The NFL's 100 Best Current Players: Players 10-1
10.) Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, ARI
At the risk of repeating myself… It is amazing how quickly things can change in the National Football League.
Just two seasons ago Larry Fitzgerald was the second receiver on the Arizona Cardinals depth chart. The coaching staff and fans believed him to be—at the time—inferior to Anquan Boldin who ranks only 70th on this list of the here and now. Currently Larry Fitzgerald is a unanimous top three wide receiver around the league.
So then what changed?
Fitzgerald’s work ethic is what changed.
What a lot of people do not know is that Larry Fitzgerald is only 26 years young. That’s right. Fitzgerald is incredibly young and is still in the prime of his career. In fact it is arguable if he has even entered it yet.
During the end of the 2007 campaign and working up to the 2008 campaign, Fitzgerald underwent a maturation process at the age of 24. Realizing that he could be even better than he already was, he began listening to every suggestion that the coaching staff made.
A guy that put up 103 receptions for 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns in his second season sought to be better! Crazily enough he has been better since then and he is still progressing.
In listening to the suggestions of the coaching staff, Fitzgerald improved the few flaws in his already impressive game. He became a crisper route runner, learned how to go over the middle, and sought to become a better creator after the catch.
As Fitzgerald already had the best hands in the league as well as his league best abilities of catching the ball in traffic you can imagine the results. The thing is you don’t have to imagine the results. They have materialized over the past 38 games—in both the regular and post-season—and have shown Fitzgerald to be a complete receiver with almost no equal.
Perhaps we should examine those 38 games from a production standpoint. Over that span Fitzgerald has logged 235 receptions for 3,225 receiving yards and 34 receiving touchdowns. When you break those numbers down to a per game basis they equate to six receptions per game for 84 receiving yards and nine-tenths of a touchdown per game.
However, what makes Fitzgerald so good is more than just the numbers. Fitzgerald provides such a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators, that whomever is opposite of him is going to benefit greatly.
While Anquan Boldin is a talented receiver on his own there is no doubt that Fitzgerald’s post-2007 growth has recently benefited him. The Arizona Cardinals’ front office feels the same way as they recently underwent NFL politics by lowballing Boldin and then eventually trading him away for mere third and fifth round picks.
They feel as if they can do this because of what Fitzgerald brings to the table. The thing is that Steve Breaston is clearly a good receiver but you cannot tell me that he is anywhere near the caliber of player as Boldin. But with Fitz on the other side it does not matter anyway because it is all about him making the Cardinals’ offense go around.
Finally for those that think Matt Leinart will ruin his production I leave you with this rare gem from the “research department” at ESPN…
“Fitz averages 30-plus yards and a reception more without Boldin in the lineup, which should go a long way in alleviating concerns about the dropoff from Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart.”
9.) Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver, HOU
One year before the phenom at the wide receiver position listed at 10th on this list was drafted third overall, his biggest competition was taken at the same spot.
Andre Johnson didn’t have the first four seasons that Larry Fitzgerald did but they might have even been better when you realize the circumstances.
Johnson’s 4.35 speed wasn’t capable of being utilized due to the fact that David Carr was weary of throwing the ball further than 20 yards downfield. Carr had an incredibly pedestrian 146 attempts over 20 yards downfield in his four year Texans career with Johnson.
On top of the David Carr problem, Andre Johnson was literally playing blind until the 2006 season. That’s right, prior to being drafted it was revealed that Johnson needed Lasik eye surgery to correct his vision. From 2004 to 2006 Johnson was third in drops behind Chad Ochocinco—then Johnson—and Terrell Owens. Who knows what he would have done had those 12 drops per season not restricted some of his production?
After getting the corrective surgery and getting half competent quarterbacks, Johnson has clearly been a top three wide receiver. In fact it’s quite inarguable. The only question remaining now is what would his production would look like without being blind and having Matt Schaub throwing him the ball since 2004?
