All human wisdom can be summed up in two words: wait and hope. As of this moment, that's exactly what we're doing, that's exactly what we should be doing. Does anyone here really need to be reminded that we're no longer on the cusp of greatness like we were in 2008? Do we honestly need a lesson in what it means to rebuild? Why all the crying and gnashing of teeth with the front office, especially Mike Reinfeldt, after some very successful drafts that have landed a top left tackle, a 2,000 yard rusher, and basically a sure-fire number one receiver barring injury or legal trouble (far from givens, but work with me here)? Hear this loud and clear, spending big money on free agents now would come back to bite us in the ass when we end up with a middling draft pick and a bunch of over the hill players that peaked in the early stages of their deals. That last part wouldn't be a problem if we were in a position to win the Super Bowl with said over the hill signees at the beginning of their deals, but what's the point of signing Ray Edwards or trading for a semi-elite player if they won't get us over the hump right now? A magical quest to get to 8-8 this year is not only improbable, but the thought of settling for it again is downright insulting. There's a time to unload all of our financial assets, now is not that time.
The comforting thing about that is that just two offseasons ago we had Super Bowl aspirations and stars in our eyes about the Titans' imminent reign over the AFC South for years to come. Well, I did at least, 08 was magical. Despite the loss of Haynesworth, I was fairly certain that a return to the playoffs was almost guaranteed. It didn't turn out that way, but it also helps me put this whole thing into perspective. The NFL isn't like the MLB. The likelihood that teams can literally come out of nowhere to be competitive only a season, probably two, after being a bottom feeder is higher. The whole season is a small sample size.
Something just clicks. The pieces fall together and suddenly, the team enters its' breakout season by improving all across the board and winning nine or ten games. The front office goes into the offseason as big buyers and break the bank or end up trading picks for proven veterans. The whole process shouldn't take too long barring the utter failure of prospects taken in not just early rounds of the draft, but throughout the whole thing. Hitting on the late round picks is key.
I'm not willing to discuss whether or not these prospects will or will not fail. We've seen some of them evolve into some of the top players in the league, and we've seen very few flame out horribly past the point of no return. In fact, since Mike Reinfeldt took over in 2007, I can count exactly one confirmed bust, Chris Henry in 2007. He quickly made up for this gaffe by drafting the best running back in the last half-decade, Chris Johnson. You could probably try to make the case for Griffin or McRath, maybe even Morgan if you were feeling especially argumentative, as being busts, but I don't think you'd be right.
This year? We've got a do-it-all linebacker who will start from day one, the future of the team, and a ridiculously disruptive interior defensive lineman if everything goes well. Those are pieces you can build a contender with. We need to continue to add pieces to the puzzle before be can add the final piece, Haloti Ngata, Jon Beason, Larry Fitzgerald, Shaun Phillips, Darrelle Revis, whoever that may be, and even more importantly, continue to "wait and hope" that our draft picks turn out.
Like the title says, we're not the Eagles. They are a team on the verge of winning it all. They came close last year, so they used free agency to fill some of their more glaring weaknesses. They also got extremely lucky on the Mike Vick signing back in 2009. To find a franchise QB on the scrap heap is an incredible stroke of luck any way you slice it, but hats off to them for also surrounding him with the offensive talent that he needs to succeed, through the draft I might add, with Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, etc.
We're also not the Jets. They've got a game manager at QB who might actually be much better than his stats indicate, but also an incredible defense and are just good enough at running the ball to get away with having a less than spectacular passing game to compete. They, like Philly this year, also used free agency last year to fill some of their holes and, while they didn't reach the Super Bowl, their appearance in the AFC Championship game hardly constitutes as a failure. If Sanchez progresses into the player they know he can be, they should considered among the favorites to win it all this year.
That would be doing it right. If you want an example of doing it wrong, check out the Redskins. Their two big investments, Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth, completely blew up in their faces and neither even made it through 2010 having played in all 16 games. Their free agent list and draft history as of late are appalling. In 2010, they were at the bottom of the division and had an old team and were going nowhere. In 2011, they'll be at the bottom of the division and will have an old team and will go nowhere. In 2012, I expect much of the same. All because investing a ridiculous amount of money or draft picks in a single player when you're not ready to is a terribly foolish strategy. This ain't Madden everyone, teams take time to construct and signing everybody is neither feasible nor advisable right now. It's not that signing big name free agents is a bad thing, far from it, but like a lot of things in life, it's got a lot to do with timing.
Every team reaches success differently, I think our strategy should be the same as most smaller market teams; we stockpile draft picks, make sure we lock up the younger stars like Roos, Johnson, and Britt, and trade some of the older ones who have since peaked. Before long, we should be ready to compete with the soon-to-be-doomed perennial favorites, Indianapolis. and the (hopefully) infinitely disappointing Houston.