There are many opportunities and paths to a job in the NFL. Unfortunately, getting adopted by a team owner is not usually feasible.
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Paul Peixoto asked a question quite a few of us have probably fantasized about: How does someone become part of an organization? I understand start from the bottom like Mangini did but how does one actually apply? Do teams offer, for example, internships on scouting and other departments?
Well, it helps to be a close relative of the owner. But that is not much help to us, and really, the family just gets the big jobs at the very top, as a casual look at the organization chart of the Dallas Cowboys will make clear. Now, dealing with options available to us mere mortals whose incomes are not targeted for higher tax rates, there really is not one or even a few answers. The fact is that there are 32 teams in the league, and that means 32 different organizations and cultures - at any given time. A change in the head coach, or a new GM, or ownership change will all have drastic effects on that. So in a way, this is just going to involve some common sense and deciding what you really want to do.
Some things to consider after the jump.
First off, if you want to be a part of an NFL organization, how are you qualified? This will have a lot to do with what you may be able to find. I think of the opportunities out there as falling into two broad categories: Operations, and support. I am falling back on my military background here, so those words may not mean exactly the same as you would think they do.
Operations here is the part of the overall team structure that is directly involved in putting the team on the field and playing the game. This includes players, coaches, trainers, physicians, equipment guys, scouts, and, depending on the team and advancing technology, may include some unexpected fields like information technology and statistical analysis.
Some of these jobs are going to require a football background, either as a player or coach, before you get to the NFL. This is one area where you have to face some cruel numbers: There are a lot more people out there who want these kinds of jobs than there are jobs. But this is also one place where you might want to consider that intern option. Yes, many NFL teams do have intern programs, so if you are young, just out of college, and/or not afraid of starving to death without a steady income, you would want to contact the team directly to find out what is available. Some teams may actively recruit, so you want to find out how they do this, and figure out how to get your name in front of them. It is not much different than getting any job.
This is the part of the organization where networking is a huge advantage, if you can make some connections. And if you don't have much luck getting a foot in the door right away, don't forget the secondary route, which is the college football world. There is a lot of movement back and forth, and you might make some good connections in a college program, particularly if it is one of the major teams, that could lead to a chance to step up when someone you know makes a move.
And if you are technically oriented, there is a new wave coming. Teams are hiring people to help with statistical analysis, and new avenues will likely be opening. Just as an idea, how about a super realistic simulation game, sort of a Madden on steroids, that uses computer analysis of recent game video to simulate how one team's players will likely perform, letting you set up play after play to see how likely they are to succeed against another team? I'm not talking some corny thing with ridiculous settings, but a true simulation of how, say, a Brandon Carr would go up against each of the Philadelphia Eagles receivers, run over and over with different alignments to figure out your best game plan, with all the other matchups also run. The coaches can't do all that. But someone is going to figure it out, or something else that seems out there to us, and make some big time dollars.
But I digress. Outside of operations, there is support. That is promotion, marketing, merchandising, and the like. If the team owns the stadium, the way Jerry Jones does, then all the myriad functions operating that would be included. This can be a way into the organization for those of us with zero playing or coaching skills. And something like head publicist for the Cheerleaders might have its own rewards.
And there are also contractors. Who handles food services? Security? Maintenance? No matter what your background, there is some way you can apply your skills in a job that will get you next to the team. This can also be another way to network, which is never a bad thing (unless everyone sees you as a jerk or something). A seemingly low level job, say working security on game days, may offer you a way to meet someone more inside the organization, who may be able to tip you to a better job, perhaps working with the people who handle all the transportation and logistics when the team goes away from the stadium. If you can't find the direct route, try the long, winding one. And learn to ask. If you never express interest in something, it almost never just falls into your lap.
There are also some other ways to be close to the game without working directly for a team. For instance, the Michael Johnson Performance Center is the Dallas Cowboys' official training partner, which means that the players are encouraged and in some ways subsidized in getting additional coaching and work here. If you want to work as a trainer, this might be a route you can explore.
Above all, the one question you have to ask yourself is: How bad do you want this? And that leads to: How much are you willing to put into this? Remember that most of the people who work with an NFL organization have fairly routine, unexciting, and not so lucrative jobs. Even if you get one of the "glamor" jobs, say on the training staff where you get to be on the sidelines during the game and all that, remember that job security is a bit nonexistent. Many people will be with the team for a few years, and then move on to something else.
Which means churn does not just apply to building a roster. So if you want to try this, be prepared to do some research, put a lot of effort, and have absolutely no assurances of success. In other words, get ready to face real life. Unless dad happens to buy a franchise next week.