Smart teams best equipped for long season

Updated: October 4, 2004, 4:10 PM ET
By Randy Mueller | ESPN Insider
Each week, former NFL general manager Randy Mueller will answer questions from Insiders. To send in a question, click here.

As a former GM, would you say the 0-3 start for the Bills is a direct correlation of the powers that be not focusing on acquiring more "football smart" players in key positions (line/safety), or just the neglect of the players keeping to the given scheme?
Richard Fann,

You bring up a great question and it's one I used to think was critical to a team's successes. I feel the Patriots have the highest "football IQ" roster in the NFL. They play smart and don't make mistakes at critical times. Teams like the Bills, Saints, Miami and some others have talent but don't seem to play smart football. Sometimes this is reflective of coaching schemes (being overly complicated or methods of teaching not getting through to the players), other times it's the result of a lack of discipline.

In the Bills' case it might be as simple as players learning new systems on both sides of the ball and the expectations getting the best of them. Fumbles are not mental mistakes in most cases. Sure, you can say Drew Bledsoe should have secured the ball better on Sunday, but to me that's more physical than mental.

I think teams with high "football IQ" also tend to take care of business during the ups and downs of a 16-week NFL schedule better than the rest. Staying focused and on an even keel will go a long ways toward consistent efforts each Sunday. Managing or coaching a team is made easy by having players who "get it". Smart teams deal with distractions better because players can refocus each time something new gets thrown at them. I guess I'm giving you more reasons to build a high "football IQ" team than dissecting the Bills, but you're on to something when talking about constructing a smart football team.