1. While I still have what seems like an eternity left in my "working years" (not sure about the rest of you, but pretty sure my "working years" will run right up until the end of my "breathing years"), the idea of retirement holds many attractive qualities. I bring that up this morning because as I read the sports pages, I see more and more talk of early retirement from some of our favorite athletes--specifically those in the NFL. No need to rehash why that is going down...we all understand the head-injury risk at this point. Before getting to the real crux of it for us as Redskins fans today, let's first establish that these early retirement decisions must be gut-wrenchingly difficult. Imagine being the best at something since the age of five or six, and just getting to the point where you can make a living doing it before realizing that you need to or should retire immediately. I am about to look at this from a fan's perspective, but I feel strongly about ensuring that we start by at least trying to put ourselves in the players' shoes.
2. I think one aspect of this early retirement situation is that it seems like it could happen at any time, with any player, at any stage of a player's career. As fans, this is nightmarish (now you know why I began the way I did). It means that at any time, one of your favorite players--perhaps even your team's best player--could decide to hang up his cleats. There are already plenty of examples, but when I think of a Patrick Willis walking away from the game, I instinctively feel the pain of all those #52-wearing 49ers fans that woke up one day and realized that arguably their best player was gone. When I read that J.J. Watt has openly discussed potentially hanging them up before he gets to the bitter end of his playing days, I have to say that even I (not a Texans fan) winced.
3. In addition to the sudden and immediate departure of legitimate and established star players, you also have the Chris Borland kind of retirements. Imagine investing a valuable draft pick (regardless of when Borland was drafted, he was making an impact on the field, so let's not get hung up on how we value third round picks) only to see that investment flushed down the toilet after one season of play. I loved Borland coming out of college (and mocked him to us in numerous mock drafts). His retirement blew me away, and really opened my eyes to this whole trend.
4. As we move to the latter half of the Sixpack, where the debate hopefully will take off into the comments section, I have multiple thoughts and/or questions for this group. Let's start with the one that is most appropriate for the season we find ourselves in right now--draft season. Is it just me, or do you guys think general managers are desperately trying to figure out how to identify "retirement risks" in the draft? How do you even do that? As far as billion dollar industries go, the NFL has gotten away with asking some rather ludicrous interview questions. How many HR departments in 2016 don't know that you can't just ask someone if they're gay? If that kind of stuff is still going on in the league, you have to believe that teams are digging to find anything that could clue them in on a player's hesitation when it comes to at least playing out a rookie contract. Talk about walking a tightrope--much of the league is no longer in denial about the link between the game and long-lasting head injury risk, so the search to uncover the chances that a guy retires early must be done without looking like you are insensitive to the reality that is driving those same early retirements. Dizzying...
5. Let's ask the dreaded question: what if it happens to us? (Again...this rings somewhat cold-hearted, but bear with me.) In the past, it seemed like the uber-macho environment of the league framed up the debate around these kinds of things as "guys quitting on their teammates." We'd be fools to think this doesn't still occur, but it does feel like players are a bit more understanding when their peers make this tough call. I can think of a couple players in burgundy and gold whose retirement would decimate our hearts as well as our playoff chances. I'll give you one, and you can suggest others. Jordan Reed has been sidelined with concussions already--I believe he has had four of them in four seasons. He plays one of the most physical positions in the modern offense, and from a probability standpoint, you'd have to assume the odds of him sustaining additional concussions are north of 50-50, right? Man...just the thought of him retiring early bums me out.
6. We'll be hitting draft topics hot and heavy for the next week and a half (no head shots). I figured this new era of early retirements has at least minor--if not major--implications when guys like McLovin analyze the pros and cons of every single potential draft pick. We'll be talking about this and other topics tomorrow night on The Audible. We'll be joined tomorrow by Aaron Lesher, one of our lead writers covering the draft here on Hogs Haven. I would greatly appreciate any questions or comments you have about the upcoming draft and/or our coverage for our discussion with Ay-Ay-Ron. He has been spending an unhealthy amount of time watching game film and poring through scouting reports to prepare for this year's event. It is always a tough act to follow when you go after Steve Shoup, but let's see how the new guy operates! I would also solicit your MOST positive Redskins thought heading into the spring/summer. Try and refrain from just saying you love Scot McCloughan. We all love him. Hone in on something specific. We'll be using this as a springboard for our Redskins Lightning Round tomorrow night.