A collaborative First Tier Sports article by: Jesse Robichaud and Rick Blackheart.
The decade is coming to an end. I'm not really sure what to call this decade, the oughts? the 0's? If you have any ideas let me know. Anyways its been a great year for football, we arguably had five of the best Super Bowls ever and watched a ton of records fall.
The team of the decade is clearly the Patriots, but the player of the decade is still up in the air. Here are our picks:
Shocking? not really. Ray Lewis has dominated this decade. Stop for a minute and think about it. Lewis was the 2000 Super Bowl MVP, has been to 7 Pro Bowls this decade, was first team all pro five times and was defensive player of the year twice.
The scary thing is Ray Lewis's greatness has nothing to do with the numbers. He is the leader of the Ravens and this decade was real good for them. He's the Peyton Manning of the Ravens. The Ravens have never had a great offense. The act that put him over the top for us was his 2000 season. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in spite of an anemic offense that went an amazing five straight games without scoring a touchdown. The Ravens followed that up by allowing 27 points in four games in the playoffs.
This list comes down to two players: Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis. Manning's one Super Bowl win came with him playing poorly and the defense carrying the Colts. Ray Lewis won his Super Bowl almost single handedly.
There is no tangible way to prove that Ray Lewis is better than Peyton Manning. It really comes down to a gut feeling after looking at tangible stats. Ray Lewis was the heart and soul of a year in and year out playoff team that never had a good Quarterback and in 2000 he dragged the Ravens into the Super Bowl and won the game and the MVP.
Eight pro bowls, four first team all pros, three MVP's and the 2006 Super Bowl MVP. Clearly Peyton is at the top of the heap in the NFL at the Quarterback position. He has dominated despite a mediocre surrounding team. Even with a suspect defense at times Peyton has lead the Colts to nine ten win or more seasons in the past ten years.
Four pro bowls, one first team all pro, one MVP and two Super Bowl MVP's. Tom Brady is a winner. He is the only guy on this list with three Super Bowl's. The reason he falls behind Peyton is because he didn't play much in 2000 or 2008 and played mediocre in 2001 leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win.
Five pro bowls, three first team all pros and one MVP. Tomlinson has all the numbers. He lead the decade in all purpose yards, touchdowns, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and any other position player stat you can think of. He's second all time in rushing touchdowns and third all time in total touchdowns.
Eight pro bowls, three first team all pros. Ogden was nothing short of dominant during his pro career. A sure fire first ballot hall of famer. From 1997-2007 he made the pro bowl team eleven straight years. Plain and simple their was no other offensive lineman better than Ogden.
Eight pro bowls, three first team all pros. Bailey was dominant all decade long with the Redskins and Broncos, but the most amazing display of dominance perhaps at any position was in 2006. Bailey was thrown at 35 times, only four times the receiver he was covering caught the ball. Even more impressive was that Bailey had ten interceptions that year.
Eight pro bowls, four first team all pros, 2002 defensive player of the year. Brooks anchored one of the two best defenses in the decade. He was awarded with eight pro bowls in nine seasons and winning defensive player of the year award honors in 2002. He also took four defensive turnovers to the house that year.
Nine pro bowls. four first team all pros. Gonzalez is the only guy on the list with nine pro bowls and he is surely looking at ten this year. It's hard to rank him higher based on the fact that he is a tight end. One thing that isn't hard to do is state is that he was the most dominant player at his position.
Six pro bowls, five first team all pros. TO was consistent, he had over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in every season this decade except 2005 when he only played seven games. Even in that season he had over 700 yards. He was also consistent in making every team he was on worse.
Eight pro bowls, four first team all pros. Jones was right behind Ogden in the offensive line category. He was also second team all pro twice in 2006 and 2008.
Brian Urlacher. Six pro bowls, four first team all pros, two time defensive player of the year. Urlacher is definitely on the edge of this list. His dominance in the beginning of the decade was almost unparalleled, but he hasn't made a pro bowl since 2006.
Orlando Pace. Six pro bowls, two first team all pros. Pace's best years were in the beginning of the decade. Just couldn't put him ahead of Jones or Ogden who have been dominant all decade.
