Let me get the disclaimers out of the way. First, as most of you know, I was excited by the regime change of Haslam and Banner. Now shift happened. Here is my updated take on the new regime:
I still believe that Haslam and Banner represent a significantly greater chance of escaping the morass than Holmgren and Lerner. Captain Obvious alert as they are whacked and didn't do it - but you get the point.
I am disappointed with Haslam, the deal with PF-J is a permanent stain on his reputation, will never be forgotten, and will be forgiven only with the sustained success and Super Bowl contention.
I am still open-minded on Banner and Lombardi. I generally try not to sour a front office for a full 2 years so that they can get some maturation on their personnel decisions. I do not hold Lombardi's earlier drafts here against him, maybe he can show some improvement like his old idol. So I think I am pretty fair to give out the FO report card.
I am not at all fazed by words like tyrant or impatience. I fully understand that we need change, and when you change you need to break some eggs. I will judge only by improvement. Think the FO must deliver 6 or 7 wins in 2014 and a winning team in 2015 or I would be onboard with yet another change.
Here are 10 significant events during the Banner reign - and I have graded them as follows
A+++++++++ = 4 Pts for "The Equine Fleecing"
Don't underestimate the brilliance of the TR trade. Remember that Holmgren thought TR was our best player after watching him miss more holes than a drunken sailor. This was a super correct evaluation by the new regime, and they aggressively pounced on this opportunity when the Colts thought they had a chance at some Roman Numerals. Well done gents.
A = "Delayed Gratification Iteration" = 3.75 Pts
I may be in the minority here, but I loved the move where we traded last year's draft picks for this picks in this draft. I loved iy for 4 reasons. First, this year was all about seeing if BW and TR were the answer. It was a fantastic backup move to help us move up for a QB in case BW failed. Second, the team was just getting together, and our processes should be more robust in the 2014 draft. Third, last year's draft sucked for QBs and prolly overall. To move up a round in a much better draft is huge. Fourth, the 3rd rounder is like a round and a half move up, that is where the sandwich compensatory picks go. Finally, we get our QBOTF biotches. This was a smart, savvy move, and those picks will be traded this year to move up with Hou or Stl. The sum total of these moves gives us the capability to get whatever QB we want in the 2014 draft, and it is not a bad QB draft with 3 or 4 first round QBs.
B+ The Destroyer Launch = 3.25 Pts
I like Hoyer. I think he is better than Andy Dalton. Not saying much, but it would say that if we surround him with talent he could deliver an AFCN crown. I love his intangibles, and I did not think much of intangibles until I saw Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden play. Hoyer will stay focused in situations where they go into a fetal position and bite the pillow. I also like the way the FO patiently waited for Arizona to remove the tag, and we got him for nothing. Getting something for nothing is a bargain.
B- Free Agency Logic = 2.75 Pts
Another likely minority opinion, but I liked what we did in free agency. First and foremost, they signed guys in the right age and career stage. Look at the prior FAs. 2010 class had 5 FAs make the final roster. It looked like a cast from "30 Somethings". Scott Fujita - old, Jake Delhomme - older, Watson and Pashos north of 30. The youngest was TE Alex Smith who was 28 and had already completely demonstrated hands of stone that would make Roberto Duran proud. 2011 class had only 2 FAs (Dimitri Patterson and Usama) and one was an actual step down from Mike Adams. 2012 Frostee Rucker and 35 year old Jaque Parker. The younger one was really bad and the older one was on his last legs. So excuse me while I give some props to the current FO for at least signing FAs that make sense. To me we got a true stud in Desmond, I like him better than Taylor and Sheard, so when healthy he may be in the range of a free late first/second rounder. When he was playing, our pass rush was awesome, and Ray Horton was smart. When he went out - it sucked. Not great at corollary statistics, but that means something to me. I am not all disappointed in Krueger. He was much better against the run than I ever thought. He is a tough, hardnosed player, and can be nasty. He did not repeat the sack total - but I will take him. The depth added with Groves was nice, and it took the pressure off of Mingo a little bit. If we can get pressure next year from the interior line - Mingo/Sheard will wreck shit. Everyone else a meh with possible exception of Barnidge. I don't overly penalize for injuries if the guy did not have a track record of injuries.
