The evolved player–management dynamic

Deshaun Watson has been the subject of NFL trade rumors all offseason after he expressed his displeasure with the Houston Texans organization. // Photo courtesy of Eric Christian Smith via AP Photo

Sports have been defined by evolution. This can be seen through a range of aspects like the evolution of a particular position or the speed of the game.

In recent years, one area in particular that has evolved is the dynamic between players and the front office.

In the past, the front office was merely seen as a distant group that managed financial aspects of the team and who was responsible for making the big decisions for the franchise.

Once players signed their contracts, trades were generally only decisions made by the management.

It was seldom seen that a player would ask to be traded to another team and rarely was it seen that a marquee player would be making such a demand.

This is no longer the case as many premier players are finding themselves to be the subject of rumor mills as they either demand a trade or hold out from practice with the intention of getting a better contract.

The NFL has witnessed this over the past couple of years with the league’s biggest names coming forward with trade demands. Last offseason, one of the biggest names to voice his dissatisfaction with his franchise was All-Pro safety Jamal Adams.

After a long period of frustration, the New York Jets’ defensive leader was traded to the Seattle Seahawks where he immediately made a playoff appearance.

Now, this offseason has been filled with several of the league’s top quarterbacks making trade requests.

The Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson has been at the forefront of trade discussions.

Watson ranks among the top quarterbacks in nearly every major statistical category and continuously makes plays most of the league can only dream of.

With such quarterback play, it is nearly a given that a team will be at least a playoff team.

But the organization has failed to build around Watson and as a result have become a bottom of the pack team.

With a young Watson feeling more and more that his talent is being wasted in Houston, he has become vocal about his frustration and even pondered a potential holdout if his wish is not fulfilled. Similarly, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson has also made it known that he has become disgruntled with his situation.

One of Wilson’s trademarks has been the ability to make a big play out of nothing. He has always been able to come up with ways to make up for the team’s shortcomings.

With an aging Wilson comes more limitations and he is ready for an organization to make the moves to best help him be successful whether that is Seattle or another franchise. Other players such as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers have also found themselves in similar situations.

Moving from the NFL to the NBA, this trend continues. The most recent situation in the NBA took place this season with one of the league’s top players in James Harden, who stated his frustration with the organization in public on numerous occasions.

One of the potential reasons behind the clash between the two sides was the inability of the team to develop into a serious championship contender.

He now finds himself in a position where he is happy with his situation and finds his new team poised to make a serious run for the championship.

Harden’s teammate, Kyrie Irving, was also a player who made a major headline out of a trade that he demanded. After being in the finals for three straight seasons and playing with one of the NBA’s all-time greats in Lebron James, Irving wanted to be the leader of a team. He came forward and told the franchise he was looking for a trade. After several calls between teams, Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics.

One year later, Kawhi Leonard became frustrated with the San Antonio Spurs franchise and demanded a trade which would change the NBA landscape.

Leonard became upset with the franchise’s mishandling of his injury. This caused a relatively reserved and quiet star to speak up regarding his desire to be a new situation.

After the two sides were unable to come to an agreement, Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors where he won a championship in his first and only season with the team.

This dynamic is also visible in soccer with one of the world’s greatest players, Lionel Messi. Earlier this season, he found himself talking with the organization about potentially leaving for another football club. He has been the face of FC Barcelona for the entirety of his tenure there and has been the catalyst for the team’s success.

A potential cause for his desire to play elsewhere is that Barcelona has found themselves on the wrong side of some large UEFA Champions league collapses. Ultimately, the two sides came to mutual agreements regarding him staying with the franchise. Regardless of the outcome, this player-management dynamic was another prime example of how today’s athletes have become more open about the situations they are in.

Over the past few years, the relationship between the front office and players has moved away from what it once was. The divide is now disappearing. At the end of the day, athletes are in careers that require intense strain and thus look forward to playing the game they love in a situation that best allows them to achieve their full potential.