NFL Nation: All-decade offense
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
OK, I admit it. I was in charge of consulting with coaches, scouts and players to come up with two receivers for our all-decade offense, which was released Tuesday. And yes, I may have been swayed down the stretch by Keyshawn Johnson. But honestly, I think Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt deserved to be on the team ahead of T.O. and Randy Moss. Harrison and Peyton Manning formed one of the greatest duos in league history. Harrison's numbers were staggering.
|Hunter Martin/Getty Images|
|It was a tough choice to leave receiver Terrell Owens off the all-decade offense.|
Holt's six-year stretch from 2000-05 is what everyone kept pointing to. He had at least 1,300 yards in each of those seasons. Just on numbers alone, though, it's tough to argue with T.O. But with T.O., it's difficult for people to only focus on the numbers.
The NFC East didn't land anyone on the all-decade offense, which is hard to believe given the division's stature in the league. But you have to remember that the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins had some lean years early in the decade. The Eagles have been the most consistent team of the decade followed by the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins. You could probably put the Skins ahead of the Cowboys based on that 2005 playoff win, though.
Larry Allen was certainly the best guard of the 1990s, but he'd started fade by the time Bill Parcells arrived in 2003. Can you think of any NFC East players who deserved consideration? Jason Witten is the best tight end in football, but he didn't get started until 2003. It's really tough to argue with Tony Gonzalez.
Donovan McNabb should at least be in the discussion at quarterback, although there's no way he beats out Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Is he the third-best quarterback of the decade or should that honor go to Drew Brees? Kurt Warner's making a strong run at the end of the decade. Big Ben has to be in the discussion with the two Super Bowl rings.
OK, feel free to come up with an all-decade NFC East team. I'd go with McNabb at quarterback, T.O. and Plaxico Burress at the receivers (with Santana Moss in the discussion). I like Mike Sellers at fullback. Give me Witten over Shockey at tight end. And I'll take Chris Samuels and Tra Thomas as the offensive tackles -- even though they both play on the left side. Allen's the obvious choice at guard, but who do you take at the other guard spot? Ron Stone went to a couple of Pro Bowls early in the decade with the Giants and Chris Snee's one of the best in the league right now. I'll let you guys argue that one. Jermane Mayberry anyone?
Andre Gurode's the starting center -- unless you guys shoot me down. Shaun O'Hara has come on strong, but he hasn't been with the Giants as long as Gurode's been with the Cowboys. I'm going with Tiki Barber at running back, although Brian Westbrook has certainly had a nice decade. Who are we missing?
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Chance in Evanston, Wyo., writes: I believe Mike Alstot should have been in at FB on the all decade team. What would your arguments over that be? I thought he was pretty amazing player at a position that gets very little recognition.
Ryan in Charleston, W.Va., writes: I've been watching old video's of Mike Alstott and with this all decade teams coming up, Where do you think He Fits in? I mean has there ever really been a Fullback like this guy who could open up holes for RB's then move to Running back and change the game like him.
Here are my thoughts: Lorenzo Neal got the nod on this team, probably because he's the best blocking fullback ever. In fact, when the Bucs had Neal back in the 1990s, they used him as the blocking back for Alstott and Warrick Dunn.
Don't get me wrong, I think Alstott was a wonderful player. He could do a lot of things other fullbacks couldn't do -- mainly carry the ball and catch it out of the backfield. Alstott's one of the all-time favorites among Tampa Bay fans and some of his 1- or 2-yard runs were the stuff of highlight films because of his blue-collar approach. But the fact in the NFL these days are that fullbacks are around mainly to block.
The reality about Alstott is he did a lot of things better than any fullback, but blocking wasn't one of them. He was only ordinary in that area and I might even be too generous on that.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
I wanted to take some time to recognize some players from the AFC West who did not make our all-decade offensive team. There were some great names left off the list (we can only pick 11 players, after all) and some of them came from the AFC West.
Here are some of the players from the division that didn't quite make the cut:
Tackle: Willie Roaf, Kansas City: Roaf was an upper-echelon player and he will make a Hall of Fame run. But Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden were simply better this decade, according to the majority of the league insiders we polled.
Guard: Will Shields, Kansas City: Shields, a likely future Hall of Famer, could have easily made this list. As explained in the story, he was very, very close. He was a dominant force on the field and a bright light off of it.
Center: Tom Nalen, Denver: He was the anchor of an undersized, overproductive line. He was mean and nasty on the field and he should get some Hall of Fame consideration.
Quarterback: Rich Gannon, Oakland: He didn't play enough in the division to get serious consideration, but he was the catalyst for the glory years the Raiders enjoyed earlier in the decade.
Running back: Larry Johnson, Kansas City: Johnson has been a workhorse and one of the better rushers in the league this decade.