Living in the world of “what ifs” however is something that I am not fond of. So let’s just look at what Johnson has done over the past three seasons when it has all clicked for him.
Since 2007—when it all began to fall in place—Johnson has produced 276 receptions for 3,995 yards receiving, and 25 touchdowns in 40 games. When you average those numbers out to a per game basis you get something very impressive.
When you do so average his numbers to a per game basis you realize that Johnson essentially averaged seven receptions for 100 yards a game over 40 games.
Since 1995, the feat of averaging 100 yards a game over a season has been accomplished 13 times by 11 different receivers. These receivers include current and future Hall of Famers such as Jerry Rice, Isaac Bruce, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, and Randy Moss. Of these guys only Rod Smith has come close to doing it over a two season period let alone a 40 game period.
That’s right. Andre Johnson has had arguably the greatest 40 game span for a player in an NFL career. From a yardage stand point it is quite inarguable. Additionally Johnson has just about halved that drop issues over that span to seven a season.
The reason Johnson is capable of doing what he does is his overall athleticism. Johnson is probably the second best athletic specimen at the receiver position in the league behind Calvin Johnson.
Johnson’s chiseled six foot three inch frame and the accompanying 225 pounds allows him to run over safeties and linebackers after making the reception.
His 4.35 speed gives him a dimension that Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t really have; the ability to fly past any defensive back in the league.
Finally Johnson’s years of working with David Carr give him a thorough understanding of route running concepts and how to make plays in traffic.
Quite simply put… Andre Johnson is the consummate wide receiver. It’s just unfortunate it took five seasons for him to really break out.
8.) Nnamdi Asomugha, Cornerback, OAK
I am fearful to write what I am about to write because I know that it will start another cornerback conundrum. Quite frankly I am tired of the consistent debating across the internet and on television about who the league’s best cornerback is. Because—with all due respect to Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson—to me it’s clearly Nnamdi Asomugha.
Now my stance on Nnamdi does not mean that Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson are lesser players than they actually are. I mean both made the top 30 players on this list. All three of these players are obviously great. All three of these players clearly comprise the elite tier of cornerbacks by themselves. All three of these players have differing play styles that result in the same thing; shutting down receivers.
With all that said, Nnamdi Asomugha’s style and ability are simply the best to me. This is because he is the only truly “shut down” cornerback of the bunch based on a historical standpoint. In fact, he’s been the only truly “shut down” cornerback of the past decade.
You may recall that within Darrelle Revis’ write-up I referred to the term “shut down cornerback” being developed for guys that simply were not thrown at. Well, shall we examine the other two guys that seemingly hold this title?
While Woodson isn’t thrown at as much as other starters in the league, his target totals still don’t compare to Asomugha’s. What makes this even more impressive is that of guys who have started the majority of games for the past three seasons Woodson’s target totals are second best in the league.
Meanwhile in his write-up I inferred that Revis’ season isn’t historically “shut down” but should help redefine the term. While it accomplished the same thing that historically “shut down” seasons have the high total of targets contradicted the concept. “Shut down” cornerbacks have historically been avoided out of respect.
So what am I trying to say here?
I am trying to hammer home the point that Nnamdi Asomugha is the true successor in the lineage of “shut down” cornerbacks.
While Champ Bailey was often cited as the successor to this lineage he never truly was. Bailey has continually been great and is the best overall of this generation. However, he never truly was avoided out of fear. Nnamdi Asomugha has been. Look no further than his past three years for proof.
In 2007 Asomugha was targeted a mere 35 times. He allowed a mere 22 receptions for 224 total yards and one touchdown.
If his 2007 wasn’t ridiculously good he was only targeted 29 times in 2008. Even more impressive were the ridiculously low 13 receptions he allowed and the accompanying 144 yards. Some guys give up 144 yards in a single game!
