McCaffrey, Fournette shouldn’t be criticized for skipping bowl games

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, shown here playing against California, has decided to skip his team's bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, shown here playing against California, has decided to skip his team’s bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Two of the nation’s top college running backs have decided to skip their team’s bowl games to, in their words, prepare for the NFL draft.

“Prepare for draft” is Latin for, “Make sure I don’t get injured in a meaningless bowl game and potentially damage my career and lose millions of dollars.”

LSU’s Leonard Fournette announced late last week he would not play in the Citrus Bowl. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey announced Monday, via Twitter, he will not play in the Sun Bowl.

This has prompted a number of strong opinions on both sides of the issue. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback, commenting via Twitter: ““While I get players skipping their bowl game-what happened to LOVING the GAME & wanting to compete 1 more time w/ your boys-Disturbing trend … I’d want to play another game w/ my boys. Are you kidding me? Ask any player from my generation-Should skip whole year if that’s the concern.”

Zach and I attack this subject and Matt Ryan’s MVP candidacy on the “We Never Played The Game” podcast.

My response: It’s easy for Herbstreit to take that position. He never had an NFL career to worry about.

Look, I get the whole, “This is your team” thing. But let’s be real: Unless it’s a college football playoff game, these bowls have no real meaning. They’re exhibitions. Bowl games are, and always have been, meant as a season-ending reward for players. They get a trip and a swag bag. It’s a nice few days to spend with family and friends, often over the holidays.

But top college players, those expected to be taken in the first two or three rounds, shouldn’t be expected to risk their career and potentially lose millions of dollars by going to . . . the Sun Bowl. Or the Citrus Bowl. Or the Fiesta Bowl.

Consider the case of Jaylon Smith. The former Notre Dame linebacker, the winner of the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, was expected to be a top five pick in last year’s draft before suffering a major knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Smith, a junior, nonetheless entered the draft. The Dallas Cowboys took him, but not until the second round, 34th overall.

Smith’s contract with Dallas: four years, $6,494,972, with $4,523,682 guaranteed.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey was drafted by Jacksonville fifth overall out of Florida State. His contract: four years, $23,351,000, with $22,901,000 guaranteed.

Difference in guaranteed salary: $18,377,318.

Think that was worth the Fiesta Bowl trip? Spare me the camaraderie and “lifetime of memories” speech.

Fournette is considered the top running back in the draft and is a potential top 10 pick. McCaffrey is ranked as the third best back (behind FSU’s Dalvin Cook) and is a first- or second-rounder.

I don’t know if Fournette and McCaffrey skipping bowl games qualifies as a “trend.” But I do believe it will become more common for top NFL prospects, and I’m not sure there’s a solution to the problem. Expanding the college football playoff system, as I’ve suggested, would increase the number of meaningful postseason games and therefore decrease the likelihood of a player skipping them. But that’s not going to change the equation for the non-playoff bowl games.

This a hot topic going into the bowl season so I’ll expand on it with a full column soon. But what’s your opinion of the decisions by Fournette and McCaffrey? Vote in the poll and sound off below.

Subscribe for free to the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast with Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. All episodes can be downloaded and heard on iTunes or here via WSBRadio.com. New episodes every Monday and Thursday.

Recent blogs, columns and everything in between

Reader Comments 0

73 comments
STHornet1990
STHornet1990

At this point it's all about the money and you all know it. Owners, coaches, players, TV, sponsors, etc. Forget amateur sports. Greed is apparently what makes America Great Again.

POV1948
POV1948

Fournette and McCaffrey are just underscoring the meaninglessness of most bowl games.  They're not worth risking a hangnail, much less a career.  Greed is okay for schools, coaches, bowls, sponsors - but taking care of their future is wrong for players?  Nutz to that.

dawg fan
dawg fan

I don't agree with it but I would echo Schultz's sentiment that no one should get all sanctimonious about it unless they've been in that position themselves.  It's kind of like how Coach Fish Fry over on the Flats trashes his players in the media for transferring when he never actually played at this level himself.  It's bush league to run your mouth about someone when you've never been in their situation.

Big Wally
Big Wally

LOL, 680 the fan just pointed out the hypocrisy of Ezekiel Elliott.  I guess being a natural born hypocrite applies to Ohio State fans and their players.


For Ohio:  Elliott was saying how these running backs should play with their teammates for the bowl games and how he would have loved to play more games with his teammates at Ohio State.  Of course, Elliott forgets that he came out early to go to the NFL.


Something about being from Ohio and being a hypocrite I guess.


LOL.

