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90% of the All-Decade Team

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 30, 2009

There's one year left in the decade of the '00s, but that didn't stop ESPN from naming its All-decade offensive and defensive teams. It is obvious that we should wait for the 2009 season to unfold before we name the All-Decade team of the '00s. But that doesn't mean we can't take a sneak peak at what the eventual team should look like.

I'll mostly be using Doug's approximate value system, with of course only the years from 2000-2008 included. I'll give each player 100% credit for their best season of this nine-year decade, 95% credit for their second best season, 90% for their third best, and so on. For each position, in addition to the approximate value grades for the candidates, we'll list the number of pro bowls each player made, his numbers of games and games started, total seasons as a starter, awards (consisting of the AP's Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Super Bowl MVP, Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year), and first team and second team all pro honors. For QB, RB and WR, I'll also use the systems I used in the "greatest ever" series for each of those positions. Let's get started.

Quarterback

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	ANY/A	PLAYER
129	8	144	144	9	4.5	4	2	8741	Peyton Manning
 92	4	113	111	7	4	1	1	4358	Tom Brady
 86	3	 96	 95	5	0	0	0	4039	Daunte Culpepper
 81	4	111	106	7	0	0	0	4031	Jeff Garcia
 87	2	104	 99	6	0	0	0	4019	Trent Green
 83	3	107	106	7	1	1	1	4001	Drew Brees
 94	5	122	122	9	0	0	0	3888	Donovan McNabb
 73	3	 93	 85	6	1	1	0	3836	Kurt Warner
 92	5	144	144	9	0	0	3	3119	Brett Favre
 69	3	105	104	7	0.5	0	1	2962	Steve McNair
 57	3	 58	 58	3	1	2	0	2934	Rich Gannon

The ANY/A number is the QB's value derived from the formula in the Greatest QB of all time series. There's nothing new that can be gleamed from a Manning-Brady debate, so let's just say Manning has the numbers and Brady has the rings. Moving on, Manning's got 4.5 awards (2.5 MVPs, 1 OPOY and 1 SBMVP) while Brady has 4 awards (2 SBMVPs, 1 MVP, 1 OPOY). No one touches Manning when it comes to ANY/A, my preferred way of ranking the QBs. But he also is #1 by a mile in AV, Pro Bowls, and first or second team All Pro honors. For all the accolades Brady receives (ESPN also named him their player of the decade), I was surprised to see he was only named 1st or 2nd team all pro twice in the decade. Even if you view Manning and Brady as equals, Manning's played two more seasons than Brady this decade, something that should tip the scale in Manning's favor for most observers.

As for the second team QB, Brady is the clear choice. He wins in ANY/A, and he also has the hardware. Favre and McNabb have been very good for most of the decade, and have the AV, Pro Bowls and starts to prove it. But neither fare particularly well when it comes to ANY/A. With another good season, Brees should jump into second place in adjusted net yards added over average.

First team All-Decade QB: Peyton Manning

Second team All-Decade QB: Tom Brady

Running Backs
Let's just get it out of the way -- LT is the top running back of the decade. But we've got three more RBs to select and we're going to need some help. The far right column lists the running back value score, representing the score each RB received using the most dominant RB ever formula.

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA   	awards	AP1	AP2	RB VAL	PLAYER
115	5	127	127	8	2	3	3	4222	LaDainian Tomlinson
 74	3	 81	 65	4	1	3	0	2937	Priest Holmes
 67	3	 83	 64	5	3	2	0	2520	Marshall Faulk
 69	3	123	 96	7	2	1	1	2422	Shaun Alexander
 90	3	110	 98	7	0	1	0	2399	Tiki Barber
 69	2	100	 95	6	1	0	1	1923	Clinton Portis
 98	3	125	119	8	0	0	2	1899	Edgerrin James
 65	2	 99	 78	6	0	1	0	1678	Brian Westbrook
 79	4	110	 97	6	0	0	1	1622	Ahman Green
 50	2	 68	 48	4	0	1	1	1544	Larry Johnson
 68	1	122	119	8	1	1	0	1333	Jamal Lewis
 59	2	 92	 92	6	0	1	1	1319	Curtis Martin
 60	1	 87	 65	4	0	1	0	1208	Ricky Williams
 46	1	 69	 57	4	0	0	1	1179	Steven Jackson
 73	1	115	115	8	0	0	1	1125	Fred Taylor
 53	3	104	 96	6	0	0	0	1041	Corey Dillon
 23	2	 30	 24	2	1	1	1	 975	Adrian Peterson