Last season Asomugha continued this dominance but because he never has had the media hype he was overlooked. He was targeted one less time than in 2008. He did, however, allow “a lot” of receptions with 21 and “a lot” of yards with 246 and one touchdown.
Plain and simple Nnamdi’s metrics—targets, completions, yards and touchdowns—over the past three years are virtually even with what Revis and Woodson did just last year.
You can argue that Nnamdi’s supporting casts is lacking but last I checked prior to last season Lito Sheppard/Dwight Lowery and Tramon Williams were all average at best players as well.
Plain and simple…Nnamdi Asomugha is THE shutdown cornerback in the NFL.
7.) Chris Johnson, Halfback, TEN
I can see it now… “How can you have Chris Johnson at seventh? That is way too low for him!”
“Johnson is clearly the best halfback in the National Football League. He was the only rookie to receive an invite to the Pro Bowl in 2008. Following that up he ran for 2,000 yards and is one of only six players to do so. He also set the single-season yards from scrimmage record as a second year player. Unlike Peterson he doesn’t fumble often either!”
Now that Chris Johnson has finished tooting his own horn—just kidding—allow me to explain my stance on why Johnson is a “low” seventh and the second best halfback in the National Football League before Titans fans ambush me.
What Chris Johnson did last season was no doubt amazing. It will remain in the record books for quite a while. In fact, with the league’s dynamic shift to a pass first league it becomes all the more impressive and all the more concrete.
However, as impressive as it was there were a few things that left me saying “there could be more.” Not “more” in a sense that he could have had better production but more in that he could have been a better player than his production stated. As it stands I think his production was better than he is.
Anyhow, this is Chris Johnson’s write-up so let us focus on what he did and what things positive he brings to the field.
In case you didn’t hear about it Chris Johnson ran for 2,006 yards last season. In addition to those rushing totals he had 503 yards receiving as well. His combined total of 2,509 total yards from scrimmage last season was an NFL record by 80 yards. He also had 16 total touchdowns. But by now you have to know that as Johnson was probably the second most talked about NFL topic behind the New Orleans Saints and rightfully so.
You probably also know about Chris Johnson’s big play ability which is arguably unrivaled.
Johnson had 25 total plays over 20 yards last season. The next closest guy to Chris Johnson was Adrian Peterson with 17. Johnson also had 10 runs and catches that went for over 40 yards. This placed him second overall behind Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson. The caveat here is that only three of Jackson’s plays started near or behind the line of scrimmage and two of them were punt returns. Johnson was at a “disadvantage” to make big plays in comparison to Jackson.
Chris Johnson might not be the best back in the league with initial contact at the line but it really doesn’t matter. When he finds a hole up the gut there’s a chance he’s taken it to the house. In fact, there is just as much of a chance as if he were taking it outside.
Running between the tackles Chris Johnson took 198 handoffs last season. He took those carries for 1,075 yards rushing; nearly five-and-a-half yards per carry. He also had seven rushing touchdowns between the tackles too. Only one of his three fumbles came running between the tackles as well.
What am I trying to say here?
Johnson is no one-trick (speed) pony. Sure he’s not going to run over three or four players while running up the gut but does he really have to? If he makes two guys miss with his speed and agility does it not result in an extended play?
Chris Johnson—at least right now—is the most feared offensive player in the league by other players.
6.) Troy Polamalu, Safety, PIT
If by some freak chance you happen to disagree with this placement of Troy Polamalu than I am going to have to request an explanation for why he is “too high.”
I do not think that I have ever seen a player make the impact that he did in the five (although he left the fifth eight snaps into the game) games he played last season.
Everybody knows about Polamalu’s amazing first half of the season opener. I think that his impact in that game can be best surmised by what long time anti-Steelers homer Chris Collinsworth stated.
“I don’t know if a player can earn a Pro Bowl berth through one game but Troy Polamalu is probably doing so right now.”
Let’s be honest. If Polamalu hadn’t gotten injured in the third quarter he probably would have been a Pro Bowler.
