To Go or Not to Go That is the question (Too Late for Pettway, Holland, Scarbrough)
May 1, 2018 | View PDF
Believe it or not, coaches are not just money hungry, self centered opportunists. They are not heartless, uncaring individuals who only care about winning. They are not manipulators who use players to advance their own agendas. With few exceptions, coaches become emotionally attached to their coaches and their players for life. For the players this occurs from the beginning of the recruiting process through graduation, through professional careers, through connections with their families and yes, through their entire life. The captain of my first football team, Charlie Goodson is 74 years old. He lives in Metairie, Louisiana. Charlie owns a very successful restaurant there. He has made a lot more money than I ever have and I am really proud of what he has accomplished. About every five years or so my wife, Betty, and some of Charlie’s teammates and their wives usually Ricky Clark from Atlanta and Jack Davis from Mobile, get together in New Orleans, enjoy food, fellowship and a Saints football game. That is just one example of how I stay in touch with players. It is very rewarding to know that these guys that I “abused” enjoy being with us down through the years.
This is not to say that coaches are angelic in their pursuit of success on the football field. Sometimes coaches make mistakes in handling a player. This sometimes results in a player transferring, or just giving up football all together NFL great Jerry Cramer was asked about how Coach Vince Lombardi handled his Green Bay Packer players. Cramer, an All-Pro Guard replied, “He treated us all the same, like dogs.” This was partially true. Successful coaches treat every player the same when it comes to team rules, team goals and team practices. However, successful coaches know who needs encouragement, who needs more discipline, who is struggling with outside issues, who he can push and who he has to pull across the finish line. It is a tedious and complicated process. Every player is treated the same, but every one is treated individually as well.
In addition to winning games, sometimes you watch a young man put his hip pads on backwards in his first practice. Then he grows to become a college player with a full scholarship, have a successful professional career in the field of his choice, have a successful family and personify what a good citizen should be like. These are the rewards that keep people in the coaching profession. Having gone way too deep into the psyche of a successful coach, let’s look at some things more interesting. Some of the products that Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn and Neil Brown have produced will get a chance to play in the National
Football League this year.
It has always concerned me when a player with one more year of college eligibility declares for the NFL Draft. These juniors have a choice of going or staying. What should they do? Some are as ready for the NFL as they will ever be. Some are borderline and some definitely need another year to mature, work on their skills and improve their draft status after their senior year. These players seek advice from their head coach, their position coach and other personnel on the football staff. Without exception, most head coaches want what is best for the player as well as what is best for the football team. The coaches will help the player get a professional opinion from their contacts in the NFL ranks. Early information can come from scouts who either have a geographic territory or an assignment to scout certain teams. They are not going to give the wrong information because their livelihood depends on their relations with the coach. Smart players listen to their coaches and to the scout’s evaluation. There is even a process by which a player can get a comprehensive evaluation as to his draft status without affecting his eligibility to play his senior year. So, there is really no reason for a junior football player not know his best chances for the draft.
Armed with this information a player can seek the advice of his parents, his family attorney, his preacher, uncle Bob, aunt Susie, cousin Jeffrey or virtually anyone else whose opinion he would trust. As long as he does not hire an agent, the player has the opportunity to fully investigate what would be the right decision for him and his family. In some cases the family is in really dire financial stress which would encourage the player just to take his chances and hope that he gets drafted high enough to make that decision worthwhile. Most of the time this is not the case, but family and friends start seeing dollar bills floating into their bank accounts and put pressure on the players to declare for the draft. They can already see their piece of the pie. This puts enormous pressure on a 20 year old post juvenile. Unfortunately, players don’t listen to the people who are trying to help them the most, the coaches. They declare for the draft and pass up their scholarship, their
graduation and their opportunity to significantly improve their draft status by playing one more year in college. In the following few paragraphs, we will look at some decisions that were good and some that were not so good.
