Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 Jun 2009

ESPN Names All-Decade Team

Well, sort of. They named the defense on Monday and the offense on Tuesday, with special teams and other honor to come throughout the week. Also, isn't there another year left in this decade? Aren't they ignoring 10 percent of the evaluation period? Torry Holt and Marvin Harrison over Terrell Owens and Randy Moss seems reasonable now, but what if Moss goes and catches 15 more touchdowns this season?

Should you wish to debate their choice for All-Decade quarterback, I refer you to this thread.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 24 Jun 2009

68 comments, Last at 02 Jul 2009, 9:43am by Just Win Baby


by nat :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 12:46pm

If Harrison is better than Moss, then thirteen years of throwing to Harrison makes your life much, much, much easier than one year of throwing to Moss. Which implies....

by Israel P. - Jer... :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 8:23am


by DZ (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 12:51pm

For the 1 millionth time...there are two years left in the decade.

2000 wasn't even part of this millennium, much less this decade.

I don't think there is anyone who actually thinks Harrison is better than Moss. It's just a case that Moss didn't actually try every year this decade.

by Theo :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 5:58pm

Snails can run real fast, you just need to put them in a do or die situation.

by dbostedo :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 5:49pm

Ummm....while I understand the rationale that there was no year "0" - hence the year 2000 was part of the 20th century, and the previous millennium - decades don't seem to have the same definition. I'd argue that they are purely defined (to the general public anyway) by the first three digits of the year. So the current decade is 2000 - 2009. Just like "the eighties" was 1980 - 1989, and "the nineties" was 1990 - 1999. I think most people like it that way, and would rather not try to be so technical and pedantic about it (myself included).

EDIT - Should have read further before commenting since some other have already made this point...Oh well.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 12:52pm

I hate to get drawn into these kind of arguments.. but Dawkins should be in there over Polamalu without a doubt! I think he should be in there over Reed, but that's at least debatable. Dawkins vs. Polamalu is no debate...

by c_f (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 2:08pm

Well, the question is of how strict you want to keep to the "Free Safety" versus "Strong Safety" labels. Dawkins has been listed at FS. However, he plays (played) in the box more than Reed does and given his pass-rushing and tackling ability would make an excellent SS. In that light, he gets in over Polamalu.

Dawkins vs. Reed is an interesting debate but Reed probably gets the nod. Dawkins has two more pro bowls (whatever that's worth), but Reed is 30 and was a DPOY.

(This is all from a Bears fan, fyi)

by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 12:58pm

1999-2008 is a perfectly legitimate decade.

by ksuatheart (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 3:28pm

Anytime somebody wants to insist that 1901-2000 or 2001-2010 is the correct method to organize time, they ignore the fact that year one on the calendar isn't a real time when somebody started counting. It was only centuries later when somebody tried to figure out when Jesus of Nazareth was born, and align the numbering of years around it.

The pedants should just quit trying to start a fight over the issue. Time, and our measuring it is for our convenience. If I'm talking about the 90's, I'm talking about the ten years written 199X, not 1991-2000.

As for naming an all decade team that measures 1999-2008 smacks of somebody not having any decent ideas for an article of their own.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 4:02pm

Anytime somebody wants to insist that 1901-2000 or 2001-2010 is the correct method to organize time, they ignore the fact that year one on the calendar isn't a real time when somebody started counting.

That's not exactly the point - the point is that there is no year zero. The modern calendar goes 1 BC, 1 AD. The fact that they didn't call those years 1 BC, 1 AD is immaterial - that's what we call them, now. So if you're defining decades as having ten years and don't want to have different definitions for BC and AD, you've got to go 1-10, 11-20, etc.

But to your larger point of "time, and our measuring it is for our convenience," you're definitely right. We're over 2000 years removed from the era boundary. It's really, really not a big deal that a "convenient" definition of decade/century doesn't cross the era boundary well.

by Theo :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 6:06pm

It's just plain dumb to select players after the 2008 season.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 6:53am

Isn't this just a case of "We want to be first with our team of the decade before everybody else gets really bored with doing them". Bear in mind that Pro Bowl voting starts in about week 7 these days ...

I remember back in 1988 when the pundits were proclaiming the Redskins as team of the 80s. If it weren't for them pesky 49ers ruining things by winning back-to-back, they'd have been right too.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 1:24pm

Why is an all decade team relevant or in any way important or sensible? It is just an arbitrary lumping of a period of time together simply because our calendar records years as decimals. It is an utterly fabricated distinction.

However two Bears made the team so far so everyone go and have a look.

by Marko :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 5:04pm

Agreed on all points. At least it's more interesting than ESPN's execrable "Who's Now," which ran a year or two ago and made me instantly change the channel.

by CoachDave :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 1:56pm

"Brady is the consummate winner"

Dear. F-ing. God.

What's next...Ray Lewis was picked because of his "swagger"?

Brian Urlacher was picked because he is a "fan favorite"?

