The Cafe 101: The 2nd Course

Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant is the Cafe 101. As the name suggests there are only 101 tables, each reserved for the greatest to don that number.

Imagine there’s a sports heaven;
It’s easy if you try.
Where sports’ greatest legends
Depart to when they die.

Imagine all the athletes, of past and present day.

Now imagine a Cafe;
It’s not that hard to do.
There’s only 101 tables;
It’s open to a select few.

Imagine all the athletes, hoping to get a seat.

You may say I’m a dreamer;
But I’m not the only one.
Deciding the greatest athletes by number;
Who get to enter the Cafe 101.

<< PREVIOUS

In our first course I took on the challenge of seating tables 7, 30, 59, and 88.  This week I take on two pretty difficult tasks as I have to take on Table #10, a number that is sacred to soccer and #80, a number donned by some of the greatest wide receivers of all time.  If you would like to read my previous Cafe 101 post please use the link above.  So without further ado, let’s look at four more tables at the Cafe 101.

TABLE

PELE

Forward, Brazil National Team, Santos, & New York Cosmos (1956-1977)
3x World Cup Champion, 2x Roca Cup Winner, 1958 FIFA Silver Boot, 1958 FIFA Silver Ball, 1970 FIFA Golden Ball,  FIFA Player of the Century – 1999, UNICEF Football Player of the Century – 1999

I was told that when I went with #10 I was going to have to choose a soccer player.  The #10 is sacred in the sport of soccer but the reason it’s so sacred is the only player to have 3 World Cup medals – Pele.  While my favorite #10 is Fran Tarkenton and a lot of great athletes have worn this number, Table #10 is about “Who is the greatest soccer player of all time?” and in my opinion that is Pele.   Aside from his championship pedigree, his 1281 goals in 1363 games is still a record for most all-time.  In baseball we often talk about the 5-tool baseball player as that rare guy who can do “EVERYTHING”, well Pele was a 5-tool soccer star.  He could dribble, he could pass, he could shoot, he could head, and he could score.  Not only was he named the soccer player of the century; he was named by the Athlete of the Century by Reuters and the International Olympic Committee.  While I thought for awhile about this table, when I think #10 I think Pele and I think most other sports fans do as well.   He is so well-respected that multiple countries around the world have depicted him on their postage stamps.  I’m no expert on the game of soccer and while some may consider Maradona, Zidane, or one day in the future Lionel Messi – I still believe Pele to be the greatest soccer player of all time.

RUNNER-UP: ZINEDINE ZIDANE, Midfielder, Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid, & French National Team (1988-2006)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Ron Santo, Phil Rizzuto, Mookie Blaylock (College), Andre Dawson, Michele Platini, Diego Maradona, Walt Frazier, Guy LaFleur, Wayne Rooney, Zico, Vince Young (College), Dennis Rodman, Maurice Cheeks, Fran Tarkenton, Michelle Akers, Tim Hardaway, Nancy Lieberman, Eli Manning, & Marti Vieria de Silva

TOO SOON TO TELL:  DeSean Jackson, Adam Jones, Santonio Holmes, Vernon Wells, Matt Flynn, Landon Donovan & Lionel Messi

TABLE

JENNIE FINCH

Starting Pitcher, Arizona Wildcats, USA National Team, & Chicago Bandits (1999-2010)
2004 Olympic Gold Medalist, 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist, Most Outstanding Player – 2001 College World Series,  2001 National Player of the Year, 3x All-American,  2001 College World Series National Champion, 2x World Cup Champion, National Pro-Fastpitch Co-Pitcher of the Year – 2005

There are many great athletes who have worn the #27.  Many immediately think of Carlton Fisk or Juan Marichal in baseball.  They think of Scott Niedermayer in hockey and Eddie George or Steve Atwater in football.  There are a lot of current stars in sports who don 27 but I feel like the greatest athlete to have worn 27 is Jennie Finch.  I understand that my knowledge of the sport of softball is limited and she is from my generation but the more I talk to those who follow the sport, watch highlights, and read, I am convinced that Jennie Finch is the greatest all-around softball player in the history of the game.   She’s always been a winner – she won one national championship in college, has two Olympic medals, and won two World Cups.

