PFT Mailbag, non-video edition

On Thursday, we renewed our call for questions that we could then answer, primarily for video.

We got more than enough for video, so we’ll answer some of the other questions right here.

I’ve never done this before, so I’ll assume that the proper etiquette is to simply start doing it.

For the purposes of reducing clutter in the Rumor Mill, the question and answers appears after the break.

If there is a lockout next season, how will the 2012 draft
order be determined?  Same as 2011?  If so, do you believe some teams
will lie down at end of this season so secure 2 top picks?  Rob F.

a great question and, hopefully, one that never will have to be
answered.  If the entire 2011 season is wiped out due to a lockout, the
NFL and the NFLPA will have to decide on an appropriate procedure for
selecting the new crop of rookies in 2012.  Our buddy Joe Yerdon of tells us that, after a lockout wiped out an entire NHL
season during the last decade, the order of the next hockey draft arose
from a random draw with weighted measures based on factors such as
won-loss record over three seasons and the number of high picks in that
same window.

Either way, I doubt that a team would be more inclined to tank late in
the 2010 based on the remote possibility that:  (1) an entire season
would be wiped out via a lockout; and (2) the same draft order would be
used in two straight seasons.  That said, with everyone assuming that a
true rookie wage scale will be adopted as of 2011, a greater incentive
to tank generally will exist once the huge contracts paid at the top of
the draft are eliminated.

As a long-suffering Browns fan
should I drink the Kool-Aid and believe that finally with Mike Holmgren
and his new hires professionalism and legitimately competing for a title
are attainable goals?  J.G.

Yes, but probably not in
2010.  The Browns’ roster was left in very bad shape by the Phil Savage
regime, especially at the quarterback position.  Quarterback remains the
most important position in the sport, and Holmgren should be able to
help the Browns identify and develop quality options moving forward. 
That said, Holmgren took a curious leap of faith on Jake Delhomme; if he
can regain his pre-2008 playoffs form, Delhomme could make a
difference.  The bigger question is whether Colt McCoy can develop into
the thing that every annually competitive franchise needs:  a franchise

The Packers don’t have the benefit of playing all
cupcake teams this year.  No NFC West this year; they get the NFC
East.  No AFC North, it’s the AFC East.  The Vikings and Packers played
almost identical schedules and the Vikings struggled with the same teams
the Packers did.  I seem to be in the vast minority with my view that
both teams are being vastly overrated in 2010.  Thoughts?  Anthony K.

eight-division, four-team format adopted in 2002 dramatically shrank
the difference between a first-place and last-place schedule in a given
division.  Now, with the exception of two games, every team in a
division plays the same teams.  So while, for the most part, the
schedule plays a smaller part than previously when determining the
division race (this year, the Vikings play the Saints and the Cardinals
while the Packers get the Falcons and 49ers), the total schedule becomes
extremely relevant when comparing records among teams in different
divisions, for the purposes of determining wild-card berths and
home-field advantage in the postseason. 

With the NFC East teams
cannibalizing themselves and then playing the Packers, Vikings, and
Bears — and with the Packers and Vikings touring the NFC East and AFC
East — it will be easier for a team like the Saints to nail down
home-field advantage in the playoffs this year, since they’ll play the
four AFC West teams.  Also, if the Niners get hot, they could secure a
bye, since they play six games against their NFC West rivals, four
against the AFC West, and four against the NFC South.

In other
words, it could be very hard for the road to Dallas to go through
Minnesota, Green Bay, New York, Philly, or, well, Dallas.

is the NFL only discussing expanding the regular season from 16 to 18
games, when there are certainly good arguments for a 17-game regular
season?  All teams get 8 home, 8 away, and 1 neutral-site game.  Eric L.

believed for months that the NFL was pressing for an 18-game “enhanced”
season as a negotiating tactic, with the league eventually “settling”
for its actual goal of 17 games.  This would give the league a total of
16 neutral-site games each year that could be played internationally
and, possibly, in large college stadiums.