And I love the Tom Brady 6th round quote from Herman Edwards...cause where you get drafted has so much to do with your eligibility for a bogus and arbitrary all-decade team.

These articles are why ESPN can't have nice things.

by Sophandros :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 2:18pm

I would argue that media bias played a HUGE role in the WR selections because the media hate both TO and Moss...

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by nat :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 2:32pm

It might not be just media bias. Moss, as good as he has been, is also known for long periods of poor performance. The belief that his poor performance was intentional only makes the case against him stronger. Players are complete packages: you don't get to take the physical skills without the mental baggage.

Just about the entire league had decided that Moss was worthless. It's hard to square that with putting him on an all-decade team. At best, he goes on the some-of-the-decade-when-he-feels-like-playing team.

by MJK :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 4:27pm

Or perhaps just a some-of-the-decade-when-he-was-not-in-Oakland team.

In fact, that definition of "Decade" team would work for most players. :-)

by nat :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 10:12pm

I thought he was run out of Minnesota for lack of effort. Although, from his DVOA, I'd say that was a harsh judgment.

by tuluse :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 2:10am

Moss had one, just one down year due to effort.

He had 2 down years due to injury, and one due to Matt Cassell. Two of those down years he still got 1000 yards, it just wasn't the 1300 that you expect to see from Moss.

by nat :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 2:39pm

Dear. F-ing. God. Indeed.

Hey, I liked their choice (see that other thread to see why). But even I nearly puked when I saw their reasons. What morons.

by Joe A (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 2:18pm

This is what happens when you try to provide 12 months of coverage for a sport whose season is only 5 months.

by wr (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 3:22pm

Truer words were never spoken.

by c_f (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 2:19pm

Actually, these teams are not bad, particularly coming from ESPN.

The front 7 of the defense is probably the best choice, with apologies to Mr. Seymour. As mentioned above, Dawkins would be an upgrade over Polamalu at SS.

Torry Holt is the most questionable part of that offense. MarHar is on the same level as Moss and TO, but Holt is not.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 7:30pm

How can you have a best front seven defense with no strongside linebacker? Lewis and Urlacher are both great, but they're both MLBs. Brooks at least played WLB. I also think they should have separate LT and RT positions, which I also don't like. At least they gave credit to the FB position instead of the usual two running backs.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 7:56am

I can forgive them shifting Urlacher to Sam to get the most dominant three linebackers of the decade into the team. If Mike Minter had not gotten injured he would not have been moved to Mike in the first place.

by Oscar (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 2:39pm

Polamalu and Dawkins should be the safety duo (Reed is very good but overrated)

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 2:40pm

I thought Kris Jenkins was mostly just a Madden superstar, since he has missed half the decade due to injury...

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 4:24pm

Yeah, I don't get why everyone seems to agree with this pick. If you have to take the years Moss didn't try hard you also have to take the years Jenkins was hurt.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 3:21pm

I would put in Moss over Harrison, Bryant Young over Jenkins, Birk over Kreutz (and at least consider Tom Nalen, maybe?), and there's the QB issue, but otherwise I agree with their teams. However, I think the Harrison/Holt combo over Moss is horrendous. I know I'm younger than most people doing things like this (and most people on this site), but Moss is easily the best WR I've ever seen.

by MJK :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 4:31pm

The problem with lists like this is that it's automatically biased against players who's best career years spanned across some arbitrary decade line. For example, consider Rodney Harrison. His best years of play were in San Diego, pre-2000, but he was never viewed as "elite" enough to put on an "All 1990's team" because San Diego was relatively bad and he had never been in the limelight or had lots of playoff/SB success. Then we went to New England, and picked up a bunch of publicity, playoff wins, and a couple of rings, but you wouldn't put him on an "All 2000's team" list because, in the 2000's, he was not as consistently good as players that started their careers later.

Basically, the concept of this list ignores any players whose prime years were from, say, 1997-2003, or 2007-2012.

by Bobman :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 5:28pm

MJK, Since they are semantically challenged about decades to start with, you might as well suggest in an e-mail to them that they create a decade from 1994-2003. You'd be joking, of course, or trying to make the point you made above (that some guys get shafted by chronology), but they'd no doubt take it seriously and issue a series of all-decade teams from numerous overlapping decades.... causing us all to storm your home with torches and pitchforks. I'll bring the cream pies to throw.

Get your angry mob supplies here!

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 10:08pm

Torches, pitchforks, and cream pies? Are you sure this wouldn't devolve into s'mores over a campfire?

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

by Israel P. - Jer... :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 8:31am

Then they could waste even more of our time by running a BOTD every year, based on the previous ten.

by David C (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 10:09pm

Vincent over Asomugha? Seriously? That's easily the worst pick of anybody on this team. If prolonged productivity matters, then you'd have to place Owens over Holt or Moss. Moss struggled in Oakland, but Holt has also had a drastic drop-off in production. Owens managed to put up big numbers with every team he was on. Finally, I'd recommend Jeff Saturday at center over Olin Kreutz.

by Harris :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 10:16am

I didn't get that either since Vincent was effectively out of football after, what? 2005? Could he even be considered elite after he left Philadelphia? If they wanted an Eagles DB, the guy who clearly should have gotten the nod was Dawkins.

