Remember all the forecasts of gloom and doom for NFL teams after the lockout. Funny how virtually none of it happened.
Rookies weren’t clueless, injuries didn’t spike, and coaching staffs adjusted everywhere except Philadelphia and Indianapolis.
Play was sloppy for a while _ that lasted through much of the season for some of the league’s most inconsistent squads, including playoff contenders in Dallas, New York, Oakland and Tennessee. But it also was one of the more exciting seasons, with frequent big rallies, tons of scoring (until December, at least) and plenty of headline makers.
Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott believes teams who succeeded in overcoming challenges from the lockout did so from Day 1.
“My observation is a lot of people didn’t pack their lunch pail,” Lott said. “What I mean by that is the teams that packed their lunch pail the first day they blew the whistle, the first thing they learned was fundamentals, the first thing they learned was making sure they could tackle well, making sure they could hit. Jim Harbaugh instituted that right away. The Steelers instituted that right away. The Ravens instituted that right away. The Packers will tell you they instituted that right away, because they were defending something.
“The Eagles, the one thing they didn’t institute … packing their lunch pails. It’s funny, the teams that have instituted packing their lunch pail and playing the game with fundamentals and doing it the right way, are the teams that are now where they’re at.”
Lott makes a particularly valid point concerning the Eagles, who were conceded to have “won” free agency with the signings of prizes such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown, Vince Young and Steve Smith. Yet from almost the beginning, it fell apart.
Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy wonders why the upheaval was damaging in Philly and not in other places.
“My original theory was that teams that stayed pat would be much better,” said Dungy, now an analyst on NBC’s “Football Night in America.” “I thought Philadelphia would have some trouble with that many new parts, but look at Carolina, and they had to add players at the most critical position and they did much better than they did last year.
“I don’t know if we can blame Philly’s woes on the lockout.”
Still, not having a full offseason to incorporate those players and their distinct talents had to set back the Eagles some. Michael Vick admitted that recently, saying, “I think we are well put together and well fit. We’re playing together and that’s what it’s all about. But it takes time to build that chemistry, build that unity, that togetherness.”
Indianapolis always seemed to have that chemistry when Peyton Manning was behind center. With Manning’s neck surgeries sidelining him early on, and eventually for the entire season, the Colts never found their way. In fact, they fell into such a funk that none of their stars or coaches or executives was able to lead them out of it, an indictment of everyone in the organization.
“Well, we’re (the front office) certainly to blame if you don’t have quality players at every position and you come up a little short,” Colts President Bill Polian said in October in a radio appearance following a 62-7 loss at New Orleans. “As (coach) Jim Caldwell said after the (Saints) game, everybody deserves blame. We could be deeper at defensive tackle and cornerback. We’ve been bothered by injuries at defensive tackle, but the bottom line is you have to be better. There are other things we are not doing fundamentally, as I just said, that we have to get cleaned up.
“So you have to find a way to play with the guys who are out there. Should we have done a better job? You bet. But we have to make sure we do a better job going forward.”
Beyond those two cases, the lockout pretty much was a big yawn when it comes to impacting the season.