What is even more impressive is that just about every game in which he played over half of a contest was equally as impressive.
Against Cleveland he curtailed their two most important drives with an interception and a key tackle.
Against Minnesota he was a key factor in limiting Adrian Peterson meeting him at the line of scrimmage three times. Not only that but he was a key pass defender limiting Sidney Rice to underneath work as well.
Against the surging Denver Broncos who were trying to take the lead in a four point game in the fourth quarter Polamalu recorded a run stuff on second down. This forced the Broncos to pass on the next play resulting in a Polamalu interception that put the game away.
On the field in 2009 Troy Polamalu was amazing. In the four-and-one-quarters games that Troy played I would wager that only a few other players had as big of an impact as he did. What is ridiculous is that as big as his impact on the field was his impact off of the field might have been even bigger.
With Troy Polamalu in the lineup the Steelers were one of the league’s best teams. They went 4-0 against teams that were all post-season caliber except for the Browns. Without him they weren’t and went 5-7 including a loss to those very same Browns.
When Troy played the Steelers defense was arguably the best in the league last season. They allowed a mere 11.0 defensive points per game in games he played over a half in and were reminiscent of their historical ’08 defense. In the 12 other contests without Polamalu they allowed 19.33 defensive points per game. What was really key were the six fourth quarter comebacks allotted by the 2009 Steelers defense when Troy was not in the game.
The reason that teams were capable of scoring more easily and making comebacks was because of the Steelers secondary.
Previously thought to have been one of the better units in the league—finishing first for two consecutive years—the Steelers secondary was proven to be filled with average players who hinged on Polamalu’s presence. The Steelers pass defense went from the best two years running to literally middle of the pack without Polamalu.
Troy Polamalu is a defensive force. He doesn’t just change games but rather he changes the entire season for a defensive unit. He single-handedly can help turn a decent defense (2009) into a historically good one (2007 & 2008).
There probably would not be another defender I’d take prior to Polamalu if building an elite defense.
5.) Tom Brady, Quarterback, NWE
"Is Tom Brady on the downside of his career?"
Well if you were to ask the media he most certainly is. If you were to ask the countless millions of casual fan whose minds the media influence then he certainly is. Even some more devout fans feel as if Brady is on the downside of his career. Hell some people say that due to his pending contract situation even the clubhouse feels that he is.
You know that I have to say to all of this unfounded speculation?
People have long waited to criticize Tom Brady. However, they never could because his first seven seasons as a starter were just about unflappable. The only season in which he didn’t have strong production he led the Patriots to a Super Bowl title. After all of these years there appears to be a chink in the armor and the haters have emerged out of the woodwork to take long awaited potshots.
All of this undue criticism started late during the 2008-09 season as Matt Cassel put up respectable numbers in place of Brady. People began to say that Brady’s passing success must have been due to the system because a guy like Cassel was able to succeed.
I guess that after waiting years to criticize Tom Brady people didn’t care if their arguments were founded or not.
I say this because people who made the aforementioned argument of Brady being a “system quarterback” must have failed to do research. As a pro quarterback Brady has played in a Charlie Weis offense and a Josh McDaniels offense. The philosophies and execution of the two were drastically different as the former emphasized the run to set up the pass and the latter uses short passes to supplement the run.
I guess that these long-time Brady haters eventually realized the massive hole of logic in their argument and decided to formulate a new one; that Tom Brady’s production wasn’t good enough upon his return. Apparently “Tom Terrific” didn’t have a good enough season despite completing 65 percent of his passes for 4,398 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions.
Admittedly I began to fall into the groove and agree with these guys. After all, as I originally compiled this list I found myself placing Tom Brady outside of the top 10. I had him placed 12th and had absolutely no qualms about it.
However, almost as if a sign from above a few days after compiling the initial lineup for this list there was news about Brady that came to fruition.
