Your team is finally coming together and is poised to make its first playoff run under your tenure as GM, but will your tight end derail it?
What is 2014’s Writer’s Project?
This year’s RSPWP is a different take on team building. I will have 15-20 written scenarios based on true NFL stories provided to me from current and former NFL employees (scouts, players, and consultants). In each scenario, the participating writer is the general manager of an NFL team has a decision to make. Each scenario will have at least two different writers. I will post the writers’ responses and the actual outcome of the case study (if applicable).
GM Scenario No.1: To Cut or Not to Cut?
It’s Monday afternoon after Week 13 in the NFL. You’re a general manager of a team that is fresh off a victory where it rallied from 28 back to win by 7 and go 7-5 on the year. The squad has won four in a row and is now second in a division where the leader is two games ahead. However, your team is in a better position than it appears.
You play your 9-3 division-leading rival twice during the season’s final four weeks. If you sweep or split these games your team could win the division title. The overriding factor for your teaming having an advantage despite trailing the division leader is that your competition is in a vulnerable position:
- The rival team has played a softer schedule and faces two difficult teams in December.
- All three of its losses are division games and your team has a better division record.
- The rival team lost a starting wide receiver and safety—both Pro Bowl talents.
While these factors are favorable, it’s likely that you won’t make the playoffs if you don’t win the division because of the records of the rest of the teams in the conference.
Your team is playing well, but this morning you had yet another off-field issue with your starting tight end. This player is the second-leading receiver on the team and the offense’s leader converting targets on third down and the red zone.
Today he missed his second team meeting in six weeks and there have been multiple incidents involving a “civilian” at the team facility. It’s important to note that missing a team meeting is a huge deal for this squad and everyone knows that when it comes to this head coach a player better not miss more than one meeting during his career with the team if they want to live to tell the tale. No player has ever missed two meetings during this coach’s career and remained with the team.
One of the issues for this player is his ex-girlfriend—the mother of their three year-old daughter. The tight end has a new girlfriend who he also got pregnant—before he moved the ex-girlfriend out of his house. The ex-girlfriend has come to the facility four times this year—twice this month alone.
Three times the ex- and then player have had heated arguments in the parking lot. One of those instances required security to separate the two after the ex- took a swing at the player and the player grabbed the ex- from behind and held her tight to protect himself while attempting to calm her.
Another time the ex- tried to enter the facility and she was verbally abusive to a team employee when she didn’t get her way. Her behavior generated enough disruption that the organization could have gotten the police involved. However, the head of the facility’s security team was able to calm her (again) and talk her into leaving.
The player missed his second team meeting because when he woke this morning after an argument with his ex- he found someone slashed his tires. The player believes the ex- or a friend of the ex- was responsible and it stemmed from last night’s argument about finances to assist with his child.
In addition to the domestic issues, the player has invested in a restaurant with a cousin and uncle that are running the operation. The start-up phase of the business has been an added distraction. These two issues are beginning to hurt the tight end’s performance.
The player has made mistakes in practice that he hasn’t made in the past. The tight end has played well overall in recent weeks, including a game-winning touchdown this weekend and a 100-yard effort two weeks ago. However, he also misdiagnosed an option route in the first quarter of last week’s contest that resulted in a pick-six and put the team in the hole early.
A more significant concern is the player’s performance with strength and conditioning maintenance. Trainers aren’t seeing him work at the same level of intensity in the weight room. Worse yet, he’s not addressing his recovery needs well after games. He’s skipping physical therapy sessions, not icing down sore spots, and not using the cold tub.
Even so, the pro scouts and coaches believe this player will be a huge factor in the match-ups with your division rival. The reason is a season-ending injury to the rival’s Pro Bowl safety. The replacement lacks coverage discipline and he misses tackles because is too apt to deliver hits without wrapping his opponents.
Although your tight end isn’t a Pro Bowl-caliber player and he’s weak as a run blocker, he and the quarterback have excellent rapport and his skills as a receiver and runner are a good match for the opposition. The problem is that the distractions have the staff split about his ability to avoid more mental mistakes and the domestic issues in particular are escalating to the point that the police could be involved next. This divided house among the coaches was before the tight end missed his second meeting.
The player has another year on his contract and his potential is maximized at this point. He’ll never be a star, but he’s a good fit for your passing offense.
The coaches aren’t completely sold that they can weather the loss if you cut him. The veteran backup at the position may not be as good of a receiver, but he’s a much better run blocker. They staff is also optimistic it can do more with its athletic young slot receiver who has been showing more in practice. However, the match-up between the slot receiver and reserve tight end against this rival’s defense isn’t nearly as juicy.
A third option is to acquire a free agent tight end—a former Pro Bowl player with excellent hands and questionable knees. The team recently worked out this veteran, but the coaches are skeptical that he has the stamina (he hasn’t been on a team in 14 months) or long-term health to hold up against your rival’s defense.
With the trade deadline over so you can’t deal this player in question, either.
If you cut your starting tight end the team may suffer on the field, but the issues with the ex-girlfriend will go away. However, there could be a media maelstrom about ditching a key part of the offense when he’s needed most.
If you keep him, you could win the division and make a run in the playoffs. However, he could wind up arrested if this behavior keeps up or his play continues to deteriorate and he hurts the team on the field and costs you the division title.
It’s your third year as GM and this team has gone 9-7 and 8-8 the past two seasons—missing the postseason twice. You have a good, but not great player with deteriorating focus and mounting off-field concerns. He has now missed two meetings and if you keep him, he’ll be setting a precedent with this coaching staff as the first player to remain with the team.
Do you cut him or keep him? Do you consult with anyone? What about this scenario influenced you most to make your decision—the performance, the mounting off-field issues, or both?
The two writers assigned to this scenario last night will send me their response by next week. Interested in sharing your thoughts? Comment below.