As a college pitcher she set an NCAA record with 60 straight wins shattering the previous mark of 50.   Over a four year college career she won 119 games and struck out 1,028 batters including going 32-0 in her junior year.    She had a 1.07 career ERA in college, and a 0.42 career ERA as a member of the USA National Team.  Her pitch was 71 mph (the equivalent of a 98 mph pitch in baseball) and she threw it consistently.  While I could not find an exact number of no-hitters and perfect games she pitched, I do still remember when she threw back-to-back-to-back no-hitters in the 2000 College World Series.   On top of her pitching prowess she was also great hitter,  batting over .300 each year of college and for the Chicago Bandits in 2005.    She even put together a 14-game hitting streak her sophomore year of college.  Yes, I feel pretty confident that Jennie deserves Table #27.

RUNNER-UP (TIE): CARLTON FISK, Catcher, Boston Red Sox & Chicago White Sox (1969, 1971 – 1993) & SCOTT NIEDERMAYER, Defenceman, New Jersey Devils & Anaheim Ducks (1991-2010)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Scott Niedermayer, Juan Marichal, “Catfish” Hunter, Jeremy Roenick, Vladimir Guerrero, Eddie George, Jack Twyman, Fred McGriff, & Steve Atwater

TOO SOON TO TELL: Ray Rice, Lagarette Blount, Placido Polanco, & Brandon Jacobs

TABLE

JACK HAM

Outside Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers (1971-1982)
4x Super Bowl Champion, 8x Pro Bowler, 6x 1st Team All-Pro, 2x 2nd team All-Pro, NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, Hall of Fame – 1988

I’ve had a number of my readers ask how I decide what four numbers I am going to do for each article.  It’s simple really, I use a Random Number Generator to select one number between 00 and 23, 24 and 48, 49 and 74, and 75 and 99.  When I was given these four numbers I didn’t realize that #59 would be so tough.  I immediately thought of Jack Ham but then I was reminded of London Fletcher – a largely underrated linebacker who has better stats than the much-heralded Ray Lewis with more Super Bowl appearances meanwhile collecting more tackles than any other player between 2000 and 2009.  But when I compared the two, I had to go with Jack Ham who is considered by many to be the greatest outside linebacker the NFL has ever seen.

During his career, Ham had 25 career sacks (unofficially), 32 interceptions, and 21 fumble recoveries.  He was a leader of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense and was known for his speed and ferocious tackling ability.  What he’s most remembered for though is being a highly intelligent football player who rarely missed an assignment or was out of place.  Many players in his time often noted how “you couldn’t trick Jack [Ham]”.  He is one of the greatest defensive players the NFL has ever seen and deserves Table #59.

RUNNER-UP: LONDON FLETCHER, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, & Washington Redskins (1998 – Present)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Seth Joyner, Alex Agase, Chad LaRose, & Todd Jones

TOO SOON TO TELL: John Axford, DeMeco Ryans, Aaron Curry, & Felix Hernandez

TABLE

JERRY RICE

Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, & Seattle Seahawks (1985 – 2004)
3x Super Bowl Champion, 13x Pro-Bowl Selection, 12x All-Pro Selection, 2x AP Offensive Player of the Year, 3x NFC Offensive Player of the Year, NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team, NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team, Hall of Fame – 2010

There have been a number of great athletes who have worn #80 but this was without a doubt going to Jerry Rice, not only the greatest wide receiver of all-time but to many – he’s the greatest football player of all time.   He holds the record for career receptions with 1,549 (445 ahead of Tony Gonzalez), as well as receiving yards with 22,895 and total non-passing touchdowns with 208.  From 1985 – 1999 he had 1000 yards receiving each season and holds nearly every receiving record of significance.  Jerry Rice is such an obvious choice for this number that there really isn’t much to say here.

RUNNER-UP: CRIS CARTER, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, & Miami Dolphins (1987-2002)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Steve Largent, Henry Ellard, Kellen Winslow, Rick Bryan, Andre Johnson, Isaac Bruce, Nik Antropov, Ronaldinho, & Donald Driver

TOO SOON TO TELL: Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, Jr., Jimmy Graham, & Victor Cruz

Click photo to enlarge the seating chart for Sports Heaven's most exclusive restaurant

Will your favorite athletes be able to get a table at the Cafe 101? Keep reading to find out!  If you have any questions, comments, or snide remarks please comment below or tweet them to @can_of_corn!

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Waiting on that Gold Jacket

All 7 Members of this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class are deserving but it still feels like somebody's missing.

