AFC East: Jack Lambert

Speed Dial: Zach Thomas in the Hall?

May, 21, 2010
Time for another installment of "Speed Dial," where I call three people in my Rolodex and get their insight on a particular subject.

Today's question: I reach out to members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's board of selectors to ask "Is Zach Thomas, who retired Thursday as a Miami Dolphin, worthy of enshrinement?"

Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Unless a guy's obvious, like Troy Aikman or Dan Marino or somebody like that, there's a reason you have a five-year period from the time a player retires until he's eligible. It gives us guys a chance to think about whether we want to vote for them or not. But my initial reaction? Zach Thomas just doesn't jump out at me as a Hall of Famer. Now, I'm not saying I won't vote for him. I have five years to think about it. But off the top of my head, he doesn't strike me as a Hall of Famer. But he's a candidate, and I'll look more into his career and talk to other people before I decide."

Dave Goldberg, AOL Fanhouse and formerly of The Associated Press: "I always have an open mind on these things, but right now I don't think so. My first thought is he is one of those guys in the Hall of Very Good. He was a very good player for a long time, but did he stand out? No. There are so many of these guys, and he's one step away, one level below the Hall of Fame. I remember his first day in training camp with the Dolphins. I was there. Jimmy Johnson loved Zach Thomas from the first day. He was too small and a fifth-round pick, but he was smart and a leader and was quick. But as a Hall of Famer? Not quite. He didn't quite have the impact. I don't remember him dominating games, and that's what I think of when I think of Hall of Famers."

John McClain, Houston Chronicle: "I've watched him since he was at Texas Tech. When I think of Dick Butkus or Ray Nitschke and Jack Lambert as the greatest inside linebackers in history, then, no, Zach doesn't belong. But I'm willing to listen to any evidence from anybody that can convince me that Zach has Hall of Fame credentials. Right off the bat, my initial thought for Zach going into the Hall of Fame is 'No,' when compared to the other guys, but I've said that before and changed my mind during the five years before he's eligible. I'm open-minded."

After toe complaint, Owens misses walkthrough

August, 11, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

Terrell Owens is hurt.

The Buffalo Bills receiver missed his first training-camp practice with what's believed to be a bad toe. The Bills haven't commented on the injury, but Owens tweeted "Damn, my toe is aching!" after Sunday night's Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

Owens played eight snaps, catching two passes for 27 yards. He didn't mention an injury to reporters after the game.

Perhaps it should be disconcerting Tuesday morning's session merely was a walkthrough. Maybe his tweet was tantamount to that coworker who says "I think I'm going to have a headache tomorrow" and doesn't show up the next day.

The severity of toe injuries can be tough to gauge.

Bills rookie guard Eric Wood had a broken toe over the summer and has returned just fine.

But a broken toe ended Jack Lambert's career when he was 32 years old and seemingly in his prime. A season earlier he was named to his fifth straight All-Pro team.

Bills coach Dick Jauron is expected to address Owens' injury after Tuesday night's practice.

On all-time draft list, Brady ranks 8th -- for now

April, 23, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

The race ain't over.

ESPN Stats & Information recently concocted a formula to determine the best buys in NFL draft history. Receiver nonpareil Jerry Rice topped the list ahead of quarterbacks Joe Montana and Brett Favre.


But the scores are permanent only for the players who've stopped playing. Active players still can accumulate points for being named MVP or first-team All-Pro or for playing in the Super Bowl.

In other words, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could rise from his No. 8 ranking before he and Gisele retire to some beach in Bimini.

Brady has a chance to overtake Montana and Rice, but jockeying past Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning could be a problem. 

Rice's accomplishments give him a score of 88.07, while Montana's put him at 87.14. Favre is third with 84.74 points.

Manning is fourth with 84.04 points, followed by three retirees: Linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Jack Lambert and running back Terrell Davis.

Brady ranks eighth with 71.34 points, and he won't be caught from behind any time soon. No active player is within photo-taking distance -- not even with a zoom lens.

How can Brady catch Rice? An MVP award is worth 15 points. Each first-team All-Pro selection is worth five points. Super Bowl victories are good for five points. Super Bowl losses garner 2.5 points.

If Brady returns from his season-erasing left knee injury and helps the Patriots' offense resume its dominance against the NFL's third-toughest schedule, then he would have to be the leading contender for MVP and All-Pro.

It doesn't have to happen this year, either. Brady has plenty of years left to reach Super Bowls. He'll turn only 32 in August.

Where on the best-buy list do you think Brady finishes his career?

'83 Dolphins, '85 Bills advance in draft tourney

April, 11, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

Two AFC East clubs remain alive in SportsNation's NFL draft class tournament.

The third-seeded 1985 Buffalo Bills and the eighth-seeded 1983 Miami Dolphins advanced to the quarterfinals. They'r coming out of different brackets and can face each other in the final to determine the best draft class of all-time.

But an all-AFC East championship doesn't appear likely. The Dolphins are up against the top-seeded 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers, a class that produced four Pro Football Hall of Famers: receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, center Mike Webster and linebacker Jack Lambert.

The '83 Dolphins class featured quarterback Dan Marino, receiver Mark Clayton and punter Reggie Roby.

The '83 Bills are matched against a surprise quarterfinal entrant, the 22nd-seeded 1983 Denver Broncos.

The Bills have defensive end Bruce Smith, receiver Andre Reed and quarterback Frank Reich. But the '83 Broncos featured one of the greatest draft picks ever. Linebacker Karl Mecklenburg was selected in the 12th round. John Elway doesn't factor because he was drafted by the Baltimore Colts.

ESPN Stats & Information ranked the top draft class from each of the 32 clubs and seeded them into a five-round bracket to determine the best of all-time. SportsNation visitors are voting for the winners of each matchup.

The 1977 New York Jets and 1973 New England Patriots were eliminated in the tournament's first round.

ESPN Insiders can click on each team for fascinating, detailed analysis on each team, including honorable mention classes and the greatest draft picks in franchise history.