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22 Jul 2010

The Marty Schottenheimer All-Stars

by Aaron Schatz

Last week, we started a weekly series on "coaching all-stars," the best players in the history of some of the NFL's best (and most-travelled) head coaches. This week, we continue with a look at the best players ever coached by Marty Schottenheimer.

"SKILL PLAYERS"

QB: Drew Brees, 2004 Chargers
RB: LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006 Chargers
FB: Lorenzo Neal, 2006 Chargers
WR: Derrick Alexander, 1998 Chiefs
WR: Willie Davis, 1993 Chiefs
TE: Antonio Gates, 2004 Chargers

I was a little afraid of slanting this group too much towards the recent Chargers teams, but those teams really did have absurdly good offenses. The toughest choice is between Brees and Joe Montana. Montana was slightly better on a per-play basis in 1993, but only started 11 games. In his final season he played all 16 games, but wasn't quite as good as Brees in 2004. Bernie Kosar's best season was also a short season, the 1987 strike year.

This is a bit hard to believe, but Schottenheimer only had two wide receivers with 1,000-yard seasons: Stephone Paige in 1990 and Andre Rison in 1997. We don't have DVOA for Paige, but Rison had DVOA of just 0.2% because his catch rate was 48 percent. Keenan McCardell had over 300 DYAR in 2005, but I think when we consider the offensive environment and their teammates, Alexander and Davis were slightly more impressive having 200-plus DYAR seasons for the mid-90s Chiefs.

Tomlinson's 2006 season had the seventh-highest DYAR for any running back since 1993, while Gates' 2004 season had the third-highest DYAR for any tight end. While you might wonder about the choice between Gates and Tony Gonzalez, Schottenheimer only had Gonzalez in his first two seasons, with less than 1,000 yards in the two years combined. Ozzie Newsome's 1984 season was pretty good too, but he had 100 fewer yards and five fewer touchdowns compared to Gates in 2004.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT: Chris Samuels, 2001 Redskins
LG: Dave Szott, 1997 Chiefs
C: Nick Hardwick, 2006 Chargers
RG: Will Shields, 1997 Chiefs
RT: Cody Risien, 1986 Browns

Another surprise is how few Pro Bowl offensive linemen have played for Schottenheimer teams. My count may be incorrect, but from what I can tell, Schottenheimer offensive linemen have only made 13 appearances on Pro Bowl rosters, and five of those were Will Shields. Samuels over Marcus McNeill at left tackle is probably the hardest choice. Also worth considering: Tim Grunhard, the center of the mid-90s Chiefs, and Kris Dielman at left guard for the 2006 Chargers.

FRONT SEVEN

DE: Neil Smith, 1993 Chiefs
DT: Bob Golic, 1987 Browns
DE: Carl Hairston, 1986 Browns
OLB: Derrick Thomas, 1990 Chiefs
ILB: Donnie Edwards, 1998 Chiefs
ILB: Dino Hackett, 1989 Chiefs
OLB: Shawne Merriman, 2006 Chargers

Once again, we've got a coach who generally (although not always) ran 3-4 defenses, so we'll put together a 3-4 defense. Advanced stats for the 80s sure would come in handy here, to be able to compare runs up the middle against the 1987 Browns and runs up the middle against the 2006 Chargers, but without those advanced stats I have to go with Cleveland's overall 3.5 yards allowed per carry and take Bob Golic over Jamal Williams.

The Schottenheimer pass rush would just scare the hell out of opponents. At linebacker, who would you double with your tight end: Derrick Thomas and his 20 sacks, or Shawne Merriman and his 17 sacks? If they get tired, we can bring in Chip Banks, LaVar Arrington, and Clay Matthews (Daddy version) off the bench. Oh, and Neil Smith had 15 sacks as a 3-4 defensive end in 1993, which is just ridiculous -- although I have to think that was some sort of hybrid scheme. I'd love to hear from someone who knows more about those Dave Adolph defenses. The Chiefs switched to a 4-3 when Gunther Cunningham took over in 1995.

Inside linebacker is tough, because Schottenheimer never really had standout inside linebackers in his 3-4 defenses other than Edwards. If we didn't go with Hackett, we could kick one of the outside linebackers from Schottenheimer's 4-3 defenses inside, either Arrington in 2001 or Junior Seau in 2002.

SECONDARY

CB: Champ Bailey, 2001 Redskins
CB: Hanford Dixon, 1986 Browns
FS: Deron Cherry, 1989 Chiefs
SS: Rodney Harrison, 2002 Chargers

From what I can tell, Schottenheimer has never had a Pro Bowl safety on his team. I had to page through a bunch of listings for guys I had never heard of, so the free safety pick is a total stab in the dark. (At least I could identify that having Rodney Harrison, even for just one year, is a good thing.) On the other hand, he loves good cornerbacks. Besides Bailey and Dixon, Schottenheimer corners to make the Pro Bowl included Albert Lewis, Dale Carter, James Hasty, Kevin Ross, and Frank Minnifield.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Nick Lowery, 1990 Chiefs
P: Mike Scifres, 2006 Chargers
RET: Tamarick Vanover, 1995 Chiefs

Special teams are hard to choose without advanced stats for earlier years. Pete Stoyanovich hit 26 of 27 field-goal tries in 1997, but was awful on kickoffs. I have no idea how good Lowery was on kickoffs in 1990, but he hit 34 of 37 field goals, so as long as he was at least average, he's our man. The 1997 Chiefs also had great punt value but that was more coverage than it was Louie Aguiar. Vanover had three touchdowns in 1995, so he gets the nod over 1987 Pro-Bowler Gerald McNeil.

The overall patterns here? Schottenheimer's teams have a really remarkable pattern of great running backs and tight ends without star wide receivers. He's had great pass rushers but mostly mediocre inside linebackers, and his cornerbacks have been far, far better than his safeties. (You do not want a Schottenheimer team running a Tampa-2, ever.)

For those wondering, I don't plan on doing head coaches who have spent their entire careers with one organization, such as Bill Walsh and Tom Landry. Those lists would effectively just be franchise all-star lists. I'm more interested in guys who have gone from team to team, because a) mixing players like that it just more fun and b) it might give us some hints about what kind of players that coach likes, separate from the question of what kind of players historically dominate in a specific organization like the 49ers.

