Building A Football Team Requires A Bit Of Magic
By Adam Benovic
As any of you who have been reading my articles for some time can probably tell, even if by looking at my picture, I am not an athlete. Shocking, right? Actually, I would classify myself as a bit of a nerd.
I mentioned before in my article “Adventures in Sportswriting,” one of the many things that I do in my spare time is Magic: the Gathering. For those of you who don’t know, Magic is an in-depth strategy game based upon amassing cards to create a fine-tuned deck that will defeat your opponent, or, as my mother would say, a vast waste of your money. I haven’t been playing for very long, and my collection isn’t very large, but I’ve really thrown myself into this deck-building idea. Each resource has to be utilized properly and in a way that compliments the other cards in the deck. You have lands, big creatures, small creatures, spells.
As we enter the free agency period as well as move toward the draft, I am seeing more and more similarity between building a Magic deck and crafting a fine-tuned football roster. When you want to begin, you have to start with the core idea of what you want to do. For a deck, it may be some extraordinary creature with an insane effect. Or some combination of cards that, if it happens, there’s not much that can be done to stop you.
I see that a lot in how a roster is assembled. Look at the recent Bears, for example. Under Lovie Smith, he was one for playing a defensive game. The entire plan was one of “control.” Take away the opponent’s resources in order to capitalize on the ones that your team has. The key players that Smith wanted were Brian Urlacher-types who would orchestrate the team in a way where little damage would be done. The problem with this sort of strategy is that you need just enough offensive power to capitalize on that defensive boost while not compromising it. As a result, you would see the Bears offense mostly focused on a run attack. It is efficient, getting yards and points, and reducing the resources (time) that the Bears’ opponents had to use.
Marc Trestman, on the other hand, is far more offensively minded. Comparing him to Magic, he would play an “aggro” deck, focused on dealing damage fast and often. The combination of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall in the 2013 season was a nearly unstoppable one. Teams would have to allocate too many resources to one of the two key threats and just would not be able to handle the other. This kind of highly aggressive front has its own risks, though. Defense is not a focus at all, meaning that a win requires outracing the opponent. Once again, this focuses on resource management. Keeping the fast-paced style leaves more time on the clock and more room for the team to move ahead, leading to a higher scoring potential.
Chip Kelly’s 2013-14 Eagles were the epitome of aggressive. They did so well because of the philosophy that they were constantly attacking. On offense, they were lightning. On defense, they took risks. If they made a mistake, they had plenty of time to reconfigure and make the plays that they needed.
This is a step that the Bears need to take. Right now, even with a highly offensive-minded coach, they have not committed to full “aggro.” A key playmaker on the defense is already there in Tim Jennings. But the rest of the defense needs to learn that attacking style, and look for moves to be made in the offseason to move towards that aggressive front.