After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
12 Dec 2007
by Bill Barnwell
Each year, December brings upon an influx of calls for Pro Bowl honorees amongst the fans and media. Of course, some of these players are the new stars of the league, deserving of accolades tiredly given to the old guard of players. Think Lee Evans replacing Eric Moulds here.
On the other hand, some of those players did not exactly build upon their recognition and produce in the years following. Whether it was due to injury, excessive caloric intake, or a change in situation, those players were not brought to the all-star game again. With that in mind, I wanted to look back and highlight some of these Pro Bowl one-hit wonders. With this column's focus on fantasy and the relatively asinine selection methodologies used when picking most non-skill position players, I'm going to exclusively focus on quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers.
Going chronologically in the DVOA era, some familiar faces appear:
Ironhead Heyward, NO, 1995 -- The late Heyward is probably most famous now for his legendary "Ironhead, what's with this thingee?" Zest commercial. As a player, he was a 260-pound fullback and change-of-pace runner for most of his career despite being a first-round pick, usually putting up very nice yards per carry averages in limited use; in 1995, he got his biggest workload (236 carries) and responded with 1,083 yards, for a nifty 4.6 yards per carry from a guy who really was primarily an interior runner. We don't have DVOA finished for 1995 yet, but I suspect it will smile on him.
Steve Bono, KC, 1995 -- The long-time 49ers backup got his first chance to start regularly following the retirement of Joe Montana; it was Kansas City, though, that reaped the benefits. Bono completed 56 percent of his passes, threw 21 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, and had an awesome rushing line: 28 carries, 113 yards, five touchdowns. The next year, the completion percentage went down to 54 percent, and he threw 12 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, while rushing 26 times ... for 27 yards. He spent three more seasons as a backup on three different teams before retiring.
John Henry Mills, HOU, 1996 -- Mills was a pure special teams guy -- he was listed at running back, but never had a single carry in his career, and caught four passes for 34 yards in seven seasons as an NFL player.
Terry Allen, WAS, 1996 -- I find myself writing about Allen a lot as the weird fantasy guy who kept popping up in starting roles here and there. This was the second of his two biggest seasons. See if you can notice the difference. In 1995, he ran for 1,309 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, scoring ten touchdowns. In 1996, he ran for 1,353 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, but scored 22 touchdowns. The next year, he averaged 3.4 yards per carry and scored four in ten games. Oops. For all of Allen's touchdowns, he only mustered a 3.5% DVOA.
Travis Jervey, GB, 1997 -- I remember Jervey as this great tease, this incredibly fast running back who was supposed to be a breakout star year after year, and was always awesome in Madden as a backup, but he didn't have the instincts of a running back or the ability to stay healthy, which left him as a good special teams player with a big rep.
Doug Flutie, BUF, 1998 -- Aaron wrote at length about Flutie in PFP 2006, so I won't rehash that here. Suffice to say, Wade Phillips messed up. That being said, I'm not so sure we wouldn't have been high on Johnson either after this year: Flutie's DVOA of 23.7% again far surpassed Johnson's 7.1%, but the latter is still respectable and worth exploring. Just, well, on another team.
Jamal Anderson, ATL, 1998 -- Poor, poor Jamal Anderson. This was his year -- after two seasons under 300 carries, he took the elevator right past 370 to 410, which he turned into 1,846 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. His downfall was, in hindsight, predictable. His DVOA that year was only 5.7%, but because of the huge amount of carries, he had 34.3 rushing DPAR.
Roell Preston, GB, 1998 -- Preston was Jervey's replacement as the Packers' special teams Pro Bowler, and he had a strange career. He spent two years on the Falcons roster, got to Green Bay after some marijuana-related issues in Atlanta, and after two seasons in Green Bay (the second being his Pro Bowl year), never played again following a fumbled punt and kickoff (out of bounds) against the 49ers in a Wild Card loss. Wikipedia says he played for the Dolphins, 49ers, and Titans in 1999 without getting on the field, which is quite remarkable for a Pro Bowl returner. He was left unprotected for the Browns in the expansion draft that year and they passed. From Pro Bowl to out of football in a year? That's pretty steep.
