AFC East: Neil O\'Donnell
Two AFC East clubs and a Bill Belichick team made the cut.
The 1995 Cleveland Browns were 10th. Belichick took Cleveland to the playoffs the year before and got off to a 3-1 start before owner Art Modell's shocking decision to move the team to Baltimore. Cleveland meekly limped to a 5-11 exit.
Ninth were the 1996 New York Jets. They'd gone an unpromising 3-13 the year before, but McCormick rattles off a list of expensive veteran acquisitions that were supposed to turn around Rick Kotite's squad: quarterback Neil O'Donnell, left tackle Jumbo Elliott and right tackle David Williams. The Jets also drafted receiver Keyshawn Johnson first overall. They went 1-15.
The 1995 Miami Dolphins came in fifth. That was Don Shula's swan song. They'd gone 10-6 the previous season, winning the AFC East with a healthy Dan Marino. They added tight end Eric Green, defensive end Trace Armstrong and cornerback Terrell Buckley. They got off to a 4-0 start but fizzled as a wild-card playoff team and a quick exit.
The decision not only changed the Volunteers' fortunes, but altered the trajectories of two teams.
Had he turned pro in 1997, he might've been a New York Jet and certainly wouldn't have been an Indianapolis Colt.
New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro looked back on the turn of events:
Manning would stay for one more somewhat disappointing season at Tennessee, and he would actually see his stock drop ever so slightly, going from a clear-cut No. 1 to a hard-to-believe-it-now coin-flip debate involving Ryan Leaf. The Colts have a Super Bowl already in tow and are favorites for another, thanks solely to Manning growing into perhaps the greatest quarterback the game has ever known.There are no guarantees Jets general manager Bill Parcells would have selected Manning ahead of Ohio State tackle Orlando Pace. When given a choice between Jake Long and Matt Ryan for the Miami Dolphins in 2008, Parcells went with the franchise left tackle. Vaccaro also points out the Jets had Neil O'Donnell, who was a year removed from the Super Bowl.
But Phil Simms was enamored with the idea.
"That would have been a match made in heaven because you're talking about two guys who see the game exactly the same way," Simms said of a Parcells-Manning partnership.
It's a fanciful thought to picture Manning in green.
How many Super Bowls would the Jets have won?
Would there be such a thing as a New England Patriots dynasty if Manning was in the AFC East?
When it comes to carrying a team, Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of the past 35 years.
So says research done by Mark Wald of the underrated and often fascinating ColdHardFootballFacts.com.
Because a high number of pass attempts generally equates to a defeat, Wald wanted to ascertain which quarterbacks have had the greatest success when throwing a lot. He ran the stats from 1960 through 2008, qualifying a game in which a quarterback was asked to "carry the team" as 30 or more passes pre-1978 and 40 or more passes from 1978 on.
Wald's data showed Daryle Lamonica was worthy of his nickname, The Mad Bomber.
Lamonica ranked first with a .703 winning percentage when asked to carry his team. Brady was second at .680. Bart Starr and Bill Nelsen were tied for third at .625.
Big deal, you say?
Then consider this: The average winning percentage is .307 for all quarterbacks in "carry the team" qualifying games.
Some other AFC East quarterbacks of note:
12. Jack Kemp, .490.
14. Dan Marino, .478.
16. Al Dorow, .462.
Wald also listed the quarterbacks with the worst records when asked to carry his team. Here are the quarterbacks with AFC East backgrounds: