AP’s NFL All-Pro Ballot Should Be Expanded

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In 2018, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz caught 116 passes from his quarterbacks, which is an NFL record for tight ends and was second among all pass-catchers in the league in that category. To go along with this, Ertz also scored eight touchdowns with 1,163 receiving yards, all of which are phenomenal for a tight end (he was third in the league compared to other tight ends in both categories). When Associated Press released their annual All-Pro selection at the end of the regular season, only two tight ends were listed: Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Both were definitely deserving (each beat the previous tight end record for receiving yards), but the absence of Ertz despite his record-setting year is, in a word, garbage. (more…)

NFL Pick ‘Em: Super Bowl LI

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It’s that time again. If you’re within the States, you probably already know this.

Seeing as my rampant, unquenchable thirst for all things football cannot be deterred by mere low-quality officiating or a distaste for those running the stage, I ended up closely following the season via statistics, but didn’t partake in watching many games. (I watched maybe five games during the entire Regular Season.) Even so, I watched every playoff game and am totally, 100% confident in my predictions as I’ve experienced about 15% of the entire season. That’ll make me credible.

That being said, the match-up is one I’m personally satisfied with. Many would disagree, as the New England Patriots are almost universally hated, but I’ve found myself a semi-fan of the team due to my contrarian nature. And they’re constantly a thorn in the side of the higher-ups of the NFL. That makes me giddy. On the other side, the team I personally want to win, are the Atlanta Falcons, making only their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Nothing against New England, but I want to see Atlanta win one.

Breaking down the benefits in each favor, both teams have a lot of firepower on both sides of the ball. The Falcons have a lot more inexperience, especially on defense with a number of rookies in starting roles, but they’ve consistently held off high-powered offenses, most recently of the once-red-hot Green Bay Packers. That goes a long way for creating a stream of confidence heading into a game against an offense that has consistently demolished every opponent throughout the season. Both teams are hot. Both teams are playing spectacularly. This one may very well come down to the wire.

I can’t really say who has the edge in any particular area, as both teams have a number of different methods of attack. Kyle Shanahan’s offensive gameplan reminds me some of Andy Reid’s, relying a lot on precision and deceit and paying attention to every aspect of the play. With the number of weapons at Matt Ryan’s disposal, it’ll prove to be a hefty task, especially when even if Julio Jones is double-teamed, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel are more than capable of picking up the slack. New England’s offense is a model of consistency. They, too, have a number of different weapons that feature different methods of attack. Yards after the catch is a focal point that tends to give opposing defenses fits. The key concern for Atlanta’s defense is to keep what they have in front of them and tackle, tackle, tackle. Rely on the front four to get pressure and throw Tom Brady off rhythm, as I’ve seen Buffalo do a great job of making Brady look ordinary doing just that.

In the end, the debate for me is modeled consistency versus up-and-coming stars. The Falcons have lost some rather easy games early on in the season, including games against the Eagles and Chargers, so the doubt begins to creep in when going up against a 14-2 team that only lost to a hardened veteran team in Seattle, and Buffalo without Brady as a starter. It’s really hard to bet against New England, seeing as their success has been ongoing since before my youngest brother was born. Still, the Falcons have a path carved before them to show that there’s a new dynasty in the NFL. They just need to prove it by dethroning the current diamond franchise.

By the way, I’m 1-5 in Super Bowl picks since 2011. Please feel free to bet against me.

Winner: New England

I’m (Really) Done with the NFL

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post documenting my frustration with the inadequacy of the NFL’s referees. In a fit of rage, I made an oath not to watch the NFL for an undetermined amount of time, so long as the NFL didn’t take responsibility for their employers. I cracked under pressure and watched the AFC-NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl soon after. It was almost akin to a child throwing a tantrum because they weren’t getting their way.

Fast forward to present time and with two weeks of action, I haven’t found anything particularly troubling about the state of the refs (though that may depend on what game I’m watching). Even so, there’s something unsatisfying about the entire game in its current state. Perhaps its the media overblowing everything. Norman vs. Beckham. Gurley is the second-coming of Christ. Kaepernick sat during the national anthem and now everyone’s joining in on the fun. It seems the game has become less of a game and more of a circus, a gladiatorial type conglomerate that soothes itself on embellishing itself in drama and glory. It’s too much sometimes, and how I’ve been able to stand it for this long amazes me. I love football as a sport that much, it seems. But it’s getting to the point where it’s not worth the time.

I spend a lot of my free time on football. Not just watching football games, but looking up football history, football stats, watching the NFL Network, playing Madden 12, and researching for my occasional NFL Top 10’s. And this is only with the NFL. I also watch College Football, Canadian Football, Arena Football, and had I the chance to, High School and Indoor Football. The only thing I don’t watch is Lingerie Football! That’s ten hours on Saturdays and Sundays, and an additional three and a half on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. That’s thirty hours a week! I don’t even work that much in a week!

I don’t even get much out of football. Just three hours of raw enjoyment and nothing more. I can’t really critique it (outwardly) or make anything out of it as a writer (They want things called “degrees.” Pfft!), and the NFL is pretty strict on their copyrights. It’s something one can only watch and appreciate, assuming the game is actually good. In the long run, I’ve wasted so much time watching games when I could’ve been, ahem, “productive” doing something else. The time when I was writing my picks for weekly games was the least productive my blog had ever been. I was constantly burned out by the pressure of writing long, complicated posts and doing so within a self-reserved deadline. Ever since I stopped doing so, my passion for blogging has increased exponentially. My writing has been more fruitful and my desire to do so at an even pace has (almost) never faltered. I was content watching football on my own time and blogging whenever it was done. But whenever football was concerned, something always took a backseat.

I’ve recently been getting back into video games (Partly due to my own ambition and partly due to my desire to do video game reviews on Youtube). This typically conflicts with a number of things, as video games aren’t something to be enjoyed for short periods of time. Usually, football would always take precedence. In the long run, video games would take less time to indulge in than football, and let’s face it, video games don’t have commercials to hog up that time, too. It’s more beneficial to me, too, as a control-freak and as a reviewer to be able to control the game at my pace and rely on my own to make something out of it. The NFL is big business. It’s controlled like a corporation and advertised like a carnival. After five years of watching, I think I’ve finally gotten over the desire to keep up with it.

This isn’t to say I will never watch (or keep up with) the NFL again. I wouldn’t mind sitting down and watching a game or two every so often, but I’m not going to let it take up nearly as much time as it did in the past. The same can be said for College (Though I care less about College than the NFL). To be “done” with the NFL is slightly exaggerating the point of this entry, but I like harking back to my old, embarrassing posts every once in a while. The point is, I’m not going to be known as “the football fanatic” in my household anymore. I’m moving past that. I may look back sometimes, but I’ll keep moving forward in the meantime.

