In 1982 and 1987, when strikes cut short the NFL seasons and, in the second case, “replacement players’’ were used, the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl both times.
No coincidence: Bobby Beathard, the GM, was one of the smartest executives around and Joe Gibbs, his coach, executed perfectly the plan that Beathard had constructed with the strikes in mind.
In fact, folks remember that Doug Williams was the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl after the second strike, but the unsung QB was a guy named Ed Ruppert, who signed on when every Washington player went on strike and led the team to a 3-0 record, including a win over a Dallas team whose stars had been lured back in by Tex Schramm with threats of forfeited bonuses.
My suspicion is that this year the successful teams will be the ones who best prepared during the lockout for the craziness that will start this week -- free agency; camps without any offseason practice or the like; out-of-shape players, and rookies less prepared than ever.
Think usual suspects: Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, Packers, Colts, Giants and a few others. I leave out the Jets because they’ve already started blustering: Jets Nation tweeted Sunday night that a Super Bowl is at hand if they can sign their two best free agents: Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie.
But that’s a guess. Some factors as camps open:
Injuries. Always the main reason teams win or lose. Avoid them to key players or in bunches at one position and you win. Get them and you lose, although the Packers did a remarkably good job after losing 15 to serious injuries last season. They may be less serious this year but there probably will be more pulled hamstrings and pulled groins and the like -- if you think all 2,000 or so players got into game shape during the lockout, think again. More like a third of them will report to camp in shape. Give me an over/under on players reporting at 350 pounds or more.
Free agency. There will be teams that will throw money at free agents from the start. Only Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders’ cornerback, is really worth it. Quarterbacks? Matt Hasselbeck of the Seahawks is 36 and has had back problems for a long time; Kevin Kolb, who the Eagles are trying to trade, has started four NFL games; Donovan McNabb (trade?) is, to put in gently, on the backside of his career; and Vince Young was run out of Tennessee for a reason. Every free agent, not just QBs, will have to learn new systems -- or at least new terminology -- and that will take a while. Beware of offensive linemen -- there will be new guys on new teams who will pull left when they should pull right and cohesiveness may trump talent up front.
Rookies. You can excuse the young Lions for suggesting they will got 16-0 -- Ndomukong Suh tempered that a bit last week. But is optimism based on pairing Nick Fairley with Mr. Suh to make an unstoppable pair of DTs? Well, Fairley slipped to 13 because scouts questioned his work ethic? Did he work during the offseason? “Don’t put him in Canton yet,’’ is what Bill Parcells used to say of rookies. This year that applies to all of them, Fairley and 300 or so others. Any team that is depending on them to fill holes shouldn’t.
It will be a funny season.
But we already knew that because it already has been.