Tag Archives: AFC

A Successful Pro Bowl Increases Orlando’s Case as a Major Sports City

Orlando is ready to make its mark as a true major sports city. Photo Credit: Kavis Peak

The 67th NFL Pro Bowl takes place this Sunday in Orlando. It’s only the third time in 38 years it’s been held away from its mainstay location of Honolulu, Hawaii. Next season it will be in the “City Beautiful” as well, and there’s an option for 2019. What an opportunity for Orlando and Orange County leaders to show the sports world that we are a major league sports city. Not just a family-friendly tourist destination.

The NFL is the king of pro sports in America. Whatever they decide to do, you can bet the commissioners of the other major sports are taking notes. That’s why a very successful week of hosting the Pro Bowl and its events, official and unofficial — ahem, parties at nightclubs — will go a long way in enticing other major sporting events to make their way to central Florida.

Let me say this first, I know the Pro Bowl is a meaningless game that leaves much to be desired from hardcore football fans. Many of the top players have either withdrawn or are playing in the Super Bowl. Even with that said, the game has sold out the 65,000 capacity stadium including standing room only. Score one point for Florida Citrus Sports and their CEO Steve Hogan for making people care to spend their hard earned money for this game.

The great thing about moving the Pro Bowl to central Florida is it gives true football fans a chance to come out and get up close and personal with their favorite gridiron stars. That wasn’t the case when the game was held in Hawaii. It’s much easier and less expensive for NFL fans to get to Orlando for the game and week, then it is to get to Honolulu. Sure players would rather have that trip to the 50th state, but it’s not like central Florida weather and beaches is anything to sneeze at this time of the year with highs in the mid-70’s. But also in this day in age where the players are more worried about their brands, I’m looking specifically at you Antonio Brown, Mister Facebook Live, it would benefit them to be in the continental U.S. where their fan base can get to them. Score another point for the 407.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs want to be considered for future Super Bowls, NCAA National Football and Basketball Championships. We have the state-of-the-art facilities to host those events.

The 80-year old Camping World Stadium, better known and still affectionally called the Citrus Bowl, just underwent a $207 million dollar renovation. No it’s not the billion dollar playpens in Dallas, Minnesota and Atlanta, but It is already the hosts of three college football bowl games annually. Last season it was the site of Florida State’s spring game and a regular season matchup against Ole Miss. In the coming seasons, Louisville, Alabama, Florida and Miami will play in the Camping World kickoff game here. Just last November, the ACC moved its conference championship game from Charlotte to Orlando due to the controversial North Carolina House Bill 2 law. It has hosted Wrestlemania’s and it will host another this April. It can host major events.

In the past seven years, a the $480 million dollar Amway Center was built and hosted the 2012 NBA All-Star game and first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Orlando City Lions of the MLS opens its $155 million dollar soccer specific stadium this spring. 10 miles east of downtown on the campus of UCF, there’s the 10-year old 45,000+ capacity Bright House Stadium and 10,000+ seat CFE Arena.

City leaders have spent the money and made the efforts to make sure everything needed is in place for central Florida to prove it has more to offer than Disney World, Universal Orlando and other touristy attractions. Another point on the board for Orlando.

With the new soccer stadium, there can also be an opportunity to draw National team events.  Maphre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio is currently the adopted hometown for the Men’s team, but  Orlando could extend an invitation to become the home base for the U.S. Women’s National team who recently played in the Citrus Bowl in 2015. The city was successful when it was one of the host sites for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

All that can be decided in the future. But for the present it’s important that the city and its leaders maximize these rare opportunities. Orlando is ready to explode onto the national and world sports scene. And a great working relationship with the NFL will be the key that unlocks several other doors.

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Cleveland is the Remedy

Bell gained 201 yards from scrimmage vs. the Browns (146 rushing, 55 receiving). Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Saying the Pittsburgh Steelers were in a must win situation against the Cleveland Browns isn’t an exaggeration. It doesn’t matter that Cleveland is the only winless team in the NFL at now 0-11. It doesn’t matter that the Dallas Cowboys beat the Baltimore Ravens, who have the tie-breaker for the lead in the AFC North over the Steelers.

