'The NFL Beat': Maslow's Hierarchy

True NFL team needs

'The NFL Beat': Maslow's Hierarchy

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a well-known theory of human motivation represented via a pyramid of our five overriding "needs." Maslow's representation has been the fundamental basis for many important studies and theories of human achievement, including Ron Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness.

Maslow's Hierarchy of NFL Teams

The first need one must acquire on Maslow's hierarchy is physiological. Food. Water. Shelter. Going to the bathroom. You cannot ascend the pyramid to any stage beyond physiological needs unless those needs are met. If you are starving, if you are dying of thirst, you don't care about your shoes. You don't even care if you have shoes. You certainly don't worry about feeling loved and appreciated. At this stage, you are surviving by the skin of your teeth.

Indianapolis Colts: Ascension (and descension) within the hierarchy can and will occur through the situations life presents us with. The Colts went on a bender. They have relapsed, and are in the precontemplation stage of recovery from a chemical dependency to QB Peyton Manning. During recovery, it is best to surround yourself with new, like-minded people, and new head coach Chuck Pagano's staff, along with a new face of the franchise in QB Andrew Luck bring that.

Minnesota Vikings: When HC Leslie Frazier was given a stay of execution after the Vikings' pitiful 2011 season, he actually asked offensive line coach Jeff Davidson to delay a much-needed hip replacement surgery to be in attendance at Senior Bowl practices. Classic guilt-subterfuge deployed in a high percentage range of the Elaboration Likelihood Model. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Miami Dolphins: Despite RB Reggie Bush's outlier 2011 performance, the Dolphins have a lot of questions to answer. They now have the worst receiver corps in the NFL and will likely start the season with David Garrard throwing them balls in a brand new scheme. Every time I saw Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland this offseason, he was displaying textbook signs of anticipatory anxiety regarding next season.

Cleveland Browns: The survival of the Pat Shurmur species of the Cleveland Browns rests on the shoulders of rookie QB Brandon Weeden after giving Colt McCoy two years to learn a system that everyone knows takes three.

Arizona Cardinals: The pendulum of reinforcement contingency has swung the way of the Cardinals in the NFC West. With the job 49ers HC Jim Harbaugh has done in San Francisco, there will be no more 7-9 playoff teams arising from the division any time soon. With an absolutely abysmal O-line and two years of the worst QB play anyone has ever seen, HC Ken Whisenhunt is like a guy in the movies: stranded in the desert. Drinking water out of a cactus. Very little time to take a load off on a very, very hot seat.

The second need: that one can ascend to acquire is safety. Once you are fed and have a water supply, the next need you will be motivated to acquire is that of being and feeling secure. This can be through the obtainment of more solid shelter, or use of clothing and other protective armor and weapons. The collection of reserves, be they cash, ammunition, or food and water for nourishment in times of need.

Security. Many NFL teams find themselves operating in this stage of the hierarchy as a measure of central tendency. Meaning, they receive the same classification because of one score that represents a similar set of observations: The addition or existence of "safe" pieces within the organization.

St. Louis Rams: New HC Jeff Fisher. Return of QB Sam Bradford.
Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton. The Prototype.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 2011 League Rushing Leader Maurice Jones Drew.
Tampa Bay Bucs: New HC Greg Schiano. New OG Carl Nicks. New WR Vincent Jackson.
Kansas City Chiefs: New HC Romeo Crennel. New RB Peyton Hillis: The return of RB Jamaal Charles.
Washington Redskins: New DBs coach Raheem Morris. New face of the franchise in QB Robert Griffin III.

We are now halfway up the pyramid. Our physiological needs are met, and we have taken precautions to give ourselves adequate levels of security in important walks of life. The third need: we will strive to attain is that of belonging. Love. Acceptance.

The inherent need that drove our ancestors to form tribes, and ultimately the family structures we depend on. Teams in this mode will be extrapolated by classification output in two serial processes: Evidence of progress in organizational design and chemistry; and the team's perceived desire for belonging within the ranks of the NFL elite.