Hail Hydra!

by Marver :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 4:00am

Kinda sad not to see Donnie Edwards mentioned. Tackle machine, excellent in pass coverage...one of only a handful of players to put up 20 sacks and 20 INT. Arguably, his numbers are more impressive than Urlacher...too bad he played in San Diego and Kansas City, or else he'd be on this list.

by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 10:54am

And why this team plays the 4-3 defense?, I demand a 3-4 defensive line-up!. NOW.

by Jef (not verified) :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 1:07pm

come on, Brady over Peyton. I dont think so. I would agree with the WRs but not the safeties. Polamalu is awesome but I liked Lynch and Dawkins better. And, I definitely would take Ty Law over Vincent. I think there are a few more CBs to take over him but I just cant think of them right now.

by Kibbles :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 5:20pm

Anyone else think it's bunk that 3 of the top 4 LBs are MLBs? Even Ray Lewis spent a good chunk of this decade as a legit 4-3 MLBs, the "Ray Lewis plays the 3-4 and could conceivably play OLB in the 4-3" defense doesn't fly. If you're going to lump all LBs together, why not just lump all DBs and DLs together, too? Kris Jenkins isn't a sexy pick- let's replace him with Julius Peppers! No Brian Dawkins? He's a better choice than Troy Vincent, for sure!

Outside of that, it's a pretty solid team, and I don't have a problem with declaring it now instead of in 2010. Other than Nnamdi, Moss, and Manning, I don't think there's anyone still playing who could have worked their way onto the list with one more year. I'd personally probably put Roaf in over Ogden and was surprised the article didn't even mention him, but that's mostly picking nits. I'd also put Chris McCallister in over Troy Vincent, but that second CB spot is a real cluster-you-know-what because there really hasn't been a CB other than Champ who has had more than 3 great seasons this decade. That second CB spot could easily go to McCallister, Charles Woodson, Vincent, Asomugha, Al Harris, Ty Law, or Patrick Surtain and I wouldn't have any problem with the choice. Asante Samuel could make a case if he has a great year next year and Asomugha doesn't (which isn't out of the question given the extreme up-and-down year-to-year play of the elite CBs this past decade). Seriously, does anyone have any idea what happened to the CB position? Is it just a result of the rule changes and small sample sizes or what?

by Kibbles :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 7:01pm

In my last post, I completely forgot about Ronde Barber, who easily laps the field and should take the second All-decade slot at CB. Mea Culpa. Still, my general point stands- what the hell happened to consistent CB play?

Delving further into the CB issue... I went ahead and eliminated every CB who hasn't been named to at least 1 first-team AP All Pro team this decade (to leave us with the elite). After that, here's who is left "in the running" for All-Decade team:

Nnamdi Asomugha, Cortland Finnegan, Asante Samuel, Antonio Cromarte, Champ Bailey, Rashean Mathis, Deltha O'Neil, Ronde Barber, Lito Sheppard, Ty Law, Chris McAlister, Patrick Surtain, Troy Vincent, Aeneas Williams, Sam Madison, Samari Rolle. Like I said, it's a cluster-you-know-what. Of the 20 different AP All-Pros handed out this decade (yes, 20- the AP named three CBs to its first-team All-Pro team in both 2004 and 2005), 16 different players have captured at least one. And that's not counting guys like Charles Woodson or Al Harris who probably deserve to be in the discussion despite no consensus first-team AP All Pro awards. The only repeaters on the list were Champ Bailey (3 All Pros this decade) and Ronde Barber (3 All Pros this decade), while the other 14 are tied at third with 1 AP All Pro appearance.

If you wanted to pare that list down a little further, you could probably remove all CBs with 2 or fewer pro bowls this decade (so long Lito, Aeneas, Samari, Deltha, Rashean, Asante, Antonio, and Cortland- Nnamdi, I'm making an executive decision that you can stay despite your single pro bowl due to gross voter incompetence). That leaves you with Champ, Ronde, Ty Law, Chris McAlister, Patrick Surtain, Troy Vincent, and Sam Madison. And Nnamdi, of course, due to the "gross incompetence" exception. A comparison of these 8 notables:

Champ Bailey-
3 first team AP All-Pros
3 second team AP All-Pros
8 pro bowls
134 starts
38 INTs

Ronde Barber-
3 first team AP All Pros
2 second team AP All-Pros
5 pro bowls
144 starts
33 INTs

Ty Law-
1 first team AP All Pro
0 second team AP All-Pro
4 pro bowls
123 starts
32 INTs

Sam Madison-
1 first team AP All Pro
1 second team AP All Pros
3 pro bowls
119 starts
22 INTs

Patrick Surtain-
1 first team AP All Pro
1 second team AP All Pros
3 pro bowls
125 starts
33 INTs

