Standing in Pete and John's shoes, here's how I'd look at it:
- We were ONE (KEY) PLAY AWAY from the next round of the playoffs. A sack, a pressured incompletion, stopping a key running play better, etc.
- We were ONE PLAY AWAY from NFC West championship and home field advantage.
- We might be more than ONE PLAY AWAY from beating SAN FRAN and GREEN BAY in the PLAYOFFS.
- The most important KEY PLAYS we need are from our DEFENSIVE LINE, e.g., to pressure and sack Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Kevin Kolb.
- We might need better/deeper D-Line play to cope with SF's Colin Kaepernick as a veteran next year, and beat the 49ers when it matters.
- With about $8 million (or whatever the exact number is), we can probably get FIVE OR SIX PLAYS PER GAME that we aren't getting now.
- We can also upgrade by getting another BIG, FAST, DOMINANT WIDE RECEIVER. That will give us maybe ONE or TWO plays per game we aren't getting now.
- A better linebacker or two could give us another THREE or FOUR plays per game we aren't getting now.
- We will get THREE or FOUR PLAYS a game better from our more experienced O-LINE, Sweezy better, Carp back and healthy. An upgrade could make that higher. Upgrades take time.
- We will get THREE or FOUR PLAYS a game better on D from improvements by Irvin, Wagner, young non-Sherman/Browner DB's (Lane, Guy, Thurmond, etc.)
- This is a crap year for QB's in the draft. This is the peak of Flynn's value, this year.
- We were OVERALL LUCKY WITH INJURIES this last year. We could lose FIVE to EIGHT PLAYS per game through injuries next year if we aren't as fortunate.
- This team needs to upgrade our current talent pool by at least TEN PLAYS PER GAME, just to stay competitive at the same level and have a good shot at being improved.
MATT FLYNN IS GONE.
Here's what I expect PC/JS to DO:
- We will trade Flynn and get some value for Flynn. Picks, or a D-lineman, or a WR. Flynn to KC and sign-and-trade Dwayne Bowe could be a possibility, or trade to move up.
- PC/JS will try to trade to move up in the draft to grab a stud DL or WR.
- We will draft some stud D-Line talent, some DT up-the-middle push, early in our draft. We get a rookie who can pressure. +TWO PLAYS PER GAME.
- If we have a chance to draft a Green or Julio Jones type of WR by moving up, we will do that. +ONE PLAY PER GAME.
- We will pick a couple linebackers in the early/middle rounds, to replace Leroy Hill & compete with Malcolm Smith. +TWO PLAYS PER GAME.
- We will draft a developmental QB who can physically do many of the things Wilson can do, and has good work habits and upside. We lose TEN+ plays per game if he has to play.
- We will score another Jason Jones type of player in free agency. With J. Jones in the Atlanta game, never mind losing Clemons, we win. +TWO PLAYS PER GAME.
- We will try to draft or sign a DE to hedge against Clemons not coming back 100% or Irvin not developing as an every-down player.
- If the talent is there, I wouldn't be surprised if we pick up another OL in the draft or in free agency. Just not Tyler Polumbus.
- If the talent is there, a future-star TE wouldn't be a bad early round pick.
- I think we look for a mid-late round running back who could be a Terrell Davis or Alfred Morris type of back. (Recall TD was a 5th or 6th rounder)
My guess at what happens off the field:
- We trade Flynn to move up in the draft. Jacksonville, KC, someone will give us value for him. We get back his cap space.
- In the draft, we pick up a stud inside rush, runstopper DT, whoever PC/JS target, as our #1 pick. (Plan B: stud WR)
- In the draft, we pick up DL depth, LB depth, developmental QB, and WR depth.
- In free agency, we pick up more DL depth, and maybe more WR depth.
My guess at what happens on the field?
- We are less lucky with injuries. We (lose) -FIVE PLAYS per game compared to last year.
- We get better pass rush from new D-Line talent. We gain +TWO PLAYS per game over last year, net of Irvin improvement, new talent, etc.
- We get better O-Line play just by guys coming back from injury and overall improvement of young talent & meshing better. (Carpenter, Sweezy, Okung) +THREE PLAYS per game.
- Wilson is +TWO PLAYS per game better than last year.
- Our new DC is -TWO PLAYS per game worse than Gus Bradley was last year.
- Our LB corps is +ONE PLAY per game better than last year.
- Our secondary is +ONE PLAY per game better than last year.
Outcomes on the field, with our +TWO PLAYS per game team over last year:
- We lose to SF and the Lambs on the road. We win all other divison games, but lose one other road game. We go 8-0 at home again. Record: 13-3.
- SF is good again. They go 13-3 and wind up in a tie for the division.
- Depending on tie-breakers... We're either division champs or a wild card once again.
- If we win our division, we run the table at CLink in the playoffs, and on to the Super Bowl, and win that also, beating the Patriots 42-31.
If we lose the division tiebreaker to SF...
- We win playoffs round 1 at home, win playoffs division round on the road.
- We play SF in the NFC championship game.
- From here, it gets a little fuzzy. There are so many wildcards. What I'd like to see is that we win an epic game against SF on their field, head to the Super Bowl, and hand Brady and the Patriots yet another Super Bowl defeat.