JJ Lanier

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HOF

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Falcon franchise is no stranger to having Hall of Fame players.

In fact, some of the best players at their position have spent time in the ATL- Tony Gonzalez, Deion Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Brett Favre.

It’s just that when you think of those guys, their time in Atlanta isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, unless you happen to be a Falcons fan. (Gonzalez might be the one exception, although I believe most NFL fans think of him more as Kansas City Chief than a Falcon.)

The two Hall of Famers you could associate most with the franchise is Charles Humphrey and Morten Anderson. It’s obviously impressive and an honor to be elected to the Hall, but neither of those two names are going to win you a best in show prize.

There’s a good bet that ten years from now Atlanta will have at least one player, if not two, being inducted into the Hall of Fame that will drastically improve their profile in Canton.

The first player, Julio Jones, is basically a given. The All-Decade Team member has been one of the best wideouts since entering the league and as long as he stays healthy, should be productive for the next few years.

Even if he were to leave Atlanta in search of a title, or because both decided to part ways, the sure to be first ballot inductee will likely be the greatest player in franchise history, who has spent a majority of his professional career with them.

And unless Deion entered the Hall as Falcon, Jones will undoubtedly be their best to put on the golden jacket.

The other player, Matt Ryan, isn’t such a sure thing, but he isn’t far off either. Ryan is in that unenviable position where even though his individual stats and wins aren’t bad, neither category is great enough to justify his inclusion.

A perfect example is the comparison between Ryan and Eli Manning. For all intents and purposes Ryan has better individual stats than Eli in almost every category, including actual winning percentage.

But, those two Super Bowl rings Manning has given him a better chance, currently, at making the Hall because both those wins trump his more mediocre stats.

Marino is another example where he only appeared in one Super Bowl but his play and stats were so other worldly, there was no way he wasn’t going to be a Hall of Famer.

Either Ryan is going to have to win more games and at least make another Super Bowl in order to see his bust enshrined, or he’s going to have to have a couple great seasons that really pad his stats.

The good thing for Ryan is much like Jones, as long as he can stay healthy, he’ll have enough time to do what’s necessary to achieve a player’s ultimate individual honor.

Of course, I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention that Julio Jones will certainly play a big part.

It’s like having a team’s quarterback and wideout on your fantasy football; it’s a win/win situation.

Making it into the Hall of Fame is an honor and I’m not trying to demean that accomplishment for anyone.

The inductees entering as an Atlanta Falcon may not bring the most notoriety with them, but that’s about to change within the next year’s or so. Only question is, will there be more than one?

Tip It Off

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Well, after months of watching old games, listening to pundits regurgitate the same storylines, and reading enough Top Ten articles that even David Letterman would roll his eyes, the return of sports is now on the periphery…in a limited capacity…at the end of the summer…for only a select number of teams.

The first domino to fall was hockey, which came up with a creative approach to the remainder of their season, consisting of qualifying rounds and round robin seeding games, to determine the 16 playoff teams.

With an expected start date sometime in late July, I imagine Gary Bettman must have been optimistic- if you’re starving for fan attention being the only game in town has its’ advantages.

It’s like being stranded on a deserted island for six months before realizing there’s someone of the opposite sex on the island with you. That person may not be your ideal mate, but after a certain amount of time, you’re not going to be picky.

Then, of course, the NBA announced their plans to finish their season with qualifying games among a select group of teams to narrow the field down to their playoff participants.

One of the aspects included in each league’s proposal I can easily get behind is they are only including teams that were in playoff contention at the time their respective leagues shut down. If we’re truly trying to be safe, there’s no reason to put players at risk by making them play meaningless games.

The main difference between the hockey and basketball plans is hockey is scheduling their games in at least two different hub cities, while the NBA will hold all their games at Disney World, requiring everyone to stay in a designated area throughout their time there.

The current NBA schedule has them resuming games in late July also, and running through October.

Besides the encouraging signs the sports world may be starting to open back up, the timeline of when everything takes place means September and October have the potential to be two of the most exciting months in recent memory.

Even if college football and the NFL delay their starts by a few weeks, there’s a very realistic possibility you could have multiple weekends consisting of NHL and NBA playoff games, to go along with football.

As much as people are tired of being stuck at home now, with all those options to choose from, I bet many of those same people would be staying indoors, deciding they needed to “self-quarantine”.

As much as I think most of us are looking forward to watching again, we may want to temper our expectations.  We’re still weeks away before the first game will be played, and as positive Covid cases continue to rapidly increase in almost half the states across the country (many college programs are now announcing outbreaks among their players), it may be delayed even more.

Regardless of what you read into that, even the most skeptical critic would have a difficult time arguing an increase of positive test results would cause any league to speed up their return date.

If both leagues are able to resume their seasons in July it will have been a long four months in sports purgatory. And even though we won’t have technically been deserted on a desert island during that time, we’ll welcome the first puck drop, or opening tip, as if we had been.

