Welcome back to our Glaring Team Needs series! It finally happened and if the NFL is serious about sticking with it's new "Safety First" motto, then it may happen a few more times before the season ends. I am referring to James Harrison of the Steelers being suspended for one game stemming from his hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy. Ever since the league began fining players for illegal hits to the head, I have been against it for one reason: Fines aren't going to stop any NFL player from playing how they have been playing since grade school. NFL players, especially the high profile players with bigger contracts, make enough money that a few thousand dollar fines and in some case tens of thousands of dollars in fines isn't going to make them notice enough to change what has made them what they are today (or got them that big contract). The NFL couldn't fine them an amount to get them to notice because there would be tons of legal arguments about what is truly justifiable and will cost them time and money in return with no guarantees that anything will change. They have already fined Harrison more money then many Americans will make in their lifetimes and it hasn't slowed him down and he has said he won't change.
If the NFL really wants to make these changes and get the old guard of players to change/evolve with these new rules, the only way is to suspend them. From youth, most of these players have only known the sport. It makes up a large part of who they are. Making them sit and have to watch a game they know they could make a difference in (while also losing that game check) will make them think a lot harder about how they play the game they love so much. Also, knowing that repeat suspensions could get them to miss a year or worse, get thrown out of the league, would also go a long way to making these changes that the NFL says will make the game safer.
Of course, they wouldn't look like hypocrites in this regard if they did more to prevent Colt McCoy from going back into that game after the hit. For all the propaganda about safety, you think they would hire a neurologist to be at every game just like they hire paramedics to be on call for each game. If safety really is a concern, they should do more proactively then reactively. Lets take a look at the needs of the Browns, Bucs, and Seahawks.
1. Cleveland Browns - Biggest Need: QB The Browns are still building their offense and will most likely focus on offensive skill players during the draft. While the Browns may not have all the weapons to be running a consistently dangerous offense, remarks from GM Mike Holmgren have made it seem as though he doesn't think the long term quarterback is on the roster. Usually, that is an indication that said team will be in play for the top talent at the position and the Browns have a lot of ammo to be in play for the top QB talent in 2012. If their current losing streak extends to the end of the season, they may not need to give up too much to get what they are looking for. 2012 Draft Pick - Matt Barkley, QB USC While they could put together the ammo to move all the way to #1, they could just move ahead of the Redskins and have their pick of QB outside of Luck. Barkley played in a west coast style system at USC and would fit into what Holmgren wants at QB. People will question his height, but he played behind a NFL OL in college and showed the smarts and arm to play at a high level.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Biggest Need: CB While a big part of the Bucs decline over the last half of the season has been the erratic play of the offense, the youth movement on defense still needs big upgrades. Ronde Barber is not long for that roster and Aqib Tailb is a wild card off the field. Having an elite CB to help solidify the pass defense in the pass friendly NFC South will help keep them in games. 2012 Draft Pick - Morris Claibourne, CB LSU It is a fairly top heavy class this year and Tampa has a chance to walk away with one of the top two at the position by the end of the season. Claibourne will be in demand for his play making skills and should hear his name rather early day one.
3. Seattle Seahawks - Biggest Need: QB On paper, the Hawks are stocked at offensive skill positions. Sidney Rice, BMW, Baldwin, Zach Miller, Lynch. Yet as an offense, Seattle averages 18.9 points a game. Gross. Some of that is of course due to injuries (lots of them), but a lot of it also comes from the inefficiency at QB. What hurts Seattle draftwise is that they are good enough team to be far out of contention for one of the top 3 QBs in the draft. This could shift their strategy, taking the BPA in the first and packaging a deal to move up and grab a QB in the 2nd round like Tannehill of Texas A&M or Weeden of Oklhoma State 2012 Draft Pick - David DeCastro, OG Stanford The Seahawks are currently sitting just outside the top ten and get a chance to grab a top talent that falls out of the top ten onto their laps. Their current roster has 3 former 1st round picks on the offensive line (Okung, Gallery, and Carpenter) and adding a fourth along with the aforementioned offensive skill players would be an ideal situation for a Tannehill/Weeden type QB.