Top 10 Great Seasons by Average NFL Players

The NFL is very quick to highlight the spectacular talent produced within the league. J.J. Watt, Todd Gurley, Cam Newton, and more have been showing up in commercials and headlines more and more due to their recent (or sustained) success. It’s easy to get carried away by a single great season, but it gives the impression that a player is taking the first step into sports stardom. This is a list I devised focusing on the players that took that first step into achieving the productivity typically only seen by hall of famers, but couldn’t manage to match it throughout the rest of their careers. And to clarify, this isn’t technically a “One-hit Wonder” list, but rather a list focusing on the limits of a player and those magical seasons where they played well beyond their expectations.

I also tried to limit the impact of injuries had on a player’s production. This is a list that tries not to hide behind the “injury bug” loophole that damages many players’ careers. These are players that simply had okay careers, with one fantastic season attached to it.

10. Lionel James – 1985

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They called him “Little Train.” Standing at a measly 5’6″, Lionel James came into the league in 1984 as a fifth-round pick by the San Diego Chargers, near the end of the Don Coryell era. Needless to say, the offense James had stumbled upon was known for being high-powered, especially with Dan Fouts in the backfield. As a rookie, James made an immediate impact as a return-man, but didn’t contribute much to the offense. That would come the year after, in 1985.

516 rushing yards. 1,027 receiving yards. 213 punt return yards. 779 kick return yards. Tack on two rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns, and you have a season accumulating 2,535 total yards and eight touchdowns. His total yardage count was an NFL record at that time, as well as his receiving total for his position at running back. James was able to obtain success on almost every front, whether it be rushing, receiving, or returning. Most of all, he didn’t even start half the season.

His career soon dwindled out afterwards. He only posted 2,596 yards total yards in the next three seasons, only 61 more yards than he had in all of 1985. Not to mention, only seven more touchdowns throughout that three-year span. He was released after the 1988 season and never caught on anywhere else. But for what it’s worth, he’ll always have his 1985 season.

9. Renaldo Turnbull – 1993

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Unlike Lionel James, Renaldo Turnbull was no “little train.” Drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft, Turnbull had high expectations from day one. He managed to quell those expectations in his rookie season when he posted nine sacks and 31 tackles in six starts and ten more games in rotation. However, as years followed, he was buried on the depth chart and didn’t see a lot of action on the field, posting only two and a half sacks in the next two years. In 1993, he was able to start in fourteen games, and showed the world why he was picked in the first round.

Garnering Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors, Renaldo Turnbull finished the ’93 season with 63 tackles, thirteen sacks, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and even an interception. His teammate, Rickey Jackson, also made the Pro Bowl that year, which may have aided Turnbull in his productivity. Whatever the case, Turnbull would be one of a tandem of outside linebacker forces offenses would have to prepare for for years to come. At least, that’s what was initially expected.

Turnbull still had some pass-rushing ability to him, but never to the same extent as in 1993. He finished the ’94 season with six and a half sacks, the ’95 season with seven sacks, and the ’96 season with six and a half sacks. However, by 1996, they had him more of a situational pass-rusher than an all time starter. He was released after the ’96 season and spent one final season with the Carolina Panthers, where he only managed one sack in sixteen games played, before calling it quits.

8. Scott Mitchell – 1995

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It’s almost become a running joke that Scott Mitchell wasn’t very good as a quarterback. However, based on his statistical performances, that’s somewhat hard to back up, especially with his play in 1995. He’s better than most people give him credit for, but that’s easy considering most people credit him with being atrocious.

Mitchell started his career as a backup to Dan Marino in Miami. After Marino went down during the ’93 season, Mitchell came in to replace him, and did a good enough job to have the Detroit Lions interested in signing him to a lucrative contract. However, it wasn’t easygoing for Mitchell when things started out. In 1994, Mitchell threw more interceptions than touchdowns while leading the Lions to a 4-5 record before getting injured. Back-up Dave Krieg led the team to a 5-2 record in his absence, and played far better in Mitchell’s stead. This wouldn’t mean anything as Mitchell was the starting quarterback the moment the 1995 season rolled around. The Lions are likely glad they stuck with him that year.

Mitchell enjoyed the best season of his career by far, posting 32 touchdowns against 12 interceptions and 4,338 passing yards. With the help of Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, and Brett Perriman, Mitchell was able to orchestrate an offense capable of scoring at any time. This helped to lead the team to a 10-6 record… before being blown out in the first round of the playoffs, where Mitchell had a putrid performance.

Mitchell would probably place higher on this list had he not posted two decent seasons after 1995. However, past 1997, he was regarded as a journeyman back-up, bouncing from team to team before retiring after the 2001 season. He’s certainly not the worst quarterback Detroit has had in the last fifty years, but he gave them enough hope for greener pastures during 1995. It’s only a shame he couldn’t win at least once for Barry.

7. Audray McMillian – 1992

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McMillian is an interesting story. Drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 1985 NFL Draft, McMillian didn’t even make the final cut. He was picked up by the Houston Oilers and provided serviceable back-up at cornerback over the course of three years, appearing in 44 games from 1985 to 1987, starting two. He was released after the ’87 season and was out of football for a year. In 1989, the Minnesota Vikings gave him a call.

He spent the next two seasons with the Vikings the same way he did with the Oilers: as a serviceable back-up. He played in 31 games in two years, starting four. He even managed to snag three interceptions in 1990. In 1991, McMillian was given a bigger role in the defense, starting seven games and intercepted four passes while appearing in every game that season. He was eventually named as a permanent starter, and he proved he belonged in 1992.

Helping new coach Dennis Green’s debut season reach an 11-5 record, Audray McMillian started all sixteen games and picked off eight passes, returning two of them for touchdowns. He established himself as the league’s premier shutdown corner, seven years after he was drafted. He was rewarded with a Pro Bowl birth and a First-Team All-Pro selection to cap off a remarkable late-career resurgence.

In 1993, his production slipped quite a bit. He started every game and intercepted four passes, but wasn’t the same player he was the year prior. He was passed over for the Pro Bowl and never sniffed All-Pro honors as his team went from 11-5 to 9-7. In the prime of his career, McMillian retired after the ’93 season.

6. Jerry Azumah – 2003

Atlanta Falcons vs Chicago Bears

A running back in college, Jerry Azumah was drafted in 1999 with the intention of converting him into a cornerback. This transition proved to be somewhat successful, as he began to start on defense as soon as 2000. As the years went on, Azumah started more and more games, until he became the permanent starter in 2002. It wasn’t until 2003 where his versatility would become his biggest asset.

Along with starting cornerback, Azumah’s resume included starting kick returner during his 2003 season. In that season, aside from providing solid coverage on defense, he also led the league in kick return average and kick return touchdowns. Consider him a Devin Hester before Devin Hester. Whenever he had the ball in his hands, he was dangerous. He finished the season with 82 tackles, four interceptions, a sack, 1,191 return yards, and two kick return touchdowns. He was named Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro as a kick returner to cap off the year.

In 2004, the Bears decided to use Azumah more as a kick returner than a cornerback, cutting his playing time on defense down to just starting eight games. His returning skills were still there, but not nearly as effective as the year prior, only gaining 924 return yards without a single score. At least he managed to nab another four interceptions on defense.

