The Smashing Pumpkins have a song “The Beginning is the end is the beginning”. And so it goes for twenty of the thirty-two NFL teams as they enter the last week of regular season play in 2012. What started as optimistic hope in late July has become realistic fate in late December. Another chapter in the history of twenty NFL clubs will come to a close, permanently archived as a season of unfulfilled expectations.
As the final seconds tick off of the clock it will mark the end of one point in a club’s timeline and the immediate beginning of another. The NFL never rests. Sure, some coaching staffs will take a collective breath and grab a few days of paid vacation to decompress and amp up for the 2nd season that has become Free Agency and the NFL College Draft. For Presidents in the National Football League, General Managers and Head Coaches there really is no “off season”. I used to chuckle when a neighbor who wasn’t a fan or a young member of the media would ask, “What are you going to do now that the season is over?”
Week 17 will mark the “beginning of the end” and non-playoff GM’s and Head Coaches will closely scrutinize the level of energy brought to the field. It’s almost a dichotomy of thought; most players are just hoping not to get hurt, while clubs are looking for one more “W” to mask the reality. It’s an opportunity to see if veterans still have anything left in the tank and if youngsters understand it’s a 16 game season, regardless of the outcome. Disappointment is a given for these organizations but it’s funny how quickly that turns to dogged determination.
A long look in the mirror
NFL Front Offices around the League will be looking to gain an advantage in any way they can over those fortunate enough to be playing in the postseason. That head start commences on Monday. *You might also be interested in this earlier post – The most important NFL player evaluations are your OWN (players).
- A GM has to ask himself if this staff is the right one to take the club’s collective talent to the next level, or if their message and the manner in which it’s delivered just isn’t getting through.
- A Head Coach has to do the same. Loyalties aside, it’s the responsibility of the Head Coach to ensure his lieutenants are acting effectively as the conduit between his vision for the club and the players’ ability to understand and execute that vision to accomplish the goals of the organization.
- Assistant coaches have to be willing to set aside personal pride and even some of their own friendships with their players, to properly evaluate and report back on past production and future potential to help reach those goals.
- Players have to be willing to openly administer their own self-evaluation without a predisposed bias.
If a club can sit down at the end of the season and clearly see its true reflection in the “mirror of appraisal”, then there’s hope towards correcting problems and initiating the start of a new beginning. If a club is more engaged in maintaining the status quo of its staff and some of its more popular players, then there’s probably no hope of putting an end to the mediocrity and futility of their efforts. I’m even an advocate of having an outside audit in any shape, form, or fashion. It’s EXTREMELY difficult for those directly involved in the outcome to have an objective assessment of how & why it was achieved.
One thing’s for sure, change is inevitable. The NFL is about winning, winning consistently over a long period of time. Doing so requires having a handle on the dynamics that affect your team both on and off the field. The start of a new beginning.