There is a saying in football that a lot of people believe, "Offense wins games and defense wins championships". In other words, you can have a good team if you have a good offense. However, if you want a Championship team you must have a good defense.
Through my experiences I have come to believe something similar: Games are won in the trenches and game-changing defenders win championships.
Last week I wrote "We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us." I contended that the Kansas City Chiefs were a floundering team and attempted to show the difficulties NFL teams have after recording two consecutive years at a .250 winning percentage.
The problem I presented was that no team, not one, had gotten out of the hole yet. None of them had found the path. None had found any answers. None seemed to back up the belief that the game is won in the trenches and game-changing defenders win championships.
This post will attempt to review the draft reactions of three floundering teams and how they might have went wrong based on my fundamental belief.
It is my contention that when a team reaches the floundering line, all bets are off. The norm is no longer the rule. Teams can no longer follow standard drafting and free agent procedures. Floundering teams MUST address the quality of their trench players and at the same time start acquiring young game-changing defensive talent.
|Going into the 2003 draft, the Lions were staring at offensive and defensive numbers that ranked at the bottom of the league for two consecutive years (chart below). They were a team that had reached the floundering line. So which direction did the Lions choose to go when faced with addressing problems through the draft?
|Lion's Draft Choices after Hitting Floundering Line|
|2005||M. Williams - WR||S. Cody - DT||S. Wilson - DB|
|2004||R. Williams - WR K. Jones - RB||T. Lehman - LB||K. Smith - DB|
|2003||C. Rogers - WR||B. Bailey - LB||Redding - DE|
Here are some observations of the Lions next three drafts (chart above).
- The Lions did not elect to draft a game changing defender in the first round. Instead, they decided to select four offensive players for the next three years. None of them offensive linemen.
- The Lions chose to take defenders in the second round. Not electing to take a 'trench' player until the third year.
- The Lions chose to take defenders in the third round.
|Going into the 2007 draft, the Raiders were staring at offensive and defensive rankings that were at the bottom of the league (chart below). They were a team that had reached the floundering line. The 2006 defensive rankings end up being deceptive due to the fact that the Raiders fell back down to the bottom 20's in both 2007 and 2008. So which direction did the Raiders choose to go when faced with addressing problems through the draft?|
|Raiders Draft Choices after Hitting Floundering Line|
|Raiders||1st Round||2nd Round||3rd Round|
|2009||Heyward-Bey - WR||M. Mitchell - DB||Shaughnessy DE|
|2008||D. McFadden - RB||None||None|
|2007||J. Russell - QB||Z. Miller - TE||
Moses DE Henderson DT Higgins WR
Here are some observations from the Raiders next three drafts (chart above).
- The Raiders did not elect to draft a game changing defender in the first round. Instead, they decided to select three offensive players for the next three years. None of them offensive linemen.
- The Raiders tried to go for the "franchise" QB in the first round, but failed.
- The Raiders chose to take defenders in the third round.
A franchise reaches the "floundering" stage by making a series of bad drafts, bad player signings, bad coaching moves, and a miscalculation (at some point) of the condition of their team. So what keeps them floundering?
Based on my belief that the game is won in the trenches and game-changing defenders win championships...this is what I failed to see after reviewing the Lions and Raiders picks.
- Game changing defenders are most often found in the first round. The Lions and Raiders failed to go for any game-changing defenders (first rounders) through the draft.
- Both the Lions and the Raiders failed to address the offensive line through the draft for three years. Not one o-line pick.
- The Lions and Raiders either addressed the defensive trench players to late in the three year process or to late in the draft rounds. Remember, game-changing defenders win championships. More game changing trench players are found in round one than any other round.
After reviewing the teams it would appear that the direction taken by both the Lions and Raiders in the draft are similar. It is also obvious, through hind site, that the direction taken by both teams did not work. So how did Scott Pioli react after seeing the Chiefs numbers after two consecutive years below the floundering line?
|Pioli's First Year Draft Response after Floundering|
|2009||T. Jackson - DE||None||A. Magee - DE|
It would appear that Pioli went a different direction than the Lions and Raiders. In the first round Pioli went with a defensive trench player. In the 3rd round Pioli again went with a defensive trench player. So what does that say? Will the Chiefs get out of the hole where other teams have failed?
I don't think you can tell at this point. We can, however, see that Pioli does not seem to be following the Lions and Raiders plan of action in regards to the draft. We might all be able to rejoice at that fact.
Pioli just might believe that games are won in the trenches. He just might believe that game-changing defenders win championships. He just might have the right belief and plan of action to get the Chiefs out of the hole.
The off-season will reveal if Scott Pioli is the man with a plan...or just another Detroit or Oakland want-a-be.