer has never been higher. There are Pre-Game shows, Post-Game Shows, and everything in-between.
All of these things contribute to players and coaches trying to promote their own brand. Football is a team game and no one is bigger than the game. Some players and coaches see the game as a way to promote themselves and their own brand. That is one of the reasons you see so much celebration or anything that will bring media attention to themselves. To these players, positive or negative on-field attention is better than getting no attention at all. This is also the case with some coaches.
This mentality by players and coaches chips away the foundation of the game; namely Team. These competitors don’t see themselves as someone who’s the face of a team, but as an entertainer using the team to grow his brand. This mentality is a selfish mindset and ultimately not good for the team or the game if this attitude grows.
Some of the other approaches to the game can be businessman, warrior, student, or discipline.
The businessman approach is a very serious one. In it, the player and coach know it is their job and approach everything in that fashion. These are the players and coaches who chose the paycheck and are not interested in anything that won’t help pad their paycheck. This is a growing mentality with free agency.
There are many warriors in the league. These players love and crave the competition. They enjoy being part of a team, especially in a leadership role and will not stand for a teammate not giving his all. They display enthusiasm, vigor, courage, and aggressiveness.
Another personality is the martial artist. One who sees football as a discipline or in other words, a way of life. This player not only prepares in the office but outside as well. Every area of his life is part of that discipline including extra strength and conditioning, nutrition, sleep, studying and anything that will help the team win. Regardless of the approach taken, the great players also take a student’s approach. Assuming nothing, constantly learning and applying a beginner’s mind.
Branding is part of the business and is important for the time when the door closes for players and coaches. The vast majority of the players and coaches put it secondary to the priority of their team and the game.
There are so many warriors, students, and unselfish competitors it is disrespectful to them when a player’s only objective is to call attention to themselves.