2005 would prove to be the breaking point. Azumah started only a single game on defense, while posting even fewer return yards as a returner. He retired the next year, knowing full well that his production was starting to wane on the eve of his 29th birthday.

5. Ladell Betts – 2006

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An interesting case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Ladell Betts is a prime example of what could’ve been, had the Redskins not had Clinton Portis as the perennial starter.

Drafted in the second round in 2002, Betts was constantly buried within the Redskins’ depth chart behind other backs, like the aforementioned Clinton Portis. Throughout the years, he was used in situational plays for the most part, but never surpassed the expectations of being a three-down back. He showed what he was capable of, however, in 2006.

The season started the same. Portis was the starter with Betts being used as a change of pace. However, in week seven, Portis went down with a season-ending injury, forcing Betts into the starting role. He took the role and gave the team a reason he was drafted so high all those years ago. In nine starts, Betts rushed for 869 yards and three touchdowns, while catching thirty passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. Combined with his production before Portis’s injury, Betts’s totals come to 1,154 rushing yards, 53 catches for 445 yards, and two kick returns for 27 yards, bringing his season total to 1,626 yards and five touchdowns. While those stats don’t seem like much, it’s important to note that he was third on the team in receptions and receiving yards.

Betts was a shining spot on an otherwise dim offensive year for the 2006 team. He filled in tremendously and did all he could and more for an already pessimistic team. Unfortunately for Betts, when the season ended, Portis was awarded his starting spot back with the team, and Betts never got a chance to start on a regular basis again in his career. He finished his career with 3,326 rushing yards and 1,646 receiving yards. Perhaps he could’ve been better had he been given a chance to start, but as it stands, he’s an average player who could never fight his way to the number one spot.

4. Nathan Vasher – 2005

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Oh, look. Another Bears corner from the mid-2000’s. Odd.

A fourth round pick in 2004, Vasher was thrust quickly into action on account of injuries to established starting corners. Starting in seven games, Vasher picked off five interceptions to end the season. The next year, Vasher was the permanent starter and had the greatest season of his career. He intercepted eight passes and was part of a stout Chicago defense that made up for its offense’s varying quality. He came up in big in big moments, which helped make him an easy selection for the Pro Bowl and Second-Team All-Pro honors. The success would only last for so long.

I will admit that this choice was a little influenced by the quick rise and drop of his production due to injuries, but I felt he played enough to qualify for a spot this high. He started most of the 2006 season, only intercepting three passes and providing adequate coverage throughout. It wasn’t until 2007 when his injuries began to plague his availability. He played in only twelve games, starting nine, in the next two seasons. He snagged two interceptions in that time, along with a sack and thirty tackles. By 2009, his injuries affected his status on the team, as he was buried on the depth chart and released after the season. In five starts and fourteen games with the Detroit Lions, he had one interception. He was out of football soon after.

It was a promising start for Vasher, but his injuries led him into a downward spiral. After sixteen interceptions in 35 starts, he would only get four more in the next four seasons. There’s a part of me that wonders if he may have excelled due to the system he was in. Whatever the case, 2005 is a season worth remembering as Vasher’s crowning achievement.

3. Charley Frazier – 1966

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Ah, the ’60s. The rise of Pro Football as a national empire. The introduction of the Super Bowl and the AFL-NFL merger. It was a great time to be a fan. If only I was alive back then.

Meet Charley Frazier, an undrafted wide receiver for the Houston Oilers in the early days of the AFL. He spent varying amounts of time on the field without much importance thrown to him. As the years went by, his production became more and more apparent, and was eventually a familiar face for the offense. In 1965, his hard work paid off for him with a decent season: 38 catches for 717 yards and six touchdowns. In the mid-60’s, that’s like a 1,000 yard season today. Frazier would top that, though. In 1966.

If 717 yards is like a 1,000 yard season today, then a 1,129 yard season then is like a 1,600 yard season today. Frazier managed to rack up the yards along with 57 catches and twelve touchdowns. That’s an impressive feat for a league that was so keen on running the ball twenty-five times a game. The season earned him a Pro Bowl nod. Unfortunately, his offensive performance couldn’t help the team past a 3-11 overall record after starting quarterback George Blanda went down with an injury.

Unfortunately, Frazier’s days as an elite receiver were over by that point. After the ’66 season, he never eclipsed 23 catches, 306 receiving yards, or seven touchdowns. In 1969, he was signed by the Boston Patriots and had a semi-successful first season with the team before floundering his final season before retirement.

2. Derek Anderson – 2007

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This is a popular pick for “One-Hit Wonders.” It’s easy to see why.

Derek Anderson came into the league as sixth round pick for the Baltimore Ravens, only to be released quickly after. He managed to sneak into the Browns’ roster and stuck out just enough for the team to give him a shot. In 2007, he led them to their first winning season since 2002… and in the last fourteen years.

With the help of a receiver by the name of Braylon Edwards (who almost made this list), Anderson managed up a Pro Bowl season with 29 touchdown passes with 19 interceptions and nearly 3,800 passing yards. This type of season had the fans in Cleveland running amok with fury. Their team was finally a winner again. Those poor souls.

Anderson quickly came back to Earth in 2008, going 3-6 in nine starts while throwing nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. As the seasons went on, his play only worsened. In 2009, he completed only 44% of his passes in seven starts, throwing three touchdowns to ten interceptions. He was signed by the Cardinals in 2010 and his poor play continued. He was released after a year.

However, his career didn’t end there. To this day, Anderson is now a back-up to Cam Newton in Carolina. In relief games, Anderson has played well enough in his stead to provide a comfortable quarterback situation should Newton ever go down with an injury… short-term, of course. Anderson has embraced his role as a back-up, doing nothing to try and challenge that role. And for that, I feel he’s redeemed himself for all the negativity that’s surrounded him prior to his Carolina venture. He’s certainly average, but he’s okay with that. After all, he can proudly brag that he’s the last person to lead Cleveland to a winning season.

1. Erik Kramer – 1995

Erik Kramer

In the same year that Scott Mitchell was taking the league by storm, Erik Kramer was doing the same thing in the same division.

Erik Kramer was an undrafted player in 1987 who spent his rookie year with the Atlanta Falcons. He was released only a year later. What was Kramer to do with his life? Here’s an idea: Canadian Football! He spent three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL before returning to the NFL as a back-up option with the Detroit Lions. He went 10-5 as a starter for the Lions in relief effort, which gave the Chicago Bears enough reason to sign him to a long-term deal. Much like Mitchell, Kramer’s first year with his new team provided little to think he’d make it big. Then, in 1995, it all changed.

Kramer threw for 3,838 yards, 29 touchdowns, and ten interceptions while leading the Bears to a 9-7 record, narrowly missing the playoffs. It would prove to be Kramer’s finest moment as a player and as a Bear, with his paw print still atop the Bears’ record books. No other player in Bears’ history has thrown for more yards and more touchdowns in a single season than Erik Kramer did in 1995. I’m not sure if that’s more an impressive feat for Kramer or embarrassing for the people to follow him. Step it up, Jay Cutler.

