BGN Roundtable: Michael Sam's Draft Future, Joe Banner banished in Cleveland

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this week has already been a big one for news, so let's talk about it.

The roundtable will now recommence! Every week, a group the BGN writers will get together this offseason to discuss relevant topics. This week, we discuss the big Michael Sam story and Joe Banner's end in Cleveland. This one is a monster, so relax, grab an orange juice (vodka is highly recommended), use the dog as a footrest and enjoy this long read.

What are your opinions on the Michael Sam situation? Do you think this will impact his draft stock? Also, what is your opinion of the anonymous source general managers and scouts condemning Sam's draft prospects?

Mike

Frankly, I think this is fantastic for equality and for football in general. I am not the type of guy to say that a player should come out or that he should air his personal information to the public, because I don't think it's all that necessary. Having said that, I believe someone had to be "the one." I am not Michael Sam will be accepted by everyone, but I think it shows a lot of inner-strength and confidence to open himself up like that, so I would find it pretty ridiculous to not respect the guy, no matter what your views are.

As far as the draft, I had him as a 3rd-5th round pick prior to the Senior Bowl. After re-watching the Senior Bowl and then re-watching his game cut-ups, I am leaning closer to the 5th round than the 3rd. He is an extremely stiff pass rusher with poor hips and vultures sacks, while depending on stunts. He is pretty much a poor man's Juqua Parker at this point. That said, I would not be surprised if teams passed on him for his sexuality, but believe he will get drafted. Parker wasn't drafted, so it wouldn't shock me if teams just didn't think he was all that good either.

As far as anonymous general managers and scouts dropping Sam's positioning, I am a bit split on it. On one hand, that's their deal and they don't owe us as a reading public that information. On the other side of that, Sam did make a big public move and bashing his prospects without sharing a name to credit is pretty weak sauce in my opinion.

James

I think this Michael Sam situation is tremendous. I’m hopeful that he has surrounded himself with a team of supporters and coaches that will help him through (survive) the draft process. I’m hopeful that his publicized revelation will allow him to focus more on football and provide him with even more motivation to succeed. And I’m hopeful that he will be drafted by a team that will foster success. Will his situation impact his draft stock? Initially, yes. But his stock will settle once pro days and combines come and go. Naïve coaches, scouts, and [anonymous source] general managers will slowly come to the realization that, as Jon Stewart hysterically put it, "It’s as though sexual orientation has nothing to do with physical strength." I also hope that, during the first press conference with his new NFL team, Sam takes the time to thank God for giving him this opportunity and the strength to endure. Drive the Bible thumpers crazy.

Dave

I think it’s great. We can stop asking what would happen and instead see what does happen. This will affect where Sam is drafted, and since he’s a mid round prospect so it will be tough to know for sure unless he’s drafted in the 7th round or goes undrafted. Let’s just call the NFL execs and scouts who said crap like "it'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room" what they are: homophobes. And the media members who give them anonymity without even bothering to ask if they want it should be embarrassed.

Michael Sam put his career on the line before it's begun and these front office execs are hiding behind anonymous quotes. They will sign convicted felons, drunk drivers, racists and rapists and their sycophantic media will write redemption stories about them, but no, we can’t have a gay player in our locker room because that makes me uncomfortable because gay people are different. How dare this person who is different than us enter our troglodyte world. Pathetic. Discriminatory. Wrong. And hypocritical.

While Sam will be the first publicly gay player in the NFL, he will not be the first player in the league that executives, coaches and teammates knew was gay. They didn’t destroy their locker rooms, and neither will Sam. Jerry Smith’s sexuality didn’t derail the Redskins from getting to a Super Bowl and David Kopay bounced around the league when everyone knew he was gay. It seems that today teammates would isolate Smith and the league would blacklist Kopay. Somehow we seem to have gone backwards on this issue if the 60s and 70s were more tolerant. The only gay player who messed up his team was Kwame Harris every time he false started. The condemning of Sam by GMs and scouts saying he would mess up the locker room is an embarrassing passing of the buck. We have seen many of their players support Sam. It’s their superiors who have the problem. To paraphrase the late, great Bill Hicks, if an athlete being LGBT bothers anyone, "I suggest you take a look around the world in which we live and shut your mouth."

