Tony Dungy Explains Why NFL Players Holdout For Fat New Contracts And How He Handled It As A Coach

by 9 months ago
Tony Dungy

Getty Image / Joey Foley/FilmMagic

With the NFL pre-season officially kicking off last night, one of the biggest stories in the NFL right now is Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald holding out for a new contract.

Aaron Donald‘s current contract would pay him $6.4 million in the final year of his deal but he’s refusing to play/holding out in hopes of renegotiating that contract.

The idea here is that he’s worth a LOT more than $6.4 million given that his peers are getting paid more than him when he’s a higher-impact player.

Donald’s considered by many to be the best defensive player in the NFL and he’s hoping to sign a multi-year deal that will pay him around $20 million/year and become the highest-paid defensive player in the league.

On the one hand, his on-field contributions certainly merit getting paid in the $20M range but on the other hand, he signed a contract and agreed to get paid $6.4 million so is he really justified in holding out for a new contract instead of fulfilling his obligation?

Speaking on this topic with Business Insider at a book signing in NYC, former NFL coach and current analyst Tony Dungy talked about why NFL players hold out (hint: career length) and how he handled this as a coach.

Here’s what Tony had to say to BI:

“In the NFL, the short careers, you want to take advantage of it when you can,” Dungy told Business Insider from the NFL Experience in New York City, where he and his wife, Lauren, were promoting their new children’s books.
“You gotta strike the balance between, ‘Hey I signed the contract, and now I’ve played maybe better than everyone thought. How do you come about this fairly?’ But I think a lot of guys do realize that it is a short career. I played three years, and that’s kind of average.” (via)

Tony went on to say that he doesn’t think more players are holding out these days for new NFL contracts. He says he handled this several times as a coach but he believes the spotlight is bigger now and that’s why the holdouts are getting more attention.

Here’s how he said he handled those negotiations:

“I did have to handle a few of them. You just try to remind both sides, ‘This is our brethren, so we’re not going to be mad at him. When he gets here, we’re gonna welcome him with open arms.’
“But you just wanna keep talking about, ‘Hey, we wanna have everyone there,’ because that’s how you win as a team,” he added. (via)

That has to be pretty weird to handle as a coach or teammate, right? You’re out there in Summer practice busting your ass in the brutal August sun. All you want to do is win. And one of your most important teammates is working out at home instead of trying to create a cohesive unit.

If you’re the coach, you want that player fitting perfectly and seamlessly into your system. You don’t want any wrinkles on Week 1 of the NFL season. But on the other hand, you want what’s best for your players because you’ve been there.

Dungy echoed this sentiment, saying “you don’t like to see it because you want to develop team unity, team chemistry,” which is a much more succint way to describe what I said above.

I certainly think Donald should get paid. An NFL career is so short and the risk of career-ending injury is so damn high.

You’ve only got a few years to get paid and when you’re aiming to be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL you need to seize that opportunity.

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