Friday, August 28, 2009

NFL-The Next Man Up

NFL franchises are officially back to work, their training camps in full swing. Adversity in the form of injuries has also affected teams as it has every year; several key players have gone down with significant injuries.

When it comes to injuries in the NFL it is identical to riding a motorcycle it is a known fact that if you ride one you will go down at some point in time hopefully you can recover from any injuries. Coincidentally when it comes to injuries in the NFL it isn’t a matter of if it happens it is a matter of when.

Let’s be honest injuries suck but they’re part of the game and a setback that has to be overcome. It is also an opportunity for the back up player to step up and prove he can be the guy. Here are a couple of guys who have made it happen. Can Joe Mays be the guy in Philadelphia? Can Corey Irvin, Nick Hayden or Marlon Favorite step up in Carolina? One thing is for certain both clubs and us fans we’ll all find out right away.

1. Kurt Warner stepped in for Trent Green in 1999
2. Tom Brady stepped in for Drew Bledsoe in 2001
3. Kerry Collins stepped in for Rich Gannon in 2003
4. James Harrison stepped in for Clark Haggans in 2005

If the entire organization (Owner, Front Office, Scouting Department & Coaching Staff) is one the same page and has properly built their team they’ll be prepared for this scenario. This is accomplished by drafting well with a 3-5 year vision in mind and clearly defined attainable goals.

In theory a teams 1st & 2nd round draft picks should be integral pieces to the puzzle that have the potential to be longtime fixtures for a franchise. A team should be drafting potential starters or players that can develop into starters in every round. However a team is actually built in rounds 3 – 7. Let’s not forget selecting un-drafted free agents to develop.

It has been said more than once that the best laid plans can and will go awry. Injuries have negatively affected the outcome of the season of several teams. It brings to mind the John Madden Football curse. I know to some people this might sound just a tad out of context but follow me if you will and it will make sense.

It must be stated that this isn’t a knock on John Madden Football. I absolutely love the game and have been playing it for years. Going back over the last ten years Injuries, having a significant impact on a team and being on the cover of the game have been synonymous. 1999 was also the first year that NFL players were featured on the cover of the game.

• 1999 Garrison Hearst - He had an outstanding regular season, finishing third in rushing yards. However, he suffered a broken ankle in the Divisional Playoff game against the Falcons. The severe break caused Hearst to miss two full NFL seasons. The team went 8-8 3rd place in the division.
• 2000 Barry Sanders – He is pictured over Madden’s left shoulder on the cover. Sanders abruptly retired in July before the start of the start of the 99’ season. The team went 8-8 3rd place in the division.
• 2001 Eddie George – George’s curse came in 01’ in the form of him failing to break 1,000 yards rushing and the Titans going 7-9 and missing the playoffs.
• 2002 Dante Culpepper – Culpepper missed 4 games due to injury, threw for 1,300 less yards & 19 less TD passes than in 2000. The Vikings went 5-11 their worst record since 1984.
• 2003 Marshall Faulk – Faulk played in the same number of games but ran for 430 yards less and had 4 less TD’s than in 2001. His worst since 1996. The Rams scored only 16 more points then their 1996 team that had Tony Banks at QB and Lawrence Phillips at RB. The team went 7-9 3rd place in the division.
• 2004 Michael Vick – Vick missed the first 11 games of the season with a broken leg. Vick’s QB rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt were all down from 2002. (* This is clearly a statistic that Vince Young wasn’t aware of by stating in an interview in the Sept. issue of Esquire Magazine when he stated that playing QB was all about your legs) The team went 5-11 4th place in the division.
• 2005 Ray Lewis – Lewis for the most part avoided the curse. His numbers were slightly down from the previous year, he missed one game. However, he didn’t record an interception in 2004, the first time in his career.
• 2006 Donovan McNabb – After week 9, McNabb suffered a hernia and was lost for the season. McNabb threw for more interceptions; his yards per attempt and completion percentage were down from 2004. The Eagles finished 6-10, in last place and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
• 2007 Shaun Alexander – Alexander missed 6 regular season games with a broken foot. He finished the season with 896 yards and 7 TD’s; his lowest numbers since his rookie season. He had a 3.6 yards per carry average; His career average was 4.4 yards per carry) The team went 10-6, went to the playoffs, lost in the Divisional Round to the Packers.
• 2008 Vince Young – Vince Young threw for 2,546 yards, 9 TD’s and 17 Interceptions. He did complete 62% of his passes and Tennessee went 10-6 losing to the Chargers in the playoffs.
• 2009 Bret Favre – Favre passed for 3,472 yards, 22 TD’s & 22 Interceptions. Favre & the Jets experienced a hot start but faded late after Favre injured his throwing arm and the season collapsed. Brett threw 6 less TD’s & 7 more INT’s then in 2007. The Jets finished 9-7 after an 8-3 start and missed the playoffs losing to the Dolphins with their former QB at the helm.

The NFL is the epitome of the next man up. Overcoming adversity and moving on is the name of the game. A highly important factor in answering the obvious question; can the team trust the back up and rally around him?

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