Performance of the Decade

Performance of the Decade

Sitting here looking back at all the amazing, improbable and historic sports moments over the past decade it’s normally very hard for one of them to stand head and shoulders above the rest. This decade does not have this problem. On February 5th 2017 live on Fox from NRG Stadium in Houston we saw this moment unfold right in front of us all. The 14-2 New England Patriots took the field to take on the 11-5 Atlanta Falcons. The Super Bowl was driven by star power Atlanta Quarterback Matt Ryan was coming off his MVP season. All Decade Wide Receiver Julio Jones also with Mohamed Sanu Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper. Along with super running back committee Devonta Freeman and Telvin Coleman. Plus young elite defensive stars Dion Jones, Keanu Neal and Grady Jarret. That’s just one side of the equation. 

Patriots were led by All-Century Quarterback Tom Brady and all world coach Bill Belichick. Along with stars Julian Edleman, James White and Danny Amendola. Dont’a Hightower and Trey Flowers led the Patriots defense. All football fans alike were expecting a great football game. Even with Rob Gronkowski out for the game due to injury, and Pro Bowl Cornerback Malcolm Butler being benched the night before, no one could count out the Patriots and the Falcons had an offense that was as hot as any team the Patriots had faced all year. 

The game even started out slow. Game was tied at 0-0 after the 1st quarter. Then the game looked as lopsided as it could be. Atlanta would out score New England 21-3 to end the half, icing on the cake being a Robert Alford 82 yard interception returned the other way for a commanding 21-0 lead. New England would get a Field Goal as time expired to cut the lead to 21-3. 

After a Telvin Coleman rushing touchdown and the 28-3 score with about 8 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, I had waved the white flag it was over. Tom Brady would answer with a meaningless touchdown drive, after a missed extra point at 28-9 just seemed like Atlanta was walking to a Super Bowl 51 victory. Until Tom Brady being the G.O.A.T went from arguable, to just an unstated fact. The Patriots would go on to outscore Atlanta 25-0. The play of the game being the once in a lifetime trick/luck catch by Julian Edleman. 

James White would end the Super Bowl with a rushing Touchdown to force overtime and win the game in overtime. Tom Brady would end the game with Super Bowl ring #5 with Coach Belichick. The game was Brady’s greatest accomplishment. Since then Brady has added a 6th Super Bowl and has now passed Peyton Manning for 2nd on the Touchdown list all time. All the greats have “THAT” moment. Montana has “The Catch”, Elway has “The Drive.” “28-3” is the moment of the decade not because of the game itself, but because Tom Brady became not only the Athlete of the decade, but the Greatest Quarterback of all time. 

Three Franchises, One Man

Three Franchises, One Man

It’s often mentioned how the National Football League, is now centered around the Quarterback and how having a franchise QB will lift the team from the depths of hell to storied success unmatched by the likes of anything we’ve ever seen. I personally believe Defense will win you championships, but there is no denying that the new shiny toy is a franchise QB. Look at the talent the past several years. Tom Brady, Brett Farve, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. Now we have young faces such as Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Jared Geoff being the next phase of QB. But through all of these names I have left one off intentionally to see if we get the same reaction. Everyone take a second to read the list again…you probably didn’t but that’s fine…the name off the list I left off intentionally because he alone has changed not one or two but three franchises. Forever. This man? Drafted out of Purdue in the 2nd round…this man is Drew Brees. Hopefully you had one of two reactions, 1 “Oh Yeah” ( to which I must say “HOW”) or two “Dummy Drew Brees only played for 2 teams” to which I respond yes!! You’re 110% right. Drew Brees drafted by then San Diego, now Los Angeles Chargers, and then signed with the New Orleans Saints but the 3rd Franchise maybe not as well known is the Miami Dolphins. And the backstory behind this was a lot to do with Chargers QB and future HOFer Phillip Rivers.

To no fault of Rivers he was a first round draft pick, traded for #1 overall pick Eli Manning, from the New York Giants. Rivers sat his rookie year behind Brees and fan favorite Doug Floutie. Then Head Coach of the Chargers Marty Schottenheimer and General Manager A.J Smith were at war on who should start. Smith in the corner of new and young Phillip Rivers. Schottenheimer in favor of reliable Brees. Brees went on to win 9 games in 2005. In week 17 of a game that meant nothing to the Chargers they would proceed to play Brees where he would injure his shoulder on the final game of the year. Leaving his career and the NFL in limbo. Was Rivers going to be the right choice? Was Rivers the safer option? The Chargers had pieces in place. Rivers first full season under center the team went on to go 14-2. Large part to Hall of Fame running back Ladainian Tomlinson having possible the greatest season ever for a running back.

But would lose their first playoff game. Ending the Schottenheimer era. And bringing the Norv Turner era to a start. Under Rivers the Chargers have gone as of the writing 122-98 in games he’s played. He’s thrown 58.090 yards 391 Touchdowns to a 193 interceptions with a rating of 95.1. He’s had 27 4th quarter comebacks, and 32 game winning drives. He’s also made 8 pro bowls.

