Friday, March 4, 2011

Could an NFL Lockout Actually Help the Packers?

The owners and players extended their deadline by 24 hours yesterday, though nobody seems to feel very optimistic a deal will be reached today – except perhaps another extension to get more negotiation time.  It is a pretty depressing scenario all around.  The prospect of a player lockout lasting into the regular season is, obviously, a worst-case scenario.  The very thought of losing part or all of a season in which the Packers hope to repeat as Super Bowl champions and many of our key players are at their prime is horrifying.  Obviously, the ideal scenario is this all gets sorted soon and we get on to the draft, free agency, and all the fun leading up to next season.

But I have found myself lately thinking that a lockout, assuming it is resolved before the start of the regular season, could actually be a good thing for the Packers.  Perverse logic?  Perhaps, but here’s my rationale:

First, most Super Bowl winning teams get their personnel raided faster than Rex Ryan cleans out a refrigerator.  Suddenly, talent and depth are lost as teams swoop in to sign away as many free agents as possible in search of that championship mojo.  However, given the uncertainty around the CBA, the usual free agency shuffle hasn’t happened so far this season.  The Packers top free agents are in limbo, and the longer that lasts the fewer will leave for other teams.

Second, though there’s no free agency, there will still be an NFL draft (though the players drafted won’t actually be able to sign contracts until a new CBA is in place).  A draft-only means of building your team suits Ted Thompson and the Packers perfectly.  They have demonstrated an incredible ability the last few seasons to pluck high-impact players at every round of the draft.  So the Packers seem to be in a good position, particularly compared to teams that rely more on free agency, to augment their roster this off-season.

Third, one of the big potential consequences of a lock-out will be team preparation.  Players will be prohibited from going in to the team facility, working with position coaches, practicing new schemes, etc.  For any team that has even minor rebuilding to do, this lack of preparation time is going to be a big problem.  If your team has a new head coach, new quarterback, or key new players coming into the 2011 season, you may have very little time to get them game-day ready.  The Packers, by contrast, have a great team, personnel, coaches, and overall system in-place already.  They just need to get some of their guys healthy (the one thing they can do in a lockout), and they should be ready come opening day kick-off.

Of course, all this assumes there even is an opening day kick-off.  As stated above, a lockout that runs into August, September or beyond would be almost as big a disaster as Brett Favre's decision to return last season.  But there could be a silver lining to this labor strife, even if today marks the start of a lockout.

1 comment:

  1. The Journal-Sentinel is stealing my story ideas again: