I'll root hard for this team for each game the rest of the way, no matter what happens. There's enough talent and experience on this team that anything can happen.
That said, being sick of thinking about the last four games, I want to consider the things we need to do in the offseason to fix this. In order of priority:
1. Return to smashmouth, play-action football. In other words, replace Arians. Now, I don't think we can quite go all the way back to the '04/'05 formula. The NFL has changed, even during this short time, and it's a passing league. And we have a Hall-of-Fame QB and a good receiving corps. But - our defensive style doesn't work as well when we neglect ball control entirely. Plus we have a battering ram at RB. Of course, to do this, we'll need a FB on the roster.
2. Acquire a CB who can be starter-ready soon. Most likely option is a first-round draft pick here. I don't see us signing an expensive veteran CB, but a cheap veteran who play competent ball would be welcome. Depth in the secondary is clearly needed, though our two rookies this season may be an answer for that.
3. Figure out our FS situation. Clark may be gone, and even though he's been exposed somewhat without Troy on the field, he would be better in 2010 than anyone we could draft or afford to bring in as an FA.
4. Figure our our NT situation. I rate this lower than FS because even if Hampton leaves, I think Hoke can start for a year. Whether Hampton returns or not, we need a NT of the future, and we need him on the roster in 2010. I'm thinking a 2nd or 3rd round pick on NT, and possibly the first-round pick if the talent is there.
5. Add a young ILB. Despite some obvious problems in coverage, I think Farrior can still play, and he'll play well in 2010, too. Beyond that, I think, would be doubtful. Timmons never be as good as Farrior was, but we'll need to get him a competent partner. I'd say a 3rd or 4th round pick, or a solid FA pickup for this.
6. Add an interior lineman. Someone who can push Hartwig or Stapleton/Essex. I wouldn't be against a 1st-round pick here, if a blue-chip talent is right there, given my priority #1.
7. Add an OT. I think Starks and Colon are good enough, and, at times, they've been very good. But we have no depth, and I still wouldn't be opposed to drafting an OT #1 if the right talent is available at that spot. If this happens, I'd move Starks to RT and Colon to RG, and that, to me, would settle our line for the next 3-4 years. But if there isn't a guy at #1, we are in desperate need for depth.
8. Get a FB.
9. Find someone who can be Troy's backup. This can't be too expensive, but someone who can be a competent SS when Troy goes down is a must. A cheap, wily vet will do just fine.
10. Add another DE. Someone who could realistically start at DE by 2011 would be nice - in other words, a DE needs to be picked somewhere in rounds 1 through 4.
11. New Special Teams coach. No comment needed.
12. New kick returner found. Preferably someone who can play other positions, too.
13. Find ways to put Dixon on the field.
14. Consider getting a new kicker. I'm not totally down on Reed, but if he thinks he's getting a huge new contract, he can take a hike, and don't let the paper towel dispenser hit you on the way out.
15. Get another RB. Parker is done, Mendy needs a backup.
My ideal offseason:
1st round pick - CB (maybe we get lucky and get a Revis-like talent - we'll be drafting at around that spot, it looks like)
2nd round pick - NT (a guy who can back up Hoke as a rookie and start by 2011) or a DE who can start soon
3rd round pick - RB (a guy who can contribute immediately and return kicks would be ideal)
4th round pick - ILB (a Larry Foote-like talent would be a nice find here)
5th-7th - Who gives a shit since these guys don't make the team anyway
FB who can start
OT who can back up
CB veteran for depth
SS veteran who can back up Troy