Randy Moss. Four pro bowls, three first team all pros. At his best Moss is the best. He just wasn't his best from 2004-2006, in fact he was down right embarrassing in 2006, racking up a measly 553 yards and only three touchdowns.
Ed Reed. Five pro bowls, four first team all pros, 2004 defensive player of the year. When Reed is playing he's the best safety in the NFL. Unfortunately for this list his first pro bowl season wasn't until 2003.
Michael Strahan. Four pro bowls, two first team all pros, 2001 defensive player of the year, all time single season sack leader. In 2001 Strahan was down right dominant, setting the record for sacks in a season with 22.5 and winning the defensive player of the year award. Strahan only played half the season in 2006 and 2004. He retired in 2008 and half of his career was played in the 1990's.
Marvin Harrison. Seven pro bowls, two first team all pros. Harrison was by far the most consistent receiver in the NFL in the 2000's. However he was never the best in the league, even at times his own team.
Steve Hutchinson. Six pro bowls, four first team all pros. If you're curious just how good Hutchinson is just ask Shaun Alexander. In 2005 with Hutchinson on the Seahawks Alexander ran for 1880 yards and 27 touchdowns. The following year when Hutchinson went to the Vikings Alexander ran for 896 yards and 7 TD's.
Warren Sapp. Four pro bowls, three first team all pros. Four straight years Sapp was a first team all pro. During that stretch there was no better defensive player in the league. Unfortunately for this list some of Sapp's best years weren't in this decade and he hasn't made a pro bowl since 2003.
Charles Woodson. Three pro bowls. Woodson has been solid all decade and he is looking at the defensive player of the year this season. Woodson however has never been elite only making three pro bowls this decade and never being on the all pro team.
Kevin Mawae. Six pro bowls, two first team all pros. Mawae is definitely the center of the decade. He is currently anchoring the Titans line that might have a 2,000 yard rusher this year in Chris Johnson.
Kurt Warner. Three pro bowls, one first team all pro. When Warner is hot he's the best Quarterback in the league. When he's on the wrong team he's a backup Quarterback. From 2002-2007 his record was 8-23.
Brian Dawkins. Six pro bowls, four first team all pros. Dawkins has been consistently great this decade. He was an all pro in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006 and probably this season too.
John Lynch. Seven pro bowls, one first team all pro. Some of Lynch's best years were in the 90's and he hasn't made the pro bowl since 2007.
Jason Taylor. Six pro bowls, three first team all pros, 2006 defensive player of the year. Taylor's timing is great for this list making his first pro bowl in 2000. At times Taylor has seemed to disapear only recording 3.5 sacks last year.
Steve Smith. Four pro bowls, two first team all pros. Smith made the pro bowl as a returner in 2001, then led the league in 2005 in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Marhall Faulk. Three pro bowls, two first team all pros. Faulk changed the running back position. He was the first running back since Roger Craig to have 1000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. Some of Faulk's best year came in the 90's and he stopped playing after the 2005 season.
Torry Holt. Seven pro bowls. one first team all pro. Holt is a breath of fresh air, his team first do my job and keep my mouth closed attitude is a nice change. I wish I could put him ahead of Moss and Owens but the fact is he was never as good as either of them. He does however have more pro bowls then both of those receivers.
Troy Polamalu. Five pro bowls, two first team all pros. Polamalu made five straight trips to the pro bowl this decade, but his first wasn't until 2004 and he has missed most of this season.
Brett Favre. Five pro bowls. Favre's best years were in the 90's winning three straight MVP's, but he did make five pro bowls this decade including this year.
Donovan McNabb. Five pro bowls. McNabb made five straight pro bowl's to start the season but hasn't been to Hawaii since 2004. Injuries and inaccuracy have plauged McNabb only managing to play an entire season once since 2003.
Adam Vinatieri. Two pro bowls, two first team all pros. I have to give the best kicker of the decade some credit. The Patriots can thank Vinatieri for two of their Super Bowls.
Larry Allen. Six pro bowls, two first team all pros. Allen was the best lineman for the bulk of his career. He made eleven pro bowls in a twelve year span from 1995-2006 and six straight first team all pro's from 1996-2001.
Andre Johnson. Three pro bowls, one first team all pro. Johnson is the best receiver in the game today, but didn't make his first pro bowl until 2004.