NFL Development League?

CBSSports.com reported yesterday that Troy Vincent, the NFL’s Head of Operations, is putting together a proposal for a new development league for the NFL.  The proposal will formally be presented to the Competition Committee, coaches, and NFL Players Association during the offseason.

Many coaches have voiced their support for a development league, or in-season academy, for new players to use to get more experience.  With many NFL offensive and defensive schemes becoming more and more unique, the players are not getting the experience needed in college.  There has also been talk of wanting to get new referees more field time, in an effort to clean up some bad officiating lately.

Personally, I think this idea is unnecessary.  The NFL hasn’t had a formal “developmental league” since the NFL Europe closed in 2007.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ceased the league calling it “the best business decision”.  The NFL reportedly was losing $30 million a year.

Sure, there have been some very big names that spent time developing in NFL Europe, most notably Kurt Warner, Adam Vinatieri, and James Harrison.  However, the great majority of players that spent time in NFL Europe, never became much in the NFL anyway.

With the NFL requiring players to attend college until after their Junior year, they already have a “developmental league”.  The NFL, because of its rules, has created a league in which they have to spend no money.  The teams don’t have to invest in players that potentially turn out to be nothing more than money down the drain.  If the NFL wants to get referees more experience, I’ve long felt that the NFL and NCAA need to partner, when it comes to college football.

College football is a multi-billion dollar industry now, in which the athletes make nothing.  Now, I’m not going to turn this into a “college athletes need to be paid” post. That will undoubtedly come at a later time. I’m merely suggesting that the NCAA and NFL work together. 

The best way to groom these players, is to have the same rules. If college players learn to play within the same spectrum as their professional counterparts, that alone will drastically improve the transition between college and pro. By changing the rules in college to match the NFL rules, you also have the opportunity to groom referees in the college game. 

As long as you have a rule requiring your future athletes to go to a college, those colleges should be doing everything they can to set up those players for success in the future. College is a learning institution, but when it comes to full-ride scholarship athletes, college is merely a stepping stone. 

The NFL already has the best Developmental League in place, they just have to take advantage of it. 

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