Matt Schaub played quarterback in the NFL for 17 years, setting multiple franchise records and delivering 136 career touchdown passes while being named to two Pro Bowls. Now retired after playing for the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, Raiders, and Baltimore Ravens, Schaub wants to keep contributing to the game of football.
Specifically, by aiding current and former players in their quest for fair and longer healthcare, higher and more guaranteed salary compensation, other retirement benefits, shorter terms for the collective bargaining agreement, and other central issues prioritized by players.
Matt Schaub Has Eyes Set on NFLPA Executive Director Role
Schaub spoke passionately in a telephone interview with Pro Football Network about his post-football goal: to become the next executive director of the NFL Players Association as the elected leader of the players’ union. He has already begun the process of sending out letters and videos to dues-paying union members.
Outgoing NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, narrowly elected for a fifth term last year with a tenure ending as soon as next year when a vote is anticipated in March at the players’ union annual meeting, is not long for the job.
The union has begun searching for his replacement, hiring the executive search firm Russell Reynolds. Whoever winds up with the job, with other candidates mentioned, including current union president JC Tretter and NFLPA senior director of player affairs Don Davis, inherits a standing collective bargaining agreement that doesn’t expire until 2030.
The NFL earns an average of $18 billion annually, and Schaub has pointed out on social media that over two decades from the past two collective bargaining agreements, players will give owners at least $30 billion from what was once the players’ share of the total gross revenue.
By his math, players are giving up roughly $750,000 annually under the terms negotiated following the 2011 NFL lockout, with six percentage points of revenue given up to the owners in negotiations.
“After playing for 17 years and being a part of the union for 19 years and seeing the impact the union has on players’ lives, both while in the game and once they retire, the physical toll, the mental toll, the emotional toll and how the financial side of the game impacts everyone from the top of the rosters to the bottom, it has opened my eyes to want to advocate and help and lead the union to a place that all players need to be in, especially physically as they move beyond the game,” Schaub told Pro Football Network.
“Having recently retired, having the ability to still have a lot of relationships with former teammates and active players from when I was playing and having had a lot of talks with current and former players discussing the union and this role and how to enhance what has taken place and what players hold important and what they prioritize, I’ve gotten great feedback on ideas that I’ve shared with players, including from the executive committee and reps, the whole array of player leadership.
“I’ve gotten great feedback on some of the things I wrote about and have done videos of and tried to share with as many guys as I could. It’s important. It’s vital the leadership of the union holds the interest of all players at the pinnacle of every decision that’s made.”
What’s Next for the NFLPA?
The NFLPA was once successfully led by the late Hall of Fame offensive lineman Gene Upshaw. Now, a former player could emerge again as the union’s primary leader.
Schaub emphasized that it’s imperative that the groundwork for future collective bargaining agreement negotiations be planned now.
“The importance of the upcoming election for the director of the union, it’s vital that all players understand that,” said Schaub, a former Pro Bowl all-star game MVP. “It’s easy to dismiss the upcoming CBA because most players won’t be playing in 2030 and think, ‘It doesn’t affect me.’ That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“So much of this deals with current players and benefits and what that means, and the fact that this will be the third election for a new executive director in 39, 40 years tells you the importance of getting this election right. 2030 is a long way off, but it will be here before you know it.
“The time and runway a new director and staff need to get in and implement a plan and work with player leadership in identifying a path and direction to gain leverage, it’s vital. That’s where players need to think broader picture and think long-term. I was in those shoes. I know what it’s like. You have the blinders on thinking Sunday to Sunday. You don’t think about the big-picture items. It’s hard to get past the day to day and think, ‘I’ll be retired one day.'”
Schaub’s Priorities Include Health and Finances
Upgrading medical coverage is a huge item on Schaub’s agenda.
“If you’re a vested veteran, you have five years of coverage after you retire under the same plan, and then you’re rolled off of it,” Schaub said. “That’s a big thing. We’re all going to be retired one day. The thing is, whatever your injury history or status, you’re going to deal with some stuff.
“A lot of those things, those medical issues, don’t come to fruition in the first five years. My thought is there needs to be lifetime health care, and that needs to be priority No. 1 for every single player. You’re looking at the long game of life and taking care of themselves and their family.
“That resonates and hits home with every player. That’s something as a current player, you have access to trainers and doctors and an unparalleled amount of care for bumps and bruises to surgery and the rehabilitation process. We need to take a hard look at this. I believe every player should have a top three list of the things that they hold most important and medical should be No. 1 for every single guy.”
Player compensation is another issue Schaub is focused on about how the revenue pie is sliced up among owners and players
“There’s still a considerable gap between rookie minimums and veteran minimums,” he said. “The rise of revenue is about eight percent over the years, and the rise in league revenue and rookie minimums have gone up, but it has not gone up enough. There’s a way to fix that difference between the haves and the have-nots in the locker room. We need to take a hard look at this. Look at the sale of the Denver Broncos. They were sold for $4.65 billion, and the average team is valued at $4.1 billion to $4.2 billion.
“There’s a lot of money on the table. It’s hard to see the long game and the big picture, but that’s where the union needs to advocate to help those players, the majority of the guys, who start to transition to their post-football life. We’ll see how it all plays out, but the goal needs to be hiring a leader with a clear vision for the future of the union and a firm, detailed plan to implement that vision.”