In a conference that has Peyton Manning Tom Brady and Big Ben that’s impressive. Great numbers. Brees during this span however has Rivers beat in all these stats. And you have to wonder more importantly if maybe the Chargers regret drafting Rivers. No fault of his own. But keeping Brees, LT with Schottenheimer and drafting future no doubt Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald or Phenomenal Safety Sean Taylor would have the Chargers with a future Super Bowl Trophies in their display case instead of relocating to Los Angeles with nothing to brag about. The Chargers however are not the worst offender.

The most serious violation was committed by the Miami Dolphins. An organization known for being manic and poorly run. Seemed like they had found their marbles in the offseason of 2005. They had flown Drew Brees down and seemed as if they were going to sign Brees until they saw something in his physical they didn’t like. The reason I say they receive the most blame for not signing Brees. Everyone passed on Brees once in the 2001 draft before the 32nd overall pick was selected. However the reason they passed on Brees was well very Dolphin like. They wanted touted corner Jamar Fletcher, ended up playing 3 seasons in Miami. And they also did not think Brees was a significant upgrade over Jay Fiedler. And the biggest reason was former coach Dave Wannstedt wanted QB Josh Heupel. And they believed he would be available much later in the draft. Which he was and was taken in the 6th round. Heupel was a Heisman runner up from Oklahoma. Dolphins then VP Rick Spielman before the draft said “at least 3 people on our staff have seen every snap in his career.” Spielman would tell the Miami Herald after the draft “We thought Drew would be an upgrade over Jay.” “But we don’t think he is that much better. We feel good about Jay. Plus we think we really upgraded our secondary with Jamar.” And again this is why they are the Dolphins. Here’s the list of QB’s Miami has had since Brees went on to sign in New Orleans. Ready.. Dante Culpepper, Trent Green, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler and now Ryan Fitzpatrick. Miami is currently “Tanking for Tua” however you have to wonder with past QB evaluations are the Dolphins going to pick the right one? It’s been a long time since they drafted Dan Marino. And Miami fans certainly would have loved Drew Brees leading the fins. Not only that but this move most likely keeps Nick Saban in Miami instead of going to Alabama and starting a dynasty. So we could have had 10+ years of Belichick and Brady against Saban and Brees. Selfishly I must admit writing this makes me angry. Damn you Dolphins! Damn you!! Not to mention your team record during this time is a disheartening 93-131. Yay! Miami!

Obviously we know who ended up with Brees and how it’s working out. Drew Brees paired up with Sean Payton and Tom Benson and rejuvenated the city of New Orleans. Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham all benefited playing alongside #9. Brees and Payton have gone 130-82 together. Brees has thrown for 63,880 yards and counting. 452 touchdowns to 184 ints. That gives him a rating of 100.7 30 4th Quarter comebacks and 41 game winning drives. He’s gone to 11 pro bowls, 1 all pro and 1 super bowl championship. Brees is now the league leader in passing yards all-time. He also has several additional records. Most 5,000 yard seasons (2008, 2011-2013, 2016). Most consecutive 4,000 seasons (2006-2017). Also has the best completion percentage all time (67.3) and for a season (74.4). More amazingly Brees has 5 of the top 6 best completion percentages of all time! Safe to say Nick Saban, Miami, and maybe the Chargers regret not signing the Boilermaker. However Brees did end up in New Orleans, and it’s been a fun ride, one that will end with him and Sean Payton together, not just in NOLA, but also in Canton, Ohio. The NFL Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy who had obstacle after obstacle in his way. Guess you can say his career has been, oh I don’t know. Maybe? A Brees.

Mr. Cooperstown

The day was September 28th 2014. The location was Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox fans were on their feet and giving a standing ovation for a farewell for the ages. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, this was not David Ortiz’s final game. It was however Derek Jeters. That’s right, a Yankee, hated rival, after 20 seasons of being public enemy number 1, had become, for a day at-least one of their own. He only had 2 at-bats, 1 hit for an rbi. As a DH. But when he was pulled time stopped, and Boston rewarded their arch foe…with that’s right a standing. We didn’t know how often we would see Derek Jeter after that day, but we could bet on at least two more appearances. One is when the Yankees induct him into monument park alongside other Yankee legends. The other is when Jeter would be inducted into Cooperstown, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. To my surprise, this notion has been challenged quite a bit, and even throughout Jeter’s career, he has been met with a lot of skepticism and judgement.

It started back in 1992, when the Yankees drafted Jeter 6th overall. Many scouts had doubted Jeter’s ability to play in the pros. Jeter was drafted behind Phil Nevin, now a yankee bench coach, Paul Sheuy, B.J Wallace, Jeffrey Hammonds and Chad Mottola. Jeter was scouted by Dick Groch, when told he signed a “good player” Groch would respond “No, I signed a Franchise.” But what makes Jeter so special? Hmm let’s do this one step at a time.