As the old story goes, the ’95 season came and went, with expectations high for the Bears’ new leading man. He was unable to match his record season in subsequent years. In the next 25 starts over a three year span, Kramer threw for 26 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, with a starting record of 8-17. He was released after the ’98 season. After one last year with the San Diego Chargers—where he threw zero touchdowns to nine interceptions in four starts—he called his NFL career quits.

His life after football hasn’t been great, but he’ll always be a part of Bears’ history with his terrific performance in 1995. So long as Chicago’s traditionally lackluster offenses continue to surge, he’ll hold onto that record he’s had for more than twenty years now. And for me, Erik Kramer is the most average player with the greatest outlier season in NFL history.

 

Honorable Mentions: Braylon Edwards – 2007, Josh Freeman – 2010, Todd Bell – 1984, Cortland Finnegan – 2008

 

An Ode to Madden NFL 12

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Once upon a time, not quite five years ago, I was a fledgling fan of football. I watched about half of Super Bowl XLV and became intrigued with the prospect of an athletic sport for the very first time in my life. However, it didn’t come immediately. I didn’t watch the start of the 2011 season nor did I keep up with news of the offseason, so when I finally did begin to follow the sport in late 2011, I still didn’t know anything about who was good, who was bad, or who anyone was on any team. One pivotal component that helped coax me into making those names familiar to me is the subject of today’s entry: Madden NFL 12, or just Madden 12.

Aside from perhaps World of Warcraft, I have sunk more hours into this game than any other game in my entire life. Bold statement, I’m aware, but I don’t doubt it for a moment. When I first got into football, this game was like heroin. Combine my growing love for football with my already-present love for statistics and data and you have someone who can find amusement in a game like this for years on end. “Years” wasn’t a typo either; I play this game to this very day. I played it yesterday, in fact. I couldn’t quit this game even if I tried. Sadly enough, I have tried. Three times.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Madden is a collection of games that come out every year to capitalize on the ever-changing sport of football. The number corresponding with the game is the year after its release year. The only exclusion to this, to my knowledge, is Madden 25, which celebrated 25 years of Madden games. Changes between games are typically minimal, such as roster changes, updated logos or uniforms if the real-life team chooses to change them, updated rule changes, and the occasional “gimmick” function. Madden games usually try to introduce some new function to the game with every release, whether it be improved tackling, enhanced graphical humanizing of players, or the “vision cone.” There are slight differences, sure, but they’re typically all 80% the same at their core. Such is the business of yearly game releases.

madden 12 three

I’m sure some of you reading will ask, “What sets this Madden apart from others?” Simple: it’s the first one I played. I realize this sounds like an excuse, but it’s really the most I can accurately pinpoint. I’ve only played one Madden game after this and I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I do this game. Why? Well, it just didn’t feel the same. I couldn’t tell you.However, there is one feature missing from future games that Madden 12 has at its disposal: Create-a-Team.

Now, that’s not to say you can’t create your own team in future Madden games, but they complicate it by making you pick a real team and then move them to a new location at the end of the season. So, you have to simulate an entire year of action just so you can access the creation menu. And even then, the creative freedom the player has is incredibly bare-boned. In Madden 12, you scroll through the main menu, pick “Create-a-New-Team,” and you’re there. No hassle. No waiting. The options given to you in Madden 12 are still fairly limited (Why the fuck can’t I put numbers on their god damn shoulder pads?!), but it’s leagues better than future titles. Regardless, this is where a huge chunk of my playtime has gone to: creating my own team and building a franchise for them, complete with real and custom players abound. For whatever reason, the game is a lot less entertaining when I try to play with a real team. In fact, that very statement might be very telling about my overall opinion of this game.

I am able to spend years of my life playing this game because I can create my own scenarios outside of the possibilities presented in the game. I can make my own storylines, my own rosters, my own games and how they play out (typically). I can play this game for years because I’m creative enough on my own to keep it entertaining through the use of what is essentially an adult version of “playing pretend.” Madden 12 itself isn’t really the whole experience for me, but the catalyst and the visual structure that I require in order to transport my imagination into reality. In a sense, I’m glad the game modes are so empty of any realistic content or pre-established goals of the sort, because I can make my own. In a really fucking stupid way, this game is my Minecraft: a game that allows me to build my own fun through use of my own creative endeavors. It simply provides me with the tools to do so.

madden 12 two

This proclamation I’m making is fine and dandy for me or anyone else like me, but it really doesn’t paint a good picture for the game on its own. To be frank, the game isn’t really that great. It gets boring really quick, honestly. It’s simulated football without the drama, the story, or the weight of any sort of tension. The players have (very) little to no personality—hell, most of them don’t even have accurate faces. The statistics are fun and playing with individual players’ stats is lovely for a control-freak like me, but it’s always the teams with the best stats who are winning games. There are very few upsets in Madden when put into simulation. It’s typically the Steelers and the Falcons in the Super Bowl whenever I simulate an entire season, because they have the best all-around team stats. Other game modes, aside from Franchise Mode, include a “Become an NFL Superstar” mode that’s little more than Franchise Mode but with practices, no control over any team aspects that don’t have your character involved, and an RPG-like point system that goes towards upgrading your player’s stats, which is bullshit because your entire team contributes to your performance. If your team plays like shit, you get less points, and it becomes harder for you to get any better because the AI of your team is the equivalent to a ten-year-old with brain damage. There’s also an “Ultimate Team” mode where you collect player cards to act as a team and, while it’s a nice variety, is still really boring.

It’s just football. If you love football, and I mean love football, you’ll love this Madden and any other Madden that ever comes out. For me, though, I love the emotion, the drama, the tension, the story, the weight, and the intensity of football and the human aspect that Madden tries to incorporate, but fails miserably. Fortunately (or not) for me, I can create that passion on my own, but for those looking for something more should probably just stick to real football. In any case, the game has been a prevalent part of my life for the past four years or so. I wish I could get yearly updated rosters so I’m not always seeing Donovan McNabb play quarterback somewhere whenever I start a Created Franchise, but I can’t have everything. And for what it’s worth, this game will always be a testament to how much I loved football when I first got into it, so in a sense, this game is already nostalgic to me. To top it off, I was (and still am!) able to recognize about 70% of the players that make up the NFL by name alone because of this game. It’s a fun experience and a learning tool. Who knew?

(Create-a-Team image courtesy of cELS1818.)

Top 10 Worst Individual Quarterback Seasons

In today’s NFL, the quarterback is undeniably the most important position on a team. If the quarterback doesn’t perform well, it throws off the functioning of just about every other offensive position. Not to mention their inadequacy puts more pressure on the defense to perform at a higher level just so the team doesn’t fall behind. As the years go by and the passing attack of each team grows more and more vital, a quarterback’s worth has skyrocketed to levels of almost mythical proportions. This past year saw Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Nick Foles almost as detriments to their team’s success, despite a good core around them, whether offensively or defensively. This got me wondering: has there been anything worse than these three this year?

