The Football Educator is always touting that “There is NO off season in professional football” and yet through the following article it’s easy to see that there are actually FOUR SEASONS to follow your favorite team.
By Michael Burke
I live in Arizona. One of my best friends now lives up in the Northeast. One thing he loves to tell me is that where he lives he has four seasons. Hey, I have four seasons too. They are the Pre Season, the Regular Season, the Post Season, and the Off Season. To say that my passion for life revolves around football would be an understatement.
As soon as the season ended and the Post Season dreams for the Dallas Cowboys became an unrealized dream for the third straight season I immediately shifted into off season mode even though the off season is not yet here. How did I do this you ask? Well, for one thing I immediately began to calculate where the Cowboys draft picks are going to land.
To do this, years ago I created an Excel spreadsheet that calculates the opponent winning percentage for all 32 teams. I do this because if the wins and losses are tied that is the first tie breaker between teams for where they will pick in the Draft. Had the Cowboys made the off seasons they would have been guaranteed to pick 21 or later. Picks 21 through 24 belong to the teams that lose in the Wildcard round of the playoffs. Picks 25 through 28 belong to the losers in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Picks 29 and 30 belong to the Conference losers. Pick 31 belongs to the Super Bowl loser, and pick 32 belongs to the Super Bowl Champion.
So, as soon as the Cowboys missed the Post Season it meant they would have one of the top 20 picks of each round. I immediately set out to discover which pick they will get. It turns out that not only do the Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens have identical won loss records at 8-8, but they also have identical opponent winning percentages as well at .484. What this means is that at the Owners Meetings in Orlando, Florida on March 23rd to 26th there will be a coin flip between the Ravens and the Cowboys to determine which team gets the 16th pick and which team gets the 17th pick. We also will find out who gets Compensatory Draft picks for Free Agents lost.
That penultimate sentence described a second part of my mania for football. I compile dates for every important bit of off season information that I can. I want to know exactly when the under classmen can declare for the NFL Draft (January 15th), when the League Year and Free Agency Starts (March 11th @ 4:00 PM Eastern), and of course when all the Combines and other pre draft information will be gathered as well as when exactly the Draft will start. I begin to calculate what I can plan for the off season.
By knowing when the Spring Owners Meetings are I get a sense of when the schedule will be announced as well as the final order of the entire NFL Draft. The yearly announcement of the schedule is a big day for the Off Season rabid fan. With the NFL’s current schedule system any rabid fan can know who our opponents will be for the coming year. As long as the NFL stays at 32 teams playing 16 games we already know 14 of the 16 games for every team. The last 2 opponents are determined by like standings, and the games usually have to end to determine that.
Going into 2014 we already do know when Dallas will play one game and when their bye week will be. You see the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was already announced as November 9th, 2014. Why do we know this date already? Because that game is going to be played in London England at Wembley Stadium. We also know that the very next week, November 16th, 2014, will be the bye week for the Cowboys and Jaguars.
So now the schedule is starting to become clearer for the fans. We know we have home and away series with the Division rivals every year. We know that this year we are playing the NFC West and the AFC South. We know that our home games for those four games will be the San Francsico 49ers, Arizona Caridnals, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars game will be considered a road game along with the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams, and Seattle Seahawks. That settles 14 games right there. The final 2 games are the New Orleans Saints at home and the Chicago Bears on the road.
In 2015 we will be playing the Division series, the NFC South and AFC East, then will face the same place finisher in the NFC West at home and the same place finisher from the NFC North on the road. The home games from the NFC South and AFC East will be the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots and New York Jets. Therefore the road games will be the Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins, and the Buffalo Bills.
A you can see, I’m deeply immersed in Off Season mode even though it is not officially here yet. For Cowboys fans, it is. So back to the Draft. Six teams ended up having 8-8 records and missing the post season. In addition to the Cowboys and Ravens these teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bears, the Dolphins, and the Jets. These six teams will pick between the 14th and 19th picks of each of the 7 rounds of the Draft. A of right now, the pick order is as follows. Bears at 14, then Steelers at 15, Cowboys or Ravens for picks 16 and 17, Jets at 18, and Dolphins at 19.
I said “as of right now” for a reason. The NFL still has to decide whether or not to penalize the Pittsburgh Steelers for an incident with Head Coach Mike Tomlin on the sidelines in a match against the Ravens. One of the proposed penalties is a loss of Draft pick or picks. Where those will end up I do not know, but I am hoping it is pick 15, thus moving Dallas up one slot. Of course I also hope Dallas wins the coin flip over the Ravens.
So, until the NFL owners meetings where penalties and Compensatory picks fill in the 256 Draft slots for the 2014 NFL Draft this is what I know as of right now. If Dallas wins the coin flip they will have picks 16, 47, 78, 115, 146, 206 from the Bears for Dante Rosario, 208, and 218 from the Chiefs in the Edgar Jones trade where they swapped their 6th round pick for the Chiefs 7th round pick and Jones. If the Cowboys lose the coin flip their picks will be 17, 48, 79, 110, 147, 206, 209, and 218.
Those numbers change if the Steelers are penalized, and once the Compensatory picks are added after rounds 3 through 7. Knowing what they are right now is important to me because I get to do mock drafts and dream about the players the Cowboys can get to rebuild the M*A*S*H unit roster that decimated the 2013 season. To get ready for that Draft I’ll bookmark every scouting website I can find, read every profile I can, watch the Combines, Senior Bowl, East West Shrine Game, and of course continue to watch every NFL website I can for every scrap of news.
See, four full seasons to enjoy. I only wish the Post Season enjoyment had been longer than the once again brief hope that we were going to have one. I’ll watch the playoff games, wishing my Cowboys were invited to this party, and wondering what if.
That’s the great thing about football. You can always wonder.