Ed McCaffrey, DEN, 1998 -- McCaffrey would have bigger seasons, like his 101-catch campaign in 2000, but because he averaged 16.5 yards per catch and scored ten times, this was his lone Pro Bowl year. This was one that everyone got right. His DVOA? A whopping 37.7%. That's Hackett-esque.
Steve Beuerlein, CAR, 1999 -- Oh, one of the great out-of-nowhere turns in fantasy history. Beuerlein took over when Kerry Collins was deposed in 1997, and after a nice 1998 in which he missed four games (4.6% DVOA), Beuerlein responded with 4,436 yards and 36 touchdowns for a 12.6% DVOA. It was a breakout year for Muhsin Muhammad and the only big year for Patrick Jeffers. Beuerlein got one more year as a starter before departing to Denver to finish his career as a backup.
Detron Smith, DEN, 1999 -- The D-Train had five carries in his career, but was still a Pro Bowl running back. That's what known as diversifying your skill set.
Terry Glenn, NE, 1999 -- This was, somewhat surprisingly, Glenn's only Pro Bowl. Yes, it came under Pete Carroll. His 14.5% DVOA was only third on the team behind Troy Brown and Shawn Jefferson, each of whom worked underneath to create space for Glenn deep. Two years later, Glenn did his time the sidelines, a forgotten man, as the Patriots won their first Super Bowl under Bill Belichick. D-I-D. Did.
David Sloan, DET, 1999 -- Why was David Sloan a Pro Bowl tight end? Beats me. He caught 47 passes for 591 yards that year, a career-high, which in all fairness, was good for a 15% DVOA. At 6 feet 6, 254 pounds, he might be a wideout nowadays.
Brian Griese, DEN, 2000 --The Pro Bowl was expanded to a fourth quarterback this year, which merited Griese's inclusion -- in 10 games, he averaged 8.0 yards per attempt, completed 64.3 percent of his passes, and threw 19 touchdowns against four interceptions. That was good for a 37.0% DVOA, second in the league to Trent Green. Of course, his career fell apart shortly thereafter.
Elvis Grbac, KC, 2000 -- Speaking of careers falling apart, Grbac was another product of the 49ers assembly line that went to Kansas City, where he failed to impress for a number of years, repeatedly getting hurt, but finally put it together as a vertical passer in 2000, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt and throwing 28 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. That earned him a big-money contract with the World Champion Ravens, who signed him to replace Trent Dilfer. They saw Grbac return to his previous form, and then retire.
Richie Anderson, NYJ, 2000 -- The long-time Jets fullback did his best Larry Centers impersonation this year, going from 29 catches in 1999 to 88 in 2000, going for 853 yards. That made him the twelfth most-valuable receiving back in the league despite a -9.1% DVOA. It was an aberration.
Charlie Garner, SF, 2000 -- In 1999, Garner gained 1,229 yards on 5.1 yards per carry, scoring four times. In 2000, he gained 1,142 yards on 4.2 yards per carry, scoring seven times. In 2000, he was a Pro Bowler, despite a -0.7% DVOA. The magic of expanded rosters and touchdowns.
Desmond Howard, DET, 2000 -- Howard was several years removed from his Super Bowl heroics, but he was still good enough to earn a Pro Bowl nod in 2000 for the Lions. He only had one more season in football before injury forced him out.
Stephan Alexander, WAS, 2000 -- Alexander put up similar production in future seasons, but this was his only Pro Bowl nod. It was worth it, as he had a mammoth 26.5% DVOA.
Kordell Stewart, PIT, 2001 -- From slash to emergency punter, Stewart's career has been well-documented. '01 was his last full year as a starter, in which his passes earned a 6.9% DVOA. He was also second in the league in rushing DPAR for quarterbacks, finishing just behind Donovan McNabb.
Troy Brown, NE, 2001 -- In the Patriots' miracle season, Brown was really the Wes Welker prototype. He was a dynamo underneath, and a superb kick and punt returner, climaxing in his jack-of-all-trades performance against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. He put up a similar line the season after, but the Patriots' mediocre season left him out of the Pro Bowl balloting.
David Boston, SD, 2001 -- What a strange career Boston led. He was huge for Arizona, leading to his 98-catch, 1,598-yard performance in '01. He got hurt in 2002 and wasn't really healthy, which led to Arizona letting him go and San Diego giving him a huge free-agent contract that lasted all of one season. Since then, four catches in four seasons. He's still only 29, somehow.
