The Fall of Deebo Samuel the Player, The Rise of Deebo’s Bank Account – The Poker Game That is Deebo v. Shanahan
By now, you’ve seen the news – Deebo Samuel has ‘asked’ for a trade. More ‘demanded’ and not ‘requested’, to try and ‘set the scene’. What happened to have this go so sideways, so fast? We’ll get into all that…and why this will be another tipping point moment for the NFL -- an NFL where management is quickly losing control to the players…and more specifically…losing control to its star quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Going into the offseason, we thought we knew the characters and their motivations in this ‘play’…
Deebo Samuel was the heart and soul ‘leader’ of the San Francisco 49ers. He had just re-redefined the WR position by acting as a 70/30 split WR-RB and scoring a bunch of TDs on the ground – he forced the league and its media to start writing about other teams finding ‘their Deebo’.
Kyle Shanahan gets credit for being the mastermind of this offensive twist and is the proud/known lover of Deebo as a locker room/team spiritual leader.
Kyle and Deebo seemed happy and joined at the hip.
As the wide receiver market started to turn upside down, and everyone’s gaze turned towards the 2019 drafted wide receivers who might force their own contract coup in 2022 offseason – Deebo’s name was chief on the list after such a 2021 season. Fans did their typical bellyache that Deebo ‘should be paid’ (because their memory is one season long, at best). Everyone knew Kyle and Deebo were tight, and we all assumed a deal would be worked out nicely because of the respect the two of these guys (HC and WR) had for each other.
That is what we thought going into the offseason.
Not so fast, my friend.
I believe the flow of events (going off the rails) went somewhat like this…
1) Deebo’s ‘team’ (agent) professionally inquired about a new contract for their hot commodity WR.
2) The 49ers were probably like, “Yeah, let’s talk about it this summer.”
3) Deebo’s team likely went more stern/pressing…”No, let’s talk about it ASAP and Deebo wants to be the highest paid WR in football.”
4) The 49ers were probably like, “We’re open to a deal, and we love Deebo -- but were not going to make him the highest paid WR in football.”
5) Deebo takes that news as the team saying he’s not the best WR in football, so he starts his divorce proceedings – doing the modern-day version of taking off a glove, French-style, and slapping the 49ers management and ownership and fans in the face via ‘scrubbing his social media of anything to do with the team’.
…and his agent also happens to represent A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf and Terry McLaurin, if I heard it right. It’s at least two of those WRs. This agent just landed a huge deal for Denzel Ward as well. What he does with Deebo is going to affect several of his WRs in the same-ish boat.
6) Kyle Shanahan has more Bill Belichick in him than any coach in the NFL. He knows he cannot pay Deebo as the top WR in the game…it makes no business sense.
And now Deebo has gone off the rails with this…breaching/destroying the bond Shanahan thought they had. Shanahan is now in the position of – not only does this make no business sense, but the main thing also holding this relationship together was the mutual respect and leadership and 49ers-first mentality…and now that’s been permanently damaged.
Shanahan likely offered a reasonable-ish contract and was more neutral in approach with Deebo…now that they are no longer ‘pals’, but Shanny just keeping it professional…not fawning or selling/conning Deebo or his team.
7) Deebo was insulted by the lower offer. He wants to be paid at the top and no longer wants to run the ball because it’s bad for his health/longevity (or that’s a ploy he’s floating out there). Deebo and his team either assume or KNOW there is at least one idiot owner/head coach/GM who will overpay Deebo (this is where a desperate to find a prom date Northeastern or Midwest team can buy a temp victory after they’ve been snubbed by so many free agent prior)…and, thus, they ‘ask for’/demand a trade.
By doing so, Deebo shoves his chips all in with a decent poker hand…but not one as great as he thinks it is. At least not as great with the 49ers…and that’s probably the point – the point is to get Shanahan riled up to move him to where a dopey team will pay him the moon.
And Deebo should go all-in here – he’ll never have a better season than 2021. A lot of it was ‘luck’…some broken coverage, big pass play TDs early in the 2021 season followed by a string of TD runs. Deebo is good, but he’s not that good/irreplaceable…and if the team is moving to Trey Lance, then WRs hate working in heavy QB-run offenses (because it kills their numbers for more contract/money), so the Lance-factor and the hot 2021 means Deebo has his best cards right now and needs to try and cash in. Much less if Deebo fears Trey Lance totally sucks, then Deebo cannot afford to play another year and risk a down year/2022 to go into his natural free agency.
And I 100% agree with Deebo…he has to strike now.
8) It’s down to Deebo (all-in) vs. Kyle Shanahan, who is on the clock to make a decision to capitulate/fold his cards (and pay him) or also go ‘all-in’ and start the trade away process.
What do you think Shanahan will do?
This is not a simple decision of ‘pay your star!’…or ‘are WRs worth all this money?’. Those are factors for sure. But there is SO much more going on here.
