- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - When Troy Vincent mentioned in April the NFL’s interest in establishing a developmental league, he couldn’t have imagined the response it would get.

“I got more than 100 proposals,” he said with a laugh. “I think that shows it is worth a look.”

And that is what it will get, although the NFL has no timetable for establishing such a league.

Why is it likely to get off the ground? Vincent, who recently became the NFL’s head of football operations, cites a bunch of reasons, from training coaches and officials to finding players to testing rules.


“It would be an opportunity to enhance our game on many levels, to develop the future, preserve and innovate the game,” he said.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would like to see it happen.

“I’m in favor of anything that increases opportunities for guys to grow and develop,” Tomlin said, “and ultimately improve the product of our game for our fans, particularly at some positions.”

Notably, quarterback. Tomlin is well aware of how former Super Bowl QBs Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme were helped by their time in the minors.

“Quarterbacks often don’t come to you ready-made, particularly with the way college football is played now with so many spread offenses and half-field reads and so forth,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin is right that the NFL relies on the college game for developing the skills of potential pro players. That won’t change but, as the number of undrafted free agents who populate NFL rosters shows - 31.4 percent in 2014 - there are hundreds of players who would benefit from having a place to showcase themselves if the NFL doesn’t come calling.

Not since NFL Europe disappeared in 2007 has there been an NFL-affiliated place where players could go to prove themselves worthy of a look by one of the league’s 32 teams. Same thing for officials and coaches.

“That’s what NFL Europe was intended to be, a developmental league,” said Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, a former head coach in the NFL. “I thought it was great for coaches, I thought it was great for players, I thought it was great for officials. It wasn’t my money they were spending on it, but I always thought the time was worth it. “

There are dozens of questions accompanying any project: When and where would the league play games? How many teams would be in a developmental league? Who would play and coach? Would television be interested?

Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp, a Chicago-based consulting firm, has a strong relationship with many team owners. He envisions a league being established for spring play, with all of the teams supplying players they want to see more from.

“After the NFL season and before the training camps, say March to July,” Ganis said. “It’s an open time in the sports schedule. The colleges are done and the NBA and NHL playoffs wind down.

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