Author’s Note: In this edition of cover32’s Monday Morning Joe, we take a look back at NFL Europe on the 10th anniversary of its final game and wonder if it’s time to revive it. In addition, there will also be some other NFL thoughts and musings. Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @cover32_NE and send us your questions and comments using #cover32MMJ.
On June 23rd, 2007 the Hamburg Sea Devils were led by quarterback Casey Bramlet in a 37-28 victory over the Frankfurt Galaxy in World Bowl XV. It was the first championship for the Sea Devils in their second season of existence. Six days later, NFL Europa (formerly NFL Europe) folded.
Since it’s inception in 1991, NFL Europe (originally the World League of American Football) struggled to turn a profit and at the end of it’s run lost upwards of $30 million a year. Despite an average attendance of over 20,000 fans in its final year and over 48,000 viewers of the final game, it was no longer financially viable. Not that it ever was to begin with. The NFL decided to turn its attention to hosting just a few games a year overseas and offering the actual NFL product.
That was 10 years ago. It’s long overdue, but the NFL should revive their spring development league.
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The league can open doors that were shut for some players
Every year hundreds of undrafted free agents latch on with teams and fight for roster spots. Some make it and become quality NFL players. Others don’t, but they toil away on a team’s practice squad. Often getting limited repetitions throughout the season.
Then there are the thousands that don’t make it, and seemingly watch their football career end in a blink of an eye. Maybe a bit of grooming would go a long way in turning around their careers, however, there aren’t many options outside of the CFL. These are the players that would benefit the most, even if it just gives them another opportunity to make an NFL roster.
This was the case for Casey Bramlet, who was released by the Redskins, who held his NFL rights, shortly after NFL Europe folded. Bramlet, however, got another opportunity with the Dolphins in 2007, largely because of his performance in the World Bowl. Former Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller disclosed to Bramlet that his performance in the World Bowl caught his attention.
“That was a direct effect of what I got from that,” Bramlet says via The Guardian. “Just having another opportunity to play and get better. You never know who’s watching. And sure enough, I ended up getting another opportunity because of that.”
One of the best products that called NFL Europe home is Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl Champion, Kurt Warner.
Signed as a UDFA by Green Bay in 1994, Warner didn’t make the team and spent the next three years in the Arena Football League. In 1998, however, Warner made the leap to the Amsterdam Admirals where he honed his skills.
“My story is a little different,” said Warner via ESPN. “Having been in arena football at the time, my wife and I talked about it, and I always believed that if I was going to get a shot, I’d have to get back on the big field. NFL Europe was kind of the avenue I’d hoped I’d get an opportunity with. When I got cut by Green Bay, I tried hard to get picked up, but there were no takers.”
The following year he led an improbable run for the St. Louis Ram’s to a Super Bowl XXXIV championship. He won both the regular season MVP and Super Bowl MVP that year. The last player to accomplish the feat in the same season.
Monday Morning Joe Weekly Poll
— Ian Glendon (@iglen31) June 26, 2017
NFL Europe was a financial disaster for the league, but times are changing
The league didn’t even come close to turning a profit, despite the bare-bones approach for things such as travel and accommodations. One of the reasons was that the NFL, who estimated costs of $400-$500 million a year to run the league, lacked an adequate television deal. World Bowl XV aired a day after the event on a delay.
In 10 years, things have changed to better accommodate this venture. With the increasing use of mobile devices, companies such as Twitter and Facebook have begun to revolutionize sports viewership. Even Patriots owner Robert Kraft alluded to the fact that viewership is trending away from traditional television.
A decade ago, between the moving of franchises and the limited interest, T.V. and satellite companies were reluctant to invest a lot of money in the league. Meaning a majority of games, not just the World Bowl, aired on tape delay. With today’s endless amount of ways to broadcast a game live, it should be much easier for the league to reach a much larger audience in real time.
In addition, the past 10 years has seen an increase in popularity overseas with the London series. Let’s face it, the fans overseas have not come close to seeing the best the NFL has to offer and they have eaten it up nonetheless. With the leagues growing desire to expand overseas, this seems like a perfect opportunity to reach their ultimate goal.
In the age of a 24/7 news cycle, the NFL, and other professional leagues obsess over being relevant every day of the year. The NFL does as good a job as any to make sure they are the story year round, however, there is a glaring lack of football in the spring. Leaving the door open for the league to capitalize on the only football-free time of the year.
The Bottom Line
The NFL could accomplish this right here in the United States. However, the NFL and it’s owners seem dead set on eventually bringing a team or several over to Europe. Reviving NFL Europe accomplishes both. On top of it all, it keeps alive a dream for many NFL quality players that just need some grooming to reach their potential.
Every other major North American sports league has a minor league system. Sometimes it takes years for a baseball player to become Major League ready. Most hockey players get their start with the team’s AHL affiliate or continue their play at the Junior level before getting the call.
Although the logistics of football make having a traditional minor league system difficult, a new NFL Europe could provide the perfect opportunity to expand their interests and grow the sport of football.
Last Week’s Poll
Last week, we took a look at the gambling issue facing the NFL. According to our poll, the majority of fans would accept gambling into the sport of football. Let us know what you think! Use #cover32MMJ on Twitter and Facebook and send us your comments!
— Ian Glendon (@iglen31) June 19, 2017
Three Up, Three Down
- David Harris (LB – Patriots) – The 10-year veteran, released by the Jets earlier in the offseason, inked a deal with the defending Super Bowl champions.
- Derek Carr (QB – Raiders) – Carr became the highest paid player in the NFL, signing a deal that pays him $25 million annually and has $40 million in guarantees.
- Paxton Lynch (QB – Broncos) – The second-year pro may be gaining ground on incumbent starter Trevor Siemian in Denver’s quarterback battle.
- Michael Floyd (WR – Vikings) – Floyd is looking to avoid a probation violation when he tested positive for alcohol a couple weeks ago. The Vikings have backed his explanation of an accidental ingestion of alcohol.
- Tavon Wilson (S – Lions) – Wilson was accused in a civil suit of striking the mother of his child. Although no charges were filed, surely the NFL will have their nose in it soon enough.
- Trevor Siemian (QB – Broncos) – Thought to have the starting position locked up heading into 2017, Siemian seems to be losing ground to Lynch. This may be Siemian last chance with a really good team.
Tweets of the Week
Every week I will post the best tweets of the week, starting with the staff of cover32. Use #cover32MMJ to get involved and get your tweets on the ‘Tweet of the Week’.
— Robert Molnar (@RMolnar1010) June 25, 2017
I ask again…can we DFA Tomlin yet?
— Chris Morgan (@THECapnMorgan76) June 25, 2017
— Patrick Hatten ☢️ (@TheDeuce) June 22, 2017