View Full Version : ESPN.com's all-decade defense: Polamalu makes it at safety

06-22-2009, 01:12 PM
Their all-decade offense will be announced tomorrow.


Strahan, Taylor lead dominant defense

The ESPN.com all-decade defense is stacked with Pro Bowlers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

All-Decade Defense
DE: Michael Strahan, N.Y. Giants,
DT: Warren Sapp, Tampa Bay/Oakland
DT: Kris Jenkins, Carolina/N.Y. Jets
DE: Jason Taylor, Miami/Washington
LB: Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay
LB: Ray Lewis, Baltimore
LB: Brian Urlacher, Chicago
CB: Champ Bailey, Washington/Denver
CB: Troy Vincent: Phil./Mia./Buff./Wash.
S: Ed Reed, Baltimore
S: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh

All-Decade Honors
Monday: Defense
Tuesday: Offense
Wednesday: Moments | Special teams
Thursday: Team, coach, MVP
Friday: Ranking the top players

The choice between Michael Strahan and Jason Taylor was simple when ESPN.com selected its all-decade defense.

We took both.

Warren Sapp and Kris Jenkins prevailed at defensive tackle. Ray Lewis, Derrick Brooks and Brian Urlacher made the cut at linebacker, edging Zach Thomas.

Champ Bailey was an easy choice opposite Troy Vincent at cornerback. Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu beat out a strong field of safeties.

"It's a great group to be associated with," Taylor told ESPN.com's Tim Graham. "Derrick Brooks, Mr. Consistency and Class. Ray Lewis, everybody fears. And Urlacher came in and took the game to another level at that position.

"The two big guys inside -- Jenkins doesn't get a whole lot of credit, but we all know what kind of player he is. Sapp is Sapp. We know he's good. He knows he's good. He's going to tell you he's good.

"And to be associated with 'Stray', he's the best of our generation."

Taylor, back with Miami after a season with the Redskins, and Strahan combined for 189.5 sacks over the first eight years of the decade. Strahan, who retired in 2008 after a 15-year career with the Giants, had 22.5 in 2001. Taylor had 18.5 in 2002.

"No. 1, [Strahan] really loved playing the game," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "No. 2, he's well known for rushing the passer, but he's one of the best run-playing defensive ends of all time."

Taylor and Strahan combined for 10 Pro Bowl appearances this decade. Overall, our 11-man squad combined for 60 Pro Bowl appearances in the first nine years of the decade. They wouldn't need much coaching.

"I'd probably tell them, 'Take care of yourself, give me a call during the week at some point so I know you're alive and I'll see you Sunday,'" Taylor said. "Then just turn them loose."

With training camps beginning next month for the final year of the decade, we thought we had sufficient evidence to determine our all-decade teams. ESPN.com began the evaluation process by ranking players according to most Pro Bowl appearances since the 2000 season (tight end Tony Gonzalez was the only player with nine).

General managers, scouts, coaches and players shaped the selections from that list. I consulted with several of them on background while selecting the defensive line and linebackers. NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert did the same in selecting cornerbacks. NFC East blogger Matt Mosley handled the safeties.

Brooks, Lewis and Bailey were consensus choices. Lewis' ferocity gives this defense a menacing edge.

"Ray deserves this honor, without a doubt," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "There is no question that he plays at a Hall of Fame level year in and year out. He's as smart and as instinctive a defensive player as I've ever seen. He plays hard every play -- every single play."

Newsome was new to the Ravens in 1996 when he asked the team's then-coach, Ted Marchibroda, what he wanted from a player.

"Ted said, 'Give me a player with a 'football temperament,' meaning a player who loves every part of the game -- the preparation, the practices, the long offseason workouts, the physicality, the games," Newsome said. "Ray embodies that definition. There is no player who enjoys preparing, competing and playing as much as Ray. There is only one Ray Lewis, and the Ravens have the good fortune of having him for his entire career."

Taylor felt strongly that his longtime teammate, Thomas, deserved inclusion.

