Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Jan 2007

Stars Won't Decide Super Bowl Alone

Here's a look at some of the lesser-known players who may play bit roles in Super Bowl XLI.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 23 Jan 2007

27 comments, Last at 25 Jan 2007, 6:18pm by cjm


by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:19pm

What's with all the "mini-FO" articles (list of 5 or so guys)? I can't see them anywhere except "other articles by X", so I'm always surprised to see them.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:20pm

Like this one for instance.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:25pm

Nice. Ayabendejo has been huge in coverage and even got some playing time at linebacker. You know, I still remember when Tait was first signed and everyone insisted he would stay at RT - well that didn't last long when camp started and Qasim Mitchell, et al couldn't do squat.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:25pm

Nice. Ayabendejo has been huge in coverage and even got some playing time at linebacker. You know, I still remember when Tait was first signed and everyone insisted he would stay at RT - well that didn't last long when camp started and Qasim Mitchell, et al couldn't do squat.

by Gus (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:44pm

3, 4: I guess a good question would why the hell anybody thought Qasim Mitchell could do squat.

by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:50pm

Small nit.
Didn't Bethea win the starting job when Doss got injured?

by MDZ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:58pm

7. IIRC, Bethea beat out Doss in the preseason, then he got hurt, so Doss started. And when Doss got hurt Bethea was just getting healthy again and took the starting job back, until he got hurt again and had to miss a few games.

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:00pm

Bryan Fletcher wasn't undrafted. He was drafted by the Bears in 2002, sixth round.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 3:07pm

Bethea was a starter at the outset? I had assumed he was an injury replacement who grew into the starter's role. Much as I like him and see huge upside, I am a little surprised Doss's stock fell so far so fast. 2nd rounder from nat'l champ Ohio State... replaced 3 years later by a 6th rounder from Howard. Wow.

I guess the same goes for Ben Hartsoch (Now with Tenn.) First round potential at TE, but injured his sr year and taken in the 3rd round or so, then replaced by 2 UFAs who are certainly performing well.

by J.D. (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 4:02pm

Good article. But could the headline be any more obvious? Like, I was all stoked to see Peyton Manning start intercepting Rex Grossman's errant passes...

by Ben (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 4:15pm

Yes, Bethea got the starting nod over Doss from the beginning of the year. When Sanders went down though, Doss took his place. Doss was playing solidly until he got knocked out for the year. Thats' when the Colts started playing cornerbacks and whomever else they could find at safety.

As for Hunter Smith, he gets solid distance on his long punts, but his hang time is iffy. He'll often out-kick the coverage, letting the return man get up a good head of steam.

by James C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 4:16pm

Erm... Tait DID start all of his first season with the Bears at RT. Left tackle was left to be battled out between the terrible twosome of Mitchell and Robinson to disastrous effect.

The 'thinking' behind keeping the best tackle on the roster on the right side was that Terry Shea's scheme required an athletic RT. It played a large part in Shea getting fired after one year. The long term consequences of the Mitchell/Robinson madness was an emphasis on aquiring more experienced lineman (Brown, Garza and Miller) which it has to be said has worked a lot better.

by tj (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 5:41pm

10: Hey, you never know. Maybe that win over the Pats allowed him to steal Brady's mojo and magical abilities (you know, like on Highlander when one immortal absorbs another's power after he cuts his head off) and he'll be able to win the game single-handedly using telekinesis and the patented Brady interception/mind control fumble.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 5:44pm

Re 12:
I've tried to forget the Bears offensive failures - which means I really can't remember the Bears playing offense... That just shows how dumb Shea was. I'm still waiting for the Bears to develop a tackle. Miller, Tait, Big Cat and Brockermeyer - it's been awhile since they've had guys that weren't creaking with age as the only competent tackles.

by Not saying (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 6:41pm

The Bears defense almost always lines up with Tillman as the cornerback on the left side of the defense.

That didn't seem to be the case last week. I think Tillman lined up wherever Colston was. I guess it's not such a big deal, since Harrison almost always lines up on the same side, but I wanted to point out that the Bears do sometimes go against tendancies.

