By Patrick Snow
The NFL has historically been a ‘copycat’ league and here’s to hoping that the success of the Colts and Patriots influences more teams to build up their offense. When clubs had to adjust to the salary cap in the ‘90s, the theory of finding a quarterback to “just not lose the game” seemed to become very popular. There were of few instances of success (Baltimore in ’00, Tampa Bay in ’02) with that plan, but trying to sustain success with that method is becoming harder and harder. I think no move signifies my theory more than when Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ brass went out in the offseason and acquired Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth. Getting beat in the Playoffs last season by the Colts (38 points) and two years ago by Denver (27 points) showed Belichick that he had to get more scoring from his team. I think we all know how those players are working out this season.
Many teams in our Swampland footprint have had some productive years playing it “close to the vest”, but to take their game to a higher level, these clubs must make some solid investments in their offense. I believe it starts with trying to secure an elite quarterback and offensive line. While I realize not every team can just go out and get a Manning or Brady, franchises must exhaust their scouting and monetary resources to come up with a solid signal caller. I believe Southern teams such as Jacksonville, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Houston will struggle to keep improving until they address their offenses. The Pats and Colts have shown us that you can add cheaper veterans to a solid defensive system and continue winning. Additionally, if you can get your team set at quarterback and offensive line, adding the necessary weapons at running back and receiver becomes much easier. Whether your preference is tilted more towards passing or running, the fact is that your team will have to score some points to attain the goal of reaching the Super Bowl.
There is a very fine line to winning close games in the NFL. Trying to win every game 13-10 leaves a team very vulnerable when you just don’t get the breaks or have a couple of injuries. Also, it’s obviously better for the fans of a franchise if you have some firepower instead of a boring, ultra-conservative offense that’s led by an average quarterback who’s “just managing” the game. I realize that to be a Championship team you have to be solid on both sides of the ball. However, the new evolution in the NFL seems to suggest that if you build a solid offense, your team can sustain long-term success by coaching up newer defenders each season within a quality scheme. Here’s to hoping that the clubs in our region take the “play to win” philosophy to the front office, not just the field.
* There actually are other NFL games this Sunday, and two of them match up teams from our Swampland footprint. Jacksonville at New Orleans as well as Carolina at Tennessee will be important games for deciding the NFC South and a probable AFC Wildcard.
* It was not a good sign for racing last Sunday when one of its most exciting tracks, Atlanta, had a ton of empty seats, and television ratings were down as well. I have written in recent months about NASCAR alienating its core fan base, and unfortunately, that reality seems to be coming true.