Every NFL Team’s Best Move of 2013
Every NFL Team's Best Move of 2013
As the NFL playoff picture grows further into focus it's becoming more clear which moves in 2013 worked out and which not so much.
The offseason is such a beautiful time for fans because every move can be speculated endlessly. Moves are dissected by the fanbase and compelling arguments are made for and against. Huge themes are sent in motion with each transaction and only time will tell the direction, positive or negative.
December and January present the clarity of these moves thanks to the evidence presented to us between September and the start of winter. It's lmost impossible to believe that 16 weeks of the 2013 regular season have already past.
Sometimes an offseason decision that seemed crazy in April suddenly proves genius by opening day. A move to a new quarterback can appear questionable in October before showing exactly much a grip on his team the coach over the next month.
Choosing the single best move by each NFL franchise in 2013 proved extremely difficult. Some squads made this easier by leaving the "positive" options few and far between this year. Others reminded me just how brilliant a year 2013 was for the analyzed team, from both the standpoint of both personnel management and coaching.
Read through for the best move each NFL team made during the 2013 calendar year.
Arizona Cardinals: Coaching Overhaul
Arizona let the Ken Whisenhunt era fizzle quite miserably but quickly lit the spark by hiring offensive-mind head coach Bruce Arians before filling DC Ray Horton's huge shoes with Todd Bowles, who has more than come through. The division bottom-dwellers are now 10-5.
Atlanta Falcons: Drafting Desmond Trufant
Former Executive of the Year Thomas Dimitroff had far more of a "miss" offseason, with Steven Jackson spending so much time injured and the John Abraham departure proving brutal. At least top pick Trufant looks like the stud cornerback of the future that this defense direly needs.
Baltimore Ravens: Paul Kruger Out, Elvis Dumervil In
Letting Kruger walk to Cleveland for big money and signing ex-Bronco Dumervil has worked out extremely well for B-more's edge rush. Dumervil ranks first overall among 3-4 OLBs in Pro Football Focus' pass-rush productivity while Kruger sits at 17th.
Buffalo Bills: Trade for Jerry Hughes
If you think the Ravens' LB switch worked out spectacularly, take a look at the trade sending Hughes to Buffalo and Kelvin Sheppard to Indy. The latter has made little impact while the former now ranks second among 3-4 OLBs in PFF's pass-rush productivity rating.
Carolina Panthers: Hiring GM Dave Gettleman
Since Gettleman arrived from Big Blue's front office up in New York it should come as little surprise that they went DL heavy in his first draft. Top pick DTs Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short have already worked out spectacularly, only magnifying the impact of Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson on the edge.
Chicago Bears: Hiring Marc Trestman
Has the Bears offense ever hummed like this? Regardless of how Chicago closes out in Week 17 with their atrocious defense, their breathtaking O already validates hiring the quarterback whisperer.
Cincinnati Bengals: Expanding Giovani Bernard's Role
While BenJarvus Green-Ellis remained "workmanlike" (euphemism for underwhelming yet consistent) Bernard wowed Bengals fans in early-season action. This electric presence Gio brought eventually translated to consistent usage as the rookie RB has tallied a minimum 14 touches in each game since Week 10.
Cleveland Browns: Coaching Overhaul
The Browns season may have swan-dived off a 10-story building the moment Brian Hoyer's knee cost him the season, but the job by new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner should not go unnoticed. It's incredible to think they rode Hoyer to a 3-0 record and the amount of offense squeezed out of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell deserves a salute.
Dallas Cowboys: Extending Tony Romo
In the grand scheme of NFL things, Romo's six-year, $108 million extension should be completely palatable to Cowboys fans. He's not a choker nor a Peyton Manning/Tom Brady type cold-blooded killer. Romo's a high-upside QB who can take you from two scores down anytime and that's more than can be said for most of the NFL's quarterback crop right now.
Denver Broncos: Signing Wes Welker
This match seemed so perfect the moment it happened. After 73 catches and 10 touchdowns in 13 games, still so perfect.
Detroit Lions: Signing Reggie Bush
Bush found himself on the bench multiple times for fumbles and a disputable lack inclement-weather running, but when he's effectively utilized — and not coughing the ball up — this Lions offense truly sings.
Green Bay Packers: Bringing Back Matt Flynn
After being unceremoniously bounced from Seattle and Oakland, Flynn put on his Superman gear that apparently only works in green and gold. The Flynn-led comebacks from triple-score deficits at Dallas and against Minnesota keep Green Bay alive for an Aaron Rodgers return.
Houston Texans: Canning Gary Kubiak
His management of the Case Keenum/Matt Schaub quarterback situation failed to serve any purpose but mess with the heads of both passers. Benching Keenum for Schaub on Thursday night at Jacksonville looked like obvious final straw as it happened, then hours later the unsurprising news came.
Indianapolis Colts: Emphasizing T.Y. Hilton
Darrius Heyward-Bey left many Colts fans scratching their head as he took snaps from Hilton in the early going. Hilton has since emerged as Indy's top receiving threat and DHB has seen his offensive snaps per game drop into the low teens. Indy's attack is definitely for the better.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Benching Blaine Gabbert for Chad Henne
Gabbert pulled off a surprisingly decent preseason but his league-low time-to-release numbers tipped off how simplified his preseason reads at become. Facing a committed defense in the regular season paved the way to his final(?) benching from the Jags and allowed Gus Bradley's team to at least compete under Henne.