Receiver: Rod Smith, Denver: Smith was the quintessential worker and overachiever. He worked the field like few receivers ever did.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Our all-decade offense has been revealed and there's not one true NFC South player on it.
Sure, tight end Tony Gonzalez is now with Atlanta, but he's spent the entire decade up to now with Kansas City. You could also make a claim to fullback Lorenzo Neal, who spent a couple of years with Tampa Bay, but that was back in the 1990s.
I'm looking around for oversights, but not truly seeing any. You could start to make an argument for Drew Brees, but that ends once you realize that Tom Brady, who made the team, and Peyton Manning, who did not, are ahead of him.
What about Carolina's Jordan Gross? He might be the best offensive tackle in the league right now, but you can't really argue that he was better than Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden over the course of the decade.
Or Carolina's Steve Smith? Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt, who made the list, each won Super Bowls and that speaks for itself. Randy Moss and Terrell Owens didn't make the list and you can make an argument for either one. But I'd put Smith right there with Moss and over Owens.
Make sure you check out the second installment of ESPN.com's all-decade team here. Tuesday's post revolves around the offensive team, which includes two NFC North representatives.
(Hey, it's progress. The Black and Blue eked out only one spot on Monday's defensive team.)
Hutchinson has been widely considered the best guard in the game since Seattle drafted him in 2001, and has been to six Pro Bowls. Kreutz, meanwhile, beat out Kevin Mawae and Matt Birk for the honor because more personnel evaluators mentioned him in interviews than his primary competitors. ("You look at a guy like Kreutz and you really appreciate his consistency," San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "He is an all-decade-type player.")
This team is notable as much for who is missing than who is on it. Receiver Randy Moss, who played seven years in Minnesota, did not make the cut. Neither did left tackle Orlando Pace, who signed with Chicago in the offseason.
In case you're keeping track, and I know you are, here are the NFC North team representatives thus far on the ESPN.com all-decade team:
Chicago: Linebacker Brian Urlacher, center Olin Kreutz
Green Bay: None
Minnesota: Guard Steve Hutchinson
Special teams will come Wednesday courtesy yours truly. Tune in then.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The AFC North has always been strong in the trenches, and that showed in ESPN.com's unveiling of the NFL's all-decade offensive team Tuesday.
Two players, both linemen, made the cut: Former Baltimore Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden and former Steelers guard Alan Faneca. Ogden is retired and Faneca spent most of his career in Pittsburgh before signing a lucrative free-agent contract with the New York Jets in 2008.
No skill players from the AFC North were selected, which is reflective of the style of football most successful in the division. Three defensive players -- linebacker Ray Lewis and safeties Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu -- also made the all-decade defensive team.
Overall, five players made ESPN.com's all-decade list, and all are current or former Ravens and Steelers. Fullback Lorenzo Neal also made the team, yet played just one season with Baltimore this decade in 2008.
Here is the complete all-decade offense:
QB: Tom Brady, New England
RB: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego
FB: Lorenzo Neal, Cincinnati/San Diego/Baltimore
WR: Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis
WR: Torry Holt, St. Louis
TE: Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City
T: Walter Jones, Seattle
T: Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore
G: Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh/N.Y. Jets
G: Steve Hutchinson, Seattle/Minnesota
C: Olin Kreutz, Chicago
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
I've got no beef at all with Brady as the quarterback on ESPN.com's all-decade offense, which you can find here. Super Bowl wins are the ultimate goal for every player, and Brady's got three in four appearances to Manning's one in one. But I suspect some Colts faithful may have a counter argument for their three-time MVP.
A day after the AFC South was shutout on defense, former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison gets a starting spot. An AFC South newcomer, Jacksonville receiver Torry Holt, lines up across from Harrison to catch passes from Brady.
Can you make the case for anybody else who should have been on here?
|Receivers Terrell Owens and Randy Moss may both end up in Canton one day, but neither cracked ESPN.com's all-decade team.|
Keep him away from computers for a while.
The selections at receiver -- with input from NFL general managers, scouts, coaches and players -- were Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt instead. As AFC West blogger Bill Williamson explained in the story, criteria included stats, championships and Pro Bowls. ESPN.com's all-decade defense was announced Monday.
Moss, of course, is missing a Super Bowl ring. But he was a four-time Pro Bowler this decade. He has averaged 77 catches for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns the past nine years.
"I don't really like to judge people or other athletes," Moss told me in a telephone interview. "I know what I'm able to do on the field, but the things I'm able to do to dictate how a defense plays the game, I don't think there's no other receiver but myself and Jerry Rice to be able to do that."
In the same interview, Moss also struck a more modest tone when talking about his elusive title.
"I don't really know where I rank at, but as long as I get a Super Bowl ring before I leave this game, I think my life and my goal would be complete in the NFL," Moss said.
Owens can say the same. Owens, like Moss, has played in one Super Bowl and lost but owns some gaudy career numbers. Both are headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Do you think there are other AFC East omissions?