Troy Vincent-
1 first team AP All Pro
1 second team AP All Pro
4 pro bowls
86 starts
18 INTs

Chris McAllister-
1 first team AP All Pro
1 second team AP All Pro
3 pro bowls
115 starts
21 INTs

Nnamdi Asomugha-
1 first team AP All Pro
1 second team AP All Pro
1 pro bowl
92 starts
10 INTs

As far as "intangibles" go... Barber and Bailey were the best CBs this decade in run support. Barber, Bailey, and Law were the only CBs whose "prime" (as defined by all years between their first pro bowl this decade and their last, inclusive) lasted 5 or more years (Law lasted 5, Bailey and Barber both lasted 8). Vincent is undoubtedly getting a bunch of extra credit in all-decade voting for his Walter Peyton Man of the Year award, as well as for heading up the NFLPA for a number of years (and probably also for his long run of excellence in the '90s). Law also probably gets a bit of a boost for his work in the '90s, as well as for his SB rings. Chris McAlister wasn't as good of a selection as I thought before looking at this, in large part due to the fact that he has only played all 16 games once since 2002 (he's missed 29 starts in that span, which probably would have been good enough for another 2 pro bowls and maybe another 2nd team AP All Pro).

Even if you're the biggest Nnamdi fan in the world, I can't think of a single definition of "All-Decade" that could possibly put anyone other than Bailey and Barber on the squad, regardless of what happens next year. No other "elite" CB has 130+ starts this decade. Only Law and Surtain join Bailey and Barber with 30+ INTs (but Bailey and Barber still beat them both). No other CB comes within 3 first or second team AP All Pros of either. No other CB has 5+ pro bowls this decade. They both lap the field, and they're still playing at a high level. ESPN forgetting to even mention Ronde Barber's name is simply disgusting.

by vague (not verified) :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 11:32pm

I gotta say this was very well written and logically analyzed and while I agree with the conclusion it proves how subjective the corner position really is. Starts/press awards/Ints/authors evaluation(feeling?) of the players run support role are the factors used to formulate the decision.

Clearly, scheme/TDs allowed/big plays allowed/catches per target/targets per game etc. would also effect the discussion.

Anyway thanks for the interesting read.

by Mr. Anderson, welcome back, we missed you (not verified) :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 10:48pm

Damn right Brady over Peyton. Not to keep going on and on but I will take Brady any day. No way Harrison over Moss, Harrison pretty much dissapeared in just about every play off game he has ever been in. Holt was amazing in his prime even though I despised the Rams being a 49er fan.

by Kibbles :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 3:21am

I'd take Brady over Manning for an all-decade team simply because he's won 3 of the 9 SBs so far this decade (and lost a fourth). I think Brady is far more synonymous with the 2000s decade than Manning is (whether he's a better QB or not).

As for Harrison disappearing in playoff games... who can forget those back-to-back playoff games in 2008 when he posted 2 receptions for 32 yards... total. Or those 2 receptions for 18 yards while his team got blown out 41-0 in the conference championship in 2001. Oh wait, that's not Marvin Harrison, that's Randy Moss. Randy Moss has had 20 or fewer yards in 3 of his 7 playoff games this decade (43%), compared to just 2 of 13 for Harrison (15%), and the two have comparable yards per game in the playoffs this decade (53 for Harrison, 61 for Moss). And I'd rather have a WR who disappears in playoff games than one that disappears for entire seasons, anyway.

Moss has 3 first-team AP All Pros this decade to Harrison's 2... but Harrison has 5 SECOND TEAM AP All Pros to Moss's 0, meaning in 7 of the past 9 years the AP has voted Harrison one of the 4 best WRs in the league, compared to 3 of the past 9 years for Moss. He also leads pro bowls this decade, (7 to 4), receptions (791 to 694), and championships (1 to 0). Yards are a wash (both are between 10,400 and 10,500). Moss leads in TDs (107 to 95), police officers hit with a moving vehicle (1 to 0), admissions of drug use (1 to 0), teams that are so tired of his services that they give him away for a laughably low sum despite him still being in his prime (2 to 0), and number of times where his loss is referred to as "addition by subtraction" (194,329 to 0). Although, in Moss's defense, Harrison holds the lead in armed altercations, (1 to 0).

Still, when forming an all-decade team, give me the guy who was considered elite 77% of the time over the one who was considered elite 33% of the time. When forming an all-whenever-Moss-wants-to-play team, I'll take Randy, though.

Holt's a more interesting case, since he was never as "elite" as the Harrison/Moss/Owens trio (only 1 first-team AP All Pro, and 1 more second-team)... but he was a hell of a lot more consistent than any of them, tying Harrison with 7 pro bowls this decade and leading the way in receptions (817) and yards (11,872). I could see replacing Holt with Moss.

