Is it better to be lucky or good? To be successful in the NFL, you had better be both.
After all, every team that's raised the Lombardi Trophy benefited from some luck along the way. For evidence, look no further than the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, who undoubtedly benefitted from Bill Belichick's bizarre decision to bench one of his best cornerbacks, Malcolm Butler, in a game defined by offensive firepower. And if we want to keep it real here -- and I plan to, for the record -- the Eagles were lucky to even be playing in the Super Bowl. If Julio Jonesdoesn't slip in the end zone in the final seconds of a Divisional Round game, the lovable Underdog Eagles might have ended up one-and-done after-thoughts.
Which is to take nothing away from the champs! The 2017 Eagles absolutely earned their place in history. My point is that no team reaches the Promised Land without some good fortune along the way.
With that mind, let's take a spin through the league and take a look at some players, teams, broadcast guys, whatever, who could benefit from some fortuity in the upcoming season.
The Colts need ...Andrew Luck to throw a football. We're still waiting. It's been over 500 days since the Colts' star quarterback threw a pass in a game that counted. Colts GM Chris Ballard said last week that it's going to be fun to watch Luck play with a chip on his shoulder. Hey, how about we put absolutely nothing on his shoulder? Let's leave Andrew Luck's right shoulder be. If Jacoby Brissett or the ever-tradeable Sam Bradford is the Colts' opening day starter, I think I can speak for most football fans in the world when I say, "OH, COME ON."
The Bills need ...AJ McCarron to hold down the fort. Many in the Football Cognoscenti believed that whichever team ended up selecting Josh Allen would be taking the draft's biggest gamble. The Bills turned out to be that team, picking the raw but undeniably talented Wyoming standout seventh overall. And while I don't profess to have the industry knowledge to state definitively that Allen should remain on the sideline with an earpiece and a clipboard this season, there's certainly logic to bringing along the organization's top prospect slowly. A lot of that will depend on McCarron -- and, I suppose, Nathan Peterman -- being able to play the game with some level of proficiency. Of course, the terrifying current state of the Bills' offensive line makes you wonder if that's even going to be possible.
The Giants need ... Eli to not be done. I know what you're thinking: What does luck have to do with whether or not a 37-year-old quarterback is in irreversible decline? This is more about connecting circumstances. Big Blue rolled the dice in a massive way when it selected Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, a move that allowed the Jets to grab USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the next pick. Here's the worst-case scenario for New York's more accomplished professional football outfit: Barkley fails to make an immediate impact; the Giants -- playing one of the most difficult schedules in the league -- stumble out of playoff contention by Thanksgiving; and Darnold steps into the starting lineup for the Jets, wins a few games, and looks like The Guy. Giants fans would be apoplectic at the thought of Darnold starring for 15 years in the Meadowlands when he was right there for the taking on draft night. General manager Dave Gettleman and Giants brass believe Eli Manning can still sling it. They don't believe Darnold or any of the other quarterback prospects in this year's class were superstars in waiting. They had better be right.
Dez Bryant needs ... a general manager or two to have a change of heart. Bryant says he doesn't regret his decision to give the Ravens the cold shoulder, but we're nearly a month clear of the wide receiver's divorce with the Cowboys and we haven't heard of any other interest for the former All-Pro. Which, to be fair, shouldn't be shocking. Bryant will turn 30 later this year, has a history of foot, back, knee and ankle issues and has not looked anything close to vintage Dez since the 2014 season. On the positive side: We know Bryant is an intense competitor (some of his old Cowboys teammates might say he's too intense), and who's to say he doesn't catch on with a contender and deliver a couple of late-period Steve Smith-like seasons? Let's hope Bryant does get another contract offer, because this would be a sad and frustrating way for one of the most exciting players of the last decade to go out.
The Texans need ...J.J. Watt's body to hold up. In the first five seasons of his career, Watt never missed a game in Houston. He was a rock, and he might have been the single most dominant defender since Lawrence Taylor. But serious injuries to his back and leg pretty much wiped out each of Watt's last two seasons, and at 29 years old, it's now fair to wonder if Watt's career will be remembered for its brilliance ... and relative brevity. For what it's worth, Texans coach Bill O'Brien was all-in on a peak Watt return in 2018 during a recent appearance on "Good Morning Football": "I would never bet against J.J Watt. He's going to be back, he's going to be at full strength, and he's going to help us win a lot of games." If you believe in the idea that good things happen to good people, O'Brien will be right.
The Chargers need ... the cruel football gods to forget about them for a season. When you look at the other Los Angeles team's roster, there is so much to like. From a talent standpoint, the Chargers are as loaded as any team in the AFC. The question is whether this star-crossed franchise will ever put it together. In 2016, the Bolts put a league-high 25 (25!) players on injured reserve, lost six games in which they led in the final quarter and became the only team in the past two years that could say, "My God, we just lost to the Browns." Last season was somehow even more frustrating. The Chargers made the unpopular decision to leave San Diego after 50 years, played their home games in a soccer facility that was typically overrun by fans of the visiting team and lost four games by three points or less. Younghoe Koo is a name that will live in infamy:
Jason Witten needs ... football fans and haughty media columnists to give him some time. The temptation here will be to hold Witten to the standard of his buddy Tony Romo, now that the former tight end has taken a gig in the booth for "Monday Night Football." It's a high-profile spot for a man with no broadcasting experience, but we saw the similarly untested Romo become an instant star for CBS last season. Romo has set a very high bar, but Witten would do himself and the audience a disservice if he attempted to become a Romo tribute act. Let's instead compare Witten and his new boothmate, Joe Tessitore, to the outgoing team of Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden, a pair that struggled with chemistry issues the last two years. Or, better yet, let's not compare Witten and Tessitore to anybody at all, wish them the best, and just enjoy the damn game.
Who am I kidding?