Get ready to gripe, here's the reasoning behind the postseason selections
Posted: Tuesday January 4, 2005 4:45PM; Updated: Tuesday January 4, 2005 4:45PM
Atlanta TE Alge Crumpler had 48 catches for 774 yards and six TDs this season.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Here's my annual exercise in argument-starting, also known as the ballot I submitted Monday morning to the Associated Press for its annual All-Pro team and awards.
I begin this process in December, when I open a file on my laptop and start putting down my automatics. I'm not necessarily a stat guy. I vote for the players who I think had the best years, and I do take into account what they meant to their teams. My first automatic was Alge Crumpler, the Atlanta tight end who -- with all due respect to Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzales, both of whom deserve much due respect -- changes the game more than any tight end playing. James Farrior, Ed Reed,Shawn Springs, Peyton Manning and Terrell Owens all made my list as December rolled by. Then, during the last couple of weeks of the season, I ask people about the best players they've seen that season, because I can't see them all. Ron Jaworski'ssuggestion about San Diego guard Toniu Fonoti was a keeper, because the two Chargers games I saw on TV in the last month proved Fonoti is the meanest, most physical and strongest guard I saw this year. Sometimes I make last-minute changes, as I did with five spots over the weekend:
Splitting my guard votes three ways. I thought Brian Waters was the best player on Kansas City's line and the Chiefs ran on everybody. Fonoti's terrific. And I couldn't do this team without the games' best line being represented by two great players. So that put the steady-as-anyone Alan Faneca from Pittsburgh in.
Tiki Barber replaced Curtis Martin. Tough, tough choice. I just think Barber had the most productive year for a Giants running back ever. Everyone knew he was coming and he still averaged 4.7 yards a carry and gashed the Eagles twice with 100-yard games behind a very shaky line. (Corey Dillon was a lock for the last two or three weeks at the other back. He was better than everyone thought he'd be, and he became the offensive keystone for a 14-2 team.)
Donnie Edwards got the vote over Ray Lewis at one of the inside linebackers. Inside 'backer is one of the strongest positions in the league right now, with lots of different body types and playing styles. Edwards made more plays than Lewis. I think he had one of the best years I've seen a linebacker have, disruptive and opportunistic and a threat every time he rushed the passer. For Tedy Bruschi to be left off here, Farrior and Edwards had to play at intergalactic levels.
Richard Seymour over Rod Coleman at defensive tackle. Coleman's knifing quickness was the real difference-maker for the Atlanta defense. But Seymour is the key to everything New England does up front (I made him a tackle because he plays as much inside as he does outside), he played more games (16 to 13) and the New England defense is better.
Coach of the Year: I went through various stages. Bill Belichick, for keeping the Patriots streaking despite all the injuries. John Fox, for getting the Panthers back into it. But I settled on a split vote: Bill Cowher, for taking a six-win team to 15-1 and Marty Schottenheimer, for turning the worst team in football into a 12-4 division winner.
WR: Terrell Owens, Philadelphia WR: Muhsin Muhammad, Carolina TE: Alge Crumpler, Atlanta T: Walter Jones, Seattle T: Willie Anderson, Cincinnati C: Jeff Hartings, Pittsburgh G: Toniu Fonoti, San Diego/Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh (one-half vote each) G: Brian Waters, Kansas City QB: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis RB: Tiki Barber, New York Giants RB: Corey Dillon, New England FB: Dan Kreider, Pittsburgh
DE: Julius Peppers, Carolina DE: Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis DT: Richard Seymour, New England DT: Jamal Williams, San Diego OLB: Marcus Washington, Washington OLB: Takeo Spikes, Buffalo ILB: James Farrior, Pittsburgh ILB: Donnie Edwards, San Diego CB: Shawn Springs, Washington CB: Antoine Winfield, Minnesota FS: Brian Dawkins, Philadelphia SS: Ed Reed, Baltimore
K: David Akers, Philadelphia P: Brian Moorman, Buffalo KR: Terrence McGee, Buffalo PR: Allen Rossum, Atlanta
Coach: Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego/Bill Cowher, Pittsburgh (one-half vote each) MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Offensive Player: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Defensive Player: James Farrior, LB, Pittsburgh Offensive Rookie: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Defensive Rookie: Jonathan Vilma, LB, New York Jets Comeback Player: Drew Brees, QB, San Diego
Look for my other awards -- front-office, coaching staffs, underrated and overrated -- next week in Monday Morning Quarterback.
