Thursday, June 30, 2011

Who are the top 11 wide receivers in NFL history?

With all the discusion about Terrell Owens NFL future and career with the news of his ACL surgery, I wanted to take the time to give my top Wide Receivers of all time. When ranking football players at different positions, one has to consider the following:

1) Who they played with
2) How great were they compared to their contemporaries
3) How many seasons were they among the best at their position

So with these factors in mind, here's my list of greatest Wide receivers in NFL history:

11. Hines Ward
Credentials: Six seasons with atleast 1,000 receiving yards, tied for 9th all time in career receptions, six seasons with atleast 7 touchdown catches
Overview: This four time Pro Bowler is the Pittsburgh Steelers all time leader in catches, receiving touchdowns, and receiving yards. He is one of the toughest, most durable wide receivers in the NFL the last 15 seasons. Also an excellent run blocking wide out.

10. Michael Irvin
Credentials: Seven seasons with atleast 1,0000 receiving yards, 5 straight Pro Bowl appearences (1991-1995), ranked 18th all time in receiving yards
Overview: Irvin was one of the top offensive weapons on one of the most dominant teams during the 1990's. He actually should have been a Pro Bowler six times (In 1997 he had 9 TD's, 1,180 receiving yards, 75 catches). He also was a great run blocking wide out, helping paving the way for Emmitt Smith to be able to become the man with the most rushing yards in NFL history. Part of the reason his numbers are not as prolific as some others is because opposing defenses gameplanned to not let Michael Irvin beat them.

9. Isaac Bruce
Credentials: Eight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards, Six seasons with atleast 7 touchdown catches, 9th all-time in TD catches, 3rd all-time in receiving yards, 7th all-time in catches
Overview: One of the most consistent wide outs in NFL history who doesn't get enough credit for his great career. Known for his great speed and excellent route running, Bruce was a key member of the St. Louis Rams teams from 1999-2003 known as "The Greatest Show on Turf". He is one of only seven players in NFL history with atleast 1,000 career receptions.

8. Marvin Harrison
Credentials: eight seasons with atleast 10 touchdown catches, second all-time in catches, sixth all-time in receiving yards, fifth all-time in TD catches, eight straight Pro Bowl appearences (1999-2006)
Overview: Major reason why Peyton Manning was able to be so great so early in his career, Harrison was a wide receiver with great hands and seemed to always find holes in defenses while running routes. Harrison also was an underrated athlete who could out jump and out run many Cornerbacks in the NFL during his career.

7. Don Hutson
Credentials: Eight time first team All-Pro, 8th all-time in Receiving Touchdowns, In 1942 had top 10 all-time single season touchdown receptions and receiving yards per game
Overview: Before the NFL entered the Super Bowl Era, Don Hutson was the first great Wide Receiver. Historians say he had excellent speed and caught everything thrown his way. For years opposing teams gameplanned just to stop Hutson from scoring, yet for five straight seasons (1940-1944) he led the league in points scored and eight seasons he led the NFL in total Touchdowns.

6. Steve Largent
Credentials: Tied for 6th all-time in touchdown catches, 12th all-time in receiving yards, seven time Pro Bowl selection, eight seasons with atleast 1,000 receiving yards and 8 TD catches
Overview: When the best two Quarterbacks you played with in your career are Dave Kreig and Jim Zorn yet you put up the numbers Steve Largent did, you deserve serious respect. Largent was a great route runner and seemed to almost never drop a pass thrown his direction. One can only imagine what kind of numbers he would have put up for his career if he had played with a great Quarterback.

5. Randy Moss
Credentials: 5th all-time in receiving yards, tied for 2nd all-time in touchdown catches, tied for 8th all-time in receptions, has had ten seasons with atleast 1,000 receiving yards, led the NFL in TD catches five times
Overview: One of the greatest athletes to ever play the position of wide receiver, Moss has great speed, good hands and can out jump any defensive back for a touchdown. In fact, almost half of his career 153 career TD catches have been from him leaping over defenders in the end zone. "The Freak" as he has been labelled, also had 1,000 receiving yards in eight of his first ten seasons in the NFL.