With a 4-game losing streak, and most likely needing to win the division to get into the playoffs, a loss would’ve sent this team into a greater tailspin that would have led to greater unwelcome ramifications for the coaching staff and players. I don’t care that it was the Browns, they needed something to feel better about themselves.

The smartest decision of the day was the Steelers electing to kickoff after winning the pre-game coin toss. This defense was under fire after giving up the win to the Dallas Cowboys with under a minute remaining after the offense appeared to have won it. It was imperative that defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s unit got off to a good start against the 28th ranked total offense and 30th ranked scoring offense, to gain some confidence without their best defender Cam Heyward, who is lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Even after allowing a 38-yard catch to Terrelle Pryor to convert a 3rd down, Artie Burns’ second career pick on 3rd and 17 to end the drive 3-plays later was the right dose of medicine needed to get this much maligned unit moving in the right direction.

The second drive began with a sack by Stephon Tuitt, his 2nd of the season and ended with another sack by Javon Hargrave six plays later. On the day, they finished with a season high 8 sacks, one of which led to a fumble recovered for a touchdown by Hargrave. The 8 sacks is the tied for the most in the NFL this season. They came into the game with only 13 sacks in 9 games, which was tied for dead last with the Oakland Raiders in that category. For only the third time this season they held a team under 300 total yards.

This week’s game ball goes to Stephon Tuitt and Lawrence Timmons. Tuitt had 6 tackles to go along with 2.5 sacks, and will need to come close to replicating this performance weekly in the absence of Heyward. Timmons also showed his veteran leadership with 8 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and 3 hits on the QB.

Offensively, it appears Todd Haley has finally realized the best weapon he has, and in my opinion the most lethal in the entire NFL, is running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell had 11 touches (8 rushes, 45 yards; 3 receptions, 34 yards) for 79 of the 87 yards and converted 6 first downs on the first drive that started at their own 4-yard line and ended with a Chris Boswell 32-yard field goal. For the day, Bell finished with 28 carries for 146 yards and a TD, 8 receptions for 55 yards. Using Bell they way they did allowed them to play ball control, and win the time of possession battle 33:58 to 26:02 with 4 drives of over 11 plays. Most importantly, they kept the struggling Pittsburgh defense on the sideline.

But, settling for 3 field goals after two 16-play drives (9:18, 9:28), a 15-play drive (8:02), and struggling to get into the end zone from inside the 5-yard line at the end of the 1st half versus the second worse total defense in the NFL, is still highly concerning. I don’t care what the weather elements, Pittsburgh can’t go 1 of 4 inside the red zone. I don’t need to tell you that’s not going to get it done if they hope to make a playoff run, which is what this teams only focus should be.

However, a win is a win. And right now this team will take them.

Next up, at the Indianapolis Colts (5-5) on Thanksgiving Night. Last season the Steelers beat the Colts 45-10 at Heinz Field on the strength of Roethlisberger’s 24 of 39 for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns performance.

OTHER NOTES

  • Pittsburgh’s 4th sack of the day registered by James Harrison made him the Steelers all-time career sack leader with 77.5, passing fellow #92 Jason Gildon, when he sacked Cody Kessler on 2nd and goal early in the 3rd quarter.
  • Le’Veon Bell passed Jerome Bettis for the fewest games to 5,000 scrimmage yards in Steelers history. It took Bell 42 games, “The Bus” Jerome Bettis did it in 52.
  • Ben Roethlisberger passed Fran Tarkenton and Philip Rivers for 12th and 11th on the all-time completions list in NFL history. He now has 3,704.

Brown continue to set NFL records, he’s the fastest to 600 career receptions. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

  • Antonio Brown set an NFL record for the fewest games (96) to reach 600 career receptions on his 5th reception of the day. Brown had 8 catches for 76 yards against the Browns.

 

If Not Tomlin, Than Who?

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, many in Steeler Nation want the 10-year coach to be fired. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

I never thought I would say this about a fan base with so much tradition and knowledge of the game of football, but Pittsburgh Steelers fans have got to be some of the most delusional and irrational in the NFL. Many are calling for Mike Tomlin’s tenure in the “Steel City” to come to an end after the 35-30 loss to the Dallas Cowboys that extended the Steelers losing streak to 4-games.