Except for perhaps tight end and outside linebacker, no other all-decade position has as large a disparity between #1 and #2. LT leads all running backs in RB value, AV, Pro Bowls, games, starts, seasons starting, first team all pro honors and second team all pro honors. Only Marshall Faulk prevents a clean sweep, as Faulk's two AP player of the year awards and 1 MVP trophy top Tomlinson, who has "just" one of each. After LT, though, there are lots of RBs with good cases to make:

  • Faulk and Holmes were the most dominant, with Holmes having three first-team all pro nominations and Faulk having the two OPOY awards. They join Tomlinson in the top three for running back dominance over the past nine seasons.
  • AV likes Edge and Barber next, but the hardware says Shaun Alexander. And who would have guessed that Ahman Green made more Pro Bowls this decade than any RB besides LT?

I don't feel particularly comfortable naming Faulk to the first team, because he was a stud for just two seasons -- '00 and '01. Holmes' peak lasted a little longer; he had three and a half big years. Barber was better for even longer, but his peak was less impressive and he had fumbling issues in several of those seasons. James was terrific in 2000, and had some good but not great post-ACL years in Indianapolis. He's been piling up the AV because he's hung around as a starter, but I don't know if that's enough to make this team. With a monster season this year, All Day Peterson might have an argument by the real end of the decade. Shaun Alexander never seemed to garner respect for his great numbers, probably because he was playing with Jones and Hutchinson (more on them, later) against some bad NFC West defenses. But his numbers are tough to ignore.

I'm going to play the dominance card here, and stick with what the numbers tell me. Thirty years from now, I want people to remember how awesome Priest Holmes was for three and a half seasons, and not how Edgerrin James wasn't too bad for nine seasons. People tend to remember Holmes as a "system back", but I'm not sure he played in more favorable situations than Faulk, Alexander, Portis (Denver) or James (Indy).

First team All-Decade RBs: LaDainian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes

Faulk didn't make the All-Decade team of the '90s, and it seems odd that an arguable top five RB of all time won't make any all decade team. Let's throw him on to the second team, on the basis of his two OPOY awards. That leaves James, Barber and Alexander, who will continue this battle when Canton only takes one or two of them. I'm partial to Barber because I felt he produced with the least around him -- he didn't have Manning/Glenn/Saturday, and he didn't have Hasselbeck/Jones/Hutchinson. He was very good for a very long time, and he has the best yards per carry average of any running back this decade.

Second team All-Decade RBs: Marshall Faulk and Tiki Barber

Head nod to the fullbacks, even though we don't need to name one.

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA   	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
31	3	131	95	8	0	0	2	Tony Richardson
27	1	 75	59	4	0	0	0	Richie Anderson
25	3	 95	74	5	0	0	0	Mike Alstott
23	2	117	79	7	0	1	0	Mack Strong
23	4	141	87	7	0	2	1	Lorenzo Neal
23	1	109	63	6	0	1	0	William Henderson
23	0	141	89	6	0	0	0	Brad Hoover
18	1	 85	69	6	0	0	2	Fred Beasley
18	1	100	45	4	0	0	0	Mike Sellers
18	0	102	67	7	0	0	0	Cory Schlesinger
18	0	 83	62	5	0	0	0	Justin Griffith

I'll just state the obvious: if you want a blocking fullback, take Neal. If you want a pass catching fullback, take Anderson. If you want an all around fullback, take Richardson. If you want a half back that lines up at fullback, take Alstott.