Next week: Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs? Even if we hold them in June? Kelvin Bryant and Peyton Manning share the stage for The Jim Mora All-Stars.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 22 Jul 2010

76 comments, Last at 26 Jul 2010, 1:28pm by Jeff Fogle

Comments

1
by Birdman84 (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 12:54pm

Loved Bob Golic in Saved By The Bell: The College Years.

55
by Jetspete :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:21pm

i'm really amazed that Mike became the more famous golic brother. Bob was one of my favorite color commentators back in the 90's, and will always have cult status for SBTB:TCY.

2
by Dean :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 1:02pm

"Advanced stats for the 80s sure would come in handy here"

Is it wrong of me to cringe when I read that? I know this site is dedicated to advanced analysis, and I'm grateful to have it for the modern game. But I'm not sure I want it applied to the game I remember as a child. I think I'd rather remember my impressions, even if they might be flawed.

That shouldn't stop you from extending your analysis as far back as possible, but I had to give pause when I read that.

I'd probably take McNeil over Vannover. Ice Cube was just electric. But again, that's just going by my own recollections rather than anything scientific. Vannover? Eh.

Thinking back, I'm not sure I'd put Arrington on an all-anything team, except for possibly all-hype. You could count on him making one or 2 Sportscenter plays, and also count on him for blowing it on 10 or so routine plays.

3
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 1:25pm

I think you mean 1990 Derrick Thomas (that was the 20-sack year)--he was gone by 2000.

I tried making my own Schottenheimer team when you said this was coming, but I decided to hold onto it for this week and mark where I was different.

1. I took 1993 Montana. DVOA favors Montana, and I also considered Montana's offensive supporting cast to be light years short of what Brees had. To me, that made Montana the winner. Steve DeBerg's 1990 season also deserves a mention.
2. I took Jamal Williams, but it's admittedly because I saw how good Williams was and not Golic.
3. I did take Thomas, but I took the 1996 version. My impression (as someone who was admittedly pretty young) was that early on he was a good pass rusher but a complete liability in every other way. By 1994 or so, he was at least a little more well-rounded (he still wasn't good at anything else but he wasn't god-awful any longer). This may be motivated by my generally low opinion of Derrick Thomas, though.
4. I took 1990 Albert Lewis over Dixon.

The scariest thing about this team to me, having grown up a Broncos fan, is that Thomas, whom I didn't think was a very good player overall but was a scary pass rusher, and Rodney Harrison, who scared me more than anyone else in the league while he was with the Chargers, are on the same defense.

4
by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 1:26pm

Whoops, right. Fixed Thomas.

17
by darwithabar (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 3:23pm

Seriously, a low opinion of Thomas? He is the best pass rusher to ever grace a football field. I know you're saying it because you're a Bronco fan. Still, thats just being stupid. Thats like saying elway sucked, or that Terrell Davis just wasnt that good. Get real kid.

21
by Dean :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 4:11pm

So what about me? I always considered him among the most overrated players of his time. He was Gastineau without the attitude. If he ever tackled a running back, it was purely an accident.

And "the best pass rusher to ever grace a football field?" Even as hypberbole, that's laughable. Yeah, dude could rush the QB. But best ever? Seriously? Were you not watching Reggie White at the same time? Deacon Jones? Even Bruce Smith in his prime? The list goes on.

22
by Marko :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 4:32pm

Yes, that was laughable. Thomas wasn't even the best pass rushing OLB ever. Hello? Ever see Lawrence Taylor play?

61
by RickD :: Sat, 07/24/2010 - 11:29pm

+1

Derrick Thomas was a good player, but at his best was nowhere near LT.

30
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 5:09pm

A. He's not the best pass rusher ever to grace a football field. Certainly not so obviously so that you can say it without fear of contradiction.
B. Perhaps I should have said that differently--lower opinion of Thomas than most. As Dean said above, he was extraordinarily overrated (By the way, "If he ever tackled a running back, it was purely an accident" is a good line and accurate.), because he was a one-trick pony. It was a hell of a trick, but he just wasn't really as good as people like to say. I'm not saying he was a terrible player.
C. No, I'm not saying that just because I'm a Bronco fan (which I didn't actually say I am before). If anything, being a Bronco fan and watching him terrorize Elway for 12.3% of his career sacks (Fun Fact: about 1/3 of his career sacks were of John Elway, Dave Krieg, and Jeff George.) gave me a higher opinion of him than I otherwise would have had

58
by silentrat :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 1:33pm

Having watched nearly every snap of Dwight Freeney's career (and being a big fan of Dwight) I can unequivocally say that DT was a more dangerous pass rusher than 93, as he had the rare ability to take over a game and seemingly just decide that he was going to get sacks. Every now and then Freeney and some of the others who play now will have those moments, but with Derrick Thomas it seemed like every time I saw him on TV he was dragging down the passer.

75
by Noah of Arkadia :: Mon, 07/26/2010 - 12:52pm

Derrick Thomas was an amazing passrusher. I don't think saying one dude is the best ever at any position makes sense, but Thomas certainly was one of the best ever.

5
by jklps :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 1:48pm

I hope Joe Gibbs is up one week...

6
by Vince Verhei :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:08pm

If I remember right, the year Neil Smith had all those sacks, the Chiefs ran a 4-3 with Smith and Thomas at defensive end.

42
by Travis :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:10am

The 1993 Chiefs' starting lineups show what looks like a 4-3, but with Thomas listed at "RBK." I'm not quite sure what that was, but the other listed front seven positions are standard (LE, LT, RT, LLB, MLB, RLB).

49
by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:00pm

Interesting. P-F-R lists them as a 3-4 that year. Neil Smith did play DE in the 3-4 earlier in Schottenheimer's career so even if we didn't pick that season, we would end up with Neil Smith in some year as one of our two defensive ends.

56
by Shattenjager :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:48pm

Maybe RBK means "rover back?"

I'm not exactly sure what a rover back is, but it's a phrase I've heard before (from the '70s, I think), though the one I specifically remember is George Webster (on PFR Podcast Episode 10), who was an undersized, speedy linebacker and does not seem to have been much at all like Thomas.