The Patriots—or rather Bill Belichick—are known to conceal information about their player injuries to not give the opposition an advantage. This year was no difference as Tom Brady had suffered a broken finger on his throwing hand as well as three broken ribs. People say that the injury occurred during the pre-season and was seriously aggravated during Week 13.
An injury of that severity leads one to question if Brady can do that with a serious injury what might he have been capable of doing if he were even remotely healthy?
The reality of the matter is that Tom Brady is still a top three quarterback and even with another season like last season I don’t see that changing.
You know you are amazing when you can be top seven in every single meaningful statistic for your position and people can find room to complain because you weren’t “good enough.”
4.) Albert Haynesworth, Defensive Tackle, WAS
Over the course of one season Albert Haynesworth has become fodder with people have drastically underrating his value. Highlighting why this is truly ridiculous is that at this point last year Haynesworth was unanimously considered the biggest defensive force in the league.
To this I merely ask “how is this possible” and “why is it happening?”
Is it because the media stopped talking about him with relative frequency?
Is it because he hasn’t started an entire season in his NFL career?
Is it because a lot of people feel as if Haynesworth isn’t worthy of the huge contract he received from Washington last off-season?
Regardless of whatever reasoning you have undertaken to try and undermine Albert Haynesworth I have news for you. Albert Haynesworth is the biggest difference maker on the defensive side of the ball in the National Football League.
Not only does Albert Hayensworth make an impact on his own in the passing and running game but he makes the remaining 11 players on his defense better.
Haynesworth is a force that requires mandatory double teams on just about every single snap—only single blocked 49 times in ‘09—and at times requires triple teams. Despite teams usually dedicating additional blockers to stymie Haynesworth he is still a great force that gets into the backfield with relative frequency.
Over the past three seasons Haynesworth has 18.5 sacks and 14.5 run stuffs. Additionally only Jay Ratliff and Kevin Williams have bested him in official pressures over that three year span. Haynesworth also has 12 passes defensed over that span. Keep in mind that these numbers were compiled over three unfinished seasons.
However, as I stated earlier what makes Haynesworth so great is that he makes plays on his own but makes everyone around him better as well. Usually a trait reserved for 3-4 nose tackles this tends to go overlooked due to the fact that Haynesworth is a 4-3 under/nose tackle.
It is no coincidence that the Washington Redskins went from a bottom feeder to middle to a respectable team in regards to sacks last season. In 2008, they managed a pathetic 24 sacks in comparison to the 40 that they had last year.
The double and triple teams that Haynesworth was afforded with regularity allowed for single teams for Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo. This resulted in Carter having what was easily his best NFL season; in his ninth career year and Orakpo being an impact rookie.
Aside from the Raiders game the Haynesworth-less pass rush was anemic. In three games the Redskins managed just four sacks. Two of these came from backups and a third came from London Fletcher blitzing.
If you don’t think Haynesworth has a huge effect on a defense why don’t you ask London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter what they think of him? I’m pretty sure they’re grateful for the opportunities he created for them last season.
There are a couple of other players that would probably testify to how great an impact that Haynesworth has. Former teammates Cortland Finnegan, Michael Griffin and Chris Hope all showed signs of regression last year. I understand the Titans secondary had injury concerns but Haynesworth’s presence would have helped.
As I said before; I do not care what reason you have concocted in your head for demoting Haynesworth as an overall player. It isn’t valid due to what he can and does do.
3.) Adrian Peterson, Halfback, MIN
Adrian Peterson is not the league’s fastest halfback. He isn’t the league’s most complete halfback either. Heck, Adrian Peterson might not even be the best short yardage halfback in the league. Despite all of this Adrian Peterson is the league’s best overall halfback. In fact, that goes without argument for me.
From Peterson’s first game in the league it was clear that he would be a phenom. He ran for 100 yards on 19 carries and took a catch for 60 yards and finished it for a touchdown. Any doubts that people had about him—and I may have been at the front of that line—were immediately vanishing. He showed he was going to be a staple of this league for years to come.