Mark

I'm happy for Michael Sam. He handled this well - no NFL teams wants a surprise like that, or the feeling that a potential draftee is hiding something, and there are a couple of weeks for this to die down and let his Combine numbers take over as the main driver of his draft potential.Sure, he will probably drop a bit; while some teams may relish the "good guy" press that would come from picking him -- assuming there are no incidents with fans or teammates slandering him -- there will be a few more insecure teams who don't want the headache.

Probably better for Sam anyway though -- this won't be the easiest journey in the world, and he deserves a franchise and a coach confident enough to back him strongly. That will be worth more to him than a few tens of thousands of dollars in higher pay.

I haven't seen anyone "condemning" Sam's draft prospects, and I'm fine with anonymous sources as long as they're being honest (and not, say, manipulating the press in the hopes of getting Sam with a later pick.) Calling the situation honestly is job #1 in the journalism business, and there are obvious reasons why someone might not want their name attached to an unvarnished opinion here. No one ever "owes" reporters a quote.

Josh

As far as Michael Sam coming out, it is not life-altering news, and it should not affect his actual "stock". However, not many NFL teams are ready to handle such publicity. A team like the Patriots, or the Saints, or even the Eagles would be able to handle the media attention surrounding the selection of Sam, but imagine if the Miami Dolphins were to take him. As far as the anonymous general mangers and scouts condemning Sam's stock, they have a point, but only if they mean that because of the additional publicity. Should they drop his stock because he happens to be gay, that simply is demeaning.


This Sam story is perhaps the most polarizing issue to impact the NFL Draft ever. No one has ever dealt with this situation before so it be hard to predict how this would impact a locker room. Do you think it needs to be acknowledged constantly throughout the draft process and coverage? If he goes undrafted, what do you think the reaction will be?

Mike

I think it needs to be brought up from a historical and social perspective. I think this is a huge deal to young athletes that are gay or have gay friends or parents. This is a relatable issue to a lot of people in this country and a lot of sports fans. That said, I think the coverage should be more about the progression of the sport and its social context as oppose to making this solely about Sam and his draft prospects. The kid is either going to get drafted or won't be. Until May, we won't have answer on that, so there is no need overly-speculate. The media should focus solely on the positives and negatives of the culture of the business at hand.

Personally, I don't care where Michael Sam gets drafted and I am not sure it even matters unless he is not picked. If that happens, we can deal with that side of the story.

James

If Sam goes undrafted, there will be a media driven equal rights furor. I think there will be a thorough investigation conducted by Roger Goodell, whose brother Michael is also gay. Goodell will need to prove that there existed substantive and pervasive football reasons not to draft the best defensive player from the best conference in college football. The NFL is the most powerful professional sports league in the country; if an openly gay athlete can breach the dated, macho locker room culture in football, it could filter through the other leagues as well. I don’t think this fact is lost on Goodell, who will not want to squander a potential legacy-defining opportunity as commissioner.

Dave

I don’t think it needs to be acknowledged constantly, but it will because this is a huge, culture crossing story. Those of us who are football junkies will grow tired of the oversaturation. The players will too, but that might actually galvanize the locker room. You never quite know what’s going to bring a group of people together, or set them apart. A "screw the media, we all just want to play football" mentality might be beneficial: it could coalesce the players and a "they don’t care, they just want to play" narrative would be very progressive.

If he goes undrafted, it will be a massive embarrassment, every team is going to have to answer why. There’s just no way there are 250-something players that are better picks than him. It could open a Pandora’s Box of a legal case: as he’d be discriminated against because he is gay, and sexual orientation discrimination is illegal in 21 states and in many NFL cities in states without state-wide laws (and even fewer have identity discrimination laws). It won’t be easy, but if it could be proven that a team took him off their board because he is gay, case closed. Sam doesn’t have the financial backing to mount a court case and if he did he’d torpedo whatever is left of his career, but if he wants to take legal action, he’ll get support.