4. Tim Brown
Credentials: 4th all-time in receptions and receiving yards, tied for 6th all-time in touchdown catches, had nine straight seasons with atleast 1,000 receiving yards (1993-2001), nine time Pro Bowl selection
Overview: The 1987 Heisman Trophy winner started his career as a Kick/Punt return specialist who was used as a slot receiver on offense. His excellent speed and agility combined with great hands and route running made him a big time offensive weapon. Considered by many as one of the most underrated Wide outs in NFL history, Brown was productive even in the latter stages of his career when he at age 35 had nine TD catches and at age 36 had 81 receptions.

3. Terrell Owens
Credentials: Tied for 2nd all-time in touchdown catches, 2nd all-time in receiving yards, 5th all-time in receptions, eleven seasons with atleast 8 TD catches, six time Pro Bowl selection
Overview: With all the drama that has come with Terrell Owens' career, it is hard to argue with his productivity on the field. Yes he has been a problem child for three different NFL franchises and yes he has said/done some crazy stuff; but anyone who is only second to Jerry Rice in career TD catches and receiving yards is definately a future Hall of Famer and has proven himself as one of the greats. He is also 10th all-time in receiving yards per game.

2. Cris Carter
Credentials: 4th all-time in receiving touchdowns, 8th all-time in receiving yards, 3rd all-time in career receptions, eight straight Pro Bowl apperances (1993-2000), five straight seasons with atleast 10 TD catches (1995-1999)
Overview: Considered to be the wide receiver with the best hands in NFL history, Cris Carter was the top wide receiver in the NFL during the 1990's not named Jerry Rice. Carter had back to back seasons with 122 catches (1994-1995), eight seasons with atleast 9 TD catches, and nine straight seasons with atleast 73 catches (1993-2001). He was also the mentor for Randy Moss when he first came into the league and was no slouch in the athletic department with his speed and agility.

1. Jerry Rice
Credentials: All-time leader in receiving yards, receptions, TD catches and Pro Bowl selections among Wide Receivers
Overview: Jerry Rice wasn't the fastest or quickest or best leaping Wide out in NFL history. Rice was the best at all of the little things that make a great wide receiver such as route running, catching every ball thrown his way, getting open and being exactly where his QB threw the ball at the right time. Rice wanted to be the greatest and put in the work 365 days every year to be just that. Even at age 40 years old he had 92 catches, 1,211 receiving yards, and 7 TD catches. NFL Network voted Jerry Rice as the greatest football player in NFL history. So if anyone says Jerry Rice isn't the greatest Wide Receiver in NFL history, then sit the person infront of footage of him of the highlights from Rice's career then Jethro Gibbs' slap that person on the back of the head.

Honorable Mentions to: Art Monk, James Lofton, Andre Reed, Rod Smith, Don Maynard, Tory Holt, Tommy McDonald, Lance Alworth, Keyshawn Johnson, Charlie Joiner, Fred Biletnikoff

Thursday, June 16, 2011

UFC 131 Aftermath

UFC 131 turned out to be one of the most exciting, interesting MMA fight cards of 2011 despite the "experts" saying the fight card didn't have enough "star power".

Junior Dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin
Result: Dos Santos via Unanimous Decision

Dos Santos gets better with every fight he has had in the UFC. After almost finishing Carwin in the first round, JDS spent the rest of the fight using his crisp striking to keep Carwin at bay. He even took Carwin down twice in the third round to leave no doubt in anyone's mind who the real number one contender is for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Next for Dos Santos: He has a date with UFC Heavyweight Champ Cain Velasquez later this year. Since Cain is still recovering from Rotator Cuff Surgery this showdown will probably happen at UFC 136 in October or UFC 138 in November.
Next for Carwin: Shane Carwin deserves a lot of credit for his heart, toughness, and willingness to take on such a tough fight on short notice considering it was his first fight since having major neck surgery. Carwin looked a little slow and rusty in the Octagon, which is understandable considering he hasn't fought since last July and had only been training a few months before this fight because he had to recover from surgery. Carwin will be back in full force sooner then later. A matchup with Roy Nelson would be a good opportunity for Carwin to get back on track and test his skills in all areas of his game.

Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes
Result: Florian via Unanimous Decision

Kenny Florian made a successful debut at 145 pounds Saturday night but showed he is still adjusting to the division. During the first round Nunes suprised Florian with his speed and power. It appeared KenFlo underestimated his opponents physical abilities. Yet as he usually does, the thinking fighter Kenny Florian adjusted his approach to Nunes and proceeded to out-strike his opponent while taking him down several times.
Next for Florian: Dana White has changed his position as to who Jose Aldo's next opponent would be over the last two months. It is expected that Florian's next fight will be either for the UFC Featherweight championship against Aldo or Florian will have a number one contender fight to decide who will face Aldo next. Big problem for Florian is that the other top contender, Chad Mendes is already commited to fight in August. The likely next fight will be against Aldo considering most top ten featherweights in the UFC are already booked to fight already.
Next for Nunes: It wasn't a bad fight for Nunes. Showing good power and heart, Nunes can be considered a contender at 145 pounds. He needs to work on his takedown defense and the accuracy of his flashy kicks. A fight with Michihiro Omigawa would be good for Nunes so he can work on his grappling and ground game.

Damian Maia vs. Mark Munoz
Result: Munoz via Unanimous Decision

This was one of the two fights on the card I thought should have been rewarded Fight Of The Night honors. Munoz won the final two rounds after surviving Maia's attacks in the first. If Munoz wasn't such an excellent wrestler Maia would have had a better chance at winning this fight since Maia had no success trying to takedown Munoz.
Next for Munoz: Since dropping to the Middleweight division, Munoz has won 6 of his 7 fights and the lone loss being to Yushin Okami via split decision. Munoz is one of the toughest and most consistent fighters in the UFC. His next fight should be against a fighter who is also on the rise and Brian Stann fits that description.
Next for Maia: Maia's striking looked sharp in this fight and if it wasn't for the fact he was facing a top level wrestler he would have been in a better position for the win. Maia has evolved his MMA game from being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert who was limited in other areas to a fighter who forces you to pick your poison when fighting him. The problem for Maia is that his last three fights have been close decisions against fighters with good grappling skills. A fight with either Dan Miller or Jorge Santiago would test his ability to handle opponents with solid all-around skills who push the pace of a fight.

Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman
Result: Herman via TKO

This was clearly a mismatch from the start. Einemo has not faught in an MMA fight since 2006 and it showed during the match. Herman moved more swiftly and was the more active striker. But this was not one of the better fights of the night and I still question why it was awarded Fight Of The Night honors.
Next for Herman: Herman has faught in over 20 fights before his UFC debut so the only way to know if he can handle top level competition is to put good fighters in front of him. Stefan Struve is a fighter whose all-around MMA game is good enough to be trouble for most Heavyweights and if Herman can beat him then we will know if he can really hang in the UFC.
Next for Einemo: Einemo is one of the best grapplers in the Heavyweight division so there is no doubt he belongs in the UFC. But right now he is near the bottom of the ladder with his loss to Dave Herman. A matchup with either Aaron Rosa or Mark Hunt are fights that would be a slower pace so he can get use to fighting in the octagon.

Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha
Result: Cerrone via Unanimous decision

Cerrone used a his kickboxing experience to basically chop down Rocha's leg with leg kicks. The only time Rocha had Cerrone on the ground he was suprised that Cerrone was trying to submit him and he let him back up.
Next for Cerrone: Cerrone is currently on a four fight winning streak and has made a solid argument to be a mainstay in UFC's 155 pound division. In an interview with Ariel Helwani of, "Cowboy" said he would like to be matched up with Sam Stout because he wants to "throw down" with someone. After Stout's brutal knouckout of Yves Edwards, maybe Cerrone should be careful what he asks for.
Next for Rocha: This was the UFC debut for the Brazilian who is famous for his ground game. He looked very passive once he realized he couldn't get the fight to the ground. Both Cody McKenzie and Kamal Shalarus would be willing to match grappling skills with Rocha so one of those fights may be next for him.

Quick thoughts on some Preliminary Card Fights

Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards: Stout lived up to his nickname "Hands of Stone" with a knockout of Edwards that rivals any great knockout you may seen in the last 10 years. Stout is a MMA veteran who is now 6-5 in the UFC and should get more credit for being able to hang around the UFC for five years now.

