Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The NFC West is a mess

A little prologue. I am not a cheerleader. I am not here to extol any team. I am not going to hype the new season. I am not trying to sell tickets. I am not here to lick the booties of a key access points. I am not a promoter or a glad-handler

My objective is absolute accuracy. I want to make an accurate prediction that matches the final outcome of 2010 season. I want to describe the exact fact of the matter.

It seems to me that the NFC West is a mess. Top to bottom, this is the worst division in the NFL. You have only one moderately play-off caliber club in the San Francisco 49ers, but don't bet on them to go far. You have two teams on the down-slope of rebuilding. Then you have the loosing-est team in football, over the last three years, now entering the 3 year of a comprehensive rebuilding program. The Rams hope to be headed up, but how high can they go?

As we evaluate these football teams, keep in mind Herm Edward's Law: Having a franchise QB is worth four extra victories per year.

The 49ers

The 49ers are (by far) the most talented and complete football team in this division. They are the only team worthy of a playoff birth. They have an outstanding defense and they have excellent offensive weapons. There is just one little fly in the ointment: The quarterback position.

Many folks had high hopes that Alex Smith turned the corner last season. I myself thought he turned the corner this past season. This preseason, Alex Smith has looked plain ordinary. He looks like a journeyman QB, not a franchise QB. How far can you go with such a QB? Round 1 of the playoffs? Round 2? Not round 3 unless dumb luck strikes.

If Alex Smith should happen to resemble a franchise QB by the end of the season, the 49ers might contend for the Super Bowl. How likely is this to happen? I doubt it will happen. Right now, we have to say that the 49ers have found their starter, but they do not have what we would consider a franchise QB.

The 49ers were 8-8 last season. Due to the spiraling collapse of the NFC west, they should improve to a minimum of 10-6. I am going to predict an 11-5 finish for the 49ers.

The Cardinals

As I have stated before, I think Cardinals are staring down the gun-barrel at a long and disappointing fall. Think of all the key Cardinal playmakers who just aren't there anymore. Anquan Bolden, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, and ace QB Kurt Warner. The Cards just gave up on Matt Leinart. Larry Fitzgerald has gone down with a knee injury.

I know they think they found replacements for several of these players. I completely disagree with them. They have not. I will admit that Chris Mortensen is correct when he says the Cardinals think better of themselves than most experts do. Sure, fine, but what does their false confidence have to do with anything? Zip, zero, ziltch, nada, nothing, sweet fuck-all, that's all

Derrek Anderson is now the new starting QB in Phoenix. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why anyone would regard Derrek Anderson as a franchise QB, least among them Ken Weisenhunt. This guy is not a used-to-was. He is a never-was. Sorry, just have to be brutally honest about it. I cannot believe that fellows like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter can talk with a straight face about how Anderson will be a solid replacement for Warner. Say what?

I can see no reason why I would be optimistic about the 2010 season if I am a Cardinal fan. Remember Herm Edward's law? This was a 10-6 football team with Kurt Warner. I am going to subtract 4 victories because of Kurt's retirement, and 1 more for everybody else.

I think this is a 5-11 Cardinal football team, and believe me, that is a generous assessment of the situation. The Cards could be worse than that.

The Seahawks

What about the Seattle Seahawks? Folks, this is year ONE of a comprehensive rebuilding project. They fired the GM and the Coach. They sacked the staff. They have flushed good veterans who could have helped them. We see every evidence of a full-scale rebuild in progress. Remember, this is just year 1 of the project.

Seahawk fans are mavens, and they still believe they still have a quality team that was just in the Super Bowl a couple years ago. Actually, that was almost 5 years ago, and most of those guys are gone.

The Seahawks had a very good draft in 2010. They might well have had the best draft of any of the 32 NFL teams. Still, this will not produce a big or sudden turn around.

The truth was spoken by Michael Lombardi recently when he said that Seahawks have one of the least tallented rosters in the NFL in 2010. This assessment was made just a few days ago, after the 53 man roster for 2010 was finalized.

I agree with Lombardi. I would simply add that this is precisely what you would expect in year #1 of a comprehensive rebuilding project. I can also tack on the good news/bad news that you will be in position to claim your next franchise QB: Jake Locker.

The Rams

This brings us to the Rams... My specialty. Folks, no man walking the face of the Earth is a bigger heathen, atheist, skeptic, apostate, non-believer in the Rams rebuilding program than I am.

I have said many times that selecting a surgically repaired QB, with the #1 pick, giving him an 80/50 million contract, and putting him behind a crappy offensive line is the dumbest rebuilding plan I ever heard of. Certainly, only a very, very foolish man would execute such a plan. Certainly, there is no such fool currently occupying any of the 32 NFL GM seats! This is the reason I was absolutely certain the Rams would not select Bradford in the 2010 draft.

Words cannot express how my mind boggled when it first began to dawn on me that Devaney was serious about doing this. The horror... the terror... the dread... Nothing could stop him either. Devaney was fixated. When you add in the fact that Devaney passed on Ndamukong Suh to launch the Jim Plunket 2.0 story...

Why don't you just drive a truck off a high mountain cliff? How about that strategy for rebuilding the Rams?

Now with all that said, it would appear that Sam Bradford is validating Devaney's decision to take him #1 overall in the 2010 draft. Thus far, Scorpio is looking very good. He looks a whole hell of a lot more like Peyton Manning than JaMarcus Russell. Of course, no one in his right mind expected Bradford to be a Russell. The question is whether he can stay alive, not whether he has tallent or is motivated. I would still bet on the Plunkett outcome.

In the meantime, Bradford is making Devaney look like a loony-toon mad genius.

The key challenge for the Rams in 2010 is to validate the decision to draft Sam Bradford. Let's remember Herm Edward's Law. Having a franchise QB is supposed to equal 4 more victories. The Rams need to finish 5-11 to make the 2010 draft look good. Is this possible? Tentatively, I will say yes, it is possible.. mostly because of the spiraling collapse of the NFC West.

The most surprising story of the 2010 preseason, in my book, has been the Rams sudden offensive strength. The Rams only got toasted in one game: a 28-7 loss to the Vikings. The rest were all victories. In game 3 the Rams popped 36 points on the Patriots. In game 4 the Rams popped 27 on the Ravens. That ain't easy to do folks.

Let's remember that the Rams were 32nd out of 32 teams in offensive point production in 2009. The Rams scored a total of 175 points in 16 games, or 10.9 points per game. The Rams were shutout by both the Seahawks and the Redskins. Both the Seahawks and the Redskins finished in the bottom 6 of the league. How did this team pop 36 on the Patriots? How did they pop 27 on the Ravens? More shocking than this, how did they do that without Steve Jackson in the lineup?

Certainly a lot of the credit belongs to Sam Bradford, but...

More surprising than that was the aggressive play calling of Pat Shurmur. He must have heard folks like me calling for his public Crucifixion. Our cries for blood have been fueled by Shurmur's pathologically conservative play calling. In 2009, you could describe Shurmur as the Anti-Peyton. Well... not during the preaseason of 2010. We can only hope Shurmur keeps it up. Aggression is a beautiful thing in this context.