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Old 04-08-2012, 06:25 PM    (permalink
AlexDunlap
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Default This Time Next Year, We'll Have Minor League NFL

I spoke with Jim Steeg, former COO of the Chargers this week who is heading up the group that is starting the new USFL. He says it will be the NFL's first true minor league system. I did a feature in our paper as Austin is considered a likely destination of interest.

Figured you guys might find interesting-

USFL Coming Spring 2013
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Old 04-08-2012, 06:37 PM    (permalink
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I'll believe it when I see it.

So they are going to compete with UFL?
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Old 04-08-2012, 10:12 PM    (permalink
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I like it. I have been saying for a long time that there should be a stable minor league for the NFL.

One thing that confused me, though, was that the article talked about having its own draft and the league season would go from mid-March through June. The NFL draft is in April. Does this mean they would hold their draft prior to the NFL draft and be trying to sign players away from NFL teams? This would contradict the idea of it being a minor league. Could you please clarify? Thanks
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Old 04-08-2012, 10:26 PM    (permalink
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It just makes sense, the only thing that makes more sense is having the season opposite (or as close to as possible) the NFL season.

I've been saying for years the NFL needs to have a "JV" team that plays during the week. Some of the great players in NFL history went in rounds 10+ or whatever, those players would be FA's now days and probably wouldn't even be offered to join a team.
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Old 04-08-2012, 10:30 PM    (permalink
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So having the Raiders, Chiefs, Bengals, Browns, Rams, and Jaguars isn't enough of a minor league?
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Old 04-08-2012, 10:48 PM    (permalink
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Steeg says in the article that it is his goal that this becomes a minor league for the NFL, but right now it is (if it ever gets off the ground) a fully independent league with no ties to the NFL.

You have to believe that the better NCAA teams would dominate the teams in this league based on the talent level they will have to work with. I hope it succeeds as a business venture, but I can't see it succeeding as a major source for NFL talent.
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Old 04-09-2012, 12:10 AM    (permalink
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Pretty sure they already do this with college. How many guys are significantly better pros than they were college players?
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Old 04-09-2012, 03:47 AM    (permalink
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Pretty sure they already do this with college. How many guys are significantly better pros than they were college players?
I think the big thing is that not all football players have hit their prime by the time they are 21 or 22 years old. In fact, I was just reading about a player earlier today (I can't remember who and I couldn't find the link) that has grown almost an inch taller between the Senior Bowl and his Pro Day.

How many players can you name that all of a sudden came to life later in their career? And how many players MIGHT have come to life and been solid contributors later in their career, except we will never know because they were out of football because there was no second level for them to play at?

I have often thought it would be really cool to have a minor league with a full 32 teams, one for each team in the league. The minor league team would play in a non-NFL city within the region to expand the fan base, and they could play opposite the home team. For example, the Rams could have their minor league team in Des Moines, Iowa and the Seahawks could have their minor league team in Portland, OR. When the Rams play a game at Seattle on Sunday, Portland would play at Des Moines on Tuesday.

What's more, the minor league team could run the same system as its NFL team. If a player was injured, they could call up a player from the minor league team to fill in. It would reduce the amount of long-term damage that players sustain because there would be players that know the system available to fill in. If a team wanted to make changes, like switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, they could make the switch a year in advance with their minor league team so as to make the transition smoother. If a young player had maturity issues, they could relegate him to the minor league team and give him some time to grow up. Or maybe a guy has been rehabbing from injury. He could play a game or two at the minor league level to work his way back in.

How awesome would it be for a team like the Browns right now to be able to draft a guy like Ryan Tannehill and let him play a season or two in the minors? The possibilities are endless.
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Old 04-09-2012, 06:42 AM    (permalink
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Wasn't NFL Europe the minor league NFL for awhile? College is the feeder system into the NFL. The USFL will just be a fringe league for fringe prospects with a diamond in the rough emerging once in a blue moon.
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Old 04-09-2012, 07:54 AM    (permalink
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USFL, UFL, College
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:30 AM    (permalink
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How many players can you name that all of a sudden came to life later in their career? And how many players MIGHT have come to life and been solid contributors later in their career, except we will never know because they were out of football because there was no second level for them to play at?
I see what your saying here but guys do have options after getting cut. They can play on the practice squad or go to Canada, the arena football league or the UFL.

There is only one reason why I see this as being better than the AFL UFL or CFL is that there may actually be some tie to a professional team, with guys getting the occasional call up when needed.

Some guys who don't get drafted or get cut give up and get "real" jobs instead of chasing what they view as a hopeless dream. In their case, this may provide some more solidarity and promise that they can come up and actually make it.

Still, some teams have a hard enough time finding talent to fill their pro rosters, I can't imagine there being all that much untapped talent brought up from a minor league system
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Old 04-09-2012, 09:02 AM    (permalink
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I love the idea of the NFL actually running a minor league. They tried this with NFL Europe and gave up on it, so I won't get my hopes up. While this would definitely improve the game, it won't make a profit, so it would take a major leap of faith on the owners' part.

The benefits are obvious. I look at a team like the Texans, who lost Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart a few weeks before the playoffs. While the third-string rookie QB did a fine job, the Texans filled the depth with washed up veterans like Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia, neither of whom had played any football that season. I'd much rather see a young, late-round or UDFA QB who's been developing all year in the minors (and learning the offense/defense system run by the team affiliated with their minor club) get a shot. I have a feeling that hidden gems would get discovered earlier and more often than they are now.