GT71
GT71

Since most of these guys are only using college as a way to get into the pro sports world - stupid as that is for all but about 2% of them - why should they not protect themselves as an 'investment'.  They've done what they set out to do, why chance diminishing the value of their only asset?  They've punched their ticket to ride and the train doesn't stop or care for damaged goods.  They are a commodity.  Hope they enjoy the ride.  Their 'schools'?  They'll just take in a bunch of new riders and continue the show.  Most important for those going 'pro' - come back for the degree - it'll pay off in the end.  But most wont.


TOJacket
TOJacket

See where Kirby is pulling a scholly from a RB from Texas...did'nt you mutts cry like babies all the time because Saban was doing this?

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket Uh no dumb a.s.s., Saban was doing that to kids already on scholarship and oversigning.  The kid from Texas wasn't on scholarship yet, and with Chubb and Sony staying, that left them short.  Once again, you show your stupidity on a daily basis.

OH:IO
OH:IO

tide or dog,


You can only play in the system in place at the the time. 


But hey, keep whining. You must be more dog than tide. 


Speaking of which, how many NC's did the tide win pre-BCS - under that "biased" system?

TOJacket
TOJacket

I don't ever remember playing a "meaningless" game....I wanted to win them all and participate.

GT71
GT71

@TOJacket  Of course you did.  That was then; this is  now and now is a bit different.  And I'd bet you weren't playing to 'go pro'.  And I'd further bet you graduated and have enjoyed the benefits of having a marketable education.

TideDawg
TideDawg

All of the bowls are as meaningful as they ever were. In the past B1G ranked teams and Notre Dame practically hand picked their opponents. Then they would get voted in as National Champion when they won. The difference now ....they don't get to pick, they have to play somebody. The result.....well even OH:IO can figure it out. They've won one NC that was meaningful under the new system. That's why Galloway and the other B1G supporters at ESPN like the old system.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@TideDawg Tide you manage to say something even more ridiculous everyday.....lol

TideDawg
TideDawg

@TOJacket @TideDawg Being a "fan" of an institute of higher learning certainly hasn't helped your comprehensive reading.

TideDawg
TideDawg

It's a business decision. Fournette didn't quit and leave the team without a RB. The next guy up is a good one. They won't miss Fournette that much. I hope he will be on the sideline to support the team and I hope they win.

Big Wally
Big Wally

OH:IO 5 hours ago

You are right about one thing, if it is not the playoff of New Year's Six, they're all toilet bowls 


One is even played in Memphis and kicks off at 11AM.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------


The kick off is at 12:00 dumb a.s.s.   Your tech team has the 11 am kick off.   Blowhio's idiotic comment #10,298 for the year.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@Big Wally


dogs are in Memphis to play in a toilet bowl. Kickoff is 11AM. 


Not traveling, eh? Gonna be to cold for you, lil wally?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Hasn't "gone" over, dimbulb.

Your phone made you type "went" instead of "gone," right?

lolTechies
lolTechies

There's just way too much of a divide between what elite CFB athletes are worth, and what they earn for their services.  They don't owe anything to anyone except themselves and their families.


Break it down by the numbers like Jeff did above, and every single

 one of you would do the same thing, given the opportunity.

lolTechies
lolTechies

"My response: It’s easy for Herbstreit to take that position. He never had an NFL career to worry about."


Flawless victory.  And Browneye getting all butthurt about you saying this is the icing on the cake.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Or on the other hand ,would there be an outcry from fans and bowl sponsors if a coach were to sit out his returning star players. What would be the fan reaction if CKS sat Chubb, Eason, and Michel and started Lambert and a host of third and fourth string running backs? Heck ,games are not more meaningless than the 2016 Liberty Bowl. Why take a chance on getting your returning stars hurt playing a game that has zero impact on your final ranking in 2016. It may be a Smart move for Kirby, take advantage of the extra month of practice then sit your stars in the meaningless bowl game.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Buschleaguer: "Heck ,games are not more meaningless than the 2016 Liberty Bowl . . . ."

______________

Heck, very few things are more meaningless than the Liberty Bowl.

CTATTER
CTATTER

Get rid of half the dumb bowl games anyway.  A lot of teams that play are 6-6, 7-5 or 8-4.  If you only win half of your games, do you deserve to go anywhere.  Half of those games have minimal attendance and aren't worth viewing anyway.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@CTATTER Yeah , I really enjoy all of the Drone racing on ESPN 2 , and everyone  wants to watch Cross Fit #53 or #65. Or more fantasy football coverage 2 hours a day is not enough. Or more meaningless New Orleans vs Charlotte NBA games. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@CTATTER

You forgot to mention the ones who are 5-7 and going bowling.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@CTATTER Bowl games are for the teams and they're fans......if you're not interested, don't watch or bitOtch about it.....no bowl at 8-4?

