Every April the NFL welcomes a new crop of rookies into the professional ranks via the NFL Draft. Teams map out their Draft plans, after accumulating every possible piece of data available on these prospects. They debate the value of each player, scrutinizing every little detail. Teams know they MUST select the right players, because if the players do not succeed, then the team does not succeed. The decisions of this Draft will be just as critical as any other year.
Teams invest millions of dollars in the contracts of these athletes, praying that they will receive their return on investment. The college prospects dream about the money they will receive, because for most college athletes, their first NFL contract is the first time they will ever have more than a few thousand dollars of discretionary money in their name.
College athletes are typically much too busy with academics and athletics to have time for a part-time job while they attend college. Like most other college students, they get by with a frugal lifestyle. So it’s no surprise that they get excited over the idea of entering the job market with the promise of a ton of money…
Cream of the Crop
Thirty of the best college athletes are invited to attend the NFL Draft in person in New York City. These athletes are wined and dined by an NFL host committee. They are given exclusive interviews and lavish photo shoots. They are treated as the best, and as the best, the expectation is that these are the players that will be selected first.
The hardest part for these athletes is the wait. They will all be drafted, but the question is when. They wonder if they will be drafted with pick number 3 or pick number 19. I understand their impatience, anxiety and nerves, but at this point there is nothing more they can do but sit back and wait. They have already completed all of their college games, drills, interviews, and tests. The body of work is complete, and that’s how NFL teams have derived grades for every eligible player.
While there are many skilled talent evaluators in the industry, the only opinions that truly matter exist inside of the 32 NFL Draft rooms!
This year 23 invitees accepted the invitation to New York City. They are each seated at a table with some individuals of their choice, usually their family and agent(s), in what is called the “Green Room.” From here, it is not hard for the media to track the disposition and mannerisms of these athletes.
Four of the 23 invitees were NOT selected in the first round on Day 1 of the NFL Draft this year. Geno Smith was one of them. I have no doubt that he had high expectations, as most expert Draft analysts projected him being selected midway through the first round. He sat waiting anxiously, but you could see the look of disgust and exasperation creeping onto his face. His demeanor changed from joy to frustration. And I don’t blame him for that; he was disappointed. But these athletes need to remember that their actions are being displayed on a national stage. They are not guaranteed anything by NFL teams.
After going undrafted in the first round, Geno declined an interview and stated that he would not come back to Radio City Music Hall on Day 2 for rounds 2 and 3 of the Draft. He obviously felt embarrassed, but rather than remaining humble, he let his pride get in the way. He could have simply gone back to his hotel room and assessed the situation, but instead he felt the need to declare his displeasure. Many successful NFL players have fallen much farther in the Draft than they wanted, but they handled the situation better in the moment. They then used the undesirable situation as fuel to excel in the NFL!
Luckily, someone (likely Geno’s agent) got in his ear and told him that he needed to go back and sit in the Green Room on Day 2. If he were to stay in his room, it would definitely send the wrong message. Teams would likely infer some degree of selfishness or a propensity to give up. Remember, EVERY ACTION is scrutinized. Personally, just the fact that he threatened to not return was a red flag for me. I interpreted his actions to mean that he is quick to bail when times get tough. I see adversity not sitting well with him.
Geno is a quarterback. This position NEEDS TO LEAD his team on 4th quarter comebacks. He will have a ton of adversity as an NFL player! He is a quarterback, so there is pressure. He is playing for a fickle Jets fan base and answering to the judgmental Jets media, so there is additional pressure. Teammates cannot afford to play with a quarterback that will just give up and walk away. With that kind of personality, no teammate will want to go the extra mile for him. There will be no loyalty or commitment to him. Do you think Tom Brady gets by on his talent alone? No, his supporting cast has unwavering confidence in him!
NFL teams do not want to invest in a player that does not exhibit an unwavering commitment. Geno’s actions were a prime example of what not to do. But for the sake of the argument, lets give him a pass and say that maybe he was just emotional due to the magnitude of the situation.
