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Monday, June 25, 2012



After a great statistical season by Cam Newton this past year, I started to wonder how it ranked in the pantheon of the best rookie seasons of all-time. Of course, this meant a list had to be made and it felt like a good time to do another Top Ten here on FootballPros. So, I put one together (only NFL draft era players are considered, 1936-present) , got some feedback, changed my address after some suspect emails got sent back as a response to the original list, revised it, paid an outstanding debt I had in the Saints bounty program, closed my eyes and ended up with this:

1. Lawrence Taylor, 1981, New York Giants
Lawrence Taylor (The Original “L.T.”) may have one of the worst statistical seasons on this whole list. What nobody else has on this list is the overall impact on the game and a team that Taylor had. Unofficially, Taylor had 9.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, one interception and 25 pairs of pants wetted by opposing quarterbacks. The last number counts several back-up quarterbacks who could not control their bladders just from watching Taylor streak toward their brethren.

Hyperbole aside, Taylor began a new era of linebackers in the mid to late 1980s who would try and often fail to become the man that came before them. Derrick Thomas came close. There is no question that Taylor help form new blitzing schemes, blocking schemes and new offensive strategy due to the terror he inflicted.

The biggest question about Taylor is exactly what he could have become if he did not play the game with the reckless abandon that defined his life. Those actions led to a career that is filled is some question marks, a need to do what he wanted on plays, arguments with the coaching staff and a general uneasiness towards him by management that led to him being drafted #2 instead of #1 in the first place. Maybe he needed the edge that the life brought. Maybe he could have been even better than he was. Maybe he was just born to be a great linebacker.

While it is easy to forget numbers that forge a career, it will never be easy to forget one of the biggest defensive superstars the sport has ever seen. He still is the only player to ever earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and Defensive Player of the Year honors during his first NFL season. That’s pretty fitting for a guy who was rumored to idolize a guy nicknamed “Hollywood.”

2. Randy Moss, 1998, Minnesota Vikings

Second place on this list of great seasons is another player that had plenty of question marks about attitude along with zero questions about talent. Randy Moss always looked like a man playing against Pop Warner clubs during his college career. Rumors about work ethic and drug use and an exit from Florida State bombarded his draft stock during the 1998 off-season. No one took a chance on Moss until the 21st pick of the first round.

The Vikings, who already had a wide receiver who began his career with questions, took a chance on the physical specimen and reaped the benefits of his great rookie season on their way to a 15-1 campaign that ended in usual Viking heartbreak.

Despite how the season ended, the Viking offense did things the league had not seen for a very long time before 1998. It was still a season before “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Their offense reigned over their peers like Norse Gods and Randy Moss was the man catching manna from the skies. They racked up 556 points and averaged 6.2 yards per play. Moss finished with 69 catches for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns along with several plays that made NFL corners seem like mortals going against a special man created by the Gods.

Like Achilles, fans and teams now know that Moss has his weaknesses. They have led to a trail of bad divorces from teams, but no team will ever talk about how the 6' 4" wide receiver from West Virginia was not the best talent that they have seen at the position.

Randy Moss’ first TD catch (4-95-2TD for game):

3. Gale Sayers, 1965, Chicago Bears

Most of the fans of the NFL know Gale Sayers from the mesmerizing highlight reels voiced over by the late, great John Facenda and this quote: “Just give me 18 inches of daylight; that’s all I need.” Before watching highlights of Sayers, many would think that the comment is egotistical. After watching highlights of Sayers, many would think that the comment was too modest.

Gale Sayers burst on the scene in the NFL during a time when the brand new AFL was gaining steam as a new, more wide open league that could compete with the NFL. In fact, Sayers could have been matched with Otis Taylor and Len Dawson on the Kansas City Chiefs if he had chosen that route. The NFL and the Chicago Bears are glad he chose them.

Nicknamed the “Kansas Comet,” Sayers spent 1965 weaving, swerving, meandering, stuttering, stopping, cutting and running over opposing defenses. He toted the ball just 166 times during the season, but scored 14 touchdowns and had a 5.2 rushing average. He returned punts at 14.9 clip along with a TD. He had a 31.4 (His career average is still #1 all-time) kick return average with another score. He added 29 more catches for 6 tallies and over 500 yards.

Like a comet seen from earth, though, the flash of light was short-lived after a devastating 1968 knee injury. Sayers, refusing to retire, came back and finished his career as a bruising, between-the-tackles runner. No one will ever forget that first season.

4. Dick Lane, 1952, Los Angeles Rams

Dick “Night Train” Lane entered the league fresh out of an aircraft factory and promptly swooped down to nab 14 interceptions during a 12 game season to pace a 9-3 club. Those 14 interceptions still stand as a NFL record for one season. A modern player would have to pick off 19 balls to beat the record in terms of interceptions per game.

Of course, contemporaries of Lane’s day might remember him more not for the interceptions but the brutal hits upon the head and neck that were legal at the time. Lane was a complete player in the secondary.

