Review of The Mannings

This book about the Manning family is execrably written, so much so that I frankly wanted to quit reading the book because it was horribly annoying. There are way too many times the author imputes emotions to individuals when he has no idea what the person was actually feeling. Worse, he constantly makes juvenile analogies that are trite to the point of making the reader cringe. It is a very amateurish writing style and a rather amateurish book.

While this is an advanced reading copy, two other items that were irritating is in one chapter Archie’s father is 5 foot 6, and in the next he’s 5 foot 7. In most instances it’s his father’s words, “just be a nice guy,” that drove Archie and his nice guy charm and demeanor, one that was not fake or a put on. But in one instances this is attributed to his mother. These are trivial in terms of the overall narrative, but noticeable and distracting nonetheless.

With that said the book did have some redeeming qualities which, overall, made it barely worth reading. First, I never fully understood the level of fame that Archie Manning had throughout the South, especially in his home state of Mississippi and adopted state of Louisiana. He was nearly a household name after his college stint at Ole Miss as its starting quarterback. Second, the book does an excellent job of describing how Archie’s stern but beloved father and his suicide drove Archie to want to excel on the field and in life, and later how it drove him to spend as much time as he could with is sons and tell them how much he loved them. Archie’s background and family history in a small Mississippi town to become regionally famous paints a clear picture of how Archie handled himself when in the pros, a very good quarterback playing for a horrible team. He kept his head up and marched on.

The book also does a good job of telling the story of Cooper Manning and how, while not a great athlete, would have very likely had a solid college career as a receiver at Ole Miss and how his discovery of a spinal condition that forced him to quit football drove his younger brother Peyton to strive to greatness and professional football to fulfill Cooper’s unfulfilled dreams.

Peyton’s personality has a hard worker, studier and leader comes through strongly in the book as well. His vast knowledge of football, football history, and studying the playbook are legendary. The contrast with the demure Eli Manning is very interesting. Much has been made of Eli’s laid back demeanor, shyness, and some would argue lack of leadership. But it turns out that Eli has been shy and laidback since he was a child. And he never studied football, at least its history, like Peyton did. But he has been successful in his own way nonetheless.

The insights into the personalities of the Archie, Peyton, Eli, and Cooper, along with their family history are very interesting and shed a lot of light on this famous football family.

I do have a few more complaints about the book, however. This book seems to be more about Archie Manning than this two football playing sons. Peyton Manning gets a lot more airtime in detailing his recruitment to the University of Tennessee and his years in college and the pros than Eli. Eli, in some respects, especially his college and professional career, seem almost an afterthought.

Two controversial issues that did not get enough detail or interpretation include the sexual assault allegations about Peyton Manning when he was at Tennessee, and the “forced” trade of Eli Manning from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants when he was drafted number one overall by the Chargers.

In the first instance the author does, again, a very amateurish job reporting the incident. He basically takes some things he heard in the media and throws them in the book to check off the box. And some of what is stated in the book is disputed in other media outlets. It’s a really sloppy job of reporting the event.

And very little is detailed about all the behind the scenes actions that lead to Eli being traded from the Chargers to the Giants after he was drafted, with Archie and Eli essentially saying he would not play for the Chargers. Odd given the Chargers were not that bad of a team at the time. There is a big gap in the book on this issue.

The book concludes with Peyton’s ultimate retirement after Super Bowl 50 and does decent job of describing the proud Manning family and the difficulty but inevitability of Peyton’s decision.

While this book has some redeeming qualities, that it’s poorly written and structured makes it a bit frustrating. The Manning’s deserved a better chronicler of their journey.

http://amzn.to/2b7eGZY

 

 

Brady v Manning

51qiixUsGEL__SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will go down at as two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. In fact, the past 15 year era of professional football will be most remembered as the era of Brady and Manning. Much like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, they will forever be intertwined.

This book details the career trajectory of both Brady and Manning, gives accounts of their history against each other and in the playoffs, and provides some nice anecdotes about their personalities and approaches to the game. One thing they have in common, however, is their love for the game, attention to detail, and dedication to succeed.

But there are also some stark differences between the two, in some ways making Brady’s narrative a little more attractive. Peyton Manning comes from a football family and was almost immediately successful in college and was the number one overall pick in the NFL draft. By contrast, Brady had to fight and claw his way to a starting position in college, and wasn’t even always the full-time starter as a senior at Michigan. Then he was drafted in the sixth round, and potentially could have gone completely undrafted. This clearly gave Brady a huge chip on his shoulder and even more determination to succeed.