Kansas City Chiefs: Hiring Andy Reid
The match between Reid and Alex Smith seemed perfect for a squad with a strong defense and an easy schedule, and the past four months have validated this. You'd like to see Reid a bit more aggressive if KC meets Denver again, but all and all 2013 has been a massive success for franchise that finished dead-last the year prior.
Miami Dolphins: Signing Brent Grimes
Miami could not count on their cornerbacks in coverage over the past few years but that notion has changed in 2013. The unit's overhaul has been a successful one and this starts with Grimes, who ranks fourth overall in PFF's CB grading after finishing third in this metric during his last full season in 2011.
Minnesota Vikings: Drafting Cordarrelle Patterson
Losing Percy Harvin left a gaping void at receiver that only a sublime playmaking talent could fill. Early signs from Patterson — who's scored via ground or air in each of the past three games and tallied 141 receiving yards on 28 yards/catch at Baltimore — is showing that the Harvin-sized crater can been filled.
New England Patriots: Signing Danny Amendola
Losing Welker and dealing with Amendola's early-season injuries certainly hurt this team. However, with Gronk's sidelining the Amendola addition could not be more crucial for the stretch run.
New Orleans Saints: Hiring Rob Ryan
Ryan's creative, attacking defensive scheme has squeezed the most out of New Orleans' personnel. In the span of one season New Orleans has transformed from the second-worst scoring defense to the fifth-best.
New York Giants: Choosing Victor Cruz Over Hakeem Nicks
Eli Manning's huge contract extension following the Super Bowl meant only one major receiver could be re-upped when the 2013 offseason came around. Big Blue chose the slot guy over the larger big-play option and it has paid off. Nicks sits 67th in catch rate and 24th in drops during a really unfortunate contract year after showing so much more over his first three seasons in the league.
New York Jets: Drafting Sheldon Richardson
Nabbing the rookie who's provided arguably the most immediate return is a nice start to the GM tenure for John Idzik. Placing him alongside Damon Harrison and Muhammad Wilkerson has to be a dream for Rex Ryan.
Oakland Raiders: Signing Rashad Jennings
Don't look now, but Jennings grew into a better running back than Run-DMC has been in years. Oakland signed Jennings to back-up Darren McFadden but the former has asserted his control over the lead role, averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 159 totes.
Philadelphia Eagles: Hiring Chip Kelly
We all saw their dismantling of Chicago Sunday night? OK? OK.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Choosing Antonio Brown Over Mike Wallace
This one follows in the same vein of the Giants' Cruz/Nicks scenario except strikes a more resounding victory for the winner. Unlike Wallace, Cruz or Wallace, Brown has not only remained a terrifying threat on punt returns but emerged as an elite receiver.
San Diego Chargers: Hiring Mike McCoy
McCoy's slow-tempo, dink-and-dunk, clock-chewing offense has both re-ignited Philip Rivers and kept an overmatched Chargers defense off the field. San Diego's style of ball control has even turned on the light for RB Ryan Mathews as one of the league's best backs.
San Francisco 49ers: Eric Reid In, Dashon Goldson Out
The 49ers forewent giving Goldson — now a Buc — the big bucks and instead rolled the dice with a rookie at free safety, and it has paid off in both the long and short term. Reid currently ranks 30th amongst safeties in PFF grading for the playoff-bound Niners as Goldson sits at 83rd for a team that will choose top-10 in April's draft.
Seattle Seahawks: Signing Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril
With Chris Clemons recovering from a serious knee injury, Seattle's edge-rushing presence had slipped from "iffy" to "colossal question mark" heading into this past offseason. A couple frugal contracts later and suddenly a weakness has become yet another strength for Seattle's unfairly stacked defense.
St. Louis Rams: Riding Zac Stacy
I feel bad that the Rams couldn't work in Stacy more before Sam Bradford hit injured reserve. Despite getting his reps with the far — in my opinion — inferior quarterback Kellen Clemens, Stacy has ushered the resurgence of the Rams under Jeff Fisher. St. Louis' run offense ranked last in early October yet has seen Stacy hit nearly 1,000 yards since Week 5.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sweating Out Jets on Darrelle Revis Trade
The Revis-to-Tampa deal seemed destined since January yet the Bucs let this thing drift into March so that they didn't have to give up more than their No. 13 overall in 2013 for the future Hall of Fame cornerback. Sometimes leverage is a teams greatest asset, and Tampa used it to their advantage.
Tennessee Titans: Reducing Kenny Britt's Snaps
Britt has at times over the years appeared on the verge of NFL stardom, before injuries or off-field issues dragged him down. However, sometimes a team needs to force their star receiver to claw his way back and that's what Tennessee did — Britt received fewer than 22 snaps between Week 6 and Week 14 as young Titan receivers like Kendall Wright flourished. Perhaps Britt's revival comes with another franchise.
Washington Redskins: Benching Robert Griffin III for Kirk Cousins
There's really nothing good that can come of RG3 getting beat up any more during a lost season. On top of that — regardless of whether Cousins is legitimately trying out for the Redskins quarterback job — this allows Washington to fatten up Cousins' trade value for the 2014 NFL offseason.