The funny thing is that Night Train was not even supposed to be a defensive back. When he showed up, coaches thought he had promise as a tight end and gave him the number 81. Instead, Richard Lane became a feared leader in the defensive backfield and just never changed his number. The NFL record book may be changed forever.

5. Eric Dickerson, 1983, Los Angeles Rams

After a Super Bowl appearance that was deemed a surprise during the 1979 season, the Rams had one more good season before the team began to fall from grace. The Rams combined for 8 wins in 1981 and 1982. From 1983 to 1985, the team won over 10 games each season. Why? Well, they drafted Eric Dickerson.

With apologies to Vince Ferragamo and Dieter Brock, Dickerson was the only thing to really fear from the Rams offense. Dickerson normally would be seen as a blue, yellow and white blur due to his uniform and trademark full neck roll. The other trademark, his goggles, were not usually seen by defenders since they stared at the back of his helmet as he ran away from them. He was a spindly combination of speed and high knees that was just hard to take down.

Drafted second in the draft out of SMU, Eric Dickerson ran roughshod over opponents to the tune of 390 carries for 1,808 yards and 18 touchdowns while totaling 2,212 yards from scrimmage. He had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage during three of his first four seasons.

6. Barry Sanders, 1989, Detroit Lions

Before Barry Sanders entered the NFL, no one quite like him existed. Since he has retired, no one quite like him has existed. On the field, he was probably the most elusive and talented pure runner of all-time. Despite the skills and despite the 2,850 yards (Including the bowl game) he put up at Oklahoma State during the 1988 season; there were question marks that surrounded his demure frame.

All Barry Sanders did in 1989 was rush for nearly 1,500 yards, score 14 touchdowns and average 5.3 yards per carry. He also led the league in broken ankles. He made 4 yard runs look like the best of Tarkenton’s scrambles. He did all of that in just 13 starts and began a new era of hope in the Motor City. Before Barry, the Lions went to the playoffs three times in nineteen seasons (once with a fluky 4-5 record during the 1982 season). After Sanders was drafted, they went to the playoffs 5 times in 9 seasons.

7. Earl Campbell, 1978, Houston Oilers

Since Mel Kiper did not post detailed breakdowns on players in 1978, there may have been a few defenders that were not sure what to expect from the #1 Overall Pick from Texas. To quote Mr. Clubber Lang (As played by Mr. T), they should have expected “Pain.”

The beginning of an Earl Campbell run would begin with a simple thrust of a pigskin into his abdomen, the middle would be a whirling dervish that resembled a Texas Tornado and the end result would be a scattered mess of defenders, jerseys, shoes and other various items. Bruises and power signified Earl Campbell.

His first year in the league saw him pound out 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Oilers won 32 times during his first three seasons while he scored 45 times. There nothing confirmed about the rumor that Campbell still takes a portion of the profits from Chattem, Inc, the makers of IcyHot.

8. Ronnie Lott, 1981, San Francisco 49ers

In 1980, the San Francisco 49ers were 26th in the league in defensive points allowed. By the end of 1981, they were 2nd in points allowed and had become Super Bowl Champions. There was no period of time when Ronnie Lott wasn’t a dominating player in the NFL.

Ronnie Lott was a player who did not need to play with all his limbs and would try to remove some from his opponents. Lott played in the defensive backfield from day one of camp and turned in one of better all-around seasons by a corner in history by garnering 89 tackles and seven interceptions. He returned three of those picks for touchdowns.

The only problem with Lott’s first year is that it happened to be the rookie season of Lawrence Taylor.

9. Dan Marino, 1983, Miami Dolphins

After a quarterback is drafted, the natural question is when he will be ready to start. How long will it take? Does he have the right mentality? Should he sit one year? Dan Marino entered a NFL regular season game in place of an ineffective David Woodley against the New Orleans Saints in The Superdome on October 2, 1983. The Dolphins waited too long.

Marino began his career as a NFL starter one week later during a game that would signify a pattern during a large portion of his career. Marino threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns only to see Joe Ferguson notch 5 touchdowns and 419 against the Miami defense during a Buffalo overtime win. Despite the first result, Marino led the team to a 7-2 record when he started.

What happened for the next 8 games was a precursor to what was to come for Dan Marino’s career statistics. In just over half of a season in playing time, Marino threw for 20 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards with only 9 interceptions as a rookie. It took Marino one more year to break all-time passing records for touchdowns and yards in a season. Slacker.

10. Devin Hester, 2006, Chicago Bears

A special teams player? Let’s remember the context of what Devin Hester gave the viewing world in 2006. Hester was a second round draft pick by the Bears who was thought to help as a nickel back and on returns after he showed that ability at the University of Miami (FL). Most draft experts hated the pick since the Bears of 2005 had a terrible offense. It turned out that Devin Hester was an amazing offensive player; just no one knew it.

