Lebron James' super-hyped departure from one NBA team to another triggered a lot of thought in addition to our own about how free agency works in football.
Andrew Brandt, now president of National Football Post, used the occasion to bluntly explain why free agency does not work in the NFL.
Brandt spent his career at the pro level as an agent, then at various levels for football, including ten years as vice president of the Green Bay Packers. The Packer experience is significant since it was Green Bay's signing for DE Reggie White in 1993 that was a game changer in football free agency.
Yet, Brandt says in two articles that free agency rarely works as well in football as in other sports. In his words:
"Football is about schemes, sets, body types, coaching philosophies, etc. Tony Dungy loved fast, small linebackers, Bill Parcells likes big, stout linebackers: the Redskins employed a 4-3 defense last year, a 3-4 this year, etc. Coaching staffs change; players that fit the previous scheme do not fit the present one. And, of course, football players are completely dependent on teammates; the best players play less than half the game.
"For these reasons, moving parts are not as seamless as in other sports. A player may look enticing on a board of players eligible for free agency (or the Draft, for that matter) but the question that has to be asked and answered is not how good the player is, but how good the player will be in our system?"
That concept animates Redskins Hog Heaven's thoughts about all of Washington's free agent and trade moves of this decade. It's just so interesting hearing that idea expressed by a NFL insider.
Brandt points to the Redskins as one example to make his point. Who can blame him? But he buttresses his argument with cases from the Packers, Eagles and Patriots, too.
One man, or three in the case of the Miami James Gang, can make a bigger impact in basketball where pro coaches have less influence on their players and the only scheme is to shoot a lot. In football, not so much.
One last quote from Brandt from a story today: "Free agency is the price paid for drafting poorly."
Mike Florio of profootballtalk.com hints that the NFL will look at player-to-player tampering to keep a LaBron case from occuring in the NFL.
You can't keep genuine free agents from comparing notes. Some stories suggest that LaBron's move was cooked up by he and Dwyane Wade while Wade was under contract to the Maimi Heat. If that's the case, why wouldn't Wade be considered an agent of the team? And how could a league prove it unless one of the participants admitted to it? That's what's bothering the NFL.
Some of my Bloguin football colleagues weighed in on L'Affaire LeBron.
Andy Furman, who covers the New York Giants on Ultimate NYG, is scathing in his criticism of ESPN's 70 minute LeBron James announcement that Furman calls as phony as a $3.00 bill. I agree, and like Furman, I watched the dreck anyway.
Nate Dunlevy, who covers the Colts on 18 to 80, says in his story on July 10, 2010 that LeBron James wasn't Cleveland's only traitor. Dunlevy point fingers at Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and the media: Gilbert for the cruel firing of coach Mike Brown and for the failure to build enough talent in Cleveland to make LeBron want to stay.
Dunlevy is harder on the media for making a spectacle of the event then for criticizing LeBron for the frenzy they created. Of course the media faction that hyped the ESPN show are not the same people who criticized it, but the point is noted.
LeBron did something new and different. We've never see the like before. LeBron will be criticized for it until the next super star athlete-hero does the same.