Whatever doubt about Peterson’s on-the-field abilities were still present were erased when he set the single-game rushing record in just his ninth career game.
At the end of his rookie year Peterson had only played in 14 games. He had only started nine of them. Despite this he finished second for the rushing title by a mere 133 yards despite 77 less attempts. It was clear… Peterson was probably already the league’s best runner.
Setting out to prove that he was in fact the league’s best runner Peterson made a successful run at the rushing title in his sophomore campaign. He ran for 1,700 plus yards and an accompanying 10 touchdowns. Peterson tied for fourth in the league for 20 plus yard plays and tied for 11th in 40 plus yard plays. Peterson was the only halfback with numbers like that.
As impressive as Peterson’s first two years were it was last year that might have been his best in my opinion.
“How can that be?” you might be asking.
Well allow me to explain.
Sure Adrian Peterson produced his second lowest total rushing yards output of his career (1,383). Sure his yards per carry fell off from the past two seasons (4.4). And sure Peterson had a career high in lost fumble (6). However, what those numbers don’t tell you is how every team game planned for Peterson.
I have not seen an offensive player game planned for like Peterson was since Randy Moss in his prime or Marshall Faulk in his.
The media fell in love with Brett Favre and his production. Favre tied his fourth highest total touchdowns (33) in a season while throwing his lowest interception total ever (7). In doing so he did something only six other quarterbacks have done in NFL history; throw over 30 touchdowns with 10 or less interceptions.
What the media didn’t note is how exactly Favre managed to do this despite being 40. After all the Vikings’ receiving corps was arguably one of the worst ones Favre ever had to work with at the start of the season. So how was Favre capable of putting up his best production ever?
Adrian Peterson is how.
Teams were so adamant to not let Peterson beat them that they overcompensated for him. They would consistently bring an extra man in the box to stop Peterson. When Peterson did not actually rush the ball they had linebackers and safeties “spy” him. You know you’re a big deal when teams have a spy on you while you’re pass blocking. Let me put it this way… When Ed Reed is brought into the box to stop you you’re the league’s biggest offensive dynamo.
Earlier I said that “Chris Johnson is the most feared offensive player in the league by other players.” That may be true but Adrian Peterson is the most feared offensive player in the league by coaches.
And for those who hinge on the fumbling issue I employ you to look up “Jim Brown” and “Walter Payton.”
2.) Drew Brees, Quarterback, NWO
Let me begin by stating that Brees’ placement as the second best player in the league bares absolutely no reflection on his Saints winning the Super Bowl. The truth is that I had made up my mind that Brees would be number two on this list around Week 13 of the regular season. However, the end result of the Saints’ season doesn’t hurt.
Despite the fact that around the time of my decision Brees was minus a Lombardi there was something special about him. Something so special that it warranted placing him above guys who could produce great numbers as well as had won the big game. Something that was much different than his previous seasons of tossing the ball around for seemingly meaningless yardage.
So what was this something special that I noticed?
It was the pure precision with which Brees operated the New Orleans Saints offense. In doing so Brees showed the world my point that the “statistics” argument is every bit as misleading as the “Super Bowl victories” argument.
Ignoring the Win-Loss record one would think that Brees had a worse season than his previous three if not for the quarterback rating stat. However, the quarterback rating formula is one that many believe to be flawed. Brees had less completions and attempts than in the past and had worse yardage totals as a result.
As I said previously Brees’ 2009 season was easily the best of his career without question. There was quite literally no throw that Brees could not make. In fact, I would wager that just one other quarterback—Peyton Manning—could have made even half of the throws that Brees made with such ease.
The arced counter post over the wide receiver’s shoulder over the safety and cornerback coverage. Check.
The arced pass to the receiver sitting in the open zone between the mike linebacker and both safeties. Check.