And one veteran offensive lineman I consulted said he would "line up against Sapp every day before I'd go against La'Roi Glover" simply because Glover could beat an opponent in more ways.

"Sapp had one move and he was good at it," the lineman said. "He lined up so wide and it was so much different than all the other three-technique guys. Glover would butt you in the chin and run over your ass, but he was so quick, he could take a side-angle on you. He had a move and a counter and a counter off that one."

Thomas, Glover (who announced his retirement Monday) and other victims of this high-stakes numbers game could fill out a dominant defense of their own. The list of near-misses also includes Richard Seymour, Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Bryant Young, Kevin Williams, Casey Hampton, Keith Brooking, Ty Law, Ronde Barber, Brian Dawkins and John Lynch. Seymour seemed particularly worthy, but not at the expense of Taylor or Strahan.

Only Bailey and Brooks have more Pro Bowl appearances this decade -- eight apiece -- than Lynch (seven) among defensive players. Six defensive players have six Pro Bowl appearances in the decade. Three of them -- Dawkins, Thomas and Glover -- fell just short.

A position-by-position look at the all-decade defense:

Defensive ends Michael Strahan and Jason Taylor: "Stray's a left end and I'm a right end, so it works perfect," Taylor said. "You let the two big boys do what they want inside. Let's hit it and get it."

Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates was with the Dolphins during Taylor's most dominant years.

"The biggest thing that has made Jason special over the years is to not only have God-given ability, but intelligence," Bates said. "He did a great job studying the opponent. He was very effective with several different moves he used on his pass rush. He's not only fast, but he's explosive. When he put together the power move with his speed, he had it all."

Defensive tackles Kris Jenkins and Warren Sapp: No players dominated at the position for the full period in question.

Jenkins, at his best, disrupted opposing offensive lines to a degree that might have exceeded the problems his peers created. I had a hard time leaving off Glover based on what offensive linemen told me, but Sapp enjoyed broad support and was also worthy.

Linebackers Derrick Brooks, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher: Brooks has started 16 games in each of the last 13 seasons. He has 17 interceptions this decade. Brooks, released by Tampa Bay in the offseason, brought exceptional quickness to the position even late in his career.

Lewis and Chicago's Urlacher are sluggers by comparison.

At his best, the 260-pound Urlacher was athletic enough to play the deep middle in coverage, yet strong enough to punish receivers and running backs on underneath plays.

Cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Troy Vincent: Shutdown cover corners with height are a rarity, but Vincent and the Broncos' Bailey qualify.

Smarts, range and playmaking ability set them apart from Barber and other candidates, although the Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha is making a strong run late in the decade.

"You want to talk about an all-around corner, that's Troy Vincent," said former Eagles secondary coach Leslie Frazier, now the Vikings' defensive coordinator, told Seifert. "He could cover as well as any guy out there in the league, but he wasn't one-dimensional by any means. He could hit. He could support the run. He was a sure tackler. Total package, as far as I'm concerned."

Vincent played for the Eagles, Bills and Redskins during this decade.

Safeties Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed: Lynch (seven) and Dawkins (six) have more Pro Bowls this decade, but the Steelers' Polamalu and Ravens' Reed stood apart in overall athletic ability and their flair for the spectacular play.

"I love watching [Polamalu] play," Cowboys Ring of Honor member Cliff Harris told Mosley. "They give him a lot of freedom and he's able to make a lot of plays. I think I'd love playing in that defense -- even though it's the Steelers. I'm biased, but I still think it's one of the most important positions on the field. And no one can match Reed and Polamalu right now."

Reed's production -- 43 interceptions in seven NFL seasons, compared to 34 picks in 13 seasons for Dawkins -- separates him from all challengers.

Lynch spent four seasons with Denver and four with Tampa this decade. And while he kept racking up Pro Bowl appearances, his best years were probably with the Bucs.

The Colts' Bob Sanders might have challenged if injuries hadn't limited him to two seasons with more than six games played.

