Let me preface this by saying I’m just another asshole who watches sports and thinks I somehow could manage a team. The
good not useless part of my brain certainly knows I can’t, but even so, the idiot on my shoulder keeps whispering “you know better than the experienced millionaires who run franchises, if you were in charge you’d have a winning team” and I want to share those ridiculous whispers with you.
I’m watching the NFL this year, and it feels kind of apparent that there is a hierarchy of tools that create good teams, and a lack of prioritization of said tools creates bad teams. Here is what I believe based on what I’ve seen empirically to be the building blocks in order of importance.
1. Offensive Line
It gives every player on your offense a chance to reach their full potential. Need I say look at the Cowboys? QBs have more time to make decisions, backs have more holes to run through, and receivers have consistent opportunities to finish their routes. Hell, you even give your coach and OC the freedom to draw up a wider variety of more complex plays. Which brings me to…
2. Head Coach
A really tough call, had it at no. 1 originally, and here’s why it comes in so high. Football along with every other sport today are so much more nuanced and cerebral than they have been in the past. The trend of increased complexity has been both exponential and steady. Without a great playbook, it’s nearly impossible to be a great football team. That is pretty obvious.
3. Defensive Line
The inverse of #1. Give the other team less time and fewer holes. Any great QB or RB can turn average at best with lots of pressure. You can turn Tom Brady into Sam Bradford with a good enough pass rush.
Pretty obvious and most people would put this first. A QB that reads defenses well, makes good decisions and throws accurately is the single most terrifying thing in the eyes of a defensive coordinator. Sets the pace for your offense and ideally leads it emotionally as well.
5. Defensive Backs
If you have a Josh Norman or a Richard Sherman, you can frustrate quarterbacks and make receivers cry. Well, just the one but you get my point. A great secondary completely neutralizes WR-dependent teams.
If your team focuses on those five things in order before the glamorous running backs and receivers you’ve got the blueprint of a contender at worst and champion at best. Unfortunately, fans only want to see their teams pick up the glamor positions (notice, only one such position is in my top 5 top 5 top 5) and management must do so to appease them. Patience is hard to come by, but it’s necessary to go from good to great.
So, if you love your team, get excited about star right guards, crafty coaches and threatening D ends. If you can manage to wait on that running back, and he’ll play to his full potential.