Inside the NFL at the Summit

Four Penn alums currently working for the NFL returned to the University to lead the Inside the NFL breakout session at the inaugural Wharton Sports Business Summit. Black Stuchin (C’04), the VP of Digital Media Business Development at the NFL, moderated the panel featuring Sean Estrada (W’07), Garret Breeden (W’16), and Sydney Schneider (C’16). All four offered unique perspectives of their experiences working for the NFL.

 

Sean Estrada (W’07) was a former football player at Penn and with the San Francisco 49ers. His background as a player gives him unique experience to draw from in his job working on collective bargaining agreements (CBA). Estrada told the audience an interesting story that explains what he handles on a daily basis. As part of the CBA, teams are not allowed to practice with footballs during a certain part of the offseason. On one cold day, an NFL punter didn’t have much to do at practice, since he wasn’t allowed to handle a football. So, the punter called Estrada, asking for him to be able to punt, waiving his CBA rights. While Estrada was the right person to call on the NFL side, only an NFL Player’s Association representative could actually waive the player’s rights. This story explains the complicated litigation of the CBA that Estrada routinely handles. Estrada offers a unique perspective having been a former player, especially when it comes to non-guaranteed contracts.

 

Even though Garrett Breeden (W’16) works just two floors from Estrada, the two of them serve completely different roles. Breeden is the Manager of Gaming and eSports in the Consumer Products section of the NFL. Breeden detailed how his department works with EA Sports and the Madden franchise. Breeden’s weekend job is more interesting, at least to Breeden, as the NFL sends many of its young employees to different stadiums. At the stadiums, the employees disguise themselves as fans and report back to the team and league office about what went well and what needs to be improved. Breeden loves traveling to different stadiums, having gone to 18 of the 32 stadiums. This is what, according to Breeden, makes his job so much fun. 

 

Sydney Schneider (C’16) works in the Events Strategy Department of the NFL. Her main focus has been with the NFL Draft. The Draft has undergone a lot of change in the past few years, having moved from New York to Chicago to Philadelphia and to Dallas next year. Schneider was part of the team that worked on last year’s draft in Philadelphia. Her team’s main goal has been changing the draft from an event where avid fans sat inside Radio City Music Hall in New York to a weekend long, family friendly experience. The team has worked for it to not just be inside an auditorium picking players, but the development of an all-encompassing with open air activities that more people can enjoy. 

 

As the panel opening up for questions, the panelists were asked for their thoughts on Thursday Night Football (TNF). It’s no secret the NFL’s ratings are declining, and some are attributing this phenomenon to an over saturation of football, as the NFL now has 3 full season primetime packages (Thursday, Sunday, and Monday) in addition to a few Sunday’s with games in London kicking off at 9:30 AM Eastern. Plus, the players don’t like the short week and the fans don’t like getting back from the Thursday night games past 12:30 AM and needing to wake up early for work the next morning. Stuchin and Schneider handled the question, claiming that while the public points to these flaws, TNF has been helping the NFL. Despite the rating declines, they point to it being the number two show in primetime television, behind only Sunday Night Football. And while players complain about the short week, they get a mini-bye following the game. So, the NFL fully stands by TNF.

 

The panelists also offered career advice for the students in attendance. These tips focused on not underestimating your peers, making connections, and worrying about the present. Ultimately, this panel informed everyone in attendance into the nuances going on Inside the NFL. 

Teddy Kaplan
USBC Journal Writer
Class of 2021