Every year when a Hall of Fame class is named or inducted in any sport, just as much time is spent talking about those who did not get in as much as it is those who did.   The longer that a potential Hall of Famer is snubbed, the more the event becomes about them than those actually getting inducted.   Baseball’s Hall of Fame induction is never complete every year without some mention of Roger Maris not being enshrined in Cooperstown.  This weekend marks the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in Canton.  Unlike most years, I can honestly look at this class top to bottom and say that every single person in this year’s class is deserving which is not always the case.   Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, and Richard Dent all had Hall of Fame caliber careers.  My only real complaint about those who make up this year’s class is that Ed Sabol, the founder of NFL Films,  is being inducted.

My complaint is not that Sabol is finding a home in Canton, it’s that Ed Sabol should’ve been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame decades ago!  His ideas about preserving sporting events on film and using that as a marketing tool changed sports forever. It came as a shock to me that he was being inducted because, to be completely frank, I thought he had already been enshrined.

However, like anyone, I find it necessary at Hall of Fame induction time to talk about some of the people not in the Hall of Fame who deserve to be in the hope that if we talk about them enough, like the thirteen years of talk about Bert Blyleven prior to his induction in Baseball’s Hall of Fame this year, these great players will finally get the recognition they deserve.

So below I give you my top 11 Pro Football Hall of Fame Snubs.   Why 11?  Well first off, everyone does a top 10  and I have never been one to do something just because everyone else does (my mom would be proud  that her “If all your friends jumped off a cliff….” logic rubbed off on me).  Secondly, because while the common adage is “less is more”, as you can tell from my previous writings, I am  a proud member of the “more is more” camp.  Third of all, for a variety of reasons, 11 is my favorite number.  I started with a list of 25 guys and after much thought, was able to get it down to 11.  So without further ado from 11 to 1, my top 11 Pro Football Hall of Fame snubs.

11.  Steve Tasker, Wide Receiver/Special Teamer – Houston Oilers (1985 – 1986),  Buffalo Bills (1986 – 1997)

Buffalo Bills Head Coach Marv Levy once called Steve Tasker, “the most important man on the Bills roster.”  On a roster that included greats like Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas that should mean something.   Many are going to be shocked that I have put a a Special Teamer on this list but in my mind, Steve Tasker is, without a doubt, the greatest special teams player of all time.    He had an ability to cover kicks/punts, block kicks/punts, and make plays on the Special Teams side of the ball.  He was so good at what he did, that while he was a capable receiver, Marv Levy rarely used him on offense because he didn’t want to risk injury to Tasker or do anything to that could prevent him from giving 100% to special teams.  Bill Parcells admitted that he had to game plan around Tasker.  There are many who believe that special teams players like coverage guys, kickers, and punters don’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame but many coaches would tell you that “special teams is one-third of the game”.  My question is, if this is the case – why doesn’t Canton reflect that?

10.  Ray Guy, Punter – Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (1973 – 1986)

Most would concur that Ray Guy is the best punter that the NFL has ever seen.   He is so good in fact that the collegiate award for the best punter is named after Ray Guy.   People usually don’t realize how important it is to have a good punter, until your team has an awful one.  Punters dictate field position throughout the course of a game.  In Guy’s 14 year career, he was named to six straight Pro Bowls, was an All Pro three times, and was named the punter on the 1970’s All-Decade Team and the NFL 75th anniversary team.  He is remembered as a key part of a Raiders team that won three Super Bowls.  He is remembered for being able to not only punt the ball far (average of 42.4 yards over career and had five punts over 60 yards in the 1981 season) but for having a high hang time.  His hang time on his punts was so high that the officials once tested a ball he had punted for helium.   He had 210 career punts inside the 20 yard line, never had a punt returned for a touchdown, and finished his career with a streak of 619 unblocked punts.

Like Steve Tasker and Gary Anderson (maybe the greatest kicker of all-time who just missed my list), Ray Guy is often overlooked because he was a specialist.  While many of his teammates would tell you that he won them games because of how he was able to control field position, many believe that special teamers don’t belong in Canton.   I find it hard to understand why the 29th best quarterback in NFL history is deserving of enshrinement but the best special teams player and punter in NFL history are not.  This exclusion is American professional sports’ version of the Caste System.

