One look at the headline and you've probably already formed your opinion -- and it's most likely not a good one. Even if you're a Kansas City Chiefs fan and hate the Oakland Raiders, you still probably believe I'm stupid. But one look at their off-season maneuvers and the choices made by some of the powers that be, and you have to wonder if something greater is going on. Even I'll admit that I'm reticent to even put this out there for the sake of losing whatever (if any) credibility I have in the first place, but here goes nothing. Literally, it's likely nothing.
But what if? That's the question that keeps nagging at me, and it will take me a bit to set it up, because it's not readily apparent on the surface. That said, please allow me to make a couple of key points:
1. Money Rules Everything - Teams can toil in mediocrity year after year and make money because the NFL as a whole is popular. But when a team gets a chance to grab a franchise type of player -- especially at quarterback -- then that means major, major money starts to flow in. Imagine if Indianapolis would have built a new stadium and sold infinite amounts of merchandise without Peyton Manning? One single player can change the fortunes of a franchise -- and I don't mean with on-field results.
It's vital to remember that NFL franchises are not ran by team scouts or even general managers who have a good feel for the game. They're ran by owners who made their money (mostly) outside of the NFL world. They're savvy businessmen first and foremost. They work in investments, resources, banking and the like. They know how to make money, and sometimes you take a loss to make a gain.
2. Luck Is A Known Commodity - This becomes important because Andrew Luck is coming into the NFL next season with an insane amount of hype. There's no guarantee he'll be the next great NFL QB. There's no guarantee he'll even be healthy this year. But you don't think about football first in an instance like this -- you think about the potential economic benefit of adding a player that everyone already knows before he even plays a snap.
If you think that the Carolina Panthers' selection of Cam Newton was about taking the football player they felt was most qualified to make a certain impact on the field for them, then you're more misguided than you really should be. Cam Newton has a winning smile. He has a winning resume. Everyone knows him and he just won the national championship. Simply put, he will put fans in the seats. He will sell merchandise. He can be the face of a franchise, and that's what Carolina has to think about first and foremost. It only helps to win on the field as well.
Of course, you don't abandon one (the quality of football) for the sake of the other (just making money), but you definitely have to balance them together. Is Cam Newton a possibly dynamic QB? If so -- if even the mere possibility of it exists -- then you have your No. 1 pick. Because even well before Newton dons his helmet for his first NFL start, I guarantee the Panthers have already reaped the rewards of having an icon under center.
If you look at what the Raiders have put together this off-season, it seems there's no real plan in sight. They sign Trent Edwards to compete with Jason Campbell at quarterback. They let their best receiving target walk to Seattle in Zach Miller. They have major holes on the offensive line and then resign Khalif Barnes as a big move. Some believe the Raiders record of 8-8 last season means they're ready to turn a corner, but their off-season between free agency and the draft has been quite poor.
The Raiders are certainly not without talent, but the game begins and ends with how well you're set at the quarterback position, and the Raiders aren't doing anything to rectify the situation. The same could be said of the Redskins, so perhaps they're ready to play chicken for Luck's services as well. Then again, maybe I'm reading way too much into the tea leaves and need to go back to bed. It just seems there's too much money to be made out there for some team to not purposely throw the 2011 season with the knowledge that they'll make their millions later because of it. Might as well be Oakland.