Manning had a rocky first few years in the pros but clearly was on a path to success. Brady, while not lighting the world on fire, came on in relief in his second year for an injured Drew Bledsoe and never looked back, winning Super Bowl XXXVI over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams.

Both have been very successful in their careers and are in fact good friends and have a lot of respect for each other.

Hearing anecdotes from teammates of the two players and their interaction with their teams was also well done in this book, especially stories about practical jokes and pranks. It’s also clear that most of their teammates have a great deal of respect and admiration for them.

So who’s the best quarterback? The author does an even handed job of laying out the arguments for both quarterbacks.

For Brady it is his record in the playoffs, four Super Bowl titles, and frankly having done it, for the most part, with inferior talent at the wide receiver position pre-Randy Moss.

For Manning it’s his incredible passing records during the regular season with his offensive consistently being one of the tops in the league. The downside for Manning is his teams, and it’s usually not all his fault, choke in the playoffs. When this book was published Manning had only one Super Bowl to Brady’s four. He has two now that Denver has won Super Bowl 50 but that was led by Denver’s defense.

Really it hardly matters who was best but I am a New England Patriots fan and biases so I say Brady is the greatest ever because the hardware (championships) matter.

This was a very well done book.

Brady vs Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry That Transformed the NFL

NFL 2012 Season Week Six Observations: Is Ray Lewis’s Career Over?

Observations from Week Six

Ray Lewis: Hearing that Ray Lewis is probably out for the season with a torn triceps, which could possibly mean the end of his career, is kind of tragic. To me there are only three current NFL players that absolute locks for being first ballot Hall of Famers, Ray Lewis, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. (Now I know some will argue that Eli Manning and probably Ben Roethlisberger will get in too because of their Super Bowl wins, but they are not as good as those threes. Eli will probably get in for his last name as much as his heroics in the playoffs.)

In my time watching football only two linebackers jump out as being otherworldly, Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis. It will be a shame if we suddenly no longer see Ray Lewis on the field again. He has been the heart and soul of the Ravens entire team since its beginnings in 1996 and his name will forever be linked to the franchise that he has been the face of for nearly two decades.

I’m obviously not a Ravens fan, but you can’t help but be a fan of Ray Lewis.

Baltimore Ravens: With both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb out for the season, and Ed Reed not really playing like the Ed Reed of old, the Ravens could be in trouble. They have world of talent on offense but still don’t seem to get it all together. They are a lucky 5-1, but they have made the plays to win games. But their defense could be in trouble, even if Terrell Suggs does come back soon.

Parity in the League: Everyone thought the Houston Texans were the best team in the NFL but the beat down they received by the Green Bay Packers really exposed them. The Atlanta Falcons are undefeated but won some very close games and are clearly beatable. The 5-1 Ravens are in the same category as the Falcons and look vulnerable, especially on defense with the injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. The San Francisco 49’ers came into the season as the favorite pick as the number one team but they’ve lost two games. Meanwhile, the Patriots look average at 3-3. It should make for an interesting second half of the season.

Thursday Night Football: I’m not sure I am all that in favor of the Thursday Night Football every week. Favored teams seem to play down to the level of their competition and exposes players to injuries.

The Week of Meltdowns: I thought Tom Brady was the goat of the week against Seattle with his two interceptions and intentional grounding penalties essentially costing us the game, or maybe Tony Romo who just can’t get his offense to make the plays necessary to win a game. But Philip Rivers took it to an entirely different level in his complete meltdown against the Broncos Monday night. It was one of the worst quarterback performances I have ever seen. And the Houston Texans added to the trend Sunday night with their own embarrassing performance against the Green Bay Packers.

Russell Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks: Keep your mouth shut punk. You’re embarrassing yourself.


GAMES I WATCHED

Seattle Seahawks over New England Patriots, 24-23

I really hate saying this but Tom Brady was the goat in the New England Patriots loss to the Seahawks. Granted our defensive backs, especially our safeties, were atrocious during the game. And letting Golden Tate catch the ball deep in the fourth quarter for the winning score was a total and utter unacceptable blunder by Travon Wilson of the Patriots. That defense is designed NOT to give up the big play.

