We went from potentially the 7th or 8th draft pick, to the 25th draft pick. I’m not gonna lie to you, that’s pretty big.
To all the yeasayers out there, yes, I know you can have huge busts in the top half of the first round. They’re franchise killers. You draft a guy in the top 10 NEEDING him to be a major component to future success for the next decade and the guy is a lumbering stiff. That’s the downside.
And also yes, you can find many a diamond in the rough. Look at Tom Brady! Look at Matt Hasselbeck! Or, more appropriately, look at Aaron Rodgers, who slipped all the way to 24 when he was drafted.
In conclusion, the draft is a crapshoot and everyone gets that.
But, you know what? Not always. MOST of the time, if you draft a guy in the top 10, that guy is going to end up being pretty good. Maybe they’re not all Peyton Manning, but maybe they just have a good career. Couple of pro bowls, steady play at his position; not an All Pro, but you don’t need a team full of All Pros. Just guys who play well and play well together.
Need I remind ANYONE who we drafted late in the first round in the last decade? 28th pick Jerramy Stevens, 2002; the person I loathe above all others on this planet. 23rd pick Marcus Tubbs, 2004; a guy who had 1 good season, then fell to chronic knee problems. 26th pick Chris Spencer, 2005; a guy who took FOREVER to finally come into his own at center. 31st pick Kelly Jennings, 2006; a guy we couldn’t run out of town fast enough! WR Deion Branch, 2007; a guy we got in trade for a late-round pick. 28th pick Lawrence Jackson, 2008; a bust of spectacular demerit.
Just look at that pile of crap we had to choose from! Some of them Holmgren guys, most of them Ruskell guys. All of them very much dispensable. I can’t say it any more simply: the difference between the 8th pick and the 25th pick is the difference between Earl Thomas and Kelly Jennings. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Late round draft picks are no better than 2nd round draft picks; essentially the “First Round” (i.e. all the good college players) ends at around pick 15. After that, it’s just one big 2nd round of crap. Fill-in guys. Backups. Potential starters, sure, but not potential game-changers. Rarely, if ever. Unless some stud falls because of a character issue, the 25th pick is no better than a dry handjob. Will probably get the job done, but you won’t really enjoy yourself.
So yes, the playoff run was exciting, but you can’t sit there and tell me the shift in draft order isn’t significant.
Another downside is that we’re a 7-9 rebuilding team who has to go out next year and play a First Place Schedule. That doesn’t really mean a WHOLE lot, because essentially your finish within your division only affects two of the games you play. We’re GOING to play 6 games within the NFC West. We were already scheduled to play the AFC North and the NFC East, because that’s how the schedule was made years in advance. So, that accounts for 14 games. The other two, though, are doozies. At Chicago (again) and at home vs. Atlanta (again). Sucky. I’ll complain about how hard our schedule is another time (like, when we get dates and times in the coming months), but suffice it to say I’m circling that fucking Bears game as soon as I know when it lands. Fuck the Bears.
Finally, let’s face it, this playoff showing was nice and all, but it was really just putting lipstick on a pig. This 7-9 team was NOT very good. And really, it wasn’t all that far from being 5-11. We should have lost that San Diego game; when it takes two kickoff returns for touchdowns to beat someone, you know you’ve got some kind of divine intervention on your side. And that other Bears game was THIS close to being a heartbreaking loss. You would’ve given that game an extra quarter and I have no doubt they would’ve come back and probably killed us.
The fact of the matter is, we really BEAT some bad teams. San Fran, Arizona twice, Carolina, and the Rams at home in week 17 with a rookie quarterback and some very untimely drops. That doesn’t change the fact that we were -97 in point differential; easily the worst of the playoff teams. In fact, there were only 4 other teams with worse differentials (Carolina, Denver, Buffalo, Arizona). Some company we kept last year.
There’s a very good reason why Jeremy Bates was fired yesterday. This offense didn’t have what it took, bottom line. You COULD blame that on injuries, or a constant reshuffling of the lineup, or the fact that this was our third offense in three years. None of that matters, though. All you look for with a rebuilding team is improvement. You may start out crappy because of injuries or reshuffling or unfamiliarity with the offense … but the mark of a good team is: do they get better as the season goes on? This team did not, aside from one flukey playoff game where we scored the most points we had all season against a pretty bad defense.
The downside of 2010? Now we’re going into 2011 with yet ANOTHER offensive coordinator; with yet ANOTHER new playbook to learn. Tearing shit down just to build it back up.
Tomorrow I’m going to talk about Tom Cable, and how I think in spite of all these problems mentioned above, things are actually looking up for this team. And who knows? Maybe by tomorrow we’ll have a new offensive coordinator!