I'm not sure I see this as a problem. FWIW.
Young players helping Patriots
08:31 PM CDT on Thursday, September 29, 2005
There's a perception that the New England Patriots are an old football team.
And rightfully so.
Some building blocks put in place by Bill Parcells in the mid- 1990s are still there, namely pass rusher Willie McGinest, receiver Troy Brown and kicker Adam Vinatieri. Add veteran Pro Bowlers Doug Flutie, Chad Brown and Rodney Harrison to the mix and gray hairs abound inside those silver helmets. New England won three Super Bowls in the last four years with one of the oldest teams in the NFL. The Patriots are again one of the oldest teams with an average age of 27.53 years. Only three teams have older rosters.
But, surprisingly, the Patriots are winning with young legs. Perception, in this case, is not reality.
Figure that the best 22 players on a roster are the 22 starters.
New England fielded the third-youngest starting lineup in September, with an average age of 26.45. The Patriots have 16 players over 30 on their roster, but only four started. (Harrison has been lost to injury for the rest of the season.)
Contrast that with the Cowboys. Parcells has assembled the 11th-youngest team in the NFL, with an average age of 26.28. But that youth isn't playing. The Cowboys have the sixth-oldest starting lineup, with an average age of 28.09. The Cowboys have 13 players on the roster over 30, but a league-high-tying 10 of them start.
Parcells has been busy collecting age, signing quarterback Drew Bledsoe, guard Marco Rivera, defensive tackle Jason Ferguson and cornerback Aaron Glenn during the off-season. All are over 30.
The Patriots, on the other hand, have been busy subtracting age. Roman Phifer (36), Ted Johnson (32), Ty Law (30), Tedy Bruschi (31) and Joe Andruzzi (29) all started for the Super Bowl champions in 2004. All are gone from the roster, although Bruschi is sitting out the season and Johnson retired because of health issues.
In the process, the Patriots knocked almost two full years off the starting lineup across the board. They fielded the fourth-oldest lineup last season at 28.22 years. Overnight, the 2-1 Patriots are among the youngest – and they have remained an elite team.
New England is not alone in its commitment to putting youth on the field. The Atlanta Falcons, who reached the NFC title game a year ago, have the youngest lineup. The Falcons average 26.22 years, with only two starters over 30.
"You always have to work the bottom end of your roster and the youth angle," general manager Rich McKay said. "The second you take your eye off that is the second the salary cap becomes your enemy."
AFC powers Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville also rank among the 10 youngest starting lineups in the NFL. Find the good drafters and you'll find teams with good, young lineups.
"The price of your good players goes up when you win," McKay said. "The very successful teams like New England and Philadelphia have done a good job of consistently reloading. That doesn't mean you start all your draft picks and be the youngest team. But by the second or third year, you want those players contributing."
Joining the 2-1 Cowboys in the clump of teams with the oldest lineups are Washington and Kansas City. Parcells aspires to be in the Hall of Fame. So does Kansas City's Dick Vermeil, and Washington's Joe Gibbs is already in Canton. Parcells and Gibbs won Super Bowls and Vermeil took a team to the Super Bowl in the pre-salary cap NFL, carving out Hall of Fame coaching credentials in an era when you could collect, play and rely on veteran players. Vermeil later won a Super Bowl in the salary-cap era with the St. Louis Rams.
The cap has turned the NFL into a young man's game. Old habits are hard to break, though, and those three coaches continue relying on older players in their bid to win more Super Bowls. The Chiefs have the oldest starting lineup at 29.22 years and share the league lead with the Cowboys with 10 starters over the age of 30. The Redskins are the fifth-oldest team, with an average age of 28.22.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?
Staff Writer Rick Gosselin ranks the teams by the average age of their starting lineups (also included are the number of starters 30 and older):
Team Age 30s
1. Atlanta 26.22 2
2. Tennessee 26.36 3
3. New England 26.45 4
4. Chicago 26.54 5
5. Arizona 26.40 5
6. Indianapolis 26.68 3
7. Detroit 26.77 3
8. Jacksonville 26.91 4
T-9. Pittsburgh 27.09 4
T-9. Carolina 27.09 6
11. San Francisco 27.13 4
12. Minnesota 27.18 5
T-13. Cincinnati 27.22 5
T-13. NY Giants 27.22 5
T-13. San Diego 27.22 6
16. NY Jets 27.36 6
Team Age 30s
17. Philadelphia 27.41 6
18. Houston 27.54 6
19. Cleveland 27.59 6
T-20. Green Bay 27.63 6
T-20. Tampa Bay 27.63 8
T-22. Baltimore 27.77 6
T-22. Buffalo 27.77 8
24. Seattle 27.86 7
T-25. Oakland 28.00 7
T-25. St. Louis 28.00 7
27. Cowboys 28.09 10
28. Washington 28.22 7
29. New Orleans 28.31 7
30. Miami 28.40 9
31. Denver 28.54 8
32. Kansas City 29.22 10
Note: Ages are through September