Sunday, March 6, 2016

The lack of an alternative pro football league, the immobilization of the USFL brand, and why I hate Donald Trump for non-political reasons.

I was a huge fan of the USFL.

As such,  I have hated Donald Trump for years.

The USFL allowed a young Donald Trump, who had passed on the USFL in their initial season, to buy the New Jersey Generals prior to their second year.

Trump was a rich guy's rockstar.

Trump, much like he is doing today, convinced a group of folks in an unhappy state to prop up his efforts to achieve one of his personal goals.  He convinced the comparatively poor USFL owners to move to a fall schedule and sue the NFL in the hopes of the NFL converting their debt-ridden franchises into much more valuable NFL franchises.

There was talk the NFL might take a couple of teams if it came to that.

You see Trump had been turned down by the NFL and hoped to force his Generals in.

His plan failed.

That is why there is no USFL today.

Every year since then I have hoped someone would do their freaking homework and get the formula right for a spring professional football league.  I have always believed if you could give me 6 to 8 rich guys (or ownership groups) in their late 40's or older dedicated to spring pro football who understood the role Trump played in destroying the USFL, you could compete with the NFL with a surprisingly low outlay (well...vs. NFL money anyway).

The NFL is vulnerable. They have been for decades, even with their finances escalating to ridiculous highs...Especially because of that. 

A Spring pro (not semi-pro) league could make it if they just attack the problem from the right position.

Some got close.  (For my money Jim McMahon's XFL was a very strong effort that failed because McMahon was too much of a wrestling guy.  NFL fans are usually not wrestling fans.  His tactics hurt the perceived credibility of the league with football fans. The XFL was McMahon.  Because of that/In spite of that it drew fairly well. As a business, it was well run.  If McMahon had made a few different decisions it totally could have made it.)

Some weren't close at all.  (The best known of the rest, the UFL, had no shot at all.  Even if they had stuck with the original plan of $20 Million rosters and Mark Cuban had followed through as an owner, they'd have failed.  Without all that, it was a painful exercise to track so much of their owners' good money being lit on fire by incompetent management.)

Sadly a new USFL competing with the NFL isn't going to happen.  The USFL brand is owned by some NFL guys who have spent years "allegedly" trying to build a minor league product.  I wouldn't be shocked to find that that NFL dollars are footing the bill on that clusterfuck to keep the potentially valuable USFL brand out of circulation.

But what if there were a half dozen people with cash and balls who after a few beers said, "Fuck it, lets make our own NFL!"...


Competing with the NFL isn't about landing a lot of the best talent like the original USFL did.  It is about targeting the right players.

You need to pay for QBs and, in some cases, coaches to maximize those QBs.  Everyone else can start at the league minimum salary.

It isn't about finding promising virgin markets like the UFL foolishly tried.   It is about going after big markets like the USFL did in year 1.

The coming of the NFL draft is always a difficult time for me as I look at the players coming out and can't help but think of how some of them might fit in a competitive pro league.

Sometimes the QB crop doesn't project well onto a new league.  Last year's crop was like that. This year's crop is  hard to dismiss.

The NFL's Cleveland Quarterback Eaters have the #2 pick in the draft with 2 very talented, but flawed QBs available. 

Carson Wentz only started 2 years at the FCS level and will have to get used to the speed of the NFL.  He may not have enough college experience to make it. 

Jared Goff  is skinny and played in the Air Raid offense and as such is used to looking to the sideline for calls.

These are pretty good NFL QB prospects, but you throw them into Cleveland where the commitment to having a decent offensive line, a competent running game, or a good set of receivers is rarely there, and it seems likely Cleveland will destroy one of these guy's careers.

Imagine the leverage that would create for a spring football league looking to start in 2017 or maybe play a summer season in 2016 before moving to spring the following year.

