BeerBaron's General Offseason Thoughts
A few people have asked me to do a write up of my thoughts on some things that have been happening this offseason, so I've decided to oblige. I swear that I think of so much more to talk about but when I sit down to actually write them, I can only remember about half of it. (I usually just throw in some filler talk about the Giants and Patriots since they have the most numerous/responsive fans, ha)
First, the music:
1.) The Broncos look like the AFC West favorites with Peyton Manning
This prediction isn't exactly off the wall, but it seems like there is a little debate about it.
Before this signing, I would have predicted the Chargers to win the division, simply because they have the best QB. The "Norv Turner effect" could and probably would hurt them, but really, they were, by a slight margin, the "best" of a bad bunch. The Chiefs have Matt Cassel and guys recovering from injuriezz, the Raiders are still the Raiders being led by a washed up Carson Palmer and the Broncos...I think it's pretty clear that I didn't expect year 2 of the Tim Tebow experiment to work out.
Now that you add Peyton to the mix in Denver and remove the noxious, smothering Tebowmania cloud, I like Denver's chances the best.
They have some young talent at WR who should flourish under Peyton in Decker and Thomas. They've added some solid TEs in Dreessen and Tamme, and we all know how much Peyton loves throwing to his TEs. Their o-line isn't bad. McGahee + maybe a mid-round rookie should be an adequate enough run game. Defensively, I still have a few doubts but they have some talent to work with plus the whole draft to help fill any remaining holes.
Assuming Peyton is healthy enough to play all year, I do like the Broncos chances the best.
And there's that health question...all we can do, for right now, is assume. You'll read one report that says Peyton's arm is shot (supposedly in one of his neck surgeries, a nerve leading to his throwing shoulder was damaged reducing his arm strength.) Then you'll read another where his arm is just fine.
Considering the Broncos decision makers got to watch him throw then decided to give him more money than his last deal with the Colts would have paid out, I'm going to err on the side of his arm looking good until more evidence is produced.
So for now, quite early in the offseason still, I'm going with the Broncos as the favorites to win the AFC West, though not by a wide margin. And that really is the first step in the process...as we learned the last two years, anything can happen once you get to the playoffs. And in the weakening AFC, it's looking even easier to put together a good run and potentially make it to the Superbowl.
Speaking of the weakening AFC...
2.) The Balance of Power has Swung Back to the NFC
Take a look back through recent NFL history. You'll probably notice that, during any given stretch of time, you can pick out which conference was dominant. In the late 80s and into the mid-90s, the NFC was king. The 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Giants up to the Favre/Holgrem Packers...the NFC was on top. Then things started to flip around and we saw the Shanahan Broncos step up, leading into the Patriots/Colts/Steelers dominance over most of the 2000s. Even if you look beyond the Superbowl winners, it seems like the majority of the league's elite teams in those years also came from the same dominant conference.
And starting in 2007 when the Giants beat the nigh-invincible Patriots, the pendulum started to swing back towards the NFC being in command after the AFC was in command for most of the decade. With the Saints in 2009, the Packers in 2010 and the Giants last year, the NFC has retaken the title of "most dominant conference" in terms of Superbowls.
Now, we're starting to see the NFC fill in those other "elite" team spots near the top. The Giants and Packers are at the top, with the 49ers appearing not far behind. Look a little further back and you find the Saints, who would otherwise be up at the top if not for the bounty madness. You can also see other playoff level contenders who could put together a Superbowl run if some things fall just right for them like the Falcons, Lions, Eagles, Bears, Cowboys...maybe even the Panthers.
