Pete Carroll's former boss with the Minnesota Vikings, Bud Grant, had a saying that has stuck with Carroll for nearly three decades.
"For every young guy you start," Grant said, "you lose a game."
2012 NFL Rosters: Oldest Starters
Carroll, entering his third season as Seattle Seahawks coach, recounted Grant's saying while discussing roster composition one week before the 2012 NFL draft. As much as Carroll valued his time with Grant, he also has come to realize times have changed.
"I was of that mindset in classic fashion until I had to be in charge of calling all the shots and then it just flipped in me that we don't know where we're going unless we find these guys out," Carroll said. "One of the really exciting things about playing guys early is ... by the middle and to the end of the season, you’ve developed players that fit into your rotations now that add to your depth and also add to the opportunity to not over-play your older guys."
Seattle enters the regular season with the second-youngest projected starters in the NFL. Some of the team's younger building blocks -- James Carpenter, John Moffitt and Matt Flynn come to mind -- have or could lose their starting jobs to players even younger than them.
"We want the roster so competitive that really good draft picks are fighting for play time and that means that the guys ahead of him are better," Carroll said before the draft.
There's more than one way to structure a team, of course.
Atlanta, San Diego, Baltimore, Chicago and Pittsburgh have the five oldest projected starters by average age. It won't be a shock if every one of those teams finishes 2012 with as many or more victories than the Seahawks amass. The teams with the youngest projected starters -- Kansas City, Seattle, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Minnesota -- aren't exactly powerhouses.
Having good players is most important. Having good young players is even better. If the Seahawks are on the right track, it'll be interesting to see whether the current team ages together, or if the team constantly shuffles younger players into its lineups.
Eight of the 49ers' offensive starters are the same now as then. They are, of course, two years older. Randy Moss, 35, has replaced Josh Morgan, then 25, at receiver. Jonathan Goodwin, 33, has replaced David Baas, then 28, at center. Right guard Alex Boone is about the same age as Chilo Rachal was then.
In the 49ers' case, then, they've probably upgraded by getting older in their starting lineup. Quarterback Alex Smith is better now. Even if Moss starts, he's more likely to be part of a rotation, with first-round choice A.J. Jenkins moving into the lineup by next season, probably.
Note: Thanks to Rachel from Rexburg, Idaho, for following up our earlier item with a request to see average ages for starters only.