2010 NFL Face Of the Franchise: AFC Edition
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I'm bringing the conversation back. It's not fantasy football or the excitement of an NFL game, but what it is, is fun. I took a look at all 32 NFL franchises over a year ago and assessed who their current "face of the franchise," was deciding which star player on their team best represented the organization.
The criteria for this list is simple: You have to be productive, and you have to be well known. Also, subjectively, of course, you have to carry the make-up and demeanor that best represents the franchise in question.
In addition, the true "face of the franchise" is ultimately the player fans generally first think of when discussing their favorite teams. In the end, without this player, these NFL teams just wouldn't be the same.
We jump back into the discussion with the 16 AFC squads first, listing the winner for the 2010 Face of the Franchise, as well as the next best guy in line, as an honorable mention.
Note: This list is conducted for the 2010 season, and while it can include arguments and rationalization for players over the course of their careers, this list will only include players currently playing in the NFL and currently on the respective teams.
Miami Dolphins: Ronnie Brown
Brown is still running the show in Miami.
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You can talk about the off-season addition of Brandon Marshall all you want, but when you talk Dolphins football, you're still starting the conversation with Ronnie Brown.
While he's never quite lived up to the potential, he's shown flashes in nearly every season he's played. He's still alive and kicking, and he could still be the future at the running back position in Miami.
Brown isn't having the best season of his career, but without him, we may never have gone ga-ga over the Wildcat like we did.
If Jason Taylor or Zach Thomas were still in Miami, things might be different. But in 2010, Ronnie Brown still stands tall as the Dolphins' face of the franchise.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Marshall
New York Jets: Darrelle Revis
When you think Jets, you think Revis.
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He's on defense and he's "only" a cornerback—two easy cop-outs to write him off as the face of this franchise. However, he's an impact player on defense, and is weekly the type of corner no quarterback wants to throw passes towards.
He almost wins this award by default with no other true franchise players on the team, but even though he hasn't quite played up to his expected level of play all season, he still gets the nod.
The sophomore quarterback, Mark Sanchez, has to be considered. However, he's never been consistent enough to truly earn this label. Revis needs to up his play a level or two, but they didn't call this guy "Revis Island" for nothing last season.
Honorable Mention: Mark Sanchez
Buffalo Bills: Lee Evans
Evans can still beat corners deep.
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Evans may not be the best player on his team anymore. Heck, with Steve Johnson's unexpected 2010 emergence, he might not even be the best receiver in Buffalo anymore. However, he's still the guy you think of when you think of Buffalo.
His numbers haven't been up to par the past two seasons, but much of that can be attributed to horrible quarterback play, weak talent support as a whole and constant double coverage.
Evans has shown a few times this season that his numbers aren't dropping because of a lack of ability. He still has the game-breaking speed, and he can certainly make some big plays.
Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick both get serious consideration here, as well as Donte Whitner. However, in the end, Evans is still the guy that Bills fans know as their local hero, and he can still get it done when he's called upon.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Fitzpatrick
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Brady is fearless against all competition.
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Who else but Tom Terrific? The guy has brought three Super Bowls home, has played in four, and owns the single-season passing touchdown record (50 in 2007).
He's also come all the way back from a devastating knee injury to throw just four picks in 2010, guiding the NFL-leading Patriots to the best record in the league (tied with Atlanta Falcons).
But none of that really matters. There are few (if any) quarterbacks in the NFL you'd rather have leading your team in crunch-time, and there are also few flat-out tougher and more passionate quarterbacks who currently play the game.
Brady is without a doubt the driving force (other than Bill Belichick) behind the New England Patriots' constant success.
Honorable Mention: Wes Welker
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben has never shyed away from the big moments.
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When writing this article, I always think about the Steelers face of the franchise first, as Steelers fans always have something to say about the final pick.
In my eyes, three players deserve recognition for this award, although with only one victor, the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback makes the most sense to emerge as the top guy.