Meanwhile, in the AFC, we see the "old guard" top teams starting to decline while the young up-and-coming teams aren't rising. The Patriots are still dangerous, and always will be when led by Belichick and Brady, but for them to be the cream of the AFC crop with their weaknesses doesn't bode well. The Colts have collapsed, crashed and burned. The Steelers hit a wall with the age and injury level of the team catching up last year. They've moved a lot of money into future years banking on the salary cap to rise enough to cover the guaranteed money they handed out. I'm always expecting the Ravens to finally take that step back...and they keep staying the course. But for how much longer? I hate their coordinators, Flacco doesn't appear that he's ever going to take that next step into franchise QB territory and, like the Steelers, they are going to be faced with their own age issues in some key areas soon enough. Houston was a team that I thought might be poised to take over, but they don't seem to have any idea what they're doing in order to maintain long term success. I have more faith in the Bears winning every Superbowl for the rest of all time than I have in the Bengals to do anything sensible with all of their cap space and multiple first round picks. Adding Peyton has made the Broncos short term contenders, but that division is otherwise...questionable...in the long term. Throw in some other teams who seem to be going in the right direction but are probably still a ways off from serious contention (Tennessee, Buffalo) and the AFC is fading fast.
Take a look at ESPN's most recent power rankings for a moment:
The top 10 is currently split 5/5 for AFC/NFC. However, the AFC teams in appear to be trending downwards as I outlined above, while most of the NFC teams appear to be holding strong. Throw in the fact that 6 of the next 7 outside the top 10 are all NFC and my point is further made.
I know that I'm going to settle in for another 4-5 years or so of NFC dominance. How about you?
3.) The Running Back Dilemma
So you've got a good running back. He's really versatile...he can run inside, run outside, catch and pass block. He's doesn't have especially exceptional physical tools or anything like that, but he's an overall asset to your offense.
For the last 4 years, he's been playing on base salaries barely above the league minimum...which is fantastic. But now he's up for free agency and wants $40 million guaranteed.
What do you do?
Well, I can think of three options.
Option A: Pay him. He's one of the best at his position and has earned all of that guaranteed money afterall.
Option B: Franchise tag him. This one is pretty palatable to NFL teams. Instead of that asinine amount of guaranteed money, you get him reasonably cheap for one year on the franchise tag. If he tears up a knee or starts to show signs of slowing down, you can simply let him walk NEXT year...or, if someone makes you an offer you can't refuse for him, trade him.
Option C: Let him walk. Just call it quits. You can always find another capable back for 1/80th the salary. You save the cap space for positions that are harder to find and more worthwhile to keep while you just run a revolving door at RB.
For me, I'm all over Option C. **** overpaying RBs. And quite honestly, we're seeing the league starting to adopt this mentality too.
The league average seems to be hovering over option B right now. There are still a few instances where teams gave big money deals to their RBs (Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson...DeAngelo Williams...) but for the most part, when a top RBs contract expires, teams seem plenty satisfied to tag him and move on. (Forte, Rice, Foster last year on an RFA tender.)
One thing about that approach that I especially do not like is that with the RB not under contract, he can skip out on training camp. And I'm a major proponent of the idea that no matter what a player does on his own, it cannot match the intensity level of working out with the team in an official capacity. Those guys who hold out seem to start off sluggish and are more prone to injuries early in the year. We saw it with Foster and Chris Johnson, and hell, it goes beyond only applying to RBs in that we saw it with Darrell Revis a few years back as well.
Ideally, and what I'm seriously hoping the Bears do, is to trade the franchised RB. Let someone else pay the huge salary required to make him happy. The Bears offered him a plenty fair deal that would pay him more than Jamaal Charles got over a shorter period of time...that would easily make him a top 10 paid back..but noooo. He wants more than that. He and his agent surely look at that DeAngelo Williams contract and want more, because Forte (and like 15-20 other backs in the league) is better than Williams.
I'd say **** that and let some other team pay it. Ask for a late first round pick and accept the highest second rounder you get offered. Roll with Michael Bush and a mid-round rookie next season. Combined, they probably wouldn't even cost a fifth of what Forte would cost his new team.
Overall, it just doesn't make sense to pay such ludicrously high salaries to such a fungible, easily injured position with the shortest life-span in the sport. If I can assemble a platoon of backs making $500k to $1m a year out of mid-round picks and get 80% of the production I'd get out of Forte for 40-80 times the cost, you bet your ass I'd do it.
Every other year, I'd draft a RB in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th round, run him ragged, draft his replacement, supplement with the occasional late round pick or cheap free agent, then let him walk when his rookie contract was up. (If he was particularly good, then franchise and trade him.)
The platoon approach is the way to go. The last 3 Superbowl champs (Giants, Packers, Saints) have all done it, as have 3 of the last 4 Superbowl runners-up (Pats, Colts, Cardinals.)
We're only going to see the league continue to trend in this direction I feel.
4.) Young QBs WILL Play
"Team X should draft QB prospect Y and let him sit behind incumbent QB Z for a few years!"
If you have more free time on your hands than I do, go through the Draft section and count how many times some variation of that statement is uttered.
If the amount is higher than zero (and I absolutely guarantee that it's well above that,) then that amount is far too high.
The situation where a rookie QB is allowed to sit for any length of time simply does not occur very often anymore. It is, in fact, squarely in the minority of cases.
Let me break it down for you:
Cam Newton - Started every game.
Jake Locker - No starts, sat behind Matt Hasselbeck
Blaine Gabbert - Started 14 games
Christian Ponder - Started 10 games
Andy Dalton - Started every game
Colin Kaepernick - No starts, sat behind Alex Smith
In 2011, 4 of the 6 QBs drafted in the first two rounds started at least 10 games. The two that sat only sat because of relatively unexpected good performances out of the team and the veteran QB in front of them.
Sam Bradford - Started every game.
Tim Tebow - Started 3 games
Jimmy Clausen - Started 10 games
Colt McCoy - Started 8 games
Again, 3 of the top 4 QBs drafted in the first 3 round started at least half of the games their rookie year. Even Tebow is notable because he was supposed to be a huge project who sat for at least a year to develop...but nope, he was starting by the end of his rookie year.
Matt Stafford - Started 10 games (missed starts due to injury)
Mark Sanchez - Started every game (missed 1 start due to injury)
Josh Freeman - Started 9 games
All 3 of the top drafted QBs started more than half their games, and the top two only missed starts due to injury.
Matt Ryan - Started every game
Joe Flacco - Started every game
Brian Brohm - 0 starts (behind Aaron Rodgers)
Chad Henne - 0 starts (behind Chad Pennington)
Here were have a 50/50 split of the top drafted QBs. Ryan was supposed to be pro ready and he was, but Flacco was supposed to be the raw, small school prospect who got some time to develop...but nope. Starts every game. Even the 2nd round exceptions have solid reasoning as to why they didn't start. Brohn was behind Aaron Rodgers and is terrible. Henne likely would have gotten starts but the Dolphins went on a surprise playoff run behind Pennington at QB.
JaMarcus Russell - Started 1 game
Brady Quinn - 0 starts (behind Derek Anderson)
Kevin Kolb - 0 starts (behind McNabb)
John Beck - Started 4 games
Drew Stanton - 0 starts
Trent Edwards - 9 starts
This year was the island in a sea of rookie QBs starting. Quinn almost certainly would have gotten starts had Derek Anderson not come out of nowhere for a great season and Kolb was behind an entrenched starter in McNabb.
Vince Young - Started 13 games
Matt Leinart - Started 11 games
Jay Cutler - Started 5 games
Kellen Clemons - 0 starts
Tarvaris Jackson - Started 2 games
Another year where some of the top rookies got starts. Four of the top five drafted started a game and the top two both started well over half.
So let's break this down:
28 total QBs surveyed in the last six years.
20 started at least one game as rookies. (71%)
15 started at least half their rookie season (54%)
5 started every game as rookies (18%)
11 first rounders started half their games as rookies (out of 16, 69%)
So what does this tell us?
- Nearly 3/4 of highly drafted rookie QBs will get at least one start as a rookie
- Over half of highly drafted rookie QBs will start more than half the games their rookie season.
- Nearly 1/5 of highly drafted rookie QBs will start every game their rookie year. (Would be even higher barring injuries.)
- Nearly 70% of QBs drafted in the first round will start half of their rookie year.
So if you take absolutely nothing else away from this write up, please take remember this:
ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS ARE HIGHLY UNLIKELY TO "SIT" IN THE MODERN NFL!
