Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Free Agent Right

In 1993, the NFL instituted free agency as we know it now, known then as "Plan A". Players are still drafted by an NFL team as they always have been (though there are only seven rounds as opposed to twelve back in the day), but once their contract is up they are free (for the most part, i.e. "Franchising a player", etc.) to sign with any other team of their choosing.

I'm not blaming them one iota. This gives the player the freedom to not only make more money but also to get additional opportunities that they might not receive under the old system. Before 1993, when a player was drafted by a team, that team had his rights regardless of contractual status; he wasn't allowed to go elsewhere unless the team released their rights to him, even when the contract expired. Stating the obvious here, but releasing a player was an exception, not a rule, and for the most part those that were released were generally spare parts.

What about fans? What choices do we have? Of course we can choose to be a fan of any team we like, that's always been the case. I know people that are loyal to their home town team and I know people that are front-runners -- they pick the team that is doing the best from season to season.

Well, I think both are wrong. The front-runners are obviously wrong -- you're basically following the next "shiny object" that just comes along, with no sound thought process to back it up.

As far as the loyalty aspect of following a team, I've always believed that loyalty is a two-way street. If you were in a relationship with someone, and they cheated on you over and over, would you stay in the relationship? If your boss came to your office tomorrow and said you had to take a twenty percent pay cut, would you accept that?

While there are exceptions, I think most people would not accept those conditions, and would choose to move on. Well, I'm here to say that I'm moving on. I am no longer going to follow the Dallas Cowboys, my home town team.

Don't get me wrong, I will always idol the old Dallas teams. I'll continue to discuss and compare those teams with my friends' teams, just as I always have. Long live Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson.

But going forward, I just can't be fan of that team. I'm exercising my free agent right to move on. The reasons are plenty:
  • Dallas is .500 since the turn of the double millennium, the very definition of mediocre.
  • In fourteen years, Dallas has been to the playoffs a mere four times ('03, '06, '07, and '09).
  • In those four playoff appearances, Dallas has won one, count 'em, one, game (in 2009).
  • Dallas hasn't appeared in the conference title game since 1995 -- that's almost two decades folks.
  • The last three years, Dallas has lost the last game of the season that would've put them into the playoffs, not to mention the NFC East Championship had they won.
  • The Cowboys personnel moves. This may be the big reason for my departure, and certainly the reason the bullets above are listed. In 2009 Dallas drafted twelve players and not one of them is on the team today. I could go on and on here, but it's repetitive.  
Why should I follow a team that by all accounts has nothing going for it but past glory, and when I say past, I mean a long, long, time ago. It's true, the old Cowboys' teams spoiled me (as well as many others). Between 1966 and 1999 the Cowboys had only six losing seasons, and three of those were seasons where they won seven games. However, they have never, even when they were in expansion, had a streak of mediocrity that they have going for them now.

The one thing though that I didn't want to do is make this move during the season. I want to do it long before the season starts and since the Super Bowl has just been played, I feel it is the right time. I didn't want to be labelled as a front-runner.

My new team is the Minnesota Vikings. My reasons:

  • To be honest, I've always liked the Vikings, and many of their players/coaches: Bud Grant, Fran Tarkenton. Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Chuck Foreman, Paul Krause, Tommy Kramer, John Randle, Carl Eller, and even the great Bill Brown, just to name a few.
  • Adrian Peterson may be the best player in the NFL. If he's not the best player, then he is definitely the best running back -- by far.
  • They recently hired a coach who I think is pretty darned good, Mike Zimmer, a former Dallas coach (1994 to 2006). Zimmer was in Dallas under Switzer, Gailey, Campo, and even the great Bill Parcells. 
  • For the next two years they are finally going to be playing outside again, as they did from 1961 to 1981, which I think is fantastic! They'll have a huge home field advantage playing in the cold and snow.
Yes, I am choosing the Minnesota Vikings, a team that wasn't too great in 2013. Parcells is on record as saying why did it take so long for Zimmer to get an opportunity. If you've ever seen Zimmer on HBO's Hard Knocks series, or heard him talk about Bobby Petrino, then you'd understand why -- on both counts.

So, I have some work to do. I must learn the roster, the coaches, and the team. Now that I've "signed a three year contract", to be a fan of the Vikings, I need to know all there is to know about my new team, and forget my old one.

I'm exercising my own free agent right. The players do. The coaches do. Why not me? How about you?