Football teams are like the stock market: they are either on the up or down. Momentum is key: its where you're going that matters, not where you are or where you've been. Certain things, such as Manning's injury, will cause a team to "crash" while others, like drafting Andrew Luck, will cause them to "skyrocket" in potential. The future looks bright, or the future looks dark.
In 2009, the future of the Patriots looked as dark as it has in years. Everything pointed to them having had their chance in 2007, and missed it. They were, it seemed, now on the decline, and all there was to look forward to was the final years of Brady's career. We were the Colts or Vikings of 2010.
2010 started with similar expectations: the Pats may make the wild-card, but the up-and-coming Jets would inevitably surpass them. It was like the twilight of a boxer's career: he may win a few more fights, but his days are numbered.
At least, until we played the Steelers and Colts. I wanted to come out of those games 1-1: If we did that, that would be a win. And yet, we came out 2-0, in many ways finding ourselves in the process. We were a passing team, based around swarming the enemy with countless good receivers. We weren't sloppy, we didn't make mistakes. We took advantage of those who did. If we could be personified, we would probably look like a well dressed, elegant and witty gentlemen who made those around him look like bumbling fools.
This new identity took us past the Jets and into the playoffs as the number 1 seed. Though we would fall, everything looked bright. We were, like a good investment, looking forward to promising future, while the Jets seemed to have been jolted out of their dream and back to reality.
But, as we made our way through the 2011 season, I began to worry. We seem to have lost our identity - the Jets showed the world how to stop us, by playing tight coverage and dropping back. It doesn't always work nor can it be relied upon, but we lost our aura of invincibility. We stopped creating turnovers, and became sloppy ourselves.
Most worrying of all was the draft: so far, 2011 looks like a bust: The 1st round pick was well-used, but many of our picks seem to be either injured constantly or just not that good. McCourty, a pick from the 2010 draft, has also turned into a disappointment making Hernandez, Gronk, and BJGE the only proven pickups from the last two years. Bad drafting, more then anything else, kills teams.
And there was the sacking of the defense: the loss of Bodden, Meriweather, Sanders, among others. Getting rid of these players wasn't so much the problem as that we got nothing in return. Then there were the bad FA pickups: Ocho, Haynesworth, etc. Though not all have been awful, none have been the dominant, imminent impact players that at least few should have been.
So, like the stock market, are we once again heading toward dark days? I am not bashing BB, though I think his decisions should be questioned. I am not being reasonlessly pessimistic, either: though things could get worse, I'm not necessarily saying they will. I just can't help but feel like we're worse off today then we were coming into the 2011 season.
This is also not a reaction to the Steelers game, so much as a complaint about bad drafting. Still, I do think we can say our 2010 identity was born against the Steelers last year, and died against the Steelers this year.