by Michael Lombardi
January 13, 02010
QUOTE: “Knowledge can be acquired by a suitable and complete study, no matter what the starting point is. Only one must know how to ‘learn.’ What is nearest to us is man; and you are the nearest of all men to yourself. Begin with the study of yourself; remember the saying ‘Know thyself.’” -- G.I. Gurdjieff
I was on the Bill Simmons podcast Monday and mentioned that the Patriots benefited greatly from losing their playoff game to the Ravens on Sunday. Had they won, they would be one of the final eight teams in the NFL, which in the new system comes with severe restrictions. I was not delusional but was practical with my thought that the Patriots were really winners last weekend in the sense that they need considerably help and they need new players, not just from the draft, but also from free agency. However, final eight teams in an uncapped year are only allowed to replace players they lose to free agency and cannot add any new players. So had the Patriots won the game and lost in the next round, their ability to be proactive in the free agent market would have been hindered. If you can’t win the Super Bowl with your current roster, which clearly the Patriots could not do, then losing in the first round is the place to be.
In an uncapped year, free agency will look vastly different to fans. Players will need six years of service before making it to the market, which will cut down the number of good players available; also, teams will be restricted in who they can sign and for how much.
Teams will also have more designations to place on players, thus restricting their movement. My sense of free agency this offseason is that we’ll see players who are terminated by their current teams because of their high contract status and failure to perform to the level of those contracts. Teams will dump these players, allowing them to get rid of their future signing bonus proration without it affecting their salary cap. The market will be filled with players who have been cut and sent packing with no one from their former team offering many complimentary words about their play, and teams will have to rely on their ability to clearly evaluate their play.
In free agency, many teams often gain their information from talking, not watching, and this market will require more watching than ever. Also, teams with pro departments that study an entire team’s personnel will benefit as opposed to teams that just study potential free agents. A good pro department will have reports and grades on every player on a particular team, so when the player is available, they can act quickly. In the new system, many teams will be reacting to moves that are made, not anticipating moves. Once again, the new system will benefit the teams with a procurement plan as opposed to teams that react to individual players.
This leads us back to the Patriots. By losing, they are now able to fix their team. As of now, they are one of the lowest committed cash teams for 2010 in the NFL. They will be able to spend freely if they chose because their roster is not loaded with many high-priced players. There will be many changes happening in New England, both on and off the field, and losing to the Ravens will force them to realize they need to improve in every area. Humiliating losses have a way of refocusing an organization, and I suspect the Patriots will be very focused, very well prepared and very aggressive this offseason.
Lane Kiffin and USC
I was as stunned, as many were, by the news that Lane Kiffin was leaving Tennessee to return to USC, where he was an assistant from 2001-2006. I really feel that Kiffin has now gotten three interesting jobs without ever proving his ability on the field as a head coach. Now, in his dream job, he will have to prove that all the talk about him being a great coach is more than just talk.
In my view, Kiffin’s greatest strength so far is that he can recruit. Having his father Monte join him on the USC staff will make the defense very effective, but Lane must demonstrate that he can be a great offensive mind in his game planning and play calling to move from a coach with a great reputation to simply a great coach. His time in Tennessee didn’t convince me that he was moving in that direction, but it was early in the process.
The time is now for Kiffin to move from all the talk about being a great coach to proving he is a great coach.
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