Nevertheless, Tom Brady’s two poor decisions on the interceptions, one in the red zone, were extremely costly. His intentional grounding at the end of the first half that required a runoff kept us from kicking a chip shot field goal. And his intentional grounding late in the game gave Seattle the ball in really good field position. Eliminate any of those four plays and we probably win the game. Eliminate all of them and might not have even been close.

The most worrisome aspect of this game is it exposed New England as an average team with a weak defense. The lack the killer instinct they had a few years ago to put teams away, and instead of making the two or three key plays a game to pull out close ones, they are the ones making the mistakes that cost them games. It’s real concern.

Seattle’s defense, despite giving up nearly 500 yards on offense, still won the game for them. They may have the best collection of starting defensive backs in the league and they match up well against bigger receivers. I like quarterback Russell Wilson and think he has a very promising future. His mobility and ability to get the ball down the field are impressive. But right now he’s not that great of a quarterback and don’t see Seattle matching up down the line with the hotter teams. But you never know, Green Bay and San Francisco are both struggling, the New Orleans Saints are all but out of it, so it could be one of those years an unexpected and maybe somewhat average teams rises from the pack. We’ll see.

MVP: Russell Sherman, CB

Tennessee Titans over Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-23

Pittsburgh definitely did not have their best outing against the Titans, except for Isaac Redman who had over 100 yards receiving. Once he got hurt, it seemed Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t do much of anything. Tennessee didn’t really do all that much either. Kenny Britt dropped the ball, ran wrong routes, but still had some key plays to get the win. It was still an entertaining game though since it was close and came down to the wire. Given all the sloppy play though, Rob Bironis and his four field goals win the day.

MVP: Rob Bironis, K

Baltimore Ravens over Dallas Cowboys, 31-29

Baltimore has been really, really lucky to be 5-1. In fact all their games have been close. Dallas rushed for well over 200 yards against the Ravens and still found a way to lose. But on the flip side of that Baltimore has had a knack for making the key plays to win games, in this case a record tying 108 yard kickoff return by Jacoby Jones, which ultimately was the difference in the game.

Both teams came away from this contest with significant injuries, more so Baltimore who lost Ray Lewis and starting cornerback Lardarius Webb to season ending injuries. Defensively, Baltimore may be in big trouble. Dallas lost starting running back Demarco Murray to a foot injury near the end of the first half. Before that he was on pace for a 200 yard plus rushing day.

The story of this game, Dallas continues to be pretenders and not contenders.

MVP: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR

Green Bay Packers over Houston Texans, 42-24

There were a lot of total meltdowns by teams and players this week, and Houston was certainly part of that parade. They got thumped by the Green Bay Packers on both sides of the ball while Aaron Rodgers put on a clinic in his six touchdown performance.

Houston’s defense, presumably one of the best in the league, not only got thrashed, but was undisciplined and completely fell apart in the second half. And the Packers defense shut down the run while Matt Schaub couldn’t get anything going. This really exposed Houston, at the time considered by some to be the best team in the league, as certainly beatable. The Packers simply steamrolled them.

Clay Matthews, Jr. was a beast, as usual on defense for the Packers. But J.J. Watt, Houston’s contender for Defensive Player of the Year, was erased.

For Green Bay, is this a sign they are back on track to where they were the past two years? Was Houston exposed as weak, not well rounded football team? Time will tell.

Denver Broncos over San Diego Chargers, 35-24

The biggest, most embarrassing meltdown of all ended the week as Philip Rivers completely imploded in the second half with five turnovers, poor quarterbacking, and just atrocious play all the way around. The Broncos, led by Peyton Manning overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to come back and win the game. Of course they were largely aided by two defensive scores for 14 of those points and a tough defense, but the poise of Manning and the offense in the second half was still impressive.

This is typical San Diego and Norv Turner coached football, good solid talent but just get it all together.

Frankly, I found it fun to watch.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Washington Redskins over Minnesota Vikings, 38-26

Robert Griffin III. End of story.

I mean really? The running, the smart passing. RG3 is carrying the Redskins right now and making everyone around him better. If, and that is a big if with his style of play and the Shanahans’ stupid play calling putting him at risks constantly on option plays, he is going to be a phenomenal.

MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Michael Oher, T, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie of the Week: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins


Observations on Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints over Indianapolis Colts 31-17

I know this is coming woefully late but I figure better late than never.

The 2000’s offered up some of the greatest Super Bowl contests in its 40 year history. After having so many blowouts and games that simply did not live up to the hype, the 2000’s saw mostly close contests between evenly matched teams. Super Bowl XLIV looked to be another great contest between two of the most prolific offenses in the league, and it more than lived up to its hype. Despite the final score, the result of a last minute, coffin in the nail touchdown by the Saints, this was a nail biter to the finish.

New Orleans certainly had karmic energy on its side. No matter what team the AFC sent to the Super Bowl, New Orleans was going to be the rooting interest of even the most casual fan, not only because people wanted to see something good happen to the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but its history as a losing but lovable, inept franchise gave it an underdog feel, despite clearly being one of the three best teams in the league this year.

This game was almost evenly played from the start, and but for a few crucial calls by the gutsy Saints coach Sean Peyton and a crucial mistake by Peyton Manning, the Colts mostly outplayed the Saints. The first half featured a quick 10-0 lead by the Colts but the Saints held on for two field goals to make it 10-6 in a surprisingly low scoring first half. Given the way both offenses could move the ball up and down the field, the Colts receiving the ball at the beginning of the second half seemingly gave them a great advantage.

But in what will go down in one of the gutsiest coaching decisions in Super Bowl history, Sean Peyton went for an onside kick at the beginning of the second half to steal a short field and possession from the Colts. Get the ball and score and you put your team in good position to win the game. Don’t get the ball and give Peyton Manning a short field, you may end up the butt of jokes and pariah for the rest of your coaching career. After one of the nastiest scrums I’ve ever witnessed for the ball, the Saints come up with the possession and proceed to score a go ahead touchdown, 13-10 Saints.

The onside kick was the play of the game. It is what really won the game for the Saints and wrested control back away from the Colts as both teams could clear move the ball on each other. After that it was a tit for tat, and again Peyton called for a successful two point conversion after a touchdown leading to a seven point advantage with just over three minutes to go.

I suspect most fans, like me, figured that Peyton Manning and the Colts were on their way to game tying touchdown leaving the Saints a few moments on the clock to get into field goal range for a win. The Colts were easily driving down the field getting close to scoring position. I commented to a guest watching the game with me “wouldn’t a pick six be great right here?” A few moments later, Manning throws just that, an interception returned for a touchdown by Tracy Porter, the Saints’ second year cornerback. And that was it.

Did Peyton Manning choke? Manning and his teams, including in college, for whatever reason, seem to always come up short in the big games. It’s amazing that one of the greatest regular season quarterbacks of all time with one of the most consistently potent offenses year in and year out can’t seem to get over the hump in the playoffs. But I don’t think Manning chocked as much as Porter simply made a great play. Unlike most Patriots fans, I kind felt sorry for Manning.

But the Colts were facing a team that played loose and Sean Peyton coached the game to win, not to lose, which greatly benefited the Saints. So many times, including the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, the coach plays not to lose, and then loses. Hats off the Sean Peyton for an amazing and, I’ll say it a third time, gutsy coaching strategy.

This game will go down as one of the all time greats and firmly place the Colts as a great team that just can’t seal the deal when it counts most.

Drew Brees was named the MVP of the game. He deserved it.

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Offensive Player: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
Defensive Player: Trace Porter, CB, New Orleans
Offensive Lineman: Jonathan Goodwin, C, New Orleans
Special Teams: Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans

Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

If you consider the entire history of the Super Bowl, most of the games have been duds and have not lived up to their hype.  This past decade, however, we have seen some of the most exciting, closely contested games in the marquee matchup in American sports. 

Super Bowl XLIII promises to be one of the best.  Whether it lives up to that hype remains to be seen.  But with the New Orleans Saints versus the Indianapolis Colts you have one of the most exciting matchups ever. 

First, you have the two best teams in the regular season from the AFC and NFC in the game.  That does not happen very often.  Second, you have two of the best quarterbacks in the league with a number of excellent receivers to throw to.  Drew Brees has been fabulous this season, and Peyton Manning as played as well this season as any quarterback I have ever seen in my lifetime. 