He returned three punts and two kicks for touchdowns, becoming the first person to have five return touchdowns in a single season. He became the first person to return the opening kick for a touchdown during the Super Bowl (even with all the hype leading up to the game). Without him, the world is never entertained with the “crown their ***” rant from Dennis Green. He also had a 108 yard return of a missed field goal against the New York Giants.

He ended up breaking Brian Mitchell’s return records in about 40% of the amount of touches and he is still going. To date he has 12 punt returns, 5 kick returns, that field goal return and the Super Bowl return. Since the slow phase-out of return plays has already begun, Hester may be the last man to hold the return titles.

Honorable Mentions (In no particular order):

-Jevon Kearse, 1999, Tennessee Titans- “The Freak” had 14.5 sacks in 1999 and had 26 during his first two seasons.

-Clinton Portis, 2002, Denver Broncos- 273 att-1508 yards, 5.5 ave, 15TD, 33 catches and 2TD.

-Edgerrin James, 1999, Indianapolis Colts- Edge was really hard to leave off of the list and was one of the final cuts. His rushing average of 4.2 was not as good as the guys in the Top Ten, but his addition to the Colts was important for their run a 10+ win seasons. 369-1553, 13TD, 62 catches, 4TD.

-Cam Newton, 2011, Carolina Panthers- Count this one as the one most likely to supplant one of the others on the list. We just don’t know his overall impact on the league or future results yet. 35 combined TDs while setting a record for QB rushing touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at.

-Ben Roethlisberger, 2004, Pittsburgh Steelers- Rookies are not supposed to go 13-0, no matter the offense being run or because how dominating his own team’s defense is. It was him or Marino at #9 on the list. I went with Marino. I won’t laugh at lists with Big Ben on them.

-Billy Sims, 1980, Detroit Lions- 313 carries for 1,303 yards and 13TDs with 51 receptions. Gave hope to the Lions when the team had either 6 or 7 wins during seven of ten seasons before he arrived.

-Franco Harris, 1972, Pittsburgh Steelers- 5.6 yards per attempt, his best. The 1974 Draft is long remembered in Pittsburgh, but 1972 helped, too.

-Mike Haynes, 1976, New England Patriots- The Patriots were 3-11 in 1975. Without the Ray Hamilton game, Haynes’ 8 interceptions and 2 punt return touchdowns may have put the Pats in the Super Bowl.

-Derrick Thomas, 1989, Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs had other things happen, but in the 8 years after Thomas arrived, Kansas City never won less than nine games. 10 sacks.

-John Jefferson, 1978, San Diego Chargers- He made goggles cool before Eric Dickerson did. His 56 catch, 1,001 yard, 13 TD rookie year helped him become the first WR to gain 1,000 yards receiving during his first three seasons.

-Steve Van Buren, 1944, Philadelphia Eagles- Had to go real old-school on one of these. His 5INT was 2nd on the team and he had five rushing touchdowns while averaging 5.6 a carry. He also returned a kick and a punt for a touchdown.

-George Rogers, 1981, New Orleans Saints- The move to draft him over L.T. looked okay for exactly one year, but Rogers was no slouch. 1,600+ yards and 13TD.

-Ottis Anderson, 1979, St. Louis Cardinals- 1600+ yards, but team was still 5-11. Became more famous during Giants Super Bowl a decade or so later.

-Curt Warner, 1983, Seattle Seahawks- Did you know that there was once a Penn State RB that was really good in the NFL?

-Bob Hayes, 1965, Dallas Cowboys- 21+ yards per catch, 12 touchdowns and 1,000 yards.

-Aldon Smith, 2011, San Francisco 49ers- Yeah, so, during the research, I found out that 14 sack seasons are rare for rookies.

-Al “Bubba” Baker, 1978, Detroit Lions- Had 23 unofficial sacks in 1978. I wish I knew the numbers were real. We need to get a weekend with a Sabol for this.

-Mark Carrier, 1990, Chicago Bears- I was alive for this one! Okay, I’m getting batty, time to wrap this up.



-Red Grange, 1925, Chicago Bears- If it is proven that this season was not a huge reason the NFL was saved, then I’ll remove his name from the list.

Friday, June 15, 2012

They're Everywhere, Man

Busy Sports Week Needed an Emergency Podcast with Blots
1. Intro
2. US Open (0-11)
3. Rome v. Stern (12-25)
4. NBA Finals (26-34)
5. Sandusky Trial (35-45)
6. Truth About Lance and Sports and PEDs (46-1:05)
7. Model American (1:05-1:10)
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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Around The World in 80 Mintues

Houston Colleague Blots is on as we Discuss:

1. Intro

2. NHL Stanley Cup and How to Win One (0-15)

3. NBA Playoffs, An Ode to Pops, Durant (15-35)

4. MLB Injuries, Josh Hamilton, AL Central (35- 1:05)

5. Last NFL Draft Thoughts (1:05-1:15)

6. Model American


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