BY ADRIAN JARDING | BALL STATE SPORTS LINK
That’s right, you need to relax. In an 17 week season, there is no reason to panic or throw in the towel because your team started 0-2.
The first few weeks of the season are generally pretty poor in terms of defensive play. Because of the current collective bargaining agreement, players and coaches have a harder time adjusting together in the offseason since they are limited in how many contact practices they can have. Thus many teams struggle.
There will be a few teams who will not recover from a slow start, and instead choose to focus their attention to the draft by week six. However, this category only applies to the Browns and Bills for now (sorry).
Everyone else should not give up hope yet because there is a lot of football left to be played. So without further ado, let’s dive into week number two of the NFL season.
1. The Patriots only need Bill Belichick
If you haven’t already, check out Matt Craig’s article on why you have been watching the NFL very wrongly. He highlights a theory about the league which I have understood since I first started studying it.
As someone who loves to study NFL history, I realize how much the league has changed throughout its history. From the early days where football played much like rugby, to the invention of passing, to being the number one sporting business in America.
One facet which has remained constant throughout time however, has been the importance of having a well rounded team with great coaching.
Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots are run much like Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys, Bill Walsh’s 49ers, Tom Landry’s Cowboys, Chuck Knoll’s Steelers, Vince Lombardi’s Packers and Paul Brown’s Browns.
What does this mean you ask? It means they each approach football similarly to an efficient, cold-hearted business.
In said business, they have a broad range of talent who each fit into a role which is best suited for the organization’s success. Their leader, the quarterback, is expected to constantly be efficient and produce great results.
The head coach sets goals for the team, and expects every one of his supporting cast to be on board with his message at all times. Anyone who doesn’t conform will either be dealt away, or will not see any playing time as a message.
The system put in place is non-negotiable and must constantly be held in check by the head coach to stay healthy and functioning. If one doesn’t produce or is a negative cog, then his days are numbered so as not to affect the business as a whole. No emotion can be had by the higher ups.
All of this is relevant when considering why the Patriots are having success without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots don’t have the league’s most talented players. They have players who conform and fit into the system Belichick and his staff have run for 15 plus years.
Everyone is expendable since the next man up can do your job just as well or better.
Belichick figured this out a long time ago when his defenses in New York were knocking around Joe Montana, Jay Schroeder and Jim McMahon.
Why else would Bill Walsh have traded for Steve Young? Montana was expendable. The same goes for Joe Gibbs when he went after Doug Williams, who was rewarded with a second Super Bowl ring.
Mike Ditka and the Bears didn’t figure this out. In 1986, Jim McMahon’s season ended when he took a cheap shot from Charles Martin. The Bears went 14-2 and lost in the first round to the Redskins, who were heavy underdogs. Five-foot nine quarterback Doug Flutie was brought in as a free agent to start.
Teams with flash, but no structure throughout league history have proven to be one-hit wonders.
Mike Ditka’s Bears, Don Coryell’s Chargers, John Madden’s Raiders and Mike Martz’s Rams are all examples of how not to run an organization. I fully believe Pete Carroll’s Seahawks will fit in this category when all is said and done.
Talent alone doesn’t make teams great. Structure, organization and full commitment to the cause are all what make teams great.
2. Don’t look at the Power Rankings
One of the most laughable statistics, in my opinion, is the weekly power rankings. I normally try to stay away from opinion when I write, but recent hoopla compelled me to comment on this.
I’m not a fan of current rankings in general. What I mean by current, is the weekly, monthly and yearly rankings which are constantly coming out.
I like all-time rankings, because we have hindsight and are generally less unbiased since we take in the whole picture, which can be difficult to see at the present moment. I’m not saying to ignore greatness when you see it, but don’t rush to start making conclusions and claims.
Since we now have this out of the way, let me pick apart why the weekly power rankings are worthless.
Exhibit A: The Packers were ranked first by ESPN.com after week one. They then proceeded to get outplayed by the Vikings on Sunday night, and slipped to ninth. When you’re in the first week of 17 in the regular season AND many teams are still finding their footing, why would anyone care about power rankings until week 10?
I know why: short term memory, instant gratification and college sports. Every year, week after week, I constantly hear conversations about who the best team in the league is. The great aspect about the NFL is how impossible it is for there to be bias when determining who will be in the playoffs.
It’s a very simple system. Win your division or have the next best record to be a wildcard team. If there is a tie for a spot, the decision moves to compiling each team’s opponents’ total record. This determines who had a harder schedule by record. No room for bias.
In college football’s system, only four teams can have a shot at the big dance. Those spots are determined by a committee, all of which the last time I checked, are human.
College football lovers are obsessed with rankings and are constantly scrutinizing every minute detail when determining who should be in the top four playoff, and overall 25. That’s all well and dandy, but the NFL is not designed this way, so stop looking at it from this point of view.
NFL teams can lose seven regular season games, make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. It’s why the league is so unpredictable and cinderella teams, like the last three Giants teams, can win the Super Bowl.
In 2007, they finished ninth on ESPN.com’s final regular season power ranking. They hoisted the Lombardi trophy a few weeks later.
3. Von Miller
Point is made, let’s move on.
Just kidding, but mentioning his name is like saying you need a big moment.
This man is proving to live up to the huge investment the Broncos put in the Super Bowl 50 MVP. In week one he had a sack on the Panthers final drive, driving the clock to the two-minute warning and boosting Denver’s successful final stand.
In week two he had three sacks and forced a strip sack on Andrew Luck, which the Broncos picked up and ran in for a touchdown to clinch the game.
In the playoffs last season, he dominated the competition. Miller had 5 total sacks, 11 solo tackles, an interception on Tom Brady in the AFC championship, oh and a strip sack on Cam Newton which lead to a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
What can’t this man do?
Apparently, kicking a football is the last dimension of his game which he needs to perfect. Case and point.
Fun Fact of the week:
Ball State’s own Willie Snead became the first Cardinal in the NFL since Bernie Parmalee in 1995 to score multiple touchdowns in a season. Snead has two for the year, one in each game so far.