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The Butterfly Effect in The NFL

Updated on September 25, 2012

"the phenomenon whereby a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere"

For instance, a butterfly flaps its wing in chestertown and through a series of events, causes a tornado in Kansas. i've decided to use the theory of the butterfly effect in the nfl.

The first example. Imagine if in 1992, Don Majkowski doesn't get hurt. He misses one play, and his young back-up doesn't really get a shot to prove himself. Eventually he gets cut, as most back-ups do, and goes from team to team, enjoying limited snaps in the pre-season until he retires in 98. For those of you who aren't privvy to NFL history, that back-up was Brett Favre. If Majkowski doesn't get hurt, there is no Favre. He doesn't take over the team, he doesn't win the hearts of millions, he doesn't win a super bowl, and he doesn't shatter all of the NFL records in a remarkable 20 year career. The Pack would remain an average team, and would never challenge the likes of San Francisco or Dallas. Maybe Steve Young gets another ring or two and is considered one of the best ever. Who knows what would have happened to the NFC North. Maybe Mike Holmgren doesn't become a succesful coach. Andy Reid, Steve Mariucci, and Jon Gruden never become head coaches, Donovan McNabb isn't drafted by the Eagles, Aaron Rodgers never goes to Green Bay, and Terrell Owens doesn't become a super star. Kids who grew up idolizing Favre like Tony Romo or Jay Cutler might have found an idol in Cal Ripken or Michael Jordan and played other sports.

Now this is all speculation. For all I know, Favre might have gotten a shot later and been great, and maybe all of those things would have taken their natural course without him, but its a fun thought.

Second! Imagine if Walt Coleman says that Tom Brady did fumble in the infamous "Tuck Rule" game. It would mean that the Raiders would move on and the Patriots would have a Quarterback controversy. After all, instead of Tom Brady, comeback hero/superbowl champion, you have Tom Brady, stupid sophomore who fumbled your season away. The Raiders would probably have moved on to win the Super Bowl, and if destiny continued on the same track, they would've have won it the year after because Jon Gruden wouldn't have left for Tampa Bay and wouldn't have sold out their playbook. If you recall, the Patriots had a terrible super bowl hangover in 2002, so even if Brady was the starter, he would've eventually been benched for Drew Bledsoe. As we all know now, Tom Brady is twice the QB that Bledsoe ever was. So the Patriots would have become a doormat for whatever AFC east team eventually emerged. Bill Belichek would've been fired, Charlie Weis, Josh McDaniels, Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennell, and others never would have gotten head coaching jobs. The Manning vs Brady Rivalry? Would never exist. In fact, without the Icy homefield advantage of the conference championship games in New England, who's to say Manning didn't win those Super Bowls? On the flipside, the Raiders would not lose their effective offense. They could continue to dominate the AFC West. They would still be in position to draft Nnamdi Asomugha, and they could still be kicking ass today. In fact, they would've provided a worthy foe for San Diego, and Philip Rivers might not be the hype producer he is today.

Again. All speculation. Who's to say Brady doesn't come back in 2002 and play great, they might not have won three rings, but they probably would have continued to be excellent.

The last one i'll write is the biggest.

What if Indianapolis took Ryan Leaf instead of Peyton Manning in 1998.

This seems like a stupid bias thing, but it gets really deep.

Ryan Leaf is widely regarded as the biggest bust in NFL history. He played three seasons with the Chargers. He won four games, and threw only two touchdowns in his rookie season. So they cut him.

Peyton Mannings is widely regarded as the greatest QB in NFL history. He holds more NFL records than any other player in NFL history and is on pace to pass Brett Favre for the big records in the next few years. This year, the Colts aim to make him the highest paid player in NFL history.

But you already knew that.

Well let me tell you some things you don't know.

The year after Leaf was cut, the Chargers traded picks with Atlanta to draft running back Ladanian Tomlinson. Atlanta used that pick to draft Michael Vick. Because the Chargers were so bad, they were able to draft Drew Brees with the first pick in the second round. As we know, Vick became a superstar, redefining the definition of a mobile QB, and inspiring athletes everywhere. Ladanian Tomlinson became the best back in the NFL from 2006-2008, climbing up the NFL recordbooks, and gave the Chargers the hope to evolve into a playoff team. Brees was a decent QB, in 2004, A.J. Smith decided he wanted a new QB, so he drafted Eli Manning. Then the Chargers traded Manning for their recently drafted QB, Philip Rivers and three draft picks. Two of those picks ended up being the NFL's current most accurate kicker in Nate Kaeding, and Shawne "Lights-out" Merriman. Both reached the pro-bowl. During Rivers' rookie season, they decided to rest him and start Brees. In 2004, Brees put up then career highs with 27 touchdowns and only seven picks. Brees had a decent 2005 season, and it was time for a QB controversy. Fortunately for Rivers, Brees got hurt in the 06 pre-season and was eventually released. Hopefully you guys know the rest. Brees went to New Orleans, revived the franchise and won a super bowl, Rivers is a super star, as is LT, Manning is a hall of famer, and Vick is starting again in Philly.

Now here's the fun part.

Indy takes Leaf.

San Diego takes Manning.

Whoa.

Who knows if Leaf plays as terribly, who knows if Manning plays as well, but odds are the chargers don't end up trading to draft LT, and they don't draft Brees. The Colts aren't an elite team. Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James don't become superstars. Vick might be the same athlete, and maybe he doesn't get in the same trouble. The Saints don't win a super bowl. Eli ends up somewhere else, he doesn't beat the Patriots in the super bowl. Merriman might go to Baltimore, where next to Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, and Terrell Suggs he reaks havoc. Its mindblowing to think of what the NFL could be.

All speculation though.
Now put all three together.
A QB gets hurt.
A play get overturned.
A QB gets drafted.
Changed the history of the NFL and lives forever. Maybe I wouldnt be writing this paper, maybe you wouldn't ne reading it.
In this Favreless world, anything is possible.

© 2012 Ryan Smith

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      Apoptosis 5 years ago

      Even though it was a purely spectulational read, that was an entertaining read.