Still, all this discussion of Moss misses a very important point- whether you can make an argument for Moss over Harrison or Moss over Holt, there's not really any way to make an argument for Moss over Terrell Owens and his whopping FIVE first-team AP All Pros (meaning 55% of the time this decade, Terrell Owens was one of the top two WRs in the league). Owens beats Moss in awards, receptions, yards, and TDs, has been successful on all three teams he's been on (as opposed to 2 out of 3), has had just as much postseason success, and did all this despite playing in 12 fewer games. By your standard of postseason success, Owens also blows Moss out this decade (75 ypg vs. 61 ypg), and Owens also has two big-time playoff moments (the time he "willed his team to victory" with 177 yards receiving in that ridiculous comeback the Niners had against the Giants, and the time he rushed back from a broken ankle to go for 122 yards in the superbowl). So, by any criteria in which Moss was "snubbed", Owens was an even bigger "snub".

Personally, I'd take Harrison and Owens as my two guys- 12 first or second team AP All Pros pretty much seals the deal for me.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 7:19am

And you think Moss didn't disappear in the all important 2007 playoffs when an undefeated season was at stake? 7 recs 94 yards 1TD in 3 games ...

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 10:59am

The trouble with almost all of the above is that "gross voter incompetence" does not just apply to Asomugha missing a pro-bowl trip or two: it is utterly endemic in both pro-bowl and all-pro voting at just about every position. It is absolutely not the case that "x was 1st team all-pro" is equivalent to "x was one of the n best in the league at his position". In particular, voters invariably fail to adjust for context, in terms of both role within a scheme and quality of team-mate, and unfairly mark down players on bad teams. Moreover, it is fallacious to assume that "best in the league", or the merit of being same, is constant from season to season. I put it to you that being the best quarterback in the league in 2000, 2002 or 2003 was an awful lot easier than in the period 2004-2007, for example.

Ronde Barber was a very good player in a scheme that suited him perfectly for a long time. However, in the nature of Tampa's defense he was asked to man up on receivers far less frequently than most of his contemporaries, and as a result had far fewer opportunities to get beaten deep, and hence less room for down seasons of the sort that plague even the greatest cornerbacks, Bailey certainly included. At a position which most fans and journalists are almost completely incapable of properly assessing, a good player on a good unit who seldom makes noticeable mistakes is a prime candidate for lifetime achievement voting. Fundamentally my case for Asomugha (given a strong 2009, which of course is far from guaranteed) would be that for several years he has/will have played at a level far above what Barber achieved or ever could have - and probably above even Bailey's very best years.

I am also in favour of Moss and (probably) Owens over Holt and (probably) Harrison. Worse quarterbacks, worse complementary pieces, more impact on the running game, blah blah blah.

I always find myself towards the extreme end of the "peak performance over sustained production" side of these arguments. I thought Warner was a hall of famer before last year, never mind now.

by DZ (not verified) :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 12:44pm

Harrison is better than Owens. There is little need to debate the issue. The link in my name goes to a detailed breakdown of the two players.

by Kibbles :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 8:44pm

Why is there little need to debate the issue? Just because a blog that REFERENCES HARRISON IN ITS NAME (18 is Peyton Manning's number, 88 is Marvin Harrison's) states that it's "clear" that Harrison is better than Owens doesn't make it so.

Marvin Harrison has had 6 career seasons with 1000+ yards and 12+ TDs. The QBs during those six seasons were Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning, and Peyton Manning. Terrell Owens has had SEVEN career seasons with 1000+ yards and 12+ TDs. The QBs during those seven seasons were Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Jeff Garcia, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, Drew Bledsoe, and Tony Romo. Marvin Harrison was a 3-time first team AP All pro. Terrell Owens was a 5-time first team AP All Pro. Marvin Harrison has 14,608 career yards and 128 career TDs. Owens has about 300 fewer yards... but 13 more TDs, despite starting 14 fewer games. Owens also had two of the greatest playoff games by any WR in the past decade- the ridiculous comeback with SF against NYG where he spent all his time on the sidelines keeping his teammates from giving up, and all his time on the field grabbing 9 catches for 177 yards, and the superbowl where he rehabbed like a maniac to come back from a broken ankle, signed an injury waiver just so he could play, and then grabbed 9 catches for 122 yards. And Harrison's career is essentially over, while Owens is still getting new contracts, so the gap is just going to widen. Harrison might be a better teammate, but Owens is a better receiver.

by Kibbles :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 9:14pm

I'm a firm believer in peak performance (which is why I think Terrell Davis is a hall of famer and why Bettis should only get into Canton if he buys himself a ticket). With that said, when you're talking about an all-decade team, it's NOT just about peak value. In the most extreme example, if Knowshon Moreno comes in next year and rushes for 3,000 yards and 50 TDs as a rookie, I still don't think he deserves a spot on the all-decade team. The name "all-decade", to me, implies an amount of sustained excellence... and there have only been two CBs this decade with more than 3 good seasons. Whether you put much stock into pro bowls (I certainly don't) or AP All Pro teams (I certainly do), there's no denying the fact that Ronde Barber consistently been one of the top 10 CBs in the league for an entire decade.

