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Holmgren, Warner lead NFC West all-decade team

7/8/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Former Rams receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce commanded spots on my NFC West all-decade team after leading one of the most-dynamic offenses in NFL history.

Larry Fitzgerald also seemed worthy after posting three 1,400-yard seasons and staking the Cardinals into a late lead with a dramatic 64-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl XLIII.

With at least three worthy candidates for two spots -- and with receivers Anquan Boldin, Bobby Engram and Terrell Owens more deserving than any of the available tight ends -- something had to give.

"I'm hard pressed to come up with [a tight end] better than Vernon Davis," wrote regular blog contributor Mind of no mind. "But if there is nobody better, then maybe we should drop the TE from the team and go with 3 WR with Bruce."

Done deal.

Holt, Bruce and Fitzgerald became the receivers. That made more sense than adding Davis, Eric Johnson, Jerramy Stevens, Itula Mili or some other relatively unaccomplished tight end to the squad.

Such was the give and take as I sifted through nominations left on the blog and on my Facebook page. One request I couldn't quite accommodate: finding a spot for the legendary Kim Il Zong, a ka The Zonger.

A position-by position look at my NFC West all-decade team follows. Thanks to Adam from Mesa, Ariz., for getting the conversation started (download his suggested team here).

Offense

QB: Kurt Warner, Rams and Cardinals. It was either Warner or Matt Hasselbeck. Warner led two NFC West teams to Super Bowls and played well both times. He played in a third Super Bowl this decade if you count the January 2000 game against Tennessee. Warner completed a higher percentage of his passes (65.8 to 60.3) with a higher average per attempt (8.0 to 7.1), leading to a higher rating (91.9 to 84.4) in games for NFC West teams since 2000.

RB: Shaun Alexander, Seahawks. Marshall Faulk's brilliance for the Rams in the first two years of the decade earned him consideration. I listened to pleas for Frank Gore and acknowledged limitations in Alexander's game. But Alexander's sheer production -- averaging 1,500 yards per season over a 5-year period on his way to 112 total touchdowns in the decade -- set him apart.

FB: Mack Strong, Seahawks. Fred Beasley of the 49ers drew some support. Strong started 16 games in seven consecutive seasons during the decade, however.

WR: Torry Holt, Rams. Eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,188 yards in the decade made Holt an easy choice.

WR: Isaac Bruce, Rams. Averaged 16.9 and 17.3 yards per reception in the first two seasons of the decade, with five 1,000-yard seasons since 2000.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals. Boldin has more receptions, but Fitzgerald has become the more dynamic threat. And while Boldin has played more seasons, Fitzgerald has played only one fewer game. His performance during the playoffs last season clinched it.

LT: Walter Jones, Seahawks. The best left tackle in the NFL over the past decade.

LG: Steve Hutchinson, Seahawks. The best left guard in the NFL during the decade and the driving force behind Seattle's once-dominant running game.

C: Jeremy Newberry, 49ers. Two Pro Bowls with the 49ers early in the decade gave him an edge over Robbie Tobeck, Eric Heitmann and the other NFC West centers.

RG: Adam Timmerman, Rams. Started 108 games for the Rams from the 2000 through 2006 seasons.

RT: Orlando Pace, Rams. Perhaps only Jones could force a position change for Pace, himself one of the best left tackles in NFL history.

Defense

DE: Leonard Little, Rams. Has 80.5 sacks for the Rams this decade. One of the very few NFC West defensive ends opponents had to fear this decade.

DE: Chike Okeafor, 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals. Ninety-eight starts and consistently solid play for three NFC West teams in the decade.

DT: Bryant Young, 49ers. The 49ers moved him to end in their 3-4 front, but that won't keep Young from locking down a spot at defensive tackle. The NFC West interior offensive linemen I know respected Young as much as they respected any player in the league.

DT: Darnell Dockett, Cardinals. Dockett has also played end, but he remains an effective player on the inside when needed there.

LB: Lofa Tatupu, Seahawks. Three Pro Bowls in four seasons and a Super Bowl appearance gave Tatupu the edge over Patrick Willis. Willis might be the better player -- that's a debate for another day -- but two seasons wasn't enough to earn a spot on an all-decade team.

LB: Julian Peterson, 49ers and Seahawks. An easy choice given his five Pro Bowl appearances in nine seasons for two NFC West teams.

LB: Karlos Dansby, Cardinals. Willis is better than Dansby, but Dansby is the better all-decade choice, in my view, with five seasons and a Super Bowl on his resume.

S: Adrian Wilson, Cardinals. The most intimidating defensive player in the division during the decade. Has started 100 games and made two Pro Bowl appearances since 2001.

S: Tony Parrish, 49ers. Started every game for the 49ers over the first five seasons of the decade, picking off 26 passes during that time.

CB: Marcus Trufant, Seahawks. Has 94 starts, 17 interceptions and one Pro Bowl appearance during the decade.

CB: Aeneas Williams, Cardinals and Rams. I'm bending the rules a bit for Williams. He spent only three seasons as a true cornerback during the decade, moving to safety late in his career. Williams was an elite playmaker and key veteran leader for the Rams' best teams of the decade.

Specialists

PR: Az-Zahir Hakim, Rams. Averaged 15.3 and 9.2 yards per punt return during the first two years of the decade. Seattle's Engram and Nate Burleson.

P: Andy Lee, 49ers. Five seasons and a Pro Bowl appearance. 

KR: Josh Scobey, Cardinals and Seahawks. I couldn't find a clear-cut choice for the role. Scobey performed reasonably well over multiple seasons for two NFC West teams, reaching a Super Bowl.

PK: Josh Brown, Seahawks and Rams. Generally clutch kicking and excellence from long range -- including outdoors -- made Brown a worthy choice. He's also athletic enough to make tackles in the return game. Tough leaving off Jeff Wilkins, though.

LS: Brian Jennings, 49ers. An easy choice. One of the best in the league at what he does.

Head coach: Mike Holmgren, Seahawks. Another easy choice. No other coach in the division enjoyed consistent success during the decade.

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