Troy Vincent made his mark in the NFL for 15 years as a cornerback so adept that he is one of 102 players on this year’s preliminary Hall of Fame nominee list. But well after his playing days are over Vincent continues to make a mark on the game as the league’s executive vice-president of football operations. Like cornerback, it is a job that often leaves him alone and in the crosshairs.
Vincent sat down with Talk of Fame Network this week to discuss both his career and his present job, which includes regularly working with the NFL’s Competition Committee to adjust and sometimes rewrite the rules of the game. That role has put him front and center in a growing controversy surrounding what, exactly, constitutes roughing the passer.
Vincent held a conference call this week with Competition Committee members and league officials to try and sort out what had become so confusing that former head of officials Mike Pereira told TOFN last week the way it was now being called was changing the game and not in a good way.
Only days after that phone call, weekend games were played and there were dramatically fewer roughing calls (down to five from an average of 11 the first three weeks). So what changed?
“We asked the officials to see the whole play,’’ Vincent said, explaining video was watched of a number of those controversial early season calls including two that left Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews irate. “Is this what we want to call?
“Did he release (the tackled player before they hit the ground)? Did he let up? Did (the official) see the entire play? Make sure.’’
Vincent claimed the reduction in roughing calls was not a result of any direct instructions given to the officials to reduce the number of calls however. He insisted, “The players adjusted.’’
Perhaps but Pereira told TOFN a week ago that the officials would be told they were over-officiating, fewer penalties would be called and the league would claim “the players adjusted’’ when in fact it was the officials who had.
Whatever the truth of that, Troy Vincent was in the middle of that issue just as he was once in the middle of the secondaries of the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. During his playing days, Vincent was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, president of the NFL Players Association and winner of every award for community service the league hands out. Today, he sits at the right hand of the commissioner and according to Mark Leibovich’s new book, “Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times”, is “the guy who thinks he’s going to be the next commissioner.’’
Asked about that possibility, Vincent told TOFN, “I take life every day at a time. I don’t think about tomorrow. Today I serve the commissioner.’’
Make of that what you will but there’s no question Troy Vincent is a man on the move. Whether that will land him in Canton as a member of the Hall of Fame or behind the commissioner’s desk in New York remains to be seen but his views and opinions on where the game stands and where it’s headed are well worth listening to. You can hear him this week on your local SB Nation Radio Network station or by downloading our free podcast at iTunes or on the TuneIn app. You can also listen to this show and all our past interviews by going to our website, talkoffamenetwork.com, and clicking on the helmet icon.
Uber agent Leigh Steinberg also visited this week to talk about his latest in a long line of star NFL quarterbacks. The man who once represented Troy Aikman, Steve Young and Warren Moon among many others now directs the fortunes of Kansas City Chiefs’ budding star Patrick Mahomes. Leigh discusses the pitfalls of a young player throwing 14 touchdown passes in his first four games as a full-time starter and how he and Mahomes are guarding against them.
Mahomes is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 55 touchdown passes and is being inundated with endorsement deals and other offers. As Steinberg points out, that’s a double-edged sword.
“The danger is the hype gets too high and becomes absolutely unsustainable,’’ Steinberg tells Talk of Fame Network. “He’s tuning this all out.’’
One thing Mahomes is not tuning out is a mind able to recall a remarkable amount of information. As much of a gift as his arm is, Steinberg and others believe it is Mahomes’ memory and the year he spent watching Alex Smith start for the Chiefs last season that have fueled his explosive rise.
“He can remember every play he ever played,’’ Steinberg said. “So his memory and grasp of the game is sponge like.’’
Steinberg said that memory combined with not being immediately thrown into the hellfire of an NFL rookie season as a starting quarterback are key factors to Mahomes’ success as a second-year starter. He and the Chiefs are 4-0 with one remarkable Mahomes throw after another fueling the Chiefs’ rise.
“This was supposed to be a learning year,’’ Steinberg admitted. “There’s no way a young quarterback can see the field with the clarity of an older quarterback. (But) he had the great benefit to sit behind Alex Smith (last season). Alex was very kind to him and was a good mentor. It’s really important to be able to watch how a veteran prepares his week. The right time to draft a franchise quarterback is before you need him to start.’’
Bill Belichick thought he had a similar situation in New England last season until he was forced to trade away Jimmy Garoppolo, who he had been grooming for three seasons to one day replace Tom Brady. The story of that controversial decision and the many others that have been part of Belichick’s career are chronicled in a new best-selling biography of him written by ESPN.com Senior writer Ian O’Connor. O’Connor dropped by to discuss Belichick, the book and why he called it ‘the most daunting challenge’’ of his career.
Early in Belichick’s second season in New England, O’Connor wrote the Patriots had made a massive mistake hiring him. He wasn’t alone in that assessment. His team was failing, he was acting the same way he had during his failed five-year tenure in Cleveland and it seemed he would soon be out of a job. The opposite happened and today Belichick is considered by O’Connor to be the greatest coach in NFL history.
O’Connor tells Talk of Fame Network the impetus for this three-year research project was to learn why he had been so wrong in that column and what makes the most enigmatic figure ever to pace an NFL sideline tick. To hear what he found – the good, the bad and the ugly – tune in and give Ian O’Connor a listen.
Our Hall of Fame hosts, Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge, also debate the biggest stories of the week, discuss what former Philadelphia Eagle is the most deserving of the Hall of Fame with HOF voter Paul Domowitch, make the Hall of Fame case for former two-time Defensive Player of the Year Cornelius Bennett and run their own version of the two-minute drill. You can hear all that on SB Nation Radio or at talkoffamenetwork.com.