LOS ANGELES, March 24, 2013—Football is a business. In the dizzying, maddening world of free agency, loyalty has become a thing of the past. Maybe it was never there, but we wanted to believe it was.
Brett Favre, Joe Montana, and Peyton Manning were all traded while they were still playing at a high level. Neither 16 seasons, four Super Bowl wins, or four league MVPs were enough to prevent the axes from coming down.
Ever since Jesus told Reggie White to jump from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Green Bay Packers in 1993, the revolving door has swing faster. Dan Marino and John Elway played their entire careers with one team, but they were the lucky ones. This offseason has seen some cold, heartless moves.
Start with the Chicago Bears. Brian Urlacher was not the player he once was, but he still deserved better than the slap in the face offer the front office threw at him. First they jettisoned coach Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season. Then they remove the emotional leader of the defense. New coach Marc Trestman is an overrated offensive coordinator not known for defense. Chicago will falter this year, and it will not be Urlacher’s fault. He desperately wanted to stay, and the Bears have not been so tightfisted with a deserving player since George Halas lowballed Sid Luckman.
The Baltimore Ravens are one and done. This team is not repeating because this team does not exist anymore. Yes, Joe Flacco is a billion times better than Trent Dilfer. Yet losing emotional leader Ray Lewis to retirement was bad enough. They did not even try to retain Ed Reed. Reed would have stayed, but not for a song. Instead he went to the rival Houston Texas. Reed is old, creaky, and still the smartest defensive back in the game. He may have lost a step, but he still outthinks most players. Ask Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick about game planning against Ed Reed.
This is before getting to several other defensive breakout stars Baltimore lost. Ozzy Newsome has been right too many times to jump on now, but the team deserved a better shot at defending their title.
Speaking of New England, what was Robert Kraft thinking? The organization that has gotten virtually everything right in the past decade (with luck from a Drew Bledsoe injury and a tuck rule now abolished). Yet not retaining Brady’s favorite target Wes Welker defies logic. Brady to Welker is as natural as Joe Montana or Steve Young to Jerry Rice. Brady trusts Welker, and trust is everything on the field. Even worse, Welker was allowed to go to Denver. Peyton Manning has a new toy, as if a 13-3 team with Manning needs any more weapons.
The Patriots have been soft on defense for several years. Why they did not immediately jump on Ed Reed is another mystery.
Yet nowhere are things darker than in the Black Hole. The Oakland Raiders were finally on the upswing. When Al Davis died, Hue Jackson willed the team to 8-8 until injuries devastated the team and caused them to miss the playoffs. Now General Manager Reggie McKenzie has made it clear he is going to do it his way. He is absolutely blowing up the team with extra strength dynamite.
Several years ago the Raiders were so bad that getting 45 new players might have been an improvement. Now McKenzie is taking that literally. Last year he whacked bloated contracts of overrated players such as Stanford Routt. He shipped off Kamerion Wembley. Yet this year Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Huff are gone. They were both favorites of Al Davis who got off to rough starts but improved markedly over the years. McKenzie does not care. Davis is gone and so are they. The Raiders this year could go 0-16.
Coach Dennis Allen might be on the chopping block as well. McKenzie is considered safe because he needs time to get the Raiders out of salary cap hell. Yet the product on the field has been poor, and that falls on Allen. Owner Mark Davis will not hesitate to fire Allen after another bad season, which will happen this year. The Raiders have been firing players, but not hiring anyone.
The big winners seem to be in the NFC West. This division was the NFC Worst as recently as 2010. The Seattle Seahawks went 7-9 and won the division and a playoff game. Yet now the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks are the top two teams in the NFC (although the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers remain loaded). The St. Louis Rams are much improved under Jeff Fisher. All three of the NFC West teams have solid defenses and vastly improved offenses. Even the Arizona Cardinals have a ray of hope for the first time in years, but that could be misplaced.
The 49ers picked up Anquon Boldin from the Ravens, making Randy Moss expendable. Boldin is a playmaker, and should keep the 49ers in the upper echelon of elite teams. Seattle already had former Minnesota Vikings standout Sidney Rice, and now they raid Minnesota for gamebreaker Percy Harvin. Harvin and Rice have had injury problems, but when healthy Seattle could be every bit as good as the 2009 Vikings who fell one overtime kick short of the Super Bowl.
Winning is the name of the game. When the Gatorade gets dumped on the coach’s head, everything else is forgiven until the disloyalty season known as free agency begins.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian who is obsessed with the National Football League. There is no offseason. Every February he pretends to care about other sports while sobbing uncontrollably each Sunday until September. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
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