9.  Andre Reed, Wide Receiver – Buffalo Bills (1985 – 1999), Washington Redskins (2000)

Of my top five wide receivers of all time that are eligible for enshrinement, three of them still find themselves on the outside looking in.  Many make fun of the Bills inability to win a Super Bowl after winning four straight AFC Championships in the early 1990s but that does not detract from the fact that the Buffalo Bills were a great team.  As a Minnesota Vikings fan (the other 0 – 4 Super Bowl franchise) I have always sympathized with the Bills’ streak of bad luck.  Andre Reed was a big part of that success.   He finished his career with 951 career receptions (8th all time), 13, 198 receiving yards (9th all time), and 87 touchdown receptions (11th all time).   He is third all time in Super Bowl receiving yards and second all time in Super Bowl receptions.  To understand the difference maker that Reed was, you only need to watch the highlights of the Bills/Oilers 1993 playoff game comeback victory where Reed finished with 136 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns.  One thing that I always appreciated about Andre Reed was that he just went out and played ball.   Unlike many receivers today and of the 90s, he did not self promote, he just let his body of work on the field do the talking.

8.  Kenny Stabler, Quarterback – Oakland Raiders (1968 – 1979), Houston Oilers (1980 – 1981), New Orleans Saints (1982 – 1984)

Kenny “The Snake” Stabler found ways to win.  That more than anything sets him apart from many quarterbacks out there.  The ability that Stabler had to bring his team from the jaws of defeat to late comeback victories allowed him to lead the Oakland Raiders past the Minnesota Vikings to their first Super Bowl win (Super Bowl XI) in franchise history.  Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw remarked that, “When we were behind in the fourth quarter, with our backs to our end zone, no matter how he had played up to that point, we could look in his eyes and you knew, you knew, he was going to win it for us. That was an amazing feeling.”  I am continuously dumbfounded that Stabler has been overlooked for enshrinement.  He is the only member of the 1970’s All-Pro team not enshrined and he broke Johnny Unitas’s record for fastest quarterback to reach 100 wins (only Tom Brady and Joe Montana reached 100 wins fasters than Stabler).   He was the 1974 MVP, a 4 time Pro Bowler, and twice led the league in passing touchdowns.   Stabler is one of the all time great quarterbacks and is in my mind, the most worthy Hall of Fame eligible quarterback of enshrinement.

7.  Charles Haley, Defensive End/Linebacker – San Francisco 49ers (1986 – 1991, 1998 – 1999), Dallas Cowboys (1992 – 1996)

The main reason that Charles Haley is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is because his off-field troubles have distracted from his on-field accomplishments – particularly a physical confrontation with Steve Young that led to Haley being traded to Dallas.   Charles Haley is the only player in NFL history to be a member of five Super Bowl winning teams (2 with the 49ers, 3 with the Cowboys).   Haley was a ferocious defensive player known for his hard work and unmatched ability to rush the pass.   Haley finished his NFL career with 100.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 9 fumble recoveries.  He was an All-Pro player twice and named to the NFC Pro-Bowl team five times.

6. Curtis Martin, Running Back – New England Patriots (1995 – 1997), New York Jets (1998 – 2006)

In his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility Curtis Martin was overlooked which I consider a shame.  He is one of the NFL’s all-time great running backs and perhaps, one of the game’s most underrated.  Martin is one of only two running backs all-time (Barry Sanders being the other) to start his career with 10 straight 1,000 yard seasons.   He is one of 16 players all-time to have scored 100 touchdowns (90 rushing, 10 receiving) and his 14, 101 yards rushing are 4th all-time.  Most impressive is that Martin sustained excellence over such a long period of time.  He fell short in his quest to become the first player in NFL history to have 11 straight 1,000 yard seasons when he missed 4 games of his 11th season to injury.  Regardless he still had 735 yards rushing that year.  In 2004, at age 31, Martin rushed for 1,697 yards and beat out Shaun Alexander by only 1 yard to become the oldest NFL rushing title winner ever.   Curtis Martin is a Hall of Fame running back that will one day will find himself in Canton but unfortunately for Martin and Jets fans everywhere, today is not that day.

5. Jim Marshall, Defensive End – Cleveland Browns (1960), Minnesota Vikings (1961 – 1979)

Jim Marshall is the true Iron Man of the NFL.  He finished his career with 282 consecutive games played and 270 consecutive starts.  Brett Favre broke both of these records as a member of Marshall’s old team,  Minnesota Vikings, but what player hasn’t had a record broken by Brett Favre?  Jim Marshall was a part of the famed “Purple People Eaters” defensive line (of which Alan Page and Carl Eller are both Hall of Famers)  and recovered 30 fumbles in his career, an NFL record.   The trade that brought him from Cleveland to Minnesota in the Vikings’ first year of existence is a big part of the reason the Vikings were able to rise so quickly into one of the NFL’s (and later NFC’s) top teams.  While many remember Jim Marshall most for his famous “Wrong Way Run” in which he recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards in the wrong direction for a touchdown (which resulted in a safety), he is one of the all-time great and resilient players and is deserving of a spot in Canton.

