The New England Patriots may be the most glaring example of the relatively new NFL. Just last week they had to say goodbye to one of their stalwarts Richard Seymour. I don’t think that the NE coach Bill Belicheck wanted to let another star from his defense loose when one considers that he has already lost three (two to retirement and one to a trade). Welcome to the new NFL. I know it’s been going on awhile, but it seemed like some managed to remain immune to the yearly depletion of talent that occurs due primarily to free agency. Bill Parcells once said: “If you want to remain successful in this league, you often have to say goodbye to good friends.” I don’t think Parcells knew how prophetic he was. Former Commissioner Paul Taglibue designed a salary cap system combined with the free agency system to establish some parity in the league. Taglibue thought it would add to the excitement of the league if every team believed they would have a shot at some point in their tenure. He thought that the old 70’s and 80’s systems were antiquated, and they needed to be adjusted for fans of smaller market teams to become competitive. It’s hard to argue with the model Taglibue created, a model that led to the NFL to be far and away the most popular sport, but did it really need tweaking?
The Steelers dynasty, one of the most important elements to the league’s popularity, was born through the draft. When those players got old, the Steelers left the championship picture. As a counter to that argument, the Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw once said that there were only about four to five teams that finished in the final four teams year after year. Me, I think it’s good to have a big bad monster to defeat. I think it’s good to be accountable to your draft picks. I think it’s good to have long term plans for success for your franchise, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in the NFL anymore. It’s all about parity now. So, take heart people from Detroit, it may not be as long as you think before your team is competitive again.