NFL

NFL Analysis: League Will be Terrible in 2011

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“The end result of a prolonged lockout will be decreased scoring, and football without a bunch of scoring is called soccer.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of the courtroom drama surrounding the NFL lockout. The thrill of motions and counter-motions, rulings and stays, sniping and bombast, is more exciting than any 40-yard off-tackle breakout by Chris Johnson. Similarly, I love Brussels sprouts, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and going to the dentist.

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None of that is true, of course. The lockout is pure angst in an aerosol format, specifically designed by an army of brutish and cruel lawyers to both pad their hourly billing sheets and depress the hell out of NFL fans.  The reason the owners and players find themselves at an impasse is the presence of lawyers in the process. The standoff has now reached the point that even if the season does start on time, the quality of football is bound to suffer. 

Kill all the lawyers, said Shakespeare, and this is true. If the lockout was just a fight between millionaires and billionaires, it would already be over. Reasonable minds can come to a compromise on any issue when given sufficient cause to do so. Nine billion dollars is certainly sufficient cause.  Unfortunately, lawyers are not reasonable humans, or quantifiably human at all. They are the destroyers of all things good and right in the world, a subset of humanity whose moral center comes with an on/off switch. In short, they are the reason we can’t have nice things around here, like an NFL labor agreement.

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Unless the legal equivalent of DeSean Jackson’s miraculous punt return against the Giants occurs, the lawyers are the reason that we will almost certainly lose games from the 2011 NFL season.  With the time for OTAs and minicamps pretty much come and gone, the only hope is that a deal can occur in time for training camp, and the odds on that are long. The loss of the OTAs will have a serious effect, as these sessions are where teams install the majority of their playbook.

If a deal isn’t forged before training camp time rolls around in early August, what kind of season are we in for? It will be a sucktacular one, my friends.

Right off the bat, you can forget about significant contributions from any rookie. The only possible exceptions are the young crop of running backs that will inevitably be pressed into service due to the fungible nature of the position. The quarterbacks? Forget about it. Without an offseason, those guys have a zero percent shot to be worthwhile contributors to their teams. In fact, if this thing drags on, it wouldn’t surprise me to see every team that picked a QB in the first two rounds of this year’s draft basically redshirt their young signal-caller, barring injury or the presence of Joe Webb on the roster. Can you imagine throwing Jake Locker or Colin Kaepernick out there in Week One with just a few days of training under their belts? They would have to study old tapes of Marc Bulger with the Rams to come up with useful duck-and-cover techniques. Beatings like that will do those players far more harm than good in the long run.

Beyond the lack of rookie contributors, the season is in serious danger of sucking because veterans won’t be prepared. Oh sure, they’ll be in peak physical shape. They might even be a little healthier because of the extra time off. But peak shape ain’t football shape. Players have to be in the groove, working on their timing, and popping pads for more than just a couple of weeks to be ready for the rigors of an NFL season.

Preparation also extends to the mental aspects of the game. What truly alerted me to the huge potential for crappy football this year was a recent quote from Bill Belichick. “The progression’s got to stay the same,” said Belichick to the Boston Herald, “and you still have to start at one point and build forward on it, but the width of that or the breadth of that amount of installation, I think, could definitely be subject to being trimmed back. Maybe drastically. I don’t know, but it’s possible, sure.”

This is Belichick and the Patriots we’re talking about, not Ron Rivera and Rob “Chud!” Chudzinski installing a new offense for Cam Newton that will probably require flash cards. Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and the guys have been running that offense for years. They have pretty much mastered all its nuances, and yet still Belichick thinks things will have to be scaled back. That’s horrifying. I don’t want three yards and a cloud of dust. I want so many crossing routes that the playbook looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.

If the Patriots are scaling back the offense, imagine how screwy things could be for teams like the Panthers, Browns, 49ers, Broncos, Raiders, and Titans. All except the Broncos are being led by first-time head coaches. There is always a breaking-in period with a new skipper, and the confusion will be infinitely compounded if he only gets a week or two of practice to install his system. It will be chaos. How long before sideline knife fights break out between teammates totally confused by their assignments? The only winners here will be cornerbacks padding their interception totals because offenses will be running around like headless chickens.

The end result of a prolonged lockout will be decreased scoring, and football without a bunch of scoring is called soccer. While soccer is okay, it’s not a fall Sunday in America kinda thing. The players and coaches need time to practice for a team to reach its potential, whatever that may be. Sadly, it’s looking less and less likely that they will get the necessary time to get their houses in order. Blame the lawyers. Remember that when you’re watching sub-par football this fall.

 
A Senior NFL Editor for RotoExperts, Mike has also contributed to USA Today's "Fantasy Joe" blog and the USA Today Sports Weekly. His work has also appeared on Yahoo.com, SI.com, NFL.com, FoxSports.com, and in the pages of USA Today. Mike was a 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Award Winner (Humor Article of the Year) and was a 2010 FSWA Award Finalist (Best Football Series). You may contact Mike @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ RotoEx_MGilbert