Posted by: mdegeorge | January 5, 2011

Tuesday Morning Diagnosis: New season’s resolutions

I find New Year’s resolutions as loathsome and manipulative as any tradition we observe. We get it, you’re unhappy with yourself, but invariably, you’ll still be fat come February.

Nonetheless, the time for reevaluation has come, occasionally abruptly, for the 20 NFL teams calling it quits for the season after Week 17.

John Elway Iraq 3

So, to dissociate myself from that annual ritual or self-improvement, here are 20 dosages of new season resolutions the league over (in draft order).

Carolina: Draft a starting quarterback. A real one. The Panthers will be the first to step to the line draft line for the abundant quarterback crop that promises at least five first-rounders (Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert are already in the draft, while Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Ryan Mallett, Terrelle Pryor and Kellen Moore could all declare, plus Andy Sutton and Pat Devlin as early-round options). If Luck opts to stay at Stanford for his junior season, the Panthers should look into trading down a few spots—PR nightmare though that is—and grab some extra picks while still snagging a qb later in the round. The second part of the equation is recouping some value in the failed Jimmy Clausen experiment.

Denver: Throw the bank at a big-name coach. If it’s Jim Harbaugh, then so be it. This team could use a big name to infuse a little life back into (to say nothing of an impact defensive player at No. 2 in the draft). I think it’s safe to assume that John Elway was brought into the fold more for his legendary profile as a sports figure in the city than his executive acumen while with the Colorado Crush of the now defunct Arena Football League. Or it may be that Stanford connection to help lure Harbaugh. Either way, another name for the front-office marquee would revitalize the team.

Buffalo: Decide right now: Is Ryan Fitzpatrick your quarterback of the future? This isn’t a question that can be answered with a “maybe” or a “kinda”. It’s an either/or proposition. The Bills have an opportunity to nab a quarterback that could change the franchise’s direction for the next decade or so. Sticking with Fitzpatrick and drafting a quarterback to start the second round does nothing for you. Remember the age-old adage: If you have two starting quarterbacks, you have none. If it’s Fitzpatrick—and that appears to be the case so far—go for an impact defensive player who isn’t Shawne Merriman. If Fitzpatrick isn’t the guy, replace him.

Cincinnati: Put the T.Ocho show on wheels and get it out of town. Carson Palmer’s career is in the decline, and the current window of opportunity is closing. Do what you have to to get A.J. Green or Justin Blackmon in the first round, consider one of the Boise State receivers at the top of the third round, and re-invest that money into strengthening the running game (maybe a Mikel Leshoure in the second round).

Arizona: Decide who your quarterback of the future is (buckle up, that’s going to be a common refrain). Is it John Skelton? (I suspect not.) Is it Derek Anderson? (Yeah, don’t think so. At least Skelton is an affordable back up.) The Cardinals would be wise to decide who that future signal-caller is out of the potential picks. If it’s Locker, they can trade down and get some picks. Maybe it’s Newton, a player who can also jump-start a long-floundering run game.

Cleveland: Get Colt McCoy some help. The Browns at least know who their quarterback (if not their coach) will be next season. Offensively, they could use to shore up their running situation with a change-of-pace back to pair with Peyton Hillis, but that won’t happen early in this running back threadbare draft. Instead, they have an opportunity to upgrade to a better number one receiver than Mohamed Massaquoi. Green, Blackmon, or Julio Jones has to find his way into a Browns’ jersey.

San Francisco: Get a quarterback! Neither of the brothers Smith fits the bill. With as many options as are out there, the 49ers need one badly.

Tennessee: Lose some weight. About 233 pounds, in the form of Vince Young, something that apparently has been accomplished already. They’re now able to get past the “will he or won’t he” question of Young’s possible development and find a new quarterback to lead them. Something tells me coach Jeff Fisher isn’t in the mood, or in the secure contract situation, to develop a rookie. But a defender to clog the middle in one of the more explosive offensive divisions in the NFL is a possibility.

Dallas: Get tougher. This team didn’t lose for lack of talent. It lost for lack of character this season. I think they’re talented enough to make their first draft pick an attitude pick: Any defender who’s going to give that defensive unit a shot of intensity and mean. Or a cornerback, like Prince Amukamara or Patrick Peterson.