Coaches generally advise a player to go if they are projected in the first or second round. There is a lucrative signing bonus for these draftees, especially those taken in the first round. There is a base salary now in the NFL for rookies so the first contract for these players is not as lucrative as in the past. So, it is important to get a signing bonus. This is money in the bank regardless of how your career turns out.
Alabama set an SEC record by having 12 players drafted in the seven rounds of the NFL draft this year. In addition, five Crimson Tide players signed as undrafted free agents, making a total of 17 players that will begin the fall camp on the roster of some NFL team!
In the first round DB Minkah Fitzpatrick went to Miami, NG Da’Ron Payne-Washington, Rashaan Evans-Tennessee, WR Calvin Ridley-Atlanta. All four of these juniors at Alabama made the right decisions. In the third round DB Ronnie Harrison went to Jacksonville. This junior would have benefited from another year at Alabama. In my opinion, he would have been a top ten pick next year. Third round is not bad. In the sixth round LB Shaun Hamilton went to Washington and C Bradley Bozeman to Baltimore. I have some question about Hamilton being picked this late. He is at least a late first round or early second round talent, but he fell this far because of two significant injuries to the same knee. This was a close call. He obviously was concerned about more serious damage to the knee or another debilitating injury in which case he would not have been drafted at all next year. He probably made the right choice.
In the seventh and last round, junior RB Bo Scarbrough went to Dallas. Scarbrough is a mystery to me. He bolted on the scene three years ago as the next great running back at Alabama. He has had a few good games, but has really not been reliable, game in and game out. At 230 lbs. and with excellent speed, he may catch fire at the pro level and become one of the running backs at Dallas. He would have never improved his draft status by coming back. Alabama has several backs that are better than Scarbrough. So, I think that leaving Alabama was really the only choice he had. He could have transferred to a 1AA or D2 team, made a name for himself, thereby improving his NFL stock.
Alabama’s undrafted free agents were CB Tony Brown-Chargers, C J.C. Hassenauer-Atlanta, WR Cam Sims-Washington, WR Robert Foster and CB Levi Wallace both signed with Buffalo. These five free agents were all seniors.
Auburn had no first round picks, but All-American offensive lineman, Braden Smith and RB Kerryon Johnson, were drafted early in the second round. Smith is a senior and went to Indianapolis. Johnson is a junior and made the right choice to declare early. He was picked up by the Detroit Lions who are in dire need of an every down back. DB Carlton Davis, another junior, went deep into the third round to Tampa Bay. He would have improved his stock in a big way had he returned for this senior year. PK Daniel Carlson got a sweet deal in the fourth round being picked by Minnesota, which means he will be kicking in a controlled environment at home games in the dome. Undrafted free agents from Auburn were DB Tray Mathews-Minnesota, junior RB Kam Pettway-Minnesota and DE Jeff Holland, a junior, went to Denver.
Holland is one of those sad cases in my opinion. Someone convinced him to leave Auburn early and it cost him. He may make it in Denver but his decision costs him a “bundle” in guaranteed money had he come back. He would have been one of the top defensive ends in the country and probably drafted in the second or third round next year.
Kameron Pettway is a disaster. He has only played one full season at running back where he lead the SEC in rushing during the 2016 season. After a shoulder injury in the 2017 Arkansas game, he drifted away from reality and made some bad decisions that put him in the doghouse with Coach Gus Malzahn, so he didn’t really have a choice to come back, but desperately needed to. He would have benefited by playing his senior year at Jacksonville State.
Coach Neil Brown has his Troy Trojans making noise. He had two players picked up in free agency, QB Brandon Silvers and RB Jordan Chunn. Silvers will learn from the master, Drew Breese at New Orleans and Chunn will try his power out on the Dallas practice field. Silvers has a good chance of playing in a few years. At 240 lbs., Chunn must battle through a lot of running backs but he has the talent to catch on with some NFL team.
It is just like in any other endeavor that we undertake. Sometimes we make the right choice and sometimes we don’t. However, we always have to live with the consequences. At The Alabama Gazette, we wish all of these young men success in the NFL.
We will be watching!