The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Team First

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Living in Denver, we have been inundated with the alleged Cutler and McDaniels feud. Since word leaked out that the hometown team entertained the possibility of trading its franchise quarterback Jay Cutler, the initial reaction was one of disdain toward the club. However, as the dust settled and the facts emerged, the consensus was that while the Broncos may have some work to do on their "bedside manner," they were within their rights to entertain such discussions. At the end of the day, Cutler still reports to the coach.

As I have said on many occasions, the NFL is the ultimate team sport. No one player is bigger than the team or larger than the game. Only a few notable true stars have ever played to a level where their true feelings were ever taken into account in the decision making process. Each one of these players had their numbers retired. The vast majority of players, Pro Bowl or average, become disposable cogs in the machine. In Denver, Bubby Brister wore jersey number 6 prior to Cutler. Barring a hall of fame type career for Cutler, some player yet unborn will don the number 6 long after he has retired back to his roots in Indiana. This has happened to Broncos greats... like Steve Atwater, and Rod Smith, and it will happen again. This is the reality of the NFL.

The head coaches and general managers of the 32 NFL clubs owe a fiduciary duty to their teams to produce winning results. This duty of management requires them to do whatever is required within the rules to put the best possible team on the field at all times. It is their job to achieve wins at the end of the day. They are required to seek all possible avenues to make their teams better. Whether the team initiated the discussions or merely listened to proposals is irrelevant.

The clubs' bedside manner, while not a prerequisite or legal requirement, sometimes can prevent these issues from becoming blown out of proportion in the public. It is important to remember that during the off-season, the media is always scurrying about looking for stories, scoops and tidbits and anything remotely interesting that can make the front page. This off-season can blow an otherwise mundane situation into a full blown public relations disaster. All teams may handle the dissemination of this information differently. However, at the end of the day, players should all know they have to play and perform for longevity and financial security.

From a player-agent perspective, the goal is always to put the player in the best possible situation to maximize his career. The mere fact that a player is on the trading block or a team is looking to upgrade at the position can signal many things. One is that the player in question needs to pick up his play. It also signals that the agent needs to start looking for other teams and opportunities for that player. Both the player and his agent have to figure out why a team thinks they can do better. A warning sign un-heeded is no warning sign.

It is critical to prevent these situations from turning ugly and negative. Taken from a positive perspective, sometimes these are just the types of events ultimately assist in increasing the player's performance, longevity, drive, motivation and skills. The goal of an agent is to get the client to succeed in all types of environments and scenarios, from good to bad and it is critical to prevent such misunderstandings from festering to the point of disrepair.

At the end of the day teams, players and management are judged on wins, losses and production, not on hurt feelings or miscommunications. The NFL is a league where the mature and confident succeed and the meek and young are eaten for breakfast. But Jay Cutler can turn this situation around. He can use it as a motivator of his God-given talent, to achieve his goals. Hopefully, one day he will look back on the events of early 2009, raise a toast and say "thank you," as he looks back on a Hall of Fame career.

By Peter Schaffer  |  March 12, 2009; 6:29 AM ET  | Category:  Denver Broncos , Peter Schaffer Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I don't think this is harsh at all. I have seen this type of behavior on the lacrosse stage and believe that these characters, all though capable of producing great personal statistics and can wow a crowd, have never been the real reason for a teams success. A team is built on a combination of character as much as talent and a collaborative mentality that transcends personal statistics.
Personally I think the athelets at this level are big enough boys to deal with a Terrell Owens and not let it effect their performance, it's more that they are just a pain in everyones ass all the time.

Posted by: JimBeam2 | March 14, 2009 4:36 PM

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