Sometimes you get moments of clarity from otherwise buttoned-up football coaches. In his introductory press conference, new Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the obvious about college football.
“The NFL has the greatest farm system in the world. We pay our farm-system coaches $10 million to develop players,” Vrabel said. “[Alabama coach] Nick Saban is our farm system. [Ohio State coach] Urban Meyer is our farm system.”
He’s absolutely right. The NFL and the NBA get a pretty sweet deal by reaping the benefits of the NCAA’s structure. That is in essence a fully fleshed out minor league system that the NFL incurs none of the cost or liability for.
While the G League exists for the NBA, it’s not anywhere close to the scope of the MLB’s Minor League system. And the best NBA prospects are not expected to ever get anywhere near the G League as opposed to baseball draft picks, which all spend at least a few months in the minors.
The NFL had the now-defunct NFL Europe as a developmental league for vets, and in 2017 a spring football league was unveiled, but it flew slightly under the radar. It wasn’t officially a production of the NFL, but scouts were reportedly in attendance.
Vrabel’s also very familiar with college football, having spent three seasons as an assistant at Ohio State. He also tried to pry Ohio State offensive coordinator Ryan Day, which shows he’s not opposed from grabbing a coach from the ol’ farm system.
But there is, of course, one fundamental difference with G league and MLB Minor League athletes. While neither of those leagues are lucrative, at least they’re paid more than the nominal full cost of attendance stipend college athletes are offered.