After a long break in the action NFL teams have gone back to the tables and put their organization's future on the line with a few calculated bets. The similarity between poker and building a football team is that most teams take certain chances, and if they swing and miss on a big bet they'll have to pay for it for a while. Off-season acquisitions are just part of the story. Most successful poker players will tell you that you don't come in and start throwing money around right off the bat and expect positive results. The same goes with a football team. Just ask Dan Snyder.
Not to steal a cheesy line on pokers anthem, but you have to "know when to hold them, and know when to fold them". Mike Vrabel and Brian Waters were two of the most decorated players on the Chiefs roster last season, probably the most decorated. But both of these players were at the end of the line and they just weren't going to be a part of the next winning hand so the Chiefs had to fold. Tamba Hali, Barry Richardson, Brandon Carr and Wallace Gilberry are an important part of the teams' future and the Chiefs needed to hold on to these players. So they used the tenders and franchise tags and kept these players around.
WIth the new CBA agreement just recently being reached, teams now have to spend close to the same amount of money each year. But what was just made public recently tells us that teams do not have to hit that $120 million salary floor until 2013. This is both a good and bad thing over the next couple of seasons. It wouldn't necessarily make sense when you really look at it that teams would have to spend all this money in just one offseason, or during the season when talking about extensions for players already under contract like Tamba Hali, Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers.
So rather than considering the NFL a cash game, where everyone brings whatever they want to the table. Let's consider it a tournament where everyone has to start with the same amount of money. It's a really risky option when you are about average in chips with the rest of the field and you make a bold move to get a certain player. The Arizona Cardinals moved all-in with the trade of Kevin Kolb without a lot of chips on the table. The Eagles did a fantastic job of presenting a strong hand and the Cardinals fell for it hook, line and sinker. Kolb may turn out to be a very good quarterback, but even then this trade becomes about even.
The Philadephia Eagles were the flashy team this offseason. Besides nailing down Nnamdi Asomugha and getting Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the trade with Arizona, the best move they made this offseason was getting Vince Young to step in and backup Michael Vick. It's not a move that will be talked about a lot because of all the flashy moves they made, including signing Cullen Jenkins to a $25 million five-year deal. It's because of the way that Michael Vick plays the game that Vince Young will make at least two starts next year at the minimum.
Vick likes to run the ball when a play breaks down and it's part of what makes him so special, but it's the same reason Young better be ready to play. As many hits as Vick will take each time he runs the ball, he is putting himself in a position to get hurt. The Eagles big loss this season was Kevin Kolb, and a backup quarterback is crucial for a team to sustain its' success should something happen to its No.1 guy. Kolb and Young are by no means sure things at quarterback, but Young has more experience than Kolb and taking away all of the off-the-field stuff, he's been pretty good when he's played.
The Chiefs are on the other end of the spectrum right now from the Eagles. They are still trying to develop their personnel-bank-roll so when they do make a strong move, they are protected against future downfall. Two things to know about the Chiefs front office and their relation to poker, they won't go all-in without a strong hand, and they won't risk the house unless they're protected. Much like a poker player that is sitting with the most chips at the table. (The Eagles right now). They can afford to go all-in with a Nnamdi right now because if it doesn't work out, they still have money on the table. The Chiefs are still picking their spots (Kelly Gregg, Brandon Siler, Steve Breaston) with players that improve positions that need to be improved, and without risking the teams' future with large contracts that hamstring the teams decisions in the future.
The Chiefs are still in the 'build our personnel bank-roll' mold, and that same philosophy worked last year to the tune of a AFC west division championship and a home playoff game. So before fans get too impatient about the lack of top-tier big-name free agents not headed to Kansas City, remember what the most successful attribute of a good poker player is, patience. The Chiefs made a few strong moves for the offense by taking a wide receiver in the first round with Jon Baldwin, and nabbing Steve Breaston from Arizona. It was obvious that wide receiver was a position that wanted to address.
The Chiefs might not be dominating the headlines with flashy moves but the Super Bowl champs from last year aren't in the flashy high-stakes mold either. The Green Bay Packers built a championship team the same way the Chiefs are building one right now. They pay the right guys at the right time and don't get impatient and try and go for a risky move. While fans may want the flashy move because it gets national notoriety from the news outlets, so does winning a Super Bowl. Throwing money around for the sake of throwing money around doesn't work in poker, and it doesn't work in building a sustained winner in football.
The Chiefs are a more complete football team today than they were against the Baltimore Ravens in the playoff beatdown last year that most Chiefs fans would like to forget. They've made upgrades to the offense and defense in the draft and through free agency. The key players they've lost (Brian Waters, Mike Vrabel, Ron Edwards, Shaun Smith) have replacements that upgrade the position. (Jon Asamoah-Waters, Justin Houston-Vrabel, Kelly Gregg-Edwards, Tyson Jackson/Allen Bailey/Wallace Gilberry-Smith).
These players should upgrade these positions, but it's up to the coaches to make sure that it happens. Going through the offseason and getting the right players is just part of the game, making sure they progress and play to their potential is just as important, if not more important. The Chiefs should be improved in 2011 with the additions they've made this offseason. But crazy things happen in this crazy game of poker.