Friday, August 5, 2011

A Cutthroat Business

More than any other professional sport, the NFL is a cutthroat business. Without fully guaranteed contracts, teams sign a player to a megadeal one year and then threaten to cut him the next if he didn't live up to the deal that first season. Because of that, players look to get the most upfront money they can get and also renegotiate later on when they think they've outperformed their contracts. Then there are the heartbreaking stories of players who careers end on one play with a spinal or neck injury and then the team cuts them not long after.

Not as an extreme example, but more evidence of the cutthroat nature of the business is the story of longtime New York Jet, Jerricho Cotchery, who was cut yesterday. He had been with the Jets since 2004, misguidedly buried on the bench by then head coach Herman Edwards, blossomed as a starter under Edward's coaching replacement Eric Mangini, and being a dependable veteran under current coach, Rex Ryan.

Ironically, Cotchery's most memorable play happened last year--his final season with the team. In overtime against Cleveland, Cotchery shook off a hamstring injury suffered during a play, hobbled to stop, jumped and caught the ball. I'll always remember that picture:

That is Cotchery to me. He gave himself to the betterment of the team. But the NFL is also a business. According to reports, Cotchery had been dissapointed to be the Jets number 3 receiver and wanted to go elsewhere where he could be the number 2 receiver. That is important because next year would be the final year of his contract and by then would be 30 years old and presumably looking for the last big deal of his NFL career. He likely wouldn't get that from the Jets. So his tenure ended without fanfare yesterday after 7 years, through losing seasons, but mostly winning seasons. The NFL is a cutthroat business. Hero one day, unemployed the next.

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