This list will take a look throughout NFL history for the quarterbacks that, for lack of a harsher word, “underwhelmed” when given the chance to perform. Of course, this list would be painfully hard to sort out if I were to look at quarterbacks with only one or two abysmal starts in their career. Therefore, I added a stipulation that a quarterback must have started at least six games in a single season to be eligible to compete for this list. There are a few people that definitely would have made it had it not been for this stipulation, but alas, they probably don’t care to re-live it.

10. Vinny Testaverde – 1988

Vinny Testaverde

Statistics:

• W-L record: 5-10
• 47.6% completion rate; 3,240 passing yards
• 13 touchdown passes; 35 interceptions
• Total QBR: 48.8

Some would argue that Testaverde’s sophomore season wasn’t all that bad. He had three decent games that season against Indianapolis, New England, and Detroit, and otherwise kept his team within a score’s reach of leading the game. But there’s one factor about this season that made me want to put Vinny on this list out of sheer astonishment: number of interceptions.

35 interceptions in 15 games. That’s just insane. Even more so when you consider the era. This was 1988. This was well past when teams started passing the ball more. This was after Dan Fouts. This was after Terry Bradshaw. This was during the era where Joe Montana and Boomer Esiason were taking the league by storm with their innovative passing offenses. To throw 35 interceptions this close to the turn of the new millennium is worthy of being put on a list like this. It’s the second-most interceptions thrown in a single season (George Blanda owns the record with 42 in 1962) and no one has even thrown more than 29 in a season since then.

9. Bob Lee – 1974

bob lee

Statistics:

• W-L record: 2-6
• 45.3% completion rate; 852 passing yards
• 3 touchdown passes; 14 interceptions
• Total QBR: 32.4

Now the list becomes really fun.

Meet Bob Lee. Fans of this era may remember him as the longtime back-up quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. In 1973, he signed with the Atlanta Falcons and led them to an 8-2 record as a starter. Up to that point, he was 13-3 as a starter for both the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings. Things were looking good for Atlanta leading up to the 1974 season. Until it actually happened.

In the first game of the 1974 NFL season against the Dallas Cowboys, Lee was 4 of 22 passing for 28 yards and an interception. They lost 0-24. It was only a sign of what was to come. The team put up two wins against New York (Giants) and Chicago in consecutive weeks, with Lee playing moderately well, to put their overall record with him as a starter at 2-2, but it all went downhill from there. With four more starts and another game participated in, the team went 0-5, with Lee only throwing a touchdown pass in one of those games, while accumulating 5 interceptions. They would finally bench him after a week 10 loss to Baltimore in favor of back-up Pat Sullivan, who didn’t perform much better.

Looking at his numbers on their own paints an ugly picture. Even for 1974, only 3 touchdown passes in almost nine games is unacceptable. His rock-bottom QBR might be the most telling part of his whole season. Absolutely nothing went right.

8. John Skelton – 2012

john skelton

Statistics:

• W-L record: 1-5
• 54.2% completion rate; 1,132 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 9 interceptions
• Total QBR: 55.4

What a funny season it was for Arizona in 2012. They started the season 4-0 and even defeated the mighty New England Patriots in week two. They finished the season 5-11. Mr. Skelton was their starting quarterback for six of those games.

John Skelton lifted a struggling Cardinals team in 2011 in relief of starter Kevin Kolb by leading them to a 5-2 record. Going into the 2012 season, Skelton and Kolb had a quarterback controversy all throughout the preseason, with head coach Ken Whisenhunt finally picking Skelton as the starter just before the regular season debut. In his debut, Skelton won the game against Seattle, but had a mediocre game. Even worse, he sustained an injury during the game that kept him out of action until week six. And by week six, the Cardinals’ season was all but falling apart.

Skelton did not throw a touchdown pass until week seven in a losing effort against Minnesota, in what many would agree was his only good game of that season. Otherwise, it was like he wasn’t there at all. John’s placement on this list isn’t for how badly he played on a consistent basis—though he did anyway—but more for how little his assistance paid off. In his six starts, the most his offense put up in points was in his first game against Seattle, where they scored 20 points. However, Kevin Kolb threw a touchdown pass in that game after Skelton was injured, so one could argue that John only put up 13 in that game. Otherwise, his offense put up 19 points or fewer, with his offense failing to reach more than 14 points in three of those starts.

His season ended in week 13 when he threw four interceptions in a rematch against Seattle; he was benched for rookie Ryan Lindley. In roughly six full games on the season, John Skelton only managed to throw two touchdown passes. Two touchdown passes in six games… in 2012. In as pass-happy a league as the NFL is now, that’s just embarrassing. It’s not surprising to know he flamed out in the NFL soon after.

7. Mike Taliaferro – 1968

mike taliaferro

Statistics:

• W-L record: 3-4
• 38.1% completion rate; 889 passing yards
• 4 passing touchdowns; 15 interceptions
• Total QBR: 26.9

The most amazing thing about Taliaferro’s worst season is that he won three games.

To some degree, Taliaferro may not deserve to be listed after Skelton or Lee, but there’s something special about the lowest total QBR in a single season I’ve ever seen. 26.9. Even for 1968, a monkey could do better. Even more ironically, Taliaferro would follow the worst season of his career with his best. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1969.

Similar to Lee’s situation, Taliaferro was a back-up for the New York Jets before signing with the Boston Patriots to become their starter. Unlike Lee, his first season with his new team wasn’t nearly as successful. The Patriots won their first game against Buffalo, but flip-flopped from there. Taliaferro would go on to have good games against Denver and his second round with Buffalo, but those were squished in-between games where he would throw 3, 4, and 5 interceptions in a single game. It’s not hard to imagine why his QBR was so low when he’s throwing so many errant balls. He was benched after his 5 interception performance against his old team.

Taliaferro’s season may not stack up with how consistently bad those before him were, but when he was at a low, he was far further down than anyone could imagine. It’s hard not to put him at least this high with that QBR of his for that season. 26.9. I still can’t believe it can even reach that low.

6. Alex Smith – 2005

alex smith

Statistics:

• W-L record: 2-5
• 50.9% completion rate; 875 passing yards
• 1 passing touchdown; 11 interceptions
• Total QBR: 40.8

The only person on this list still on an NFL roster—and starting, for that matter— is Alex Smith, the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.As with any first overall pick, Smith was expected to perform well almost immediately. He did not.

Keep in mind: this is 2005. Once again, far past the times when the focus of an offense is running the ball. The quarterback is essential and his malfunction could lead to a lot of disaster. Such is the case with Alex Smith, who was thrust into the starting role in week five. It didn’t do the offense any favors, as Smith was a turnover machine. He threw five interceptions in his first two games as a starter. He was benched until he was forced back into action in week twelve, and would finish out the season as the starter.

In his second phase of starting, Smith played marginally better, but still turned the ball over multiple times a game. He would not throw his first touchdown pass until the last game of the season, against the Houston Texans, in an ultimately pointless game for both teams.

