This is always a tough time of year for those without any last week hope of securing a playoff position, and those left wondering what the future might have in store for them with their current clubs; players, coaches, and scouts. Seems it was only a couple months ago where all 32 teams were excited about the start of a new season and everyone felt “Why not us?” for a postseason run.
The REALITY of the situation
Reality quickly sinks in after only a month of the regular season, and a lot of that optimism turns into chaotic panic with some twelve weeks remaining. And so now the speculation begins regarding the direction that a number of clubs will be taking heading into the 2015 season. I’ve often written and spoke about the importance of building a winning culture within an organization, the way you go about doing business day after day, on and off the field. For many it’s like speaking a foreign language, they just don’t understand it.
Losing can be an epidemic
Last season the NFL produced two teams with 3 wins or less; Houston Texans and Washington Redskins. This season could see as many as five. Some of these clubs made changes in the face of adversity, only to see the same result the following year. Some were willing to ride it out and give their leadership one more chance.
What’s the definition of insanity? – Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.
Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, New York Jets, and Oakland are all more than likely going to win just 3 games in 2014. Washington appears to be headed towards a one game improvement over last year’s 3-13 debacle. In my book, Taking Your Team To The Top – How to build and manage great teams like the pros, I talk about the importance of any organization facing adversity being able to look itself in the mirror and answer the tough questions. I give the reader the idea of “Four R’s”; Recognize, Review, Revise, and Refocus.
Recognize, It’s important to realize that there are problems and adversity in the first place. You must be open-minded regarding the internal and external signs that point directly to the factors that stress your team.
Great teams in the NFL understand this, others not so much. This week I heard out of Oakland, from both the owner and GM, that the “foundation has been built” for success in the future. I can understand that sentiment given the specter of an 0-10 team winning 3 of its last 5 games. The play of rookie QB Derek Carr has picked up over the past month and a half, and last year’s first round pick Khalil Mack is becoming a defensive force in the NFL. But a closer look leaves one to wonder whether or not the Raiders see the right reflection in the mirror.
I ran a quick study of the 32 teams in the NFL to see what their overall makeup looked like on paper; age & talent. I used Pro-Football-Reference.com for my roster and starters lists, and don’t fully endorse the accuracy of the data (only because it’s not official data). What I found was reflective of what I felt. Nineteen of Oakland’s active roster players are 29 or older. Of that number, 10 have been listed as starters. Of that number, 6 were drafted in round 1 through 3 (or roughly the Top 100 players in their respective draft class). Twelve starters (overall) came from rounds 1 through 3, 6 from rounds 4 through 7, and 5 were undrafted FA’s.
*Note – This number won’t necessarily add up to 22 for ALL teams due to specialists and multiple starters over the season at any given position.
The significance? Nineteen at 29+ years of age is tied for fourth highest in the NFL. Ten starters at 29+ is tied for second highest in the NFL. Six at 29+ from the 1st through 3rd round talent pool is tied for 3rd highest in the NFL. Twelve starters overall from the 1st through 3rd round pool is 4th lowest in the NFL.
Raider fans are saying “So what’s your point?”
The point is that this is an old football team that will most likely finish 3-13. Only 3 of the 19 (29+), and 1 (Charles Woodson) of the 10 starters are Free Agents in 2015. If we were talking about a playoff club, then I could understand a willingness to return a veteran core. But we’re talking 4-12, 4-12, and potentially 3-13 over the first 3 years of the current regime. The Raiders appear to have two young leaders on both sides of the ball in Carr & Mack, after that you could argue all bets are off. The current sentiment of Oakland’s leadership appears more based upon hopeful optimism rather than hard facts.
The hardest part of any problem is recognizing, or perhaps admitting you have one.
Take a close look at the makeup of the playoff clubs and those that have struggled in the attached table.
*Note – Table is reflective of numbers from Pro-Football-Reference.com. Week 16 results with current Division leaders in Green, Wildcard teams in Orange. Table is sorted on rostered players 29+ years of age.