Snapsboy
Snapsboy

Anybody who comments that these guys are making the wrong decision is not only short sighted and disingenuous, but also hypocritical and dumb.


If any of you had a son who was projected to be the number one pick in the NFL draft, and guaranteed at least 30 million dollars, is saying that you would want him to risk all of that money for a meaningless bowl game, you are indeed really dumb, crazy, and stupid! 


Not to mention the fact that some of the same coaches that are leaving to take higher paying jobs ( looking out for their futures ) gave a commitment to these same young men that they would be there for them. Wow!! talk about crazy people having any kind of platform to share their views.


These young men are making smart decisions and looking out for their future. If an athlete gets hurt in a bowl game and loses out on millions of dollars in draft money, does the school usually step up and pay him that money? Hell no!! 


People, get real!! 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Snapsboy But where does it stop , now a meaningless bowl game, next sitting out half a season once your team loses two or three games, once your school is eliminated from winning a conference or national title ,aren't the rest of the games meaningless.Or when do players who are projected to be 3rd or 4th round picks start sitting out they have futures in the NFL too.Who defines meaningless ,Schultz , the player, the coaches ,the agents or the bowl committees of these meaningless games. Why do they even play these 40 meaningless bowl games.Do  ESPN (Disney) and their advertisers need this meaningless programming to sell their products? 

Brando
Brando

@Buschleaguer @Snapsboy Simple. Pay college players. Or at least let them earn money through endorsements, etc.

Most things in life can be boiled down to simply this: People respond to incentives. These two guys have weighed the incentives and decided that not playing is the better option. If these two were either a) being paid some meaningful amount for playing or b) had the opportunity to improve their "brand" as a result of playing and thus get more sponsorship money, the incentives would be better and we'd be more likely to see them play. I agree that this decision is a slippery slope toward skipping whole seasons, and I want college football to be competitive, with the best guys out there competing.

But if guys are systematically not finding the worth in playing games that objectively don't matter because they know the NFL won't care come draft time, that's on the NCAA for not improving the incentives for the players, not on the players themselves.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Brando @Snapsboy Pay all of the players or just the 1% who will be Drafted or the 1/6 of the 1% who are projected as first round picks. Or why not just let these superior players just take as much cash from boosters , kind of a pay for production plan. $10,000 for every 100 yards rushing or receiving .  Pass for over 250 yards and get $5000. On defense $1000 a sack , interception, fumble recovery, and targeting hits.Just let the free market take care of the star players, and just excuse them from going to class, they won't need an education. What is a full ride at a power 5 school really worth $25 to $30 Grand a year , chump change for a first rounder.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Snapsboy: "If any of you had a son who was projected to be the number one pick in the NFL draft, and guaranteed at least 30 million dollars, is saying that you would want him to risk all of that money for a meaningless bowl game, you are indeed really dumb, crazy, and stupid! "

_______________

Neither of these guys projects as "the number one pick in the NFL draft," so your hystrionics and insults are irrelevant.

In fact, were it not for their colleges, they wouldn't be position to be drafted at all.

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

Herbstreit is a piece of work.

Look at it this way:  Say you have a kid who is a brilliant STEM student in high school, so he/she gets a full ride to college plus a stipend. While in school he/she and other exceptionally bright STEM kids on academic scholarships get together and form a study group. The kid has been an excellent student and during the first two years of college has done so well that he/she earns the option to skip his/her finals, if he/she wants. The first two years of college, the kid decided to take his/her finals anyway and participate in the study group. 

However, at the end of junior year when it's time to study for finals, the kid gets a job offer from GE with a six figure salary and $10K signing bonus. He/she is scheduled to start in January but the company sends him/her an employment prospectus which includes a detailed layout of the project they will be working on. 

Is that student obligated to stay with the study group, or should he/she opt out of finals and prepare for the job?

Of course the answer is to prepare for the job at GE, because that's why he/she went to college in the first place -- to prepare him/herself for the work force. 
McCafffrey and Fournette are no different. I hope both get invited to the NFL combine and I hope they are both first round picks. Enjoyed watching them play. Good luck, gentlemen!

UWG_1996
UWG_1996

This is a overblown issue, only a handful of players each year would have to make the decision not to play in a bowl game. They are making the right decision not to play, period.....