59
by silentrat :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 1:35pm

"Rushbacker" was what I interpreted it to be, just kind of like linebacker but reflective of his lack of running back responsibility.

60
by Travis :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 1:36pm

"RBK" stood for "rush backer," as explained here:

Midway through the 1992 season, the Chiefs switched to a 4-3 defense. The outside linebacker responsibilities changed, and Thomas dropped into coverage more. [In 1993], to try an take advantage of his skills as a rusher, Thomas became a defensive end. The Chiefs called the position "rush backer," and they tricked up the defense to protect Thomas from having to take on defensive tackles in regular-down situations....

"At rush backer you have no range of motion," Thomas said. "You are confined to one side of the ball and you chase. It's a very limited role."

Generally, the rush backer lined up outside the tackle on the side opposite the tight end.

The Chiefs switched Thomas back to linebacker in 1994.

7
by Dean :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:08pm

"For those wondering, I don't plan on doing head coaches who have spent their entire careers with one organization, "

8
by jklps :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:23pm

Well I was hoping..then saw that.

Of course, the two runs Gibbs had in DC were decades apart - plus each of the three super bowl teams had different QBs...

9
by Thok :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:25pm

While I realize that he wasn't a coach, would you consider doing a Vinnie Testaverde all-star team? He's got a fairly similar amount of churn and length to his career as Parcells/Schottenheimer.

16
by dmb :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 3:22pm

I like your amusing-but-true point about the shape of Testaverde's career. However, P-F-R already took a pretty interesting look at his offensive teammates. It wasn't pretty...

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=5449

31
by Dales :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 5:20pm

I drafted Vinny Testaverde in the first year of my dynasty league after his third NFL season.

He won me my league by throwing to Witten for a 2-pt conversion in his last major time as a QB (my starter, Palmer, had been injured).

All hail Vinny.

34
by Kibbles :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 6:07pm

I actually love the idea of doing it by player, but I think it'd be more fun to do it with a true afterthought journeyman type. The kind of guy who 10 years from now fans are going to scratch their head and say "who?". For instance, think about the Gus Frerotte All-Stars. 5 years with Washington, 1 with Detroit, 2 with Denver, 1 with Cincy, 2 with Minnesota, 1 with Miami, 2 with St. Louis, then 1 more with Minnesota again. That's seven different stints with 6 different teams over 15 years. You could even pick which Gus was the best Gus and have him QB the team- there'll be no clipboard holding for Gus Frerotte on the Gus Frerotte All-Stars! Plus it'd be fun to theorize what sort of teams the Gus Frerotte All-Stars could beat, given that they had Gus Frerotte at QB. Could they beat the 2007 Patriots? The '85 Bears? The 2009 NFC Pro Bowlers? The 2005 first team AP All Pro team? The Bubby Brister All-Stars or the Jeff Blake All-Stars? How about the Jeff Feagles or Morten Andersen All-Stars?

41
by sswoods (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 11:35pm

Steve DeBerg All-Stars. Consider the tough luck this guy had: starts for San Francisco, but gets moved to make room for Joe Montana. Goes to Denver, replaced by John Elway. Tampa is next, till Testaverde shows up. Kansas City is the next destination, at least they replaced him with Dave Krieg for a year before bringing in Montana.
Teams:
San Francisco
Denver
Tampa Bay
Kansas City
Tampa Bay again
Miami
Atlanta

62
by RickD :: Sat, 07/24/2010 - 11:42pm

Yeah, I wonder why DeBerg kept getting replaced? What was it about Deberg's play that kept leaving coaching thinking "We really need to get a better QB"

Well, it's not like he was horrible every single season. Looking through his numbers, it seems like he usually threw way too many picks. He finished his career with more picks than TDs, and that's not a good sign. He had one year that could be considered a top-tier performance, in 1990 when he passed for 3444 yards at a 58.1% completion rate, with 23 TDs and only 4 INTs. But at the other end of the spectrum: he threw 96 passes in 1986, and threw 12 picks!!

66
by Shattenjager :: Sun, 07/25/2010 - 4:47pm

Warning, this is a very long post, because Steve DeBerg is one of my favorite subjects. I'm sure this will interest almost no one, so I'm giving you warning.

I think if you look at each movement he made, it looks far less weird and more like he was just a victim of circumstances.

1. San Francisco 1978-1980.
Drafted in the tenth round, DeBerg ends up starting 11 games for a 2-14 team that fires its coach mid-season. DeBerg puts up one of the worst statistical seasons in the history of NFL quarterbacking. The next year, Bill Walsh is hired and drafts Joe Montana in the third round. DeBerg responds by putting up a solid season (106 ANY/A+). Then, in 1980, DeBerg's numbers regress (89 ANY/A+), he gets injured, and his performance pales in comparison to Montana (110 ANY/A+). With Montana now in place, DeBerg goes to Denver.
Considering DeBerg's inconsistent history and Montana's performance, DeBerg going elsewhere makes sense.

2. Denver 1981-1983.
Rookie head coach Dan Reeves brings in DeBerg behind 38-year-old starter Craig Morton. Morton then has his best season since 1970 (116 ANY/A+) and DeBerg is okay in 108 attempts (102 ANY/A+). In 1982, I'm not sure what happened because of the strike, but it ended up that Morton started 3 games and DeBerg 5 games, with both performing poorly (86 ANY/A+ for DeBerg, Morton throwing 3 INTs on 26 total attempts). The Broncos respond to their first losing season since 1975 by pulling off a blockbuster trade for number one overall draft pick John Elway. Consider that at this point, DeBerg has under his belt three and a half years as a starter and they basically break down as: one horrendous, one and a half bad, and one above average. There's certainly logic in favor of Denver deciding to make a move for a seemingly can't-miss prospect instead. DeBerg actually performs fairly well in 1983 (102 ANY/A+), but we all know a first overall pick is going to get a shot pretty quickly. So, DeBerg now goes to Tampa.
At this point, he's been in the league six years, starting for basically four and a half: two seasons above average, one horrendous, and one and a half bad. He certainly must have looked like a mixed bag at this point.