06-22-2009, 02:16 PM

I wonder if any Steelers will make the offense?

Maybe Faneca.

I wonder who the Team* will be.

I wonder who the QB* will be.

I wonder who the Coach* will be.

The moment will, of course, be Dungy winning SB (first black HC to win SuperBowl)

Captain Lemming
06-23-2009, 02:08 AM

I wonder if any Steelers will make the offense?

Maybe Faneca.

I wonder who the Team* will be.

I wonder who the QB* will be.

I wonder who the Coach* will be.

The moment will, of course, be Dungy winning SB (first black HC to win SuperBowl)

Franeca makes it.
The other three will be a "Cheaters" sweep.
If Dungy gets it, it won't be about race, it will be because BB cheated.
If not BB than who?
Dungy or Cowher
But I still think it will be BB

06-24-2009, 12:06 PM
Here is the offense (yes, Faneca made it). I like the Holt and Harrison picks over guys like Moss and T.O.


All-decade offense: Brady leads packed roster

June 23, 2009 11:00 AM

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

All-Decade Offense
QB: Tom Brady, New England
RB: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego
FB: Lorenzo Neal, Cincinnati/S.D./Balt.
WR: Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis
WR: Torry Holt, St. Louis
TE: Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City
T: Walter Jones, Seattle
T: Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore
G: Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh/N.Y. Jets
G: Steve Hutchinson, Seattle/Minnesota
C: Olin Kreutz, Chicago

All-Decade Honors
Monday: Defense
Tuesday: Offense
Wednesday: Moments
Thursday: Team, coach, MVP
Friday: Top players | Special teams

To fully appreciate the star of power of ESPN.com's all-decade offensive team, consider who did not make the cut: Peyton Manning. Randy Moss. Orlando Pace. Terrell Owens. Will Shields. Antonio Gates. Larry Allen.

They are Hall of Fame names and they didn't make the cut. The decade has been that good.

With training camps beginning next month for the final year of the decade, we thought we had sufficient evidence to determine our all-decade teams. ESPN.com tapped into the knowledge of coaches, players, scouts and other league observers to compile the squad. Criteria included statistics, impact on the player's team, Super Bowl wins/appearances and Pro Bowl berths.

It was inevitable that several superstars would be left off. Here are the 11 players who made it:

Quarterback, Tom Brady: The New England Patriots' quarterback won a battle against Manning, as he has done so many times on the field. Manning is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game and easily could have been named the quarterback of the decade.
But Brady's successes could not be denied.

Since replacing an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has been the face of the NFL and has nearly attained royalty status. He is a living legend.

Brady is the consummate winner. Manning may be more gifted and have more impressive numbers, but Brady has won three Super Bowls and is widely considered one of the most cunning players ever to suit up.

"You're talking about a guy that was a sixth-round draft pick," said former Jets and Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, now an ESPN analyst. "He wasn't a first-round pick. I love Manning. I think he's great for the league, an ambassador for the league, but he was the first player picked. Either one would be great, but [Brady] has won Super Bowls and was a sixth-round pick. Nobody really knew who he was."

Tailback, LaDainian Tomlinson: This was an easy call. Tomlinson has been one of the most dominant players in the league this decade. Tomlinson, 30, may be nearing the finish line, but he was immediately a special player after entering the league in 2001.

Tomlinson won the NFL MVP award in 2006 when he set an NFL record with 28 rushing touchdowns and gained 2,323 yards from scrimmage. He has amassed at least 1,110 rushing yards in each of his eight seasons.

"I think my consistency, that means more than anything." Tomlinson said when asked what he is most proud of about his career to date. "As an athlete, you set out to be consistent over a period of time. When you're consistent, your teammates and coaches know what they're going to get from you each and every week."

Fullback, Lorenzo Neal: Neal, who recently signed with Oakland at the age of 38, was a runaway choice. The bulldozer is considered one of the best fullbacks to play in the NFL. Fullback is going the way of the dinosaur, but Neal has shown it can still be a relevant position.

