Once again, the start of the 2014 season shows that money can't buy championships.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers outspent the rest of the league in unrestricted free agency. They invested $145.6 million in contracts for 13 players. They also traded for one of the highest-paid guards in football in Logan Mankins. Yet they are off to an 0-2 start, which could get worse based on the tough games ahead.
Normally, teams that spend over $100 million in free-agent contracts don't improve by much. Last year, the big spenders were the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins improved by only one game to 8-8. The Colts stayed at 11-5 atop the AFC South.
Getting a franchise quarterback is the one way to get a quick fix. We saw that with Andrew Luck and the Colts. Unless it's a quarterback, one player doesn't make a difference in this team sport.
The Denver Broncos may have spent big on four top signings -- DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders -- but those aren't likely to make a difference until the postseason. The Broncos are a 13-win team with Peyton Manning at quarterback. A good roster with Manning is good for 12 wins. Those four additions could allow the Broncos to go back to the Super Bowl and maybe pick up a win this time.
Because of the potential for injury, it's hard to project vast improvement with what's generally available in free agency. For example, the New York Giants hoped to fix their interior offensive line with the addition of guard Geoff Schwartz, but he is out until midseason with an injury.
You can win the offseason, but the currency isn't often exchanged for victories in the regular season.
From the inbox
Q: Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense looks like it is not just a gimmick and is here to stay. However, my question is why doesn't he ever mix up the tempos or formations? It seems that the vast majority of the Eagles' offense is no-huddle and in shotgun formation. In Monday night's game vs. the Colts, the Eagles used shotgun formation even in short-yardage situations. Why doesn't Chip ever use standard running formations? Is it an advantage to only show the defense one look pre-snap?
Zubin from New York
A: To mix up the formations would slow things down. The idea is to get plays off every 14 to 16 seconds. It takes a few seconds to bring a new player or two onto the field and get each set up with the play. That also would allow time for the defense to get a fresh player or two onto the field. The idea is to wear out and exhaust a defense. You've seen that happen over the Eagles' first two games. By the second half, the defenders don't have much energy left. The Eagles train at a very high level and are prepared for the exertion. The rest of the league isn't. Kelly can make his adjustments on the field with his quarterback. This isn't going to go away. Expect more teams to find ways of copying it.
Q: While watching the MNF game with the Colts and Eagles and all of the Robert Mathis talk, can the NFL push the suspension of Mathis into the start of next year since he tore his Achilles before Week 2? He would be on IR and not able to play the next three games, so would the suspension carry to next year?
Mitchell in Grand Rapids, Michigan
A: It's quite the opposite. I wouldn't be surprised if the suspension is lifted this week. He had a PED suspension in the offseason. Each case is being reviewed under the new policy, so I wouldn't be surprised if the league makes him eligible this week. The problem is that he can't play because of the blown Achilles tendon. The NFL apparently is addressing the problem that put Mathis in position for the injury. The league is going to start permitting suspended players to be with the team during their down time. Mathis should have been allowed to be with the Colts and their trainers. Working on his own, he blew out the Achilles. Sad.
Q: Aside from a few exceptions (Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Drew Brees and a few others), is it harder for quarterbacks to transition to a new team and their offensive system than for other positions? Recent years have shown successful backups and starters sign or be traded to new teams only to flounder (Matt Cassel, Matt Flynn, Matt Schaub). Not fair to the Matts. Are quarterbacks more likely to be successful if they're developed within a team's offensive system rather than traded after a decent few games? Appears so to me.
Alex in Cincinnati
A: That depends on the quarterback. Just because he came up with his system doesn't mean he's going to be successful in it. Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Brandon Weeden all failed. Cassell, Flynn and Schaub are hired guns. If they are good enough just to be backups in one place, they are only going to be good enough to get a team to eight or nine wins at best in another place, unless the team is a 10-win team for talent and all it needed was a game manager. Don't go too crazy on Ryan Fitzpatrick's start in Houston. The Texans beat bad teams. They'll probably beat the Giants this week, too. Being in a system helps, as we have seen with Nick Foles. But the value of the quarterback depends on the value of his talent.
Q: I'm not sure Roger Goodell will be replaced this season, but it does seem more likely now than it did a few weeks ago. How long do the current television contracts run, and how soon can either side opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement? These are two important business matters, so I was wondering how much time a new commissioner would have to prepare for those matters if a change does occur. I imagine owners would be reluctant to make a change with either matter looming on the horizon.
Kevin in Arlington, Virginia
A: The CBA runs through 2020. The television contracts run through 2022. There are no opt outs. Unless Goodell lied about the Ray Rice elevator tape -- he claimed not to have seen it before handing down the initial two-game suspension -- then he won't be fired. The league is set up well, and the owners know it. Teams are making record profits. Values of franchises are soaring. The Bills just sold for $1.4 billion. The league hopes to move toward $25 billion in revenue. A great number of the owners have come out to speak on Goodell's behalf. I'm sure there will be changes in the way the NFL office is run, but there will be no change in commissioner unless he is caught in a lie.
Q: Due to the recent timeout debacle on the Jets' sideline, is there any reason to change the way a timeout is called? Or do these instances not occur enough to warrant a change? For instance, what if the red flag served a dual purpose? It can be used by the head coach to challenge or call a timeout. Referees seem to have a good eye and immediately stop play when a red flag is thrown. If the head coach is the only one to hold the flag, he can be the only one to call a timeout. Players on the field are still able to visibly call a timeout without any issues. Would this be worth looking into?
Eli in Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania
A: Simple is the best, and the timeout situation couldn't be any more simple. Only the head coach can call a timeout from the sideline. I know that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was the one running up the sideline calling for the timeout, and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, seeing Mornhinweg, also yelled for it. Under the confusion of the moment, officials stopped the clock. On the field, the quarterback can call a timeout. While the officials didn't see who made the call, the simple thing is for the head coach to make sure he's the only one on the sideline to do it. It's a Jets mistake, not that of one of the officials. An official might not spot a red flag in that situation. The head coach can position himself near an official to make the timeout call. Don't change a simple rule when it was the Jets' actions along the sideline that caused the mistake.
Q: Quick question about the Giants: At what point does Jerry Reese get put on the hot seat? With the Giants 0-2 already and a fairly tough schedule, it looks like it will be another season without the playoffs. I personally think he gets way too much credit for the Super Bowl teams when the majority of those players were brought in by Ernie Accorsi. And outside of the 2007 draft, Reese has had far more misses than hits in the draft and free agency. Linebacker and tight end have been glaring needs over the past few seasons, and he's done nothing to address either position. Add in the fact he let both lines get too old before addressing them and his track record is less than impressive. I know Giants ownership is very loyal to its employees, but how many more lost seasons and draft reaches does the fan base have to put up with before a change is made?
Scott in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
A: Everything will be under review at the end of this season if it continues to be this bad. First, it's going to be hard for Tom Coughlin to be invited back. Coughlin is a winner, but if the team lacks enough talent to be a contender, the organization will probably go for a younger coach. Then the downfall of the team's personnel has to be reviewed. The Giants have fallen off too fast. I know they got off to a horrible start last year and bounced back. This team looks worse.