4. Tim Brown, Wide Receiver – Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (1988 – 2003), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004)

Tim Brown is the second wide receiver to make this list.  I really thought that we would see more wide receivers make the Hall of Fame now that Jerry Rice, the consensus best wide receiver of all time, is now enshrined but it seems that wide receivers that played during the Rice era can hardly catch a break.  Brown is one of the best wideouts to ever play the game.  As a collegiate player, he became the first wide receiver to ever win the Heisman trophy and as a pro he became one of the most prolific receivers of all time.   As a member of the Raiders, he owns the franchise records for games played, receptions, receiving yards, and punt return yards.   He was just as dangerous as return man as he was a receiver and holds the record for being the oldest man to ever return a punt for a touchdown.  He was the third receiver to ever have 1,000 receptions.  He is second all-time in receiving yards, has 19,683 all-purpose yards, and finished his career with 105 touchdowns (100 of which were receiving TDs) which had him tied for 3rd all time when he retired.  He accomplished all of these things in spite of the fact that for most of his career he played with mediocre quarterbacks.

3. Willie Roaf, Offensive Tackle – New Orleans Saints (1993 – 2001), Kansas City Chiefs (2002 – 2005)

While special teams players clearly have the hardest hill to climb to enter Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, offensive linemen are not far behind.   What makes it even more difficult is that there are no real stats (other than pancakes) to really measure how good an offensive lineman really is.   Roaf started out his career with the New Orleans Saints.  He quickly became one of the NFL’s premier linemen because of his combination of size, speed, and strength.   In nine years with the Saints, he was named to 7 Pro Bowls.  After suffering an injury, he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs where he was a Pro Bowler all 4 of his years in Kansas City.   Roaf was a member of both the 1990’s and 2000’s NFL All-Decade teams.

2. Jerry Kramer, Guard – Green Bay Packers (1958 – 1968)

Jerry Kramer was a key part of the Packers dynasty of the 1960’s.  With Kramer at right guard, the Green Bay Packers won five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls.  Kramer is best remembered for his block that allowed Bart Starr to dive into the endzone and beat the Cowboys in the “Ice Bowl” but there was more to Kramer’s career than that one block.  His agility and strength made him the key component of Lombardi’s “Packer Sweep” that the Green Bay dynasty was built on.   Kramer is one of the all-time great guards.  He was an All-Pro five times and is the only member of the NFL’s 50th Anniversary team not in the Hall of Fame.

The difficulty with offensive linemen is without the stats it is hard to see on paper the caliber of a guard, tackle, or center.  However, all you need to do is watch old Packers highlights to realize that Jerry Kramer belongs in Canton.

1. Cris Carter, Wide Receiver – Philadelphia Eagles (1987 – 1989), Minnesota Vikings (1990 – 2001), Miami Dolphins (2002)

If you were to ask most people who the biggest Hall of Fame snub is they would either answer Jerry Kramer or Cris Carter.  Considering that one of these two is my favorite player of all time, it was pretty easy for me to choose a one and a two.  In the words of famed Eagles’ coach Buddy Ryan, “All he [Carter] does is catch touchdowns.”  Considered by many to have the best hands of any wide receiver ever, Carter is most likely the greatest possession receiver of all time.  He started his career with the Philadelphia Eagles but was cut after two seasons due to problems relating to drug and alcohol abuse.  The Minnesota Vikings decided to take a chance on a wide receiver that was trying to turn his life around, which has since become the team’s M.O. (Randy Moss and Percy Harvin), and that gamble paid dividends in his second season in purple.  Carter was an 8 time Pro-Bowler, 3 time All-Pro, and was the 2nd starting receiver on the 1990’s All-Decade Team behind Jerry Rice.  He was the 2nd receiver to ever pass the 1000 reception plateau and at the time of this retirement was 2nd all-time in receptions (1,101) and receiving touchdowns (130).   He finished his career with 13, 8999 receiving yards and holds the vast majority of the Vikings franchise records for wide receivers.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

Land of 10,000 Lattes

Like all stories from “The Funyun”, the post below is a work of satire, parody, and fiction.  While the names of famous people and actual events are referenced, this story should not be considered a valid news source.

