Commentary

NFL should be careful with calendar

League's offseason schedule works fine, so there's no reason to tear it up

Originally Published: May 22, 2013
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's staff is going to take the next week to finalize a revised offseason schedule for 2014.

When it comes to pushing back the draft, I wish that time would be spent reconsidering the move long-term. If there is a long-term change, it's a mistake to push the draft back to May. The thought is to move the 2014 draft from April 25 to May 8 or May 15, the 2015 draft to May 7 and the 2016 draft to May 7.

The problem involving the draft is Radio City Music Hall, the draft's home for the past eight years. A scheduling conflict with Radio City is forcing the NFL to move back the 2014 draft, which is under the power of the commissioner and not a collectively bargained issue.

Radio City is scheduling an Easter event for next year that would last several weeks and is expected to be held the next couple of years as well.

Goodell said he doesn't see any choice but to move the 2014 draft back because it's so late to be seeking an alternate venue. I was reassured to see the league would consider moving subsequent drafts to another city if future solutions aren't found.

The problem is going to affect the coaches more than the fans. Fans would follow the draft if it were held in July. That's not the problem. The concern is preparation. Coaches in 2014 would have three fewer weeks to prepare rookies for training camp.

It's almost setting up a scenario in which many college coaches would be better suited to handle the NFL offseason than first-time NFL assistants. College coaches are accustomed to short preparation time. They have a limited number of spring practices and a short time before the start of the season to prepare the college players.

Look at the problems in 2014. Coaches would have a little less than a month to coach up the rookies. Under the current rules, rookie minicamps can be held during the first two weeks in May.

A May 15 draft would all but eliminate the rookie minicamps. Rookies would have to report to the OTAs and learn the playbook in a couple of weeks. Many of the final minicamps are held during the first two weeks in June, with a few going into the third week.

But by June 20, teams shut down for a month.

The other problem would be the schools in the Pac-12 or those that are on the quarter system, whose players can't take part in offseason workouts until their classes graduate.

Except for the problems with Radio City Music Hall, nothing is broken with the offseason schedule. The combine toward the end of February is working well because prospects are running their 40s and doing their workouts, limiting the need for coaches and scouts to travel across the country grabbing times with their stopwatches.

If you move the combine back, it could interfere with players being available for their pro days in college. At least for now, the combine is held before those pro days, so there aren't any conflicts.

Goodell confirmed he will continue talks with the NFL Players Association about moving up the start of free agency to before the combine. That's not as much of a big deal except it puts more pressure on general managers and will particularly make it tougher on the Super Bowl teams.

Within a couple weeks of the Super Bowl, teams will have to make their free-agent moves. There may be plenty of tired GMs and coaches making rash decisions.

Radio City's scheduling conflicts shouldn't force the NFL to change a successful system. The draft continues to grow as far as ratings and interest. It helps to hold the draft in New York because of the fan interest and proximity to the league office.

But if an Easter event is causing a long-term change, the NFL needs to find the right venue for the draft in New York or someplace else.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer