Needing the offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on May 31, 2011 – 2:29 pm

As the opportunity for any organized offseason work drains away with the passing days, there is a legitimate argument both ways over the importance of the offseason and what it means to each team. Last week, veteran NFL writer Vito Stellino — through SI’s Peter King — talked about how the offseason work once didn’t exist and the NFL operated just fine.

Again, it’s a fair point to make. Notes Stellino, “The real reason for these things is Parkinson’s Law. Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” He points out that players once had to work in the offseason to make enough money, and it’s only with the advent of bigger contracts — and the ability for players to not have to work — that have allowed players to be available to do more each offseason.

Perhaps. I would tend to argue the other side.

Growing up in Arizona, before the Cards moved here, I got into sports right at the time when the Steelers were king. My mom bought me a Lynn Swann jersey at a garage sale right before the second Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowl, and I had my childhood team. I mention this only because I have a few VHS tapes of Steelers’ games from my youth — nostalgia and all that — and I have watched them. Run-of-the-mill regular-season contests. And what do I notice? That that game is nothing like what is being played today.

I know, that seems obvious. But it factors into today’s offseason work. Today’s playbook is more complicated. The premium placed on not turning the ball over is so much higher than it used to be (watch those 70’s QBs huck the ball downfield in search of a big play; interceptions weren’t good but they weren’t as frowned upon as now). Running, running, running was much more commonplace. Precision in the passing game — which takes reps — wasn’t as important.

The other factor? This is to which what these players have become accustomed. They are used to getting some offseason work with teammates and coaches. What happens when they don’t get it? And, of course, that doesn’t account for specific situations — like the Cards — who will be breaking in a new QB too.

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