Impact safety Troy Polamalu and gritty receiver Hines Ward get plenty of props for their roles and careers in Pittsburgh, but when it's all said and done, Big Ben is what people think about when they think Pittsburgh football these days.
True, the Steelers traditionally win on their power run game and elite defense. However, when the defense went sour in 2009, it was Big Ben who kept them in games, and led them to some heroic finishes. In addition, it was Roethlisberger's late-game heroics that helped the Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008 Super Bowl.
Honorable Mention: Troy Polamalu
Cincinnati Bengals: Chad Ochocinco
Ochocinco is still the face of the franchise in Cincinnati.
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For better or worse, Cincinnati's star, loud-mouthed receiver is the face of the franchise. Ochocinco or Johnson, whichever way you'll have him, still remains one of the better receivers in the league.
While his play in the past few seasons doesn't compare to the elite play he provided earlier in his career, Ochocinco still possesses big-play ability and good speed. In fact, if it weren't for the erratic play of his quarterback, he'd arguably still be putting up impressive numbers on a consistent basis.
Even if you don't view Ochocinco as the face of the Bengals' franchise, I'd challenge you to find a player in Cincy that makes more sense and has done more for the organization.
Honorable Mention: Carson Palmer
Cleveland Browns: Peyton Hillis
Who better than Hillis to be the face of the Browns?
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If it weren't for the ridiculous emergence of the "white rhino," Peyton Hillis, Josh Cribbs would very likely be getting this award.
However, you can't have Cleveland without Hillis these days. Hillis has single-handedly kept the Browns in games, despite the opposition not being threatened by a strong Browns passing game, in addition to also flat-out knowing Hillis would be getting the ball repeatedly.
Hillis has already carved up the New England Patriots in a 34-14 win, destroyed the stout Baltimore Ravens' run defense for 144 yards, and topped 1,000+ rushing yards in his first full season as a starter.
Hillis has taken over Cleveland as a terrific, powerful back that simply doesn't know how to say the word "quit," and has quickly earned the love and respect of all Browns fans.
Honorable Mention: Josh Cribbs
Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis still dances into game day.
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While fans will scream and shout that the "new Ray" deserves this title, the fact that Ray Lewis is still an effective and passionate leader of a stout defense suggests that just isn't so.
Lewis still gets it done all over the field, and while he's not the elite player he once was, he's still arguably better than the majority of NFL middle-linebackers.
Ray Rice is coming up fast as the new face of the franchise in Baltimore, and safety Ed Reed rivals Lewis in terms of defensive impact, but the role stills belongs to Lewis as long as he's a Raven and playing at a high level.
Honorable Mention: Ed Reed
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson IS the Tennessee Titans.
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Chris Johnson didn't waste our time in proving he was one of the best running backs in the league, and I won't waste your time defending his status as the face of the franchise in Tennessee.
CJ totaled over 2,000 rushing yards in 2009 en route to helping an 0-6 Titans team finish 8-2, with a respectable 8-8 record. If it wasn't for poor quarterback play, questionable management decisions, and some injuries, his solid play in 2010 may have made the Titans contenders this season.
Either way you look at it, the guy is one of the best backs in the league, and easily the top dog on the Titans.
Honorable Mention: Vince Young
Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning
Manning's cerebral approach to the game makes him elite.
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Even less in question than Chris Johnson in Tennessee, few players are as valuable to their team or as loved by their fan base than Peyton Manning.
He has brought the Super Bowl trophy to Indianapolis, while churning out countless records and comeback victories.
He's simply one of the best ever, and could easily go down as the greatest ever with more records and championships before he's finally done.
With all that aside, Manning is far and away who people think of when they think Colts football.
Honorable Mention: Reggie Wayne
Houston Texans: Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson lives up to his "beast" label almost every week.
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You can say it's because their franchise is still fairly young, because it's Arian Foster's first season as the starter, or because their defense stinks.
