Teams reserve judgment after Week 1
Regardless of how good or bad offseason additions performed in Week 1, emphasis has been placed on keeping things in perspective.
Since his family tree includes a grandfather who was once governor of Pennsylvania, it was hardly surprising that Buffalo Bills general manager Tom Donahoe offered a political assessment of his club's opening game performance, as he bounded from the press box on Sunday afternoon following a shutout victory over the New England Patriots.
"Nice way to start, huh?" said Donahoe, the architect of a refurbishing plan that appears to have nudged the Bills back toward the top of the league's feeding chain, and has the team's loyal fans stoked again. "But, then, it's only ."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know the drill, Tom, and the rhetoric, too. It's the opening day mantra, win or lose, of every NFL head coach and general manager in the aftermath of the initial weekend of the season. It's only one game.
|“||It's where you finish the trip and not how you start it. ”|
|—Bucs S Dwight Smith, following the impressive Week 1 win over Philadelphia|
And, indeed, from a CD player tucked in the back of a Buffalo player's locker stall after the game emanated the soulfully velvet tones of the late Barry White, reminding everyone within earshot that you've got to have staying power. A selection very appropriate to the moment, since the Bills' 31-0 shellacking of the Patriots won't mean much three months from now, should the Buffalo defense suddenly revert to its 2002 form.
But for one week, at least, the investment of Bills owner Ralph Wilson, a $21.8 million outlay to four new defensive starters in 2003 to subsidize a unit far too porous against the run only a year ago, appears to have been money well spent. "A lot better than the stock market," gushed Wilson, the Bills owner who desperately wants to win a Super Bowl title and is willing to pay the price.
As is the case with the Dow-Jones, though, last weekend offered just a brief glimpse of how some teams' offseason stock maneuvers might pan out. The same day trader who is quick with the computer mouse, and believes he can discern a trend even before it fully develops, could yet see Sunday's gains morph into December's losses.
On opening day, even as impressive as some franchises and individual players were, the NFL remains a four-month futures market.
"It's where you finish the trip," admonished Tampa Bay safety Dwight Smith on Monday night, "and not how you start it."
Still, when one considers the performance of the rebuilt Buffalo defense or the improved defenses in Kansas City and Seattle, the first impression is that those clubs succeeded in the offseason in addressing their most notable shortcomings. Projecting the outcome of the 2003 campaign, using just last weekend's Kodak moment as the prism through which all things are filtered, is a dicey gambit.
But one might deduce that some teams certainly took a first step forward in validating the roster alterations they enacted in the spring and summer. And some might predict a few other moves -- perhaps the Chicago Bears' acquisition of quarterback Kordell Stewart, the choice of Kyle Boller as the starter in Baltimore, or Arizona's addition of Emmitt Smith -- will turn out poorly.
Great care should be taken, though, in such projections.
At first glance, for instance, the decision by Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis to dump his entire veteran linebacker corps in the offseason, and to go with three second-year youngsters as starters, seemed hardly a ringing success. But the trio of Ben Taylor, Andra Davis and Kevin Bentley actually played well in their first NFL starts. The three helped keep the Indianapolis Colts out of the end zone and, in a 9-6 defeat, the group totaled 22 tackles. Taylor had 11 tackles, an interception and a pass defensed. The loss aside, the Cleveland linebackers certainly offered hope for the future.
On the flip side, Denver coach Mike Shanahan, nonplussed by the abysmal performance of Jake Plummer, had better hope his quarterback gets better than he was at Cincinnati last Sunday afternoon. Plummer completed just 12 of 25 passes for 115 yards, had three interceptions, a passer rating of 26.7, and completed but three passes to wide receivers. More so than most opening week performances, we feel this one augurs poorly for the long run, but we have long espoused that Plummer will not flourish in his new address.
Said tight end Shannon Sharpe: "It's one game. You don't bring in the jury and ask them for their verdict just yet, OK?"
Fair enough but, based on first impressions, here's how some of the more high-profile offseason moves might work out:
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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