I also don't understand how the fact that Barber doesn't play much man is a strike against him. His defense calls for a lot of zone defense, and he's arguably the best zone cornerback in the league. His defense also is extremely dependent on the CBs being able to play run support on an island, and he's one of the best run supporting CBs in the league, too. Penalizing Barber for not being an elite man CB in a scheme that doesn't call for an elite man CB is sort of akin to penalizing Brady for not having elite arm strength in a scheme that doesn't call for elite arm strength, or penalizing Sapp or Freeney for being poor against the run in a scheme that called for them to ignore the run and only play the pass.

Also, I don't think Asomugha's peak will ever pass Bailey's. Champ Bailey's 2006 was without question the greatest CB season I have ever seen. Despite the fact that no CB in the league was targeted fewer times than Champ, no CB in the league hauled in more interceptions than Champ. If a QB threw in Champ's direction (which they rarely did), Champ was almost as likely to come down with the ball as the WR he was covering. And even when the WR did come down with the ball, he didn't do anything with it- Champ led the league in ypa allowed and success rate. When Arizona played Denver, Leinart said in the week leading up to the game that he wasn't intimidated by Champ. He wound up throwing in Champ's direction twice that game... and Champ came down with both of them. And Champ wasn't just intercepting the ball, he was getting TIMELY interceptions- iirc, 8 of his 10 INTs that year either came inside his own 20 yard line, or were returned for TDs (turnovers at the edges of the field are more valuable than turnovers in the middle of the field), and he tacked on an absurd 162 return yards while he was at it (for comparison, Nnamdi has 69 return yards... for his entire career). He also posted the highest tackle numbers in his career (which is saying something for a tackler like Bailey), and almost all of those tackles came from cleaning up someone else's mistake (remember the low target numbers?). As I said, 2006 was the greatest season by a CB I've ever seen (better than Sanders' 1994 straight up, without even bringing up the tougher rules that Champ had to contend with), and Bailey was positively robbed for the DPoY award. And he was pretty good in 2005, too.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 06/27/2009 - 10:22am

You're right - Bailey's 2006 was absolutely incredible, to a degree I'd slightly forgotten. He might have been the best player in the league at any position that season (though I think it was arguably Brady's most impressive as well).

The point about penalizing Barber for playing in a zone scheme is that zone cornerbacks just aren't as valuable as guys who play in more man/blitz heavy schemes. By way of an illustration, Woodson and Barber are pretty much the same age, and both signed their current contracts in the 2006 offseason. Barber's was for $24m over 5 years. Woodson's pays $40m in the same period (I'm throwing out years 6 and 7 of Woodson's deal, because there's no way he'll play them out). The analogy with quarterbacks doesn't hold, because there's no NFL scheme in which a good quarterback isn't hugely valuable. A better comparison would be with defensive end: 3-4 guys generally won't (and generally shouldn't) get picked because they're not as valuable. Guys who regularly generate double digit sack totals are rarer and more valuable than guys who eat blocks and stuff running plays, and guys who blanket receivers without safety help the length of the field are rarer and more valuable than guys who play the short zone immaculately and do a good job in run support.

by Sifter :: Sat, 06/27/2009 - 5:37pm

Using an idea from your post, it would be interesting to me to see who the highest paid players of the decade were. Who made the most cash in the NINE years? (actually you could make it ten since we know the current season's salaries). And is it an indicator of their ability?

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 06/27/2009 - 8:10pm

Using cash straight up would lead to an unfair bias against older players. You'd have to use percentage of each year's cap or something similar.

by c_f (not verified) :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 12:52pm


ESPN somewhat surprisingly has love for FO favorite Mike Scifres!

His LS, Mike Binn, gets in too.

Unfortunately, they go with media darling Adam "Clutch" Vinatieri at K.

Hester gets in over Dante Hall at "returner." Cribbs doesn't even get mentioned.

Quintin Mikell is your coverage demon.

Much better, in any event, than the "Top 25 players of the decade list": http://myespn.go.com/blogs/nfcwest/0-9-301/Best-of-the-best--Top-25-play...

The list is all kinds of stupid. Did you know that Jason Taylor was better than MarHar, who was in turn better than Ray Lewis? Now you do, thanks to the incisive analysis provided by ESPN!

by Matt W (not verified) :: Sun, 06/28/2009 - 8:19am

Wow, they do love their Super Bowls. I'm a Steeler fan and I don't think B-Roeth has any business on that list. This applies to the team of the decade list too, as you can tell by who they picked for... center.

Ironically, it doesn't seem to apply as much to the team rankings, where it actually would make sense. Losing the Super Bowl without a playoff bye is worth almost as much as winning it with one.

by Just Win Baby :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 12:47am

Owens has clearly had the best decade so far of any WR. He is #1 in TDs, #2 in yards, and #3 in receptions from 2000 to 2008, despite playing fewer games than Moss, Holt, and Harrison, and Owens is the only one of this group to be top 3 in all 3 major receiving categories. He also averaged more receptions and yards per game in the postseason among this group. And he had the most dominant seasons, using 1st team All Pro selections as a metric.

