For just a moment (or as many as it takes to read this article), let yourself imagine this scenario. Full disclosure: this concept was popularized by sportswriters Bill Simmons and Bob Ryan in the arena of basketball. No one (to my knowledge) has utilized this idea for the game of football. As such, I ask you to let go of your concrete beliefs and imagine this.
A group of immensely intelligent aliens, possessing superhuman athletic ability, navigate their way to Earth to deliver a message to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
"Assemble one team, 22 current players, to compete against us in one 60 minute game of football." Only there is one catch: If the aforementioned intergalactic foes win this game, Earth is destroyed.
Forget the Super Bowl. Now that, my friends, is one for all the marbles.
In a time when the solvency of all humankind is at stake, forget America's Team (sorry Cowboys fans) this will be the World's team. Not only would this solve those labor disputes everyone keeps talking about (who needs a CBA when the survival of humanity is at stake!) but this will constitute the flawless answer for every question. The surefire argument to win every debate. No longer we will have to fake confidence that the Pro Bowl gives us the answer. This one game will be the ironclad proof.
This game will determine who are the best players, by position, in the NFL.
Now, before we get too caught up on the whole destruction of the Earth thing, we have to lay some ground rules and provide clarity as to how we choose this team.
1. Best players means best individual players.
There will be no training camp to prepare for this game. No two-a-days to learn the coach's system. Zero film will be watched (pretty tough, even for Peyton Manning, to watch film on a group of football playing aliens). Remember what's at stake here people. One imminent game for humanity's survival.
This means that good players who have succeeded only in certain systems/supporting cast roles (I'm looking at you Albert Haynesworth), have no place on this team. We need players who transcend the systematic rules the govern the game of football. We need special individual talents who have the physical gifts and mental makeup to thrive in any system of offense or defense.
2. Past accomplishments trump future potential
This past Super Bowl Sunday, Aaron Rodgers wowed millions across the nation of his ability to play quarterback by methodically picking apart the number one defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers. We can all agree that Rodgers' Super Sunday performance vaults him into the upper-echelon level of quarterbacks in the entire NFL. Unfortunately, sorry Aaron, (and subsequently Packers fans), that's not good enough to make this team.
This by no means minimizes what Rodgers did on the field (I'll sing his praises all day long) but for the game in which all life hangs in the balance, I need the quarterback who's resume for icy cold veins of confidence has been reinforced time and time again. I need the player who's track record for success on the largest of stages has been sustained over an inordinately long period of time. We can all agree that Aaron Rodgers has as good a chance as anybody to fulfill these requirements.
Just not right now. Not when the eyes of the world will be watching with a vested interest to say the least.
3. Mind over matter
Yes, these aliens are superhuman in their physical abilities. I'm sure they're making Chris Johnson look like a handicapped turtle in the 40 yard dash. There's no way humanity could ever have an edge in this category.
Which is why we need in edge in mental make-up and game instincts.
So, for this team, we're going to value what makes a player special between the ears. Not what distinguishes them on their height and speed measurements. I could care less if a wide receiver is 6'6'' and runs like a possessed cheetah. If I need a first down catch to be made in traffic, I need a wide receiver with excellent hands, great body control and incomparable route running skills.
It's as simple as that.
4. Assume 100% Health
I know, as of this date and time that Troy Polamalu is not at full health. His Super Bowl performance proved that. But hey, this is a game of fantasy, and for this to materialize in the manner I best see fit, everyone is at their full physical health.
It would lead to too many hypothetical debates about who is healthy and who is not. Who "says" their 75% healthy when they are obviously not (your silly Media Day tricks didn't fool me Maurkice Pouncy!). So for the sake of NOT having a time-sucking, pointless debate, every player is assumed to be at full health. NFL players, you can thank me later.
5. No Backups
These men are playing for the livelihood of their friends, family, 8 houses and 27 cars. They don't need any backups! These are the best of the best! They're playing the whole game.
And that's the criteria. Here he comes! Roger Goodell has just returned with the list. Starting with defense...