What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ rules?

Check out this op-ed by Fran Tarkenton, published in the Wall Street Journal today, October 3, 2011

Fran’s got a point. Here’s a teaser:

Imagine a league where players who make it through three seasons could never be cut from the roster.

Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player’s been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

Let’s face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?

No matter how much money was poured into the league, it wouldn’t get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money.

Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: “They hate football. They hate the players. They hate the fans.” The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn’t help.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the NFL in this alternate reality is the real -life American public education system.

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3 Responses to “What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ rules?”

  1. Citizen Tom Says:

    That’s a great analogy and one lots of people will understand.

  2. What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ rules? (via PWC Education Reform Blog) | Citizen Tom Says:

    […] Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player’s been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct…..Read More […]

  3. James Says:

    Yes, let’s imagine it.

    If the NFL treated quarterbacks like public school teachers, the quarterback’s job (let’s say it’s Fran Tarkenton) every year would depend on whether or not he improved his score in a few statistics that were out of his control—say, the number of times he was sacked and his completion percentage. If he didn’t improve that score by a few points every season, his pay would be cut or he’d be gone. Doesn’t matter if he was otherwise a good quarterback, or if his coach thought he had all the right tools, or if the team won the Super Bowl. If Fran’s completion percentage doesn’t have 10% value-added every year, he’s declared a “minimally effective quarterback” and cut from the roster.

    And the team around him wouldn’t be made up of professional football players, but of random people pulled off of the street and put into football uniforms. The team would never get to cut or bench any of the other players on the team. EVER. Doesn’t matter if they’re injured, doesn’t matter if they’re terrible at football, doesn’t matter if the offensive line couldn’t stop the opposing team’s cheerleading squad from tackling the quarterback, to say nothing of a professional defensive line. So Fran Tarkenton the ed-reform quarterback is going to be judged by how well these amateurs, some of whom have no experience at playing football at all and others of whom are completely physically unprepared for the game, can catch his passes and stop a defensive line full of extremely mean 250-pound professional football players from sacking him.

    Oh, and neither Fran Tarkenton nor his coach get to call the plays, either. If he sees the defense lining up for a blitz, he’s not allowed to call an audible. Rather, all plays are called in advance by a committee, who have no experience actually playing or coaching football—but because they’ve been to a few games and watched some on TV, and a few even have a fantasy team, they’re obviously just as qualified to call football plays as the people who have devoted their careers to studying and playing the game.

    And if the quarterback complains about this state of affairs? He’s just another “apologist for the status quo,” just trying to save his job rather than actually work on becoming a more “effective quarterback” according to the rubric. The players’ union would naturally complain as well that the rules were heavily balanced against the quarterback and that the basis of evaluation didn’t actually reflect the quarterback’s ability to play the game—but then the union would be attacked for trying to defend quarterbacks who don’t want to be “held accountable” for their play, and there would be massive calls to disband the union, which would also have the side effect of making the owners richer.

    That’s what it would be like if we treated NFL quarterbacks like teachers.


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