Chris Weidman vs. Jesse Bongfeldt: Weidman ended this fight with a standing gullitoine choke that displayed his physical strength and jiu-jitsu skills. Chris' coaches have claimed he will one day win the UFC Middleweight belt but we have not seen much of Chris' standup game yet. A fight would Tim Boetsch would force Weidman to fight standing up while facing someone who is also a good wrestler and has serious physical strength.

Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young: This was a fight that was my choice for Fight of the Night. Both fighters stood and striked at a rapid fire pace. The main reason Poirier won was because he got a couple takedowns and showed better footwork in the octagon. Nothing should be taken away from "Shotgun" Young, he has a bright future as an MMA fighter.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thoughts on 2011 NBA Finals

It took six games and a couple comebacks but the Dallas Mavericks reigned in their first NBA Championship in franchise history. This championship is a big deal for many of the players on the Mavs because they have played many years in the NBA awaiting their chance to get a ring. The average age of their starting lineup in Game 6 is 31.4 years of age. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakovic, and Brendan Haywood have all been in the league for atleast 9 years so this year was their shot at getting a title. All of those guys were First Round draft picks who have had very productive careers and half of the players on the Mavs roster have been NBA All Star selections at some point in their careers.

In contrast, the Miami Heat's starting lineup for Game 6 had an average age of 27 years old and only three players got any serious playing time had been in the league atleast 10 seasons. As the series came to a close the Heat as a team played with no urgency or passion. It was as if in the back of their minds they believed that they would get more chances at winning a title so they backed off against the Mavs. LeBron James passed up numerous shots, Dwayne Wade had an off shooting night, while Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem looked lost at times.

One of the difficult answers to figure out is whether the Heat's poor fourth quarter play in this series is a reflection of their Head Coach Erik Spoelstra or a reflection of team leadership. Spoelstra has said all the right things in this series until Game 6 when he used the term "mental stability" in describing his team. I remember back when Spoelstra said during the regular season that players were "crying" in the locker room after a loss and then the team caught fire heading into the Postseason. But to question professional athletes "mental stability" when talking to the media is not a shrewed move by a man who has been around NBA players for decade.

On the flip side, the players after the game seemed disapointed yet fine with the fact that they lost the series. For all the whitty comments and professional experience in the NBA and international competition, both Wade and LeBron had nothing productive or insightful to say after the game. While Wade came across as if he felt like it was all a weird dream, LeBron has grown spiteful towards the public and media. When he said at the post-game press conference that he is going to "enjoy" his life while everyone complaining about him have to wake up to "their lives" he was basically giving the middle finger to the world. For a guy who came from almost poverty, has wanted people to like him, and has had a tumultuous personal life, he has taken the position of him against the world.

LeBron and Dirk are polar opposites in how they have handled criticism over the last few years. While the criticism and negativity has fueled the drive in Dirk to become great, LeBron has reacted as to say "So winning back to back MVP awards and taking a mediocre team to the NBA Finals is not good enough for everyone?!?" LeBron is still 26 year old super talent and he has the opportunity to be considered as one of the greatest of all time in NBA history, if he wants it bad enough.

Yet Dirk, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and the Mavericks wanted to defy the odds and reach for what they have worked their entire careers for: a championship. With age comes wisdom and the Mavs are a roster full of clutch, veteran saavy guys who were willing to sacrifice ego for the ring. When the Mavs acquired Tyson Chandler in the off season he filled a major void of a defensive leader. Dallas has been known for over a decade as a team with many offensive weapons but their defense had been lousy for years so Chandler helped change their play as a team.

Much credit should be given to Dallas Head Coaach Rick Carlisle. Carlisle had been prematurely fired twice in his career when had done a good job with both the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. He was never given the chance by those franchises to finish the job he started. Mavs owner Mark Cuban understood this and was willing to give Carlisle the time needed to not just change the culture in Dallas but also fail. People forget that the best coaches and players are not the one's who are immediate successful but those who learn through experience how to be great. Carlisle deserves a lot of credit for how he coached this team, how he managed player's minutes and how he allowed veterans such as Kidd, Chandler, and Dirk to lead this team through their playoff run.