On May 29th 1995 Jeter would debut against the Seattle Mariners, he would go 0-5. He’d play 14 more games after that, with the Yankees finally making the playoffs and being knocked out, ironically by the same Mariners. It also ended an era. Don Mattingly was retiring after a long and memorable career. But the team needed a shift. They needed a leader. They needed a young kid, from Kalamazoo, Michigan. They had guys already there with talent. Guys like John Wettland, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neil. Yankees would also have a huge fusion of youth. Along with Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada would also come up and help take the Yankees to the next level. However in 1996 only one of them won Rookie of the Year. That season Jeter went on to win the ROY award by hitting .314 with a 183 hits and 10 home runs with 78 RBI’s. Jeter would also go on to make his first All-Star Game, he would hit .324 that season finish with 203 hits 19 home-runs and 84 RBI’s. Also led the American League in runs with 127. And led the Yankees to a World Series title. He would also finish that season 3rd in the MVP voting, 1999 was much of the same another year another All-Star appearance, and another World Series title. This year however Jeter would lead the league in hits with 219 and hit a career high .349. Also a career high in home runs with 24 and rbis with 102 … as a lead off man…let this sink in, if that didn’t make you nod your head in appreciation there’s something wrong!

In 2000 Jeter repeated this same success, All-Star Game, World Series crown, 200 hits, .339 average. This season also saw Jeter make history. As the first player to win the World Series MVP and All-Star game MVP. 2000’s season will be highlighted by his lead off home run against cross town rival, the New York Mets Bobby Jones, which would kill all momentum for the Mets. However Jeter’s greatest highlights would start adding a different nickname.

Jeter would make the all star game again in 2001, he would also end that season hitting .311 21 home runs and 74 rbis’s. But this is where Jeters’s playoff resume begins to add to his legacy. On October 13th, in Oakland in a pivotal game. Shane Spencer’s throw from the right field wall missed cut off man, Tino Martinez. Normally that ball would bounce an extra 3 or 4 hops and then roll to Jorge Posada. Luckily enough Derek Jeter on this day executed one of the smartest baseball plays ever made. We now call it “The Flip.”

2001 however during all of this time was bittersweet. On September 11th America would be attacked by a terrorist group, known as Al Qaeda. 2 Air planes would be flown right into both trade centers in the middle of New York City. The country was mourning, New York was mourning just a little more. Families lost loved ones, friends were gone. Rightfully all major sports organizations stopped. Everything stopped. Just a month later. In the biggest stage of them all Derek Jeter once again made history. First major league game ever played in the month of November. First pitch he saw, hit it over the fence. Crowning him Mr.November. Yankeee would go on to lose that World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. But that moment lives on and Jeter even for a day made not just Yankee fans, or baseball fans forget what they were mourning. But all of America. It was a national sign that “Hey, were gonna get through this.”

Jeter would continue to make all star and post season appearances from 2002 to 2006. In what I believe to be his best season in 06, Jeter hit .343 had 214 hits 14 Home Runs and 97 RBI’s. He would finish 2nd in voting for the MVP. He would also win another World Series title in 2009. Making his grand total 5. He would make 14 All-Star games in total and would finish 6th all time on career hits with 3,465. Ranks first among shortstops, also won 5 Gold Gloves, 5th most by a shortstop. Postseason rankings are all outstanding. All time leader in postseason games (158), at bats (650), runs (111), hits (200) total bases (302), doubles (32). Jeter is also T-5th in triples, 3rd in home runs (20), 4th in RBI’s (61) and 6th in stolen bases (18th). These stats alone make Jeter an undisputed 1st ballot Hall of Famer.

However Derek Jeter’s true legend, and career is defined in one word, “Captain.” Derek Jeter was announced the Yankee captain on June 3rd 2003, after Don Mattingly retired in 1995. Derek Jeter always played the game with a passion, and leadership that the team could not help but follow. His guidance and thrill for the big moment never went away, whether it was running into the stands to catch a blooper against the Boston Redsox, bloodying up his face. Or whether it was coming back and getting hit number 3000 on a home run on a “Jetertarian” swing. Or maybe it’s getting a walk off hit on his final game at Yankee stadium.

What’s my favorite Jeter moment? There’s two actually. The first one was the last home game of the old Yankee Stadium. Jeter gave a speech telling the fans of New York that he wants us to continue the honor and tradition of the Yankees across the street. The most recent was his final game at Yankee Stadium, after the game he walked out to shortstop where he stood for 19 seasons before, and just soaked in what he loved. The game, the Yankees and most importantly us! No matter the obstacles Jeter overcame them all in New York. Jeter has had a lot of nicknames over the years, DJ, Captain, Captain Clutch, Mr.November…eh all sound kind of over used. I do have a new one..Mr.Cooperstown. Thanks for the memories Jete!