Forget the old chestnut: “On any given Sunday.”
That merely implies that random upsets can happen. The NFL actually builds up assumptions, layers them with verifiable proof, and then in a blink, washes them away in a hurricane of “what the hell was that??”
The New York Giants were becoming an efficient offensive machine under new OC Ben McAdoo and the West Coast scheme. The blossoming of Larry Donnell and top pick Odell Beckham Jr. finally getting on the field only meant they would be more dangerous. Eli Manning had reduced his “snap to release” time to near the league’s best. They were going against a terrible Eagles pass defense.
They scored 0.
The Dallas Cowboys were nothing more than Tony Romo and the declining assets of what Bill Parcells had left them. The defense, legendarily awful last year, had only gotten worse. Key losses to free agency like Demarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, were coupled with an injury to Sean Lee in the off-season. It didn’t help that Morris Claiborne got benched for bad play, stormed out of camp, then promptly got hurt and was done for the year.
The Cowboys went to Seattle, and shut down the Super Bowl champs.
The New England Patriots were in the final dissolving throes of their long glory run with Tom Brady. There were insufficient weapons. A lack of trust between QB and coach. Brady’s QB rating was sagging, his explosive throws lacking, and this was going to be the year somebody else might win the AFC East.
The Patriots responded with 80 points in their next two wins.
It’s not just that we as fans don’t know what’s going on, it’s that I’m not even sure the coaches inside each of the 32 buildings in the NFL fully know what’s going on. It’s why losing coaches look so utterly flustered at the podium following games, as they struggle to put their finger on why their team keeps losing.
Whenever a coach or GM decides to use the word “blueprint” I laugh. There is no such thing in the NFL. Teams can mimic what the good teams do – stockpile draft picks, cultivate inexpensive young talent and depth, invest in a franchise QB you spend 4 months kicking the tires on before the draft – then watch it all collapse into a steaming pile of crap.
In theory, either the Rams or Redskins should have come out the clear “winner” in the blockbuster trade to land RGIII. In theory.
But that trade is impossible to handicap now. The Rams multiplied the rights to that one player in a heap of other players. Few of them you or I have even heard of at this point. It didn’t help when their franchise QB got hurt and wiped out two straight entire seasons.
The Redskins had a fantastic sugar rush of a season when RGIII was a rookie. But how good was it, really? It was a late run of wins – seven in a row – predicated on an explosive new college wrinkle that has now been adjusted for by just about every defense in the league. Then the QB got hurt. Then the coach got fired.
New coach, new season… another injury. And now the team is upside down and tangled as deep in the weeds as ever.
And I honestly don’t think they’ve done anything overtly stupid along the way. They have tried, and tried honestly and sensibly. And they suck.
This is why the NFL is the league that we all can’t quit. It makes no sense half the time, but when your team has everything humming along, you swear it was all by brilliant design and superior organizational acumen.
Right now, we once again have *all* the answers. We have seen 6 weeks of a 17 week race. Anybody want to bet that we’ll be seeing the questions changed on us, several more times before January?