The overwhelming venom spewed towards the 10-year head coach is nothing new. He always gets it no matter what type of season the team has or is having. He gets hell when they don’t win a Super Bowl, hell, even a playoff game. They can’t stand his cliché press conferences. Which by the way are no less informative than Bill Belichick’s. How’s that worked out for him and the New England Patriots?

If Steelers fans got their way—they won’t if you know anything about the Rooney family—and he was fired, Tomlin would have a job the next day. One presumable landing spot would be in the AFC North with the heated rival Cincinnati Bengals replacing the underachieving Marvin Lewis. Tomlin would haunt the Steelers like Belichick’s firing still haunts the Cleveland Browns organization. But, I bring up the Bengals head coach to make this point, that’s what a team that needs a coaching change looks like. 12-seasons no playoff wins, and us Steeler fans, I say us because I am a die hard fan of the Black and Yellow, need to look no farther than their collapse against Pittsburgh in the AFC Wild Card game this past January to know what dysfunction looks like. The Steelers are not dysfunctional, they’re struggling.

Bengals aside, an unemployed Tomlin would be pursued by 27 NFL owners immediately upon receiving a pink slip. The only teams that wouldn’t need to call would be the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. And I only say Dallas because we all know Jason Garrett is just Jerry Jones’ puppet, he’s really the coach. Who is out there good enough to take over for Tomlin? I’ll wait. [sounds of crickets]

Tomlin detractors constantly bring up that in addition to the on-field struggles, off the field issues created by Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant would never have happened under his predecessor Bill Cower. Um, as a life long Steeler fan, who is 36 years old, I am old enough to remember and say “yes they did!” One example, remember running back Bam Morris? And there were others.

The “Tomlin haters” constantly say he inherited a Ferrari from Coach Cower. How easy they forget Cower didn’t exactly inherit an empty cupboard from the Hall of Fame legend, Coach Chuck Knoll. Do these names ring a bell; Greg Lloyd, Rod Woodson, Dermontti Dawson, Barry Foster, Carlton Haselrig, David Little? All those guys were on the roster when Coach Knoll retired  after the 1991 season and Cowher took over. Except for Little, they were all Pro-Bowlers in 1992, Little was the previous season. The roster also boasted a young Carnell Lake, Ernie Mills and Merrill Hodge. The cupboard wasn’t bare. That’s how that ’92 team was able to win a division title.

Since Tomlin’s haters love to say Cower was a better coach than him, let’s look at it. Tomlin now has a fair body of work to put up next to Cower. So let’s compare the two.

In Cowher’s first 9 seasons (1992-2000), Pittsburgh went 86-58 with 5 AFC Central titles and one second place finish. The team went 5-6 in the playoffs, lost 2 AFC Championship games at old Three Rivers Stadium, and lost Super Bowl XXX to the Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers missed the playoffs 3 consecutive seasons (1998-2000) which included two losing seasons (7-9 in 1998; 6-10 in 1999).

In Tomlin’s first 9 seasons, the Steelers went 92-52, won 4 AFC North titles (came in 2nd 3 other times that led to the playoffs). He’s currently 6-5 in the playoffs, won one Super Bowl XLIII, and lost another one Super Bowl XLV. He’s only missed the playoffs 3-times and never had a losing season. Still think Cowher had the better run through his first 9 seasons?

I agree changes need to be made in the organization, but head coach isn’t one of them. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler doesn’t appear to have been ready to take over for the Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau. If his unit doesn’t drastically improve over the next seven games, regardless if the team makes the playoffs or not, he’ll likely be sent packing. If so, this defense could use some Rex Ryan attention as the D-coordinator after the Buffalo Bills cut bait with him when they miss the playoffs. Tomlin has the personality and relationship with Rex, to manage having the boisterous coach on his staff.