Third, with those outstanding quarterbacks you have two of the most prolific offenses in the league.  And fourth,  need I say, you have two defenses that are better than they have been in the past, but are mid-tier NFL defenses that are vulnerable?  It could be one of the highest scoring games in Super Bowl history if these two offenses start sprinting up and down the field on each other.

So picking a winner is very hard.  Will the Saints get to Peyton Manning and batter him like they did Brett Favre in their NFC Championship win over the Minnesota Vikings?  The Colts offense line has played well this year, but they have been known for lapses in the playoffs against aggressive teams like the Greg Williams run Saints. 

Will Dwight Freeney, the pass rushing machine of the Colts be healthy enough to get pressure on Drew Brees, and if he is ineffective, will the rest of the defensive line be effective without his presence?  The Colts have a vulnerable secondary that has been protected by the great offense of the Colts, able to play with leads and play the pass.

It really is a tough game to call.  They are both great teams, the best in the league.

But at the end of the day who am I picking?  Peyton Manning has been a magician this year.  He has avoided the annual choke job the Colts often put up in the playoffs.  I’m going with the best quarterback in the league against the second best quarterback in the league, with vulnerable defenses behind them.

The Colts will win the Super Bowl 42-34.

2009 NFL Season: AFC & NFC Championship Games

Indianapolis Colts over New York Jets, 30-17

You have to hand it to the New York Jets for their nice run in the playoffs. They embarrassed the Cincinnati Bengals (well, the Bengals embarrassed themselves) and I gave them no chance against the hot San Diego Chargers but they pulled off an impressive win. Despite the final score, I thought the Jets played a fine game against the Colts.

The Jets got the big passing plays they needed for scores in the first half to go ahead and stay in the game. And their defense did a great job of taking away Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. The problem was Peyton Manning finally figured out how to move the ball effectively against the Jets defense, and Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie stepped up to the plate with big plays. Once the Colts got a quick score to end the first half, they became too much to handle for the Jets in the second half. The Jets never did make great adjustments and eschewed the blitz to play coverage. But Garcon, especially, came up big for the Colts when it counted.

And once the Jets got behind, their offense just isn’t built right now to come back from a deficit. The Colts with the lead could play to stop the pass and the Jets passing game just simply isn’t dynamic enough to compensate.

So in the end this game turned out about how I expected it to, with Colts finding ways to score against a solid defense, and a Jets offense just not able to keep up.

MVP: Pierre Garcon, WR

New Orleans Saints over Minnesota Vikings, 31-28 OT

This was a very entertaining game and completely lived up to its billing. The Vikings basically outplayed the Saints but turnovers matter in all NFL games and the Vikings fumbled their way out of a Super Bowl birth. It was a closely contest with the offenses moving up and down the field, but the Vikings had an edge on offense that they negated with turnovers and negative plays.

Near the end of regulation, as Minnesota was driving into field goal range, I kept thinking I would be writing what an unbelievably courageous performance by Brett Favre in a win. He was battered as badly as I have ever seen any quarterback battered in a game, but he kept getting out there and fighting back. Instead Favre, as he has done so many times in the past in the playoffs, he threw and idiotic interception instead of stumbling forward for a few yards to give his kicker a chance to win the game. Of course the Vikings had already blundred on that series with too many men in the huddle for a five yard penalty, an egregious mental error at that part of the game. But it was still Favre cementing his legacy, for me at least, as a choke artist in the playoffs, that was the saddest part of the game. Maybe the kicker misses the long field goal, but Favre took his out of any chance to win it in regulation with his terribly ill advised pass late over the middle.

The game then goes to overtime, the Saints get a great kick return by Pierre Thomas for great field position, and win the game on a 40-yard field goal.

Don’t get me wrong though. It was an unbelievably courageous performance by Favre. And it certainly was not Favre’s fault they lost the game. Stupid penalties and fumbles, especially by Adrian Peterson, helped doom them. But why does Favre insist on making the dumbest of throws in the most crucial of situations?

That is what I will remember in this game, as much as anything else.

MVP: Jonathan Vilma, LB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Player: Jonathan Vilma, LB, New Orleans Saints
Offensive Lineman: Jeff Saturday, C, Indianapolis Colts
Special Teams: Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints

Brett Favre Blunders Again

Doug Baker’s NFL All Decade Team 2000’s: Offense

Following is the definitive offensive team of the decade for the years 2000-2009. In some cases I name two players when it was particularly close call and the second player deserved a prominent mention on the team. Mostly I name one player for each position.