The more interesting question is who is #2. Considering there is another year left, in which I'd expect Owens and Moss to outperform Holt and Harrison, I'd say it will end up being Moss. So, unsurprisingly, I think ESPN missed on both of their WR choices.

by Just Win Baby :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 12:48am

On the Manning vs. Brady debate, here are their regular season numbers for the decade so far:

Manning - 144 games, 3182/4852 (65.6%), 37754 passing yards (7.78 ypa), 281 passing TDs, 122 interceptions, 97.1 QB rating
Brady - 113 games, 2301/3653 (63%), 26446 passing yards (7.24 ypa), 197 passing TDs, 86 interceptions, 92.9 QB rating

Also, Manning has 3 MVPs and 4 1st team All Pro selections, compared to 1 of each for Brady.

Brady has been a great QB, but Manning has been significantly better in the regular season and for quite a bit longer. Clearly they gave it to Brady for his postseason accomplishments. I would have chosen Manning. Perhaps if the Colts win the Super Bowl this year (I know that's a long shot), he'll get the nod in the end.

by nat :: Tue, 06/30/2009 - 9:58am

For your enjoyment and edification, the current Brady-Manning Irrational Thread can be found here.

by Just Win Baby :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 12:50am

Kreutz only has 1 1st team All Pro selection, while Mawae, Nalen, and Saturday each have 2 (and Birk has none). No idea how to choose from among those 3, but I don't think Kreutz should be the guy.

by tuluse :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 2:26am

Then I would give it to Mawae out of that list. Nalen is a dirty cheapshot artist, and I think Saturday is really helped by Manning. I find it really hard to rank Colts offensive players because there is so much synergy, but I think you have to give the most credit to Manning.

by Kibbles :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 4:39pm

You know that "Cheap-ness" and "Greatness" are two different things, right? Warren Sapp was a "cheap" player, too (remember that hit on Clifton?), but he's still the best DT of the past decade.

Besides, Nalen's already hurt for his "cheap-ness" in terms of accolades. Or do you honestly believe that Nalen really only played at a pro-bowl level twice in the past decade? In 2005 especially, he should have been a slam-dunk first-team AP All Pro, and he should have had at least two more pro bowls on top of that (in 2004, and also in 2001, before he was penalized for being "cheap" but when he still lost out to the Bruce Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award). He should be a 3-time first-team All Pro and a 5-time pro bowler this decade instead of 2 and 2.

by tuluse :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 5:32pm

I know, it just personal bias.

by Just Win Baby :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 1:01am

Polamalu and Reed are great players, but I think Rodney Harrison and Brian Dawkins are both more deserving based on the complete bodies of work of these players in the decade. Dawkins will have played all 10 years of the decade, compared to 9 for Harrison (though a couple were injury-shortened), 8 for Reed, and 7 for Polamalu.

I'm not sure if they intentionally chose 1 FS and 1 SS, but Dawkins has been a better FS than Reed and Harrison a better SS than Polamalu IMO.

That said, I know people don't like Harrison and they do like Polamalu, so I'm not surprised Polamalu got the nod. Polamalu and Reed have both also been media favorites (lots of Sportscenter highlights, etc.).

by Kibbles :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 4:54pm

Harrison may have played 9 years this decade, but all of his best years were in the '90s. He simply hasn't had the peak value of either Reed or Polamalu this decade- and it's not like he's been anywhere close enough where you can say "the fact that he played an extra year gives him the edge".

This decade, Harrison has made one pro bowl and one all-pro team (although the year he was 1st team AP All Pro he somehow managed to miss the pro bowl...). Polamalu has 2 first-team AP All Pros and 5 Pro Bowls. Harrison only managed to play all 16 games three times this decade, and only played 12+ five times (compared to 4 and 5 for Polamalu). Harrison's play, I think, is remembered more fondly due to NEW ENGLAND'S play.

by Just Win Baby :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 9:50am

First off, why is it appropriate to separate tackle, guard, and center... and defensive end and defensive tackle... but not free safety and strong safety? Aren't the job descriptions different for free safety and strong safety? I think so.

If only one free safety could be named, then only one of Reed and Dawkins could be chosen. And that would leave Harrison as the nobrainer choice at strong safety IMO.

I agree that the lack of 1st team All Pro selections is a negative for Harrison. Couldn't care less about Pro Bowls, which are much more flawed IMO. But both sets of selections are influenced by (a) winning and (b) whether a player is well liked. Not that winning isn't a good thing, just that the best player in the league at a given position can play for a team that doesn't win... and the best player in the league at a given position can also be disliked, thus losing votes.

Consider this season by Harrison in 2000: 6 sacks, 6 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 101 tackles, 26 assists, 1 defensive TD.

IMO that is a more impressive line than any line Polamalu put up in his career to date. Yet Harrison didn't win 1st or 2nd team All Pro or make the Pro Bowl, presumably either because the Chargers were 1-15 or because voters didn't like him or both. This is a good example that shows that All Pro and Pro Bowl selections don't automatically correlate to the best players. As Chase Stuart said recently, when a player is selected 1st team All Pro, it is very likely that he is one of the top 6-8 players at his position in the league that year... but not a given that he was one of the top 2 players.

