It’s that time of year in the National Football League – the season has ended, the college all-star games are over, and the rest of the professional football following fan base and media impatiently await for something to sink their teeth into. Next up is the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis, but even that feels “light years” away for those that clamor for something real to dissect and examine. So the headlines speculate and “rumorize” (that’s a made up word I might add) about potential trades, mock draft scenarios, coaching staff hires, and personnel staff shufflings across this sleepy time in the professional football news cycle.
About this same time last year I wrote a piece about the importance of self-evaluation – The most important NFL player evaluations are your OWN (players). NOTHING could be truer.
All the right moves?
Major moves will begin to reshape the 32 organizations within professional football after the start of the new League year. This is one New Years that doesn’t begin with a ball drop in Times Square, but rather the dropping of a whole lot of cash into Free Agency. What then funnels out after the players & agents finish up their annual game of “musical teams” is a better understanding of the importance of the draft and what needs must be met prior to the start of OTA’s and mini-camps.
Only those teams that clearly look themselves in the mirror and admit both their beauties and their flaws will have a firm grasp on the direction to take once the ball does indeed drop. Every team will tell you a thorough examination takes place once the season subsides and that the Club comes out with a united understanding of which direction to take in retooling the roster.
Identifying team needs
The following question was submitted to The Football Educator – “When reviewing an overall roster after any season, successful or unsuccessful, what are the best ways to identify a team’s top needs and what is used to rank them in terms of importance?”
I absolutely love these questions because they are so very pointed and well thought out. Most fans would iterate that it goes without saying that every NFL club should be able to execute a top to bottom review of its roster.
- Careful consideration should be given to all 3 units; offense, defense, and special teams.
- Each unit should be inspected for general wear & tear; age, injuries, production, developmental potential, contractual ramifications.
- Clubs should breakdown every game, series, and play to get the most accurate forecast of where individual efforts excel and where they fall short regarding game dynamics, situations, and scenarios.
- Sidestep bias by rotating personnel evaluations throughout the organization; player personnel grades the entire team, offensive staff grades defense, defensive staff grades offense. Crosscheck, crosscheck, crosscheck.
- Modern statistical analysis cuts through the fog of yards per catch, average per carry, total tackles, and so on, giving a more realistic assessment of how players actually affect the game.
- Football Administration determines market values and dollar cost averaging of player performance in reference to both the short and long term health of the club.
- Ownership weighs in on what it’s willing to accept in off field behavior and or violations of League rules, regulations and protocol, as well as a general direction in budgeting for any necessary moves or changes.
It takes a village
The bottom line is a combined front office effort; coaching, personnel and ownership, that lays out the course of action needed to either maintain success or get back on track. Those teams that KNOW how to WIN will correctly identify the areas of need and make the necessary adjustments, those that don’t will continue to wallow in futility. And yes, it does start with correctly evaluating your own team needs and allocating the resources in the proper rank order to fill them.
Too many clubs don’t know what it takes to WIN and have already sealed their fate in 2013 by ignoring what they see in the mirror. Don’t believe me? Take a mental note of the teams under .500 in 2012; Miami, NY Jets, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee, Jacksonville, San Diego, Oakland, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina, St. Louis, and Arizona. Thirteen of these sixteen teams were at or below .500 in 2011. Sure, for every winner there’s going to be a corresponding loser, but which will correctly assess their situation and make the right moves like the Indianapolis Colts in 2012?
History says not many.