Success in the NFL often comes down to a handful of big plays in big situations: a key first down, a well-timed sack, or even a dropped pass by a diminutive slot receiver who ordinarily has the best hands on the team (no one specific in mind here ). Being successful over a long period, however, takes something more - something special. Joe Montana and Steve Young know that something special. So do Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Unfortunately, the window for success in the NFL is not open for long. A capable head coach and a prudent general manager may extend the window of opportunity, but eventually all good things come to an end. For several NFL teams, this season may prove to be the beginning of the end.
Eagles fans may not enjoy this prediction, but the sun may be setting on the Andy Reid era in the city of brotherly love. Though Reid is the longest tenured coach in the NFL, his Eagles have struggled in the playoffs lately Ė missing them completely last year. Reidís strongest offensive asset, Michael Vick, is another year older. Vick has only played a full 16 game season once in his career and his late season performances reflect that. The winds of change are blowing over Philadelphia. Will they take Andy Reid and Michael Vick with them?
Just like every year, it seems the Cowboys must make the playoffs this season. Tony Romo is 32 years old and the Cowboys have just one playoff win with him under center for the last 6 seasons. If he doesnít lead the Cowboys out of the first round this season, Romoís career in Dallas may be over.
- Ken Whisenhunt and Kevin Kolb may be on the way out without progress in Arizona. Thought to be a great offensive mind, Whisenhunt has yet to live up to expectation.
- Josh Freeman has to prove he isn't a one year wonder for the Bucs. Freeman has to develop as a quarterback and leader for the fans, his teammates and most importantly, his new coaches.
- Alex Smith needs a good year in San Francisco to avoid watching the Niners take a QB high in next April's draft. Even with a good year, some think Smith has reached his ceiling. He may be watching his back from here on out.
For the Jacksonville Jaguars, the window itself may be relocating completely. The team has struggled to perform on the field for the last few seasons and that has lead to a drop in ticket sales and viewership. And letís not forget Maurice Jones Drew, last yearís rushing leader and the teams best player, may not suit up for the team any time soon (if ever again). Though new owner Shad Khan has said he will not move the team, talk is cheap and the writing may be on the wall for the Jaguars in 2012.
Though many may dare include Tom Brady and the Patriots on this list, they simply donít belong. Brady may be aging, but the system Belichick has built makes it very easy on a quarterback. Having lead the Patriots to five Superbowls in the last ten seasons, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have somehow propped the window of opportunity open. Donít expect it to close this season.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to earn his paycheck in Buffalo. Chan Gailey has only coached the Bills to 10 wins in two seasons, but the team has improved. Gailey isn't relocating any time soon. The same can't be said for Fitzy.
- J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets! Sanchez, Holmes, Greene - should I keep going? There is a lot on the line for this group of players, as well as the man who brought them all together, GM Mike Tannenbaum. They may sell tickets, but if the moves don't bring wins, changes may be coming. _____
It takes a rare combination of talent, leadership and luck to win in the NFL consistently. Though the opportunity to succeed is there for every team, few will seize the opportunity. For some teams, that opportunity is slipping away. A missed chance this year may lead some teams to rebuild rather than reload.
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