New York Jets: QB Mark Sanchez suffers from what Sigmund Freud described as temporary reversion of reality principle to an earlier stage of development. The Jets take a spill into this category because Sanchez is digressing as a passer, and because they are a team that is committed to running the ball that simply cannot. They have sought expert advice in the running game from new OC Tony Sparano. (Insert Tim Tebow/wildcat teaser if you wish.)

Cincinnati Bengals- Second-year standouts WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton have formed a mutually reciprocal relationship of trust that I feel will lead to Green having one of the biggest years of any WR in the NFL next season.

Buffalo Bills: With a now-stout defensive line, a Harvard man at QB, and a vastly underrated WR and RB corps, the Bills have the firepower to keep up in the offensive showdowns that occur in the AFC East.

Seattle Seahawks: Daring, physical safety play, a dominant pass rush and a brutal power running game is what is now needed to keep up with the Harbaughs in the NFC West. HC Pete Carroll has done everything he can to address these areas, and the Seahawks are another team I may like more than most coming into 2012, with or without a Marshawn Lynch suspension.

Tennessee Titans: Year one under HC Mike Munchak was no picnic, but that is what a short offseason and a long hold out by star RB Chris Johnson can do. Talk about a double-whammy for an entirely new coaching staff. The return of Kenny Britt along with the addition of rookie WR Kendall Wright along with DT Mike Martin to wrestle away inside running lanes should end up leaving the Titans vying for the AFC South with the Houston Texans.

Oakland Raiders: Yes, they always miss the playoffs, and yes, it is always because of penalties which seems like a brutal, inescapable curse for Raider Nation. The fact is, this is a different Raiders organization in 2012. With a group of young WRs who are finally growing into their roles, the league's most dynamic rushing weapon (when healthy) in RB Darren McFadden, a disruptive pass rush and a winnable division (remember the Raiders swept the AFC West in 2010), new HC Dennis Allen inherits a club that has been gutted, sold for spare parts, and re-assembled by a mastermind in new GM Reggie McKenzie.

Denver Broncos: Well, the Broncos didn't take long to distinguish any remnants of the Tim Tebow culture in their clubhouse, and I am pretty sure all of the billboards are down in Denver. The sheriff himself, Peyton Manning, has come to town. The AFC West might as well be called the Wild West this season.

Now we ascend. Your material needs are met. You have adequate reserves in case of emergency, and you enjoy the fruits of your labor among loved ones. What can one logically aspire to next? Our fourth need. Esteem.

Confidence. Abject respect amongst peers and superiors alike. The understanding that your presence is thought of as formidable. As we climb Maslow's hierarchy of teams, we are now getting toward the top of the pyramid. These teams need no footnote to credential their recent performance in the eyes of their peers. It would be an insult to their achievements. They can rest, respected on their merits; but ascension into our final stage will take work.

They are the San Diego Chargers, the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Houston Texans, the Altanta Falcons, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Baltimore Ravens.

The final need one can aspire to is self actualization. The top of the pyramid. Once all worldly needs are met, the mind is free to wander. Free to consider possibilities of existence, and to strive toward attainment of your ultimate potential as an organism.

You always hear that you only use 10% of your brain. That is a myth. We use 100% of our brains, so take care of yours.

It is our conscious mind that does not take complete advantage of the majority of our brain's resources. It operates in just one state of being, on one plane, in one fleeting understanding of time. The final need that one will aspire to is rarely met. Certainly not by me.

The following teams are operating in an entirely different plane of existence in the National Football League coming into the 2012 season. Since they are on a different level than most of us, the information in the next, most important paragraph may or may not be perceived by your conscious mind:

[Alex Dunlap (Follow on Twitter) is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of Rosterwatch.com, and a featured expert contributor to the FantasyPros.com network.]

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