Re: 1

I had the same question. Seems like a bunch of random facts. Some of them don't even have an introductory paragraph.

by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 7:12pm

15: In general, the Bears do line Tillman up on the same side every play. However, when there is clearly a receiver he matches up well with (big, physical, not that quick), he will match up with that receiver, regardless of side. The two most obvious examples of this are against the Giants and the Saints, where Tillman covered Burress and Colston, respectively.
Against the Colts, with Harrison and Wayne having similar styles, Tillman and Vasher will probably both just stay on their respective sides.

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 8:52pm

14 - To be fair Blake Brokenplayer wasn't creaking with age when he was with the Bears, he was just creaking. The guy couldn't stay healthy.

by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 9:02pm

Re 14:

There have been plenty of tackles that play for the Bears that weren't that old. Marc Columbo, Qasim "Big Q" Mitchell, Steve Edwards. As you can see, they were just all terrible.

by the K (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 9:27pm

I agree with Pat. Would it be possible to link to all the FO FOX stuff from here? There's a ton of stuff there I never knew existed. I just read a bunch of it and in particular really enjoyed Ned's stuff.

by Murr (not verified) :: Tue, 01/23/2007 - 10:41pm


Seconded. (Or thirded. Whatever.)

As a follow-up, who's the 14 year old kid posing for Ned's picture?

(j/k, of course - but seriously, Ned looks AWFULLY young in that photo)

by Matt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:39am

Here's a question - if you're Tony Dungy, do you put Bob Sanders on the coverage teams and let his insane speed/angle godliness attempt to save you, since "there is no tomorrow" in this one and they need the help?

by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 6:11am



Hell, you have your freakin' strong side LB and LDE on coverage teams, why not the human missile? Only reason I can come up with is lack of practice time in that role. Likelihood of injury?

Hell, there is no tomorrow and my guess is that Sanders' size and style mean he'll only squeeze out about five more years in his career anyway, som might as well come as close as you can to guaranteeing him a ring.

Also, have Vinatieri stay back about 20 yards behind where he missed the tackle on Hobbs last game--for the last resort safety valve, he was way too far upfield for my taste.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 12:13pm

#21: I don't think the Colts special teams problems have anything to do with personnel. They've sucked for years upon years now. Whoever the Colts special teams coach is just apparently has no freaking clue about kickoff coverage.

by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 11:07pm

Stars Won’t Decide Super Bowl Alone

Who writes the headlines for FoxSports? Shouldn't it be Stars Alone Won’t Decide Super Bowl?

by TomC (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 10:03am

re 14 -

Actually, I'm fully in favor of the strategy of poaching someone else's fully-formed, 30+-year-old left tackle and using his last couple of good years. It seems to have worked 3 times in a row (Andy Heck, Brockermeyer (who, by the way, wasn't injury-prone with the Bears; he started 15, 15, and 16 games in his 3 years with them), and now Tait), whereas the success rate for drafting OTs has been nothing short of dismal, from Stan Thomas on down. (Big Cat was halfway decent, but he wasn't even drafted, and he started as a DT.)

by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 12:18pm

Re 25:
Well, sure it's worked for the Bears but only because they must have awful o-line scouts. I would like the Bears to find a Chad Clifton, or somebody so I don't have to worry about an old guy who's prone to injury or retirement.

by cjm (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 6:18pm

hey Ned, good article, thanks. Just one quibble: why do people keep saying the Colts run "almost exclusively out of 2-TE sets"? The last season the Colts ran much 2-TE was 2003, before Pollard left. Since then, they run a bit here and there, but mostly three-wide.

Just because Clark is listed as a tight end yet has the skills to play slot reciever, doesn't make a 3-wide formation into a 2-TE formation. If there aren't two ends lined up tight, then it's not meaningfully a two tight end formation.

If the Saints line up empty backfield with Reggie Bush in the slot, does anyone call it a singleback formation?