3. Tampa Bay 1984-1987.
DeBerg is brought in theoretically to back up abject failure and former third overall pick Jack Thompson. Tampa Bay had already also used its first rounder in the supplemental draft of UFL and CFL players on Steve Young, but he did not sign. Thompson continues to be awful and DeBerg is starting before the end of September. DeBerg's numbers are right on average for the year (103 ANY/A+), but the team finishes 6-10 and head coach John McKay steps down. With new head coach Leeman Bennett coming in, the team also finally signs Young. DeBerg starts the first 11 games in 1985 and puts up average numbers (100 ANY/A+) on a 1-11 team before Young takes over following an injury to DeBerg. In 1986, DeBerg is still the starter, but is awful in the first two games (45 ANY/A+) while the team loses by a combined score of 54-17 and so the team turns to Young. Young is also awful (83 ANY/A+) and the team finishes 2-14.
Owning the first overall pick in the draft (again), here's what TB would have seen at QB: DeBerg has been in the league 9 years and been a starter for basically 5 of them, looking average about half the time and awful the rest while Young has been awful his entire year and a half in the league. It doesn't seem like a surprise that they decide to take a QB number one and trade away Young.
1987 is another strike year and so there is some weird stuff that happens, but the team ends up with now-33-year-old DeBerg starting 8 games and looking surprisingly effective (109 ANY/A+) while it goes 2-6. Testaverde takes over and looks like a rookie (89 ANY/A+) while the team goes 0-4.
Having just drafted a QB, Tampa is not going to start DeBerg, so he goes to Kansas City.

4. Kansas City 1988-1991.
Kansas City's QB situation had been a mess for years, with consistently effective 12th rounder Bill Kenney filling in for consistently ineffective and injury-prone seventh overall pick Todd Blackledge. Blackledge was finally gone, but Kenney was now 33 years old. Kenney started the first two games of the season before his ineffectiveness gave way to DeBerg the rest of the season (though Kenney did get three more starts due to a DeBerg injury). Kenney finished with 53 ANY/A+, including zero touchdowns in 114 attempts over 5 starts. DeBerg's performance was average, and while the team finished 4-11-1 overall, it was 4-6-1 in DeBerg's starts. Kenney was released after the season and never played again and once again DeBerg sees a coaching change, with Marty Schottenheimer taking over.
So, at 35 years old, DeBerg comes into a season as the expected starter with no rookie waiting to take his place for the first time in his career. He performs well (106 ANY/A+) while losing six games to injury. In 1990, DeBerg has a legitimately excellent season (132 ANY/A+) while the team goes 11-5. This is also the only time in DeBerg's career that he would start 16 games. In 1991, DeBerg remains above average (106 ANY/A+) starting 15 games while the Chiefs go 10-6.
With DeBerg being 38 years old, the Chiefs let him go, bringing in 34-year-old Dave Krieg (who would have one good year as a starter before Montana arrived). When you've got a 38 year old journeyman QB performing slightly above average, can you say it's unusual to let him go? I don't think so.

5. Tampa Bay/Miami/Atlanta 1992-3, 1998.
At this point, DeBerg is a backup, probably because of his age. He goes to Tampa Bay to back up Testaverde again and gets two poor starts (86 ANY/A+) in 1992. He then backs up first-year starter Craig Erickson at the start of 1993 but then goes to Miami, where he fills in on an injury-riddled Dolphins team for 4 starts and puts up average numbers (100 ANY/A+). He retires at the end of the season, then for some reason comes back for the 1998 Falcons (I'm guessing because of his past relationship with Reeves, but it's just a guess.) and is on the roster when they lose the Super Bowl.

67
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Sun, 07/25/2010 - 5:07pm

Great post.

68
by Jerry :: Sun, 07/25/2010 - 6:36pm

Agreed. Thanks.

10
by Marko :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:28pm

I'm sure Jim Mora's team would get its ass kicked and wouldn't be able to do diddly poo offensively.

His all-star team deserves to have an additional selection for postgame rant. "Playoffs?" vs. "diddly poo." Let the debate begin.

13
by John (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:37pm

Manning/Harrison/James, the Colts triplets, and you don't think his team would have an offense?

15
by Marko :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 3:14pm

You obviously don't get the "diddly poo" reference. I will help you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX4ox7aX_wc

14
by tuluse :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:46pm

Playoffs easy. He just keeps going on and on.

24
by Independent George :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 4:46pm

Do we include his champion USFL team?

27
by Dean :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 4:59pm

I would hope so. There were some great players on that team. Sam Mills, Irv Eatman, Sean Landeta, the Oates Brothers... And guys like Chuck Fusina, Scott Fitzkee and Kelvin Bryant maybe weren't NFL stars, but they were bona fide studs in the USFL.

I never understood why David Trout didn't latch on in the NFL. You'd think that if he can kick for a championship team in one pro league, he'd be able to make the exact same kicks in another.

William Fuller... Antonio Gibson... George Jamison... Mike Johnson... Pete Kugler... Mike Lush... I'm in full-on nostalgia mode now. There was a LOT of talent on that Stars team.

39
by mm (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 10:00pm

Mora doesn't really need to count his Philadelphia players that didn't go to the Saints. When he was with the Saints he had a great Defense, but little passing game. When he was with the Colts he had a great offense, but couldn't get the defense going.

Take the front 7 from the Saints D and mix and match Corners and Safeties from the Saints & Colts.

Take most of the Colts Offense, but definitely put Willie Roaf in there and consider Dalton Hilliard's 1989 season (while his averages probably fall short of James, he would have been awesome with Manning as his QB). Another Saints linemen or 2 might make it. Morten Andersen was still young and strong playing for Mora, so that's an easy choice for placekicker (looking at his reference page, maybe 1986 for his best Mora season, though it doesn't have any info on kickoffs). Mel Gray might be your returner.

Overall, you'd have a frightening offense, defense, and special teams.

50
by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:02pm

Yes, I will be including the Baltimore/Philadelphia Stars. Sam Mills was on that team, Sean Landeta, Bryant... good players.

11
by JT (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:28pm

Shawne Merriman played for the 2006 Chiefs?

I did not know that.

12
by Mark in ga (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 2:30pm

One thing about Loui Aguiar, although overall stats were not great, when a big kick was needed he delivered. Either fantastic hang time or kicking it beyond the return man. Also he was a big guy who punted and was a definate asset in coverage, Loui didn't run backwards he moved forward but mindful of his role as safety, however he went to the return man not waiting on him to come to him.

