So we just saw the exit of 4 teams from the final dance. Many of you believe them to be insignificant. They, however, represent 4 distinct directions teams take in the NFL. Before we look into each, lets remember there were 4 other teams who are built in similar fashion, also headed in these same 4 directions, but DIDNT make the cut. We will look at them too. So lets dive in:
The Teams built to run deep into the playoffs, but didnt:
The obvious team who didnt make it was the San Deigo Chargers. The team who made the cut, but took a spanking was the Atlanta Falcons. San Diego seemed to have many facets going well for them. A potent offense, veteran line, good defense. Same for Atlanta. But this is where the similarities end. For the Chargers, many want to point to the coaching for their lack of progress, but I think it goes higher. When you fail to resign significant pieces to your team, and Sproles is only the most obvious, there is just an ego or a leash put on the GM to whoa in his spending, and it cosat them big time. I could name 3 players lost to free agency, that if retained, would have landed them in a Superbowl and thats a fact. Add an average quarterback who has stats, but cant thread a ball with accuracy like a superbowl quarterback needs to, and you have a team who isnt capable to take that big next step. Not as long as Philip Rivers leads through crybaby barking when they need a 3rd down. What do you think they need to turn this team into Superbowl contenders in 2 year because I dont see it happening. Now Atlanta has solid players and coaching. They are built one the running game, and a strong defense. And for 40 years, thats what wins Superbowls. Except one thing: The NFL changed the rules. With the players health to the fore-front, the National Flag League is a Don Coryell dream. Atlanta had a bad game against New York. But until they can run with New Orleans, they will be on the road without home field for years to come and thats tough for a dome team. So its obvious Atlanta needs 1 big play down field receiver, and 1 shut down corner.
The Teams who may have seen their ship sailed:
We hope it isnt downhill from here. We know the Steelers have aged. They also carry several Superbowl Championships as their sun sets. This team has been built to run deep into the playoffs and are a blue print for at least half the league. They got pretty banged up this season, and Big Ben was hurting. Give the Denver Tebows credit, one heck of a win in Denver, no doubt, and hats off to the 21 players who got all the water for Tim Tebow as he single handedly won the game for them on both sides of the ball. Yeah right. But with the NFL designed to draft winning teams lower, I am not sure Pittsburgh was able to stay up with the players lost either through free agency, age, or injury. Not having Santonio Holmes has had lasting effects for this team and I believe Ben is not a nickel dime QB, he needs his deep wheels because this opens everything else up for the team. The other team who didnt make the playoffs ? You could make the same case for the Chicago Bears. Losing Cutler was deadly, losing Forte ended it. Their defense is anchored by Briggs and Erlacher, 9 and 11 years each, are on the other side of 30, with no young talent coming in behind them. Their Offensive line needs full repair. With 4 of their last 10 seasons winning 11 games or better, this team may have peaked going to the Superbowl, but no more.
The Teams who had just 1 good year - this year:
If there was a team who had a 1 and done season it was the Bengals. As couragious as their march was, Andy Dalton showed us how young he is, and the team finished 3 - 6. Hmmm. Marvin Lewis still needs a killer running back, another year with Dalton, and a back side O lineman or two to contend in that division. Their young Defense could get better, but with their DC leaving, they now must start over. That never bodes well for a young squad. And, unfortunately the Tennessee Titans had an aberation year as well. They tied Cinncinnati for the 6th spot, but lost head to head. They are also in line to fight to resign 20 free agents, and with their first year coach at the helm, there just isnt the command needed to bring em all back.
The Young Teams poised for many years going deep into the playoffs:
Gosh I'd like to say of the teams who didnt make the playoffs, that there are some "inobvious" teams out there. One would be Carolina. If management can build around Cam Newton the team could be scary, however, based on how John Fox has delivered sheer genious in Denver with that team, I dont know enough of the GM in Carolina to make that call. Was Fox' success in Carolina due solely on him or did management help / hurt him ? Any help from my CBS Bloggers out there ? Another would be the Eagles though they are the more obvious choice. Just 1 or two O linemen and I'd say they could run all the way to the big dance. And speaking of final pieces, what if the Detroit Lions could pick up a shut down corner AND strong Safety ? That's 14 less points a game guaranteed and thats all MAtt Stafford and robo-tron need. An O lineman and maybe pick up LT out of retirement for 3rd down situations and I think you have a team ready to challenge for many years to come. I know this. The Lions arent through and thats nice to say.
Posthumus - The teams I won't mention:
The Dallas Cowgirls and NY Aeroplanes. The NFL ensures Americas team and the #1 media outlet NY Jets gets attention at the top of each hour, so I wont waste your time here. What we do know is Tony Romo and Mark Sanchez fall into the Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel category. Every time Tony Romo gets a hang nail, we have to here about it. Stats belie the fact that they arent talented enough to let the OC open the full play book, and receivers cant trust that the ball is going where they need it on 3rd down. This is the difference between a team going deep in the playoffs, and a team who gets major camera action just because they are sniffing the playoffs.
Let me know what pieces are needed for those teams mentioned and we'll watch the draft together.