There are some NFL franchises, that for whatever reason, are soft. These teams are soft on defense or offense or both. They’ve been soft for five years, 10 years, 20 years, or forever. These soft teams have had different coaches. some have played in different cities. They’ve recruited players from all over the nation. Still, when push comes to shove, they consistently get pushed and shoved around. Everyone in the NFL and most serious fans know exactly who these teams are. Still, their own fans persist in believing not only that their teams aren’t soft, but that they might actually win a championship at some point. It’s laughable and pathetic. Your team is not going to win because they’re S-O-F-T. Finesse has its place in football…it’s just not with the Commissioner on the podium in late January. All the great teams have featured a finesse aspect to their offensive and defensive gameplans. Those teams also had a hammer.
Just when you were being seduced by the finesse of Rice and Taylor, you’d get smashed in the mouth by Tom Rathman. Seconds before you got caught up in the artistry of the Fun Bunch, Riggo would separate you from your senses. And if you even thought about focusing too much on Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, you’d be sure to get a face full of Corey Dillon. There are many franchises that have lacked the quintessential hammer for years. Here is my list.
- The New York J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. I live in New York. I’ll be the first to say that the Jets are soft on offense. The defense is decent these days, but the franchise still lacks a personality and a defining character. The Jets do not have a definitive style of play. Everyone knows the Raiders throw the ball deep; that the Steelers run the ball; and that the Eagles, Packers and other West Coast winners are going to throw the ball. Maybe the Jets have had too many coaches, too much instability at QB, or too little success in a division that is home to three dynasties of the last 30 years. Whatever the reason, the New York Jets lack a definitive personality and they’re soft. Can the Jets consistently convert 3rd down and less than 5 by running the ball? Nope. Who will be toting the rock in December? No one knows right now. Case closed. With that said, the Jets are still fun to root for. Rooting against the Jets is like watching a train wreck and rooting for the train.
- The Detroit Lions. The soft just got softer. The hiring of Mike (What happened to all my timeouts) Martz is sure to make the Lions the softest show on turf. The passing game should improve immeasurably. I still believe they have a supremely talented group that needs some direction and focus. Rogers and Mike Williams were not four-year guys. When you take young men whose strongest connections may well be to high school, you can’t have too many expectations – even if you are silly enough to use high draft picks. The Lions were soft when Barry Sanders was there. They were soft when Billy Sims was there. The Lions are perennial whipping boys and even though I like Kevin Jones – the formula of drafting speedy, elusive backs has not changed in three decades. The Lions are going nowhere. Chants of “Restore the Roar” mean as much as appeals to put Saddam Hussein back in charge of Iraq.
- The Minnesota Vikings. I’ve already said alot about the Vikings. Still, when I think of Chuck Foreman, Robert Smith, Onterrio Smith, Darrin Nelson, Randy Moss, Sammy White, Ahmad Rashad, Fran Tarkenton, and all the others (except for Chris Carter) – I think soft. Ted Cottrell is the first defensive coordinator the Vikings have had that prioritized some heft of that side of the ball. Historically, the Vikings run defense was like sour cream – without the sticky after effects. Today, the defense is physically stronger – but we won’t know how stout they are until around Week 8. The Vikings have been trying to get over this hill since their first Super Bowl against the Steelers (SB IX). That was a long time ago. The Vikings remain as one of the precious few cold-weather teams without a power running tradition (see above).
- The Baltimore-Indianapolis Colts. The Colts weren’t always on this list. Hell, they used to be at the top of the Hard List. Times have changed – and it’s been that way since I’ve been watching football. In the mid-1970’s, the Colts had their original “triplets” – Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell and Roger Carr. These three players were something else to watch. With Ted Marchibroda calling plays and running the offense, the Colts were one of the smoothest teams in the league. Bert Jones had a cannon of an arm – and hair like Troy Polamalu. Lydell Mitchell was a smaller, elusive and graceful runner who was an excellent receiver. Carr was a great runner with even better hands who could take punishment in running routes over the middle and still get over the top. This version of the triplets was something else. We all know about the Manning-(Faulk)James-Harrison version. In any case, it doesn’t matter. If you need one yard at the goal line against the Raiders or a catch by Aaron Bailey in the Steelers’ endzone or an inch against Willie McGinest and the Patriots, you won’t get it. It’s because you’re soft. The Colts have also historically been soft on defense. Maybe they should call Bubba Smith. It’s been about that long.
I’ll hit you off with the rest of the list when time permits. If you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins (yeah, you!), St.Louis-Arizona Cardinals, please don’t think it’s over. You’re next.