Darrell Bevell joins the Seattle Seahawks after five years as Offensive Coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and has already brought Sidney Rice (left), Tarvaris Jackson (center), and Frank Walker (unpictured) with him. Pete Carroll is currently courting Vikings LB Ben Leber (right) thinking this could yield 2005-type results.

After pulling off the biggest upset of the NFL postseason in 2010, the Seattle Seahawks and head coach Pete Carroll hope to build off that season in 2011.  Carroll was excited by making it to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs but feels his team can do better.  “It has always been our goal to play in an NFC Championship game.  We fell one game shy of that goal last season and I knew we had to make the right draft picks and bring in the right staff and players to make that possible.”  In pursuing the Halas Trophy, the Seahawks have made some major additions this offseason.

The Seahawks started by bringing in offensive guru Darrell Bevell who spent the last five years under Brad Childress and the Minnesota Vikings and parting ways with Pro-Bowl  quarterback Matt Hasslebeck.   While in Minneapolis, Bevell saw the Vikings win the NFC North twice and come within an interception of playing in Super Bowl XLIV.   In going to Seattle, Darrell Bevell brought two of his own offensive players, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, and the All-Pro young deep threat Sidney Rice.  In recent days, cornerback Frank Walker has followed his Vikings teammates to the Pacific Northwest and the Seahawks are currently in talks with the hard-hitting veteran linebacker, Ben Leber, also from the Minnesota Vikings.

Head coach Pete Carroll has long admired the Minnesota Vikings franchise.  He served as the defensive backs coach for Minnesota from 1985 – 1989 and even interviewed for the head coaching position in 1992 before losing out to Dennis Green.  “It was great being part of a franchise like the Vikings fresh off the departure of Bud [Grant].” Carroll said, ” He’s a Hall of Fame coach who led the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances.  He was a great mentor to me in teaching me the importance of coming close to winning a championship.  I took that same philosophy to USC and brought it with me here.  In LA, we came close consistently and when we did win, we were fortunate the NCAA took that title away.”

When asked about the what Darrell Bevell brings to the Seahawks, Carroll remarked that, “Darrell has a great offense and knows better than anyone how to get a team in the NFC Championship.  A few years ago, Mike [Holmgren] was able to lead this team to a Super Bowl loss and we need to get back to that tradition here in Seattle.  Mike had a simple formula: bring in your old back-up for Brett Favre and fill the roster with capable wide receivers.  That’s the value of Darrell bringing in guys like Tarvaris and Sidney.  I really believe Tarvaris is a guy we can throw under center week 1 and he can help us almost win right now.  Both guys are going to help us to to come close to winning  a championship.”

Carroll went on to explain, “We aren’t Pittsburgh, Green Bay, or New England, but we’re definitely not a Cleveland, Detroit, or Houston either.  Seattle is a city that needs to have hope and see their team almost win but we know we can never truly compete.  For the last fifty years, nobody has walked that line better than the Minnesota Vikings.”  He went on to say, “Bud Grant taught me the value of almost winning and Mike brought that tradition here.  I think we’ve put ourselves in a position to appear in the NFC Championship game.”

Carroll has received a lot of attention for having a DJ on the field during practices and the locker room TVs show the movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective at least once a day.  Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said, “There is just a lot we can learn from Ray Finkle and his ‘Kick heard ’round the World.”

Wide receiver Mike Williams was excited about the prospect of Sidney Rice being a part of the team saying, “Sidney is a guy who has been there and almost won.  To get a guy like that, like Randy Moss and Cris Carter, who has come so close  …. he’s going to help us get back to 2005 form.”   When asked about other free agent additions, Williams said, “It was great to get Leroy Hill back on board because he gives us a leader who has been on the cusp of winning a championship and now to see Coach Tom [Cable] bring guys in like [Robert] Gallery and [Zach] Miller who have not had a chance to be a playoff team.  They are going to be hungry to make it to the NFC Championship game.”

Since that Super Bowl berth, the Seattle Seahawks have lost grasp of a division they once dominated as the Arizona Cardinals took the division and even made it all the way to the Super Bowl a few years back.   The Rams have their quarterback of the future in Sam Bradford and new coach Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco promises to shake things up for the 49ers.  Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell feels that the Seahawks are primed to repeat in the NFC West this season.

Andre Reed played in and lost 4 straight Super Bowls, finished his career in 2000 with 951 receptions, and is waiting on the call from Canton. Would he consider one last "almost win" to solidify his HOF bid?