To his credit, Alex Smith’s last two games of the season were by no means bad. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 131 yards against St. Louis and his performance against the aforementioned Texans wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, his bad far outweighs the impact of his good in this case. Much like a combination of Skelton and Taliaferro, he was consistently bad and gave his team little chance to win, while his lowest lows were gravely so. His 40.8 QBR, for 2005 standards, is almost as bad as Taliaferro’s 26.9. His 1 touchdown pass in 9 participated games is the proverbial cherry on top of an otherwise nightmare season.

5. Joe Namath – 1976

joe namath

Statistics:

• W-L record: 1-7
• 49.6% completion rate; 1,090 passing yards
• 4 passing touchdowns; 16 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.9

There’s chatter among new-age NFL fans about the legitimacy of Joe Namath’s “greatness.” Ask anyone who watched him play during his era and they’ll tell you how amazing he was. Except maybe Colts fans. So, was he great or not? One thing’s for sure: he was not very great in 1976.

What’s intriguing about this year is that his numbers are interestingly deceptive. You compare them to the statistics that have been shown from guys earlier on in the list and they’re favorable by comparison. Once I reviewed his games individually for that season, placing him this high on the list was a no-brainer. How’s this for inefficiency: in six of his eight starts, Namath failed to put up more than 7 points. That’s astounding. Sure, you can’t blame all of this on him, but he didn’t help by throwing his first touchdown pass in week five.

Namath played so poorly that the team benched him after a two interception performance in a 0-20 loss against Baltimore. Here’s where things become interesting. Three weeks later, New York blows out Tampa Bay 34-0. Namath played during the latter half of that game, and played better than he did the entire season, going 7 for 12 for 94 yards and a touchdown. The next week, New England blows them out, leading to Namath coming in and taking charge… by throwing 5 interceptions. He was benched yet again and wouldn’t start again until the final game of the season, where he would throw 4 more interceptions in a 3-42 loss against Cincinnati. He started poorly and crashed to the finish.

Taking this into account, for the games Joe Namath actually started, he went 88 of 174 for 814 passing yards with 2 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. This was through eight games. Ouch.

4. JaMarcus Russell – 2009

jamarcus russell

Statistics:

• W-L record: 2-7
• 48.8% completion rate; 1,287 passing yards
• 3 touchdown passes; 11 interceptions
• Total QBR: 50.0

JaMarcus Russell is considered by many to be the biggest Draft bust of all time. He was selected first overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and faced a mine field’s worth of behavioral problems and struggled with limiting his weight all throughout his career. All of these things eventually contributed to his downfall and outright release from Oakland, which was made possible by his 2009 season.

It began with a lackluster, but not excruciatingly terrible, outing in a loss against San Diego, where he would throw a touchdown pass and 2 picks. From that point, he would not throw another touchdown pass until week six. In between that, he threw another 2 picks and completed less than 40% of his passes in two games. His win over Philadelphia in week six would be the last touchdown pass he throws as a starter, as he went on to throw 3 more interceptions in 3 more games. He was finally benched for his inadequacy after going 8 of 23 for 64 yards in a loss against Kansas City. He finished the season with another touchdown pass and 2 more interceptions as a relief player.

Another thing to note is that through his 9 starts, Russell threw for 1,064 yards. Had that trend continued, he wouldn’t even reach 2,000 passing yards on the season. This is 2009. That is as bad a statistic as I’ve ever seen from someone who’s started over half of the season in the modern era. Not to mention the 2 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions. He’s not guilty of throwing a lot of picks, but he’s guilty of not doing hardly anything to get the offense going. Almost like an advanced type of John Skelton, JaMarcus Russell failed to amass 14 points in all but 2 of his starts. For Joe Namath in 1976, that’s bad. For JaMarcus Russell in 2009, that’s humiliating.

3. Marty Domres – 1974

marty domres

Statistics:

• W-L record: 1-5
• 50.3% completion rate; 803 passing yards
• 0 passing touchdowns; 12 interceptions
• Total QBR: 33.2

You read that right: 0 touchdown passes.

Starting six games during the 1974 NFL season, Domres threw exactly 0 touchdown passes. He ran for two touchdowns, but he threw for exactly 0. The team knew he wasn’t worthy either, as they benched him twice throughout the season for back-up Bert Jones. Domres was so inadequate that they simply didn’t rely on him to throw it that often. He only had 136 attempts through the air in 6 starts. That’s between 22-23 attempts per game.

Amazingly enough, the one start he made where his team won was against none other than Bob Lee’s Atlanta Falcons. Even then, he went 4 of 11 for 74 yards and an interception. He ran for a touchdown, though. Otherwise, he had individual games where he threw 2, 3, and 4 interceptions. He didn’t throw an interception in only 1 of his starts. 11 interceptions and 0 passing touchdowns in 6 starts.

One could argue that for 1974, his statistics aren’t exactly worthy of being this high on the list for a 6 game stretch. But for me, it’s really an accumulation of his worth to the offense. With 0 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, and 720 passing yards in 6 games, he isn’t much of an asset on the practice squad as opposed to a starting offense.

2. Matt Robinson – 1980

matt robinson

Statistics:

• W-L record: 4-3
• 48.1% completion rate; 942 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 12 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.7

Another batch of statistics that are misleading. Matt Robinson was absolutely a detriment to his team. He was so much of a detriment that it’s amazing he managed to have a winning record as a starter! Matt Robinson’s production, as the season rolled on, slowed to that of a purr. It’s not that he played any better or worse, the team just put the reins on him.

In his first game as a starter, he went 18 of 41 for 178 yards and 2 interceptions. The team lost to Philadelphia 6-27. In his next game, he went 10 of 20 for 198 yards and ran for 2 touchdowns. His team won against Dallas 41-20. Notice something here? When the game falls behind, he falters. When he’s got a huge lead, he lets his defense do its job and settles down. It happens all throughout the season. In his next start, the team lost to San Diego 13-30. Robinson threw 4 interceptions in that game. From that point on, the team put a leash on Robinson’s control of the offense. In his next three starts, he had a combined 37 pass attempts for 183 yards… with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. He won two of those starts by a combined 6 points. Amazing how once he starts doing less, the team starts winning more.

Despite winning his sixth start, the team benched Robinson in favor of Craig Morton. It wouldn’t be until the final game of the season that he would start again. Even so, with a 7-8 record, going up against a 4-11 Seattle team, the results didn’t matter. They let him loose and he played okay in the sense that he didn’t turn it over. He also went 9 of 23 for 99 yards and a touchdown in the air and on the ground. A nice way to end the season, but it does little for his season overall. When he was expected to perform, he didn’t. He had his hand held for a majority of the season and he struggled without it. That’s why he’s this high on the list. Not because he had horrible stats, though that helps, but because they could have the same record with just about anyone. Even an aging and broken down Craig Morton.

