Could the St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo draft Sam Bradford in part to buy time for themselves? Though it is admittedly a somewhat cynical theory, don't dismiss it. The one thing I know about the NFL is this league is not all about winning as many people suggest; it's about keeping your job.
Every job in the NFL is highly sought after, so people will do whatever it takes to stay as long as possible. It may come in the form of a position coach playing a particular free agent or draft choice to curry favor with the new regime that brought him in, or a general manager refusing to cut any of his draft picks because to do otherwise would make him look bad. Some of the moves made in the NFL are akin to a politician focusing most of his term on getting re-elected instead of working in the best interests of his constituents.
This theory as it relates to the Rams is pretty simple. The NFL is a win-now league; coaches are fired after two seasons if they are not able to show improvement or have success during that time. Right or wrong, another lackluster season could spell trouble for Devaney and Spagnuolo.
Unless, that is, they take a potential franchise quarterback with the first overall pick this year. In that scenario, new owner Shahid Khan likely would give the current regime an additional year to prove themselves. That's because a rookie quarterback is likely to struggle in year one, and to switch the entire offensive system after one year isn't smart. Plus, even if the Rams struggle in 2010, at least the fans, media, and team can hang their hat on the belief that they have a franchise QB in tow and good times are ahead.
That faith may not be there if St. Louis takes one of the two highly touted defensive tackles, Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. Even if one of them played well, another subpar year would be difficult to swallow if the team still felt it had a huge question mark at quarterback. At that point, Khan might be more inclined to hire a general manager and coach of his own and have them start from scratch by drafting a quarterback in round one.
Some people I know well tell me Spagnuolo and Devaney are going to make the decision based solely on what they feel is in the best interests of the team. I believe them. The fact that a number of franchises over the years have appeared to take quarterbacks high in the draft to appease the fans and media, as opposed to that pick being the right player, is reason to keep an eye on this one.
It's mail time...
Would you allow any organization to take your blood sample for anything without a court order? With all the leaks the NFL has allowed, I would never trust them with such sensitive personal information. Urine is one thing ... blood is different. Would you, as a player, allow it?--Mark Furlong, Glen Ridge, N.J.
First, each team already takes blood from players as part of the annual physical. Second, I absolutely would let them take blood from me even more often if it meant I could guarantee I was on a level playing field with the people I was competing against. This is a serious business that affects lives and families.
Thanks for the great insight on the nuances of your profession, including your humility and openness. A lot is made of a player's "locker room" impact. Is this over- or under-rated? Do teams even have a single locker room culture, or is it more like a set of subcultures (married v. single players; offense v. defense)? How much influence can a new individual really have on something so intangible?--Clint, Rochester, N.H.
There are a lot of subcultures, particularly in terms of hanging out together outside of the team facility. But I think a veteran leader has the potential to have a big impact on the other players in his particular positional meeting room. It is a big reason teams like to have at least one solid core veteran who loves football and puts extra time in in every room. That way that guy can kind of steer the ship and the younger players can follow his lead.
Did you enjoy your time in Buffalo and is playing for them as bad as the perception is around the league?--@Shaunta53 via Twitter
My wife and I loved Buffalo; it was our favorite team and best experience out of the five I played for (Redskins, Cowboys, Browns, Patriots). I guess it depends on what the individual is looking for, but it was really a family atmosphere in which everyone was welcomed with open arms and everybody hung out with one another socially. Other teams were not always like that.
Which team has had more success with undrafted free agents?--@revue_sam via Twitter
There are several. The Bills signed both Jason Peters and Jabari Greer when I was there in 2004 and now both are big-money starters, albeit not in Buffalo. The Colts interior offensive and defensive lines are loaded with players who were never drafted, not to mention the contribution they got from Jacob Lacey this year as a rookie corner.