Four Patriots made my Offensive All-Pro unit. Two others, center
Stuff about why, in their opinion, Brady is the greatest of all time. I'm going to try to stay away from this one as long as humanly possible out of respect for the past. Brady will be evaluated when his body of work is close to being completed, but I think it's disrespectful to throw him into the mix right now.
But gosh, what a year he's had. You can say that everything is in place, the great receivers, the terrific protection. But someone still has to pull the trigger. And not flinch in the face of the rush, when it appears. At least he makes the choice of one position on an All-Pro team a whole lot easier for people such as myself.
Westbrook had the most yards, rushing and receiving, in the NFL. At the midway point I was leaning toward
My favorite Moss play this year? In the opener against the Jets, when they buttoned everything up with max protection and sent Moss galloping across the field, past the corner, past the safety, past the corner from the other side ... zip, zip, zip. It was like the old A train, the Eighth Avenue Express, going past the local stops between 59th and 125th Sts., zip, past 72nd, past 81st, past 86th. Fifty one yards and a touchdown, a continent and a half away from where he started.
We actually had competition at the other wideout. I did a game-by-game breakdown between
You know how they're always saying how it takes a new receiver time to adjust to the quarterback? I mean, I heard that about the Colts'
And what a boost that's been to the offense. Welker broke the Pats' single-season pass-catching record by 11 receptions, and tied for first in the NFL. He was Brady's hot man against the blitz, his bail-out receiver who always seemed to put a move on a defender just as he made the difficult catch. I've said many times that he's the greatest hot receiver I've ever seen.
Now a zero in my system is very rare. It doesn't just mean no sack, it means no outstanding defensive play of any kind ... force against the pass or against the run, tackle near the line, even enough penetration to blow up a play. All those get a check mark of some kind. But Flozell held Osi to nothing. So I looked at him more closely, or rather, at his opponents.
I went with my grades for the other tackle spot. The Bills' young, athletic Peters scored highest. When he left the Giants game with a groin pull, the offense fell apart. I use the same basic system for all 0-linemen, but my tackle grades are the lowest for any position.
Light of the Patriots, a quick type of blocker, was runner-up.
A sleeper, Brown of the Ravens, ran away with my other position. A different type. He's a 6-3, 320-pound bowling ball, and when he hits 'em, they fly. If I needed any convincing at all on him, and I really didn't, it came against the Patriots, when he just about put a hole in
People occasionally ask me for my scoring numbers on the linemen, and I don't mind providing them, except for the tackles because they're embarrassingly low. But here are the grades for my top guards: Mankins 5.5; Brown 5.3;
If you're sad that your favorite Pro Bowler isn't mentioned, it's because I started grading him, realized that he'd never make it, and gave it up before I'd gotten every look.
The grades were 4.9 for Saturday, 4.6 for Koppen, and here comes the rest of the parade:
I'll have to award an asterisk to Miami rookie
I've been asked how many looks I'll get on a particular player. The most I got on any team this year was 16, for the Giants. I had 13 looks at the Patriots. The fewest was four for the Rams. Generally, the average is around seven or eight. If I'm still undecided about someone, I'll get coaching films from the team. They're generally pretty good about sending them. I did that with two players last year:
I had a problem at the other spot. The Bears'
I did charts on a ton of DEs, 15, tied with cornerback as the heaviest position on my board. After four weeks
I felt that
I enjoyed watching
No one was close. I could list the roster of DTs or NTs I went through, but none were in his class. I will mention two, though.
There are a million rush specialists. Some, such as
Without getting into a huge grade thing, this is the order in which I had them, after Beason and Willis, and this position represented what I felt was the highest quality of any of them -- Urlacher;
My system is pretty complicated -- make that very complicated -- because of all the variables involved. I didn't pick Bailey because, although capable of a great game on occasion, he simply gave up more than other players did. I looked hard at
Newman of Dallas became a starter on my team when he emerged from the pack, allowing a higher percentage of completions than I'd like but the lowest average of yards per attempt (4.0). I tracked my All-Pro from last year,
I really liked the aggressive way in which Tennessee's
They have already called the psycho ward and reserved a place for me because
I had him as the best player on the field when the Giants beat Miami in drizzly London. In fact, it was the best game I'd seen for any cornerback this season. I had another good one for him in the downpour at Pittsburgh. I had a couple more good ones and one bummer -- against the Jets the second time, when they dragged him across the field and completed a long one on him. He graded out higher than anyone except Newman.
He was still a guy no one ever had picked for anything and, since he'll be 30 next season, probably never will. But dammit, he had been terrific on my modest little chart; did I have the courage of my own convictions or was I going to live and die the copout, the wimp, that all my high school teachers predicted I'd become? "No!" I hollered, jumping to my feet and waking , with a start, Little Jake, the tabby, who was sleeping on the table. "I will do what is right!" Thus, Will Allen is my All-Pro corner, and if you want my game-by-game charts, I will supply them, along with sobriety test results.
And just in case you're wondering why Cromartie's name appears in
And it's the Ravens' Ed Reed, a fairly comfortable choice because what he does on the field is the most noticeable. A real sleeper, a player whose game is subtle but effective -- especially when he's covering tremendous territory to find a distant interception -- is
Almost all of them have raised their percentage to unheard of heights, but
Punters have been seeking the elusive 40-yard net average ever since the league, at the urging of ex-Giant booter
My return man is
Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year offer no surprises, Belichick has to be our coach. Too often do you see some guy who raised a team from 2-14 to playoff level get the honor, only to exit quickly in the postseason while the Super Bowl winner gets to be determined after the award is given.
Finally a special award:
Assistant Coach of the Year: If you wonder why Brady has so much time to pass, please give some credit to the guy who has turned the O-line into such a beautifully synchronized unit, and that's