Willo's 2020 stock report: Offseason

It’s been a while since we’ve done a stock report, and BOY have things changed!

Among the commotion of life itself, there’s something exciting on the horizon. We’re a few days away from the 2020 NFL season. Don’t we half need it. While pre-season is usually met with a litany of eyerolls and audible sighs, the complete lack of it this season has been felt. No storylines! No camp darlings! No footage even resembling competitive football! It sucks, man!

But we’re this close, now. And the wait might even be worth it! So, in preparation, let’s put a cap on the worst off-season ever with an abridged stock report!

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This might come to a shock to a lot of you, but there are a lot of people not particularly high on professional athletes. You know who I‘m talking about. The “let’s give soldiers the wages of footballers” types. The sort that focus EXCLUSIVELY on wages over actions and activities. If ANYTHING positive has come out of the past 6 months, it’s proven that pro athletes in general are largely good

This is an American Football site. I won’t go into the coalition Premier League players NHS fund, or the role Marcus Rashford played in securing a hot meal a day for underprivileged children. Let’s talk about the NFL, and how their employees have acted.

First and foremost, I think the NFLPA’s efforts to protect their players has been exemplary. With a highly contagious virus sweeping the globe, professional sport, rightfully, isn’t the priority for some. Securing the option to opt-out of the season, then, is a huge step in securing the safety of players and their families. Some big names have taken the option, too. Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosley, and Patrick Chung make up three of the 67 players that have decided to forgo the year.

More importantly is the role that NFL players have played, and continue to play, in the Black Lives Matter movement. As recently as August 27th, several teams opted to strike in protest of the murder of Jacob Blake. In June, the “Stronger Together” initiative was launched by a number of prominent players, demanding accountability from the league itself. That’s not to mention the initiatives led by individual players.

America, and the world in general, has a long, long way to go before societal and systematic inequalities are eradicated. Those conversations, and the actions that will come from them, will take years to see results. Having the most prominent names in American sport spearhead those conversations, however, will go some way to normalising and expanding them.

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I (like many of you, I suspect) follow multiple sports. Aside from the now daily transfer chatter, the best part of the football season isn’t even particularly related to the sport itself. As football has grown in its commercial viability, teams have sought to syphon every possible penny from their legions of fans worldwide. Part of that is replacing your existing kits with a brand new set. Home, away, and a 3rd kit. Every season, at nearly £70 a go, until the end of time.

American football, conversely, doesn’t have that frequent rate of turnover on the uniform front. You’d get maybe one team changing their uniform set a season, and stick with that group for a decade. Until now. Heading into 2020, seven teams have opted for a new set of uniforms. That’s quite a lot.

Let’s start at the top. Their on field play may ultimately fall well short of where they want to be, but the Los Angeles Chargers are going to look good regardless. With four new jerseys, and a total of six possible combinations, they are leading their way in the world of on-field fashion. While the headlines will be grabbed by the return of “powder blue” as the full time home jersey, the show stopper is the dark navy “color rush”. I think we’re all in agreement that every option is just fabulous.

Image Credit: Los Angeles Chargers

Cleveland, New England, and Tampa Bay have opted for minor tweaks over a full blown re-design. The Patriots, for example, have simply promoted their existing color rush uniform for full time use. The Browns have added an extra white stripe to their shoulders. Tampa Bay have opted for something a little more traditional, doing away with the alarm clock numbering that plagued the Jameis Winston-era. 

The controversy comes in the form of the Los Angeles Rams, and the Atlanta Falcons. For the Rams, the job should have been simple: make the bright blue and yellow combo the default, and have a white jersey line up with it. Instead, they’ve somehow managed to embarrass themselves. The numbering feels very “comic sans”, the shoulder numbers manage to overlap on the detailing, and the weird patch on the chest looks like one of my awful photoshops. It’s even more prominent on the “bone white” away uniform, as well. I mean, look at it. It’s awful.

Image Credit: Los Angeles Rams

Atlanta were the butt of many a joke when their first uniform refresh in 17 years dropped. I may be a fan desperate for a change, so it was probably a little easier for me to swallow than for others. But these are winners. The gradient alternate is probably the weakest of the 3 new uniforms, but even that works, for me. I can see them winning a lot of critics over this season, especially if the side play up to their potential. That all-white offering, though? Ice cold.

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At this stage of proceedings, you have a general idea in your minds eye as to how a team will perform. Kansas City and Baltimore, for example, should have no problems hitting at least 10 wins each and making the playoffs. You can’t really count anyone out, however, given all the variables that come with the sport, and how it’s dealing with the pandemic. A team-wide outbreak could kill off a team’s chances before they really begin, and said outbreak could open the door for their divisional rivals. One team I am convinced of being atrocious, however, is the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Let’s be absolutely clear: Jacksonville are in full tank mode. Before a snap has even been taken, the oft-maligned Floridians have done everything in their power to scrub clean what little remained from the vaunted days of “Sacksonville”. Leonard Fournette? Gone. Yannick Ngakoue and Ronnie Harrison? Traded. Poor Gardner Minshew might well be throwing to himself come week one. RIP his career, by the way. 

Jacksonville’s front office have seemingly taken every step necessary to guarantee as bad a season as possible. We’re at the point where I’m not convinced a half decent draft pick couldn’t get someone Josh Allen.

It’s clear what the strategy is, here. This is the Cleveland Browns/Miami Dolphins method. An accumulation of as much capital as possible, with the view to building through the draft and create a young team that can dominate for years to come. The problem that comes with aspiring to that method, however, is that it doesn’t really work. Only a few years ago, Jacksonville had gone through that process themselves, and were a whisker away from the Super Bowl. Then they blew it up. Will they get it right this time? History suggests “probably not”.

Saying that, Trevor Lawrence is a far better foundation to build around than Blake Bortles.

Thomas Willoughby