Wide Receivers

If you think naming the running backs was difficult, try fitting a piece of paper between Moss/Harrison/Owens. I ranked them 3-4-5 on the career list when I analyzed the greatest WRs of all time, which means one way or another, we're going to be leaving an all-time great off the first team. Of course, all had some big years in the '90s, but their success in the '00s is equally, uh, equal:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA   	awards	AP1	AP2	WR VAL	PLAYER
96	6	127	125	8	0	5	0	5952	Terrell Owens
99	7	130	130	8	0	2	5	5614	Marvin Harrison
92	4	138	137	9	0	3	0	5119	Randy Moss
92	7	142	132	9	0	1	1	5038	Torry Holt
67	4	106	 85	6	0	2	1	4211	Steve Smith
73	4	138	136	9	1	0	3	4197	Hines Ward
76	5	121	105	7	0	2	1	3884	Chad Johnson
72	2	141	135	9	0	1	0	3495	Derrick Mason
71	3	110	109	7	0	0	1	3491	Rod Smith
53	3	 86	 86	6	0	1	1	3340	Andre Johnson
63	4	114	112	8	0	0	0	3324	Joe Horn
48	3	 80	 77	6	1	0	0	3040	Anquan Boldin
85	3	125	112	8	0	0	1	2940	Reggie Wayne
64	1	137	122	8	0	0	0	2732	Laveranues Coles
61	1	135	134	9	0	1	0	2645	Muhsin Muhammad
66	0	128	121	9	0	0	0	2554	Plaxico Burress
46	3	 76	 76	5	0	1	0	2526	Larry Fitzgerald
54	2	124	115	8	0	0	1	2333	Eric Moulds
72	2	136	130	9	0	0	0	2204	Isaac Bruce

AV views the great trio as roughly equal, but Owens does have an edge over Moss in both my WR ranking system and in all pro honors. Harrison made 7 Pro Bowls and was named first or second team all pro seven times. Moss actually played more games and more seasons than the other two, but that's about it.

Still, doesn't it feel weird to not have Randy Moss on the All-Decade team? He's not far behind either Harrison or Owens, and he should make up some ground in 2009. If you check the raw numbers, Moss, Harrison and Owens are almost dead even in receiving yards, but Owens and Moss top Harrison by 14 and 12 receiving touchdowns, respectively. But perhaps a more telling table would be this:

	        QB		       Games	Perc
Harrison	Peyton Manning	       130	100%

Owens		Jeff Garcia		56	 44%
		Tony Romo		41	 32%
		Donovan McNabb		21	 17%
		Drew Bledsoe		 6	  5%
		Tim Rattay		 3	  2%

Moss		Daunte Culpepper	70	 51%
		Tom Brady		17	 12%
		Matt Cassel		15	 11%
		Kerry Collins		15	 11%
		Andrew Walter		 7	  5%
		Aaron Brooks		 6	  4%
		Todd Bouman		 3	  2%
		Gus Frerotte		 2	  1%
		Spergon Wynn		 2	  1%
		Marques Tuiasosopo	 1	  1%

Even if you love Daunte Culpepper -- and I do -- that still leaves over a third of Moss' games this decade being played without Culpepper or Brady. Owens has played with a bunch of QBs, but they're all pretty good. It's just as true, however, that those QBs were at their best when playing with Owens. What is clear is that Harrison has had the most favorable QB situation and Moss the least favorable, and I'm willing to vault Moss ahead of Harrison because of that. We don't know how good Harrison would have been without Peyton Manning, but we can reasonably assume he wouldn't be as good.

Who will our 4th WR be? Torry Holt is the obvious candidate. He has 11,872 receiving yards in the nine-year decade, which isn't just impressive. It's amazing. Only Harrison and Jerry Rice have ever had as many receiving yards in a nine year span.