“It was a great feeling to play that game in New Orleans two years ago, and I only hope we can host a championship here.  I know Tarvaris and he’s been working in the offseason and the two years of mentoring from Brett Favre is only going to help.  Sidney has proven to be a guy that can almost win and should we ever set our expectations too high, I know that I can count on him to surprise us all with an unexpected surgery and bring us back down to Earth.”

Carroll also mentioned that while talks remain ongoing with the Viking’s Ben Leber they have also reached out to Brett Favre, Randy Moss, Bryant McKinnie, and even inquired about a possible trade for Bernard Berrian.  There is a lot of hope in Seattle these days with players feeling that they could play in the NFC Championship game this year and find themselves back in 2005 form so they can play in a Super Bowl.  Bevell even noted that the Seahawks had reached out to Andre Reed and Cris Carter in the last week just to see if they would like one last chance to almost win a Super Bowl and solidify their Hall of Fame bids by being on a Super Bowl runner-up.

“Just to get to go to Indianapolis or New Orleans and be on the field while Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, or Peyton Manning win another ring,” said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, “that would be the experience of a lifetime.”

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

The Legacy of a Freak

According to reports that came out earlier today, Randy Moss has officially filed his retirement papers with the NFL.  While that does not mean we will never see Randy Moss on an NFL playing field again (his teammate of a month last season could tell you that); it does at least raise the possibility.   This is however, a player that already took a two year sabbatical in Oakland only to come back to the game with the greatest receiving season of all time in 2007, so I personally have a hard time believing he is done.  As a Vikings fan, I would love to see him finish the career the way it started – in purple, in the Metrodome, reviving the career of an aged former Eagles’ quarterback while passing the 15,000 yard and 1000 reception plateau.  I really do believe that Moss would still offer an upgrade at the wide receiver position to at least half of the teams in the NFL.   However, if Moss is indeed retired, what is his legacy?  How can I even begin to describe the player whose talent is indescribable?

Over a 13 year career, Randy Moss wowed fans with his athleticism.

The Viking’s Offensive Coordinator during Randy Moss’s rookie year, Brian Billick, once stated that Moss had a combination of height, speed, hands, and leaping ability that the NFL had never before seen and might never see again.  He went on to say that, “Every field or court he’s ever stepped on to play whatever game he was going to play, he was the best athlete.”   Patriots coach Bill Bellichick has referred to Moss as one of the most intelligent and greatest players that he had ever coached.   There is no doubt that Randy Moss is an incredibly gifted athlete and one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game but how will he be remembered?

I find it next to impossible to accurately describe the athletic capabilities of Randy Moss.  Sure I could throw out his 153 touchdown receptions, 14,858 yards receiving, and his 954 career receptions.  I could talk about his 29 career touchdowns of more than 50 yards or his 64 100 yard games.   I could mention that he has the 5th most touchdowns all-time of any non-quarterback.  I could remind you of his rookie record of 17 receiving touchdowns in 1998 or his all-time single season record of 23 receiving touchdowns in 2007.   But if I really want to describe the physical presence and game-changing ability of Randy Moss, I really need to only write one sentence:

On the two highest scoring offenses in NFL history (1998 Vikings and 2007 Patriots), Randy Moss was the highest scoring player.

I am usually not so good at being that straight to the point but that’s the simplest way to describe Moss’s athletic prowess.   Now in his “retirement” many have raised concern that Randy Moss was “not as great as he could have been”.   I would agree with that assessment.  Jerry Rice was twice the wide receiver Randy Moss is with only half the talent.  However Rice did not change the game quite like Randy did.  If indeed Moss was not at 100% for the majority of his career, than his numbers are even more staggering and an even stronger testament to his incredible ability.

I still remember the first time that I watched “the Freak” play on TV.   It was Week 5 of the 1998 NFL season and my parents let me stay up for Monday Night Football  to watch the Vikings, play against my favorite quarterback, Brett Favre, and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.   I remember that first possession as Randall Cunningham took the snap and threw the ball deep down the field to Randy Moss and he almost effortlessly reeled it in and ran for a 75 yard touchdown.  I had never seen anything quite like it.

Cris Carter had always been my favorite player growing up, and still is, and while all Carter did, “was catch touchdowns”, I knew that he could not do what this kid Randy had just done.  The 75 yard touchdown pass was called back due to an offensive holding call but it didn’t seem to hurt as Randy Moss would have 5 more receptions in the game for 190 yards and 2 touchdowns leading the Vikings to a perfect 5-0 record.  While many knew that Moss was special at the time, they had no idea he had just changed the entire landscape of the NFL.