Washington: Get out the brooms. Donovan McNabb will be gone. Ditto Albert Haynesworth. Even Clinton Portis has reached the point at which he’s no longer worth the money. Someone has to be willing to take Portis and/or McNabb for some late round picks (I’m thinking Miami and Arizona, respectively). Mike Shanahan is a tremendous coach; let him get his players in via the draft and free agency. You know Daniel Snyder will bankroll it. As far as the draft goes, they should shoot for a defensive lineman or linebacker for their 3-4 system; if they find prospects not to their liking, a trade down to later in the first round for some extra picks and a shot at a sizeable stock of mid- to late-first round linemen is a possibility.

Houston: Time to get defensive. The Texans have the league’s leading rusher (Arian Foster), a top 10 quarterback (Matt Schaub), one of the game’s premier wide receivers (Andre Johnson), and a putrid defense more intent on brawling than defending. The Texans need the best defensive player on the board. If either Amukamara or Peterson fall to them, it’s a no-brainer for the worst pass defense in the NFL. Otherwise, the best lineman on the board should be theirs. If they could ever sneak a Marvin Austin or Cameron Heyward in the second round as well, the revamping would be complete.

Minnesota: Stay away from Mississippi. It’s time to definitely move past the Brett Favre era. Joe Webb might very well get his shot to run the show, and unlike many of the transitional quarterbacks looking to break through this season, he at least has some All-Pro weapons around him. They may opt for a first-round quarterback, but if not, they at least have a decent insurance plan who doesn’t qualify for membership in AARP.

Detroit: Stay the course. A couple defensive moves, and this team is in decent shape. They’ve got some good young playmakers, provided Matthew Stafford graces them with his presence for more than a handful of games next season. It scares me to say that the Lions can take the best defensive player on the board, but I think it’s true.

St. Louis: Help Sam Bradford. The number one pick had an impressive season despite numbering a pair of Eagles’ throwaways, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, as his top targets. The Rams need to emerge with either Blackmon or Jones from this first round.

Miami: Recoup value from your pair of running backs. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams won’t be in Dolphins jersey’s next year. In a running back-poor draft, the Dolphins won’t be able to replace him unless they happen to get Mark Ingram as likely the only first-round back (provided he declares). The offense needs a near-complete overhaul, and redeeming value for Brown or Williams would be a good was to kick that off.

Jacksonville: Put the “D” in Del Rio. A little defensive help is needed, probably in the secondary. Florida’s Janoris Jenkins is a ready-made solution, and when you have to chase around Johnson, Kenny Britt, and Reggie Wayne, you need all the capable defenders you can get.

San Diego: Time for some front office changes. A team with the ability of the Chargers shouldn’t stumble down the stretch and get embarrassed by the out-of-contention Bengals with the playoffs on the line. The team’s position at the bargaining table has been overly belligerent and has cost them games from some of their stars, rightly or wrongly. Every other team seems to get their negotiations squared away before the regular season starts, except for the Chargers. With labor negotiations looming as it is, relationships between players and management are already strained. A little more diplomatic touch, how ever that can be accomplished, may help grease the wheels.

New York Giants: Upgrade the linebacker position. The Giants already failed to alleviate the main thin holding them back (Cough, Cough, Tom Coughlin). So now, all that’s left is to upgrade their defensive backfield. They’ve never been able to replace Antonio Pierce as a captain of the defense. They’ve got plenty of good pass rushers, but as Michael Vick clearly illustrated in the fourth quarter of Week 15, there were plenty of holes left unmanned when the backfield emptied.

Tampa Bay: Stand by your man. Josh Freeman is the Bucs’ quarterback. It’s unquestioned and undisputed as long as he’s healthy. It’s a remarkable statement for a club whose starting signal-caller position has changed hands as much as a beach ball in the cheap seats at Raymond James Stadium. He’s got a decent amount of weapons around him, though Cadillac Williams now looks expendable thanks to LeGarrette Blount and could prove to be more valuable to the Bucs in a trade.

Oakland: Put Al Davis out to pasture. I know this is impossible since he’s the one who signs the checks. But it’s just a pipe dream for the equitable sports fan in me. The Raiders will have a new coach and no first round draft pick next season. Say hello to 4-12 and the lottery in 2012.

NFL Owners: Swallow your pride and get a collective bargaining agreement in place. We know you think you got shafted in 2006 with Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw. Rub some money on it. As a group, they could get too focused on their share of revenue while ignoring the absolute millions they are bringing in. The owners are all able to make money on their investment well beyond the age at which they should reasonably be dead (see Al Davis), not to mention monetizing their stadiums and franchise merchandise without football being played.

NFL Players: Get your pads on for games 17 and 18. It’ll be one of the first resolutions you’ll have to swallow if you don’t want to be playing in such scenic UFL towns as Hartford and Omaha.

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