Last week I gave you my thoughts regarding the Georgia Bulldogs All-Decade Team and the five best games of the decade. That seemed like a pretty good theme so I decided to extend that idea for this week. Today, let’s look at the Players of the Decade for the NFL.
I have admitted to you before that my game, the one I follow most closely, is really the college version but I follow Sunday football enough to come up with some of the players that, I think, made the biggest impact at their respective positions during the last ten years. Having said that, I will also admit that I certainly don’t follow the pro game closely enough to tell you who the best offensive or defensive linemen are. My limited exposure to the game seems to hone in on the skill players and so, today’s column will talk about those guys primarily.
Everybody starts with the offense so let’s rock the boat a little and start on the defensive side of the ball:
There are two names that stick out to even my less-than-educated mind and they are Michael Strahan and Jason Taylor. The gap-toothed Strahan was a demon on the D line going back into the 90’s for the New York Giants and Taylor has spent time with several teams during that time, but his best days have been with the Dolphins. Both guys averaged about 11 sacks per year and both could stop the run as well.
I know that most teams only have three linebackers unless they’re playing a 3-4 defense, but I’ve got four names and none of them can be left out. My four backers would be Mike Vrabel, Brian Urlacher, Derrick Brooks, and, as much as I hate to add him because of his “look at me” antics, Ray Lewis. Many of you might argue with Vrabel but I’ve got him there because of his leadership skills as much as for his athletic skills. Urlacher is just ferocious and Brooks is one of the best open field tacklers in the game as well as being one of its best students. And Lewis does have incredible talent. I just wish he would channel the other stiff. Maybe I could respect him more if he did.
Corners and Safeties
Gotta start with my guy Champ Bailey. Highly regarded as one of the best cover corners in the game, Champ’s reputation has been affected somewhat by never being on a really great team. Antoine Winfield will be the other CB. The safeties are Ed Reed and I doubt that anyone will argue with me on that selection but my other choice, that may raise some debate, is Troy Polamalu. The “Flying Samoan” makes some of the most unbelievable athletic plays I’ve ever seen on a football field. If I was a GM and had first defensive choice, I think he’d be my pick.
Kicker and Punter Adam Vinatieri and Shane Lechler. The most “clutch” place kicker I’ve ever seen. Lechler is the only person who could make Raider fans forget Ray Guy. His 44.7 net punting average in 2008 set the standard.
Alright, now for the offense:
No surprise- the Falcons’ own Tony Gonzalez. Just might be the best tight end in the history of the game (sorry Shannon Sharpe).
One is the best receivers in the game (when he wants to be) and the other is the most versatile wide receiver today. One can catch and one can block as well as catch. They are Randy Moss and Hines Ward. Moss made the Patriots a better team but his attitude leaves a lot to be desired. Ask any Raider fan but that cannot be said for Ward. His attitude is always 110% and feisty. I love to watch Hines play because it is apparent he loves to play.
LaDainian Tomlinson has gained over 1,500 combined yards rushing/receiving and at least 10 touchdowns each year of the decade. Is there anyone even close to him for this selection? Uh-uh
In the pro game, the fullback’s primary responsibility is to block for the star running back, not produce big yardage numbers themselves. So, listen to this. For the first seven years of the decade, Lorenzo Neal has blocked for a back who gained at least 1,300 yards each season. Do the names Eddie George, Correy Dillon, and the above mentioned Tomlinson ring a bell? They’re famous because of Neal.
Dante Hall, if for no other reason that his longevity. It is rare for a returner to last as long as Hall has and to put up the yardage he has, well, that’s why he’s my pick.
I left it last because it is a no-brainer. Peyton Manning. Do I really have to substantiate his selection? I didn’t think so!
And I guess we need a coach and that would be Bill Belichick with Tony Dungy as his assistant.
You agree? Let me know. Next week: baseball.
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.