The result ot this was in many cases a much lower return yardage, on punts where the defense broke down. Either loiu made the tackle or slowed them down enough for someone to catch him from behind. Less yardage given up, improved field position for the defense.

18
by carljm :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 3:41pm

Wow, what a great trip down memory lane. I grew up playing Tecmo Super Bowl ('91 rosters) and always played as the Chiefs. Steve DeBerg, Derrick Thomas, Stephone Paige, Nick Lowery... Now I just need someone to put Christian Okoye on an all-something list somewhere. That guy was a monster in Tecmo Super Bowl.

19
by tuluse :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 3:53pm

I think NFL films put him on a top 10 list for something. Maybe they just mentioned him as not making it though.

36
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 6:16pm

top 10 power bakcks #9

20
by Junior (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 4:00pm

Dino Hackett did not play in 1998. His last year was 1991, he was injured in 1992, and was cut from the Chiefs in the summer of 1993.

The Chiefs switched to a 4-3 before 1993 - they actually made the switch during the 1992 season but were still playing enough 3-4 to be considered "hybrid" in 1992. They were exclusively a 4-3 team in 1993.

51
by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:04pm

Whoops. Transposed. I meant 1989 Dino Hackett.

23
by Anonymous 2 (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 4:37pm

Good list, interesting Schottenheimer never had a dominant Middle/Inside LB except for Donnie Edwards on the Chiefs, who then went to the Chargers. Even after the Schottenheimer era of the Chargers, San Diego STILL doesn't have a dominant ILB and is just now having a good FS in Eric Weddle. Is that coaching influence or GM influence?

Too bad AJ Smith let Bree go for the 2006 season (14-2 with Phillip Rivers, both losses by 3 points), if they had a veteran QB the Chargers might have made it to the Superbowl to face the Bears.....

29
by tuluse :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 5:05pm

Maybe inside linebackers aren't all that vital to 3-4 defenses?

44
by Scott C :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 2:37am

Actually, they are important to 3-4 defenses. They just don't collect much in the way of sacks, and aren't supposed to spend much time in the backfield, so they have boring stat lines even if they are very good.

One of the two has to be good in coverage (Donnie Edwards type), and at best might look good because of ~5 INT's in a year but lots of tackles downfield. The other has to be good against the run and aid the the d-line by playing disciplined in running lanes and stout against FB's, and will likely have nothing interesting other than a lot of tackles on a stat line. If the ILB's contribute to a good running D, the D-line gets the credit. If they contribute to shutting down TE's, the secondary / safety gets the credit unless INT's are obvious.

46
by Jerry :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 7:09am

There may be some difference in 3-4s, but generally the line is supposed to eat blocks and free up the LBs to make tackles. ILBs will end up with people noticing their big tackle numbers, even though it's just how the defense is designed.

48
by David :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 10:20am

Patrick Willis disagrees with your analysis

52
by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:06pm

If you remember from FO analysis, the Chargers completely outplayed the Patriots in their postseason loss in 2006. They lost on a ton of lucky bounces, particularly Troy Brown stripping an interception return from Marlon McCree. Replacing Brees with Rivers had absolutely zero percent responsibility for that loss. They were already the number one seed, so more wins in the regular season would have meant nothing.

63
by RickD :: Sat, 07/24/2010 - 11:51pm

Gotta love this sentence:

"If you remember from FO analysis, the Chargers completely outplayed the Patriots in their postseason loss in 2006"

Is "completely outplayed" really an appropriate phrase to use in a game that they lost? If they had "completely outplayed" the Patriots, they would have won the game!!

The point of the game is to score more than the opponent, not to record a higher DVOA score. Aaron, you seem to forget this sometimes.

Somehow, Marty's teams have found ways to "completely outplay" opponents in playoff losses many times. He's a very good coach at building a strong system, but a terrible playoff coach because he can never make adjustments beyond his basic system.

Good god! The Chargers couldn't win a home game against the Jets! last season!

65
by Jeff Fogle :: Sun, 07/25/2010 - 12:24pm

Be the voice of reason please, as editor in chief...

"Completely" outplayed? I can see outplayed, with a yardage edge of 352-327. Yardage was basically dead even (eyeballing the drive charts) in the second half when the game was on the line. New England won the turnover category 3-4. Would agree that if you pencil in even turnovers, that swings the game to a close San Diego win...corresponding with the yardage.

"Absolutely zero percent responsibility for the that loss"? I think the poster was suggesting a veteran quarterback might have been more productive with the game (and season) on the line...more productive than scoring just 7 points in the second half of a home game as a favored top seed.

SECOND HALF SAN DIEGO DRIVES
3 plays, 2 yards, punt (Rivers 0-2 passing)
6 plays, -6 yards, punt (Rivers 0-1 passing, plus a 10-yard sack)
4 plays, 23 yards, interception (Rivers 1-2-1-12 passing)
9 plays, 83 yards, TD...Rivers had a great drive
3 plays, 5 yards, punt (after NE had tied the game...CRUNCH time failure)
4 plays, 39 yards, missed a very long field goal in the final seconds (Rivers 3 of 7 for 39 yards against a prevent defense that had the clock in its favor)

Now, Rivers played all season for a 14-2 team, so it's not like we're dealing with a deer in the headlights. But, Rivers wasn't able to take control of the second half of a big playoff game the way a more veteran QB might have. I think that may have been the point the poster was aiming for. For the game, Rivers was 14 of 32 passing, and the Chargers were 5 of 14 on third downs. As a favored top seed playing at home.

Save words like "completely" and "absolutely" for blowhard posters please. Stat analysis helps explain the probabilities and possibilities. A team couldn't be "completely" outplaying an opponent when five of their six second half drives failed. I think most of us watched the game. Reminding us that San Diego won stats but lost the "bounce of the ball" stuff was helpful. Overstepping with the verbiage just makes FO look bad...

69
by Tom Gower :: Sun, 07/25/2010 - 8:58pm

Since you wondered, let's go back to the nether regions of the archives and look up ... DVOA from that playoff game:

NE -25%
SD 71%

I don't know about you, but I'd say it's probably fair to say a 96% DVOA differential counts as "completely outplayed." Now, SD's Offensive DVOA that game was merely good at 15% and not elite like their elite 27.0% regular season total, but New England had a decent defense of their own (-9.3%, 7th, and -11.2%, 6th v Pass), so that's not completely unsurprising.