The media circus will really descend if he isn't drafted, and it could get ugly. If the story becomes the public--which is very quickly changing its mind on LGBT--and non-sports media focusing on the macho bullshit mentality of the people who run and cover sports, it’s a huge black eye on the league. As Michael Lewis once wrote, when it’s The Club (the league) against the public, The Club always loses. Always, because The Club can control nearly everything that happens with itself, but nothing outside of itself and the public reaction is very much outside of The Club’s control.

So this story matters greatly. It shouldn’t, because sexuality shouldn’t matter. And one day it won’t, but that is many steps down the road and Michael Sam is step one. Actually that’s not fair, Robbie Rodgers played last season in the open but MLS isn’t on the public’s radar. But this is the first big deal because it’s the NFL. Hopefully soon we see the next gay NFLer, because this will be easier for the league to handle if there are multiple players come out simultaneously, as current NFLers nearly did last year.

Mark

I hope everybody talks it to death until we're all bored of the topic and it is no longer an issue for anybody. (Doing my part right now!) It's a shame though that the pioneering LGBT pro league athletes are on the marginal side -- Jason Collins and ally Kluwe for example. I still think both were shut out of the pros out of bias, but it muddies the issue that they were both on the verge of getting waived anyway. It may even have been a gambit to make it harder to cut them, which I have no problem with, but if that's the case it obviously failed.

Sam is obviously a better prospect than those old journeymen, but as many have noted there's a strong case to be made that he's overrated (as, e.g., SEC Defensive Player of the Year). Certainly he's not a fit for the Eagles' 3-4 defense. It would not be crazy for any projected mid-round pick to go undrafted -- look how many UDFAs Seattle has -- nor would it be odd if he didn't make a roster next year. But if he doesn't get invited to a training camp, that will be some major BS.

Josh

Since this is a new "situation" it will be constantly covered and brought up, and as long as Michael Sam is playing in the NFL, this story will have life to some media outlet somewhere. Should he go undrafted, I believe that there will be an uproar among the casual fans of the NFL, but think about it. Should Sam go undrafted, he gets to choose the team he plays for, which may be best for all parties involved. Michael Sam is good enough to play in the NFL and should he be undrafted, one team will sign him as soon as they can. The contrarian could argue another legitimate point though. The NFL is a business, and a wise man once said "There is no such thing as bad publicity". Meaning that an NFL team may pounce on the opportunity for Sam in the community or city for not only a football player, but an openly gay athlete. Sam will be a hero in some eyes, and a NFL team may see that. I would hate to see a guy who just wants to play football be drafted as a publicity stunt, but the harsh reality is that it could happen.

Former Eagles president Joe Banner was fired by the Browns this week. Apparently he is sticking around until May, but he essentially powerless. What do you think was the funniest part of Banner's tenure in Cleveland? Also, is solely on him? Is Jimmy Haslam the worst owner in sports right now?

Mike

Let me start to answer this in reverse. For one, yes, Jimmy Haslam is the worst owner in sports. He makes Randy Lerner look like Ed Debartolo Jr. His inability to stay patient with anything is utterly obnoxious and has become almost predictable. If I were a Browns fan, I would be so disappointed that I would probably look into rooting for the Colts or Bengals at this point. At this point, that would not make them bandwagoners. It would make them sane.

The Browns dysfuntion is probably a 50-50 split between Banner/Lombardi and Haslam. I think they all did a crummy job. However, I think the funniest part of Banner's tenure with the Browns is that he was able to unload a worthless asset for a first round pick and will not even get to use that pick. That is comedy at it's finest. Even when Banner does a good job, he is punished. Brian Dawkins is a pretty powerful guy.

James

The funniest part of Banner’s tenure in Cleveland was how decisive, modest, and honest he was. Here are a few snippets from an interview he did with Mary Kay Cabot from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Q: Speaking of football guys, you're perceived as more of a business/salary-cap guy than a football guy. Is that accurate?

A: I think that definition has properly evolved over the last five or 10 years. There's a lot of examples of smart, hardworking guys running successful teams that are not thought of as football guys. You can't hire an Andy Reid without knowing something about football.