Neal was Tomlinson's lead blocker for five years in San Diego. The Chargers clearly missed him last year after releasing him. In Baltimore, Neal gave the Ravens' run game an instant boost.

"Neal is a sixth offensive lineman," Seahawks coach Jim L. Mora said. "He relishes that job. He can't wait to go out and block you."

Wide receivers, Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt: This was one of the most hotly contested positions. With Harrison and Holt in, superstars Owens and Moss were out.
We couldn't go wrong with any of these choices, but Harrison and Holt were just too good to deny. Each made seven Pro Bowl teams (which was a league high this decade for receivers). Harrison won a Super Bowl ring this decade and Holt, who won a Super Bowl in the early days of 2000 after the 1999 season, played in a Super Bowl this decade.

Over six consecutive seasons (2000-05), Holt had at least 1,300 receiving yards. Harrison, who is not in the league right now after being cut by the Indianapolis Colts, had 95 touchdowns this decade.

"You cannot just look at the stats and get carried away with that stuff," ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson said. "I look at that list of names, and Holt and Harrison have to be at the top. Both of them won Super Bowls -- and they weren't in there getting cheap touchdowns like some guys. Too many guys in the media just look at those numbers. You can't put an all-decade team on the field without Holt and Harrison."

Tight end, Tony Gonzalez: With all due respect to the ultra-productive Gates, this was no contest. Gonzalez is the best tight end ever to play in the NFL. He owns every major receiving record by a tight end to prove it.

Gonzalez, who was traded from Kansas City to Atlanta in April, is still playing at a high level at age 33.

He has been to nine Pro Bowls this decade and has four 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career.

"Tony has been dominant for such a long period of time," Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He's just the best."

Tackles, Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden: Jones, a 13-year standout in Seattle, and Ogden, who retired from the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, were standard-bearers at one of the most vital positions on the field. The two players were similar: They were massive, quiet and both were top-six picks in the draft.

Both players were named to eight Pro Bowls this decade and Jones is still playing at a high level. Ogden won a Super Bowl and Jones played in a Super Bowl this decade. Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has said Jones was the greatest offensive player he ever coached. Holmgren coached Brett Favre and he was an assistant on San Francisco 49ers staffs that featured Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young. Pace was great, but he couldn't quite match what Jones and Ogden accomplished this decade.

"It's a great honor," Jones said. "You look back at your career, and you come in, just hoping not to get cut as a rookie. But I've listened to my coaches and still try to get better every year."

Guards, Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson: This was one of the toughest positions to figure. Shields and Allen are two future Hall of Famers, but Faneca and Hutchinson have enjoyed longer careers in this decade.

In the end, it was too difficult to deny those two players. Faneca, who is now with the New York Jets, has made eight Pro Bowls this decade and won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hutchinson, now with the Minnesota Vikings, has been named to seven Pro Bowls and he went to a Super Bowl with the Seahawks.

"Those guys set the tone," Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said of Faneca and Hutchinson.

Added Jones, who played with Hutchinson in Seattle for five years: "There has been great guard play, but I have to say Hutchinson wins a spot. He has been dominant for two teams. He was a great guy to play with."

Center, Olin Kreutz: This was a three-way toss-up between Kreutz, Kevin Mawae and Matt Birk. All three players have been to six Pro Bowls.

The tiebreakers: Kreutz appeared in a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears and more league personnel named him than Mawae or Birk.

"You look at a guy like Kreutz and you really appreciate his consistency," San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "He is an all-decade-type player."

06-24-2009, 12:28 PM
Here is their miscellaneous "Moments" of the decade list.

Is it a shock to anyone that on an ESPN each of the first five were Patriots-related? Giving best owner to Kraft is a crock (even if they mention a lifetime achievement award for Rooney). Rooney's team won two more legitimate titles than Kraft's team did this decade.

Troy got the nod for most prolific locks (there is a stunner), and they wavered between Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson as the best assistant coach, ultimately never coming to a consensus and settling for a tie.