70
by Jeff Fogle :: Sun, 07/25/2010 - 10:27pm

Appreciate you looking that up and posting it for everyone Tom, even if we disagree. I would be on the side of readers that think that's in indictment of DVOA.

We all watched the game (or most of us anyway I assume). In my opinion, it's difficult to argue that a team that won total yardage by 25 for the game, won the first half 14-10 on the scoreboard with a slight edge in yardage, but lost the second half 14-7 with a toss-up in yardage, and had six unproductive drives out of seven with the game on the line AT HOME, as A TOP SEED, "completely outplayed" their opponent. I'd buy "slightly outplayed but had bad luck with fumbles." I'd buy "should have won a close game instead of losing a close game."

How about "San Diego dominated New England in DVOA?" That would be accurate.

Would you at least agree that DVOA is the minority view about that encounter? From the wire service report at ESPN's website:

"We lost to a better team today," Tomlinson said. "Hopefully the next opportunity we have we'll learn something from this."

Game report available at:
http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=270114024

Readers will have to determine for themselves I guess if the game they remember, or study from the report link, justifies the phrase "completely outplayed" from the San Diego perspective. If 3 and out, 6 and out, 4 and a pick, one great drive, 3 and out, 4 and a desperation field goal...in the second half, with the game on the line, at home, as a top seed, is part of a 96% differential in DVOA, then it's not unreasonable to consider that a strike against DVOA in terms of its ability to paint an accurate picture of a game that's just been played.

Appreciate you getting the numbers for the discussion. Helps us see how DVOA compares to the traditional boxscore stats in painting the picture of a game. Something simple like 2-times-rushing, plus passing, times 0.67, divided by 15 (old school method of doubling the impact of rushing yardage and using the ancient yards-per-point divisor)yields a 22-17 edge for San Diego (on the Vegas line of SD -5). With even turnovers, the stats match expectations. New England won the turnover battle 3-4 and turned the result the other way. Don't think 22-17 in "stat score" would represent "completely outplaying" somebody...and not losing the turnover battle is part of what it takes to outplay somebody.

Or, just focusing on long drives tells the same story. On drives of 60 yards or more, San Diego won scoreboard 14-10. New England was able to turn an SD miscue into a relatively cheap TD (32 yards), ultimately flip-flopping the scoreboard.

The simple stuff paints a more accurate picture in my view regarding this particular game.

71
by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 07/25/2010 - 11:58pm

As a Patriots fan, I remember that game clearly. I honestly felt like the Patriots were completely outplayed, and ended up grabbing the luckiest playoff win I can remember (even luckier than Denver's win over the Pats which contained THAT Champ Bailey 100 yard interception return fumble, for which I will forever have a not-quite-satisfied mancrush on Ben Watson). If it wasn't for the Troy Brown/Marlon McCree episode, I honestly believe we'd be remembering that game as a solid but unspectacular, dare I say scrappy, Patriots team hanging tough on the basis of its solid defense in a narrow road loss against a clearly superior Chargers outfit.

The Patriots came as close as it is possible to get to losing that game, only surviving in the end thanks to the most spectacular of San Diego brainfarts. Even as a Patriots fan, I can hardly believe you don't think the Patriots were comfortably outplayed, even going so far as to say dominated.

72
by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 07/26/2010 - 12:38am

Appreciate your comments BHA. I guess I have to ask what about the five failed possessions in six in the second half made you believe that San Diego was "completely outplaying" New England? That was: 3 and out, 6 and out, 4 and a pick, one great drive, 3 and out, 4 and a desperation field goal...in the second half, with the game on the line, at home.

I know that New England wasn't setting the world on fire. NEITHER team was setting the world on fire in the second half (14-7 final score for NE with a cheap TD drive).

For the game...
Total Yardage: San Diego 352, New England 327
Penalty Yardage: San Diego 64, New England 45
(Meaning SD negated much of their yardage edge with penalties)

First Downs: San Diego 21, New England 18
Pass Percentage: New England 53%, San Diego 44%

I agree that a comprehensive composite would give San Diego an edge...with the 3-4 loss in turnovers (triggered by the double turnover play) being the key play that flip-flopped the result.

I'll agree with you about "solid, unspectacular, and scrappy" for that New England team. And, I think we'd all agree San Diego was the better team that season off the 14-2 mark. But, that doesn't mean that when they played, San Diego was completely outplaying them. And, I'm surprised you think New England was dominated. San Diego had five failed drives in six in the second half, with the game on the line. That's "dominating" New England?

I guess I was too rash in suggesting Aaron wasn't being the voice of reason. I do disagree about how this game was characterized. And, I think that the traditional boxscore stats tell the story well. San Diego was better, but not enough to trump losses in the turnover and penalty departments.

The game was 14-10 at the half
The game was 14-13 after three quarters
San Diego led 21-13 for about 7 minutes
New England tied it

After New England tied it, San Diego went three and out, followed by New England driving 72 yards for the game winning field goal. It was San Diego's game to win and they couldn't do it. San Diego had a poor second half. That's not completely outplaying someone. Penalties and turnovers count. The full 60 minutes count.

It may end up that we're debating what "completely" means I guess. 352-327 with negative penalties and turnovers doesn't qualify in my view.

73
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 07/26/2010 - 1:33am

Well first of all, I'm looking at it from a fan's - rather than a statistical analyst's - point of view which adds an enormous amount of subjectivity into the mix. Here are some of the non-subjective things that helped create that impression though:
- Tom Brady threw three interceptions, which he (certainly at that time) never does (did) in the playoffs. The Chargers' defense played extremely well for the most part.
- The Chargers gained 148 yards on the ground (4.5 average per rush) and it felt like the Patriots were struggling immensely to stop their ground game. This was borne out particularly by the Tomlinson touchdown.
- Though Rivers wasn't completing a high percentage of passes, he wasn't throwing interceptions either which meant he seemed to be outperforming Brady.
- The Chargers WERE getting interceptions, which gave the perception of them having the defensive edge (watching I would have had the perception of fumble takeaways being basically random, "luck rather than skill" plays).
- I never had any faith whatsoever in Ellis Hobbs as a cornerback, and spent the entire game waiting for him to be torched.
- 54 yard field goals are relatively low percentage, but definitely makeable.
- We saw far too much of Todd Sauerbrun for my liking.

