2015 NFL Pro Bowl: 10 Hall of Famers That Should Captain Teams Next Year
Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice contributed to making the 2014 Pro Bowl a success by serving as alumni team captains.
The most important part of their role was drafting teams to compete in the newly unconferenced NFL all-star game. With the popularity of fantasy football, having a draft to select the teams made perfect sense for the league.
Although, the NHL beat them to the idea.
Sanders and Rice were the perfect pair for the inaugural game with the new format. They are Hall of Famers, competed against each other and won a Super Bowl together with the San Francisco 49ers.
The duo added to the entertainment value of the game and created some buzz leading up to it.
They engaged in some friendly trash talk over social media leading up to the game. Sanders went as far as saying that he would be on the field to help his team win.
Ladies and Gentlemen I am officially announcing "I WILL SUIT UP IN HAWAII" Please let @JerryRice know that a real captain leads by example!— DeionSanders (@DeionSanders) January 13, 2014
Deion I would beat you down like the old days! We can suit up but it would be very painful for you!— Jerry Rice (@JerryRice) January 14, 2014
Although they never took the field against each other in the 2014 Pro Bowl, the battle between Team Sanders and Team Rice had moments that felt like a real football game, unlike previous years. They will certainly be a tough act to follow.
If the NFL decides to keep the format for the 2015 Pro Bowl, they will have some big captain shoes to fill. There are a lot of big-name former players they could choose, though there is some criteria they should maintain.
Former players should be in the Hall of Fame, still be visible to the average fan and retired after the year 2000.
The retirement year is important.
Players that retired before 2000 will have been away from the football field for over 15 years by the time next year’s Pro Bowl comes around. It is important that the captains are relevant to the widest age range of fans.
Terry Bradshaw against Roger Staubach might be intriguing to some NFL fans, though most young fans would need to use a search engine to know what teams they played for.
Here are 10 players that should be considered to serve as the alumni captains for the 2015 Pro Bowl.
Potential Future Considerations
- Ray Lewis – The level of passion that he could bring to the draft would be incredible. Not to mention the pregame speech would probably be the best in Pro Bowl history regardless of the opponent.
- Randy Moss – One of the most entertaining receivers, Moss would bring a lot of excitement to the game. It would be interesting to see what type of offensive players he would draft.
- Terrell Owens – Similar to Moss, T.O. would be another “diva” wide receiver that would be a great captain. In fact, they would be great to face each other.
- Brett Favre – As long as he isn’t as indecisive about his draft as he was retirement, Favre would be a great team captain. One concern is, unlike Sanders, he might really try to sneak on a uniform to play.
- Michael Strahan – The guy who replaced Regis Philbin in the morning has to ultimately lead one of these teams if the format continues in the years to come. Favre would be a great matchup for Strahan, especially since he recorded his NFL record for sacks in a season against him in controversial fashion.
There are some great candidates that did not make the list due to missing the Hall of Fame credential, at least for now. It is important to use the Hall of Fame as a prerequisite to connect the current players with some of the greatest players of the previous generation.
Any of the following players would have made the list if they were enshrined in Canton, OH.
10. Marshall Faulk
As a captain, would Marshall Faulk attempt to draft his version of the “The Greatest Show on Turf?” That would be the most intriguing aspect of Faulk as a captain.
The former Madden video game cover athlete could bring some entertainment to the sideline as well as the draft.
The largest downside is there isn’t a good opposing captain that feels like a good fit. One possibility is one of his television counterparts so they can talk trash during the build-up to the game.
Captain grade: D
Best opposing captain: Another NFL Network analyst
9. Dan Marino
Dan Marino is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. That alone is good enough to get him on this list, though it is not enough to make him a great captain for the game.
From an entertainment perspective, Marino falls short.
It is hard to think of the buzz that would be generated before and during the game if he is selecting the team.
The only way this becomes interesting is if he is up against another top-tier quarterback that he is often compared too. Especially one that likes the word “Omaha” a lot.
Captain grade: D
Best opposing captain: Peyton Manning (eventually)
8. Steve Young
While he is toned down slightly in the broadcast set, Steve Young was a very energetic player on the football field.
If he was placed across from Troy Aikman, it could rekindle the 49ers-Cowboys rivalry from the early ‘90s.
Captain grade: C
Best opposing captain: Troy Aikman
7. Cris Carter
Cris Carter has the passion and the fire to make his potential captaincy entertaining. His career is where he falls a little short.
Although he is in the Hall of Fame, there are other eligible receivers that would be ahead of him to be a captain from their level of name recognition.
One of the aspects that made this year’s Pro Bowl great was players from the same team going against each other. In a similar fashion, Carter going against former teammate Randy Moss could make for some good television.
Captain grade: B-
Best opposing captain: Randy Moss (once eligible)
6. Troy Aikman
Troy Aikman won three Super Bowl rings as the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He is the best-suited Hall of Fame quarterback to serve as an alumni captain for the Pro Bowl.
It would be nice to see Aikman get the competitive juices flowing on the sideline and away from the broadcast booth one more time.
Captain grade: B-
Best opposing captain: Steve Young
5. Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders is the lone exception to the criteria of retiring after the year 2000.
It is hard to argue against a player that was as exciting as Sanders to watch. While his personality is very low-key, he makes up for it with his legendary status.
Captain grade: B
Best opposing captain: Any defender that tried to tackle him
4. Shannon Sharpe
Shannon Sharpe would certainly have a lot to say.
The Hall of Fame tight end was one of the most outspoken players during his time in the NFL and never held his tongue.
Aside from the amount of trash he could talk, he would look the part. Sharpe might be the only candidate on the list that could make the Nike uniform colors look dull.
After all, who else would have to send out a disclaimer tweet explaining his decision to wear purple crushed velvet?
Please don't adjust your TV set. The outfit I'm wearing today is the color and the fabric you think.
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) January 5, 2014
Captain grade: B
Best opposing captain: Dan Marino
3. Emmitt Smith
The inaugural unconferenced Pro Bowl game featured the NFL’s all-time leading receiver Jerry Rice as a captain. It would be a logical progression to follow up with the all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith.
Aside from their NFL accolades, Smith and Rice both competed on the television show Dancing with the Stars.
A lot of speculation has been made on whether or not Smith would have broken the all-time rushing record if Barry Sanders did not abruptly retire. This storyline would make a great backdrop for two Pro Bowl captains.
Captain grade: B+
Best opposing captain: Barry Sanders
2. Michael Irvin
Michael Irvin is the offensive equivalent to Deion Sanders when it comes to swagger. Both were flashy stars in their day, appropriate for their respective nicknames of “Playmaker” and “Primetime.”
Irvin’s persona goes all the way back to his days at the University of Miami.
Placed against another trash talker and Irvin might provide enough quality sound that a play-by-play announcer might not be needed.
Captain grade: A
Best opposing captain: Cris Carter
1. Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp needs to be one of the team captains next year. His passion for the game of football is hard to match.
One of the concerns that brought about the change to the Pro Bowl format was the lack of effort displayed by players. The level that the game was played at this year needs to be met or exceeded next year.
Sapp is the man for that job.
During the documentary Warren Sapp: A Football Life, Sapp’s former head coach Tony Dungy described the contributions Sapp made to change the Tampa Bay Buccaneers culture.
“It was kind of a defeatist attitude. It was a losing culture. There were talented players there but they didn’t feel like they were going to win, didn’t feel like they could win and that was the thing we had to change around.”
If he could change a losing culture, he could certainly help continue to change a lazy Pro Bowl culture.
Captain grade: A+
Best opposing captain: Michael Irvin