I now believe that the
league truly wants to play 18 games.  Maybe that simply means they’re
doing a good job of using 18 games as a negotiating strategy in order to
get 17.  But with Commissioner Roger Goodell speaking out so strongly
and candidly regarding the unattractiveness of preseason games, it will
be difficult to keep more than two preseason games once a change is
made, which means that the league wants a two-game preseason, and thus
an 18-game regular season.

Of the following teams, which one
do you think is most likely to have a successful year:  Raiders, Chiefs,
Bucs, Browns, or Rams?  Jason J.

In the NFL, “success” is
determined not in a vacuum, but by comparing performance to
expectations.  My current sense is that, of those teams, the Rams have
the lowest expectations.  Next, the Buccaneers.  The Raiders and Chiefs
are roughly equal; they’re both expected to be in the bottom half of the
AFC West and if either finishes second in the division that will be
regarded as a good year.  The Browns have the highest expectations of
the group, given the manner in which they finished the 2009 season (four
straight wins) and the buzz that resulted from the hiring of Mike

So given that loose sense of the various teams’
expectations, I’d say that the Bucs have the best chance of being
“successful.”  Like the Rams, the Bucs have been written off and will be
overlooked each week.  But the Bucs have a bit more talent than the
Rams, who could be forced to struggle through a fourth straight abysmal
season before their fortunes begin to change.

What team would be the least surprising to be the first to fire a coach this year after a slow start?  Eric W.

Bears open with a home game against the Lions, followed by a trip to
Dallas, a Monday night visit from the Packers, and back-to-back road
games against the Giants and Panthers.  Then they host the Seahawks and
Redskins before getting a week off.  If the Bears don’t win more than
two of those first seven games, I could see coach Lovie Smith being run
out of town during the bye week, since G.M. Jerry Angelo will want to
try to improve the team’s fortunes dramatically over the balance of the
year in the hopes of saving his own job.

Given that Brad
Childress is, by all accounts, one of the most spineless NFL head
coaches ever, and given the fact that he let Brett Favre walk all over
the Vikings franchise, isn’t it inevitable that this team is going to
implode?  At the first sign of trouble this season, I expect
second-guessing, infighting, and a general lack of disrespect to spread
through the locker room. Surely no team that has be run this way for
this long could last too much longer before the other shoe drops, right? 
Alan C

I’ll agree with you, but only if the Vikings
struggle out of the gates, which is entirely possible.  Last year, they
fattened up their record early against teams like the Browns, Lions, and
Rams.  A rough patch in December (three losses in four games) created
plenty of doubt.  That 34-3 win over Dallas in the divisional round of
the playoffs sparked local euphoria in large part because it was the
team’s most convincing overall effort at least since early October
against the Packers, and possibly the best game of the year. 

2010, it won’t be nearly as easy.  The Vikings open with the Saints and
the underrated Dolphins, and then after a winnable game against the
Lions the Vikings come out of the bye with a horrendous quartet of games
— at Jets, Cowboys, at Packers, at Patriots.  If Brett Favre loses to
two of his former teams (Jets and Packers), someone will be taking the
blame for it in Minnesota.  And it surely won’t be Brett Favre.

you see any serious erosion in the Broncos fan base over the Josh
McDaniels hiring, Jay Cutler firing, Brandon Marshall trading, etc?  Or
was that overblown and now the team is something new and fans have
digested the furor?

The drafting of Tim Tebow has
obscured much of the rancor in Broncoland.  But don’t forget that this
team went 2-8 over the last 10 games in 2009, and that McDaniels ran off
after a fairly successful performance defensive coordinator Mike Nolan,
whom the Dolphins were thrilled to land.  With linebacker and 2009 sack
leader Elvis Dumervil hurt and various other injuries, there is cause
for alarm in Denver.  Tebow’s potential and promise has persuaded many
of the fans either not to notice or not to care.  For now.

