NFC West: Kevin Mawae

The NFL rulebook is far more detailed than one might realize.

The 2011 version ran 113 pages and included information such as how a referee should rule if an NFL coach sends all his players, not just captains, to the middle of the field for the pregame coin toss (ruling: loss of coin-toss option for both halves and loss of 15 yards on the opening kickoff).

There's a lot to know, and good reason for concern as the NFL prepares to use replacement officials while the regular ones remain without contracts. But we should also remember what happened when the NFL used replacement officials to open the 2001 regular season. The games continued without incident.

"No major controversies in Week 1", an ESPN.com headline read afterward.

"I thought they did a great job," Eric Moulds, then a receiver for the Buffalo Bills, said in the story.

I was a beat reporter covering the Seattle Seahawks for those 2001 opening games. A check through the stories I filed from Seattle's 9-6 victory at Cleveland found only passing reference to the replacement officials. The sixth item in an eight-item notebook I filed spanned 61 words and featured then-coach Mike Holmgren, a man never afraid to criticize officials, saying the replacements "did a good job" that day.

Even future union leader Kevin Mawae, then a New York Jets center, gave the replacements a vote of approval: "I thought they did a good job. ... Even the regular guys miss a few calls from time to time, so for the most part they did a good job."

Critics of the current replacements have resorted to picking nits over errors made during exhibition games.

One current replacement ref had to issue a correction after messing up the coin-toss announcement at the Hall of Fame game. Big deal. Remember Phil Luckett?

Another replacement official signaled touchback for a punt downed at the 4-yard line, a call overturned on replay. That miscue was laughable, but just last season, regular officials missed a yard-line spot by five yards, as San Francisco 49ers fans should recall.

"The officiating crew incorrectly spotted the ball at the Detroit 35 instead of the 40, where Ted Ginn went out of bounds," the NFL said in a statement after the 49ers' victory at Detroit.

It's possible the current replacements aren't as good as the ones used in 2001. Perhaps they're even far worse. Those are difficult things to know. People sounding the alarms probably haven't studied the officials all that closely. They wouldn't know.

Most of the outrage stems, I suspect, from people unsympathetic to a wealthy league playing hardball against officials earning relatively small sums for their work. I'm sure they'll pounce if the replacements do make significant errors, but even the most established officials can make them.
Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Roger Craig, Sean Morey, Sam Bradford and Takeo Spikes are among the NFC West players and alumni scheduled to appear at the NFL Players Association's draft-related festivities in New York beginning April 28.

Hall of Famer and current Seattle Seahawks radio analyst Warren Moon, who played for Seattle before the team's move back to the NFC West in 2002, is also on the guest list revealed Monday.

The NFLPA took criticism when news broke that it planned to discourage players from attending the draft itself, but these events have been scheduled to give players flexibility should they choose to attend both.

"The series of events is a celebration of legacy -- of past, present and future football players coming together to honor those making the journey from prospect to professional," the NFLPA said in a news release.

The NFLPA has scheduled a welcome meeting and dinner with families for 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, the first day of the draft, which begins at 8 p.m. ET. Draft prospects attending would then have time to appear at the draft, should they choose to do so, as both will be headquartered in New York.

The NFLPA has scheduled media access for Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, followed by a lunch and dinner with reception at 4:30 p.m. A fitness and skills clinic is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in Harlem, followed by lunch and a party beginning at 9 p.m.

NFL teams generally fly first-round choices to their facilities in the day or two following the first round. Rules will allow that to happen again, despite the lockout. Players heading to their new teams' facilities for news conferences could miss NFLPA-sponsored events for Friday and/or Saturday.

The initial guest list, subject to change, features the following current and former NFL players: Charlie Batch, Cornelius Bennett, Dwayne Bowe, Bradford, Ahmad Bradshaw, Craig, Zak DeOssie, Dickerson, Eddie George, Faulk, Felix Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Dustin Keller, Brandon Marshall, Kevin Mawae, Willie McGinest, Brian Mitchell, Moon, Morey, Shaun O'Hara, Ray Rice, Tony Richardson, Spikes and Mike Vrabel.

The list of draft prospects includes Prince Amukamara, Marvin Austin, Adrian Clayborn, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Blaine Gabbert, A.J. Green, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, Corey Liuget, Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson, Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, Daniel Thomas and J.J. Watt.
NFLPA president Kevin Mawae entered the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, so I'll use that distant NFC West connection as cover to address the subject of the day.

Mawae makes an understandable point when he looks at the Packers' recently released financial data showing shrinking profits and says, "It's 1/32nd of the financial information we've requested in response to their demand that we give back $1 billion and increase our risk of injury by playing two additional games."

But if the Packers' information showed profits rising by significant chunks each year, you can bet Mawae and the NFLPA would be far less interested in context. They would be holding up the information as evidence owners have gotten too greedy.

Some owners do face financial challenges. The St. Louis Rams' Chip Rosenbloom is selling the team primarily because he couldn't afford estate taxes following his mother's passing. If owning an NFL team ensured massive profits, Rosenbloom would presumably have the resources to stick it out.

Also: Former Packers executive Andrew Brandt offers thoughts on the latest report.
Danny O'Neil's item about the Seahawks not drafting a first-round tackle since 2000 sent me back through past Seattle drafts for a closer look at the offensive linemen.

The centers, guards and tackles Seattle drafted from 1994 through 1998 -- the Randy Mueller and Dennis Erickson years -- have combined to start 818 regular-season games. Three of the five long-time starters from that era left Seattle relatively quickly, opening spots on the line for future Seahawks draft choices. But the 15 offensive linemen Seattle has drafted since 1999 have combined to start only 460 regular-season games, 132 by Steve Hutchinson.

What to make of this disparity? A few things:

  • Quite a few of the players drafted more recently aren't finished. They'll rack up lots more starts. Hutchinson, Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Max Unger and possibly Steve Vallos could combine for hundreds of starts over the next five seasons.
  • Four of the five primary starters drafted from 1994 to 1998 -- Kevin Mawae, Pete Kendall, Walter Jones and Todd Weiner -- were selected among the top 47 overall choices (27.5 on average). The five most promising active linemen from the more recent group -- Hutchinson, Locklear, Spencer, Sims and Unger -- were drafted 61st overall on average.
  • Chris McIntosh, the 22nd player chosen in 2000, suffered a debilitating neck stinger early in his career. His early retirement was a freak occurrence costing the 1999-present group quite a few starts. McIntosh wasn't necessarily impressive early in his career, but it's reasonable to think he would have started for years and improved.
  • It's important for Seattle to find another long-term starting tackle in this draft. Seattle holds the sixth overall choice, a slot once used to find Walter Jones. It's unrealistic to think Seattle could find a tackle of Jones' caliber with the sixth pick this year, but it's reasonable to expect any tackle taken that early to start a lot of games.

The charts rank these two groups of Seattle draft choices by most games started.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The NFLPA's annual Super Bowl news conference doubled as reunion for players with ties to current NFC West teams.

Eight of the 15 current and former players on the stage spent all or part of their careers with the Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals or 49ers. Each is actively representing the NFLPA as the league and its players head toward an uncapped year and possible lockout.

"More than anything, what I feel my role can be is educating some of these younger players," former 49ers and Seahawks running back Ricky Watters said. "I was able to do a good job of keeping my money. I have a good life and a great family. When I talk to a lot of the younger guys, they look at me as kind of the tough guy, the rebel guy, but I want them to know I was always tough and all that, but at the same time, intelligence is the whole thing."

Watters thinks too many players are living beyond their means without knowing it. As the NFL and the NFLPA head toward a possible lockout, Watters said it's important for the union to make sure players are prepared for what awaits if the league shuts down.

A quick look at the eight players and the current NFC West teams for which they play or played:

  • Walt Harris, CB (49ers). Rehabbing from knee surgery and hoping to re-sign with the 49ers or play for another team.
  • Watters, RB (49ers, Seahawks). Retired and living in Orlando with his wife and their 8-year-old son.
  • Kevin Carter, DE (Rams). Retired.
  • Ernie Conwell, TE (Rams). Retired and living in Tennessee.
  • Kevin Mawae, C (Seahawks). Titans starter.
  • Pete Kendall, G (Seahawks, Cardinals). Retired unless a team calls and requests his services.
  • Leonard Weaver, FB (Seahawks). Eagles starter.
  • Dwayne White, OL (Rams). Retired.

Former players Barry Sanders, Nolan Harrison, Ki-Jana Carter, Mike McBath, Ben Utt and Mark Bruener joined current Texans guard Chester Pitts among the 15 players.
 
  ESPN.com Illustration
  Best of the best: Michael Strahan, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Randy Moss.

 Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Ranking the 25 best NFL players of the decade seemed easy.

AFC West blogger Bill Williamson sent an initial list to me for review. The list appeared strong. I suggested a couple minor tweaks.

All-Decade Honors
Monday: Defense
Tuesday: Offense
Wednesday: Moments
Thursday: Team, coach, MVP | Rankings
Friday: Top players | Special teams

Related Content

• Karabell: Decade's top fantasy players
• Rank 'Em: Players of the decade
• Football Outsiders: Most overrated
• Football Outsiders: Most underrated

The hard part came when we considered those who fell just short of the list.

