Sunday, March 07, 2010

Can you repeat that please?

So I promised I would talk about why repeating at the Superbowl is so difficult and indeed I shall stay true to my word. But first: -- DE Aaron Kampman has been snapped up by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Damn did they need that signing. Their pass rush has been sorely lacking and maybe with the addition of Kampan they'll finally start to bring some rival offenses to heel, giving Jones-Drew and the rest of the Jags' offense a chance to make a difference. There are questions still about Kampmans cruciate ligament injury from last year, but apparently he's on track for a good recovery by the start of the season. The Jags meanwhile? They still need a lot of pieces to complete the puzzle. -- David Carr, the backup QB from the Giants, has visited San Francisco to speak with the 49ers, but ultimately came away without a deal. That doesn't mean that avenue is dead, but his next stop is likely to be Cleveland who will probably table a more interesting bid given their desperate need of a good QB. Unfortunately, I don't think Carr is quite what they're looking for. -- A.J. Feely has been snapped up by the Rams. I like Feely, he's performed solidly for the Eagles when he's been called upon to step in, but I fear he may not see much playing time in St. Louis as the Rams are now almost universally expected to take Sam Bradford with the first overall pick. -- Looking at some of the Steelers unrestricted free agents, there's some nice names on that list that I didn't spot before. Aside from Willie Parker who I've already talked about recently, you have CB Deshea Townsend who personally I think is just as good as Dunta Robinson who signed a ridiculously over inflated contract with Falcons. You have SS Tyrone Carter, who spelled for Troy Polamalu when he went down injured. Now is Carter as good as Polamalu? No, probably not. But that said he's certainly going to be a lot cheaper than Polamalu to sign. Could be a good fit in a lot of places and certainly someone like Detroit wouldn't benefit greatly. On top of that, NT Casey Hampton and DE Travis Kirschke are also the free agent list. That's two guys right there who could quietly make an impact on any D-line. But enough of this idle chatter, time for the Superbowl talk and just why is it so difficult to win back to back titles? Planned Parity This is probably one of the most obvious answers. When the Colts played the Patriots this season, all the TV commentators were talking about how the NFL seems to be making sure that each season these two teams get scheduled against one another, nefariously suggesting that there's someone in an office somewhere who deliberately schemes to make sure they end up having a game. No one that I know of stopped and simply said 'well, both teams keep winning their division, so isn't that the reason why they end up playing each other?'. Which it is. Under the current scheduling system, each team has to play the three teams from inside it's conference that finished in the same position as them within their respective divisions (easy as that). So for example in the coming season, the Saints will have to play the Cowboys, the Cardinals and the Vikings during the regular season, in addition to whatever other games they have on their schedule, as opposed to the season just passed when they played the Lions, the Redskins and the Rams (after finishing bottom of their division in 2008). Invariably a Superbowl team finishes either first or second in their division, so has a tougher run the next year. To add to the difficulties, teams that finish in the playoffs pick later in the draft. The Superbowl champions obviously get the last bite of the draft cherry in each round, so they often get left with the type of players who other teams think would be more at home in the next round. A late first round pick is essentially just an early second rounder. Teams coming for you You win the Superbowl and suddenly, everyone wants a piece of you. All throughout the playoffs and Superbowl week, everyone and his brother has been dissecting you and your team, looking for weaknesses. Then everyone spends the off season looking at you to see if there isn't something there that they can steal from you. And then when you finally do get to play again, everybody wants to test their mettle against the number 1 team. None of those things is particularly conductive to helping you win multiple games and getting back to the Superbowl. Internal motivation Probably the single biggest challenge is motivating your team. Now in an ideal world, the fact that players get paid 6 figure salaries as an annual minimum would be enough of a motivation. But sadly, that appears to not be the case. When you read accounts given by players who have previously won superbowls, this is the thing that comes up time and again. They've just won the big one and now they've proved their point. They go into every game with the tag 'World Champions' attached to them. That's a hard thing to stop yourself thinking about. The other way this manifests itself is in offseason preparation. Bill Walsh commented numerous times that the biggest problem his 49ers teams had was that after winning a Superbowl, instead of spending the next few months working out and watching tape like they might otherwise have done, they instead spent it at dinner parties held in their honor and charity golf days at which they were the star attraction. They got caught up in their success, the celebrations lasted too long, and the previous motivation of wanting to win a Superbowl was no longer there to force them to hit the gym everyday. It's a bit like climbing Mount Everest Which, let's face it, is quite the challenge. The joke is that bad teams start from the bottom of the mountain while the best teams just happen to start from a high altitude base camp. The reality is, winning a Superbowl is not an easy achievement. Like climbing Everest, not many people have been there. And herein lies the inherent problem with repeating a Superbowl win: It's so god damn difficult to win one in the first place! Think of all the things that have to come together. Your defense has to be able to stop anyone regardless of their offensive style. Your offense has to be able to score on anyone, regardless of their defensive style. And to cap it off you have to keep all your key players healthy for the majority of the season. Would the Saints have won the Superbowl without Brees? Would they even have made it to the Superbowl? Would the Colts have made it to that final game if Freeney and/or Mathis had gone down injured? What if the Steelers had lost Roethelisberger or Polamalu the year before? And then we just have blind luck. For the Saints, it came in many forms. The Dolphins throwing away their big first half lead by coming out throwing in the second. The missed 23 yard chip shit field goal by the Redskins. Favres' fateful decision to throw the ball instead of running during the NFC Championship game. So many things that all conspire to get a team to the bowl and then to win it. And with it only being a 16 game season, a few random chance results can derail a whole season. All in all, winning a Superbowl is a pain in the butt. It's a tough challenge, probably tougher than winning the top trophy in any other sport in the world. So given the nature of the beast you're dealing with, trying to pull that off two years in a row is unbelievably difficult. But every now and again teams do it, usually once a decade. So the one question that remains is simple; who will pull it off in the 20-teens..... ...... actually I've just thought of two other questions: 1) On draft day, do you take the Best Player Available or Draft for Needs? 2) What is the connection between Temporary Restraining Orders in the US and Belichicks famous decision to go for it on fourth down against the Colts? All will be revealed this week, along with as much analysis on free agency as my keyboard and computer will stand. Have a nice day.


Coach Ayre said...

Great post. I think you have to draft for needs. I am a Lions fan. No jokes about the "needs" please because I know the list is long. So far we've picked up a couple decent free agents. The draft will have us picking up the best player and matching our needs for our first pick. After that, I think we need some 0-linemen. Please protect Stafford.

Chris said...

A Lions fan?

Oh dear, are we gonna have fun when we get round to talking about drafting....

I do think you've done well in Free Agency so far and there is plenty of time (and players) left for your team to get even stronger.

I think the Lions may post a winning season in 2010, but then I've been wrong before.

On a more solid note, thanks for reading the blog and commenting. I think part of the real fun in football is talking to other people about it.