The League

Roman Oben
Retired Football Player

Roman Oben

Played 12 years as a tackle in the NFL

Winning Starts at Home


If you are an NFL owner who wants to go 10-6 every three years and run through a string of head coaches, then bring in high-priced free agents every March and watch someone else play in the Super Bowl.

There's only one way to build a successful franchise in today's NFL: through home-grown players.

Don't get me wrong. I love to see guys "get paid." Big signing bonuses and free agent contracts enable dozens of young men to enjoy hard-earned financial stability. Most high-priced free agents fill an immediate void with their new teams that otherwise could not have been; yet I can't remember the last time a major free agent who broke the bank ended up with the coveted Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.

Teams that consistently go to the playoffs (Colts, Eagles, Chargers, Steelers) always will have a chance to win it all only because any new player who joins that team (rookies and free agents alike) walks into a locker room with an established identity and a solid foundation.

Those teams that spend and spend big in the offseason (Dallas and Washington, for example) only validate the enormous egos of the owners who believe they can buy their way to a Super Bowl right away rather than trusting coaches and scouts to build for the long term.

Let's be honest folks. Owners who sign free agents to mega-deals in the offseason have two objectives: selling more tickets and bringing more national media attention to their franchise.

As a starting left tackle for the 2002 Super Bowl XXXVII champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I know our team was built on a solid foundation of home-grown players (Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks). But what took us over the hump that season was our group of role-playing veterans -- solid starters late in our careers who already had received the big pay day in free agency and now just wanted to win a championship.

The Patriots are another example of a team that has won, and won big, by signing veterans who were role players. (Rosevelt Colvin was on injured reserved when the Pats beat Carolina for their second title in 2003, while Adalius Thomas and Randy Moss were big additions to the Pats' undefeated 2007 team, but the Giants had plans of their own).

Team cohesiveness, solid quarterback play and a stingy defense in December and January aren't based on who owners sign in March. All you can do is hope your team is injury free and has enough momentum down the stretch to play its best four weeks of football after Christmas.


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By Roman Oben  |  July 3, 2009; 10:52 AM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , Tampa Bay Buccaneers , Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Gotta Spend (Smart) to Win | Next: Win, Earn or Both?

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