Geno finally was drafted in the second round, number 39 overall by the New York Jets. His relief was evident, and that was followed by joy.
But rather than focus on preparing for rookie camp, Geno decided to fire his agent! Just four days after being drafted, the agent that had invested a great deal of time and money recruiting Geno was kicked to the curb. (And how timely: Just when we were forgetting Geno’s childish actions from the first day of the Draft.) Talk about a lack of commitment. He chose the agent, and it was his decision to sign a contract with the agent. How unprofessional to renege on a deal because things didn’t go his way. Newsflash! Things will not always go your way as an NFL player. You are playing against the best of the best, and your competition will capitalize on the tiniest of mistakes. Geno, are you going to give up when things don’t go ideally in games? Geno, you cannot fire teammates if they drop passes.
So the very same agent that had offered Geno guidance & counsel, developed a relationship with him, and had likely talked him into returning to the Green Room was fired for doing absolutely nothing wrong!
Fired for Cause?
Geno claims that the agent was fired for a myriad of reasons, and that his decision was “not because of the whole Draft experience.” I’m going to call his bluff. If he had been drafted in the top 5, he would be nothing but smiles, and he would have been hugging his agent. Instead, he is acting irrationally again, as he looks to place blame.
NFL teams frown on players that act rashly and immaturely.
Conversely, Geno’s agents took the high road, in part saying, “The question of whether Geno would be a first or second round pick was arguably the most talked about subject in the three months leading up to the draft. We wish Geno the best.”
It is obvious that agents Nalley and Burkhardt tried to educate Geno on the process, despite the fact that Geno reportedly believed he would be the number one pick. It appears that they tried to reason with him, attempting to prepare him regarding where he might be selected.
Can You Handle the Truth?
Agents sometimes have to make ridiculous promises to acquire clients and/or keep them happy. Very few Draft prospects would happily embrace being told to plan to be drafted much lower than expected. A close-minded client would either dump the agent or tell the agent that he is not doing his job.
Even if his agents did promise him being selected high in the Draft, it is his own fault for believing it. Agents do not have any more of a scouting eye than any of the rest of us. The best evaluators of talent are NFL scouts. That’s why they are the scouts, and they are the only people whose opinion and analysis truly matters. Everyone else, to include agents, has to rely on second-hand knowledge, rumors and/or evaluations.
Simply put, Geno was unhappy that his agents didn’t somehow get him drafted higher. He was not happy to sit in the Green Room. And while I already gave him one ‘free pass,’ I might be able to look the other way and dismiss this action as part of the learning process.
NFL teams are quick to dismiss a player without a work ethic. But teams do recognize talent. So Geno was given a chance by the Jets. But it is interesting to see how quickly multiple reports came out about Geno’s apparent lack of interest during pre-Draft interviews. Geno reportedly was not invested and inattentive. He likely viewed interviews as distractions rather than job interviews. (This reminds me of JaMarcus Russell.)
You can no longer rely on talent alone as an NFL athlete, but Geno’s actions exhibit exactly that kind of mindset. NFL Teams undoubtedly saw these actions and determined he wouldn’t be a very good leader on or off the field, in both action and words.
3 STRIKES AND YOU’RE OUT!
The Real Reason
What was the result? Geno Smith fell on Draft Day. It was not his agent’s fault, and Geno had no reason to be mad. It was his doing!
I have a feeling we are not done hearing Geno Smith complain. Maybe he will be a training camp holdout, arguing over how many appearances his contract specifies he must make every season. Maybe he will publicly complain if he isn’t given the starting job for Week 1 of the regular season. Maybe he will argue that an interception isn’t his fault. Regardless of the circumstance, keep your ears open for high pitched noises coming from New York Jets country: What you are likely hearing is the whine of Geno Smith.
Somebody needs to let him know that he’s no longer at bat! He already struck out.