Daddy War Rooms

A Winning Lesson for Kids & Dads via the NFL Draft

In one of the few live sporting events of this pandemic-ridden season, the NFL draft was held virtually last week. Instead of being hunkered down in “war rooms,” which ESPN described as “modeled in some cases after military briefing centers,”[1] the general managers, head coaches, draftees, and various other personnel were live-streamed from their home offices or living rooms.

By all accounts, the event was a huge success[2]—not least because of all the kids around. In shot after shot, various GMs and coaches were seen staring intently at their computers, with their kids at their elbows. ESPN commented, “The shots of kids draped over NFL decision-makers humanized the event.” And the NFL staff members themselves reported that “The family time was by far the best part of the draft for the teams involved.” In a “normal” pre-pandemic world, many of these kids wouldn’t’ have seen much of their dads for weeks before the draft. (And I say “dads” because these are guys. There are currently no female head coaches or general managers in the NFL.) Managers would have been out scouting, conferencing, calling, meeting, poring over data, and otherwise trying to make sure they had all of the information they needed for draft night—one of the biggest, highest-stakes events in the NFL every year.

But as ESPN reports, this year was different. Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell joked that his 13-year-old son, David Michael, gave him “all the advice.”

“I’ve been working from home the last 40 days, and he deserves to be a part of it,” Caldwell said. “The whole process was rewarding, from a teamwork standpoint [with the Jaguars] and being with the family.” Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was “all smiles” with his sons, Miles and Maxwell, “celebrating with hand slaps and having the boys say hello to the franchise’s newest savior, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, on the phone.”[3] He later confessed he had told his boys earlier that day that they couldn’t go to the draft if they didn’t take a nap, and also, “I haven’t spent this much time with my family—my kids, my wife (Jennifer)—in a long time and it’s been great to sit down and eat dinner, to help my kids with their homework.”[4]

And the tension level? Seemingly low, given how relaxed these coaches and managers appeared. Instead of wearing suits, clustered with dozens of other people in the war room, these guys for the most part wore jeans or other casual clothes. They lounged comfortably in their home office set-ups. They joked with their children. They had their kids wave at the camera. ESPN and others have noted that even when the world does return to normal, perhaps the League can and should take some lessons from this draft—particularly around lessening some of the travel and pre-draft stress for some personnel.

In what is undoubtedly a stressful and worrying time, it was a delight to see these men comfortably at home with their families. And even more of a delight is to realize that perhaps for the first time ever, these kids got an extreme close-up of what their dads do on a daily basis. Work and family life have become increasingly segmented in America since the days of the Industrial Revolution, which first took man, woman, and child out of the home and sent them to different factories. Up until that point, families did their most important work together, in the home.

One hidden blessing (though certainly also a challenge) of COVID-19 has been that families are once again conducting their most important work—whether that be education, care-taking, or wage-earning jobs—inside the walls of the family home. For the first time, many children are getting an exceptionally good idea of what their parents actually do all day. And many parents are coming to better understand what their children do all day as well, how they are faring academically, and how the family functions together on a day-to-day basis, without so many of the distractions of modern-day life.

The kids of the NFL got to hang out with their dads this year, the dads got to hang out with their families, and NFL families were able to participate together in one of the most important work days of the year. Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff even admitted that the “quiet and relaxing” environment of his home triggered “clean thinking.”

This is something to celebrate, and hopefully, something we all can continue to learn from after COVID-19 clears.


[1] Kevin Seifert, “2020 NFL draft biggest takeaways: Surprises, lingering questions and lots of dogs,” ESPN, April 25, 2020, available at https://www.espn.com/nfl/draft2020/story/_/id/29097982/2020-nfl-draft-biggest-takeaways-surprises-lingering-questions-lots-dogs.

[2] Jeremy Fowler, “Stories inside the virtual 2020 NFL draft: 10 GMs on what they learned,” ESPN, April 29, 2020, available at https://www.espn.com/nfl/draft2020/story/_/id/29110271/stories-virtual-2020-nfl-draft-10-gms-learned.

[3] Tom D’Angelo, “NFL Draft: Kids, cribs and uncomfortable clips made this the most entertaining draft ever,” Palm Beach Post, April 26, 2020, available at https://www.palmbeachpost.com/sports/20200426/nfl-draft-kids-cribs-and-uncomfortable-clips-made-this-most-entertaining-draft-ever.

[4] Alex Busse, “NFL Draft becomes family event,” The Daily Illini, April 27, 2020, available at https://dailyillini.com/sports/2020/04/27/nfl-draft-family-event/.

is the managing editor of The Natural Family, the quarterly publication of the International Organization for the Family.

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