Nearly three quarters of highly drafted rookie QBs will start at least one game. Those that do sit are typically behind a veteran who gives a surprisingly good performance. For instance, last season, Matt Hasselbeck and Alex Smith had better seasons with more team success than anyone would have reasonably predicted. Otherwise, the rookies behind them would almost certainly have played by the end of the year.
Remember that the next time you want to talk about a QB prospect "sitting." A highly drafted rookie QB is MORE LIKELY to start at least 8 games than he is to sit the whole year. Remember that.
So no, guys like Tannehill,
5.) Random Tidbits
(Those last items took a lot of out of me, so I'm just going to gloss over a few other points.)
- The NFL needs to make all officials full time - For whatever reason (cost) this still hasn't happened. Invest a few of those billions of TV dollars to make all NFL officials full time. Spend the offseasons reviewing rules and going over game film to discuss with them how to handle tricky calls. It's unbelievably stupid that this isn't already instituted.
- The Ravens take a step back next year - I touched on it briefly in my AFC/NFC power struggle item, but I'll elaborate a little further here. I'm sure that right now you're already thinking up counters to whatever arguments I make..."Oh but BeerBaron, they win like 12 games every year and haven't missed the playoffs since Harbaugh took over and blah!" I'm aware. But this year, I think they take a step back. That dropped TD and missed FG in the AFC Championship game are as close as this core group is every going to get to sniffing the Superbowl. Flacco has apparently developed all the further he can in that offense. He has the tools to make a great throw from time to time, but he'll also make plenty of stupid decisions and just doesn't seem to be advancing as a franchise QB. Age is catching up in a few spots on both sides of the ball as well. Free agency took a bit of a toll with the loss of Grubbs as well some defensive role players and they didn't really bring anyone new in. Oh and their coordinators! What a godawful mess they are... They're supposed to be such a great drafting team and...I just don't know. We'll see. But I for one am not going to be shocked if they suffer a .500 season next year. I always say that they won't win a Superbowl with Cam Cameron on the staff...now I might expand that into "they won't win one at all with this team."
- Quick Giants Note - I don't expect them to repeat as champs. I can all but guarantee you that Perry Fewell goes back to the utterly conservative "crap" defensive scheme of the first 14 weeks of last season. With a full offseason to try and implement it, he'll feel that it's the best way to go. Maybe they'll be less terrible this time around...who knows. Throw in the fact that when the Giants don't have their backs to the wall, they underachieve and we have the makings of a disappointing year.
- Quick Bears Note - In the last two years, the Bears are 11-5 and 7-3 with a healthy Jay Cutler...we get him back, plus make any improvements at all whatsoever anywhere else on the team, and we should be back in playoff contention.
If I think of more stuff to add, I shall. So have at it.
I agree with the broncos part. If Peyton Manning is 100% (or near) the Broncos will win the division.
For like 5 years the Chargers have been the offseason favorites because of Phillip Rivers and their "talented" team, they're not even that talented anymore. They've lost Shawne Merriman, Ladainian Tomlinson, Jamaal Williams, etc. And the guys they now have are mediocre or only good (Shaun Phillips, Jammer, Floyd).
The Chiefs should be the favorite, because they're the most talented team in the division, but with Matt Cassel at the helm they're not going anywhere.
The Raiders I don't wanna talk about.
I've said for years that NFL officials need to be full-time. It's incredibly stupid that they aren't.
Really, they should just take power away from the on-field officials and make a lot of the calls video-based. With all the hi-definition, slow-motion camera angles possible, a guy with a screen is going to make a better call. I don't care about any of that human element ********. The players on the field are the human element. The calls need to be right, not "human".
I've come to the conclusion that it's almost impossible repeating as Champs in today's league. So I'm not expecting it.
I also expect Fewell to go back to his crap. But I do expect us to make the playoffs and play well enough to have a home game. Our division is weak, we should win the division. Philly is the only team that scares me, but they have some glaring flaws too.
If we can win a playoff game, I'll be ok with that. That's all I want this year. Anything on top of that is gravy.
