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DMN: How coaches use team rankings

Plus, JaMarcus needs a support group to get back into the NFL. Michael Lombardi

Print This May 19, 2010, 11:00 AM EST

QUOTE: “Study as if you were to live forever. Live as if you were to die tomorrow.” – Isidore of Seville

Team rankings

Because there’s very little NFL news to discuss at this time of year (unless you want to write about players not being at OTA days because of their unhappiness over their contracts), ranking NFL teams seems to be a viable topic. But can any writer (including me) correctly rank the teams? It’s hard enough to rank them after regular-season games, let alone in the offseason. So even though it appears to be an easy piece to write, it’s really a difficult subject -- but a huge bonanza for NFL head coaches.

For example, did anyone have the Bengals in the top 10 last year? Yet they made the playoffs. Everyone (including me) had the Giants in the top five, but they didn’t make the playoffs. To a man, NFL head coaches will claim they don’t pay attention to what writers write or to preseason polls, but they use them to motivate their teams and capture their players’ attention in the offseason.

One of the major challenges for every head coach at this time of year is to not over-talk to his team. Coaches have to choose their words wisely and, more importantly, the timing of their message. If they talk to the team every day, by the middle of October, the players will hear their words but won’t listen. They need to use other tools of the trade to deliver their message, and having preseason rankings -- as high schoolish as that seems -- helps the coach (as well as the writers) when he’s in search of talking points. For the fans, when your team is getting very little respect at this time, it actually helps them and the coach. So embracing a ranking in the 20s will be more beneficial to your team’s season than a top-10 appearance in May. Nothing matters in May anyway.

JaMarcus Russell won’t consider the CFL or AFL

NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora reported Tuesday that former Raiders first-round pick JaMarcus Russell is not considering going to the Canadian Football League or Arena Football League because he feels he has enough NFL options to keep working hard and waiting for his eventual chance. In theory, this appears to be a good course of action, but in reality, where is this opportunity to return to the NFL coming from? Why would teams wait to add a quarterback to their roster when now is the time that rosters are flexible and there’s time to develop players?

Russell claims he’s going to keep working out hard to get into shape for his next chance, but I thought he was in great shape when he reported to the Raiders’ minicamp. For me, Russell needs to be involved in football. He needs to build equity with a coach who can help him resurrect his career, not working out by himself in Mobile, Ala.

Does anyone really believe Russell is working hard? When he was employed by the Raiders, he never worked hard on his own. I always believe that past performance predicts future achievement, and Russell working hard on his own has never been productive. He desperately needs to add supporters, not be alone with family and friends in Mobile. He has to build a coalition of supporters to get back in the NFL, and being alone is not the smart play. He must now be proactive, and he has to have a plan for getting back into the NFL, not hoping he gets back.

Russell needs a complete makeover -- from his advisers to his actions.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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