IMO Harrison's 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004 seasons were all great seasons and were collectively better than Polamalu's best (peak) seasons. And Harrison was dominant in the 2003 and 2004 postseasons, when New England won back to back titles. He was a very strong contributor to that postseason success.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 06/29/2009 - 5:18pm

I really think Dawkins and Reed is an absolute no-brainer at safety. I'm inclined to rank Reed ahead of Dawkins for his remarkable ball-hawking and return skills, but either way I think it's a case of those two and then the field. Polamalu, Wilson and Lynch would probably be the next three, and I'm not sure there's that much to choose between them. The whole FS-SS thing is so murky in any case that I have no qualms about simply picking two men who could clearly excel at either or a hybrid role, regardless of where their teams listed them.

by Kibbles :: Tue, 06/30/2009 - 3:19am

I agree with this post. If I was building a defense for the next 10 years, and I could have any player's last 10 years to do it, I'd pick Reed and Dawkins and play Dawk "out of position" (I use quotes because the "strong safety" and "free safety" position thing is something of a myth, anyway- one team might use their SS like another team uses their FS). Besides, it's not like Brian Dawkins doesn't have the skills that are hallmarks of prototypical Strong Safeties (great instincts, sure tackling, a bit of a mean streak).

If someone insisted on having one "legitimate" SS and another "legitimate" FS, then Lynch is a better choice than Polamalu or Harrison. 1 first team All Pro and a whopping EIGHT pro bowls in nine years (many of which, including at least one of his Denver selections, were actually deserved). It's easy to forget after his last two "lifetime achievement" pro bowls that he really was an elite safety at the beginning of the decade and a key component in those obscene Tampa defenses, albeit overshadowed by Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, and Warren Sapp. It does seems a bit much to have 4 of the 11 all-decade defenders all coming from the same defense, though.

Speaking of John Lynch, he's the perfect example of how the whole "Strong Safety" and "Free Safety" designations are nothing more than a myth. I mean, Lynch is pretty much the stereotypical Strong Safety- known more for his tackling skills than his coverage skills, playing mostly "in the box", known more for his instincts and his tackling form than his speed and his range... yet in his four seasons in Denver, he was designated a "Free Safety". In an especially ironic twist, Tampa's defense called for Lynch to spend as much time in coverage as the stereotypical Free Safety, yet they called him a Strong Safety... and Denver's defense called for Lynch to spend more time in the box than almost any Strong Safety in the league, yet they called him a Free Safety.

by Just Win Baby :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 9:40am

I could not disagree more about Lynch vs. Harrison this decade. And it's not close. Consider their accomplishments during the decade:

106 games
105 games started
20.5 sacks
18 interceptions
53 passes defensed
12 forced fumbles
3 fumble recoveries
578 tackles
191 assists
1 defensive TD
1 1st team All Pro selection, 1 2nd team All Pro selection

121 games
120 games started
9.5 sacks
14 interceptions
51 passes defensed
10 forced fumbles
5 fumble recoveries
409 tackles
170 assists
0 defensive TDs
1 1st team All Pro selection, 2 2nd team All Pro selections

(Note: data from pro-football-reference.com, and passes defensed not available in 2000; not sure if that statistic was tracked before 2001)

Lynch played more games, yet produced less across the board. Well, okay, so he had 2 more fumble recoveries... And not shown above is Harrison's strong postseason contribution to two Super Bowl runs in the decade:

17 tackles, 6 assists, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions, 3 passes defensed in 3 games in 2003 championship run

25 tackles, 4 assists, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 4 interceptions, 4 passes defensed, and 1 87 yard interception TD return in 3 games in 2004 championship run

Lynch has no postseason performances that come close. In Tampa's 3 game Super Bowl championship run, he had 9 tackes, 1 assist, and 2 passes defensed.

Now... tell me again how Lynch making several more Pro Bowls that Harrison was justified, and thus should be used as a criteria in this comparison. Pro Bowls are terribly flawed. A great example is that just last season, Philip Rivers was arguably the best QB in the NFL and wasn't in the initial group of 3 QBs selected from the AFC.

And I think it would take more than your example about Lynch to convince me that normally there is a reasonably consistent difference between free safety and strong safety. I mean, some defensive ends drop into coverage... and some outside linebackers line up and rush the passer a lot... but we don't say there is no difference in DE and OLB... because there is a reasonably consistent difference in their job descriptions and responsibilities.

IMO Lynch is one of the most overrated players of his generation.

by Just Win Baby :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 9:43am

I just posted extensively on why Harrison was better than Lynch this decade. And the same applies for Wilson, though I like Wilson a lot.

Someone else who deserves a mention is Darren Sharper. He has clearly been behind Dawkins and Reed this decade IMO, but I suspect he is closer than most would realize.