I still think one of the bigger priorities that faces this team in the off-season is stopping history from repeating itself. And by that I mean not allowing this team's success to be ruined next year with a sub .500 season.
I know most consider it a forgone conclusion that 2005 will mark the first time in franchise history that the team had consecutive winning seasons, but I'm not so sure. Every time in recent memory that the team has failed to perform up to expectations after a playoff season/winning season ('96, '99, and '03), it has been because whichever player that has been the focal point of the offense either was injured and didn't show up to play. In '96, it was Jeff George. In '99, it was injury to Jamal. In '03, it was Vick's injury.
So now we are facing similar circumstances heading into 2005 as we did in 2003. IMO, even back then in the midst of it, I considered the '03 offseason to be very similar to the '99 offseason. At that time, the team did little to really improve the team, instead making moves that were mere replacements rather than trying to build the team up.
But I think one area the team should address this off-season is the QB situation, in order to avoid what happened in 2003. Schaub is the #2, and Detmer the #3. Detmer is a UFA. Schaub is being developed, but from his play this year, I don't see him as being that much better than Kittner/DJ. I know its actually a good thing that already at this point, Schaub is as good if not better those two were in '03, but if Schaub was to start 16 games next year, I think at best we would see a 4-12 season. Although I think he's going to be solid down the road, he's not just ready yet to be a NFL-caliber starter.
Detmer is no better IMO, and if he was at the helm, the team would be even worse off. I think we're at the point where we don't need a No. 3 that has a great grasp on the offense since we don't need a tutor. Vick and Schaub should be pretty well versed in the offense. Yes, it would be nice to have a solid vet that can help both continue in their development, but it's not necessary, making Detmer's role on the team minimal at best.
That's why I think the team should let him walk/retire in free agency, and sign someone else that could at the very least compete with Schaub at No. 2, and has experience being a starter in this league, so that we actually have a chance of being 8-8 if Vick was to go down for a whole year.
My suggestions are: Charlie Batch, or Tony Banks. Honestly, I don't think the team would be great if any of these guys were at the helm for 16 games, but they've all started a lot of games (more than Vick) and have experience. Batch led the Lions to the playoffs in '99, while Banks almost led the Ravens to the playoffs in that same year.
Batch has only thrown 8 passes in the past 3 years, and has suffered injuries throughout his career. So his lack of PT over the past 3 years means either: 1) He's refreshed and ready to go or 2) He's going to be very rusty. My hope is the former rather than the latter. I think Batch got a raw deal in Detroit, and came to Pittsburgh in 2002 thinking that he would get a shot at earning the starting job eventually from Kordell, but that never materialized since Maddox and Roethlisberger stepped up when few expected them to.
Banks has served as the #2 in Houston for the past 3 years, which included 3 starts in 2003 in which the Texans went 2-1. One victory was against the Panthers, another against us (in Vick's first game back), and the other was a close loss to the Patriots (by 3 points). So I think that's evidence that he can play the fill-in role relatively well.
I remember last off-season that many Falcon fans wanted the team to target mobile backup QBs since it would allow our offense little modification if Vick went down. Well I thought at the time (and still) that was mistaken and poor logic. Since only one player in the NFL is capable of coming close to doing what Vick does in terms of his running ability and that's David Garrard, and unless the Falcons want to ship a #3 or #4 to Jacksonville for him, then there's no way that our offense won't be significantly affected without Vick in the lineup. But Batch and Banks have some mobility, although at ages 30 and 32, them being able to run for 10 yards on a naked bootleg shouldn't be expected.
But basically my point is that this team should sign a veteran player in the hopes that if Vick goes down from injury, we will be ready to compensate. To the point, that our passing game can stay somewhat afloat. After all, even if we ranked dead last in passing under Schaub/Batch/Banks it would only mean that they played slightly below that of Vick.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.