November 2007

Sean Taylor

Being a Miami Hurricane fan means that I have been watching Sean Taylor play football since he was a freshman on the 2001 National Champion team. A ferocious hitter, Taylor excelled for the Hurricanes and was a first round draft pick of the Washington Redskins, the fifth player taken in the 2004 draft. Though he had his ups and downs on and off the field, he was one of the NFL’s best safeties and played in the Pro Bowl following the 2006 season, providing the highlight of that normally boring affair when he blasted Buffalo punter Brian Moorman as Moorman tried to pick up a first down on a fake punt.

He became a father and was engaged to be married. His teammates said that ever since the birth of his daughter, he was a changed man — humble, caring, a “team player”.

On November 26, 2007, Sean was shot by an intruder in his home and died of his injuries the next day.

Speculation immediately ensued. Was this a “hit” by a criminal element that Taylor was associated with? Was he trying to cut ties with his old neighborhood and they didn’t want to let go? Was it simply a random burglary?

In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter. He did not deserve to be gunned down in his own home leaving his 18 month old daughter to grow up without her natural father. I find it hard to imagine a criminal enterprise that Taylor could have been involved in that would cause me to sit back and think, “Oh yeah, he deserved this.” Michael Vick abused dogs and deserves to go to jail. Even Rae Carruth is paying his debt to society, not lying cold in the ground. Sean Taylor should have had the chance to deal with his past, enjoy his present, and look forward to his future. He was just 24 years old.

Rest in peace, Sean.

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John Elway

The first pick of the classic draft of 1983 out of Stanford, Elway had a rough rookie start against the Pittsburgh Steelers in his first game but led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs in his second season. His early Superbowl failures were less a reflection on his shortcomings than a testament to the fact that those Bronco teams would never have gotten that far if not for his prodigious talents.

Possessing a rifle arm and a terrific athlete, Elway performed feats of magic at times, throwing 70 yard bombs while on the run. Finally, with the arrival of Mike Shanahan as head coach and a little known sixth round draft choice Terrell Davis, Elway finally tasted a Superbowl victory when the Broncos defeated the defending NFL Champion Green Bay Packers in Superbowl XXXII. The 1998 Broncos, perhaps one of the great teams in NFL history, breezed through the regular season and playoffs. Elway capped his Hall of Fame career by winning the Superbowl MVP award as the Broncos defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Superbowl XXXIII.

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Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens had a great game against the Washington Redskins, accounting for all of the Dallas Cowboys touchdowns in a 28-23 win. He even knocked down the potential winning touchdown pass from Jason Campbell at the end of the game. I gave the nod to Owens over Randy Moss due to the fact that T.O. was the key factor in a much more competitive game.

For the contest, Owens caught 8 balls for 173 yards and four touchdowns.

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Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben takes the honors this week after his great performance against the Cleveland Browns. Although the Steelers went down early against the Brownies, Ben kept his composure and brought the Steelers back from a 21-6 deficit to win 31-28. The Steelers poor kickoff coverage kept the Browns in the game, but Ben gamely scrambled 30 yards for one touchdown and threw the winning TD pass to Heath Miller late in the game.

For the game, Ben was 23 of 34 for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception. He is on pace to shatter club records for passing this year.

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Dan Fouts

One of my favorite players of all time is Dan Fouts, the quarterback for the San Diego Chargers from 1973 until 1987. Under offensive mastermind Don Coryell, the Chargers played with a bold, high scoring style that utilized some of the best offensive talent ever to be featured on a single team. Running backs Chuck Muncie and James Brooks, tight end Kellen Winslow, wide receivers Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson and later Wes Chandler terrorized NFL defenses as the Chargers threw the ball more than any other team. This was not the dink-and-dunk Bill Walsh offense, this was a daring down-the-field attack that consistently resulted in big plays and touchdowns. The closest any team has come to matching the Chargers of this era was the 1999 St. Louis Rams, whose accurate, but immobile, QB, Kurt Warner, seemed to be channeling the Fouts of the early 80’s.

Fouts and the Chargers played in what might be the most exciting game in NFL history, the 1981 Divisional Playoff game against the Miami Dolphins in the Orange Bowl. This seesaw affair featured the Chargers exploding out of the gate to take a 24-0 lead, trail 38-31 in the fourth quarter, then tie the game to send it into overtime. Missed field goals were featured on both sides until Rolf Benirschke finally ended the marathon, winning for the Chargers 41-38. Fouts and Winslow were awesome in this matchup, with Fouts completing 33 of 53 for 433 yards and 3 TD’s while Winslow hauled in a record 13 receptions for 166 yards. The Chargers Superbowl dreams were put on ice, however, as they were defeated in the AFC Championship game in Cincinnati where the wind chill was an NFL record -58 degrees.

Dan Fouts never made it to the Superbowl, largely because these Charger teams featured a defense that finished near the bottom of the league every year. His ability to run this high risk, high reward offense so effectively should not be underestimated. Very few teams in the NFL have tried to run a similar offense since, largely due to the fact that you need to have a very special player under center. I was in attendance as Fouts was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

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