In a league of Copycats, the Formula For Winning Still Stays the Same
As we aproach the 2012 NFL season, the trend towards being as explosive on offense as possible has been the focus of many teams as of late. For the younger generation, the beginning of this trend began with the Rams of the late 90s which featured HOF RB Marshall Faulk, QB Kurt Warner, WRs Isaac Bruce, Az-Zahir Hakim and Torry Holt. They were dubbed the nickname "The Greatest Show on Turf" and formed the nucleus of the only team in NFL history to score 500+ points in 3 consecutive seasons. Mike Martz was the "mastermind" behind the offense, but was not the original author of it. Martz was running the exact same offense as HOF coach Don Coryell. Coryell was the true mastermind behind this brilliant, aerial attacking philosphy that he ran with a tremendous amount of success at both the college and pro level. Remember the Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow led Chargers? Don Coryell was the coach that made them who they are. Although the Chargers were one of the highest scoring teams during his tenure there, they never made it to the SB.
In 1979, Bill Walsh brought in the famous "West Coast" offense to the 49ers. He would go on to win 4 SBs with a Niner team that was just as tough on the defensive side of the ball as the offense was. When the team went from Joe Montana to Steve Young, the offensive production went even higher, yet didn't win a SB until the front office went on a spending spree to address the defensive side of the ball. From an offensive standpoint, these teams would be followed by the 2004 Colts and 2007 Patriots in which both Manning and Brady broke Dan Marino's single season record for TD passes. While all of these teams featured offenses that produced insane numbers, they lacked a defense that could match it. Of the 4 teams I just mentioned, only the Rams won a SB while fielding a sub par defense. Some might argue that the Colts won a SB in 2006 with a defense that was ranked dead last in the league, but if there was ever an example of how one man can make a difference to a team, a healthy Bob Sanders was it. The Colts played most of the season without Sanders in the lineup due to injuries. Whenever he was in the lineup though the Colts were a completely different beast defensively. What they were able to accomplish in the playoffs with him healthy was nothing short of amazing.
Some have argued that the Colts brass did the right thing in addressing the offense in order to "help Luck become successful faster." Yet this is a backwards philosophy because in essence you are putting the onis of winning solely on the shoulders of your rookie QB. You don't help any QB by doing that as much as you would by building a solid defense for him 1st. The reason being is that when highpowered offenses face teams that are more balanced on both sides of the ball than they are, even teams that are stronger defensively, the team with balance usually wins. This is why a team like the Ravens could enjoy such quick success with Flacco starting as a rookie. The front office gave him a strong running game on offense but kept a dominant defense to back him up with. The Steelers enjoyed similar success with Ben Rothlesburger. As have the Jets with Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is not a good QB IMO yet that didn't stop him from playing in an AFC championship game two years in a row including his rookie year. The Jets also have a good defense and are the reason they have been to the post season twice in the last three years. I believe that the reason these three teams (Jets, Steelers, Ravens) have had the level of success that they've had is because the front office understood the importance of having a strong defense as the best way to bring about success early with young QBs. Having a good defense takes the pressure off of a young signal caller because it minimizes his mistakes whereas an offensive laden team doesn't have that luxury. Especially when opposing teams can use their offense to control the ball in order to keep yours on the sidelines.
Even though the Steelers have had a more pass oriented approach under former OC Bruce Arians, he wasn't resigned due to the fact that Rooney II wants (To the delight of Steelers fans) the team to return to it's smash-mouthed roots":http://assets.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/pasquarelli_len/1268468.html I know we have a new regime who needs time to assert itself in building the current Colts team. But in order to "build a monster," it wouldn't hurt to have an old school approach with a blast from the past. History is most often the best teacher.
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