The NFL makes north of $16 billion in annual revenue. And yet, with weeks to prepare, they apparently cannot get a conference call with a few hundred people to go smoothly.
On Monday afternoon, the league began its formal mock draft to prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft. This mock, of course, is not a mock in the traditional sense. It is not a media exercise in trying to predict what will happen at each of the picks in this week’s actual selection meeting, but rather a test of the capabilities of the technology required to pull together all of the NFL teams’ personnel departments virtually.
Effectively, this event is a test to see if the league offices and team representatives have suitable bandwidth to conduct the draft remotely, presumably to identify areas or specific individuals whose technology needs to be improved before 8:00 PM Eastern on Thursday. And based on early reports from NFL insiders, there are plenty of areas for improvement.
Almost immediately, the event got off to a rocky start, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported:
Text from a participant on the NFL’s mock draft that started at 1 pm EST. “Mock draft today already technical glitch w Cincinnatis 1st pick!!! Brutal.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 20, 2020
That description does not help identify what the glitch is, but later reports suggest that the issues are two-fold. First, there are bandwidth issues, which are evidently affecting numerous coaches and general managers. Theoretically, these issues could be covered by improving internet connections at the source, or by improving the infrastructure of the service that is hosting the event.
The other issue, however, is user error. Specifically, some people on the call have evidently forgotten to mute their microphones, creating a complete mess on the audio portion of the call.
Text from a GM during this mock draft “there are early communication issues because 32 of us GMs are on conference call and we didn’t hit mute. Sounds awful”— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) April 20, 2020
This proves that no matter how much revenue the league brings in or how much teams pay their GMs, they’re not any different from that one coworker who can’t grasp the concept of muting their microphone on your conference call and broadcasts their private conversations to everyone on the line.
The league is using Microsoft Teams and Webex as the primary conferencing tools, according to The Athletic’s Dan Pompei. But individual teams have the option to use whatever service they wish for communications within the front office.
At this rate, if round one on Thursday goes off smoothly, it would seem like a miracle. Hopefully — at least for the league — the problematic areas can be identified and safeguards can be put in place to ensure that the audio channel stays clean. (Have you not heard of “muting the audience,” Roger Goodell?) Then again, there are surely some sports fans who would relish chaos ensuing later this week and leading to some awkward or hilarious moments.
There are still over 72 hours to go before this event begins, and the NFL will surely do everything in its ability to fix the issues identified today. But don’t be shocked if something, somewhere, goes haywire on Thursday. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen when the Green Bay Packers are on the clock.