FROM THE E-MAIL BAG
I listed my top 12 free-agent in yesterday's column and that was on everyone's mind in the mailbag.
Plaxico Burress averaged 19.9 yards per catch this season.
David Maxwell/Getty Images
NO WAY. BURRESS ISN'T GOING ANYWHERE. From Rocco Vitale of Pittsburgh: "Plex to Baltimore? I know the Ravens will want him but that is taboo as a Steeler. Plex will stay because Big Ben has made it clear that he does not want him to go. Keep up the good work.''
Thanks, Rocco. Well, I know Ben Roethlisberger wants Burress to stay, but someone out there may throw a big bid at the big kid. The Steelers might have to decide with Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El on board, if they want to spend big money on Burress.
WHAT ABOUT BREES? From Al of Harrisburg, Pa.: "You forgot one of the biggest free agents on your 2005 list, Drew Brees. As a Chargers fan, I'm very interested in finding out what will happen with Drew. Did you think he will stay in San Diego for one more year with Philip Rivers there?''
I only put guys on the list who I thought had a decent chance at changing teams. Brees has virtually no chance, because the Chargers aren't going to let him go. Don't worry. He'll be your quarterback opening day 2005 unless something really strange happens.
YOU FORGOT WALTER JONES. From Michael Rosen of Miami: "You didn't include Walter Jones, Seattle's fine left tackle, in your list of impending free agents. Seattle has to either franchise him or Shaun Alexander to keep them. If Seattle doesn't franchise Jones, he would look good in a Dolphins uniform.''
Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
Again, I don't see Jones going anywhere. I think Alexander will leave, because I don't think the Seahawks believe he's worth $7 million a year or whatever someone out there will pay him.
MOSS JUST MADE HIMSELF SOME ENEMIES IN HIS LOCKER ROOM. From Bart of Appleton, Wis.: "I'm sure by now you've seen the footage of RandyMoss heading for the locker room just before the 'need a miracle' onsides kick in Washington on Sunday. I realize it was nearly an impossible situation, but when are we (you, me, Mike Tice, the Vikings, everyone) going to say enough is enough of this self-absorbed, can't-seem-to-win-despite-natural-talent guy? Doesn't his entire team hate him for that attitude?''
Bart, I'll be in your fair city Saturday. Love the Paper Valley. Nice cigar bar down the street. Anyway, the answer is yes. I'm in Minnesota today, working the Moss story, and there's no question there's some anger toward him on Vikings. He did a really stupid thing. He's just not the mature guy you'd want a team leader to be and I was glad to see Matt Birk ream Moss out after the game about it. No, the Vikings aren't going to dump Moss. He's too good, their offense is too Moss-based and he just is a tough guy to cover. But you're right: From Mike Tice on down, this is a guy who has to make amends with his team.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH ...
... Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, who sat out the final regular-season game in Buffalo with bruised ribs.
MMQBTE: Could you have played in the game if you had to?
Roethlisberger: Yeah. I threw before the game, but we just decided it would be smarter because it wasn't like a playoff game for us.
MMQBTE: Will you take a shot if you have to?
Roethlisberger: I don't think I'll need it. Today I'd probably have taken one, just to be safe.
MMQBTE: Pretty incredible that you didn't have to win, Buffalo did, and you still smoked them.
Roethlisberger: At one point during the game I was on the sidelines thinking, 'I wonder if they're over imagining what this game would have been like if we actually really had to win.'
TWO THINGS (FOR TUESDAY) I THINK I THINK
1. I think Shaun Alexander will need a long, long time to rehab his image. After his team wins an emotional game to take the NFC West, and the first thing out of his mouth after the game is that he's ticked off the coaching staff didn't give him a chance to win the rushing title. What a hole he's dug himself.
2. I think Randy Moss is risking being known as much for his petulance as his greatness.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL beat for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com. Monday Morning Quarterback appears in this space every week.