I was very impressed by the comments of Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin in his press conference on the Monday after the Super Bowl.
One of the things he said that really resonated with me was while acknowledging the great accomplishment of his Pittsburgh team in winning its sixth world championship for the franchise, he emphasized that this was the accomplishment of the 2008 team. It had no bearing on what would happen in 2009.
I was reminded of that in a recent interview which Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels did.
When asked to comment on the recently announced 2009 schedule, Josh said he liked it and looked forward to competing every week.
But Josh made a great comment, I thought, in noting that fans look at each year’s schedule within the mental context of what last year’s team was.
So 32 teams are being judged and evaluated with a completely new schedule, but based on what the previous year’s team was.
And that could not be more irrelevant. Last year is not this year.
Players changes, coaches change, schemes and philosophies change, some teams sustain fewer injuries, some more. And regardless, there are games played every week.
Not too many people predicted last year that the Arizona Cardinals would march into the Super Bowl, or that the Tampa Bay Rays would advance to the World Series.
But after the fact, everyone accepts it quickly, and many people even take advantage of revisionist history to claim they knew all along that this was likely to happen.
An analogy relative to this point is that every week, for every NFL game, one of the stats used is the history of the two teams against each other, won-lost record, current winning streak, etc.
But the teams that take the field that week are not composed of the same players who kicked off 10 years ago, five years ago, or sometimes even three weeks earlier.
Today is the only measuring stick, and today changes every day.
The Broncos have a new head coach, nearly 20 new NFL veteran players, and will shortly add 10 players in the 2009 draft. Many other teams have a similar number of changes, and each team has to deal with the weekly issue of injury.
So anybody who tries to predict the 2009 record based on what different players and coaches did in opposing other teams’ different players and coaches in an entirely different year might as well be throwing darts at a wiffle ball in a wind storm.
Heraclitus was right.
Heraclitus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived about 475 years B.C., and Heraclitus in his wisdom spoke words that still are applicable to NFL teams today.
He said, “No man can step in the same river twice, because the second time, the river is not the same, and neither is the man.”
And so too are the teams and schedules different from year to year.
It’s going to be a very interesting season, and the results will all play out on the field, not in predictions made nine months before the season ends.