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Ask the GM

Randy, COVID-19 has forced the entire sports world to be flexible. Many times, flexibility or the need to adapt to change can be a positive thing. Is there any part of the “new normal” that you think will stick and be part of the NFL in future years? - Jovit from Amherst, Massachusetts

That’s a great question. Yes, I do think there will be carryover on some things. Let’s start with the NFL Draft show and the drafting process last spring. I thought the information provided and pictures painted by broadcasting platforms was innovative and the personal connections to coaches, GM’s, staff and players was different and interesting. Whether it was in a living room, on a patio or in a team’s draft room, it gave fans a little more of an inside look. I believe this will be something the public will want to continue in the future.

There were also changes regarding the routines leading up to the draft. The pandemic eliminated individual pro days on college campuses (for the most part) and I think the money and efforts saved will be reflective when teams attack this part of their draft prep in the future. I have always thought more money was wasted by teams flying coaches and scouts around the country to these pro days, I always struggled to justify this expense just to watch kids run around in shorts. College video directors can now just film the player workouts (like they have always done) and send them to the NFL teams for review.

I think the introduction of the virtual meetings, ZOOM sessions, has been a great teaching and learning experience. I could see this being implemented with some form of a reduced OTA schedule in the future. I heard New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick mention the other day that it forced him to “refine teaching techniques’ and improve his communication skills. Why wouldn’t that continue?

Perhaps the biggest change that most fans will see will be with the number of preseason games. I don’t see the NFL going back to four preseason games again. Unless the quality of play at the start of this year’s season turns out to be unacceptable, I could see the league just having one or perhaps two preseason games in future years. After all, there are no preseason games in college football every year. The biggest difference between pro and college is that the NFL teams don’t get to open vs an inferior opponent to iron out the kinks. In 2020, preseason injuries have been greatly reduced. I think if the league and the NFLPA could agree on a modified OTA schedule that would incorporate ZOOM meetings to replace actual preseason games that might be the solution.

Randy, do you have any thoughts on the inconsistencies of NFL team policies regarding fans in stadiums, crowd noise being piped in, etc? Are there competitive advantages? - Ryan Grayson from Long Beach, CA.

I’ve found there are a variety of opinions on this topic. Buffalo Bills head coach Shawn McDermott says it’s a “hugely unfair element” that teams will have to deal with. Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio says “I could care less." Needless to say, there won’t be a consensus on this. I personally don’t really think it matters. The best team on a particular day will win the game. Ticket money is shared by the entire league so there is really no financial repercussions either. I was glad to hear the NFL Competition Committee is going to monitor and control the decibel level that home teams can use for artificial crowd noise. Teams won’t rehire staffs like were employed by the RCA Dome, Metro Dome and Super Dome. These indoor stadiums really stood out in pushing things to the limit years ago.

Randy, have you ever seen a player take a $5 million pay cut to leave a particular team? - Eric Tomas from Phoenix, Az.

That’s an easy one- NO. Reports are that Minnesota Vikings newly-acquired DE Yannick Ngakoue reduced his salary from the franchise number of $17.8 million to $13 million to facilitate his move to Minnesota. The Vikings have cap issues and needed the relief. This is the ultimate sacrifice. Ngakoue has never earned $4 million over a season in his career so this was a giant leap of faith by him. Does anyone remember "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?" There was a line in that move about “jumping was the best option” and that’s certainly what Ngakoue thought in his situation. Is the environment around the Jacksonville Jaguars so toxic that player after player wants out? That’s sure what it looks like. I get that they have been awful. The current staff couldn't wait to blame departed de-facto GM Tom Coughlin for all their issues. While that is ridiculous in my opinion, there certainly is plenty of blame to go around in that organization. Frankly, I have never seen such poor planning, drafting and team building . What is insane is that the same decision-makers are pulling the trigger on what appears to be a third attempt at getting it right. History now shows they have squandered multiple top-10 picks in the draft over the last seven years, to an unprecedented level. Whatever they receive in compensation for their latest purge really doesn’t matter. They are going to again be bad in 2020. Jaguar fans need to start pondering this question. With multiple picks in multiple rounds coming into the 2021 draft, who will owner Shad Khan turn to in order to right the ship? Or is this something that will be London’s problem next?

Randy, Minnesota is now asking OT Riley Reiff to take a pay cut or they will release him. Is this a mistake? - Javier Graham from Waukesha, Wis.

Financially, probably not. If they can reduce his cap count it will no doubt help them in other ways. I definitely think it’s a mistake as far as the locker-room is concerned. To demand a pay cut of your left tackle a week before the first game, because the timing is right, just seems like a crappy thing to do. Chemistry be damned. I know it happens around the league. I was a GM, I get it but I never believed in this. I think it hurts the trust between upstairs and downstairs in an NFL organization. Players start to wonder if they are next? It’s also risky to cut your starting left tackle who played 86% of the offensive snaps in 2019. Reiff is a guy who is well thought of in the Vikings locker room from a character standpoint so that’s another reason for management to “not rock the boat”. If this was the desired wish of management, it should have been done weeks ago. This move just feels WRONG, in my opinion.

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