I will say this though: our defense as is, is very close to being as complete of a defense as you can have. We have a great versatile secondary and the best dline in the league, and good (not great but good) OLBs. If we just get a MIKE in the draft, we can run pretty much any scheme we want. You can pretty much call anything and it should work with this unit's talent as long as we can grab that MIKE that's been evading us for years.
The rumor has always been that the league wants someone actually on the field making the final call. They're afraid that if the call goes up to the booth and a decision is made there exclusively, it'll be viewed as the call "coming down from the ivory tower." (I don't remember who put it that way, but it's fitting.)
All of the people who believe that football is fixed will argue that any questionable call is being made by the league office to influence the games for gambling reasons or something equally asinine.
My personal theory is that it didn't pass because challenges are a time where the league can sell more advertising. The league wants to find a balance between "sell the most advertising" and "the game is too long to keep the fans engaged." Keeping lengthy challenge procedures where the official has to go over and make the call guarantees an extra few commercial breaks per game.
But in all seriousness, that rule change is one that needs made sooner rather than later.
We've seen before where the Giants will have success and then get complacent. A good portion of the team just doesn't seem to be made up of guys who give 100% all the time, and it's further complicated by your coordinators doing idiotic things.
Press the Giants and you get the most dangerous team in football. Insert them as frontrunners though, and you end up with a team tries to coast a little too much for their own good.
2) I definitely see where you are coming from, where the AFC's old guard (and by old I mean the past few years) definitely looks weaker. I think a big advantage of the NFC is their up and comers seem to be closer than the AFC.
Using the power rankings although flawed is somewhat required, so I understand why you used it. As a Pats fan, I can't take anything away from the Giants, they won the SB pure and simple. However, that team seems so bi polar. They beasted in the playoffs, but I totally see them having a post SB hangover or having their hot streak at the wrong part of the season. They are one because they won. I just don't see them being top five at seasons end next year.
I like Houston to entrench themselves as the elite and a healthy Shaub goes a long way. I think Detroit will be in the upper echelon although they need to get better on D. But really look at the Pats Packers and Saints. Not exactly the most dominant defensive teams. The Bills scare the crap out of me. I think they are getting underrated. Fitz can lean on the run game again and with that D, look out. History shows that it will get Brown'd, but the Bengals look like they should be in the upper echelon too.
3) For almost every team in the league, your logic is flawless. There are exceptions though. A healthy AP is in my mind far and away the best runner in the league, and a platoon will not do an adequate job replacing him. Also, a guy like Ray Rice is worth that money. You can get a cheap platoon that individually good at each phase, but Rice is above average to great in basically every function of a running back. Is it worth it to pay him? I would.
Also, it makes sense for teams to hedge their bets. Teams find cheap replacements in the draft, but not every team does. I still think it is okay to spend mid level money on a good guy who is limited, as they are a much more known quantity that the new guy and much cheaper than the star.
As for Forte, which I assume that item was about, I think he falls in the Ray Rice area. Not an expert on the bears, but he just seemed to be such an integral cog in your offense. Your second best offensive player deserves some money I would think, although the knee injury scares me and should drop some money off his demand.
4) It has been pretty obvious that rookie QBs are playing very early, but that does not change the fact that teams would rather have him sit behind a vet. It just isn't feasible these days.
When you don't have a vet and start the rookie week one, you are setting that in stone. Maybe I am being a little outlandish, but I will bring up a hypothetical. A QB has a glitch in his mechanics. Week one comes around and he almost has it out of his system, muscle memory is almost there. Force him to start, he gets flustered, goes back to square one. With a vet, you sit him that week. He finally gets 'it?' He eclipses the starter. Needs a few more weeks, go with the vet.
The key is the vet allows a team to start the rookie when he is ready not when the NFL is ready aka the first game. This puts more power in the team's hands and not in things out of their control. That being said, for Griffin and Luck, I just think they will be better than any vet brought in by week one.
fire tom coughlin, it's what all the giant fans were saying last year, so why change now.
