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It is a slightly strange time of year. We are down to the final two teams, and we are in the middle of a two week gap to the Super Bowl, which will fail to be filled by the Pro Bowl. It is easy to understand what the NFL is trying to do, they want the Super Bowl to provide the grand finish to the season, but with the stream of replacements and those unable to play because they are preparing for the big game the Pro Bowl feels somewhat odd. In fairness, it is a underwhelming spectacle anyway, it is football but not as we are used to. The NFL’s Pro Bowl suffers more than any other American sport’s all star game from the problem that if you take away the physicality and intensity from blocking and tackling then it just looks different. I find the best things to come out of Pro Bowl week are the videos of practice where you get to see the interaction between the leagues best available players.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league is preparing for the draft. I talked a little bit about the Senior Bowl on the podcast this week, and how in some ways it could be seen as more important that the scouting combine. The measuing of the players is the same, except they then spend a week getting NFL coaching, being interviewed, and giving teams a chance to take a look first hand to confirm what they had seen during the season, but perhaps more importantly how a player might cope with NFL coaching and what they will be expected to do at the next level. This is the place where teams can see if a college quarterback stands any chance of making the transition to receiver, or what position an offensive linemen might play at the NFL level. I find it hard to get excited about the underwear Olympics that is the scouting combine, the only thing that really excites me is the fact that I want one day to be able to carry out a 225Ibs bench press that is the standard strength test. I think I am about a year away from being able to complete that lift, but I don’t ever expect to be able to put up the reps that the strongest players can manage, they are NFL prospects for a reason. I enjoy listening to draft coverage, but as some one who doesn’t follow the college game closely; for me the benefit of the coverage is mainly listening to how scouts evaluate player. Particularly as I have yet to get excited about a player in pre-draft coverage and have him picked by my team.

The whole sequence of the post season is somewhat strange, given that coach searches start immediately after the end of week seventeen despite probably the best candidates to be new head coaches being tied up with their teams in deep playoff runs. Part of what might explain the three coordinators the Bengals have lost over the three seasons is their poor performance in the playoffs combined with the play that got them there in the first place. Availability can be as important as ability.

What I don’t understand is the competing interests that are allowed at this time of year, there is this swirl of activity going on, and I can’t help but wonder if the league would not be served better by trying to smooth out some of the timetable. The draft was delayed recently so why not hold the coaching search until after the season to make available all co-ordinators to teams.

It is also a funny time of the year to be writing a blog when you don’t have a huge investment in the Pro Bowl or draft. The things I like to write about are definitely wuieter at the moment, and whilst I am hugely excited about the Super Bowl, there is only so much analysis you can do with another week to go. I will be taking a look at both teams next week, and I am hoping that the Denver defence can make it a tight game, but either team winning would provide satisfying story lines to end the season.

In my other writer interests I have a book to edit, and whilst I am really looking forward to watching the big game, and writing my final blog of the season when I go through the coaching tape the week after the Super Bowl, I am also at that stage where I’m ready for the season to be over. I’ll take a couple of weeks off before I start evaluating what did and didn’t work on the blog throughout the season, and I will no doubt will be reading more football books over the break. However, I believe that having a balance of interests is important in life, and the endless treadmill of the NFL life for coaches can only appeal to a specific type of person. There has been barely a pause for coaches since training camp back in the summer, and preparation for next season starts virtually straight away. In some ways this might come as a relief, you can start the process of getting over the disappointments of the season with the preparation for the next one, but one of the reasons that I so respect Bruce Arians is his belief that there is only so much you can and should do. That you should be with your family and not buried in the office all the time, and if it is good enough for one of the league’s best coaches then maybe there is a lesson in there for all of us.

I’ll be looking at the coaching tape of the Broncos defence from last week as we prepare for the big game, I really can’t wait!

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