In the end, the team that wanted it more and was deeper talent wise won the 2011 NBA Finals. Sure Miami has the Big Three of LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh but the rest of their roster is full of guys who are past their primes or are just solid role players. Meanwhile the Mavericks have five players who have been multiple time All Star selections and are a roster of true professionals. Maybe instead of being indifferent the Miami Heat should take the time to learn something for the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Defense of LeBron James

I have always been conflicted about LeBron James. Coming out of High School I felt there was too much hype. When he took the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals I applauded him and his ability to carry a team on his back. When he had "The Decision" on ESPN I thought he was being arrogant but respected his desire to want to win. I am not really a "LeBron Fan"; I respect him and think he is the best all-around player in the NBA today. But after last night's game with the media and fan backlash that has been thrown his way, I think someone needs to defend LeBron James.

I do not understand the excessive vitriol that has been directed towards LeBron James. On one hand people expect too much of him. He is not the "Next Michael Jordan" and there will never be another MJ. The closest thing we have in the Post-Jordan era of the NBA that can be considered to be "Like Mike" is Kobe Bryant. But even Kobe's numbers and all around game is not exactly on par with Jordan. LeBron James is similar to Michael Jordan in one major aspect: there never has and there may never be another player like him. LeBron grew up watching MJ and every kid at some point wants to be "Like Mike". But LeBron is three inches taller then Jordan, physically stronger, and is a better passer then MJ. LeBron James is basically a taller, stronger, more athletic modern day version of Oscar Robertson.

Also, I do not understand the "LeBron Haters". What has LeBron done that is worth anyone hating him? Has he raped or abused women? Has he killed dogs? Has he killed someone while drinking and driving? Has he been accused or caught using steroids or other perfomance enhancing drugs? Has he lied to the public about something of moral relavence? The answer to all of these questions is NO! Yet, we have given numerous athletes second chances who have done all of the above, but people despise LeBron? I understand some people are tired of hearing about LeBron James. I know some people hold the whole Decision fiasco against him (although we forget that the media enabled him to have such a platform in the first place). The fact that there are so many "LeBron haters" out therer only shows me that too many people have their priorities mixed up. Kobe Bryant cheated on his wife (atleast one time we know for sure about) and yet Kobe is "respected" as a winner.

Have we forgotten that LeBron James is 26 years old? I ask that question seriously because aside from Kobe Bryant, no High School to NBA star player has won an NBA championship at a young age. Yet Kobe had the help of a superstar (Shaquille O'Neal), a legendary Head Coach (Phil Jackson) and was surround by veteran players who were leaders on and off the court. When LeBron James went to his first NBA finals his supporting cast consisted of a Center who had trouble staying healthy for a full season (Zydrunas Ilgauskas), a player who was drafted ahead of Paul Pierce to be the wing-man for Allen Iverson (Larry Hughes), their best 3-point shooter was two years younger then LeBron (Daniel Gibson) and their Head Coach was in his second season as an NBA Head Coach (Mike Brown).

So when are we going to give LeBron James some kind of slack? This is his first season playing with a other star level players in their primes and with a supporting cast who has atleast been to a few all star games in the past. LeBron carried this team during the Heat's run to the NBA Finals. But yet he gets labelled on Twitter "LeBrick" after one game? Sure he went 3-11 from the field, but what about that game Chris Bosh had earlier this postseason where he made one shot out of almost 20? Where is the criticism of Dwayne Wade who late in the fourth quarter missed a big free throw shot and turned the ball over in crunch time? Where is the criticism of Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra for not giving his players better offensive plays in the fourth quarter? Instead everything is LeBron James fault?

The fact that I have to defend LeBron James is a reflection of the reality that fans and the media have become so reactionary. The criticism of LeBron has been over the top and excessive. Let us not forget he led the Heat last night in assists and rebounds, so its not like he didn't do anything all night. LeBron is one of the most talented basketball players to ever play in the NBA but we really need to stop comparing LeBron to the greatest players of all time and expecting him to be what he is not. Remember he is only 26 years old so he has many more years to become better and make his legacy. We do not remember all of "bad" games that Jordan, Magic, or Bird had, so why should we hold this one game against him?