The other change, is a shift in draft philosophy from General Manager Kevin Colbert. I’ve been clamouring for Colbert to use first and second round draft picks on defensive backs since Super Bowl XLIII, when Kurt Warner and Larry Firzgerald carved up that aging secondary. Before drafting rookie Artie Burns with the 25th pick in the 2016 draft, Pittsburgh hadn’t drafted a defensive back in the first round since Troy Polumalu in 2003. All we heard on draft day year after year was “linebacker or defense end from _____ university.” Now is the time to start a run of drafting defensive backs year after year, round after round until they get it right. Don’t allow this explosive offense to be wasted because the defense can’t stop a faucet.

I still believe in Mike Tomlin, and I think most knowledgable, reasonable Steelers fans do as well. Everyone can’t be Bill Belichick and win a watered down division every year. But who’d want to, we don’t need a “Deflategate” or “Spygate” cloud over the Three Rivers.

Anyway, with everything I laid out, if you still don’t like Tomlin, it’s not a football issue. I’m left to wonder what it is, but I think I already know the answer.

While I’m ranting about stuff Steelers fans should stop saying, stop chanting “HEEEEEEAAAAAAATH” every time Jesse James catches as pass. It makes you sound ignorant and foolish as to who’s on your team. For goodness sakes, James played at many of yours beloved Penn State! All tall, athletic white guys don’t look alike.

2016 NFL Predictions (According to Madden ’17)

EA Sports’ Madden is the best football simulation ever. Photo Credit: EA Sports

The grass is freshly cut, the lines painted, the stadiums seats are cleaned, the pads and helmets are clacking together, coaches are yelling and blowing their whistles….it’s football season.

Finally, we can stop talking about contract holdouts, Vontez Burfect’s suspension, Johnny Football’s troubles, Deflate-gate part deux, OBJ versus Josh Norman, drug related suspensions, domestic violence arrests and just watch players do what they do best. If college football is the appetizer, the NFL has arrived as the main course.

The defending Champion Denver Broncos kicked off Thursday night in the Mile High City with a thrilling come from behind 21-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch.

For many the official kickoff of football season is when the latest edition of EA Sports Madden Football video game is released. The 2017 edition was released back on August 26th, and I’ve had some time to play around with it.

Due to the many key injuries and recent cuts to get the rosters down to 53 players, I’ve waited until the first roster update to set up a season in franchise mode to run a simulation as accurate as possible with this season’s schedule. I’ve also stayed true to the suspensions of Tom Brady, Le’Veon Bell and others. So here it is, I simulated the 2016 season and here’s what we can expect…. According to Madden, blame them if I’m wrong.

AFC Division winners: Even with Tom Brady sitting out four games to suspension the Patriots still finished 13-3 to win the AFC East and home field advantage in the AFC. Here’s a look at how each division shook out.

  
  

NFC Division winners: The NFC went as expected by most accounts. The Arizona Cardinals who are the popular choice to make it all the way to Houston for the Super Bowl, secured home field advantage with a 12-4 record. Even though the New Orleans Saints had the same record, the Cards held the tiebreakers for 1st place.

  
 AFC Wild Card winners: The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. I don’t think it would be a surprise if the AFC North got two teams into the playoffs. Within the past five years they’ve gotten three in. The surprise is that one of the teams is the Ravens and not the Steelers who in this simulation had a 9-7 season.

Seeing the Tennessee Titans make the playoffs as the second AFC South team is a bit of a surprise. I think most prognosticators would’ve peg the Houston Texans or Indianapolis Colts to win the AFC South and represent the division in the tournament. Overall I like the direction the entire AFC South division is headed. All four teams have their franchise QB and are building stout young rosters on both sides of the ball.

NFC Wild Card winners: New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. It’s been a while since the Giants have been in the playoffs. They’re due. You know what happens when the G-Men get in. The Falcons need to get their franchise headed in a better direction going into a new stadium in 2017. This would be a good step if it really happens.

Rookies of the Year: The AFC offensive award went to Paxton Lynch, even though Denver had a 3-13 record. Lynch took the starting job from Trevor Siemian and threw for 3,160 yards, 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a QB rating of 71.7. The NFC offensive award went to Carson Wentz who led the Eagles to a 11-5 record. Wentz threw for 3,444 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions with a QB rating of 97.3.