QB U

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

In the 90’s it seemed like most top ranked quarterbacks wound up at any of the three major programs in Florida.

In the 2000’s USC got the lion’s share of who they wanted, with a few other programs sprinkled in.

This past decade it’s been programs like Ohio State and Clemson that have been able to basically pick and choose who they bring in under center.

As we begin the decade of the 2020’s, it looks like you can add another school to the list; Georgia.

When Kirby Smart was hired, I figured he and his staff would be able to successfully recruit top ranked defensive players and running backs. It’s how things were done at Alabama and if Smart was trying to implement a lot of the same strategies and philosophies from his former employer, it just made sense.

I had no idea he would be able to bring in the level of talent at the quarterback position he has up to this point.

On one hand I can understand the appeal; Georgia has received a lot of positive notoriety since Smart arrived, their facilities are some of the best in the country, and they play in the best conference in college football, so there’s an abundance of national exposure a quarterback can gain by playing there. Plus, I imagine the amount of talent surrounding the quarterback position has to be awfully enticing to a recruit.

On the other hand, it’s a bit perplexing how the program has been able to maintain this level of success on the recruiting trail since Smart’s arrival.

Even though Georgia’s name has become more prominent in national title talks, they still haven’t won one in almost forty years, their quarterbacks don’t have a great history (program or Kirby Smart) of NFL success, and they’re about to be on their third offensive coordinator in as many years; none of which built their reputations on developing quarterbacks.

Smart also seems to approach the quarterback position as if he’s running his own version of The Bachelor: Georgia Edition, bringing in as many players as he can to complete. (With the recent addition of JT Daniels, I believe Georgia is currently looking at having an entire basketball team full of quarterbacks on their 2021 roster.)

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with that approach whatsoever, but with the mindset of today’s recruit, the whole situation seems ripe to miss out on players because they’d rather be given the starting job as opposed to earning it.

Yet, in spite of circumstances that would give me pause before committing, it has not affected their ability to bring in the recruits they want. Of course, keeping those recruits is an entirely different story.

And look, I know these things are cyclical and not all the quarterbacks on Georgia’s roster were 5-star recruits. Still, that doesn’t change the fact Athens has become a premier destination for quarterbacks, more so than I can ever remember them being, in my lifetime.

If their luck on the qb front continues to stay in line with the rest of their recruiting there are two things I see happening:

1.Georgia will eventually end their national championship drought sooner, rather than later.

2.If Kirby Smart keeps hoarding quarterbacks like they’re Popeye’s gift certificates they are going to need a larger room to hold their quarterback meetings.

Shake It Up

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

“The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles where there are no lakes. The Oilers moved to Tennessee where there is no oil. The Jazz moved to Salt Lake City where they don’t allow music”.

Even though those statements from the movie BASEketball are referencing teams moving to larger cities for profit, it also pertains to college conferences and the schools they’re affiliated with. (Missouri isn’t really in the South or the East.)

If you were to rearrange the conferences so the SEC was based on teams only from this region (NC, SC, Georgia, and Florida) instead of money, how would that look, and would it be more advantageous for all those involved?

Currently, the ACC and SEC are home to eleven teams from the area- UNC, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, Florida State, Miami- so they would automatically be included.

You could stop there, but due to their recent success in the football field, and the fact I like conferences to have an even number of teams, I’m going to throw Appalachian State in as well.

Now that we have the conference teams set, it’s a matter of how would this new lineup compare to the real ones. And even in the land of make believe, you start and end with football.

If you’re looking at the current overall picture, it would be a downgrade for the three teams presently in the SEC since they would be replacing programs like Alabama, LSU, and Auburn for basically Clemson and a cast of not ready for primetime players.

Of course, if I’m Georgia or Florida I’m not too upset because my path to the playoffs just became that much easier. However, that might not always be the case.

The thing that intrigues me about this lineup, and was essentially the basis for this article, is how potentially dominant this hypothetical conference could be.

I think just about everyone expects Clemson, Georgia, and Florida soon enough, to become some of the best programs in the country. Florida State and Miami may never get back to the level of dominance we saw from them during their heyday, but becoming perennial top 25 teams isn’t out of the realm of reality.

The remainder of the league would be comparable to the rest of the current SEC, if not a tad bit better, in a majority of the comparisons.

I haven’t referenced the ACC teams’ point of view because I’d like to think it’s pretty obvious, they would benefit from this configuration compared to their current one.

Much like this would be an improvement for the ACC teams in football, the same can be said for the SEC teams with basketball.

Although it may not be the most fortuitous move for those teams already playing in arguably the best basketball conference in the country, there would definitely be more exposure for Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.

I’m sure nothing like this particular alignment will ever come to fruition because as much as the NCAA loves to spout about how much they care for the student athletes, it’s all about the money.

So, instead of making the moves that would actually benefit the students and regions these schools represent, conference alignment will continue to look like it was decided by the creators of South Park and The Naked Gun movies, and the outrageous humor that goes with it.

