Mike Florio, of PFT fame, recently picked six teams he didn't think would return to the playoffs in '08 after successful seasons in 2007 (hat tip: Behind the Steel Curtain).
Your Washington Redskins made the cut, so to speak:
3. Washington Redskins The Redskins rallied late in ‘07, coming together as a cohesive unit after the tragic death of safety Sean Taylor. They unexpectedly qualified for the playoffs, sneaking in as the sixth seed and nearly shocking the Seahawks in the wild-card round.
But then came the unexpected retirement of coach Joe Gibbs, followed by the curious decision to hire Seattle quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn as the offensive coordinator, and then to promote him to head coach. Zorn very well might become a great head coach, but it’s a tall order to expect him to navigate a competitive NFC East and get back to the postseason.
The Redskins would have been wise to give the gig to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the Jaguars. In a league where continuity means more than ever before, making the next coach a guy with whom the players were familiar would have been the best way to get a roster that hasn’t seen much offseason overhaul (for a change) back into the playoffs.
Before you react, I think Florio makes his best point earlier on when he said:
So the challenge for those of us who pretend we know more about how a given NFL season will turn out than the average fan is to try to identify the half-dozen teams from the 2007 postseason field that won’t return, and the half-dozen teams that will replace them.
Florio knows a lot more about football than I do, but that doesn't mean he -- or anyone else -- is a prophet when it comes to these kinds of things. The makeup of the league's good and bad teams is a crapshoot, annually. No one can predict with any great certainty what teams will or won't return to the postseason, although it is generally true that around half the field returns.
My initial reaction was to get all angry and dispute the pick but, then again, why should this surprise whatsoever? If the premise of the article is to try and guess which six of twelve '07 playoff teams won't make the '08 playoffs then it shouldn't really surprise that the Redskins are picked. He had to pick 50% of the field for this article and, honestly, the Redskins are an uncontroversial pick. We were, afterall, the last team to limp into the 2007 playoffs. We were wildcard in the NFC with the Giants. We lost to Seattle and they won the NFC West which remains, until the four teams prove differently, a pretty soft division. I wouldn't have picked the Giants not to return (Florio did) as they just won the Super Bowl. Dallas won the division last year. Ditto on Green Bay. We also have a brand new head coach which, correctly or not, casts doubt in the minds of many over whether we can carry over the success of last season into the next one.
Obviously I wouldn't have picked Washington to miss the postseason, but no one should be surprised by my partisan predictions for the Redskins.
I was a Gregg Williams supporter and so I found myself nodding over the last portion of Florio's Redskins' section, but I've since been won over by Jim Zorn. I may feel differently if we go 3-12 next season, but have been sufficiently impressed by the manner he's run the team thus far to give him the benefit of the doubt. For now.
But Florio makes all the points I'd be making if I was arguing similarly; Zorn may be a great head coach (which Florio acknowledges) but he's a brand new one regardless, and facing the toughest division in the NFL. A lucrative NFL Head Coaching gig is an enviable job, but if I had to choose a division to start my career in, it wouldn't necessarily pick the NFC East.
Anyways, opinions are like noses. Here are my six non-returning postseason contenders (note: it won't necessarily be three NFC teams and three AFC teams, as I may or may not think that either conference will return more of the same) and reader(s) are encouraged to post their own list, with explanation, below:
1. New England Patriots - Are you crazy? Yea, and a little bitter after the drubbing the Pats put on the good guys last season. We got embarrassed by the Patriots and I'm not happy about it. But is that reason enough to pick a 16-0 regular season team that went to the Super Bowl? No, but remember there is a historical precedent here. Sandwiched between Super Bowl winning seasons were the 2002 Patriots who went 9-7 but failed to make the postseason. Same coach, same quarterback. I also think their division improves substantially over the next year, especially with Bill Parcells playing a big role in Miami. Regression towards the mean alone tells me that the Dolphins win more than one game next season and the Pats win less than 16 games next season. I think they're an aging team with a giant bullseye on their back.
2. San Diego Charger - Another crazy pick, but my answer is Norv Turner. I didn't believe they'd make the postseason last year as a result of his coaching, and so I'm just trying to be consistent. It is just such a phenomenally talented team that I think they've got a good shot at 10 wins in spite of coaching, but I think Norv Turner, as he did so often while a Redskins coach, will find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory enough to keep them out.
3. Tennessee Titans - Many of my closest friends are Titans/Vince Young fans so I say this carefully: I'm not yet sold on VY as a pro quarterback. I think he's shown signs of a productive future career as a professional quarterback, but I haven't seen him yet convince me that he's ready... right now. I think the defense has really bailed that team out in the Vince Era and I think it is worse next season than it was last season. The Titans' failure to really address the offensive side of the ball and give Young some options will prove to be a very consequential error, in my opinion. I also think the Colts remain consistently strong along with the Jags, and the Texans are looking much, much better. I think this is a very good team that ends up getting lost in the shuffle in a tough division.
4. Green Bay Packers - It almost smells like a CFB quarterback controversy in Green Bay, though that's not necessarily the reason they'll miss the postseason. I think Brett Favre will be sorely missed and I also think the Vikings win that division. I don't see them going 4-2 in the division next year, as they did in the last one, which puts them in the wild card range. I think they just miss out; middle of the pack.
5. Tampa Bay Bucs - This isn't a team I've spent much time following in the offseason, certainly less than the ones above. I've heard of some stat sneaking its way around the web where the NFC South produces a new division champion annually, and I think the Bucs got theirs in virtue exclusively of a 5-1 division record. They won't repeat that, thus they'll be stuck battling for a wild card spot and I really don't think the NFC South produces a WC in 2008. They finished last year on a 2 game losing streak and I think that momentum carries into this coming regular season.
6. I'm spent, I can't pick a sixth, I'm a coward, I quit.