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Teams believing in 'convenient truths' as camps approach


I'm excited, I mean really excited to be debuting here on NFL.com and with a writing schedule that almost duplicates Jimmy Buffett's 1999 CD Buffet live: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

My schedule will be in the same spirit, only working Sunday instead of Saturday -- which is natural since this is an NFL column. And much like a Buffett concert, I hope everyone enjoys the show and keeps coming back for more.

This week's sermon

July normally is supposed to be the quiet time around the league, but so far it's been very active. From players complaining about their contracts or tender offers, guys getting hurt, veterans deciding whether to suit up to another hosting (stupidly -- more on that later) a birthday party, there has been plenty to discuss.

Most improved teams for 2010
The 'Skins have improved as much as any NFC team thanks to the hiring of Mike Shanahan and trading for Donovan McNabb, writes Vic Carucci.. Who else makes the list? More ...

Still, the real theme of the offseason has been "we have improved." Each team is certain of the moves they've made, certain that the squad will come together and play as one. As someone once told me, every team is certain it'll hoist the Lombardi Trophy next February -- and it's these false beliefs that make the league so strong, so special.

Former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell once told me when working for him, "Kid, we sell hope, so let's give them something to hope for."

When I was working in the league, each day in July I was constantly thinking about the current roster and how it matches up to our division rivals and the other teams we had to face. Being honest in those evaluations was critical. Too many people in the NFL conveniently believe their team is built to go the distance.

It's what Bill Walsh once told me about the "convenient truths." For example, a general manager might call a team that from his vantage point needs help at running back and offers to make a trade. However, the team on the other end of the line refuses to even admit they're short in the backfield -- they conveniently believe they're fine.

Some current examples ...

» Do the Cowboys really believe David Buehler can make a pressure kick in December?

» Do the Giants really believe safety Kenny Phillips can return to his old form coming off knee surgery?

» Do the Cardinals really believe offensive tackle Brandon Keith can protect Matt Leinart's blindside?

» Do the Bengals really believe quarterback Carson Palmer can be a Pro Bowl passer again?

» Do the Jets really believe they can win the AFC East with all the talk about player contracts in their locker room?

» Do the Chargers really believe former first-round pick Craig Davis can be a productive receiver?

» Do the Patriots really believe running back Laurence Maroney can have a breakout season?

» Do the Ravens really believe they have the corners to cover?

» Do the Redskins really believe all "throwback running backs" can be productive?

» Do the Dolphins really believe Tyrone Culver or Reshad Jones will be the answer at free safety?

» Do the Packers really believe they have enough depth at running back to go along with Ryan Grant?

When a team places faith in a player to be the answer and sets its offseason around that confidence, it must be correct. A wrong answer can dramatically alter a season.

Therefore, if you're rooting for any of the teams above, then "hope" that your squad is correct with its convenient truths.

Coryell's legacy ...

"We've lost a man who has contributed to the game of pro football in a very lasting way, with his innovations and with his style. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery -- look around, it's there." Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts said in a statement when Don Coryell passed away.

More on Coryell
Don Coryell was a true football pioneer and it shouldn't go unnoticed he started a coaching tree as deep and varied as any ever founded, writes Brian Baldinger. More ...

Related:
» Chargers mourn loss of a legend
» Carucci: Coryell made his mark
» Davis: Coryell's impact lives on

Video:
» Former players pay their respects
» Top Ten Receiving Corps: Air Coryell
» Top Ten Nicknames: Air Coryell
» Most overlooked HOF finalists
» 2010 senior and coaching HOF finalists

Last season, only the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns ran the ball more in the first half than threw passes. So much for that old myth of teams having to establish the run.

Coryell, the former St Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers coach never bought into the myth. He was an NFL head coach for 14 years, with a 57 percent winning percentage. But more than wins and losses, Coryell influenced the game. He helped change it from a running game to the passing league we know today.

Coryell understood the value of making big plays with the pass, but he also understood that throwing the ball wouldn't make his team soft physically. The Chargers were an explosive team. "The greatest show on grass" long before Kurt Warner and Co. made the turf version famous in St Louis.

Coryell's teams in San Diego finished in the top five in scoring five of his nine years there, and first on three occasions. The man knew how to put the ball in the end zone and he also influenced other coaches, most notably Joe Gibbs, which led Tony Dungy to tell SI.com this:

"If you talk about impact on the game, training other coaches -- John Madden, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs to name a few -- and influencing how things are done, Don Coryell is probably right up there with Paul Brown. He was a genius."

Wins and losses should not be the only determination of a coach's ability to be enshrined in Canton. Influence, creativity and advancing this great game are also virtues that must be recognized by the Hall of Fame voters. Coryell was ahead of his time. Although he fell short of winning a Super Bowl, his influence, imagination and inspiration were a part of many titles. Just ask Gibbs.

Things I hear ...

» The next player to complain about his contract will be Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who missed the mandatory minicamp due to a scheduling conflict.

» Former BYU running back Harvey Unga is a popular player right now among teams. Unga has entered the supplemental draft, which is on July 15. About 20 teams watched his workout and I hear Unga could go in the third round, with the St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins having serious interest.

Things I think...

