Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Lose a Season in 16 Games

The race for last place has begun.

OK, I suppose I should first acknowledge that this is the first football post of the season!  No more worrying about lawyers and 18-game schedules and the rookie wage scale (unless you’re a rookie), and now we can focus on the players and teams that make the NFL the behemoth it is in the 21st century.
All right, now that we have that celebration out of the way, let’s talk about how poorly two teams are doing in disguising their intentions when it comes to their rosters.

The Context

Much to the chagrin of the Carolina Panthers, highly-touted Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck decided to stay in school for his junior year instead of entering this year’s draft.   I’ll spare you the numbers, but suffice it to say that he’s widely regarded as a can’t-miss prospect with as much promise as Peyton Manning and John Elway – two quarterbacks you may have heard of -- had coming out of college.  Therefore, teams without legitimate starters-of-the-future at quarterback likely have extra incentive to be really terrible this season and lock up that first overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The Teams

The teams that caught my eye while trolling ESPN for free agency updates were the Seattle Seahawks (7-9 last year) and the Washington Redskins (6-10 last year).  Neither team has much talent offensively to work with, and while the Seahawks are in a worse position in a vacuum, the NFC West was so bad last year that they won the division with that record.

The Moves That Will Ensure Their Downfall

“They” keep saying that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and these two teams are riding their tricycles into training camp.  This offseason has seen the Seahawks lose their quarterback for the last 10 years, Matt Hasselbeck, and replace him with the Vikings’ Tarvaris Jackson, who is most well known for being Brett Favre’s backup the last two years.  The Redskins countered in strong fashion by trading Donovan McNabb to the Vikings for two 6th round picks (we’ll let that slide for now) and then acquiring an even more backup-y backup in Kellen Clemens, who incidentally was also the backup for Favre when he was a Jet. 

So right now the Seahawks’ quarterbacks are Charlie Whitehurst and Jackson, and the Redskins’ quarterbacks are John Beck (a failed second-round pick with the Dolphins), Clemens, and, wait for it, Rex Grossman. 

Both teams were rumored during the offseason to be heavily involved in trying to acquire a top-flight wide receiver (a la Sidney Rice or Santonio Holmes).  As of now, Holmes has been re-signed by the Jets, and the Redskins said “Oh, well, we tried” and traded for Jabar Gaffney, re-signed an aged Santana Moss, and signed injury extraordinaire Dante Stallworth.  To me, these moves scream “we want to look like we’re doing something with our money.”  The Seahawks?  They’ve signed an underachieving offensive lineman.

How Bad It Will Get

The best part about these teams apparently tanking it this season is that they may not be able to lose enough!  While the Redskins do play the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles twice as well as the Patriots and Jets, they also get to play the Panthers, Bills, Dolphins, and the NFC West.  They could win a couple games by accident and end up, say, 4-12.

As for the Seahawks, it’s going to be just as hard to get down that drain.  They get to play the Rams, 49ers, and Cardinals each twice (although all of them are trending upward), and of course they have the Bomb Out Bowl with the Redskins.  They went 4-2 in this division last year, but without a quarterback that’s more like 2-4 this year, and losing another game outside the division leaves them at 4-12 as well. 

Seeing as the Titans, Bengals, Panthers, Vikings, Bills, Dolphins, Raiders, and Broncos all have their issues, the odds are against these two wily teams actually getting the quarterback they seek.  Wouldn’t that be great to see the Panthers get the top pick two years in a row and have to pass on Luck because they took Cam Newton this year?

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