The defensive awards went to defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of the 12-4 Arizona Cardinals for the NFC, and cornerback Xavien Howard of the 9-6-1 Miami Dolphins. Nkemdiche recorded 69 tackles (51 solo), 13.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss. Howard made 86 tackles (67 solo) and intercepted 5 passes and had 2 forced fumbles.

Defensive Players of the Year: Middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard of the Tennessee Titans won the AFC award collecting 143 combined tackles (108 solo), 2.5 sacks and 7 interceptions to lead Tennessee to a 10-6 record.

Cameron Jordan of the 12-4 New Orleans Saints won the NFC award. The defensive end collected 18.5 sacks, 3rd best in the NFL behind J.J. Watts 21.5 and Cameron Wake’s 20.5. Jordan also added 83 total tackles (66 solo), and 15 tackles for loss.

NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers won his second Most Valuable Player award by leading the NFL in passing yards (5,253), coming in third in TD passes (37) and throwing only 10 interceptions with a 104.9 QB rating.

NFL Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick–even though on the game he’s named Griffin Murphy–just did his job and led the Patriots to a 13-3 record, 3-1 without Tom Brady due to his suspension.

Wild Card round:  The Wild Card round live up to it’s name. Wild. All four games were decided by one possession. The Giants were the lowest seed (#6) to win. What did you expect? If the Giants get in, they’ll make noise. That’s what they do. Eli Manning went 21 of 31 for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead New York over Philadelphia in a rivalry matchup and Odell Beckham Junior caught 9 passes for 139 yards. Here’s the rest of the Wild Card results.

Divisional round: The Cincinnati Bengals finally win a playoff game! In another thriller, Cincinnati beat the Kansas City Chiefs in a 48-41 classic. Andy Dalton was 26 of 35 for 236 yards and 4 touchdowns to help the Bengals get the playoff victory monkey off their backs. The shocker of Divisional weekend is the 13-3 Patriots losing in Gillette Stadium to the 10-6 Baltimore Ravens 17-7. Although it shouldn’t come as much of a shock, these teams have history and the Ravens have had the better of it in the playoffs lately. Here’s how the rest of the round looked.

Championship Round: In the NFC, Eli Manning once again has the Giants on the brink of going to another Super Bowl. Eli either misses the playoffs or wins Super Bowls, but that wasn’t the case in this simulation. Drew Brees and the Saints end the Giants season. While on the AFC side, for the second consecutive season, the Bengals found themselves in another playoff war with a divisional rival.  Super Bowl 51: New Orleans Saints vs. Cincinnati Bengals. So not only do the Bengals win their first playoff game in over two and a half decades, they make it all the way to the Super Bowl. Only in virtual reality. I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’m a die hard Steelers fan. However, the Bengals trip to the Super Bowl ended like their other two appearances, in heartbreak. Drew Brees went 27 of 37 for 315 yards and a touchdown to bring New Orleans their second Lombardi trophy in a 35-21 victory. 

Like I said, these predictions/simulation are on EA Sports and Madden. I’d be surprised if any of them happened. Except for Rodgers and Belicheck winning MVP and Coach of the Year. I’d expect that.

2016 NFL Rookies Superlatives

How will the rookies of 2016 fare? We take a guess?

How will the rookies of 2016 fare? We take a guess?

The 2016 NFL draft class had little star power coming into the annual spring meeting, compared to years past. Although, as a group, the story was the Ohio State Buckeye draftees (5 first round picks, 12 overall).

But, even without the star prospects (2017 Leonard Fournette), there should be a few players that help teams take the next step. 36 linebackers were chosen, that was the most of any position. By comparison, there were only 15 quarterbacks selected. It appears teams are making more of an effort to get after the passer. Who can blame them after the way the Denver Broncos proved in the playoffs that defense still wins championships in this offensive slanted league.

But back to the rookie class of 2016. When you have 253 players selected and close to a hundred more signed as free agents, it’s not an exact science to project who will be the standouts and flame outs years from now. But hey, that’s what makes this fun.

So here’s how I think this year’s class will fare at some point in their career.