» The sooner Eagles quarterback Michael Vick realizes he has very few real friends, the better chance he has to avoid all trouble. Having a party was a dumb idea, inviting strangers was even dumber.

» The Dolphins are going to have a great year. Each time I review tape, I marvel at their execution. With a few more offensive playmakers, they will be tough to beat.

» We will start to see some first-round picks sign this week, especially those in the bottom of the round as teams figure out how to handle the option bonus.

Things I know ...

» According to people close to Darrelle Revis, the differences with the Jets aren't personal but strictly business. (How can I write my first NFL.com column without mentioning a Godfather line?) The issue is the guaranteed money and signing bonus. The Jets say they're willing to make a long-term commitment to Revis, but have yet to offer a serious signing bonus.

» Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and director of player personnel Tim Ruskell spent time in Chicago meeting with Unga recently and appear very interested in drafting the running back.

» The Eagles are very excited about how quarterback Kevin Kolb played this offseason, handling the team and running the offense.

» The Colts and Peyton Manning have not even begun talks on a new contract. This might happen soon, but as of now, there has been no dialogue.

» In any contract when a team guarantees future money in the form of skill (performance) and injury, they're required by league rules to fund the amount in an NFL escrow account at that time. Most teams with cash flow problems dance around this issue by using dated bonuses and only designate either a skill or injury guarantee -- but never both. That way a team can name a date in the future and keep the money on hand as opposed to putting it in an account. Remember, like most businesses, most NFL teams rely on cash flow.

That's why there's some confusion over the amount of the actual guarantee in D'Brickashaw Ferguson's new deal. The Jets want to give the money to Ferguson, but they cannot in the form of a large signing bonus -- which would hurt their cash flow -- so they use this creative measure.

» The Ferguson deal won't impact the contract talks of fellow Jet center Nick Mangold or Patriots guard Logan Mankins. Left tackles are a premium and are paid at a premium level, but their deals don't impact guards or centers.

» Commissioner Roger Goodell will act accordingly in handling  Lions president Tom Lewand's violation of the personal conduct policy. Lewand has accepted full responsibility for his actions and knows every player is watching to see what the commissioner will do.

Film room

I always review how many rushing attempts and pass completions a team amassed after each game. To me, this statistic is symbolic of a team's ability to execute in each aspect of its offense. Here are last year's top performers:

2009 rushes and completions
Rank
Team
Games
Rushes
Completions
Total
Total/game
1
16
466
390
856
53.5
2
16
468
378
846
52.9
3
16
467
377
844
52.8
4
16
509
331
840
52.5
5
16
425
399
824
51.5
6
16
607
210
817
51.1
7
16
438
357
795
49.7
8
16
505
286
791
49.4
9t
16
468
321
789
49.3
9t
16
525
264
789
49.3
11t
16
451
332
783
48.9
11t
16
436
347
783
48.9
13t
16
440
341
781
48.8
13t
16
443
338
781
48.8
15
16
428
351
779
48.7
16
16
499
271
770
48.1
17
16
366
402
768
48.0
18
16
395
372
767
47.9
19
16
427
338
765
47.8
20
16
447
315
762
47.6
21
16
365
392
757
47.3
22
16
438
296
734
45.9
23
16
391
340
731
45.7
24
16
409
316
725
45.3
25
16
411
312
723
45.3
26
16
384
335
719
44.9
27
16
498
219
717
44.8
28
16
373
340
713
44.6
29t
16
371
312
683
42.7
29t
16
403
280
683
42.7
31
16
424
256
680
42.5
32
16
410
255
665
41.6
Totals:
512
14,087
10,373
24,460
47.8
Average:
16
440
324
764
47.8
Playoff teams:
192
5,397
4,133
9,530
49.6


What's interesting about this statistic is that eight of the top 12 went to the playoffs last season. From another perspective, it indicates which teams can operate their offense effectively. There are exceptions. The Eagles are toward the bottom, but are a great quick-strike offense (scores on drives of less than four plays), which is why they led the league in that statistic.

Therefore, this season when reviewing the statistics after each game, do as many in the NFL do and add these two numbers together and see which team wins.

Fantasy ... I love it

I don't want to step on our own Michael Fabiano's toes, but I love fantasy football as well and always feel like there are a few sleepers who deserve to get mentioned. One of my sleepers this season is Patriots third-round pick Taylor Price. The receiver is quick, smart, can catch the ball very well and will be the dependable route runner Tom Brady didn't have last year.

Extra points ...

» Congratulations to Broncos public relations man Patrick Smyth on his wedding Saturday.

» The Seahawks' Pete Carroll is the latest coach to write a book. It is called "Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion" will be released Tuesday.

» Will Brett Favre one-up LeBron James with an announcement at the ESPY's on Wednesday? Much like the lack of suspense around James' announcement, does anyone think Favre won't be playing in Minnesota next year?

» If I were a coach, I might spend the rest of my summer vacation reading Daniel H. Pink's new book "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." It might help him relate to players during the season.

» I really believe that quarterback Jason Campbell will make the Raiders a better team. However, I wonder why in Washington he was viewed as the problem, and now in Oakland he is the solution.

» Follow me on Twitter at @michaelombardi and I'll be back on Tuesday.

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