First, we all know the phrase ‘quarterback is everything in the NFL’. We have never heard ‘wide receiver is everything’. Wide receivers trying to be lead dogs…it’s not the NFL reality. Davante Adams had a unique case…he’s been the best WR in the game the past couple of years. Tyreek Hill had a unique case…he’s probably the greatest non-QB weapon to ever play the game, in our lifetimes. Deebo Samuel is not the best WR in the NFL…he’s not the best WR from the 2019 draft class demanding new deals. Deebo’s probably not even in the top 3 of the 2019 class, if you had your choice of any of them...if we were redrafting it.
The 2019 class had D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Dionte Johnson, Hunter Renfrow along with Deebo.
Cordarrelle Patterson is a better version of Deebo, or at least similar…and costs WAY less.
The other ‘Samuel’, Curtis Samuel, could be a similar-ish Deebo…he was going there in 2020…and might have been in 2021 had he not been dinged up all season.
Deebo Samuel, you could say, the one we perceive today, was the creation of Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan was trying to make Jalen Hurd that WR-RB guy first (from the 2019 draft). Then, in 2020, Brandon Aiyuk was pushed a little in that direction…because Deebo was hurt…again.
Deebo is trying to say he’s the best wide receiver in the game, but he might not even be in the top 10-15 WRs in the game. And he’s been injury prone. And the one thing he became known for (the running game), he supposedly no longer wants to do for fear of injury. Deebo has a good-not-great ‘hand’ at this poker table. He went Texas Hold ‘Em ‘all-in’ on King high + a seven. He’s got a good hand, but he’s also trying to somewhat bluff Kyle Shanahan…or take advantage of the situation, hoping Kyle has a junk hand and will fold/just pay Deebo. But if Shanahan engages into this fight and goes to trade him – that’s Deebo’s best case scenario to get paid. Deebo is going to win no matter what Shanahan does.
Kyle Shanahan is better at his job than Deebo is at his. I don’t think Kyle is going to give into Deebo’s very real bluff by paying him. Kyle knows the wide receivers don’t rule the NFL, especially not Deebo Samuel. Kyle created Deebo…he createth and could taketh away. I’m sure Shanahan assumes he could recreate Deebo fairly easily in today’s NFL, where uber-talented, uber-athlete WRs are flooding into the NFL.
From a business perspective, Kyle Shanahan cannot capitulate…and I think he won’t. He’d LOVE to have Deebo in the fold, but that ‘Deebo’ is gone. It doesn’t exist anymore. The happy-go-lucky grinder/leader WR-RB on a cheap contract is gone. Deebo served the divorce papers. Deebo has gone rogue…he’s gone diva WR (and I think he’s right to do so). Shanny is not going to allow himself to get pushed around by a wide receiver.
This Deebo-Shanahan moment is a seminal moment in the NFL. Sure, it’s going to be another drama of ‘what’s a WR really worth?’ and further establishing the way star players can force contract changes now, but there’s a bigger bucket of cold water being thrown onto NFL teams and coaches (and fans)…
An NFL team is NOT a family, like head coaches seem to delusionally think exists. An NFL team will cut a player the second they no longer make fiscal sense…or if they want a pizza over chicken salad. It never was a normal family…it was a fake family. The NFL team/world revolves around the head coach…as far as the head coach is concerned. The player's job was to ‘yes, sir…no, sir’ them. Now, in 2022, the moment a ‘family member’ can do so, they are packing their crap and moving out to get away from the tyranny of the current head coach and go get paid a lot by some other coach/GM…or they want a ton of money to stay under the coach and keep pretending ‘this is a family’. Head coaches are learning the hard way – the players really don’t care about them…or this supposed ‘family’ or team/organization they always speak about.
It's true in the NFL…it’s true in the real world.
It used to be young people wanted to get a steady job with good benefits and ride that for 30+ years and hope to get a gold watch and a pension and retire to Florida. If an applicant for a job, 5-10+ years ago, had changed jobs more than twice in their lives – they were branded ‘a problem’. ‘Disloyal’…not a ‘team player’. Today, young people want nothing to do with begging for a stable organization…they want to be treated well right now (whatever ‘well’ means to them…money, environment, etc.) and the moment the boss is an ‘ass’ or a similar company offers a little more money and/or better environment – these new-breed employees are gone. If the new-breed employees have had 3-4-5 jobs in the past 3-5-10 years – it is not a big deal to them…it’s the new norm for job candidates. The bosses, the organizations have lost control of the people…and they did it to themselves by creating overbearing, stuffy environments where people didn’t want to work. The upper management lived lifestyles beyond fiscal belief as they cut 10-20% of the workforce to ‘contain costs’…just not THEIR pay, they got raise and stock options for cutting costs/people/services/benefits. They believed the employees should be grateful they even have a job. Now, they can’t find enough people who even want to work for them.