Most likely to lead the league in passing yards: Cardale Jones, Buffalo Bills. Cardale Jones rose to the National spotlight when he led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the first ever College Football Playoff Championship in 2014, after starting quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with a season ending injury. Many thought he should’ve entered the draft after that 3-game run, but he went back to school to finish his degree and improve his game. It didn’t work out on the field as he struggled, and lost his starting job after eight games. But, I always said Jones’ skill set is built more for the pro game than the fast break, gimmicky, spread offenses in college. His cannon of an arm and 6’5″ 250 pound frame is the pro-type NFL scouts look for at the QB position. I compare him to two-time Super Bowl winning QB Ben Roethlisberger when he entered the 2004 draft out of Miami of Ohio. Jones will start his career on the bench behind Tyrod Taylor, but the keys to the car in Buffalo will eventually be his. With offensive weapons like Sammy Watkins, tight end Charles Clay and running back LeSean McCoy, Jones will have the weapons to put up big numbers.

Most likely to lead the league in rushing: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys. The 4th pick in the draft could very likely accomplish this feat in his rookie season. “Zeke” will be running behind arguably the best offensive line in the League, and with Tony Romo out for the foreseeable future, he will be featured more now that they’ll be breaking in fellow rookie and 4th round pick Dak Prescott at quarterback.

Most likely to lead the league in catches/receiving yards: Sterling Shepard, New York Giants. The 2nd round pick, gets to play with Eli Manning who likes to throw it around the field, and across from Odell Beckham Junior who is going to draw more double teams and bracketed coverage, giving Shepard more opportunities. The Oklahoma Sooner product has been compared to Tyler Lockett, but the best comparison may be to his Giants teammate, the often injured Victor Cruz, who’s spot he’s likely to take.

Most likely to lead the league in total touchdowns (non-QB): Ezekiel Elliott is a dual threat as a runner and receiver, a three down back. It won’t be a surprise to see him flirt with having 15+ rushing touchdowns, and 5+ receiving touchdowns a season for the Cowboys.

Most likely to lead the league in interceptions: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars. Gus Bradley is building a defense similar to the one he coached in Seattle. The pass rushers they have are going to put all kinds of pressure on opposing QBs. So what does that mean? More wounded ducks for a multi talented DB like Ramsey to get his hands on. The 6’1″ 209 pound cornerback reminds me of the late Sean Taylor with his ball hawking ability and speed to fly from sideline to sideline.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks: Leonard Floyd, Chicago Bears. The 6’6″ outside linebacker out of the University of Georgia is a flat out athletic FREAK. His size and speed (4.6 40-yd dash) with a 35 inch vertical leap, has the athleticism that is reminiscent of Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. To begin his career, the Bears coaches will make it simple for him by just sending him flying off the edges to get the quarterback. Floyd could very well be the next great Bears defender following in the footsteps of Brian Urlacher, Mike Singletary, And Dick Butkus.

Most likely to lead the league in turnovers: Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets. The Jets selected Hackenberg out of Penn State with the 51st pick in the second round, but re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick for one-year, so they won’t be counting on the rookie anytime soon. However Hackenberg is definitely in their future plans. I was never a fan of his, during his time in Happy Valley. In three seasons he threw 30 interceptions to 48 touchdowns, while completing only 56% of his pass attempts. Draft gurus like ESPN’s Mel Kiper at one point projected him to be the number QB selected when he entered the draft. That obviously wasn’t the case, because the book is out on him. And, it doesn’t read well. He was also accused of throwing his coaches and Nittany Lion teammates under the bus during the pre-draft process.

Most likely to be a bust, and fade into obscurity: Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers. I hope I’m wrong on this one as a fellow Ohio State alum. But, being a holdout in the fashion he was, it doesn’t bold well for him. He missed all of training camp and the preseason. The only saving grace is that other Charger rookie holdouts–16 to be exact–like LaDanian Tomlinson, Junior Seau, Philip Rivers and Shawne Merriman worked out okay. Plus, Bosa isn’t playing QB or another complicated position like outside linebacker or in the defensive secondary, so you would think the Chargers coaching staff would just turn him lose and say “Go get the ball carrier” or “just get the quarterback”, making his transition simple.

Most likely to be a Hall of Famer: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys. Look, I’ve bought into the preseason hype. I did in preseason game number one. Check the tweets below and the time stamp.

