This week fans of 12 NFL teams are thinking about their team's chances in the Playoffs. Fans of a few others—perhaps the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Oakland Raiders, and the St. Louis Rams—are happy to have seen their team take long strides in a positive direction and are looking forward to next season. Fans of the remaining franchises (including my Tennessee Titans) have spent much of this week thinking about how their team can improve itself, in hopes of either being competitive next season or creating an organization that, eventually, will be a perennial contender.
Improving a football team mostly involves replacing and upgrading personnel. Writers and talk radio personalities in America's depressed NFL cities make a living during the off-season identifying weaknesses and speculating on what players, coaches, and front office staff the team could hire to improve these weak spots. The media is not alone in these assessments. Coaches, owners, general managers, and even players are known to talk openly about needs and holes on their team's roster that need to be met or filled during the spring and summer.
Of course, these weaknesses, needs, and holes are people. At some point, ownership and/or management decided that each of the people was the best available person to do his job. And while some of these people didn't live up to their potential or didn't make the effort that was expected of them, many of them have invested years of practice and conditioning into their dream of making an NFL roster; and many continue to work hard each day on the practice field and in the weight room, even as writers, radio personalities, and their supervisors publicly question their abilities and refer to them as holes that must be filled or needs that must be met.
I don't know how much attention the average NFL player pays to talking heads, radio hosts, columnists, and bloggers. And I understand that most players have some idea of what they're getting themselves into when they enter the draft. But I can't imagine working in a profession where an entire community of fans and analysts makes a pastime of publicly discussing whether my employer could find a better person than me to do my job. I couldn't handle it.