I only use statistics where needed when players are fairly close and it helps differentiate between contenders for key spots.

Fact checking was done using the following:  NFL.com, 2009 NFL Record and Fact Book, Pro-Football-Reference.com, and Wikipedia.com.

Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

There will be a never ending debate over who was the better quarterback in their careers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Peyton sycophants will trot up all kinds of statistics that will show that Peyton Manning is the best regular season quarterback in this decade. I am not going to debate that.

But on the biggest stage and in the playoffs, Tom Brady has dominated the league in the 2000’s. He has been to four Super Bowls and won three of them, more than any quarterback this decade. And he engineered one of the greatest offensive performances in league history with 50 touchdown passes and a perfect 16-0 regular season record in 2007.

Meanwhile Peyton Manning’s teams have underperformed in the playoffs and have been to one Super Bowl, which they won.

Add to that Peyton Manning has had stability at wide receiver with Marvin Harrison and now Reggie Wayne, while Tom Brady had to work in average receivers in a lineup that changed frequently over the years.

To me, especially at the quarterback position, championships matter, so my nod goes to Tom Brady as the best quarterback of the decade.

Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are the most likely young quarterbacks to define the next decade, but they are unlikely to duplicate the success of these two.

Running Back: LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers

Tomlinson is really the only running back that can be mentioned as the tailback of the decade. He has defined excellence at this position since he entered the league in 2001, reeling off eight straight 1,000 plus yard seasons. He has already amassed 12,489 yards rushing with 138 touchdowns, and 3,938 yards receiving with 15 touchdowns (stats as of 2009 week 16). He ranks 8th on the all time rushing list.

His best season was 2006 when he rushed for 1,815 yards and scored 28 touchdowns to lead the league in scoring.

Will Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans or Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings show up on this list in 2020?

FB: Lorenzo Neal, San Diego Chargers

Lorenzo Neal played for 17 years before being cut by the Carolina Panthers this year. From 2003 to 2007 he was the lead blocker for the best running back of the decade, LaDanian Tomlinson. I list him as a San Diego Charger even though he also played for the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, and most recently the Baltimore Ravens in this decade. It was his five year stint with the Chargers where his performance earned him this award.

Will La’Ron McClain of the Baltimore Ravens take up the mantle at this position in 2010’s?

Center: Kevin Mawae, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans

Kevin Mawae has been an anchor on the offensive line this decade for both the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans. No other center comes close to matching his excellence at this position over so many years. He is a seven time Pro Bowl participant.

Guard: Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets
Guard: Will Shields, Kansas City Chiefs
Guard: Steve Hutchinson, Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings

This decade Alan Faneca has been the most consistent performer at the guard position. He has made the Pro Bowl nine times in his 12 year career.

Will Shields is a forgotten player, maybe because he has been out of the league for a few years, but to me he was one of the most consistent and solid guards this decade. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993 to 2006. He went to 12 Pro Bowls in his 14 year career, making it every year from 1995 to 2006, when he retired. He blocked for the likes of Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes, and Larry Johnson. He was also an iron man starting in every game except one his entire career.

I could not in good conscious leave Steve Hutchinson off of this list. He has made the Pro Bowl seven times in his nine year career with the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings and is perennial regarded as one of the most outstanding guards in the league.

Tackle: Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore Ravens
Tackle: Walter Jones, Seattle Seahawks

Jonathan Ogden was the best offensive lineman in the league during his prime and is a shoe in for the Hall of Fame at left tackle. He made the Pro Bowl 11 times in his 12 year career with the Baltimore Ravens spanning the 1996 to 2007 seasons. A toe injury forced him to retire in 2007.

Walter Jones is the other dominant left tackle in the 2000’s, playing for the Seattle Seahawks from 1997 to 2008. He is currently on injured reserve. He has made nine Pro Bowls and has been recognized nearly every year he played, along with Ogden, as the best left tackle of the league.

Others that deserve mentions as being outstanding in their primes are Willie Roaf (1993-2005) who played with the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. And, believe it or not, Orlando Pace who is now a washed up shell of himself in Chicago, was one of the best tackles of the decade in his prime with the St. Louis Rams.

