You're Mike Brisiel. You've just signed a 4 year 20 million dollar contract with the Raiders for a guaranteed 6 mil. You've been playing with the Texans your whole career and now you're looking to get paid. The good news is that your old buddies Greg Knapp from QB coaching and one of your line coaches, Frank Pollack are coming too. The bad news is, you're not as good as the rest of the guys on your old line. You get here and camp is a breeze. Can't run the ZBS full speed so you can easily hang. Also, no refs allowed in camp so you can hold as much as you want. Coaches can't see it. Plus a lot of the other guys look pretty bad too since it's a new system for them. In fact, you're one of the experts. You're the man.
You manage to get through preseason with no problems. Half way through the second game,your world crumbles along with the right tackle Khalif Barnes. Suddenly your problems multiply in the form of Willie Smith. The running game is going nowhere. You know what they would do to a lineman in Texas if the running game stalled but Thank God you're in the land of Artichoke Hearts and bikinis. Still you're a little nervous. It takes 1 more game for your nightmares to come true. You begin to dread the running plays and your old buddy, as if to mock you, calls even more. Soon, it's apparent to everyone that Smith is bad and that you're not too far behind. Your worst nightmare is realized as the coach keeps hammering at you and the other linemen about execution. You know you're not great, but you're better than this. But the runs, Smith and your old buddy have conspired to make you a shell of the player that stepped off the plane from Houston 9 months ago.
You're Phillip Wheeler.You've played your whole career with the Colts. The defense was not the same as the glory years but you did put in a Super Bowl appearance and last year was the first year you had ever missed the playoffs. You're good which is why you agree to sign a one year contract with the team for under a million. You've had one of the best defensive teachers in the NFL: Peyton Manning and you've got two Continuing Education courses scheduled a year so it's looking good. You like your QB. An old vet like Manning and you feel good about the situation. Definitely some leadership opportunities as witnessed by your grabbing the mic 5 weeks into the season. Of course, you wondered, what took them so long. Obviously, everyone could see there's some problems. You want to step in, offer a little insight but the coaches want to put a stamp on the team. Everything's new so you understand that. Except that after awhile, it's apparent that there's some problems. At first, it's simply offense. You're used to Peyton moving the ball downfield and you guys taking the time to prepare for the series. You remember how bad it was when Peyton was hurt and there was no ball movement. You thought with Palmer and DMC, you'd have the same thing going but you were wrong. This isn't good. In your heart, you know that some of the defensive players are just not suited for this much action. Especially the front. Can't the coaches see that, you wonder? Yeah, everyone's calling you a stud but the value of that multi-year extension keeps dropping with each blowout. You probably lost about 700K (the price of this one year contract) in the Tampa Bay game alone. This is ridiculous. You're the best guy on the team and you'll probably end up playing for free. You want to start making some highlight films for free agency but there are less and less opportunities as things begin to deteriorate.
You're Darren McFadden. The nightmares have returned. As you listened to your coach in preseason tell everyone that you're going to be the every down/red zone specialist back for the team, you wonder if he was watching during the game when the team couldn't punch the ball in with 1st and goal at the 1. You get the whole ZBS and PBS thing but that isn't how you roll. You want to talk about how you run, like you did with Hue, but Knapp won't hear it. Every time you try to say something, he starts telling you that he can do for you what he did for Arian Foster. You don't really want to hear it because you've never paid any attention to the QB coach and you're pretty sure Arian didn't either. But that just means you can't talk to him. You can't talk to Allen because the only word he knows is "execution" so it's a waste of time. Finally, you go to Mark Davis and you start seeing more PBS. Of course, since Mark didn't mention play calling, you're also seeing more defenders because Knapp is as predictable as the sunrise. The injury happens. You know your days are numbered here and you'll do anything to escape Knapp hell.
There's a story with each of the 53 players on the roster and it involves more than simply talent or lack of talent. It involves the coaching and leadership. Teams don't lose because they have bad players. They lose because they put players in a position to play badly. These are NFL players, not college players. The level of intensity in play in a NFL game cannot be reproduced anywhere else. With war reduced to a video game and television feed, we're used to second guessing situations that rely on intense concentration and instinct as well as fear. When players are placed in a position to play badly over and over, they become bad players.