1. Ryan Leaf – 1998

ryan leaf

Statistics:

• W-L record: 3-6
• 45.3% completion rate; 1,289 passing yards
• 2 passing touchdowns; 15 interceptions
• Total QBR: 39.0

Some say JaMarcus Russell is the biggest Draft bust of all time. I say that honor belongs to Ryan Leaf, and his rookie campaign is the ultimate evidence to back up that claim.

It started off alright. His first two starts netted him a 2-0 record and he performed okay enough for a rookie. But his first start against Kansas City proved to be the point of no return. He went 1 of 15 for 4 yards and 2 interceptions as the team lost 7-23. The scene in the locker room afterwards was not pretty.

His performance on the field would not improve either. In the next 6 starts, he had a completion rate of over 50% once, threw for over 200 yards once, and passed for 1 touchdown and 9 interceptions. The year is 1998. Peyton Manning is about to terrorize the league for over a decade with his passing attack. To not be able to throw for more than 2 touchdowns in 9 starts is pathetic. Leaf was benched after week nine and came in one more time during the season as a relief player, where he threw 2 more interceptions to finish off the season. I’m not sure his 39.0 QBR has been matched since.

Leaf’s time in the NFL flamed out soon after and the Chargers suffered for their second overall pick greatly. I’m not sure anything could match his first game against Kansas City as an indicator of poor quality. They gave him a whole other season to improve upon himself and he didn’t. Though, frankly, after his 1998 season, I’m not sure how you could give him another chance, especially after his off-the-field antics and attitude. He may not have had otherwordly numbers, but his influence was enough to have me put him #1 on this list. He performed badly, he behaved badly. He was essentially the entire package of bad. He paid for it dearly, as his life after the NFL wasn’t too clean, either.

Top 10 NFL Players Never Elected to the Pro Bowl

Fun fact before I start the list: this was originally written for Listverse.com, but they rejected it, stating it was “not something they think readers would be interested in.” Who the hell needs the NFL when you could read about… 10 Normal Things Accused of Causing Moral Panics? The fuck? My frustration aside, let’s venture on.

The NFL is full of impact players on every level. Superstars are typically honored with awards and accolades, but what of the players that may have been overlooked throughout their career? This is a list focusing on the players that made the most of their careers, but were never given the same recognition as their counterparts, for whatever reason.

10. Jim Plunkett

jim plunkett

Quarterback

New England Patriots, 1971-1975

San Francisco 49ers, 1976-1977

Oakland/L.A. Raiders, 1978-1986

The quarterback leading the charge for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders’ two Super Bowl victories in the 80’s, Jim Plunkett was selected first overall in the 1971 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. After a semi-successful rookie season, his career spiraled downwards, getting the boot from both New England and the San Francisco 49ers after failing to record a winning record with either of them. He signed with the Oakland Raiders in 1978 as a back-up and rode the bench for the next two years. It wasn’t until 1980 after starter Dan Pastorini was injured that Jim Plunkett, at the age of thirty-three, would lead his team to the Promised Land.

While his regular season performances are nothing to brag about, with only three seasons of more touchdowns than interceptions, it was his postseason heroics that put him on this list. With an 8-2 postseason record, two Super Bowl victories, and a Super Bowl MVP award, Plunkett did enough to win, without having to do too much.

9. Kelly Gregg

kelly gregg

Defensive Tackle

Philadelphia Eagles, 1999

Baltimore Ravens, 2000-2010

Kansas City Chiefs, 2011

Much like Jim Plunkett, Kelly Gregg’s chance at NFL stardom came through replacing a starter due to injury. Once he assumed that position, he never gave it back. A sixth round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, Gregg never made it off the practice squad, and was released soon after being drafted. After being signed by the Philadelphia Eagles to finish out his rookie year, he would be released from that team as well. Fast forward to 2002, Gregg is the Baltimore Ravens’ starting nose tackle after former starter Tony Siragusa retired from the NFL.

Known for his brute strength, Gregg became one of the more effective run-stopping defensive players in the NFL. When starting for a majority of the season, Baltimore’s rush defense was ranked within the top ten in the league for seven straight years. To top it off, he accumulated nearly 550 total tackles and 20.5 sacks in ten years with the Baltimore Ravens and a year with the Kansas City Chiefs. Not bad for a guy over 300 pounds.

8. Keith Hamilton

keith hamilton

Defensive Tackle

New York Giants, 1992-2003

Speaking of guys hovering around 300 pounds, Keith Hamilton made an impact for the New York Giants as a defensive end and defensive tackle throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Affectionately referred to as “The Hammer,” Hamilton had the benefit of playing around hall of famers such as Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan, which may have attributed to his lack of recognition on the line. Nevertheless, his impact on the field was anything but lacking.

During a twelve year career with New York, The Hammer recorded five years with six or more sacks and forty tackles, including two double-digit sack seasons. He is also one who has surpassed 500 career total tackles. Hamilton even made Second Team All-Pro in 2000. Hamilton’s contributions in the postseason also deserve recognition, recording four sacks in six career postseason starts. If not for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, he may have a Super Bowl ring to show for his effort. Despite the loss, it does little for his impact upon the traditional strength of New York Giants defensive linemen.

7. Johnnie Morton

johnnie morton

Wide Receiver

Detroit Lions, 1994-2001

Kansas City Chiefs, 2002-2004

San Francisco 49ers, 2005

Before there was Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, there was Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton.

A first round draft pick in 1994, Morton spent most of his twelve-year career with the Detroit Lions. While he doesn’t have many touchdowns to his name, his route running and skills after the catch have net him 624 receptions and 8,719 total receiving yards in his career. He’s third in Detroit Lions history in receptions (469), receiving yards (6,499), and tied for third in touchdown catches (35). He’s even responsible for a kick return touchdown during his rookie year.

What’s more impressive about his performance on the field is when taking into consideration the selection of quarterbacks throwing the ball to him. The two quarterbacks that threw the ball his way the most during his career in Detroit were Scott Mitchell, who was recently on The Biggest Loser, and Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh’s favorite back-up quarterback. To give Mitchell credit, he played moderately well during the regular season, but had a tendency to melt down during the postseason. This, in turn, affected Morton’s play, who’s only responsible for ten catches, 105 receiving yards, and a single touchdown in three postseason games with Detroit.

Even after Detroit, Morton played a valuable role with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2003 season. His play would decrease soon after, ending his career with a forgettable season with San Francisco. With four seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards under his belt, it’s hard to imagine why this Lions receiver’s roar was never heard outside of Detroit. Touchdown receptions, maybe?

6. Reggie Williams

reggie williams

Outside Linebacker

Cincinnati Bengals, 1976-1989

Ever the model of consistency and toughness, Reggie Williams was one of the key defensive figures to the Cincinnati Bengals’ rise during the 80’s. A full fledged starter right out of the gate, Williams played well in every way, whether it be rushing the passer or stopping the run. His 206 games played is second in Bengals’ history behind only Ken Riley (207).

Officially listed with 41 career sacks, unofficial team records state he had 62.5 over his career, which would put him second in Bengals’ history behind Eddie Edwards (87.5). His durability, while not perfect, also showed in the later portion of his career, playing in 118 of 119 possible games to close out his playing days. And if you care for safeties, he has not one, but two recorded in his career. If not for the Joe Montana led San Francisco 49ers, he could have also added two Super Bowl rings to his resumé.

