NFL Execs Weigh In On Michael Sam

As the world reacted to the news that the NFL might soon see its first openly gay current player last night, so did anonymous NFL club officials. The feedback from decision makers around the league was not nearly as positive as the general public’s.

Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans polled eight NFL executives and coaches, and the overwhelming consensus was that the announcement would hurt Michael Sam‘s draft stock. The redshirt senior from the University of Missouri is predicted as a mid- to late-round draft pick, but one NFL player personnel assistant told SI he doesn’t feel football is ready for an openly gay player.

“In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game,” the assistant said. “To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

Three general managers and one scout spoke on the condition of anonymity to The MMQB’s Peter King, with one GM saying his team had discussed the issue at draft meetings in recent days.

“First of all, we don’t think he’s a very good player,” the GM told King. “The reality is he’s an overrated football player in our estimation. Second: He’s going to have expectations about where he should be drafted, and I think he’ll be disappointed. He’s not going to get drafted where he thinks he should. The question you will ask yourself, knowing your team, is, ‘How will drafting him affect your locker room?’ And I am sorry to say where we are at this point in time, I think it’s going to affect most locker rooms. A lot of guys will be uncomfortable. Ten years from now, fine. But today, I think being openly gay is a factor in the locker room.”

The results were more positive today, as a legion of owners and coaches – each of whom were willing to put their names with their words – voiced their support for a potential gay player as a member of their team. Giants co-owners Steve Tisch and John Mara backed Sam loudly, in statements to TMZ and Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger respectively. Meanwhile, one team personnel executive told columnist Judy Battista that he could see owners pushing their coaches and personnel staff “it’s OK” to draft Sam.

Other notable league personnel to come out in support of Sam include Bears GM Phil Emery, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Kraft’s coach, Bill Belichick, released a statement via the team’s website, expressing that he and the Pats pursue players “who can best contribute to our team and organization, regardless of the matters being discussed today.” The league also released its own statement in support of Sam and his efforts.

Stepping away from the issue of Sam’s personal life, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said he has a “pretty good feel” for the undersized Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year, projecting him as a third- to fifth-round pick.

“He’s an explosive kid who’s much better going forward than he is going backward,” Mayock told’s Paul Domowitch. “His size would dictate he’s got to be a linebacker, but I don’t think his physical skill-set dictates that, and therein lies the rub.”

With the NFL scouting combine less than two weeks away, each team will have its opportunity to interview Sam with this historic news out in the public. Sam’s performance at the combine could go a long way in defining his draft value, which was murky even before his announcement — given his size and speed, there are questions about whether he’ll have a true NFL position. A strong showing at the combine, along with impressive interviews with NFL teams, should solidify his place as a mid-round pick, particularly given the outcry of public support from various owners and executives today.

We’ll have to wait until May to know definitively what sort of effect Sunday’s announcement will have on Sam’s draft stock. But if the Missouri alum has shown anything to us this far, it’s that he’s mature beyond his 24 years and ready for whatever life has to throw at him next.

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5 comments on “NFL Execs Weigh In On Michael Sam

  1. Apparently he’s also been outed as an openly mediocre draft prospect

  2. Karkat

    “Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans polled eight NFL executives and coaches, and the overwhelming consensus was that the announcement would hurt Michael Sam‘s draft stock.”

    Saying the Sports Illustrated article showed any kind of “consensus” is a remarkable overstatement. They conducted an anonymous sampling of eight people who aren’t in key decision-making positions. I expect better from an MLBTR brand than to give credence to that kind of subpar journalism in a lead to a story.

    • ProFootballRumors

      We were referring to the consensus opinion held by that group of eight execs/coaches, not the NFL as a whole. I agree with you that of course those eight don’t speak for the entire league, which is why we included plenty of examples of execs and coaches who DID voice their support.

      The point of the article was to illustrate how Sam’s announcement might affect his draft stock, and those quotes show that there are people in NFL front offices (who will have input on draft decisions, even if they don’t necessarily make the final call) who believe it will have a negative impact. I think(/hope) that they’re wrong, but they’re out there.

      — Luke

      • Karkat

        I understand the intent, I just disagreed with the decision to lead with the SI story.

        Lest I let my tendency to voice criticism and let compliment fall by the wayside, I did feel the rest of the article was well done and explains the balance nicely.

        • ProFootballRumors

          Understood, and I appreciate both the original feedback and the compliment!

          I won’t speak to Peter’s intent, but I got the impression that he was presenting the reactions sort of chronologically, and those SI/MMQB pieces were among the first stories published following the announcement. I’m certainly in agreement that they were also among the most discouraging.

          — Luke

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