Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Why NFL Superteams Never Work

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 4, 2018

Los Angeles Rams new defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, center, poses for a photo after a news conference with head coach Sean McVay, right, and general manager Les Snead, left, at the team's practice facility in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Friday, April 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Richard Vogel/Associated Press

Why the NFL doesn't have to worry about the threat of a superteam, why NFL players have reason to feel threatened by their NBA counterparts and why Jay Cutler still has the attention of front offices. All those questions answered and more in the latest 10-Point Stance...

           

1. NBA's superteam concept all but impossible to pull off in the NFL

We begin with LeBron James and how he's building another basketball empire—with him as Darth Vader.

James' move to Los Angeles caught the attention of everyone, including some NFL front office types, who wondered if such a thing could happen in football.

Could an NFL franchise ever build a superteam?

The answer is, "Hell no," but the reason is far more complicated than you might think.

The notion of an NFL dream team is not new, but unlike in the NBA, every attempt has failed.

The Eagles tried in 2011 with names like Vince Young and Nnamdi Asomugha. Washington tried before that in 2000 with Bruce Smith and Deion Sanders. Both sputtered spectacularly.

The closest the NFL has come to a successful dream team model was New England after the team added wide receiver Randy Moss in 2007. Still, the roster wasn't littered with All-Pros so much as led by a few high-profile stars. Yes, they went 16-0 and became the highest-scoring team in NFL history, but even that group failed as the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

This season, the Rams are giving it a go after adding defensive back Aqib Talib, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

Given the repeated attempts, the question isn't really, "Why can't the NFL build dream teams?" The larger issue is why it's become even harder to do so than in the past, especially with athleticism across every position and rising salary caps that make it possible to acquire stars.

Some of the reasons are simple, and some of them aren't. I asked longtime NFL lineman and one of the best analysts out there, Geoff Schwartz, and former Raiders executive Amy Trask to break it all down for me.

         

It's a numbers game

"You have five starters in basketball and 22 in football," Schwartz told me. "Having three of the five be first- or second-team All-NBA is like having 13 All-Pros on a roster in the NFL."

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

So for an NFL dream team to work, it would take more than three or four star players. It would take a dozen across the lineup. Adding some skill players or badasses like Suh isn't enough. You'd have to upgrade numerous positions.

"Given the size of a basketball team (roster size, number of starters, etc.) the addition of a dominant player can make a tremendous impact," Trask said. "While a spectacular quarterback or a dominating defender can also make a tremendous impact, the size of a football team is such that it's harder for one player (obvious exceptions aside) to do that than it is in basketball."

          

Production

"This is especially true in the NFL if it's not the QB," Schwartz said, "but you're almost paying for past production rather than future production. That's not always the case in the NBA. So you create superteams in the NFL with players who normally don't live up to the contracts."

This is a huge factor. Most of the time (though not always), when an NFL team attempts to build a superstructure, it's done with older parts. That's what the Rams have done with Talib, 32, and Suh, 31. Moss was one of the few instances where an older acquisition dominated; he was 30.

         

Iso

"There are just more variables in the NFL game than the NBA game," Schwartz said. "You can't just isolate [Tom Brady] and let him go to work with 30 seconds left to win the game."

Indeed, the reasons it's so difficult for NFL teams to do what NBA teams do are complex. As Trask noted, "I find that in many instances, there is not just one reason for a given phenomenon."

So the reality that LeBron's move to the Lakers, or DeMarcus Cousins' decision to join Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and friends with Golden State, can reshape the league won't work in the NFL.

Unless, of course, the Philadelphia Eagles figure out a way to get LeBron to play tight end for them.

                  

2. NFL players are getting hosed

In the wake of all the money that's flowing around the NBA, former Packers executive Andrew Brandt revealed how far behind NFL salaries are compared to the NBA's:

That's a startling difference. Also consider that the NBA's salaries are guaranteed.

At some point, NFL players are going to tire of being second to the NBA, despite having the country's most watched sport. They know the difference.

NFL players are going to want more. A lot more.

