The NFL off-season is one of the most exciting times of the year for football fans. The previous season is over, and it’s time to figure out what moves one’s favored organization can make to improve.
There are also the difficult decisions that involve moving on from players that no longer fit an organization’s plans for the future.
Making the appropriate personnel decisions are difficult enough. Unfortunately, these choices can sacrifice the good of an organization. Egotistical coaches and general managers walk down the wrong paths at full speed in a vain attempt to salvage any remnants of their own pride.
Who can blame them, right?
What coaching staff wants to admit that the running back they acquired during the off-season was a terrible choice? Who wants to be the general manager that confesses to a multi-million dollar error in judgment?
No coach wants to tell the fans that the cure for their offensive woes was really a fourth-round draft pick.
Prejudice finds talented players riding the bench for too long. Maybe the back-up isn’t the prototypical size, or he came from a small college program. There’s always an excuse.
In 2007, the Chicago Bears opted to trade Thomas Jones to the New York Jets for a second-round draft pick. The Bears parted ways with Jones in favor of the fourth-overall NFL Draft selection, Cedric Benson.
Assuming Jones was on the decline, he responded to the Bears 2005 draft by posting two consecutive seasons with rushing totals surpassing 1,200 yards.
Cedric Benson has since been released.
The New York Jets offered Jones a new contract. He responded with just over 1,100 yards, and a career-low one rushing touchdown season.
Playing behind the physical specimen is fourth-round draft pick, Leon Washington. Running behind the same offensive line, Washington managed to average five yards per carry, and scampered into the end zone three times.
Washington was voted MVP of the New York Jets, yet he continues to play behind Thomas Jones on the depth chart.
That’s the pride of the organization and prejudice against the undersized, less-expensive option.
Contract numbers seem to be the deciding factor. Before the acquisition of Brett Favre, Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington were in a close, unimpressive battle for starting honors. With some fans, the caliber of play was irrelevant, as Pennington’s salary was more than enough justification for him to be the primary QB.
No one believes a back-up QB should have a $7 million cap number.
Similar dilemmas appear to be common place in the NFL.
In Arizona, the coaches are in a situation where they have to make the hard-sell on Matt Leinart as some Cardinals’ fans have vocalized the preference for Kurt Warner. Does the team discriminate against the aging, but capable veteran in favor of the inexperienced, unproven, high-profile draft pick?
The Baltimore Ravens have to make the right choice between Joe Flacco, Kyle Boller, and Troy Smith. If their pride is a factor, Flacco will be named the immediate starter. If they want to continue to develop him and embrace the other men on their roster, Smith should receive the nod.
The San Diego Chargers were fortunate when their pride turned into impatience. Clearly fearful of another Ryan Leaf fiasco, the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers after Drew Brees failed to impress in his first few seasons with the organization.
The Chargers, however, were able to justify their prejudice when an injury to Brees in his final game as a Charger made the decision for them.
If money is the root of all evil, this issue is a branch growing from the same tree.