Guard Alan Faneca has gone to eight Pro Bowls this decade. John Lynch and Will Shields went to seven. Brian Dawkins, La'Roi Glover, Kevin Mawae, Olin Kreutz, Matt Birk, Larry Allen, Chris Samuels and Zach Thomas went to six. Ronde Barber, Keith Brooking, Al Wilson, Julian Peterson, Donovan McNabb, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Chad Ochocinco were among those with five.

None of them made the top 25 list. Had all of them made it, only six spots would have remained for the 25 players you see in the chart.

We settled on five quarterbacks, four receivers, four offensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive ends, two running backs, two safeties, one cornerback, one tight end and zero defensive tackles (few dominated consistently for extended periods).

Seven of 10 league MVPs this decade made the top 25. Marshall Faulk, Rich Gannon and 2003 co-MVP Steve McNair were the exceptions.

Ben Roethlisberger made the list despite only one career Pro Bowl appearance. It's not his fault Manning and Brady play in the same conference.

2
ESPN.com's Top 25 Players of the Decade
Rk Player Pos. Team Pro Bowls This Decade Analysis
1
Tom Brady
QB NE 4 The NFL's Horatio Alger hero in cleats was drafted in the sixth round and became one of the greatest quarterbacks of a generation. The four-time Pro Bowler played in four Super Bowls this decade, winning three and being named MVP of two. (TG)

Peyton Manning
QB IND 8 The three-time MVP made eight Pro Bowls, was first-team All-Pro four times and won a Super Bowl this decade. Widely regarded as the league's most irreplaceable player. (PK)
3
LaDainian Tomlinson
RB SD 5 Without a doubt, Tomlinson is the best non-quarterback to play in this decade. He has gained at least 1,000 yards in each of his eight NFL seasons. One of the most consistent running backs ever to play. (BW)
4
Walter Jones
T SEA 8 Mike Holmgren called Jones the best offensive player he ever coached. That's saying something. (MS)
5
Jason Taylor
DE MIA 6 Few defenders can match Taylor's résumé. The NFL's active career sacks leader was chosen for six Pro Bowls this decade. Taylor was named the league's defensive player of the year in 2006 and the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2007 for his community service. (TG)
6
Champ Bailey
CB DEN 8 The gold standard of cornerbacks this decade. Bailey is a complete player who shut down the left side of the field nearly all decade. (BW)
7
Marvin Harrison
WR IND 7 Seven straight Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro selections and a Super Bowl win this decade. His 143 receptions in 2002 stand as the single-season record and he's got a 20-catch cushion on the next closest player. (PK)
8
Michael Strahan
DE NYG 4 One of the most prolific pass-rushers in history of the league. He was relentless and he helped lead the way to a world title in 2007. (MM)
9
Ray Lewis
LB BAL 7 Lewis is the top-rated linebacker of this decade with a Super Bowl victory and seven Pro Bowls since 2000. But No. 9 still seems a little low for the future Hall of Famer and one of the most dominant defenders ever to play the game. (JW)
10
Tony Gonzalez
TE ATL 9 The best receiving tight end ever to play in the NFL. If you don't think so, look at the top of every important receiving record for NFL tight ends. You'll see Gonzalez's name on every list. (BW)
11
Jonathan Ogden
T BAL 8 As the most consistent player on Baltimore's usually inconsistent offense, Ogden will probably never get as much credit as he deserved. But his football journey will land him in Canton soon. (JW)
12
Ed Reed
S BAL 5 In a decade when mostly hard-hitting safeties ruled the NFL, Reed brought "ball-hawking" back to the position. His hands, anticipation and knack for the spectacular play are as good as any safety in NFL history. (JW)
13
Torry Holt
WR JAC 7 Seven Pro Bowls, one first-team All-Pro selection, two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl win this decade with the St. Louis Rams. A major component of an out-of-nowhere team that became "The Greatest Show on Turf." (PK)
14
Randy Moss
WR NE 4 He was edged out by Torry Holt for the all-decade team, but Moss is one of the league's all-time greats. He has gone to four Pro Bowls this decade, averaging 77 catches for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns. (TG)
15
Derrick Brooks
LB TB 8 Best player in Tampa Bay's history. Most important building block in Bucs going from laughingstock to Super Bowl champions. Brooks was a leader on the field and in the community. (PY)
16
Orlando Pace
T CHI 6 At the height of his career, Pace was the most dominant left tackle in the game. No one could get around him as the St. Louis Rams set a series of offensive records. Injuries have slowed him down recently, but he hopes to finish his career strongly in Chicago. (KS)
17
Kurt Warner
QB ARI 3 Took two franchises to the Super Bowl this decade and had three total appearances (one following the 1999 season). Still going strong. (MS)
18
Shaun Alexander
RB SEA 3 The only player in NFL history to score 15 touchdowns in five consecutive seasons. Averaged 1,501 yards rushing and 17.4 rushing touchdowns per season over a five-year period. (MS)
19
Troy Polamalu
S PIT 5 Polamalu is just approaching his prime, but already has two Super Bowl wins and five Pro Bowls in six seasons. He has the potential to make the next decade's list as well. (JW)
20
Richard Seymour
DE NE 5 The Patriots defensive end has been All-Pro three times and a Pro Bowler five times. He's strong against the run and can create havoc in the pocket, collecting 39 sacks in eight seasons. (TG)
21
Ben Roethlisberger
QB PIT 1 "Big Ben" joins Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowls in this decade. Despite joining the NFL in 2004, that was enough for Roethlisberger to make the cut. (JW)
22
Steve Hutchinson
G MIN 6 Considered the best guard in the game since shortly after Seattle drafted him in 2001. Has helped Minnesota rank in the NFL's top five in rushing twice in three seasons with the Vikings. (KS)
23
Brett Favre
QB -- 5 Finished last season atop the NFL's list for all-time passing yardage and touchdowns. (Interceptions, too.) Named to his 10th Pro Bowl at age 39. (KS)
24
Terrell Owens
WR BUF 6 He has put up Hall of Fame-worthy numbers and he continues to be a dangerous receiver into his mid-30s. (MM)
25
Brian Urlacher
LB CHI 6 The NFL's best defensive rookie in 2000, the best defensive player in 2005 and the captain of a team that went to the Super Bowl in 2006. A quasi-defensive back in college, Urlacher is a perfect fit for the Tampa 2 scheme that requires the middle linebacker to cover the deep third of the field. (KS)

