Youth Movement in the NFL

Posted: December 20, 2011 in ALL II
Tags: , ,

I needed to see the league from a macro-perspective to figure out what is happening with the coaching carrousel and the play on the field.  For one, I hardly accuse athletes of quitting because it is disrespectful and ignorant but what is happening in Tampa Bay is the definition of a team that lacks leadership.  Conversely, Miami found itself in the last month emerging as one of the toughest outs in football meaning the GM waiting until a loss to fire Tony Sparano.  Shameful.  Still, at stake is the over-evaluation of talent combined with little patience for young coaches.

Sanchez, Flacco, Chika’s main man Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  These players were touted about as the big fish, promising futures, and won in bunches.  Some of these plays do show consistent talent: Flacco, the quarterback I liked the least throws the best deep ball of the group and arguably in the NFL but is a walking liability.  AFC title game in 2008, keeps beating Patriots in the playoffs.  That masks some faults.  Sanchez is a walking risk/reward maven did not need to leave USC after one year but his regular seasons make it difficult to back him.  Two AFC title game appearances and 9 Touchdowns, 3 Interceptions in his postseason career hides warts.  Ryan could not lose in the Georgia Dome until he lost in the Georgia Dome.  0-2 in the playoffs does not help either but is widely regarded as a top ten, franchise level quarterback.  Freeman overachieved and finally landed back to earth.  Same with Fitzpatrick.

With the quarterback position evolving it seems clear that teams need to slow down and evaluate their talent beyond the on-field production of wins and playoff appearances.  Front offices and the suits also do not know how to assess the play on the field and the role they play in relation to the players.  The fired, YOUNG coaches shows the importance of winning now often at the risk of misevaluating players and overrating “franchise” talent.  The youth movement is over but the expectations on young quarterbacks are higher and more elusive than ever.

On the other end of the spectrum is my man Alex Smith.  It took seven years and nearly seven offensive coordinators – something that is totally underrated but invaluable- but he finally looks like the overall 2005 number one pick.  Maybe young coaches get it.  Smith is succeeding with Jim Harbaugh, fresh out of college and more flexible with his players.  Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, and every other Mike could not translate.  Josh McDaniels’ Tim Tebow pick, still indefensible, looks good under the veteran leadership of John Fox.  The entire thing is too hard to predict but the pendulum will be swinging to older leadership next year.  The question remains – especially with Peyton Manning looming as a possible offseason acquisition- when will patience run thin on the field generals whose window of opportunity is steadily closing.

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