3.) See, where the argument comes in for someone like Peterson, is the injury factor. When you hand $40 million guaranteed dollars to a player who is getting hit and piled on and knocked around 20-30 times a game, you're taking on a huge risk. And that risk was realized with Peterson last year.
Even Rice and Forte, I wouldn't do it. It may be challenging to find one guy who can replicate everything they give you, but it's far from impossible. In fact, RB is by far the easiest position to do that at. The dropoff from the "elite" talent available early on in the draft to the guys at the end is less than any other position.
I would gladly take my chances drafting a RB in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th round every other year or so, supplemented by late rounders or cheap FAs, than to pay top dollar to keep one.
Think about it monetarily. If you can have 3 mid-round picks who, combined, cost you $2 million against the cap in a given year produce at 80% of the level of Forte or Rice, wouldn't you rather go with them than pay $40 million to one of those guys?
Then you can reinvest all of that money saved in other positions that are more difficult to fill long term, such as QB, WR, OL, DL...pretty much any position other than RB. The net gain would be better for your team overall.
4.) Hell yeah every team would like to keep their rookie QB on the bench. But that wasn't my point. My point was that very few actually get to do that.
For instance, in your hypothetical, it's highly unlikely that a young QB is going to be "fixed" in one in-season week if an entire offseason, training camp and preseason couldn't do it. The veteran is going to get the first team reps that week and it'll be difficult to incorporate the rookie.
Except for in the rare instances that the veteran/team performs better than expected, like the Titans and 49ers last year, or the Browns in Brady Quinn's rookie year, your going to see that rookie starting games. He's more likely to start at least half his games as a rookie than not to.
It just drives me crazy when people ignore the evidence and proclaim that "such and such a team should draft so and so and sit him for two years!!"
Ha! When was the last time any highly drafted rookie QB sat for two years? Aaron Rodgers? One time in the past 7 years that it happened? Yeah, no...
Young, highly drafted QBs just don't get to sit anymore. It's a terrible argument to make.
Question: why do teams not always try to already draft the next RB in succession and let him share carries his rookie year? that would actually reduce the uncertainty somewhat and you can let the Rb go with less risk than if you just draft an unknown commodity.
Keep sleepin on the Chiefs you turkeys!
I think other teams try similar things but have less success. The Bears with Marion Barber and now Michael Bush. Yes, the plan is to have Bush backup Forte and handle the short yardage, but if a trade opportunity for Forte comes up or he holds out into the season, they'll fall back on Bush.
And I think this is something we'll see more and more of in coming years. The devaluing of RBs along with the cheap platoon approach at the position is going to keep becoming more and more prevalent.
You managed 10 wins with him once. Lightning like that doesn't strike twice.
We have the most talented team in the division position for position except QB. A team this talented (barring injuries, of course) isn't going to be a division doormat.
But that's more than a few seasons away I'd think. Plus there will always be the occasional Adrian Peterson or someone like that popping up that a team just can't force itself to let go of.
For the foreseeable future at least, the cheap platoon approach will be the way to go.
Your talent elsewhere is quite good, but QB is the most important position in the sport right now and probably headed forward forever.
I'm not counting the Chiefs completely out. Don't misconstrue what I'm saying for that. We just saw the Alex Smith led 49ers sniff the Superbowl. Anything can happen in this league.
I just think that with a reasonably healthy Peyton Manning, the Broncos become the favorites of a weak division.
Nice write up - I agree with pretty much everything.. and Alice In Chains is the best band of all time :banana:
Know what the smart teams will do? Get a big bruising back and O-line after that when teams are all for defending the pass and dominate. It is cyclical I think.
However, with the pro-passing game rule changes and so much being invested in QBs, I doubt we'll ever get back to the point of LTs and Shaun Alexanders setting TD records and winning MVPs.
Maybe a RB could win it if he does it in Marshall Faulk fashion with a 1000/1000 season and if no QBs have particularly elite years.
However, what I wonder is, are the rules so skewed towards allowing passing offenses to succeed that playing "big" football won't work long term?
I think Hillis will be more of the workhorse at first while Charles spells in more and more as the season progresses. He's lucky in that he was hurt early last year.
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