This time of year, NFL general managers are normally very anxious. Their teams are built, for the most part, ON PAPER and now the OTA’s and mini camps are the first chances towards projecting future success. This year, due to the effects of the coronavirus, there are even more unknowns - and with variables not imagined just over two months ago, there is no additional information to be gathered by the team builders/decision makers. No OTA’s, no mini camps and training camps seem like a world away. Currently they are left with reading, listening and trying to look in the crystal ball. That feeling just might need some meds to deal with ☺.
Part of their jobs are to manage these expectations. This is a skill set that many take for granted and at minimum, get handled differently. Some decision makers, “run” from high expectations and tramp them down anytime the media talks about them, ala the New England Patriots with just about everything bit of attention thrown their way. Others don’t ever have to deal with any expectations (i.e. Chargers/Bengals/Jacksonville). Because their teams are basically treading water, they don’t ever seem to do enough in the off season to create any buzz to manage.
Sometimes teams from this group need a good old-fashioned, look in the mirror, at their talent level. Facing the facts is often easier said than done because they look in that mirror but refuse to SEE what’s obvious to others. On occasion, I would like to get an independent set of eyes from outside the organization to give me his honest thoughts. Other teams just let expectations run wild without being managed and the “powers at be” just seem to throw more gasoline on the fire of expectations by riding with media hype. As we saw, the 2019 version of the Cleveland Browns chose this route and their results were combustible.
All approaches can be effective. Staying under the radar or beating your chest are legit courses of actions that sometimes mirror the personalities of the GM or the head coach. I tend to have the most respect for the teams and leadership groups that are not afraid to go “ALL IN” each year but yet let their actions speak for themselves. They try to be as aggressive in free agency and the draft as possible so they can improve their teams. Some teams seem to always be in the middle of every deal, for example. To me, this year’s group attempting to go “all in” for 2020 includes-
Indianapolis Colts- Any time you sign a 38 yr old QB as your leader and trade away a first-round pick for a proven player- DL Deforest Buckner, you have served notice that we are in “win now” mode. I love the aggressiveness of both moves and the sense of urgency that GM Chris Ballard has brought with him to Indy. I think it’s going to be disappointing if they don’t win the division but that’s OK. It’s clearly a team that has proven that every year they will be willing to build and do whatever it takes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Obviously, nobody is getting younger in Tampa Bay, TB12, Gronk, etc. The head coach Bruce Arians is 67. The spotlight and expectations have clearly been ratcheted up like we have not seen in the past in Tampa. The moves have been bold and I like the fact that they are not “standing at the plate with the bat on their shoulders”. They have also upgraded an aging and shaky O’line with the first round selection of an offensive tackle, Tristan Wirfs from Iowa. The Bucs biggest hurdle might be having to overcome the competition within their own division mainly from across the Gulf of Mexico.
Seattle Seahawks- They always seem to find a way to balance acquiring young talent and adding just enough veteran help to push their expectations toward winning NOW. The additions of “all time good” TE Greg Olsen and veteran WR Phillip Dorsett as weapons for Russell Wilson, with the additional message “we are still in the hunt’ for Jadeveon Clowney tell me once again, they are in it to win it and will be considered a favorite even though they are still in the same division with last year’s Super Bowl team, the San Francisco 49ers.
Miami Dolphins- A team that did an excellent job of hitting the gas pedal the last third of the 2019 season and has utilized every avenue it could within the rules to improve their roster this offseason. Having been with this organization and in this city, I know for a fact this is no easy task and that expectations matter in South Florida. I do think the limited offseason work and lack of time together will slow their progress slightly, but they would get my award for the “Most Improved” roster over the last 12 months. The only move I struggle with is going away from defensive back Mikah Fitzpatrick but I really think their other additions to the roster have more than made up for that minor setback. They are all in- in trying to win but may need some time to come together. Follow Randy on Twitter