Whatever your logic is, the end result is that Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in football, and easily what makes the Houston Texans click. He probably wouldn't be as effective without Matt Schaub, but there is a strong argument that would could be used the other way around, as well.
Johnson really only has Larry Fitzgerald rivaling him for the top NFL receiver spot when it comes to sheer talent, ability, and stats. If he had a better supporting cast, he might not even have to have people argue for him.
Johnson makes a jaw-dropping play seemingly every week, and is one of the most reliable receivers in the game, both as an NFL player and in fantasy football.
Honorable Mention: Matt Schaub
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew
MJD is the little engine that could, and does.
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David Garrard's solid season deserves maybe one vote in the long run for this label, but ultimately, no one in Jacksonville comes close.
MJD gets it done every week, and in case you hadn't noticed, is riding a six-game streak of 100+ rushing yards a game. While he isn't reaching the end-zone like he has throughout his career, MJD's yardage and role continue to show that the little guy packs a serious punch.
The rest of his offense is finally living up to his level of play, making the Jaguars a serious contender. But contender or not, there's no doubt that Jones-Drew is the face of this franchise, and the engine that gets it all started.
Honorable Mention: David Garrard
Kansas City Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe
Bowe has elevated his game in 2010.
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Matt Cassel has done a great job proving his doubters wrong and Jamaal Charles has continued to display his raw speed and talent, but Dwayne Bowe has proven he was worth all the hype when he was drafted in 2007.
He showed flashes of brilliance over his first three seasons, always taunting people with his hype and random strings of great play. However, with a matured cast of supporting players around him, Bowe has stepped up into a starring role in KC's offense, as he's caught 14 touchdowns on the season.
Bowe may not be the best receiver in the NFL, and may not be as explosive as Jamaal Charles, but his production and status on the team can't go unnoticed. Without Bowe, it's very arguable that the Chiefs' offense would be extremely average.
Honorable Mention: Jamaal Charles
San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers
With LT gone, Rivers is finally the true face of the franchise.
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Now that LaDainian Tomlinson is getting hand-offs in New York, there's no question who the face of the franchise is in San Diego.
There's an argument out there that suggests that torch was passed off to Rivers over the past 1-2 seasons, regardless of LT's presence.
Whether you believe that to be the case or not, this is clearly Rivers' team now, and he's not showing mercy on his opponents. Rivers is easily the MVP of this team, and is also one of the better elite passers in the NFL.
If it weren't for Rivers, this team wouldn't win four games all season. No Charger means more and shows more on every single Sunday.
Honorable Mention: Antonio Gates
Denver Broncos: Knowshon Moreno
Moreno is the new face of the franchise in Denver.
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It's more by default than anything else, as Josh McDaniels traded away the top two guys who would compete for this label (Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall).
Regardless, Moreno was solid in his rookie season, and has since battled through early-season injuries in 2010 to display the elite level of play fans could soon become accustomed to.
In a losing season, Moreno is arguably the lone bright spot left over, both from a forgettable stretch of losses, as well as a forgettable run with McDaniels.
Honorable Mention: Tim Tebow
Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden
McFadden has finally realized his potential in Oakland.
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You wouldn't have gotten this answer in either of the past two seasons, but with several elite fantasy football performances and more W's in the wins column, McFadden has stepped up to claim the role of "the face of the franchise".
Drafted three years ago as the second coming of Adrian Peterson, injuries and inconsistency buried McFadden and nearly had Michael Bush taking over for good at the position. However, McFadden took advantage of the starting role earlier in the year with Bush out, and has never truly eased off the gas.
2010 already marks the best numbers and most wins had since his arrival, and no player better personifies what the Raiders are and strive to be.
Despite several swings and misses with draft picks over the years, it looks like Al Davis hit a homerun with McFadden.
Honorable Mention: Nnamdi Asomugha