All-decade moments: Manning-to-Tyree tops list

June 24, 2009 11:00 AM

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


This decade has brought us some amazing moments in the NFL, many of which have been captured during ESPN.com's all-decade week. And if something remarkable happens in '09 (such as the Lions making the playoffs), we reserve the right to amend some of our results.

All-Decade Honors
Monday: Defense
Tuesday: Offense
Wednesday: Moments
Thursday: Team, coach, MVP
Friday: Top players | Special teams

So far, you've read about the all-decade defensive and offensive teams for the years beginning with 2000 and ending with the '08 season. I spent a good portion of the NFL owners' meeting and my subsequent vacation trying to identify some of the most memorable characters and moments from the decade.

After consulting with coaches, scouts, media guides and fellow bloggers, I've compiled a list of things that stood out over a nine-year period. Please act responsibly as we continue to celebrate ESPN.com's all-decade week -- otherwise known as a blogger's summer oasis.

Play of the decade: In Super Bowl XLII, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning appeared to be going down for a sack late in the fourth quarter when he somehow escaped and hurled the ball in the general direction of reserve wide receiver David Tyree. Even with Rodney Harrison ripping at him, Tyree somehow trapped the ball against his helmet and came down with it. It was one of the greatest plays in league history -- and it gave Tyree the basis for his first book. There were a lot of memorable plays in the decade, but nothing could match the Manning-to-Tyree special.


Personnel man of the decade: Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian is ranked pretty high, but everyone you talk to across the league mentions Scott Pioli first. Now the GM for the Kansas City Chiefs, Pioli joined Bill Belichick in building the team of the decade, the New England Patriots. According to one longtime scout, "No one in the league does a better job of scouting their own team, and Pioli was orchestrating all of that."

The Patriots have had the magic touch when it comes to reclamation projects such as Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. But much like the Baltimore Ravens, they always seem to know when it's time to say goodbye to a player. Pioli has a keen eye when it comes to projecting players in Belichick's defense. Now we'll see what he can do with the Chiefs.

Scandal of the decade: Let's stay with the Patriots on this one. The Michael Vick dogfighting story was stunning, but Spygate was bigger because it threatened the integrity of the league. There were so many different layers to the story and it cast doubt on a head coach and his team's remarkable run. Belichick is still regarded as the mad genius in New England, but his violation of league rules will have a lasting impact on his legacy -- unless you're a Patriots fan.

Most memorable officiating call: We know what San Diego Chargers fans are thinking, but when thinking back over the decade, the "tuck rule game" has to be the signature call. It was Jan. 19, 2002, and it appeared Oakland Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson had just sealed a trip to the AFC title game by sacking Tom Brady and knocking the ball loose. Instead, Brady's fumble was overturned because of the little-known "tuck rule," which was quietly enacted in 1999. The rule still doesn't make a lot of sense. But it helped launch the Patriots' dynasty. Anyone remember New England's starting wide receivers in the game? That's right, David Patten and Troy Brown.


Best owner: Sort of hard not to give it to Patriots owner Bob Kraft, but let's give a lifetime achievement award to Pittsburgh Steelers co-owner Dan Rooney. After all these years, he's still perhaps the most respected voice in the room. But Kraft wins the all-decade award. He brought a fan's perspective to ownership, and that's what breathed life into the franchise. And he gave Belichick another head-coaching opportunity after a failed stint with the Cleveland Browns.

Best NFL commercial: Since Peyton Manning starred in 82.7 percent of all NFL commercials, it's hard to pass him over. His work for MasterCard stands above the rest. The one where he's doing some yoga with Brian Urlacher and Michael Strahan has stood the test of time -- at least in our minds.

Most prolific locks: The faux-hawk tried to make a comeback, but Troy Polamalu may be the most identifiable player in uniform because of his unwieldy look. Polamalu achieved it by not getting his hair cut this decade.