It felt like - and I emphasise felt like - every break the Patriots got was luck, whereas every break the Chargers got was skill. You only need to look at Troy "Get Out of Jail Free" Brown forcing a fumble to see what I mean. It especially felt like (and I think FO would agree knowing how they treat fumbles) Patriots turnovers were bad plays, Chargers turnovers were bad luck (eg. muffed punt). Add to that the fact that the Patriots recovered every single fumble in the game (5/5, both of their own and all three of the Chargers') and it gives an idea of just how luckily the Patriots' luck lucked out. Even if you just take out McCree's fumble (a fluke play if ever there was one) and even up the recovery luck, and you've a two turnover advantage for the Chargers instead of a one turnover deficit. That alone can be enough to change a three point loss into a double-digit victory.

Hence, feeling like they were comfortably outplayed, perhaps even dominated, except in that all-important "luck" department.

74
by tuluse :: Mon, 07/26/2010 - 2:22am

I only vaguely remember this game now, but it seemed like every time Tomlinson touched the ball it was 6 yards, and the Pats could do nothing about it.

76
by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 07/26/2010 - 1:28pm

Great post BHA. Agree with you about the difference between how a fan and a stat type might see a game. And, statheads bring their own subjectivity to the process too of course. Even in trying to be as objective as possible, I bring biases to the table about which factors carry more weight than others. Don't mean to suggest otherwise. Just trying to work toward the most accurate representation possible of what happened.

Regarding your points...I think it's tough in a one-game situation to know which turnovers are the result of luck, which are brain farts, etc... Agree that the bounce of the ball didn't go SD's way when the ball was actually bouncing. Not entirely ready to say their interceptions of Brady were all skill. May have been some brain farts in there from Brady that some might consider luck as well (SD was fortunate Brady made a poor choice or two for example). What makes sense in the world of big numbers may make less sense when you're looking at just one game.

Sauerbrun had 7 punts. So did Scifres. The frustration you felt as a Patriots fan about punting all the time was probably similarly shared by SD fans about their own punting frequency. And, that's actually an additional point in favor of it NOT being a game where SD outplayed or dominated NE. They both punted the same amount of times.

Both you and tuluse mentioned the running game and Tomlinson, so I went back and grabbed Tomlinson's rushes from the play by play of the earlier espn link. I actually get 24 listed rushes instead of 23...for the same 123 yards. Double-checked. So, something's amiss somewhere, but not in a way that will affect any conclusions we draw from the data.

Tomlinson from low to high (midpoints in parenthesis):
0-0-0-1-2-2-2-2-3-3-3-(3-3)-4-5-5-6-6-9-11-11-13-14-15

LT had some very nice runs. The majority were for 3 yards or less. The breakdown of those suggests something interesting about how the game was perceived, and New England's defensive strategy.

ALL FIVE of LT's double digit runs came on first down...on the first play of a series...in his own territory. Meaning, it was the first play of a drive...the NE defense had most of the field behind them...and they were apparently playing soft to keep things in front of them. Here's an itemized listing of ALL of LT's rushes that started off a series inside his own 40 yard line:

1st and 10 at the 26: 11 yards
1st and 10 at the 35: 15 yards
1st and 10 at the 39: 14 yards
1st and 10 at the 23: 11 yards (ultimately a TD drive)
1st and 10 at the 34: 2 yards
1st and 10 at the 17: 13 yards (ultimately a TD drive)
1st and 10 at the 29: 5 yards

That's 7 carries for 71 yards, a whopping 10.1 yards per carry against NE at its most passive.

LT had 16 carries for just 47 yards the rest of the time (2.93 ypc)
The team as a whole had 77 yards on 26 carries the rest of the time (2.96 ypc)

This may be the crux of what's causing different perceptions about the SD run game, and their "control" of the afternoon. LT would pop a nice run at the beginning of multiple drives...and NE fans (and probably announcers) would say "they just can't stop LT." But, then, defending their own half of the field, NE did a good job. Again, LT was at a fraction under 3 yards per carry when NOT starting off a drive inside his own 40. And, the five big runs to start drives only ultimately led to two TD drives (SD's third TD drive started on NE's side of the field).

Or...(after going back to the play-by-play to get drive starters for both teams)

Total Yardage Excluding Drive Openers inside your own 40:
New England 284, San Diego 267

Yards-Per-Play Excluding Drive Openers inside your own 40:
New England 4.73, San Diego 4.68

How much of the game we watched was "San Diego in complete control?" And, how much was New England playing soft on the first plays of a drive on the other side of the field to make sure they didn't give up a long TD...before clamping down much more aggressively once the ball was near midfield? How one interprets that is probably a strong influence in how they interpret the game.

Thanks for the discussion. To me, this could be considered more evidence that part of DVOA is actually measuring the choices teams make rather than actual game-impact quality. And that any stat measurement approach has to figure out a way to account for that as best as possible. I don't think DVOA painted an accurate picture here.

25
by Mike Elseroad (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 4:49pm

This may be too far back in time for Aaron & co., but how 'bout a Chuck Knox All-Star team?

That defense would be tremendous.

45
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 6:39am

Hell, I want to see all star teams for Guy Chamberlain and Jimmy Conzelman. 1923 Pete Henry (Canton Bulldogs) or 1926 Johnny Budd (Frankford Yellow Jackets)? How can you make a fair comparison between players on the 1921 Rock Island Independents of the APFA and the 1947 Chicago Cardinals? Would either man make his own all star team? So many questions . . .

26
by Mike Elseroad (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 4:57pm

A Dick Vermeil team would be cool as well. The "Greatest Show on Turf" combined with the legendary 2001-2006 Willie Roaf/Will Shields Chiefs O line along with 2004 Tony Gonzalez at TE?

Throw in the solid 1980/81 Bill Bergey-led Eagles defense and you could really have something special.

53
by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:07pm

Oh, I like that one. We'll do that one after Mora.

