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Better Option: Build an Offense or Build a Defense?


Dec 2, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril (56) causes New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) to fumble the ball from behind during the 1st quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we looked at the old saying “Defense wins championships”. We saw that sometimes they do and sometimes don’t. A great defense is usually a good bet to win it all, but it’s far from a sure thing. The next question at hand is, “What’s the better option – build an offense or build a defense?”

Statistically defenses fair better in postseason play. This could be because of multiple factors: poorer weather , looser officiating, or maybe defense is just a better overall advantage. Whatever the reason, tides are changing in today’s NFL. With Player Safety on the minds of everyone, new rules roll out each year, hampering defenses and helping offenses.

Because of the rule changes, it becomes harder and harder to build a successful defense. In fact, the past few years the NFL hasn’t seen a truly dominant defense (The Seahawks being the obvious exception).

With the Seattle defense still fresh in our minds, it’s easy to think all #1 ranked defenses are as good as the 2013 Seahawks. They are not. These guys are special. They don’t rely on any one player for plays. Nearly every player on this team is star and playing at peak potential. It’s not a brilliant defensive scheme either. As previously discussed, the Seattle defensive scheme isn’t too far off of what Dallas was attempting to run under Monte Kiffin.

Seattle caught lightning in a bottle in 2013. Their young age, cheap contracts, and excellent drafting says the lightning is here to stay a little while too. The San Francisco 49ers are in a similar situation. They also have a transcendent defense, capable of knocking off the NFL’s best offenses. But after these two teams lies a sharp drop-off in defensive quality.

Building a defense is hard. Especially if a team already has an established QB making typical QB-level money (both Seattle and San Fran do not). That’s good for over $15M annually. In the salary cap era the more money going to offense means less money goes to the defense.  That means reasonably priced free agents and great drafting are needed in constructing a top-quality D.

The Seahawks drafted so well it’s almost impossible to fathom the number of steals they acquired. To plan to build a defense by drafting this well is almost like planning for retirement by playing the lottery. If it works then great. But chances are – it ain’t gonna happen.

It sounds like I’m trashing the idea of building a strong defense. I’m really not. I’m just pointing out how difficult a task it is, and because of rule changes, it’s only getting harder.

Offense is still the easiest way to build a good team. A great QB can make the single biggest difference to a team’s wins and losses. That’s why the first thing new coaches and GMs do when taking over a team, is find a franchise QB.

What about the Cowboys

Winning the lottery worked for Seattle. They are loaded and built to last. If you can successfully copy that, then more power to you. But I’m a Cowboy fan and my team doesn’t have the best track record with precision drafting. To think we’re going to be able to craft a Seattle-like defense, just because we want to, may be a little optimistic. Factoring in the big money going to offense, declining veterans, and players not even on the team, and we can rule out building through free agency too.

The Cowboys need to build their Defensive Line in the worst way. They need help at safety and depth at cornerback. Come to think of it, options at LB would be a good idea too. The Cowboys must focus on building defense this offseason because they really don’t have any other options at this point.

It’s best to keep in mind, throwing money and draft picks at the defense will not simply make it work. Seattle built something extremely special that should be admired but not mimicked. The Cowboys need to build their defense, yes. An offense without a defense, and a defense without an offense, typically isn’t going to win especially a championship.

Offenses and defenses are not mutually exclusive and require a contribution from the other side of the ball in order to compete. The Cowboys shouldn’t be looking to build Seattle’s defense but rather just improve the one they have. In fact, every team should follow that plan. Building a defense like the Hawks is like winning the lottery. It’s not really a plan.