Playbook: Bred in the Bone

By Fraser Lockerbie

The NFL is nothing if not a numbers game.

Today, we might start off discussing a whole slew of NFL free agents we could call wide receivers. Or we could say that the NFL is nothing if not a numbers game. We might talk about the odd human tendency towards stockpiling arms when things go awry. Or we could quote some Prometheus, like “it had to be done,” or “it’s been done before” and “it’s all part of the game…”

Right now there’s a handcuffed free agent sitting on the sidelines in Chicago. There is a crush-for-cash campaign afoot in New Orleans. A surgically-repaired shadow of a once great quarterback will be playing in Denver. And a God-fearing, greased-up little weasel will be running a Wildcat offense in New York City.  

Some will say it’s just the way of the world; that these things are born in the blood, bred in the bone. No self-respecting football owner has ever woken up, wide-eyed and ready to meet the world saying, “today I feel like losing.”

So gambits are made, cards are drawn, players are traded and the forthcoming consequences of any one decision is perhaps only peripherally considered. Winning is held in extremely high regard and each crusade is treated as though it were the last.

What does Chicago need with another big-time back when they refuse to pay Forte? Granted they grabbed Brandon Marshall from a reeling Dolphins club but could the money have not been better spent on say someone like Mike Wallace or T.J Houshmandzadeh (or both and a party for the price they paid Bush)? Couldn’t Jay Cutler use a few more receptive targets downfield?  Why set up a time-share with one of the best backs in the league when a balanced but unpredictable air to ground tandem would win you more games? And why risk the inevitable publicity war with a highly coveted pro-bowler you’ve already slapped around?

Well to win of course. Michael Bush’s 1,395 all-purpose yards and Matt Forte’s 1,487 will give us an absurd 2,882 yards from our backs next season and that will be good. Football doesn’t work like that but it’s a nice enough thought and looks pretty good on paper pre-season and post-collapse.

This pervading win-now mentality that has landed Bush in Chicago, Peyton in Denver and the Saints in hot water is unique to the NFL. More and more we hear about the long road, the rebuilding process teams across the MLB, the NBA and the NHL must endure to bring their franchise into form. But not here. Not in the NFL. Here we beg, steal and borrow for the best talent available and mash it all together and call it a team. Ten top tier running backs are two too little if we want to win now. No logic prevails with a win-now mentality; the best parts are bought and they are fit in wherever they can be with little or no regard for what it means on the whole.

No one here has ever heard of the tortoise and the hare. That parable won’t fly. The Bears are some freak fantasy team that took two backs in a row with only one slot per week. The Broncos overpaid ($95M/four years) for a cardboard cutout of Peyton Manning that will probably throw just as well and the Saints are without a head coach, a DC, a GM and two draft picks all just to win in the year 2012. 


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