Schlereth and Bruschi to Goodell: Former Players should mentor active players

By Jeff Nixon
Sep. 22, 2014

This past Friday, ESPN analysts and former NFL players Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi  responded to Commissioner Goodell’s news conference.  Bruchsi said “We needed someone to go up there and be a leader. To be a leader and say something substantial. To give all of the public out there, all of the fans, all of the former players, all of the current players. To give them hope that things will be done right, and that wasn't done because I don't think Roger Goodell is the guy that can do that anymore.”

Schlereth and Bruschi weren't just criticizing the Commissioner - they also had something substantial to say - including an idea on how to help the younger players that are having problems. 

Schlereth made this passionate plea to Commissioner Roger Goodell:

“There are so many good men.....I’ve been talking about this forever....... there are so many good men that played in this league, or coached in this league that are mentors, that are wonderful husbands, that are wonderful fathers, that are just wonderful businessmen and are accountable in their communities, there are so many great people, so many real men that have been involved in this League for a very long time – why are you not reaching out to those guys to mentor your young players? Why are those guys, as soon as they retire, kicked to the curb, and told we don't need you anymore because you can't make us money? Why are those guys not involved in the National Football League and why are those guys not helping to solve this issue with young players that don't understand how to be a professionals?" 

This same questions should be asked of the NFL Players Association.

In fact DeMaurice Smith said he was interested in implementing a program like this when he was first appointed by the active players. To my knowledge, it has never gotten off the ground.

I don’t care which entity gets the ball rolling on this type of mentorship program, but it needs to happen soon. Schlereth is right - there are a lot of former players that would make excellent mentors for these younger players - Men that could impart some wisdom and experience in a young men that never received a “real life” book on how to conduct themselves. Sure, they have a copy of the NFL's Player Conduct Policy that tells them all about the things they shouldn't do - along with the amount of the fines they will have to pay when they fall from grace - and there's a two day program that all rookies are required to attend - right after the NFL Draft - but that's not going to make one bit of difference for most of the players. They need an ongoing mentoring relationship that is similar to the nationally renowned Big Brother Big Sister Program that has a 110 year history of running mentoring programs.

A program for NFL players would require trained mentors that have been thoroughly screened. It goes without saying - but I’ll say it anyway - some former players are leading lives that are not worthy of duplication. But for every former player that is not the best role model, there are 10 in the ranks that would make excellent Big Brothers to a young rookie - and even some veteran players. Although it makes sense to have former players as mentors, I would not exclude non-football players in this type of program. There are a lot of folks out there that could be just as helpful - and it doesn't make sense to rule them out.

I’m not saying every NFL player needs this type of program, but wouldn’t it make sense to for players that are having problems, to go through some type of mandatory mentoring?

Schlereth doesn't think Roger Goodell is the man for the job.

“In my opinion, in my personal opinion, being a former player that spent 13 years in this league trying to do the right thing, I want a new Commissioner to lead my league. I want a new Commissioner to go out there and say the right things and be that leader, because right now, Roger Goodell is not that. And I don’t think he can ever be that. Roger Goodell needs to step down and move on, and we need new leadership. The big reset button needs to be pressed on the NFL right now, and it starts by Roger Goodell stepping down.”

If the Commissioner adopted a mentoring program like the one Schlereth and many others have called for, it just might restore some the confidence that Roger Goodell has lost in the ranks of the retired.

What do you think?