    

Actually, I was a fan of his when he was at Mississippi State. Prescott probably won’t lead the NFL in passing yards or touchdown passes in a season, but he has all the pieces around him to win games, and that is what matters most. He’s fallen into the perfect situation, a la Russell Wilson in Seattle. The Cowboys have lucked up and found their new millennium triplets in Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and now Dak. Plus, this offensive line has the potential to be as dominate as the “Great Wall of Dallas” that led Emmitt Smith to the most rushing yards in NFL history. If Dak can channel his inner Troy Aikman–and Jerry Jones can avoid messing it up by forcing the chronically injured Tony Romo back into the lineup–these Cowboys can have a measure of success they haven’t had since the early-mid 1990’s. That would help Prescott’s case to get a gold jacket and bust in Canton one day.

The Tennessee Titans Mt. Rushmore

From Houston to Nashville, the Oilers/Texans have had an impressive 55 years of Pro Football. Photo Credit:ESPN.com

From Houston Texas, to Nashville, Tennessee the Oilers/Titans franchise has racked up 404 regular season wins, 2 League Championships (the first two in AFL history), an AFC Championships, 9 Division Championships, while making the playoffs 21 times in their 55 year history.

8 former Oilers/Titans players have been inducted in the Pro Football Hall of fame. But only four standout as the franchise’s Mount Rushmore.

CRITERIA:

  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon. 
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.

Earl Campbell (1978-1984) the “Tyler Rose” is a Texas and Houston Legend. The bruising running back was the first major star in their years in the NFL. After staring in Austin for the Longhorns, Campbell came to the NFL and became a 5-time Pro Bowler, 3-time 1st-team All-Pro (1978-1981,1983), 3-time NFL rushing champion, 3-time NFL MVP (1978,79,80) 3-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1978,1979,1980) and the 1978 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. When he retired he was the Oilers/Titans all-time leading rusher with 8,574 yards and his 73 rushing touchdowns are still number in team history. In 2010, he was voted the 55th NFL Player of all-time by NFL.com and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. His number 34 is retired by the franchise.

Warren Moon (1984-1993) can make a case that he’s the greatest passer in NFL history, in pro football history. After HAVING to spend six seasons playing in the Canadian Football League to prove he could be a quarterback, all Moon did in his eight seasons as a member of the Houston Oilers was become the team’s all-time leading passer with 33,685 yards and 196 touchdowns. He’s also the Oilers/Titans all-time leader in completions (2,632) and attempts (4,546). In 1990 he was award the NFL MVP award as well as Offensive Player of the Year. Moon was a 6-time Pro Bowler in Houston and a 3-time All-Pro (1988,1989, 1990). When he finished his career as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2000, Moon had amassed 49,325 yards and 291 touchdowns; in the CFL he threw for 21,228 yards and 144 touchdowns for a total of 70,553 yards and 435 touchdowns. Those numbers would have been good enough for 3rd on both lists behind Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. The Titans made him only the sixth player in team history to have his jersey retired.

Bruce Matthews (1983-2001) has a name that still is very active in today’s NFL. He’s the father of Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Kevin and Jake Matthews, as well the uncle of Green Bay Packer and Minnesota Vikings Linebackers Clay Matthews III and Casey Matthews. Long before they arrived in the League he had his own outstanding career. He was a 14-time Pro Bowler (1988-2001), 10-time All-Pro (1988-1993,1996, 1998-200), NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year (2000), and a member of the NFL 1990’s All-Decade team. He blocked for the top two leading rushers in team history in Eddie George and Earl Campbell, and played for the team as both the Oilers and Tennessee Titans. Matthews is the All-Time NFL record holder for games played by an offensive lineman with 296. His jersey, number 74, is retired by the team. NFL.com ranked him 78th on the “100 Greatest Players” list in 2010.

Steve McNair (1995-2005) was the driving force of the Tennessee Titans that reached Super Bowl XXXIV after the 1999 Season. The 3rd pick by the Houston Oilers in 1995, he finished his career with the team as the second all-time leading passer with 27,141 yards and 3rd in passing touchdowns with 156. McNair was a 3-time Pro Bowler with the club and an All-Pro in 2003. He also was the co-NFL MVP in 2003 with Peyton Manning. His 76 wins are the most by an Oilers/Titans quarterback.