              

3. The hottest seat in the NFL can be found in Dallas

Brandon Wade/Associated Press

Jason Garrett is 67-53 as the Cowboys head coach in the regular season, but since he took the job in 2010, the team has made only two playoff appearances (Dez Bryant caught it). That's not a stellar performance.

So perhaps it shouldn't be all that surprising that Garrett's name was among the two (the other was Green Bay's Mike McCarthy) several front office sources told me had the most pressure on them this coming season.

On the bright side, both have tools to save themselves. McCarthy has one of the best quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers) to ever play this game, and Garrett has a special QB (Dak Prescott) of his own, an all-world running back (Ezekiel Elliott) and, to me, an underrated defense. In other words, there are plenty of ways to lower the temperatures in Green Bay and Dallas this fall.

        

4. Still waiting

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 17: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys leaves the field after a win against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 17, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

If teams are interested in Bryant, they are keeping it very quiet—as is the former Cowboys receiver.

The best guess from those around the league is Bryant will get his wish to play with the 49ers, but that isn't a done deal by any means. With training camps set to open soon, we should know more in a few weeks.

           

5. Cutler still fascinates many in the NFL

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 17: Jay Cutler #6 of the Miami Dolphins prepares to put on his helmet during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on December 17, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

I've heard from several front office executives that some teams want Cutler to work out for them and see if the QB has anything left. That's hilarious, because if you ask me and anyone else who watched him in Miami last season, it's clear he does not.

Still, many teams have fallen in love with Cutler—or, at least, his strong arm—and overlooked his many flaws, which usually are enough to derail any benefits his talent promises.

And yet here we are again, with teams wanting to kick the tires on Cutler.

Would he make another comeback? Probably not, but he didn't exactly close the door on his reality show with his wife, Kristin Cavallari.

            

6. 'I'm ... a San Diego Charger'

SAN DIEGO -1987: Dan Fouts #14 of the San Diego Chargers looks to pass during a 1987 NFL season game at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. ( Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts did a fascinating interview with San Diego's 1090 AM. He covered a lot of ground, but most notable to me were his thoughts on the team and, more to the point, the city with which he associated his NFL career.

"Fifteen of the best years of my life were spent in San Diego," Fouts said. "Don't ever refer to me as a Los Angeles Charger. I'm proud to be a San Diego Charger."

A number of past Chargers feel the same way, among them Lorenzo Neal and LaDainian Tomlinson.

          

7. Could Aaron Judge play football?

Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley sparked an interesting debate when he told the Yankees' star outfielder he wouldn't mind if the slugger blocked for him on the offensive line, according to NJ.com. Asked if he thought Judge really could play in the NFL, Barkley said, "I'd have to see him run some routes, but he's definitely big enough to play somewhere on an NFL roster."

He certainly appears to have the physicality to do so:

But no, Judge couldn't walk straight onto a football field from baseball, despite his being 6'7" and weighing 282 pounds. There's a bit more to playing the position than sheer size.

It's still fun to dream.

     

8. He's ready, but is anyone willing?

Colin Kaepernick has been training furiously while continuing to battle the NFL in his collusion case against the league. It remains unlikely he'll ever play in the NFL again, despite being more than physically capable (as the photo posted by his girlfriend, Nessa, shows) and likely better than a large swath of quarterbacks in the league.

           

9. A career in professional sports can be yours for $200

The Alliance of American Football, a new professional spring league set to begin play in 2019, is hosting three player combines throughout August, and anyone can participate.

So for the relatively low cost of $186.99, you, too, can chase the dream of playing professional football.

We'll leave it to you to decide whether it's a wise investment.

    

10. The great Kam

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor recently posted a note that made it sound like he's going to retire.

If this is the end, then the game will miss him.

Chancellor was a unique player, sort of a 21st-century Ronnie Lott—old school, nasty and respected by almost everyone around him. There was good reason: He could cover. He could hit. Opposing offensive players truly feared him, and he was idolized by teammates and coaches.

That's a pretty solid legacy with which to leave the game.

                    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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