The league could walk up to Jared Goff and say, "Hey.  You know if Cleveland picks you, the odds are you will be David Carr-ed out of the NFL.  If you sign a 4 year deal with us before the draft, the odds are a pretty good NFL team will draft you in say the 4th or 5th round to get your rights. If our league makes it, we will pay you to stay and you may be the face of the league. If not, your 4 years are paid up front, with a buyback option on that if you decide it isn't for you and want out early.  Then you go to the NFL and you won't have to deal with Cleveland!  It's win-win.  It's what Jim Kelly and Steve Young did on the way to Hall of Fame careers.  Plus we will put you on our Bay team so you can stay home and will try to  hire Tony Franklin as your head coach or someone who uses his system."

How do you pass that up for Cleveland?

Then you go to Carson Wentz and say, "Wow.  Looks like you are going to Cleveland. Want to come be the starting QB of our Chicago Franchise?  We are prepared to offer your college coach, Chris Klieman, our head coaching job if you sign."

It would cost about $5 Million a year for each of those QBs  (although they might take $4M to avoid the Browns).  Consider it the league's promotional budget.  Just the cost of doing business.

Paxton Lynch is very raw, but might do just as well as either of those guys in Cleveland. Connor Cook looks like a marginal NFL backup to me. Christian Hackenberg has a shot to be OK, but may have already had the game beaten out of him in college.  Leave those guys for the NFL.

The other prospects at QB are third round grades at best projecting into the NFL's clunky offenses.  That would mean $700K a year would outpay an NFL draft slot.  You could probably offer 4 years at $500K per season and get anyone from this next lot.

I would sign Cardale Jones to play for his former Ohio State Coordinator Tom Herman.  The NFL is thinking about trying Jones out at other positions like TE...Crazy.  That duo could do a lot in a football crazy city trained to have low expectations like Memphis.

Dak Prescott hits me as a poor man's Tim Tebow.  Maybe not great in an NFL offense, but still effective in the right scheme. You could bring in Brian Johnson as his OC or even head coach in a city like Birmingham.

Kevin Hogan is downgraded for his mechanics, but he is an experienced, accurate, smart, tough leader who would fit right in as the QB in a big market.  His QB coach Tativa Prtichard might not be ready for a head coaching job yet, but he seems like an up and coming coach.  Put them in Hogan's hometown of DC and they'd do alright.

Brandon Doughty is a guy who would fit well in a non-NFL league.  Hire his college head coach Jeff Brohm to serve as his offensive coordinator for one year under Tom Coughlin in New Jersey and the tickets would sell themselves. Brohm would take over as head coach the following year, leveraging the value of the retirement age Coughlin.  Doughty would probably light up the league from day 1.

Vernon Adams is an undersized guy the NFL would want to play at WR, but he was absolutely deadly in Oregon's offense. Maybe hire Matt Lubrick (Sonny's son) to coach.  Put that show in LA and you'd have a hit.

Leave Trevon Boykin in DFW coached by TCU co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie.

Add in winning NFL QBs who the league pronounced too lacking in passing talent to start --- Tim Tebow in Orlando ($700K), Matt McGloin in Philly ($700k), Case Keenum ($700K) in Houston, and the potential of RG3 (say $1.3M) in San Antonio playing for Kendal Briles and you've got something there.

Roll that out that league with collegiate schemes and that is an exciting league with a starting QB cost of about $18M per year.  Divide that by 12 teams and your starting QB costs are about $1.5 M each team.  That is manageable.

LA - Vernon Adams
SF/Oakland - Jared Goff
Chicago - Carson Wentz

Dallas - Trevon Boykin
San Antonio - RG3
Houston - Chase Keenum

DC- Kevin Hogan
NJ - Brandon Doughty
Philly - Matt McGloin

Orlando - Tim Tebow
Birmingham - Dak Prescott
Memphis - Cardale Jones

Maybe budget for one more $500-$700K rookie on each team at WR or RB and this league is ready to roll.


Maybe one day.

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