Originality is somewhat of a lost art in today’s culture, and the NFL is no exception. Everyone wants to do what “works”. Nobody wants to be the head coach who’s so rooted in old school football that he can’t see the value or purpose of a dual threat quarterback.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The league is the poster child for the mantra “what have you done for me lately”. The value of schemes, coaches, and especially players, fluctuates with the highest level of volatility.
With owners and general managers demanding their teams win NOW, installing unorthodox philosophies that take time to master and execute just isn’t the practical way of doing things anymore.
I often wonder if visionaries like the late Bill Walsh, Buddy Ryan, or Monte Kiffin would be given the necessary leeway in today’s NFL, to install their systems and change the game. Are their any owners out their with enough patience to see it through?
Every team wants to compete, and compete right now. With parity reigning supreme, the margin between winning or losing an NFL contest is consistently decided by the smallest of margins. This is why the NFL is a copy cat league.
Finding what produces wins in the NFL is priority numero uno, and if that means taking a page out of another teams play book, so be it. For all the big egos the NFL has to offer, this fact doesn’t seem to bother them much. For such a proud group of men to lean on each others ideas and experiences so much, shows the depths of their desperation to win at all costs.
To further illustrate this point, we need look no further than the recent 2014 NFL draft, and specifically the NFC West draft haul. Something really stood out to me, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to take notice.
Everyone wants their own “Legion of Boom”. The vaunted Seattle secondary produced one of the most dominating defensive performances ever put forth in a Super Bowl this past February, and teams took notice. The blueprint? Physical, long limbed, sticky cornerbacks. A rangy free safety with the ability to move down and man up the slot wide receiver in sub packages, and a enforcer at strong safety that will make you think twice about those crossing routes over the middle. Sounds easy enough right? Yeah…right.
After watching the show Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Co. put on against arguably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, on the biggest stage, the other teams in the NFC West went to work.
It started early. With the 27th pick in the first round, Arizona scooped up Washington State safety Deone Buchanon. Many including myself questioned the value of such a pick, with Buchanon grading out as a second round talent on most boards as a box safety. But Arizona had a plan. A vision of what they wanted their secondary to look like. They wanted their own version of the Legion of Boom. With Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Buchanon they had just that. Two sticky physical corners, a versatile free safety and an enforcer in the form of Buchanon.
San Francisco wasn’t far behind. With the 30th pick, the 49ers pounced on Northern Illinois FS/CB Jimmie Ward. He fits the Tyrann Mathieu/Earl Thomas mold as a rangy single high defender with the prerequisite ability (Ward played corner his whole career before the position switch to safety) to cover the slot man to man. After previously trading up with Dallas to pick 18 in the 2013 draft to snag their own athletic enforcer, Eric Reid, the Niners had successfully revamped their safety position in the Seattle mold. Now, Tremaine Brock and Chris Culliver will never be confused for Sherman and Maxwell on the corner, but it’s the beginning of what I believe will be many steps involved in reworking the secondary.
After that, how could the Rams not join in on the blueprint party? They quickly followed suit early in the second round picking Florida State FS/CB hybrid Lamarcus Joyner at 41st overall. Already boasting a couple young promising corners in Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, St. Louis took the next logical step in building their secondary after Seattle’s by adding Joyner. Don’t be surprised to see them go after a true enforcer to play strong safety in the near future. It’s in the cards.
Ask any coach or general manager and they will tell you the first step to getting in the playoffs is winning your division. The NFC West is absolutely stacked with two of the leagues most elite teams residing at the top of the perch, and Arizona missing the playoffs despite a stellar 10-6 record in 2013.
Winning that division will be one of the hardest things to do in the NFL in 2014. The Rams, Cardinals and 49ers don’t have time to sit around and wait for their respective schemes to win out against Seattle. They have to figure out a way to win now. What better way to beat the bully, then by beating him with his own methods?
That’s the hope, and in today’s “what have you done for me lately” NFL, winning is all that matters. Originality optional.
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