The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Free Agency Killed Rivalries

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Free agency and the more dynamic coaching carousels of the modern day have changed the employment landscape, thus altering the circumstances leading to rivalries. In the old days, players were tied to their teams at the team's discretion -- they were salaried employees. Now, they're basically independent contractors -- free, after their rookie contracts expire, to avail themselves to the highest (or winningest) bidder.

Because of this, and because football is more athletic and technical than it has ever been, I think the pro game's now more about matchups than rivalries. If you're Chris Samuels, and you head to the line to face DeMarcus Ware over and over, your intensity and technique have to be pinpoint-perfect, or you (and your quarterback) will get stomped.

The "rivalry" isn't between the Redskins and Cowboys in the minds of the players -- it's between Samuels and Ware, or Ware against Campbell if Samuels blows a block and Campbell has to run for his life. After all, the T.O.-McNabb "rivalry" was most heated when they played on the same team! These days, it's more about "Me." True rivalries require a sense of "We."

That independent contractor status has affected the inter-team "hate" -- if you're an elite receiver, you may be mouthing off to the shutdown corner you face in two divisional matchups per season, only to find yourself on the same team as Mr. Shutdown the following season. Then, you can mouth off to him in practice, but who cares?

Coaches also have to be more technical and multi-tasking, and their overseer status means that they can't obsess over Dallas like George Allen used to. It's not that the advancement of the game has taken emotion out of the equation, but players and coaches today operate with a different kind of heat than they used to. Because of this, rivalries are left to the college game.

By Doug Farrar  |  September 26, 2008; 10:35 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Transience Killed The Rivalry | Next: It Matters to Players

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