If Steve Smith has a huge 2009 -- and I mean a huge year even for him -- he might be able to bump Holt off of the second team. But for now, that spot is all locked up.

First team All-Decade WRs: Terrell Owens and Randy Moss
Second team All-Decade WRs: Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt

Tight End:

Finally, a breather. At least at the first team level.

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
87	9	143	143	9	0	4	4	Tony Gonzalez
68	5	 93	 89	6	0	3	0	Antonio Gates
55	4	 95	 93	7	0	1	0	Jeremy Shockey
53	5	 95	 85	5	0	1	1	Jason Witten
52	4	123	108	8	0	0	0	Alge Crumpler
47	0	 82	 79	6	0	0	0	Dallas Clark
44	2	104	 99	6	0	0	1	Todd Heap
43	0	120	102	7	0	0	0	Marcus Pollard
38	3	122	 98	6	0	0	0	Bubba Franks

AV does not do a terrific job measuring tight ends, who are hybrid wide receivers/tackles. But it's obvious that Tony Gonzalez is the best tight end of the decade, and one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game. What about the 2nd TE?

  • With a great season, either Gates or Witten can steal this spot. Right now their resumes are very similar, except Gates has the big edge in touchdowns and first team all pro honors.
  • Gonzalez has played an incredible 143 games this decade. Only one other TE has played over 120 games. Would you have guessed it was Reggie Kelly?

First team All-Decade TE: Tony Gonzalez
Second team All-Decade TE: Antonio Gates

Offensive Tackles:

This is a three horse race that, in some ways, is even harder to crack than the wide receiver dilemma. With offensive linemen, we just don't have much to go on.

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
84	8	136	136	9	0	4	2	Walter Jones
80	6	113	113	8	0	2	1	Orlando Pace
76	8	116	115	8	0	3	3	Jonathan Ogden
72	4	133	128	8	0	3	1	Willie Anderson
67	2	113	111	7	0	1	0	Matt Light
67	3	106	106	7	0	0	0	Tarik Glenn
63	5	 81	 81	5	0	1	4	Willie Roaf
62	5	134	134	8	0	0	0	Flozell Adams
62	3	134	134	9	0	0	1	Tra Thomas
60	6	136	136	9	0	0	0	Chris Samuels
59	1	144	144	9	0	0	0	Jon Runyan

You might recall that AV incorporates the Jonathan Ogden rule, which requires all first team tackles to get a bunch of AV points even if they play on terrible offenses. Even still, Ogden comes in behind Jones and Pace, the other highly decorated tackles of this era. Willie Anderson comes in with a surprising three first-team all pro nominations, although three other tackles with less distinction made more Pro Bowls.

Jones appears to be the class of the tackle list, if based on nothing more than games played. Separating out Jones/Pace/Ogden is almost impossible for someone to do without a lot of time and film to study. But I don't know how anyone could argue against Jones, who is either tied or leading in AV, Pro Bowls, seasons starting, first team AP nominations and total all pro nominations.

What about Ogden/Pace? They're interesting because they're so different. Ogden has played on some awful offenses; Pace has played on some terrific offenses. AV sees this and thinks that Pace has helped make some offenses awesome, while Ogden has just been the star of bad offenses. No one would argue that Pace doesn't deserve a lot of credit for The Greatest Show on Turf; but who knows how the players would have done if their situations were reversed? In some ways, it's the old Emmitt Smith/Barry Sanders debate.

Without more data, I'm just going to say that Ogden's six first/second team all pro honors beats Pace's three.

Who should be our four offensive tackle? Roaf, Anderson, Samuels and Adams stand out due to their Pro Bowls, but this is a two-horse race of Willies. Roaf has had the better career, but Anderson was better during the '00s.

