The one thing about the NFL Draft is that you don’t talk about the NFL Draft. That’s the position of commissioner Roger Goodell, who issued an update yesterday on how he wants the league to act. He reiterated the fact that the draft will still be held as originally planned, albeit with some changes, and added that he expects no one to criticize the league for sticking to the original schedule. Anyone who violates his rule can expect to receive severe punishment, up to and including wet willies.
NFL Draft As Scheduled, With Changes
In a memo distributed by Goodell, he said that the NFL Management Council Executive Committee met again yesterday to discuss the draft and decided that there wasn’t any good reason for it not to be held. Scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas, sans all the normal fanfare and any public attendance.
In justifying the decision to keep to the schedule, Goodell added:
“Everyone recognizes that the public health conditions are highly uncertain and there is no assurance that we can select a different date and be confident that conditions will be significantly more favorable than they are today.”
However, no one is permitted to second-guess the NFL brass, nor is anyone allowed to voice their disagreement with the decision. In a move that would make Stalin proud, he warned, “Public discussion of issues relating to the Draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action.”
Fortunately for the GM of the New Orleans Saints, Mickey Loomis, he got his comments in before Goodell issued his ultimatum. Loomis, who serves on the GM subcommittee, appeared on The Peter King Podcast this past Wednesday, and asserted that he would have been in favor of postponing the draft.
“I’d be personally in favor of delaying the draft, so that we can get some of the work done that our scouts and our personnel people ordinarily do,” Loomis said. “And then just the logistics of trying to conduct the draft, with not having access to your draft rooms and your offices, creates a lot of logistic problems.”
There really isn’t much of a reason not to hold the draft now – it’s just as good a time as any. While the economic impact from not holding a public ceremony is real, the rest of the activity can feasibly take place without much disruption. There will be issues regarding things like player physicals and psychological evaluations, but ways to address these problems can be found. In some cases, as has been seen already with Tom Brady and others, physicals can be conducted by third-party physicians in order to provide some type of resolution.
In part, Goodell believes that holding the draft will give everyone attached to football, even the fans, some sense of normalcy that COVID-19 hasn’t completely turned the world upside down. He sees it as an opportunity to motivate people and help them get their minds off the pandemic that has already killed more than 26,000.
It isn’t that easy, though. The US now has the most recorded cases of the virus, at 94,498 and climbing, and, depending on who you ask, the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. This has some even wondering if there will – or should – be a football season, and at least one football analyst suspects that there won’t be.
Kirk Herbstreit, a college football analyst, predicted that there won’t be any type of football – pro or collegiate. He asserted, “Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a [coronavirus] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.” He then added, “As much as I hate to say it, I think we’re scratching the surface of where this thing’s gonna go.”
Hopefully, Herbstreit is wrong and the coronavirus will be brought under control quickly. Holding the draft now, or later, isn’t going to make a difference, and at least sports fans will have something to keep their minds busy while at home in self-isolation.