NFL Europe closed up shop in 2007, leaving the NFL without an official developmental league. Nearly a decade later, we could be on the cusp of a new D-League being established. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s head of football operations, will make recommendations for a developmental league or in-season academy in early 2017, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes. Things are moving quickly and that could mean that we’ll see some action on the topic as soon as the spring meeting in May.
Step one for Vincent & Co. will be to meet with the Competition Committee, coaches and NFLPA after the season. The new league could be a great way for the league to cultivate young talent, new coaches, and even referees, but it’s not a given that the players’ union will be on board. The NFLPA has been “lukewarm, at best” to the notion of a spring league, La Canfora hears, and nothing will be launched without their approval. Sources tell La Canfora that Vincent will be pitching both in-season and out-of-season proposals, which could be helpful for getting all of the necessary parties on board.
“It is a concept that could check all of those boxes we often talk about — diversity, officiating, developing coaches, player development, experimenting with rules and technology,” Cowboys owner Stephen Jones said at the last spring meeting. “It’s something we have to start to seriously look at within the Competition Committee and then discuss with the NFLPA. We’ve reached a point where we really should be looking more at a developmental league, and I really expect that to begin here in the next year or so. We lost a lot of money on the NFL Europe, but there were a lot of things the league did well and for all of those reasons — coaches, officiating, players, quarterbacks in particular — it’s something we really do need to be looking at and studying. The time might be right to do it.”
Already, the project has support from several key league executives, some of whom have helped formulate plans for the league. Seahawks GM John Schneider and Colts GM Ryan Grigson have weighed in, along with former Giants coach Tom Coughlin. The league also has the support of Hall of Fame coach John Madden.
The NFL is younger than ever and it seems like an official developmental league would benefit everyone. However, it remains to be seen whether the NFLPA agrees.