Glossary
TG -- Tim Graham (AFC East); JW -- James Walker (AFC North); PK -- Paul Kuharsky (AFC South); BW -- Bill Williamson (AFC West); MM -- Matt Mosley (NFC East); KS -- Kevin Seifert (NFC North); PY -- Pat Yasinskas (NFC South); MS -- Mike Sando (NFC West)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

A trick question to test your divisional knowledge on a May Saturday: Which veteran head coach has led teams in three of the four current NFC West cities?

Hint: He's a current head coach.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

  Mawae

To no surprise, NFLPA president and former Seahawks center Kevin Mawae isn't on board with extending the regular season to 18 games. Mawae, entering his 16th season and fourth with the Titans, put it this way in a Wednesday interview with Sirius NFL Radio:

"Well, obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is, 'What's in it for us?' If we're going to give you two more games, two more games of wear and tear on our bodies, two more games of potential career-ending injuries, two more games of concussions, blown out knees, elbows, whatever you want to call it, then what's the price you're willing to pay for us to give that to you? Anytime you add a game onto the regular season, it comes down to a collective bargaining issue as part of the CBA, and there's a give and take. Do I want to play 18 regular season games? No, not really but again I don't want to play four preseason games either. So we'll figure something out."

Asked if he could choose between 18 regular-season games or four exhibition games, Mawae wasn't interested in either:

"Well, you know, I would rather have 16 regular-season games and two preseason games. In a perfect world. You have the argument that, well, the coaches won't have enough time to evaluate players. Don't buy it. We have 14 OTA days. If you're a new coach, you have up to five minicamps and most coaches keep their players in town until the middle of July right up until the 10-day dead period before training camp.
"So, I think the biggest issue for players is compensation and potential injury and harm on the field. That's another 120 snaps for myself if you figure you average 60 plays a game and anything can happen. I'm certainly not a big fan of 18 games but, again, if it is something that we can get something significant out of the collective bargaining process, then it's something we'll take a look at."
This issue is far from settled, despite our best efforts in the most recent Double Coverage debate.

Pro Bowl players who got away

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
5:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Five former NFC West players earned Pro Bowl recognition with their current teams. A sixth, former Ram Kurt Warner, went with the Cardinals.

That nearly matches the current NFC West total -- seven -- for players headed to the Pro Bowl following this season.

Three former Seahawks earned spots. Kevin Mawae, now with the Titans, is the starting center for the AFC. The Vikings' Steve Hutchinson, chosen 17th overall by Seattle in 2001, is a starting guard for the NFC. Former Seahawks punter Jeff Feagles will wear a Giants helmet while representing the NFC. All three left Seattle over financial and/or contractual issues.

Jets running back Thomas Jones, chosen seventh overall by the Cardinals in 2000, will start for the AFC. Cowboys guard Leonard Davis, chosen second overall by the Cardinals in 2001, will represent the NFC as a backup.

Do we know of any other newly named Pro Bowl players with NFC West roots?

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC WEST SCOREBOARD