This is America, baby. The name of the game is not just about being the best, and the most innovative. To truly be a success in this country, and especially in the sports league that represents the U.S. to some degree, you’ve got to strive for improvement. Just because perfection is unattainable doesn’t mean you give up reaching.
The NFC West has forgotten all of the above, or so it seems from here. For the most part, this division is still a mess, months after sending a 7-9 winner to the playoffs. Just a few weeks before the season begins, the division looks like spaghetti mixed with lima beans and potting soil, stirred up with a handful of broken crayons.
San Francisco loves former top-pick Alex Smith. Really, though. The Niners love Smith so much, they brought in retired quarterback Daunte Culpeper for a workout. Daunte Culpeper! What, was Vinny Testeverde not available? Can they pull Sammy Baugh out of the ground for a few skeleton drills? Okay–that was a groaner of a bad pun.
Here’s what is also bad: New coach Jim Harbaugh is trying to out-think the room. Or he’s throwing his debut season under the wheels (knowing that he’ll get a first-try mulligan), and aiming for his main man from Stanford, Andrew Luck. What a gambler.
Then there are your Seattle Seahawks, who appear to be pinning their hopes on Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. Seattle would have done better to just keep the aging Matt Hasselbeck, and suffered through a couple more years of a stinky contract. Experience alone would likely place him +2 games ahead of Jackson and Whitehurst. It’s one thing to break the foundation when you have a good plan. But the ‘Hawks appear to be depending on manna from above.
Speaking of gambling, a bettor might make a fat knot by wagering on St. Louis to win the division with a .500 record. This is a passing league–no one disputes that in 2011. Running backs are the option now; the distraction. The side dish, not the main course. Sam Bradford fits snugly into that theory for the Rams. Expect a string of 3,000-plus seasons from him, especially once he figures out the West. He’s going to have six chances per year to pick the immediate competition bone-dry, like luxury vehicles left unattended in Newark.
If your answer to what I’m writing is Kevin Kolb and the Arizona Cardinals, you may be right. The former Eagles QB is a solid playcaller, and seasons always shake out a bit differently than even the best experts believe. But even if they make the playoffs, don’t expect Kolb and all-world receiver Larry Fitzgerald to do it with a ten-win season. Not one squad in the NFL’s weakest grouping looks like a postseason team, if moved to any of the other five divisions.
But maybe I’ve missed the entire point of the upcoming season. There could be a master plan in the works. Kolb is a suitable quarterback, on the level of a Sam Cassell or Kyle Orton as it stands preseason–someone who can be solid and move the chains. Teams like Tampa and Chicago have had recent playoff success with that kind of steady QB. Bradford’s outlook is even simpler: he will likely be one of the league’s best, within three years.
Most importantly, perhaps Seattle and San Fran are both trying to go 2-14. If that’s the plan for the 49ers and Seahawks, I wish them Luck.