Tight End: Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons
Tight End: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

Tony Gonzalez is best tight end of the decade, making a huge impact both blocking and receiving. He has 996 receptions for 11,777 yards and 82 touchdowns from 1997 to 2009 (with one game to go in the regular season). He currently is the career leader for tight ends in receptions and reception yards. He also has the single season reception record for tight ends with 102 catches in 2004.

With all due respect to Dallas Clark and Jason Witten, Antonio Gates has been the other dominant tight end this decade. From 2003 to 2009 he has 478 receptions, 6,211 yards receiving, and 58 touchdowns. He has been an integral cog in the Chargers offense during his career.

Wide Receiver: Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, and New England Patriots
Wide Receiver: Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts

Randy Moss burst into the league in 1998 with the Minnesota Vikings and has been one of the most feared receivers in the league since. Despite less stellar years, by his standards, with the Oakland Raiders (and one with the Vikings) he has really been the face of the wide receiver position in the 2000’s. He currently has 921 receptions for 14,390 yards and 148 touchdowns. He is 10th all time in career receptions, 6th all time in career receiving yards, and second only to Jerry Rice in career receiving touchdowns. He also holds the NFL record for touchdown receptions in a season with 23 in 2007.

Marvin Harrison has been the most consistent wide receiver in this decade until a knee injury shut him down in 2007. He played for the Colts from 1996-2008 with 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, and 128 touchdowns. His best years were from 1999 to 2006 when he had multiple 100 plus catch seasons and was always over 1,000 yards receiving. In 2002 he set the single season receptions record with an amazing 143 catches for 1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns. He currently ranks second, only to Jerry Rice, on the all time receptions list.

Terrell Owens has statistics that rival Moss and Harrison, and some would even say surpass them with 1,002 receptions, 14,886 yards, and 143 touchdowns, but his divisiveness has literally blown up one team (the Philadelphia Eagles) and hurt two others (San Francisco 49’ers and Dallas Cowboys).

Tory Holt, who played for the St. Louis Rams from 1999 to 2008 (and is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars in a career that appears to be winding down) also deserves a mention. He was the key offensive threat during the Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf era from 1999 to 2001. He currently has 920 receptions for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns. He currently ranks 11th in all time receptions (one behind Randy Moss), and 10th in reception yards.

Kicker: Adam Vinatieri, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts

Who else? Adam Vinatieri may not be the best pure kicker in the 2000’s but he may be the best clutch kicker of all time. He has made the most dramatic field goals in the most pressure packed situations than any kicker this decade. He kicked game winning field goals with little time on the clock in two Super Bowls and has four Super Bowl rings (three with the Patriots and one with the Colts).

But the most dramatic moment in Vinatieri ‘s career came in a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders in 2001. In a driving blizzard he kicked a game tying 45 yard field goal to send the game into overtime at 13-13. Some have called this the greatest kick of all time, and it probably was. He then kicked a 23 yarder in overtime to win the game which launched the Patriots on their way to their first Super Bowl championship where Vinatieri kicked the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock. What a year for a kicker!

Kick Returner: Dante Hall, Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams
Kick Returner: Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland Browns

From 2000 to 2008 Dante Hall had 10,136 yards on kickoff returns with six touchdowns, to go along with 2,261 punt return yards and six touchdowns. He was referred to as a human joystick with his ability to run around like a madman to break free for a long return, but mostly he went straight up the gut and followed his blockers, which he said is the key to success in returning kicks. Hall ranks 5th in combined kickoff and punt return yardage with 12,397 yards. He just barelyekes out Joshua Cribbs for the top spot only because he also had six career punt returns for touchdowns (which is tied for fifth most held by several players) and has complied return yardage that currently puts him among the top returners of all time.

Joshua Cribbs has played for the Cleveland Browns from 2005 to present. While there are many good kick returners in the league today, Cribbs is on a record breaking pace for kickoff yards and touchdowns. With 7,009 kickoff returns for a 26.7 average and eight touchdowns, he has already set the career record for kickoffs returned for a touchdown in a career, and he ranks 9th all time in career yardage. He also has 100 punt returns for 1,123 yards and two touchdowns. His 11.2 yard per return average ranks right up there with the best punt returners in the league now (DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles and Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears).

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE DECADE: TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Three Lombardi Trophies.
Four Super Bowl appearances.
Two Super Bowl MVP awards.

That’s what it’s all about.

Tom Brady, NFL Offensive Player of the Decade