Funniest player: The NFL doesn't really have an answer to Charles Barkley, although Clinton Portis had a nice run a few years ago when he came up with several alter egos. Let's give it to one of Portis' teammates, tight end Chris Cooley. Occasionally he crosses the line (accidentally publishing a picture of his manhood on The Cooley Zone blog), but he's consistently funny. Still love that he walked out to midfield a couple of years ago and introduced himself to the opposing captains as "Captain Chaos." There's not enough of that type stuff going around.

Best touchdown celebration: Terrell Owens and Moss had their moments, but Chad Ochocinco is by far the best. He has played golf with the pylon (no longer allowed) and he has donned a replica Hall of Fame coat after a touchdown on "Monday Night Football."


Best first-down celebration: No one celebrates a new set of downs like Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams. He takes the ball and delivers an emphatic first-down signal. It's not as good as Ed Hochuli's "Guns of Navarone" approach, but Williams doesn't hold anything back.

The most troubled player award: Adam "Pacman" Jones became the poster child for Roger Goodell's tough stance on player (mis)conduct. Pacman is an "Outside the Lines" report waiting to happen.

Most feared player: Until the horse-collar rule put him out of business, former Cowboys safety Roy Williams was well on his way to winning this title. But his descent into mediocrity was steep. Rodney Harrison of the Patriots wins the award. He was regarded as a dirty player by some, but his presence definitely made receivers think twice about going across the middle. John Lynch was a feared player early in the decade, but Harrison eventually surpassed him. James Harrison is closing fast as we prepare to close the books on the decade.

Best assistant coach: It's a tie between two elder statesmen, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. We're all pulling for Johnson as he battles cancer. He's been remarkably consistent over the years and I put him and LeBeau just barely ahead of former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

06-25-2009, 01:38 PM
I wonder who the Team* will be.

I wonder who the QB* will be.

I wonder who the Coach* will be.

You called it. It is, after all, ESPN*.

Patriots sweep all-decade team, coach, MVP

June 25, 2009 11:00 AM

The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years during the 2000s, leading to all-decade honors for the team, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Over the course of 50 years, Steve Belichick began stockpiling football books. He scoured shops across the country, always hunting for a title he didn't yet own.

Belichick's son began compiling in the 1970s. Their pursuit grew into what's believed to be the planet's largest collection of football books outside the Library of Congress and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Belichick collection -- stocked with 500 works that include "Practical Thesis in Football" by Amos Alonzo Stagg and "American Football" by Walter Camp -- is contained within the U.S. Naval
Academy, where Steve Belichick coached 33 years.

As history advances and more books are added to the shelves, there will be an increasing percentage with Bill Belichick's name in them alongside other sideline legends.

ESPN.com selected Belichick as its all-decade coach for guiding the New England Patriots to three Super Bowls and four AFC championships and at least tying for the AFC East's best record each year since 2001.

That same résumé is why ESPN.com also chose Tom Brady as its MVP and the Patriots as its team of the decade. The honors were bestowed with consultation from NFL general managers, coaches, scouts and players.

When a team wins three Super Bowls in four years and plays in its conference championship game five times in a decade with one season to go, the choices crystallize.

"You have to recognize championships because, ultimately, that's what we're playing for," Belichick said when informed of ESPN.com's selections.

Belichick is more than a head coach. When the Patriots hired him in 2000, owner Robert Kraft essentially gave Belichick total control over football operations. Belichick handpicked his supporting cast and signed off on every major decision.

"He's made some great moves, brought in some players who had been released from other places. And he's done it year after year," said Ted Marchibroda, the coach who gave Belichick his start with the Baltimore Colts in 1975.

The Patriots went 5-11 in Belichick's first season but haven't had a losing record since. After a mostly miserable gig with the Cleveland Browns, he is 102-42 in the regular season for the Patriots, a .708
win percentage.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy won two more games this decade for a .722 win percentage. Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher had a .647 win percentage.

The difference, though, is the Lombardi Trophy. Cowher and Dungy won one apiece. Belichick won three in an unprecedented four-year span.