Another plus would be that it's in the states. This allows for calling up players immediately when injuries happen. I can't say enough how superior this would be to signing someone who hasn't played an NFL down in 12+ months.
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Old 04-09-2012, 03:16 PM    (permalink
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I think that teams would do a lot to stabilize their systems with a minor league team that was their own. In NFL Europe each team had a certain number of players allocated overseas. So they had a claim on the player, but little input as far as what scheme was being used. So if a team like Pittsburgh had a DE allocated, but the team he was playing on ran a 4-3, then that player wasn't getting much practical growth, because he would be an OLB come training camp. The same thing would hold true if the Redskins had a guard allocated but the team overseas wasn't using a zone blocking scheme. But if they had their own minor league team, they could use the exact same offense and defense from the top down. This would put the player in a much better position to be productive at the next level. Players who didn't make the team out of training camps would be placed on waivers, so teams at the top could retain the top talent. Once the waivers were cleared, teams could assemble their minor league rosters, and all those players would be playing football that fall; meaningful games in the same system used at the next level. It would give them a season to learn the ins and outs of their offense or defense. They would have a year to get bigger, or work on their coverage skills, or whatever it was they were lacking, rather than maybe riding the bench as a scout team player or just trying to stay in shape and waiting for another player to get injured and hoping they get a call. It would be fantastic for players who come out of college undersized. A lot of times these players are really great players in college, but they need a year or two to bulk up from being a 225 pound LB or a 290 pound guard.

It would also be an avenue for players who didn't make it in the NFL the first time around. A place to humble themselves and work their way back, if you will.

It would definitely broaden the fanbases of every NFL team. We have so many places in America without a team. The default for many of these areas is the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers. But if they had a minor league team, people would naturally become fans of its NFL affiliate, because they would get attached to the players and then follow them as they ascend the ranks. The teams in the Midwest could really take advantage of it by using their minor league team to revive a defunct team from the early days. The Packers could bring back the Milwaukee Badgers, the Jets could revive the Staten Island Stapletons. How much of a craze would there be in Ohio if the Browns recreated the Canton Bulldogs? And the Eagles could bring back the Pottsville Maroons, who still have loyal followers petitioning for the 1925 NFL Championship, which was stripped of them on a technicality. So while it would be a leap of faith initially, in the long run the league would make way more money than they do now because more people would become fans. People in Omaha would be more likely to travel to a Chiefs game because they would take ownership over being a fan.
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Old 04-09-2012, 03:29 PM    (permalink
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rename UFL to AAA and the USFL to AA
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Old 04-09-2012, 04:05 PM    (permalink
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Are they going to go after any Arenaball cities? They could steal some of their players & coaches. Same thing with the UFL as mentioned.

They have been competing against NFL teams in the same cities (Atlanta, New Jersey/NY, San Jose/SF & Oakland, etc.) & are doing allright....well, sorta/kinda/maybe profitable, for a Spring FB league.
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Old 04-09-2012, 05:20 PM    (permalink
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Well, we already have a minor league for the NFL and it's called college football.

The reason I don't think this will ever take off is a lack of star power. The USFL tried to combat that issues by overpaying for top college players and it bankrupted them. I just can't see people getting too excited about watching practice squad players and lower play football when the college game is such a superior product.
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Old 04-09-2012, 05:49 PM    (permalink
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So having the Raiders, Chiefs, Bengals, Browns, Rams, and Jaguars isn't enough of a minor league?
God I love being a Lion's fan. Stuck with it through the tough times and we are no longer (for the time being) a turd of a franchise. Thank you Calvin Johnson, Stafford and Suh.
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Old 04-09-2012, 06:20 PM    (permalink
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Well, we already have a minor league for the NFL and it's called college football.
Also, Arena/Indoor football leagues. To some extent, the CFL.
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Old 04-09-2012, 07:35 PM    (permalink
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Well, we already have a minor league for the NFL and it's called college football.
But how much of the college football pie goes to the NFL? Obviously, the owners want another method of squeezing money out of the system.

The only problem I have with it is guys like Luck or Robert Griffin may choose to go to the NFL Minor Leagues instead of to college. Obviously, both may wind up making a ton of money, but there is always the possibility that exposure to college (classes) could give them a backup if they bust.

I guess a minor league system doesn't have to replace college.
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Old 04-09-2012, 07:57 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by descendency View Post
But how much of the college football pie goes to the NFL? Obviously, the owners want another method of squeezing money out of the system.

The only problem I have with it is guys like Luck or Robert Griffin may choose to go to the NFL Minor Leagues instead of to college. Obviously, both may wind up making a ton of money, but there is always the possibility that exposure to college (classes) could give them a backup if they bust.

I guess a minor league system doesn't have to replace college.
There are many players in college who do not belong there, but are there because the rules prohibit them from bypassing college. Players who fit this bill could go straight to the minors from high school. They could maybe set a restriction so that the player must play in the minors for a couple of years before going to the bigs.

I find it hard to believe though that every player who doesn't make it to the NFL totally sucks and that the minor league game would be inferior to college football. A lot of players would be older and, therefore, more physically mature.
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:11 PM    (permalink
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I doubt a minor league football team can match the salaries and benefits the top college athletes are getting from boosters.
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Old 04-09-2012, 08:17 PM    (permalink
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I always think about Eric Swann. He didn't qualify academically, went to a JuCo school, left to play semi-pro ball for $5 an hour, and then went 6th overall and became a Pro Bowl DT. For every Eric Swann, there are probably thousands of kids with potential NFL skillsets who just aren't cut out for college and end up working menial jobs.

I think that there should be a legitimate avenue to the NFL for that type of player.
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