Ken Dilger, IND, 2001 -- Ken Dilger put up about eight years of eerily similar performance. This was one of his worst seasons. For some reason, the AFC needed three Pro Bowl tight ends, so Dilger made it.
Byron Chamberlain, MIN, 2001 -- On the other hand, the NFC needed four tight ends on their roster, so the charitably nondescript Chamberlain made it for having a career year with 57 catches. He caught 38 balls in two seasons afterwards.
Michael Bennett, MIN, 2002 -- I know the knock on Bennett has always been that he's a great runner but not a great football player, but that being said, he sure didn't do too bad in 2002. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry, picked up 1,296 yards, and had a 6.8% DVOA. Granted, Moe Williams was at 46.4% that year, but you're telling me Bennett wasn't at least a useful back? What happened?
Fred McAfee, NO, 2002 -- Thank god Chris Berman doesn't know how to turn on a computer.
Marty Booker, CHI, 2002 -- Booker deserved the call in '01, when he had 100 catches, but in '02, 97 catches for more yards got him in. He's proceeded to turn right into a 55-catch-or-less possession guy since then.
Michael Lewis, NO, 2002 -- The beer man was a rookie Pro Bowler at the age of 31, in a story you all know and love.
Fred Beasley, SF, 2003 -- Yes, Fred Beasley was a Pro Bowler on a 7-9 49ers team. Your guess is as good as mine. After that, he got surly and out of football right quick.
Alex Bannister, SEA, 2003 -- Bannister was a very good special teams player, if an outspoken one, who's been limited by injury since his Pro Bowl selection.
William Henderson, GB, 2004 -- The urbane Henderson got a career-achievement award here, as there's nothing that stands out relative to the rest of his career.
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QB: Yes, leading off for your Loser League stars, we have the magic of Trent Dilfer, who game-managed his way to a donut this week. Joining him was fellow aged veteran Vinny Testaverde, who scored a two, as did Brodie Croyle.
RB: I'm guessing not many people picked Purple Jesus for their Loser League teams, but if they did, they were probably aiming to be the worst Loser League team and were then disappointed when Peterson rolled out a shocking zero. He rushed for three yards! Three! Another not-likely pick? Laurence Maroney, who only picked up one point. Slightly more appropriate? DeShaun Foster and Willis McGahee, who got two each.
WR: Craig Davis and Joe Horn have little in common amongst the wide receiver fraternity. One is old, one is not. One plays for a good team, one plays for an awful one. They are both loud, although they've both been pretty quiet this year. Oh yeah -- they both had zeroes this week. They were backed up by a quartet of oversold wideouts, as Mike Furrey, Ashley Lelie, Lance Moore, and Maurice Stovall had a point each.
K: It was probably bad that I nominated Sebastian Janikowski as a potential Pro Bowl kicker when he was the Losingest Loser of the Week this week, putting up a -1. John Carney, Joe Nedney, and Neil Rackers tied for second-worst with one point.
I don't want to say there was a paucity of candidates for KCW this week, but there were not three or four standouts like there were last time 'round. With that in mind, I'm going to fudge a little and give KCW to Bobby Petrino, who Tuesday announced his return to Arkansas. I'm not necessarily opposed to Petrino leaving if he thinks he's not cut out for the Falcons gig and wants to take a solid collegiate job while there's one available this year. That being said, resigning without talking to your players, and holding a ten-second meeting with your assistant coaches? It's not as if Arkansas told him he had to leave Atlanta within a half-hour. That's shameful behavior if you manage a Wendy's, let alone a professional football team.
2-1 last week, 19-18-1 overall
With the Cardinals secondary in tatters, I like betting on Drew Brees and the remnants of the great Saints offense building an early lead on Arizona and maintaining it.
I picked the Eagles to win the NFC East this year. I've been on the bandwagon for a while. I've watched all their games and tried to piece together a narrative that would see them come back and make a playoff run. At some point, though, you have to just accept things for what they are. The Cowboys are a way better team, and should roll here.
Completing the home favorite trifecta this week is San Diego, who plays a Detroit team that's sinking rapidly.
34 comments, Last at 17 Dec 2007, 8:23am by cian