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News » Decision '08: Copycats abound in NFL, too

Decision '08: Copycats abound in NFL, too

Decision '08: Copycats abound in NFL, too
Whether its foreign policy or off-shore drilling declarations, 2008 has gone cuckoo with copycat rhetoric.

That game plan -- joining 'em in an effort to beat 'em -- goes double for NFL franchises.

Over the years, we've witnessed the often-timely borrowing of coaching or hiring tactics associated with unreasonable on-field success. For example, several years ago, it was decided by every personnel spin doctor not employed by the Chicago Bears that supply-side quarterbacking frequently coincides with victory.

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But this revelation followed a fairly predictable evolutionary path.

What we're attempting to reveal are recent triumph-oriented campaigns suitable for the sophisticated copycats of 2008.

It should be noted that in Chicago -- where fans have voted early and often for a change behind center -- the Bears may agree with the quarterbacking premise, but remain grotesquely unable to identify the differences separating high-level passers from passers named Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton.

Bears fans are simply hoping for a boost from their running mates.

Here are some of the themes being poached for the upcoming NFL campaign.

Just Spend, Baby

After years of hiring Tom Brady's cabinet members on the relative cheap, the New England Patriots looked around and noticed they hadn't won a Super Bowl in two entire years. It was 2007, and the smartest football minds on the planet (we presume) decided an aging defense could be upgraded by spending some loot on big-ticket linebacker Adalius Thomas.

Bill Belichick and his cronies also figured that it didn't make sense for Brady -- a veritable passing magician -- to continue working with scab rabbits. So, despite his history of taking time off while the game was in progress, Randy Moss was acquired to join Brady and inspire night sweats for defensive coordinators.

The Patriots also went out and hired two more upgrade-quality receivers, enabling New England to come within an eyelash of a championship landslide last season. Such spending was quite a departure from the fiscally responsible Pats, who had out-schemed and out-videotaped the opposition to three Super Bowls in four years.

With that fiscal departure as a (misleading) impetus for copycats in the spring of 2008, NFL independent Al Davis and the radical Oakland Raiders backed up the truck for the likes of Tommy Kelly, Gibril Wilson, DeAngelo Hall, Kwame Harris and Javon Walker.

When the smoke cleared, Al had earmarked $165 million in guaranteed loot.

But he wasn't alone.

After falling to four victories last season, Eric Mangini and the New York Jets used serious campaign contributions to hire Kris Jenkins, Allen Faneca, Damien Woody and Calvin Pace.

Although heavy taxing of the coffers worked in New England, we should point out that the San Francisco 49ers also threw money around in 2007.

Rush (And We Don't Mean Limbaugh) the Passer

The Patriots' attempt to seize all electoral votes was sabotaged by the New York Giants, who used pressure from special-interest defenders from the left and right to disrupt what had been impeccable timing between Brady and his receivers.

With Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora supplying the heat, Brady was sacked five times, knocked down numerous others and New England's blitzkrieg offense managed just 14 points.

This slingshot inspiration provoked three teams into using top-eight draft picks on kids who seem capable of harassing the passer as defensive ends. The St. Louis Rams, for example, used the second overall pick on Chris Long, son of Howie and fast enough to stay out of the old man's shadow.

The Jets selected Ohio State pre-draft-convention specimen Vernon Gholston at six and the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to join the rush by taking Florida's Derrick Harvey at eight.

The Minnesota Vikings realized their vulnerable pass defense needed some pass-rush assistance, so draft picks were spent in a deal for Kansas City ace Jared Allen.

The Washington Redskins took advantage of Jason Taylor's fancy footwork to pluck the long-time Pro Bowler out of Miami, while free agency was kind to Justin Smith (Cincinnati to San Francisco) and Jevon Kearse (from Philly back to Tennessee).

Stuff of Legends

According to a poll of bar-stool experts, championship teams are those that run (remember that, Al Gore) and stop the run.

Well, recent success will meet us halfway on that one; pass-oriented teams have been doing quite well, thank you. But stopping the run has become more critical during the playoffs than it is in the regular season.

With that on the table, the Jets coughed up big money for filibustering run-stopper Jenkins and the Cleveland Browns increased the wealth of Shaun Rogers, who had been a defensive-union leader in Detroit.

The draft yielded some evidence for the run-stuffing argument, with the Chiefs taking LSU's Glenn Dorsey at No. 5 overall and the New Orleans Saints going with USC fireplug Sedrick Ellis two picks later.

Two Backs to the Future

After deciding that one quality back was sufficient, the Chicago Bears waved bye-bye to Thomas Jones last year. But even before noticing that Cedric Benson needs a sobriety checkpoint before being allowed to operate a grocery cart, the Bears figured out that having two good backs is a fine idea. Hello, Matt Forte.

Too bad it didn't work out.

But the impetus for this widespread, two-back philosophy can be credited to recent efforts from the Minnesota Vikings (Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor), Dallas Cowboys (Marion Barber, Julius Jones) and Jacksonville Jaguars (Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew).

The desire to have top-notch running mates led to the Pittsburgh Steelers using a first-round pick on Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois, and the Cowboys using a No. 1 to replace Julius Jones with Arkansas' Felix Jones.

Davis seemed fairly stocked at running back in Oakland, but used the fourth overall draft pick on Razorback Darren McFadden, whose eye-popping speed makes him something of a traditional for Al, who still fancies himself as something of a swift-boat captain.

Thank a Slot

It's been posited that the marriage of Moss and the Patriots has created a market increase for signature-level pass catchers. But the lack of first-round activity and Chad Johnson's inability to muster interesting trade offers puts this premise on hold.

However, we may be on to something in the slot-receiver game, thanks to the 112-catch, 1,175-yard, 8-touchdown first season by Wes Welker in New England.

While Moss deserves much decoy credit, slot emphasis is up around the league.

The Philadelphia Eagles now have rookie slot receiver-kick returner DeSean Jackson in the fold, while rookie Early Doucet is a slot candidate in Arizona. The Tennessee Titans selected running back Chris Johnson in the first round due to his crazy speed and slot potential.

Here Comes Trouble in Paradise

Despite the Dallas hayride co-starring Terrell Owens and Bill Parcells, the Patriots took a big gamble in the aforementioned acquisition of Moss before the 2007 season.

The notion that historical troublemakers can reach football nirvana within a winning environment may have coaxed the Cowboys into employing Adam "Un-Pacman" Jones. This thinking seems about as strategically sound as casting Courtney Love to join those fun-loving women on "The View."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 14, 2008

Clifton Ryan Name: Clifton Ryan
Position: DL
Age: 24
Experience: 2 years
College: Michigan State
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