Buffalo guard Ruben Brown, a perennial Pro Bowler who played four seasons with Kreutz in Chicago, told me one entertaining night at the Big Tree Inn in Orchard Park, N.Y., that Kreutz could be the greatest center in NFL history.
|Pro Bowlers, Super Bowl winners and league MVPs headline our all-decade offense.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
To fully appreciate the star power of ESPN.com's all-decade offensive team, consider who did not make the cut: Peyton Manning. Randy Moss. Orlando Pace. Terrell Owens. Will Shields. Antonio Gates. Larry Allen.
They are Hall of Fame names and they didn't make the cut. The decade has been that good.
With training camps beginning next month for the final year of the decade, we thought we had sufficient evidence to determine our all-decade teams. ESPN.com tapped into the knowledge of coaches, players, scouts and other league observers to compile the squad. Criteria included statistics, impact on the player's team, Super Bowl wins/appearances and Pro Bowl berths.
It was inevitable that several superstars would be left off. Here are the 11 players who made it:
But Brady's successes could not be denied.
Since replacing an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has been the face of the NFL and has nearly attained royalty status. He is a living legend.
Brady is the consummate winner. Manning may be more gifted and have more impressive numbers, but Brady has won three Super Bowls and is widely considered one of the most cunning players ever to suit up.
"You're talking about a guy that was a sixth-round draft pick," said former Jets and Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, now an ESPN analyst. "He wasn't a first-round pick. I love Manning. I think he's great for the league, an ambassador for the league, but he was the first player picked. Either one would be great, but [Brady] has won Super Bowls and was a sixth-round pick. Nobody really knew who he was."
this decade. Tomlinson, 30, may be nearing the finish line, but he was immediately a special player after entering the league in 2001.
Tomlinson won the NFL MVP award in 2006 when he set an NFL record with 28 rushing touchdowns and gained 2,323 yards from scrimmage. He has amassed at least 1,110 rushing yards in each of his eight seasons.
"I think my consistency, that means more than anything." Tomlinson said when asked what he is most proud of about his career to date. "As an athlete, you set out to be consistent over a period of time. When you're consistent, your teammates and coaches know what they're going to get from you each and every week."
Neal was Tomlinson's lead blocker for five years in San Diego. The Chargers clearly missed him last year after releasing him. In Baltimore, Neal gave the Ravens' run game an instant boost.
"Neal is a sixth offensive lineman," Seahawks coach Jim L. Mora said. "He relishes that job. He can't wait to go out and block you."
We couldn't go wrong with any of these choices, but Harrison and Holt were just too good to deny. Each made seven Pro Bowl teams (which was a league high this decade for receivers). Harrison won a Super Bowl ring this decade and Holt, who won a Super Bowl in the early days of 2000 after the 1999 season, played in a Super Bowl this decade.
Over six consecutive seasons (2000-05), Holt had at least 1,300 receiving yards. Harrison, who is not in the league right now after being cut by the Indianapolis Colts, had 95 touchdowns this decade.
"You cannot just look at the stats and get carried away with that stuff," ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson said. "I look at that list of names, and Holt and Harrison have to be at the top. Both of them won Super Bowls -- and they weren't in there getting cheap touchdowns like some guys. Too many guys in the media just look at those numbers. You can't put an all-decade team on the field without Holt and Harrison."
Gonzalez, who was traded from Kansas City to Atlanta in April, is still playing at a high level at age 33.
He has been to nine Pro Bowls this decade and has four 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career.
"Tony has been dominant for such a long period of time," Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He's just the best."
Both players were named to eight Pro Bowls this decade and Jones is still playing at a high level. Ogden won a Super Bowl and Jones played in a Super Bowl this decade. Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has said Jones was the greatest offensive player he ever coached. Holmgren coached Brett Favre and he was an assistant on San Francisco 49ers staffs that featured Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young. Pace was great, but he couldn't quite match what Jones and Ogden accomplished this decade.
"It's a great honor," Jones said. "You look back at your career, and you come in, just hoping not to get cut as a rookie. But I've listened to my coaches and still try to get better every year."
In the end, it was too difficult to deny those two players. Faneca, who is now with the New York Jets, has made eight Pro Bowls this decade and won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hutchinson, now with the Minnesota Vikings, has been named to seven Pro Bowls and he went to a Super Bowl with the Seahawks.
"Those guys set the tone," Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said of Faneca and Hutchinson.
Added Jones, who played with Hutchinson in Seattle for five years: "There has been great guard play, but I have to say Hutchinson wins a spot. He has been dominant for two teams. He was a great guy to play with."
The tiebreakers: Kreutz appeared in a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears and more league personnel named him than Mawae or Birk.
"You look at a guy like Kreutz and you really appreciate his consistency," San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "He is an all-decade-type player."
Tim Hasselbeck and Michael Smith break down the all-decade offense.