If/when the CBA produces a rookie salary scale, will trading of top draft picks happen more freely?  Charles M.

likely.  Fewer teams move up in the draft because of the double whammy
resulting from the picks and/or players needed to make the jump and then
the large pile of money that gets paid to the player who is picjed. 
Most teams would rather have more picks at lower prices, since that
gives them more chances at getting quality help, with less financial
risk.  If/when the cost of a signing a high pick drops significantly,
more teams should be willing to try to accelerate their positioning in
the hopes of getting a guy they covet.

If the rumors are true
and Jacksonville is the top candidate for a move to LA, how would the
divisions go about realignment, assuming that the L.A. Jags would have
to go the AFC or NFC West?  Joe C

If — and for now it’s still a big if — the Jaguars move to Los
Angeles, the NFL would have to balance geographic accuracy with the
preservation of traditional rivalries.  Prior to comprehensive
realignment in 2002, which transformed six divisions into eight and
bumped the Seahawks from the AFC West to the NFC West, the Arizona
Cardinals had remained in the NFC East more than 10 years after their
move from St. Louis, which hardly was “East” in the first place.

Assuming that the NFL doesn’t want to send the Titans, Colts, and Texans
to Los Angeles every year, the easy move would be to flip
Jacksonville/L.A. from the AFC South with Kansas City from the AFC
West.  But that would disrupt long-standing rivalries between the Chiefs
and the Broncos, Raiders, and Chargers.  One big benefit, however,
would flow from the annual return of the Raiders to Los Angeles.

It also would make sense to move the Jaguars to the NFC West, since that
would result in the Rams returning to L.A. at least once per year,
too.  Likewise, it would keep the four California franchises balanced
evenly between the two conferences.  But then a team like the Cardinals
would have to go to the AFC South, which while not completely illogical
would not be ideal.

Another more radical — but geographically appropriate — option would
entail sending the Jaguars to the AFC West, the Chiefs to the AFC North,
the Ravens to the AFC East, and the Bills Dolphins to the AFC South.

Chris Johnson made a nuisance of himself all offseason and got a
pretty big raise for 2010. DeSean Jackson, another young player who has
outplayed his contract, has spent the off-season trying to be a good
soldier. Do you think good behavior will ultimately get Jackson a bigger
deal than he would otherwise get?  Andrew M

For starters, Johnson didn’t get “a pretty big raise.”  His base salary
of $550,000 was augmented by the acceleration of $1.5 million or so in
escalators he had unlocked for 2012.  Given the hazards of the position
he plays, which is the equivalent of being a superpowered magnet in an
anvil factory, and the level of performance he has achieved in two
years, the Titans should have been happy to pay him that extra money —
and willing to pay him even more.

As to Jackson, I don’t think his patience and relative silence means
that he will get more than he’d otherwise get.  I think it means that
the process will be simpler for everyone.  Though Jackson has at times
conjured memories of Terrell Owens, Jackson has been careful not to
demand more money, possibly because of the disastrous consequences that
followed for Owens. 

In this regard, don’t discount the fact that Jackson has the same agent
who handled the Owens fiasco.  Drew Rosenhaus likely learned the hard
way that the Eagles won’t respond favorably to threats and bullying and
disruptions.  If the diminutive Jackson is willing to bear the risk of
injury as he finishes the last two years of his rookie deal — and if he
can stayhealthy — he’ll eventually be rewarded in significant fashion.

All that said, if the Eagles don’t take care of him before the final
year of his contract begins, there probably will be trouble in Philly.

The object of training camp in past years was to get the players into
shape for the upcoming season.  With all of the OTAs, as well as the
numbers of players training on their own, why is a four-week preseason
necessary?  Louis L

In today’s NFL, many players are in shape throughout the year.  The
offseason strength and conditioning program, which launches in March,
helps get the players in shape for the offseason practice sessions that
run from late April through mid-to-late June.  A four-week preseason
isn’t necessary, then, to get players in shape.  Instead, the primary
value comes from getting the starters ready to play together (especially
with the kind of turnover that free agency now generates), to settle
competitions for starting jobs, to give young players a chance to
develop skills and confidence, and to allow the coaches to eventually
make good decisions regarding the players who’ll be offered spots on the
final 53-man roster.