It is my belief that the NFL has had five major turning points in the  Super Bowl era:

  1. The AFL’s New York Jets’ upset of the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III which led to the AFL-NFL merger (1969)
  2. Hank Stram introducing the league to Gatorade and having it on the sidelines in the Kansas City Chiefs shocking route of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV (1970)
  3. Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson of the New York Giants sacking Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann from his blind side on Monday Night Football and ending his career (1985)
  4. Randy Moss’s Week 5  dominating performance at Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football (1998)
  5. The re-introduction of instant replay and the introduction of coach’s challenges into the NFL (1999)

Just to be perfectly clear, I am suggesting that, like many of his acrobatic catches, Randy Moss singlehandedly changed professional football.  In the same way that Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson changed baseball, Wayne Gretzky changed hockey, and Michael Jordan changed basketball – Randy Moss changed the NFL.

First off, I really do believe that the 5th major turning point I mention (re-introduction of instant replay) was due in part to the fact that nobody could believe that a rookie wide receiver was able to leap above three defenders, catch the ball, come down with both feet inbounds, and shake off those same three defenders to run for a touchdown.  I have seen the footage of Moss’s Monday Night Football game against the Packers and his Thanksgiving football game against the Cowboys dozens of times, and 13 years later – I am still amazed.

His greater impact though is that he changed the way the game was played.  Brian Billick and Dennis Green (Vikings Head Coach 1992 – 2001) were two of the best offensive minds in the NFL during the 1990’s and both have mentioned how when it came to Randy Moss they had to forget everything they thought they knew about offense because when it came to Randy Moss, the same rules of offense just did not apply.   After his Week 5 coming out party on national television, teams everywhere were aware of what he could do and they still could not stop him.   Traditional defensive schemes did not seem to work.

Teams would put two, three, even four defenders at times on Moss and he would still find the endzone.  If he had not been playing opposite field from one of the greatest possession receivers of all time, they might have defended the Freak even more.

Following an impressive Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers, Moss would face the Packers again in Week 12 at the Metrodome.  The Packers were able to slow Moss down some but not by much.  The Vikings won 28 – 14 and Randy Moss had 8 receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown.   His statistical line against Green Bay  (who had appeared in the previous two Super Bowls)  in 1998 was better than some wide receivers had for the entire season.

As a result the following season the Green Bay Packers used their first four draft picks on defensive players – a free safety, two cornerbacks, and a defensive tackle.   The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another divisional opponent, used the majority of their draft picks on the defensive players who would help lead them to a Super Bowl victory a few years later.   Never before had one player so obviously affected the draft choices of another team.

When I look at the NFL today, I see it being commonplace for safeties like Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed to play “over the top” to prevent the big play.  I see the contracts that have been paid to “shut-down” cornerbacks like Nnamdi Asomugha and Darelle Revis.   I assure you that when Asomugha receives the first check of his new contract, he had better send a thank you note to Randy Moss.   Because like Lawrence Taylor made a strong left tackle a necessity, Randy Moss bolstered the importance of safeties and cornerbacks.

The NFL that we watch today is very much a passing league with a lot more deep passing routes than previously seen.  Much like Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile, it took Randy Moss showing the NFL that you could succeed with a pass heavy offense before it really became a trend in the NFL.  Wide receivers like Braylon Edwards, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, and Reggie Wayne have had success in offenses that were developed as a result of Randy Moss.

Antics like mooning the fans at Green Bay distract many from his athletic accolades

If Randy Moss has indeed retired, he will surely have a press conference.  Knowing him, he will even interview himself.  And over the next few days phrases like “straight cash homey” and mentions of “squirting referees”, “bashing police cars”, “mooning fans”, and “screaming at caterers” are sure to be mentioned when talking about his legacy.   These antics offended many fans and are sure to affect how Moss is remembered.

We will be reminded of how he famously told us all that, “I play when I want to play.”  And the fact of the matter is, right now, nobody’s offering him enough straight cash so he does not want to play.  But when he did play, it was like nothing we have ever seen before.  Offensive gurus had to create new playbooks,  defenses had to create new schemes, and teams had to change their entire drafting strategy.

And at the end of the day – that, more than anything, is the Freak’s legacy.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks?  Let me hear ’em!