CONVENTIONAL sports wisdom says that it’s better to have a young roster, because it gives you a longer period of time in which to build a competitive and possibly dominant team, before (like all things) it peaks and declines. In sports this period is referred to as “The Window”.
Over the decades that theory has largely been sound, since wiser teams have been able to amass young talent, develop it, and ride it to generally positive results. However, in the NFL since the onset of modern free agency and now exacerbated by the current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), holding onto the young talent you amass beyond a few years, has gotten harder to do than it used to be.
Even if you can stockpile draft picks by trading down (like the Eagles and Patriots are famous for doing), developing and holding onto a number of mid-range to very good young players, is extremely difficult. In an era where teams commonly overpay to lure talent in free agency, you’re basically kissing part of your nucleus goodbye, once a few rookie contracts expire. You’re almost penalized years down the line, for having had good Drafts. San Francisco and Seattle are prime examples of that. So you need to be young, but not beholden to youth.
Aside from contract issues, youth has a way of being…well…young. By that I mean inexperienced. Not just in general, but particularly in big moments where emotion can overpower a player and make his mind his own worst enemy. Having youth on your team is great for any roster, but a predominantly young roster can lead to a lack of credible leadership.
A young roster with no history of playoff success or regular season success, is a recipe for disaster. It propagates the notion that you can lose a lot one year, and due to nothing more than youth, the key culprits get to return the following year. (The Eagles defense fell apart in 2013, returned 9 or 10 of 11 starters and then fell apart again in 2014. For example.)
So you see, too much youth can be a disadvantage. Everyone is dirt cheap at first but if they achieve success you soon can lose key players. They’ll stay cheap if they suck, but then by that point you’ll be drafting more young players into a losing culture.
A young roster in today’s “win or be fired” NFL? No thanks. Due to the way business is handled in the NFL today, the old model and the conventional thinking that went along with it, now need to be re-examined.