Franchise Players

I like Jon Gruden on MNF.  He’s entertaining and offers a good perspective, having just come off the sidelines. The biggest complaint with him is that he’s too positive, but that’s true of 90% of broadcasters.  Maybe Bill Walton can teach him how to be critical of guys. 

Gruden talked quite a bit about both Drew Brees and Matt Ryan as guys who changed their franchises.  He talked about what great moves the clubs had made to get those guys.  There is obviously a lot of truth in his words. 

However, Gruden is guilty of “presentitis”.  I had a history professor in college who taught me to always be careful about judging situations in hindsight.  He called that presentitis. 

Gruden failed to acknowledge the fact that there were concerns about both Brees and Ryan.  Drew had injured his shoulder badly in his final game as a Charger.  That is why they let him go as a free agent.  San Diego did have Phillip Rivers in place behind him, but if Drew were healthy they would have figured a way to deal him and get good value for the situation. 

Drew also wasn’t an elite QB at that point.  He was inconsistent early in his career, which is why SD spent the high pick on Rivers.  Drew had a breakout year in 2004.  He was 11-4 as the starter and had a rating of almost 105.  His numbers dipped in 2005, his final year as a Charger. 

The Saints took a gamble by signing him.  It turned out to be a brilliant move, but Gruden (and anyone else) who acts like this was a no-brainer is using revisionist history.  Why wasn’t Gruden throwing money at Brees if he was so great? 

As for Ryan, the questions with him are the basic concerns with every high pick.  Is the kid for real?  Can he handle the responsibility?  Is he worth huge dollars?  Matt has turned out to be a franchise-changer, but what made his selection different than that of Joey Harrington or JaMarcus Russell or David Carr?  All QBs taken in the Top 10 are supposed to be franchise-changers.  You can’t point to the one’s that work and ignore the failures. 

Same goes for Brees and QBs acquired as free agents or through trade.  Drew Bledsoe was supposed to be the answer for Buffalo and Dallas when they got him, but that didn’t work out.  Jeff Garcia was a bust in Detroit and Cleveland before bouncing back with Philly and Tampa.  Still, he never could really solidify himself as the long time starter in either city. 

It is easy to sit back and laud the acquisitions of Drew Brees and Matt Ryan at this point because both of them worked out.  A better discussion would be why they worked as opposed to the others that didn’t pan out. 

Gruden’s big failure in Tampa was personnel.  He could never understand how to build a roster for the long haul.  He always seemed to be “window shopping”…you know, looking for the next great thing.  You can get that vibe in his voice as he talks about players during the game.  He’s genuinely excited about all the guys he gushes on about.  I hope he’s learned a lesson so that if he gets another job things will be smoother.  Gruden is a brilliant coach.  I just don’t get the feeling that Gruden has learned his lesson.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll stay in the booth. 

As for how to have players pan out more often…build around them.  Don’t expect those guys to come in and save the world all by themselves.  Brees wouldn’t be the same guy if he was in Seattle or Cleveland.  Those teams don’t have the weapons or blockers that he needs in order to succeed.  The Falcons built a running offense that would keep the pressure off Ryan.  They loaded up on physical run blockers and good runners, meaning Matt would only have to be part of the offense and not the savior. 

It also helps that both guys are very hard working, emotionally and mentally tough, and that both are very coachable.  Find guys like that with some talent and you can win some games.


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