"It's definitely an honor when you consider the other great people that are involved in that, Coach Cowher, Coach Shanahan, Coach Dungy, a lot of great coaches there," Belichick said. "It's certainly an honor to be placed among the coaches of that time."

What about all-time? The Pro Football Hall of Fame has drawn up all-decade teams since the 1960s. The list includes Weeb Ewbank, Don Shula, Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells. The first three are enshrined in Canton. The fourth is on his way.

When I mentioned this to Belichick, he might've blushed for a half-second. He quickly praised his players, counting off a long string of names critical to the Patriots' success. Many of his players, however, were players other teams considered unworthy, malcontents, washed up.

"It's certainly flattering to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys, but honestly I don't sit around and think about it a lot," Belichick said. "We're so in the moment. We always have another bridge to cross.

"But I'm certainly proud of what our teams have done, proud to have been a part of them. I understand that it's not run-of-the-mill. We've had some great moments in this franchise. I've been pretty fortunate."

Fortune smiled most brightly -- and had a cleft chin -- in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. New England picked an awkward Michigan quarterback many viewed as a project.

Paul Brown had Otto Graham. Vince Lombardi had Bart Starr. Tom Landry had Roger Staubach. Chuck Noll had Terry Bradshaw. Walsh had Joe Montana.

Belichick and Brady will be linked forever.

Sooner than anybody could have fathomed, Brady supplanted Drew Bledsoe as the starter and led the Patriots on a final-minute drive to win their first Super Bowl title.

One of the enduring images from their upset victory over the St. Louis Rams, known as the "Greatest Show on Turf," was a boyishly exuberant Brady popping Bledsoe on the shoulder pads and yelling "We won!"

Belichick's "greatest move is when he replaced Bledsoe with Brady," Marchibroda said. "Nobody really believed it at the time.

"We on the outside hadn't seen Brady that much, but we'd seen Bledsoe, and it's hard to give up on a guy like Bledsoe. But [Belichick] did it and he was right, and Brady was a winner. To say that I could see that kind of success with Brady, I couldn't visualize that at the beginning."

In deciding the all-decade MVP, discussion came down to Brady and Peyton Manning. Some of our consultants claimed LaDainian Tomlinson might have won had he not shown signs of slippage last year.

Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury on opening day, but actually seeing Tomlinson as less than his usual, dominant self made an impression on our NFL experts.

Manning fans will point to the Colts quarterback's prolific passing stats, but where Brady sets himself apart is postseason performance. Brady won as many postseason games as Manning played in.

Brady is 14-3 this decade, while Manning is 7-7. Brady has thrown 26 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Manning has thrown 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Also of note, Brady won three Super Bowls with an uninspiring group of receivers. In the one year he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker, the Patriots set several NFL records.

"The guy's just a winner," Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said. "He knows how to win, period."

Taylor was named to ESPN.com's all-decade defense. Taylor has sacked Brady more than anybody else has, and you won't find a bigger Brady fan.

"He's got the talent. But everybody at this level has talent," Taylor said. "Maybe he does have a little more God-given ability than some others, but between the ears he's as good as they come."

Some Patriots critics still scoff at their success because of the Spygate scandal, one of the biggest NFL stories of the decade. Belichick was turned in for illegally videotaping opponents' defensive signals. The NFL fined him and stripped the Patriots of a first-round draft pick.

But ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, the former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs coach, laughs at the overblown notion.

"If you're naïve to believe that helped him win a Super Bowl, you're kidding yourself. I don't believe that," said Edwards, who on one of the tapes submitted into evidence could be seen waving to the Patriots' cameras.

It also should be noted the Patriots went 18-1, nearly pulling off the NFL's first unblemished season since the Dolphins did it in 1972, after the Spygate mess.

About 30 other NFL franchises wish they could fail like that.

06-25-2009, 08:30 PM
Urlacher? You've got to be crappin me!! :nono

06-25-2009, 08:53 PM
Urlacher? You've got to be crappin me!! :nono


06-25-2009, 09:08 PM
Urlacher? You've got to be crappin me!! :nono