First team All-Decade OTs: Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden
Second team All-Decade OTs: Orlando Pace and Willie Anderson

Guards

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
81	8	143	143	9	0	6	2	Alan Faneca
66	7	112	112	7	0	2	3	Will Shields
65	6	116	116	7	0	4	2	Steve Hutchinson
56	4	132	118	8	0	2	0	Brian Waters
52	2	123	123	8	0	0	1	Leonard Davis
51	6	112	112	7	0	2	0	Larry Allen
48	0	141	141	9	0	0	0	Mike Goff
47	3	110	110	7	0	0	1	Marco Rivera
46	1	109	108	7	0	0	1	Adam Timmerman
45	5	108	108	8	0	0	2	Ruben Brown

Alan Faneca is an obvious choice as the best guard of the decade; 8 Pro Bowls (and counting) leads all guards, as do his 143 starts and six first team all pro nominations. It's an interesting debate between Will Shields and Steve Hutchinson for the other spot, but there's a very good chance Hutchinson's looking at 7 Pro Bowls and 5 first team all pro honors by the end of this decade.

Should we have a pair of Chiefs on the second team? Larry Allen is a future HOFer, but he made the All-Decade team of the '90s -- I don't think he has been good enough for long enough to make the '00 All-Decade team. Brian Waters made the Pro Bowl last season, and if he can get another one next season, that should guarantee his spot on the team. As it stands, I still think he's the best option available.

First team All-Decade Gs: Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson
Second team All-Decade Gs: Will Shields and Brian Waters

Center

We're going to close today with a very interesting position. Five guys can make legitimate arguments to being the first team all-decade center:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
76	3	138	138	9	0	2	1	Jeff Saturday
63	6	131	131	8	0	2	3	Kevin Mawae
57	6	124	123	8	0	0	1	Matt Birk
57	6	134	134	8	0	1	1	Olin Kreutz
55	2	108	108	6	0	2	0	Tom Nalen
49	1	143	137	9	0	0	0	Casey Wiegmann
45	0	129	129	9	0	0	0	Brad Meester
45	2	107	105	7	0	1	1	Jeff Hartings
43	1	 88	 87	6	0	0	1	Dan Koppen
43	1	129	113	7	0	0	1	Shaun O'Hara
43	0	124	111	6	0	0	0	Andy McCollum
41	0	137	134	9	0	0	0	Todd McClure
  • Jeff Saturday's best argument? AV, baby! Saturday had the vision to be born in 1975, meaning his prime 10 football years would come in this decade. He's started the most games of any center in the '00s, and he's been one of three staples on the most consistent offense of the decade. He also received Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP Award in 2006.
  • Kevin Mawae has been a dominant center all decade, bookended by first team all pro honors in 2001 and in 2008. His three second team all pro nominations give him five pieces of such distinction; no other center has more than three.
  • Matt Birk went to Harvard. As a sportswriter discussing him, I'm contractually obligated to say that. He missed the '05 season due to a hip injury, otherwise he very likely would lead all centers with seven Pro Bowls. He blocked for an incredible passing offense early in the decade and an incredible rushing offense later in the decade. He was pretty smart to team up with Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson. With a big first season in Baltimore, he might be able to make this team by the real end of the decade.
  • Olin Kreutz was ESPN's choice as the top center of the decade. With six Pro Bowls and 134 starts, he's been a constant force on an otherwise bad offense. AV doesn't love Kreutz because of all the bad QBs he's had to snap to, but Bears fans know how lucky they've been.
  • Tom Nalen would probably be the choice if the decade spanned from '96 to '05. He won two Super Bowls then and was the driving force behind an incredible offense. Still, his work this decade has been pretty good: his two first team All Pros are tied for the lead, and he helped block for several different 1,000 yard rushers. Perhaps as impressively, he helped get Jake Plummer to the AFC Championship game.

I left Edgerrin James off the all-decade team entirely, and Harrison was the odd receiver out on our first team offense. Let's tip our caps to that great Colts offense, and admit that it's not all Peyton Manning back there.

First team All-Decade C: Jeff Saturday
Second team All-Decade C: Kevin Mawae

All-decade defensive selections to come tomorrow.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 7:25 am and is filed under Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.