Hall of Fame
Join Date: Apr 2004
Are Older More Mature Teams More Likely........
...........to be more successful? That is a question that may not have a consistently valid answer. It is interesting to note, though, that while most discussions and movement is towards the youth side, Big Shanny (and little) have partly inherited and continued to accumulate an Over-the-Hill Gang
The Redskins Are Still Over the Hill
A change of an NFL team’s management often brings an injection of youth as the incoming coach and general manager start over to build for the future.
Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan, the Washington Redskins’ new brain trust, have taken a different tack. They took over what was the oldest team in the NFL as of opening day 2009 and they have made it older.
The players on the Redskins’ 53-man roster entering the 2009 season averaged 28.02 years of age. That was about 10 days older than the average member of the second-oldest team in the league, the New Orleans Saints. This demonstrates that age isn’t necessarily a barrier to success, something we’ll look into later in this article.
Although Allen and Shanahan paid lip service to getting younger, the reality is that the Redskins are likely to remain among the league’s oldest teams. Going by the projected 2010 53-man roster prepared by CSNwashington’s Ryan O’Halloran, the Redskins will average 28.5 years of age when the season opener is played on Sept. 12, about six months older than last year’s edition.
It’s not simply a matter of the same players getting another year older, although that’s part of it. According to O’Halloran’s projection, the team will retain 29 players from last year’s opening-day roster, or 55 percent. That would leave 45 percent of the roster that could be populated by younger players.
But the Redskins chose not to go in that direction. Of the 24 new players on the projected roster, 13 will be over 30 years old on opening day.
The increase in the team’s age is not just because of the addition of some veteran backups. The 22 players who started the 2009 season opener averaged 29.0 years of age. The 22 who are likely to start this year average 29.7 years.
The increase in average age from 2009 to 2010 is spread out just about equally on both sides of the ball. The average age of the offensive starters went from 29.3 last year to 29.8 this year. The change at left tackle from Chris Samuels (age 32.1) to Trent Williams (22.1) shaves off a full decade, but Donovan McNabb (33.8) offsets a lot of that by replacing Jason Campbell (27.7). Right guard Artis Hicks (31.8) is a bit younger than Randy Thomas (33.7), but right tackle Jammal Brown (29.5) has several years on Stephon Heyer (25.7).
On defense, the average age was 28.7 years old on opening day in 2009 and is projected to be 29.5 years this year. On the defensive line, Maake Kemoeatu (31.7) replaces Cornelius Griffin (32.8), shaving off a year, but hardly a youth movement there. Kareem Moore (26.1) is likely to replace Chris Horton (24.7) at one of the safety spots.
The Redskins’ direction was not entirely of their own choosing. Due to a provision in the collective bargaining agreement, players had to have six years of experience to qualify for unrestricted free agency this year, not four years as had been the rule in the past. That meant that hundreds of players, many in their mid-20’s, who normally would have been available to the Redskins were locked up in restricted free agency situations.
That meant that Allen and Shanahan could choose to stay with many of the same players who contributed to last year’s 4-12 debacle, or they could choose from some free agents in their 30’s. In many cases, they chose the latter.
One good thing is that the Redskins are not necessarily stuck with getting older every year. Of the 13 new arrivals who are 30+ years old, very few got multiyear contracts with guaranteed money. If and when younger alternatives are available, the team can easily replace the older players without messy salary cap consequences.
Another positive aspect of the Redskins’ situation is that being among the older teams doesn’t necessarily mean being unsuccessful on the field. As noted above, the Saints were just a shade younger than the Redskins going into last year and all they did was win the Super Bowl.
The Saints weren’t the only ones enjoying their golden years. The Cardinals and Patriots, the third- and fourth-oldest teams last year, both won their divisions. The Vikings, number eight on list, took the Saints to overtime in the NFC title game. In all, of the ten oldest teams in the league, seven finished with records of .500 or better.
The Redskins are likely to remain among the league’s “Over the Hill Gang”. We will see if they are one of the savvy, experienced teams like the Saints were last year, or if they will turn out to be just plain old.