LeBron James signed a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers last weekend, a deal that guarantees the Golden State Warriors will beat another team besides the Cleveland Cavaliers in next year’s NBA Finals.
In other news, DeMarcus Cousins signed a one-year contract with Golden State, a deal that guarantees the Warriors will go undefeated during the 2018/2019 regular season (and possibly the entire postseason).
Golden State is the NBA’s Dream Team that seems to get dreamier each and every season, leaving about as much suspense in the league as there is in a Harlem Globetrotters vs. Washington Generals post-Christmas matchup at PPG Arena.
But that’s the nature of basketball, you get yourself one, two or, in Golden State’s case, five great players, and you can pretty much map out how your season will end.
The beautiful thing about being an NFL fan is, no matter how talented a team’s roster may be, no matter how well some organization does in free agency or during the draft, you just never know.
Obviously, it all starts with a talented roster — you’re not going to do much without it — but after that, there are so many variables and so many nuances that can determine which team will be holding a parade in early February.
Look at the Steelers’ roster; we’ve been saying it’s the best in the NFL for years — ”Mike Tomlin has the NFL’s best roster and he’s constantly being out-coached!”— but they haven’t been able to bring home a Lombardi for a while.
Why is that?
Matchups, luck (any sport that plays with a ball that’s not round is totally unpredictable) and, perhaps, coaching decisions.
Speaking of the draft, matchups, coaching decisions, etc., the Steelers picked two safeties in the 2018 NFL Draft — Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds in the first round and Penn State’s Marcus Allen in the fifth round — and they’ve got plans to use them at the inside linebacker spot in key situations.
And if either or both of those players are successful in this specialized role, Pittsburgh might finally have found an answer for Rob Gronkowski, perhaps the most villainous and unstoppable offensive opponent the Steelers have ever faced.
Imagine that — Rob Gronkowski being taken down by football specialization.
Speaking of specialization, fans spend so much time worrying about offense and defense, but special teams often play a crucial role in winning or losing a game.
Tom Brady could throw for 500 yards and six touchdowns in a game, yet still be taken down by Chris Boswell, a placekicker who may actually be in another profession today if the folks in charge of Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio, had taken better care of the field prior to 2015’s Hall of Fame Game between the Steelers and Vikings.
If Steph Curry and the Warriors are up by 10 points late in a game, they don’t really have to worry about a true full-court press forcing turnovers, they just have to make their free throws once they’re inevitably fouled.
In the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger, who will make about $23 million this year, could put the Steelers up by two touchdowns late in a game and still have to sweat out a victory if the defense allows a quick touchdown and some kid on the “hands team” making the league minimum fails to come up with the subsequent onside kick.
Speaking of Roethlisberger, the team he’s playing could have the most awesome running game and the most intimidating defense but, if that opponent doesn’t have a quarterback who equals or approaches his talents, chances are that opponent will come up short--and the odds of this happening everywhere around the NFL increase once January rolls around.
Remember back in 2011 when the Eagles tried to forge a free agent Dream Team comprised of Jason Babin, Nnami Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Ronald Brown, Donald Lee, Steve Smith and, for some reason, Vince Young?
Remember when the Eagles finished 8-8 that year, and everyone laughed?
Actually, the truly funny part was people thinking those players were really all that dreamy.
That’s the beauty of NFL free agency.
You really think the LeBron James (or even DeMarcus Cousins) NFL equivalent will ever be allowed to switch teams via free agency? Ask Le’Veon Bell how well his “unrestricted free agent” years are treating him.
The way that NFL free-agency usually works is that a role player leaves his old team to become a major player for another team, before inevitably winding up as a role player for yet another team.
And what about things like first-place schedules, last-place schedules and OTAs — a voluntary offseason activity that usually costs at least one major star his ACL each and every year?