The bullet pass to the opposite side of the field deep out that isn’t too close to the sideline? Check.
Brees made hundreds of throws to where only his receivers could catch them last season. Even the color commentators took note of this in just about every Saints game last season. The relative frequency and ease with which Brees made these throws was ridiculous. It was that ability that allowed him to set the single season completion percentage record by completing 70.6 percent of his passes and even that number understates his accuracy.
Brees was also much more cerebral than in the past. He was afforded that liberty due to finally having an effective run game and he made absolute use of it. Brees threw his second least interceptions of his career while tying the most touchdowns that he has thrown. He had a career high for yards per attempt all while having his worst offensive line since coming to New Orleans.
You may have noticed that I have been using 2006 as a capping point for the quarterback statistics. This is because except for Aaron Rodgers this is when all of the premier quarterbacks began logging significant time.
Since 2006 Brees has the highest completion percentage by .02 percent, thrown for the most yards by 1,359 yards and has tied for the most touchdowns with 122.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect about this is that of the top six or so quarterbacks Drew Brees is the only one without two receivers on the list or at least one receiver in the top 90 players.
1.) Peyton Manning, Quarterback, IND
Yes I understand that Drew Brees’ Saints came out victorious in Super Bowl XLIV. However, that does not make Brees the better overall quarterback. It merely means that his team outplayed Manning’s that specific Sunday with Brees being a huge factor.
So why do I believe that Peyton Manning is better than Drew Brees and the best player in the league?
It is because as impressive as Drew Brees was last season Peyton Manning has been doing that exact same thing for the past four seasons if not longer. All of those difficult throws that Brees made with relative ease last season have been Manning’s specialty.
So what exactly makes Peyton Manning better than Drew Brees?
Manning is better because of his field command; something Brees just developed last season. It is Manning’s field command that allows the Colts to continually be in games and remain perennial contenders every year. As much as I want to root against the Colts I find it harder and harder to do so every season because Manning is at the helm.
Under the Manning regime the Colts have only had two non-winning seasons and one of them was his rookie year. Conversely they have reached double digit wins and the post-season 10 times.
I do not like to solely attribute a team’s success to one guy but it is become clearer and clearer every year that it is Peyton Manning that makes the Colts so good. Alright it is Peyton Manning and general manager Bill Pollian.
The Colts have had continual turnover throughout the Manning era.
At halfback they started off with Edgerrin James. They let him go for Joseph Addai and suffered no significant dropoff. As Addai wore down they drafted Donald Brown who logged significant snaps last season.
At the receiving position there have been three clear players who have been around; Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. There is no denying their talent but after that tons of names have come to Indianapolis and had respectable seasons. Austin Collie, Pierre Garçon, Anthony Gonzalez, Brandon Stokley, Marcus Pollard and Qadry Ismail have all had at least 500 yards receiving as a Colt. A few more names make the list if you lower the cutoff point to 400 yards. Heck, as talented as Dallas Clark is he was only had a career high of 488 yard until he had to be called upon to be a key Manning target from 2007 on.
On the offensive line is where the turnover is the worst.
Over his career Peyton Manning has had three different players play left tackle. Manning has had four different players play left guard over that span as well. He has had three different players play right guard and two more play right tackle. Aside from Tarik Glenn (nine years), Jeff Saturday (10 years) and Ryan Lilja (five years) no Colts lineman has played over three years for Manning. That is quick turnover and lots of it.
Not to mention the turnover at the head coach position with three different guys.
Despite all of the personnel turnover the Colts offense remains the league’s most consistent. They have ranked top 10 in points and/or yards every time out of s possible 22 except for three since 1999.
The Colts have only gone as far as Peyton Manning could take them and I think even Super Bowl XLIV proves that. Manning’s faltering play in the fourth quarter cost the Colts a chance at another Super Bowl.
Plain and simple there isn’t another player in the league as consistent or with as much positive impact in the league as “Archie’s son.”
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