The NFL offseason. There may not be wins and losses to discuss on a week-to-week basis, however, there is still plenty to dissect as teams build their rosters anew for the upcoming season.
NFL Free Agency has come and all but a few aging veterans have been placed with new teams leaving little on the shelves for a club found in need at any particular position. The NFL Draft has come and gone. Your local club probably talked publically about drafting the best player available when in reality any and all drafts are mostly need driven in today’s high-player-turnover league.
Bottom line, for the most part, at this point in time your club has built its team for the upcoming season and what you’re looking at on the roster now is pretty much what you’ll have going into the season. Sure a late trade or two may happen. But probably not on your club.
An interesting side effect of hitting this period of the offseason, after OTA’s yet before camp, is we can now tell the difference between two common team announcements that sound the same but in reality have vastly different meanings based on when they are given. I refer to the “position by committee” declaration.
“We are going to use a committee fulfill the role that was once handled by one player.” – Any NFL Coach
It’s all about the timing. If you announce it early, it’s an actual thought process. If you announce it late, it’s all spin for a bad situation.
Shift in Team Strategy
If your team announced weeks ago, after the normal offseason self-assessment period would be ideal, they were going to a committee approach for any particular position then it’s a tactic that has been thought through. For whatever reason (salary cap, availability, depth, unknown) that club has made a decision to go this route. It may or may not be successful, however, this is an actual plan.
Example: Dallas Cowboys 2018 “no WR1” approach to roster building.
Team Offseason Failure
If at any time in the doldrums right before camp your team floats they are going to get the job done at a position by committee and previously they had gone a more traditional route then there are clear reasons why and none of them are due to thoughtful introspection. The team doesn’t have the talent its template requires for the position due to either injury or an abject failure in talent acquisition during the offseason. They now realize the issue since OTA’s have come and gone and are hoping this works. The team is not having a genuine shift of preferred strategy, they are in fact scrambling to cover their (now exposed) posteriors.
Example: Green Bay Packers “RB by committee” announcement last Monday
What Does It All Mean
The Cowboys front office had every chance to draft a WR1 replacement for the departed Dez Bryant. They chose not to. They instead drafted a new template at WR for the team that was focused on players that can run the entire route tree with precision. The club has had a genuine shift in strategy.
The Packers, however, looked at what they had in the toolbox at OTA’s and realized they didn’t have what they needed or wanted at the RB position. Ergo you trot out the tried and true committee announcement and hit the gas. This is a reactionary move, not a preference.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the decision to go committee was forced or thoughtful, you have to make it work on game day.
In 2013 Jerry Jones was mega-excited about the new Dallas two-TE attack based on the success the Patriots had with theirs the previous year. The team drafted TE Gavin Escobar in the second round and Jerry burned up the airwaves extolling the virtues of the new strategy.
The club went 8-8 that year with Escobar getting 9 receptions for 134 yards and two TD’s firmly entrenching himself as the next waste-of-a-2nd-round-TE-pick by the team (they have tradition in this regard).
The Packers may or may not be able to get what they need at RB via committee in 2018. However, having Aaron Rodgers handing off the rock makes the possibility fairly attainable. Dallas may or may not be able to get what they need without the traditional diva WR1 getting the majority of the targets on game day. However, having Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield makes that possibility fairly attainable as well.
What we do know is one team has had an actual shift in strategy and the other is doing their best to get the job done with a deck they believe has more pip cards than royalty. On game-day, however, it’s better to be lucky than thoughtful. Just ask Dez who caught it. Just a few years too late.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over