NFL Teams Already Looking to Rebuild for '08

I am a bad colleague. Sitting in my Old Navy boxers, watching missed field goal after missed field goal in the Kansas City-Indianapolis yawn fest, I should have put a pair of pants on (I hate pants) and cruised down I-35 to San Marcos where fellow Austin Chronicle pigskin writer Joe O’Connell is signing his new book, Evacuation Plan. But, CBS flashed a highlight of Miami’s sad first-round pick Ted Ginn Jr. returning a punt to score against the Philadelphia Eagles.

This led me to thinking about the poor and lonely souls walking this earth who have no chance of watching their teams in the postseason. I write about the fanatics of Miami, St. Louis, the New York Jets, and a few others sinking ships. What hopes do these franchises have? What can they do in the offseason to breath life into dead roasters? Let’s look to 2008.

Miami Dolphins
Miami needs its own evacuation plan. If the season were to end on Thanksgiving, the fish would own the No. 1 overall draft pick in what is shaping up to be a pedestrian class of skill and talent. Miami needs to gut the team and dump as many players as they can for draft picks and salary-cap space (see the Chris Chambers trade last month) and build with fresh faces. I like Chris Long, the senior defensive end from Virginia. He’s versatile, smart, a leader, and the son of Hall of Fame stud Howie Long.

St. Louis Rams
I would do almost nothing with this group. This team was plundered by the injury pirates. The only thing the Rams really need is to take their vitamins, get some rest, and pray for healthy knees. If the draft were to start now, the Rams would be looking at the No. 2 pick in the draft and they should consider Michigan’s offensive tackle Jake Long (no relation to the kid I already mentioned.) At 6 foot 7 and 305 pounds of sculpted meat, Long can help get a once potent offense back on the right track.

New York Jets
Writing about being caught with your pants down, once upon a time I predicted this team would win the AFC East this fall. What I didn’t realize when I made this call was that Eric Mangini was silently dedicating the Jets season to former New York head honcho Bruce Coslett by performing the worst coaching job I have seen since Ron Meyer led the 1991 Indianapolis Colts to 1-15 record. Good at a few things, but great at nothing, this team has no identity. Drafting Arkansas running back Darren McFadden would be a good start to ending the crisis. Roping Donte Stallworth from the rival Patriots to add a deep threat on offense is a smart move.

New England Patriots (this is no joke)
Although the suits in the NFL have removed the first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots for being dirty rotten cheaters, they still own the first round selection of the San Francisco 49ers in a draft-day trade from last spring and the Pats will need it. This may sound odd after the Pats destroyed divisional foe Buffalo, but it’s well known the Pats will lose wide receiver Donte Stallworth and cornerback Asante Samuel in February. Oh, and Randy Moss, maybe the best player in the NFL, may opt out of his contract. The Patriots need to use the draft carefully to fill holes on an aging team. Luckily, they could have a top-five pick to do so.

Five Easy Pieces (a quintet of other matters on my mind)

1) Steve Tasker was a great player, but he is one of the worst color commentators I’ve heard this year.

2) I would like to congratulate the Indianapolis Colts for completing four quarters of American football without injuring a starter.

3) The AFC West looks terrible.

4) With all this rebuilding in mind, keep your peepers on Atlanta. I am curious as to how they will handle the offseason. We all know DeAngelo Hall will be shopped (my cash is on the Redskins to deal) but what about the rest of this bad team?

5) I think Pittsburgh is true threat to win the Super Bowl this year, regardless of the loss to the Jets.

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