For America’s major professional sports, the trade deadline promises the chance for a big move or two to shake the balance of power in the league. The NBA deadline almost always offers a host of moves that feature both superstars and role players. The MLB deadline is just as stressful and exhilarating, as teams in contention battle to the last second to pick up pieces their organization needs to make a final run at the playoffs. The NFL deadline, however, is often marked by the opposite sentiment. While fans get riled up during baseball and basketball seasons, the reaction to football’s deadline is almost always a resounding “meh.”
This year’s deadline was this past Tuesday at 4 p.m. and proved to be more of the same for the NFL and its fans. The biggest deal took place on Monday as the struggling 49ers sent tight end Vernon Davis to the Denver Broncos for some late-round draft picks.
There was wind of all-pro left tackle Joe Thomas being involved in a trade to Denver as well, however, that move stalled and was never completed due to a dispute over draft picks. This move would have actually been huge for the Broncos as Thomas would have helped better protect Peyton Manning’s blind side. The Davis upgrade alone has made Denver the clear deadline winners. Still, there really isn’t a substantial discussion about the deadline as a whole to be had. There were no other moves of even remote significance.
The NFL moved the deadline back two weeks in 2012 with hopes of making it more active and competitive for teams looking to make the most of their status as contenders. Sure, there’s the argument that the deadline is still too early. Yet the league and sport itself do not lend themselves well to these kinds of mid-season deals. Why is this? For one, switching teams means changing systems and thus entire offensive and defensive schemes. In baseball, a player may need to learn some defensive shifts and base-coach signs, but their actions on the field are pretty much universal. In basketball, players take time to learn offenses and defenses, yet there are only five players on the court for each team at a time and athletic ability and instinct for the game can compensate for lack of systematic knowledge, especially when players have good instincts and high basketball IQs.
Football is unique in the amount of preparation and the intricacy of the systems players, teams and organizations implement. Positions are also much more specialized and highlight specific skills that alone may not be able to transform the dynamic of a team. It is unheard of for someone like a quarterback getting traded mid-year, as the learning curve would compromise a team’s entire season. There are also only 16 games in a football season, meaning each holds much more weight than those of the 162-game and 82-game seasons of the MLB and NBA.
Those players who do get dealt will have an impact on the field, yet it will be much more specialized. An athlete playing left tackle, for example may be able to make a huge difference for a team, yet is only on the field for certain points in the game and has a very specific skill that only impacts certain circumstances. It is rare that teams can complete a trade for someone like baseball’s Yoenis Cespedes and completely turn their offense or defense around. Congratulations to the Denver Broncos. With little fanfare (outside the Denver area at least), they made the only significant moves of the deadline. Yes, they, an undefeated team, made noticeable improvements to their team. Yet teams and fans can’t count on the deadline as a whole as a day of change that could turn one’s season around. Sure, there are plenty of other forms of excitement looming throughout the NFL season, but as a baseball and basketball fan I must say, it’s pretty disappointing.