C+ - Premature Ejection - 2.25 Pts
I liked Chud. I like he was normal during pressers. I like he was a Browns fan. But I was not at all surprised by his dismissal. Was it fair? No. But here is a news flash - life isn't fair. Deal with it. The bottom line is coaches can (and do) immediately improve a team, and he didn't. I hear people sight various excuses, and many are valid. But someone mentioning QB injuries when the only games we played that BW was not available we won? So for now, I will give a smidgeon of props for reacting decisively when they felt they made a mistake. No use extending a mistake to a second year. No one said "it wasn't fair" when Mangini was rehired. No cries of outrage. But it was a mistake - period. It set Holmgren back a year - period.
C Bottom Feeding Indigestion = 2.0 Pts
I am sure it wasn't Chud that decided he would rather have a bottom of the roster that featured a "second" practice squad rather than solid special teamers and NFL caliber backups. But I am ok with it. I really think the FO signed some intriguing afoletes that will pay off down the road. I have to admit that I am intrigued by what Baker, Gray, and Poyer flashed. Also weirdly curious about Hazel and Martin - their measurables are impressive. Alex Tanney was a perfect addition, adding comic relief at the darkest point of the season. I always wondered if Greg Little would have had more success if we taped a small garbage can to the top of his helmet and let Tanney see if he could drop it in there.
C- Draft - 1.75 Pts
C- would be kind if you consider the draft's contribution only to this year. But I really like Mingo and have not even started to give up on him. First, he was completely raw, changed positions, and still likely led all rookies in sacks per snap. He made some amazingly athletic plays, huge tackles for losses, and then would get suckered into giving up a big play - basic rookie shit. But if you are disappointed in Mingo, Steelers and Dolphins must be suicidal with their rookie pass rushers. I know this is premature, but McFadden does look a little like a bust. Like Poyer better, at least his name rhymes with destroyer too. Small props for Armonty Bryant - guy really maxed his opportunities when not selling crack. Gilkey - I would wager he makes the roster the next 2 years - so that seems like he is a decent find for the FO.
D- Roster Sizing Matters = .5 Pts
Maybe I am expecting a little too much to break camp with less than 13 OL. And I know it is a passing league but do really need 5 TEs and zero FBs. Perhaps Chud was on board and part of this process - but I doubt it.
F Chud Acquisition = 0 Pts
When you are making the first major decision as an organization - you cannot earn points with a one and done on a critical hire. I guess I could give them a little hat tip for being the first organization to identify Chip Kelly, and they likely maximized their opportunity to get him. Unfortunately, Chip is a brilliant man, and I do not think there was any way he was going to choose BW, TR, and 2012 Josh Gordon over Shady McCoy, Vick, Foles, DeSean Jackson. He wanted a running game to make things work.
F Bess to Check Things Out = 0 Pts
I may be picking nits. Why call the " Bess Mess" a "big deal"? For starters, we got him as close to "free" as possible. Even the contract is digestible to the point that you should just say good riddance. But I think this is a big deal because the FO brought him in specifically for his maturity and professionalism and to pick up critical 3rd downs. How did that work out? And Chud - WTF were you thinking vouching for him like he was a beacon of professionalism? Did that leave you open to a little criticism for failure to hold players accountable?
So where does that leave us? I got them at 2.02 GPA which doesn't get you expelled, but doesn't get you on many honor rolls either. It all comes down to the QB again. They get it right, and they still have the chance to be the heroes that acquired the picks that enabled us to get our QBOTF. They get it wrong and they are like Holmgren on a local radio show somewhere saying they really liked Russell Wilson.