The Washington Redskins have a wealth of resources at their disposal. Thanks to the wildly successful efforts by Dan Snyder to monetize the loyalty and passion shared by Redskin fans around the globe, he wields a hefty checkbook each offseason. Boasting one of the largest stadiums in the NFL, in one of the premier markets in the country, the Redskins have filled their coffers to the point where money is simply no object when it comes to pursuing players they desire.
With such stars as Tom Cruise on hand for regular season games, as well as marketing efforts built to synergize Snyder's various wheelings and dealings (Six Flags, movie/TV deals and radio ventures), the front office for the Washington Redskins swings a pretty big stick when it comes to attracting talent to the organization.
And yet, despite the ostentatious nature with which Snyder and his associates flaunt their affluence, year in and year out they seem to forget that the most valuable tool at their disposal to build their team is one given to them (and everyone else) for free.
Everyone gets at least seven picks every year ... FOR FREE. While it may be a stretch to suggest there are cash-strapped NFL franchises in this Golden Age of football in America, even the teams with the smallest balance sheets can go toe-to-toe with the Redskins when it comes to their allotment of draft picks. You could argue that these teams have been beating us handily with one bank account tied behind their back, as they dedicate time, energy and precious dollars to their scouting efforts prior to using ALL of their draft picks.
In this year's Super Bowl, two teams representing blue collar towns are taking the field with a host of players they drafted and developed. Neither Pittsburgh nor Green Bay are considered splashy markets. The fans who support those teams are as loyal, passionate and rabid as we are about the Redskins. However, the architects of the teams they follow so devotedly have shown them a far different way to build a roster than the way we are used to in Washington, D.C.
Ted Thompson (Green Bay) and Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh) have built their teams from the ground up through the draft. As Mike Prada pointed out the other day, they have kept and used their picks with far more success than the Redskins. But the quality of the picks they have made is simply amazing.
Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, Nick Collins. A.J. Hawk, B.J. Raji, Brandon Jackson, James Jones, Mason Crosby, Desmond Bishop, Patrick Lee, T.J. Lang, Brad Jones, Daryn Colledge, Matt Flynn, James Starks ... OK, you get it. Ted Thompson has drafted not just a core group of guys, but the majority of a Super Bowl roster through the draft. And this list is not exhaustive, as previous Green Bay front office heads were also responsible for drafting some of the players who will suit up in SBXLV.
Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Evander "Ziggy" Hood, Mike Wallace, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Bryant McFadden, Chris Kemoeatu, Trai Essex, Max Starks ... again, this list could continue with more names of important contributors that have been drafted over the last decade by the Pittsburgh front office. Colbert has been in the driver's seat since 2000 for the Steelers.
Both teams even boast undrafted rookie gems -- James Harrison for Pittsburgh and Sam Shields for Green Bay being a couple rather notable names.
As a Redskin fan, this is somewhat depressing. Clearly these teams have placed a higher emphasis on the draft than the Redskins have, and clearly this has led each to the Super Bowl. It is also evident that both teams are set to contend for Super Bowls for a long time.
Perhaps such a glaring example of the power of the draft and the potential rewards associated with embracing it as the primary means of building your team will inspire Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan this offseason.
Then again, perhaps the closest we will ever to get to the greatness of the Steelers and the Packers will be a Tom Cruise movie produced by Dan Snyder's production company where Cruise plays the part of a genius owner that pulls all the strings of a Super Bowl champion football organization.