NFL teams see it coming…and don’t know what to do. NFL teams are owned by people from the bygone era who don’t understand the current employee mindset…in fact, the owners see this ‘lack of loyalty’ as a flaw. They better figure it out…but most of them won’t, not fast enough. Owners are happy to buy other team’s unhappy players…but their own players better not get uppity. Fans have the same attitude as the owners. Loyal to something that doesn’t really exist…the ‘team’ as a ‘family’.
Players figured out or got tired of THIS GAME, the CHARADE…and they are taking advantage of their newfound leverage/freedom. As they should.
The last people to ‘get it’, the most asleep…the fans. If you think Deebo Samuel cares about ‘being a 49er’, then you’re sadly mistaken/deluded. And you are. If you’re a rabid fan of ‘your team’…what does that even mean anymore? You’re loyal to ‘laundry’ as they say. The fans care more about ‘the team’ than the players or coaches.
NFL coaches (who are essentially year-to-year in their own existence) are trying to find or buy player loyalty – that’s why they love draft picks…they get to OWN/CONTROL a player for 3-4 years. It’s why you love Dynasty Rookie Draft picks…you virginally possess the new, untouched, unblemished giant upside possibilities thing. Deebo Samuel’s social media scrub and vehement demands – it’s another reminder that there is no loyalty from the star players (nor should there be beyond the current marketplace for their services). Head coaches have to create an environment to attract them and keep them…and in the end -- a lot of money is one tool, the main tool.
Kyle Shanahan has to make a decision based on the new era. *And I keep mentioning Kyle Shanahan, because GM John Lynch is just the assistant to the regional manager/the Dwight Schrute of the 49ers…he’s a figure head to do Shanahan’s bidding and admin stuff.
Shanahan now knows there is no loyalty from Deebo…no hometown discount, or ‘loves to play with Kyle’ consideration. It’s just business. So, with no emotion, Shanahan has to assess whether Deebo is worth a giant contract. Was Deebo just a creation of Kyle, one that he can recreate easily with others? Is Deebo really a #1 WR…do NFL corners fear him (I don’t think they do)? Is a Trey Lance-led offense really needing an expensive Deebo to make it tick? And once you pay Deebo, Nick Bosa is going to say, “GREAT, now pay me more than Deebo!” Can you afford both Bosa and Deebo in the grand scheme? Isn’t it better for Bosa negotiations if you play hardball with Deebo?
I think Deebo played the hand he had to play…he had to shove his remaining chips in right now/off his 2021 season.
I think Kyle Shanahan is going to ‘call’ Deebo’s move and shove his chips ‘all-in’…he’s going to trade Deebo because of the big picture, the business logic/economics, and considering the haul he’ll get in return from some desperate team (NYJ, PHI, ATL, GB)…but also considering there was really never a special relationship between he and Deebo, it was just of the moment when it was necessary for Deebo/controlled by the 49ers and their contract…now, it’s ‘just business’. Shanahan is like a spouse who was happily married and came home early from work to find their partner in bed with their neighbor. Shanahan has to feel jilted, but he’ll quickly get over it and turn the disappointment to rage. And Kyle Shanahan has Bill Belichick first-hand training (read the book ‘Better To Be Feared’) -- and the Belichickian way would be to move Deebo (and keep Bosa), to be a cold hearted, calculating businessman. Not given to the whims of the fanbase or media who wants to keep Deebo.
Deebo is very likely on the move, before the draft, and he’ll probably never be the same player again, not as he was in 2021. The 49ers will draft more WRs and forget about Deebo in short order.
The 49ers will be fine short and long-term without Deebo.
The Deebo acquiring team will be overjoyed at first and then be complaining in 1-2 years about the deal not ending up ‘worth it’.
The SF fans will bitch and moan for a short period. The new Deebo team will rejoice. In a year, SF fans will love another WR with a white-hot passion…and the new Deebo team will be whining about it soon enough. And the football world keeps spinning…
Check back later for me writing a similar piece on A.J. Brown and/or D.K. Metcalf and/or Terry McLaurin. I may just take this exact report/commentary, and swap the WR names and coaches name and team name and republish it as-is…
I think D.K. Metcalf will be traded on or before the draft.
I think these top performing WRs drafted in 2019 are all waiting to see what happens with Deebo to make their more dramatic pleas. I assume Deebo successfully gets what he wants via trade. I think A.J. Brown will be traded if he pushes it, because Mike Vrabel probably is a lot like Belichick too. But I think Terry McLaurin will be paid/kept in Washington because the Commanders are a desperate group no one willingly wants to play for…but that’s a hunch. If Deebo can turn heel on his team for a new deal…then anyone and everyone can.
What a boring offseason.
You think it’s been wild so far…wait until you see draft week and draft day. Oh, boy.