Titans-Oilers fans what do you think? Is this the right four? Or would you have gone with someone else? Say Eddie George? Ernest Givens? Or Mike Munchak?

The San Diego Chargers Mt. Rushmore

The Chargers have been the lone consistent pro football team in Southern California for more than 5 and a half decades. Photo Credit: Chargers.com

The San Diego Chargers got their start in the AFL back in 1960, in Los Angeles, before heading  south to San Diego. Their first few seasons were the opposite of the last few seasons have been. They played for the League championship 5 times in their first 6 seasons, winning the AFL Championship in their 4th season (1963). The last four seasons in So Cal have been rough to say the least. The Chargers haven’t won double digit games since 2009 (13-3), since then they’ve had 3 9-7 finishes, with an 8-8, 7-9 and 4-12 records causing them to miss the playoffs the past two seasons.

Even with their recent struggles on the field, and the uncertainty over where they’ll play in the future, the Chargers and San Diego have enjoyed tremendous success in their 56 seasons. The “Super Chargers” have won 421 regular season games, 1 AFC Championship, 15 Division titles, and made the playoffs 18 times. Eight former Chargers have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but only four make this list.

CRITERIA:

  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon. 
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.

Junior Seau (1990-2002) is an icon in Southern California due to his days as a USC Trojan, through his days as a Charger. Seau is first in all-time career tackles (1,286) and recovered fumbles by the opposition (16) in team history. When he left the team in 2002 he was first in games played (200), he’s now 2nd. He’s 3rd in forced fumbles (11), and 4th in sacks (47). #55 is a 12-time Pro Bowl Selection, 10-time All-Pro, the 1992 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame, Chargers 40th and 50th Anniversary and the NFL 1990s All-Decade Teams. In 2012 the Chargers retired his jersey number, and in 2015 he was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ladainian Tomlinson (2001-2009) is the Chargers all-time leader in games played by a running back (141), rushing yards (12,490), rushing touchdowns (138), and carries (2,880). He also scored the most touchdowns in team history when you combine his rushing and 15 receiving touchdowns (153). “LT” was the 2006 NFL MVP, the same season he set the NFL record for most combined touchdowns scored in one season (31). The 5-time Pro Bowler and 6-time All-Pro is tied for the NFL record for most consecutive games with a touchdown in one season (18). Tomlinson is a member of the Chargers Hall of Fame, 50th Anniversary Team and NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. Tomlinson was ranked 61st on NFL.com’s “100 Greatest Players” list in 2010. The team retied his jersey number 21 in 2015.

Antonio Gates (2003-present) is San Diego’s all-time leader in catches (844), receiving yards (10,644) and receiving touchdowns (104). 77 of his touchdowns were from Phillip Rivers, which is an NFL Record for a QB and TE combination. Gates, an 8-time Pro Bowl selection and 5-time All-Pro, is only the second tight end in NFL history to catch 100+ touchdowns. He is a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.

Lance Alworth (1962-1970) finished his career with the Chargers as its all-time leader in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Four and a half decades later he’s still 2nd in receiving yards (9,584) and receiving touchdowns (81), and 5th in catches 493. Alworth played in an era when teams rushed majority of the time as opposed to passing, yet still holds 7 AFL-NFL receiving records. The 7-time AFL All-Star and 6-time All-AFL performer led the Chargers to their only league championship in 1963 when they played in the AFL. Alworth has the Pro Football record for most games (5) with 200+ receiving yards, a record he shares with Calvin Johnson. He is a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, AFL All-Time Team, Chargers Hall of Fame, and Chargers 40th and 50th Anniversary Teams. The Chargers have retired Alworth’s number 19 jersey, which was very popular during the Mitchell and Ness throwback craze of the early 2000s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978. In 2010, NFL.com ranked him 38th on their “100 Greatest Players” list. 

There you have it. Charger fans, agree or disagree? If you disagree, who would you have rather seen on the list (Philip Rivers, Kellen Winslow Sr.) and who would you replace?