57
by Dean :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 1:07pm

You would think that by now SOMEONE from those Eagles teams would have made The Hall of Fame. Not that they were the '67 Packers or anything, but between Bergey, Carmichael, Claude Humphrey and if you want to stretch things a but, Jerry Sisemore, at this point, they should have some representation.

28
by Shane S. (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 5:01pm

Chuck Fusina. I always liked him. I was disappointed when he didn't make the Packers. If my memory is right--feel free to point it out if I am wrong about this--I believe he was the last person to wear #4 for the Packers before you-know-who.

32
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 5:30pm

asian lady with logn hair best FO ad since Catholic match girl

Schotenenherimer all stars include Chefs and chargers so not woudl be team of my choice if these temas existe in fuutre Madden game. Schootenheimer all stars definitely lose to Tom Flores all Stars (all form Raiders teams except Cortex Kennedy ) and Jon Gruden all stars.

33
by young curmudgeon :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 5:51pm

This is my obligatory rant against referring to backs and receivers as "skill players." I do appreciate that you have the decency to put the phrase in quotation marks, perhaps even 'scare quotes'. This terminology demeans the substantial skills needed to play other positions and inflates the already over-emphasized importance of the players who are carrying/throwing/catching the ball.

Leaving aside QB, many of the other so-called "skill" positions can be occupied very successfully by rookies or inexperienced players. At the same time, some other positions, putatively less skilled or even 'non-skilled,' often require a number of years before a player masters the techniques necessary to succeed. (An example is proper blocking technique, which many successful college linemen appear to lack when they enter the NFL.) This latter process sounds very like the acquisition of skill to me. So it always bothers me that we designate a group of players as "skilled" and imply that others are not, while those others are actually required to work very hard to master their craft.

BTW, this is not something personal with me--I'm tall and thin, was legitimately scrawny in high school, ran on the cross country team, and kept the stats for my college football team, so I'm not exactly an old lineman with an axe to grind.

Thanks for your tolerance; you may return to the discussion of the actual article now.

35
by tuluse :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 6:07pm

On the other hand, Joe Thomas was playing at an all-pro level his rookie year.

Every position in the NFL takes skill, it's just common nomenclature to refer to HB, WR, TE, and QB as "skill positions."

37
by Jimmy Oz (not verified) :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 8:21pm

Other terms like "backfield" don't naturally include WR & TE while "Receiver" doesn't get the backfield. "Ball player" is good, they're meant to be the only ones touching the ball, but like calling soccer "football", calling footballers "ball players" could cause confusion between baseball and basketball.

Maybe they should call it the "multi-task positions" as they're asked to catch, block, run, throw while a lineman is only asked to block. Maybe "Positional" players as they vary the position where they line up on the field while linemen only rarely change.

Or just call them skill cos thats what everyone else calls them so like it f!it,y'no?

Your Joe Thomas point... Adrian Peterson set the single game rushing record as a rookie in Joe Thomas' rookie year. I think its a greater indication that its easier to come into the NFL as a skill position player.

38
by Eddo :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 8:28pm

I understand that this was a rant, but "skill position" has basically become jargon, hasn't it? That is, it's a term referring to QB, RB, WR, and TE, not two words that are meant to be taken literally.

Just like a touchdown doesn't require touching the ball down. Or how tight ends don't necessarily line up tight to the line any more. Or how football is primary played with hands and arms touching the ball, not feet.

40
by Phil Osopher :: Thu, 07/22/2010 - 10:31pm

Clay Mathews OLB
Ozzie Newsome TE

Frank Minnefield CB

Ernest Byner/ Kevin Mack RB

Maybe not the best he has coached, but should get some mention as you really crapped on the 80's Browns teams by having only two players on the list from them.

Those were really good teams back then

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
-Albert Einstein

"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers"
-Voltaire

43
by Independent George :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:39am

If he had better receivers, I'd take Newsome over Gates; but if your TE is going to be your primary receiving threat, you have to go with Gates.

I'll take Matthews over his career, but if for a single-season performance, the roid-fueled Merriman is a pretty good choice.

54
by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 12:12pm

Actually, there are four 80s Browns on the team, and I listed most of those other players above.

The 80s Browns were not as good as the 00s Chargers on offense, but better on defense. They were not as good as the 90s Chiefs on defense, but better on offense. So, because they were balanced, they get a bit of short shrift on a list like this.

47
by JohnnyV13 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/23/2010 - 7:18am

First of all, I think you mean the 1989 Dino Hackett, since Hackett was out of football by 98.

Second, I happen to be somewhat familiar with the 93 Chiefs. I was a season ticket holder and (by odd ocincidence) happened to live in the same apartment building as ILB Tracy Simien.

That defense probably would be called a "hybrid" today, because on passing downs they'd effectively play a 4-3 with Thomas putting his hand on the ground. However, they didn't shift out of the 3-4 to the 4-3 to confuse the offense on their pre-snap reads like you see with a Belichick defense or a Ravens defense.

I'm not exactly sure if Neil Smith played head up on a tackle even on running downs. The ILB on his side (Simien) was a VERY strong 255lb ILB who could take on guards better than most linebackers. The design of that defense was that Saleamua and Joe PHillips were the immovable blocks, while Thomas and Smith crashed the backfield. THe fact is, BOTH Phillips and Saleamua were NT types that could command double teams.

Btw, Derrick Thomas was hardly overrated. His "one dimension" wasn't really pass rusher; instead, "game changer" is a more accurate characterization. Thomas forced 45 fumbles during his career, far more than LT (12 against non-QBs). Despite popular myth, Thomas wasn't exactly sucking his thumb on running plays.

64
by RickD :: Sun, 07/25/2010 - 12:02am

I would agree that Thomas is not overrated. That's because, by and large, the consensus opinion is that he was an excellent OLB who was simply not in LT's class. No shame there, given that the consensus opinion is that LT was the best OLB ever.

I have to chuckle how some people need to track down the one statistic that favors their player over LT. For those of us who watched football in the 80s and 90s, it doesn't really matter. In his prime, LT was the best defensive player in the NFL. He was arguably the best player in the NFL, period.

Derrick Thomas? At the time there was debate about whether he was even the best defensive player on his own team. (Neil Smith was no slouch.)