The NFL wants to shrink the preseason because preseason games generally
are less interesting, since many of the players in the second halves of
preseason games won’t have jobs come Labor Day and since the sense of
urgency that arises in the relatively short (from a total number of
games standpoint) NFL regular season simply doesn’t exist in the
preseason.  Plenty of coaches will surely resist a reduction in their
ability to assess and develop players via live reps, and it could lead
to more full-contact training-camp practices and scrimmages, especially
among the players at the bottom of the roster.

Either way, it seems inevitable that the preseason will shrink and that the regular season will be “enhanced.”

21 responses to “PFT Mailbag, non-video edition

  1. The Bills to the AFC South is geographically appropriate? I suppose you flunked geography in grade school…

  2. The Bills moving to the AFC South? Whaaaat? In the unlikely event that an AFC East team moved to the South, wouldn’t it be the Dolphins?

  3. Move the Jaguars to the NFC West and the Rams to the AFC South. Even swap two crappy teams trade places.

  4. “it will be easier for a team like the Saints to nail down home-field advantage in the playoffs this year, since they’ll play the four AFC West teams”
    The NFC South actually plays the AFC North this year.

  5. The Jags would move to the NFC West…so that the Rams could visit them and the Cardinals would move to AFC South? No. The Rams would move to the AFC South. I think you overestimate the appeal of the Rams visiting LA yearly. The Raiders would probably be a good visit, but the Rams aren’t enough to cause further geographical problems in an effort to supposedly fix them.

  6. @Rhapsody
    I couldn’t agree more, it makes a lot more sense for a Los Angeles team to play in the AFC South than it does for Buffalo. If a team was going to switch to the AFC South from the AFC East, the obvious choice would be the Dolphins not the Bills.

  7. If Brett Favre loses to two of his former teams (Jets and Packers), someone will be taking the blame for it in Minnesota. And it surely won’t be Brett Favre.
    Good stuff.
    Break it off into a few different articles over a few days next time. Going to be rough waiting a full week for another one. Enjoy the random questions.

  8. “The Packers don’t have the benefit of playing all cupcake teams this year. No NFC West this year; they get the NFC East. No AFC North, it’s the AFC East.”
    Is this guy suggesting the AFC North is full of cupcakes? Green Bay was 2-2 against the North last year, losing to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Baltimore, a team the Packers beat early in the year, rolled over AFC East champion New England in the playoffs.
    Green Bay’s 4-0 record against the NFC West is negated by the fact they lost to division champion Arizona in the first round of the playoffs.
    If those results suggest it was a “cupcake” schedule for the Packers, then his team certainly failed to take advantage of it.

  9. Mike, why dont you just ignore all relocation questions for any team until there is actually, you know, somewhere for someone to move.

  10. “It will be easier for a team like the Saints to nail down home-field advantage in the playoffs this year, since they’ll play the four AFC West teams. ”
    NFC West.

  11. LOVE the article, Mike. I check PFT multiple times a day and read 98% of the posts (except the one-liners), but the PFTV segments are boring and only watch them if my team is the subject. This was great reading.

  12. The divisions will always have a team out of geographical compliance. Why are the Rams and Chiefs still in the west? Why aren’t the Fins in the south? Well because compromise is necessary to balance the divisions.

  13. Great mailbag. You make up the questions from submitters (since NO one has known that a mailbag existed before now)? Hmmmmm

  14. What happens with everyones pay when the schedule moves to 18 games? Their game checks are going to go down or the owners are going to bitch about how they have to pay larger contracts now. How is this going to work between the union and the owners?

  15. Wrongo on Chiefs. Better off moving the Titans to AFC north – closer geographically to pitt, cle, and cinci… plus you revive the old Oilers’ rivarly with those same teams.

  16. Indy makes more geographical sense to AFC north than TN…sadly, most of all the old Oiler rivalries are mostly forgotten (some bad blood still with PIT)

  17. You can’t move the Dolphins or the Bills out of the AFC East (unless they both go). Bills/Dolphins rivalry is about as traditional as they get.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!