Q: But do you watch film and do some scouting?

A: I don't think the Eagles drafted a guy that I haven't watched. I'll watch all of the top guys and any free agent we're thinking of signing. Later in the draft, they might give me five guys to watch that could be available in the sixth round. I also go to the Senior Bowl and the Indianapolis combine, but I'm also there to develop relationships with agents and people in the league.

Q: Will you assume the title of president or hire one after Mike Holmgren leaves?

A: CEO is more than enough. Everybody in the building reports to me. If I do hire a president, it won't be for the football side. Will there be a president, a COO, an executive vice president? That's part of what I'm deciding. I'm really trying to stay open-minded about the organizational structure and hope to decide that in the next one to three or four weeks. Right now I'm 60-40 on not naming a president, but that could change.

Q: Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reported you're considering former Browns personnel executive Mike Lombardi. True?

A: Since I haven't even decided whether I'm keeping the people that are here, at best it's wild speculation and in this case it's unfounded. Somebody's taking a shot in the dark.

Q: Your biggest strength?

A: Being able to evaluate potential hires and put together really good people regardless of what area. I think it's my greatest strength and I think my history would back it up. You won't bat 100 percent. But you pick good people, create an environment for success and keep them together for a long time.

Dave

Haslam is the worst owner in sports right now, which is a hard task to accomplish. This story keeps getting more ridiculous with the news that what set the gears in motion was Haslam and Banner disagreeing over Greg Schiano, which is hilarious. Banner shoulders much of the blame, but it’s not entirely on him. The Browns can’t win. On one hand, they no longer have Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi running the team, which is an overall positive. But they still have Jimmy Haslam at the top of the food chain, and that’s a problem. One step forward, one step back. Good luck Ray Farmer, you’ll need it.

Mark:

(As a newer Eagles fan, Mark is sitting this question out.)

Josh

One funny part of Joe Banner's tenure in Cleveland has to be the fact that there were three coaches in just over 400 days. A statistic was shown yesterday that showed the Browns have had as many coached in 400 or so days as the Steelers have had in 45 years. But, without a doubt, the funniest part of the Banner tenure was Ray Farmer's response about Banner's football intelligence. Farmer essentially agreed that Banner was an "unorthodox" NFL personnel man, but in a bit of a snippy way. Haslam has to be among the worst owners in sports at the moment. Banner and Lombardi may have messed up on the coaches, but the two actually had some successful moves with the roster. Patience is a virtue, and the Browns do not possess it.

Do you think this is it for Lombardi and Banner in the NFL? If so, what line work do you think they would be best at and why?

Mike

I think Lombardi is likely done outside of maybe NFL Network, but Banner could get a salary cap role with another team. For all his faults, Banner is brilliant with the cap and that could be a franchise, as long as he is not in charge of player personnel.

If neither can get a gig, I think they would do well as DMV workers. They already have the angry/annoyed looks permanently plastered on their faces.

James

I think Lombardi and Banner would be excellent Shock Draft analysts.

Dave

Banner’s finished. He wore out his welcome with two owners in three years, that takes talent. Lombardi, only his friends in the league, which now that Banner is out is just Bill Belichick, will hire him. I don’t mind Lombardi on TV, there are only a handful of executives turned talking heads so there’s a niche to fill. Banner might be able to get a job running companies that are being liquidated by corporate raiders. He’s got a unique skillset for that.

Mark

They'd make a great hot-dog-and-beer-hawking team, roaming the stands in Cleveland or maybe some place further north. CFL maybe?

Josh

I do think both will be back at some point in the NFL in one way or another, but both would be suited for other work. I believe Banner and Lombardi can be great commodity traders, considering they love to trade away things that have only been around for a small amount of time. Even trade away their biggest commodity, regardless of the popular opinion.

What do you think about these subjects? Clearly, there will be some sensitive disagreements, but remember BGN is a family and we should try to use a bit of tact in our conversations. Healthy discussion is fine, but slurs and intensely obnoxious outbursts will not be accepted, unless you consider being banned accepted (in that case it will be accepted, we guess).

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