I've figured out how Jeff Fisher plans to take over the NFL world. Using my keen analytic mind, I left no stone unturned when trying to glean Fisher's methodology for building a power house football team. Sun Tzu was a quick read, but I think it's more for coordinators than head coaches. Erwin Rommel's diary - Infanterie Greift - was interesting, but it's more for linemen coaches. I had to get creative, so I reached (No, really. I reeeeeally reached) into my intellectual library and found the answer: It's a Game!
Do you remember the game - RISK? Stop laughing! Fisher is obviously using this game of strategy as his base template. The goal in Risk is to take over the world, so why not use it to build an NFL team?
If you think about it, building a team is about building up the pieces necessary to overcome the opposition. In Risk, you build up your forces by trying to survive a series of turns, while strategically placing new pieces in key areas of the board. If we take the board as a metaphor for an NFL roster, it gets interesting.
The NFL Draft each year is about building up team depth, and not just finding starting players. Free agency comes into play too. The idea here is to build a team that can ultimately sweep the game board of opponents. The unsung story this year for the St. Louis Rams is the creation of team, or positional, depth. A great example is the Rams situation at defensive tackle in 2011. "Thin" would be an understatement when you look at the players fielded by, then head coach, Steve Spagnuolo. In the 2012 NFL Draft, Fisher and Les Snead chose a single defensive tackle - Michael Brockers. Yet, somehow, the defensive tackle position went from a weakness to a strength virtually over night. Since the St. Louis Rams' roster only lists three defensive tackles (Brockers, Conrath and Cudjo), Fisher utilized players who played defensive end in the past to build the interior line's pass rushing capabilities. Eugene Sims, Kendall Langford, and William Hayes all spent time playing tackles during the season - Position depth in the blink of an eye. These same players stepped in when Chris Long or Robert Quinn needed a rest too. What's key here is the skill set Fisher aimed for when he considered his defense. Pass rushing is key in the modern - pass happy - NFL. Low and behold, the Rams tied for the lead in quarterback sacks in 2012.
Like the game of Risk, the game of football entails a roll of the dice. Get a "six", you win. Get a "one", you lose. Fisher rolled the dice all year at many positions, and for the most part the dice came up with a "three". He won and lost at times, but at no time was he ever out of the game.
The NFL draft is like the cards you get in the game. You get them for making a positive move, and with the hoard of draft picks they acquired through the RGIII trade, the Rams have the cards to play when the time comes.
If I can take away anything from the comparison of the game of Risk, to how Fisher is building his team, I'd have to say it's that fans shouldn't be looking for him to make flashy moves. A long time advocate of team depth, I think Jeff Fisher and Les Snead are thinking along the same lines. Unless an incredible talent is their when they make a pick in the NFL Draft, look for them to build up positions across the roster board. The 2012 season was as much about not losing, as it was winning. Fisher made a concerted effort to see the Rams didn't take a step backward. Layering in players at key positions, he's building from the ground up. If this is true, I'd say tight end and running back will get his attention in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and not the offensive linemen I, and many others, want.
If you haven't read D. Hawkins' great breakdown of Jeff Fisher's past draft picks, you really need to take the time. Linemen on offense don't hold a high priority on draft day. He's never taken an offensive lineman in the first round. Fisher has taken two wide receivers in the first round - Kevin Dyson and Kenny Britt - but I'm not sure he'll even look at the position in this draft. I don't see any receivers that scream high talent or star potential.
In the game of Risk, the key is lasting long enough to build your forces. It's about taking a chance or two, but in the end, it's all about how deep you are at every point on the board...