In the present, Reggie is fighting to save his leg from amputation with the same spirit and optimism that he had during his playing days. Like Toucan Sam, he followed his nose to the ball and striked whenever necessary, and did so for fourteen seasons. Hopefully his drive pays off for him with his health deteriorating, much in the way his play spoke for him on the field.

5. Plaxico Burress

plaxico burress

Wide Receiver

Pittsburgh Steelers, 2000-2004; 2012-2013

New York Giants, 2005-2008

New York Jets, 2011

Say what you may about his legal struggles and off the field attitude, Plaxico Burress was something else when his feet hit the turf. A first round talent out of Michigan State in 2000, his career began with a purr, providing little for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ passing game. Combining his second and third season numbers, he had 144 receptions, 2,333 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns. His quarterbacks during that time were Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox.

Eventually fizzled out of Pittsburgh, Burress joined the New York Giants in 2005 and revitalized a dwindling career. If not for 988 receiving yards in 2006, Burress would’ve posted three consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons, along with double-digit touchdown receptions in 2006 and 2007. His final touchdown reception of the 2007 season proved to be the dagger in what is commonly considered the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, when the Giants defeated the then undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

It wasn’t smooth sailing soon afterwards, when legal troubles and controversy chased Burress off the Giants’ roster and away from the NFL for two years after the 2008 season. It wasn’t until 2011 when the New York Jets gave him another shot that he was able to play again, but his ability was all but failing at the age of 34. He still managed to produce eight touchdown receptions, however. After two forgettable seasons back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Burress would call it quits.

With all the numbers in place, it’s hard to imagine why Plaxico Burress never received a Pro Bowl nod. He was one of Eli Manning’s key targets in his early career and played well enough to be considered among the top group of wide receivers in his hey day. Some might say that his off-the-field issues and personality “triggered” his absence from the All-Star game. I’m sorry.

4. Dave Edwards

dave edwards

Outside Linebacker

Dallas Cowboys, 1963-1975

I don’t need to tell any brazened Dallas fan how great the Cowboys were from the mid-60’s to the early 80’s. History shows they’ll do it for me. But for those wondering how great they really were, we can start with Dave Edwards.

Edwards doesn’t get a lot of credit for his work, but I’m sure in the big scheme of things, he gets a pat on the back from most people. His work as one of the original strongside linebackers in Tom Landry’s revolutionary system has warranted him respect from many players and Dallas fans, but perhaps not from anyone on the outside. He doesn’t have flashy numbers or a very “Cowboy” name, but his consistency is staggering.

Outside of his first two seasons, Dave Edwards started all but one game in the following eleven seasons. And when he began starting every game on the season, the Cowboys’ defense got much, much better. A rugged and consistent cog in Landry’s “Doomsday Defense,” Edwards has played in some of the biggest games in NFL history, such as the Ice Bowl and Super Bowls V, VI, and X. Flashy or not, he still had 13 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries throughout his career.

It might be a little easier to understand why Edwards never made a Pro Bowl. He was one of many great defensive players on the early Cowboys squad. With names like Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley, George Andrie, and Cornell Green playing around you, it’s hard to get lost in the shuffle. Despite the packed selection, Edwards was a consistent and mighty force on a squad full of consistent and mighty forces.

3. Don Shinnick

don shinnick

Outside Linebacker

Baltimore Colts, 1957-1969

Curiously enough, you won’t find a lot about Don Shinnick online. Not even his Wikipedia page has a lot on him. One thing’s for sure though: he had quite the impact on the field.

The one shining statistic that Shinnick has in his favor is interceptions. Shinnick has 37 career interceptions. Doesn’t sound all that great, right? See that position header up there? Suddenly, 37 becomes a whole lot more impressive. In fact, that’s the record number of career interceptions by a linebacker, a mark cemented in 1968 that has yet to be broken to this day. One other statistic that he shares with most players on this list is longevity. He played in 159 of 174 possible games throughout his thirteen year career.

One thing individual numbers won’t say is the impact he had on the team. Before Shinnick arrived in Baltimore, their defense floated around the bottom two in the league. Once drafted, Baltimore’s defense was consistently within the middle or upper portions. Not to mention, with the help of Johnny Unitas on offense, brought Baltimore from a struggling franchise to a two-time NFL champion by 1960. His handiwork was televised to everyone in what is considered by many as The Greatest Game Ever Played.

2. Jethro Pugh

NFL Historical Imagery

Defensive Tackle

Dallas Cowboys, 1965-1978

Remember Dave Edwards? You read about him two numbers before now. Meet Jethro Pugh, another teammate of his that was lost in the Doomsday chaos. An eleventh-round draft pick in 1965, Pugh played defensive tackle beside Bob Lilly and Randy White later on. What separates Pugh from, say, Dave Edwards, is his ability to produce numbers in addition to his longevity. According to unofficial team data, he produced 96.5 sacks, as well as two safeties, over his fourteen year career. As a defensive tackle.

He was a part of two championship teams in Dallas, with an additional two more championship appearances. While never achieving a Pro Bowl nod, Pugh did receive Second Team All-Pro in 1968. He’s missed more games than most on this list, but 183 games out of 194 is still impressive in of itself. And as disruptive as Bob Lilly was, Pugh is cited as leading the team in sacks for five straight seasons between 1968-1972. Only DeMarcus Ware did the same.

Like with Edwards, Pugh likely got lost in the shuffle of great Dallas defensive players during the 60’s and 70’s. His oversight may hurt some, but his results on the field were all that mattered in the long run. Two championships shine brighter than a Pro Bowl vacation.

1. Ken Riley

ken riley

Cornerback

Cincinnati Bengals, 1969-1983

Ken Riley is so beloved that some people aren’t just steamed he never made a Pro Bowl, but that he hasn’t been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame! His body of work is similar to those already in, but one crucial stat definitely stands out: interceptions.

Ken Riley is responsible for 65 career interceptions throughout his fifteen year career. That’s tied for fifth all time in NFL history. He has seven seasons with five or more interceptions and two seasons with eight or more. He’s played 207 out of 222 possible games and has five defensive touchdowns. Like with Pugh before him, he has never reached a Pro Bowl, but has attained not just two Second Team All-Pros in 1975 and 1976, but a First Team All-Pro selection in the final year of his career.

He played in one Super Bowl and lost against San Francisco. He would see many one-and-done playoff trips for his team, but was never rewarded the championship he most likely deserved. So why was he never elected to a Pro Bowl, despite earning the respect of his peers and The Associated Press? Some might say he wasn’t popular enough. Perhaps the NFL had a vendetta for Cincinnati Bengals defensive players? Who’s to say? Whatever the case, he is, in my opinion, the best player to never be elected to a Pro Bowl.

 

Honorable Mentions: Tom Rafferty, Rubin Carter, Matt Lepsis.