Patience can still be a virtue in the NFL, no matter how rare a commodity. The Cincinnati Bengals are Exhibit No.1.
The Bengals have stuck with coach Marvin Lewis through thick (three double-digit win seasons) and thin (three under-.500 seasons). What you get in that situation is a coach who is comfortable with his staff, players who appreciate his job security and a plan that keeps the team moving forward.
You want an offseason NFL champ? That's subjective, but the Bengals are at the top of my list, and not because they drafted a Fort Wayne player and invited another to camp. (I do like that part.)
With heavy emphasis on the draft, here are my Top 5 offseason winners:
I love the fact that Tyler Eifert went to the Bengals and chose uniform No.85, of Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson fame. That's a reflection of Eifert's playfulness and confidence. It takes a lot to assume a rather iconic jersey. Eifert, the aforementioned Fort Wayne product via Notre Dame, has never backed down from a challenge. Andy Dalton will relish throwing to him.
The Bengals also picked up a couple hard-headed running backs in North Carolina's Giovanni Bernard and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead.
Throw into that new mix the acquisition of longtime Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end James Harrison. I don't know how much Harrison has in the tank, but he'll bring some nastiness that should give the Bengals an extra edge.
2. Green Bay Packers
Remember when General Manager Ted Thompson was the guy who bungled the Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers transition? Guess that was a little pain for a lot of gain. He wisely signed Rodgers to a new deal last week (richest in team history), then went out and scored big in the draft.
The Packers picked up UCLA defensive end Datone Jones, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound beast who brings the kind of speed necessary to deal with the new breed of quarterbacks like 49ers' Colin Kaepernick. Jones was smart enough to evoke Packers legend Reggie White in his introductory news conference, saying White “played only one way, with maniacal effort and complete hunger.” Any defensive player who uses the word maniacal is the kind of defensive player you want.
Green Bay also drafted Alabama running back Eddie Lacey, whose stock dropped because a hamstring injury kept him from NFL Combine glory. Hamstrings heal.
3. Denver Broncos
Even if they flopped in the draft, which they didn't, the Broncos scored an offseason coup by signing wide receiver Wes Welker. Not only does Welker give Peyton Manning a reliable receiver, it takes away from the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. The AFC title always goes through New England. So score one for the Broncos.
In the draft, the Broncos' first two picks were as solid as they could be for a team at the end of the first two rounds. The nabbed defensive tackler Sylvester Williams from North Carolina – a projected Top 15 pick – with the No.28 pick. The Broncos expect him to start.
Then, with the 58th pick, they landed running back Montee Ball. He scored 85 touchdowns at Wisconsin and can potentially give Manning a power running back for short-yardage situations. It's a good thing they added another runner. None of us wanted to see Manning forced into running the pistol offense.
4. Detroit Lions
I'm hesitant to go here because the Lions have a history of ruining what appears to be a good thing, and Barry Sanders appearing the next Madden video game cover probably jinxes them for another decade.
But the addition of Reggie Bush as a wild-card offensive piece to team with Calvin “Megatron” Johnson was a nice pick up. The more weapons for Matthew Stafford, the better.
On top of that, the Lions drafted BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah, a 6-5, 271-pound pass rusher who gives the Lions a triple threat with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. I've often felt like the Lions were building an offense similar to the vintage Colts of the Manning Era, although Stafford has yet to become Manning. But the Lions haven't forsaken defense along the way.
They picked up Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay in the second round, and said they graded him a first-round pick. If true, another good move toward bouncing back from last season's disastrous drop.
5. San Diego Chargers
These classic underachievers finally parted ways with the Norv Turner, who is an excellent example of a great coordinator who can't find the sweet spot as a head coach.
San Diego brought in Tom Telesco from the Colts as the new general manager, hired former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy as coach and proceeded to pick up two potential All-Pro players in the draft.
The Chargers drafted Alabama's D.J. Fluker (6-5, 339) to beef up the offensive line at tackle, and he brings a reputation as equal parts strength and quickness. In other words, he can run block and pass protect with equal effectiveness.
Third-round pick wide receiver Keenan Allen of Cal gives the Chargers another speedy wide receiver for Philip Rivers to use.
It's hard to say what to make of second-round pick Manti Te'o out of Notre Dame. Analysts are split between whether he'll soar or flop. If he soars, he'll be a steal for the Chargers. If he doesn't, well, they may want to cry on Katie Couric's shoulder.