Top Dawgs

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When you’re contemplating the best players in a college program you have to take into account whether or not you’re counting just their college career or if you’re including their professional one as well.

Michael Jordan is the perfect example of this; he’s arguably the greatest basketball player to ever live, but you can make a very legitimate argument that he wasn’t one of the five best collegiate players to attend North Carolina.

So, for today, I’m basing everything off a player’s tenure at Georgia and ignoring what transpired afterwards. It’s kind of like how I’ll give my wife a hard time about not helping me with dishes, while completely ignoring how she does everything else around the house.

The first one is pretty obvious, regardless of what the criteria is, and that’s Dominique Wilkins. The talent the two time All-American, SEC Player of the Year, and Basketball Hall of Famer possessed is oftentimes overlooked due to his highlight reel dunks, which is a shame, because he was an outstanding player.

Wilkins, the third overall was one of those rare athletes that left school after his junior year, which at the time was almost unheard of.

I’m going to cheat on the next two names and go with Vern Fleming and Jarvis Haves, due to the fact they were both two-time Associated Press All-Americans.

I was only a few years old when Fleming played at Georgia, but his All-American stays, combined with his contribution to Georgia’s only Final Four team as well as his 1984 Olympic gold medal is more than enough accolades to earn him a spot.

I did see Jarvis Hayes play and I always wondered how he ended up at schools like Western Carolina to begin his college career because he could play. Two years at Georgia, two First Team All-SEC awards along with the All-American hardware; not sure you can be more productive than that.

This whole article would be a joke and a sham if the all-time leader in points and assists was excluded from this list, so please give a warm welcome to Litterial Green. The former Bulldog point guard was three-time All-SEC selection and led the program to their first, and I believe only, SEC Championship in 1990. Plus, he may have the coolest name on this list, right next the one remaining player I’ve yet to mention.

With all due respect to Bob Lienhard (2 time Helms Association All American) and Yante Maten (2018 SEC Player of the Year and the one who undoubtedly would’ve had the coolest name on this list) I went with Kentavious-Caldwell Pope to round out the top five. I never saw Wilkins play, and I don’t remember Green, but KCP was the best Georgia player I’ve seen come through Athens.

Of course, the one omission from this list is the likely number one overall pick in this year’s draft, Anthony Edwards.

Look, Edwards was a really good player and may have the best NBA career of anyone from Georgia not named Wilkins, but I would still take any of the five I mentioned over him in terms of college performance.

I know Georgia doesn’t have the history of a lot of other major college basketball programs, but those five players are nothing to be ashamed of. Just don’t look at their professional careers too closely- there’s a reason I left those out.

Place Your Bets

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

One of the things fans love about the Super Bowl are all the prop bets taking place.

Whether it’s who wins the coin toss, which song the halftime musician will play first, or which player will score the first touchdown, almost all the bets are just good-natured fun.

Why wait until the Super Bowl though, when an entire season of prop bets can be made?

Here are some prop bets for each team in the NFC South- some serious, some not so much- you can follow throughout the year in the NFC South.

How long until everyone gets tired of all the inevitable Tom Brady storylines coming out of Tampa? For most of you, I imagine the answer ranges somewhere between “Since the day he was born” and “Well, I’m a Tampa fan, so I’ve always liked him.” (I’m calling out anyone who claims the latter as a liar.)

Regardless of where you do fall on that spectrum, prepare for an onslaught of stories that may make even the most ardent NFL fan wish they had cancelled the season.

Number of games until the “Panthers are better without Cam Newton” argument begins to appear? There’s a slight (very, very, very, slight) possibility the Panthers could win 3 of their first 4 games, which would trigger the above statement, so I’ll go with four.

If that were to take place, those making the argument would likely pull a hamstring during the following weeks due to backpedaling from that statement; I just can’t bring myself to think the Panthers will be at all formidable this year.

Anything more than 5 wins and it should be viewed as a successful season.

What’s more likely to happen, Todd Gurley rushes for 1,000 yards or finishes the season on the Injured Reserve? Gurley is the only known entity in a backfield full of “I think that guy was my waiter at TGI Friday’s” names at running back.

If Gurley can stay healthy, he’s going to get 15-20 carries a game, which should be enough to get him over 1,000 yards for the season, even if he averages the same anemic yards per carry (3.8) that he did last year.

Of course, all this is predicated on Gurley making it through the season, which I’m not sure he’ll be able to do. I have no idea which of these two will happen, but it feels like it’ll be a feast or famine type of season for the Tarboro native.

Will Alvin Kamara finish the season with more yards rushing or receiving? A few years ago this question would’ve been as absurd as asking who the worst Batman is (George Clooney, obviously), but with players like Le’Veon Bell, Christian McCaffery, and Kamara it’s more relevant than ever.

After logging more receiving yards than rushing during his rookie campaign, the 3-time Pro Bowler saw those numbers flipped over the last two years; he also saw a decrease in production this past season, due to the addition of Latavius Murray. Because of the Saints array of weapons, Kamara’s overall numbers may mirror last seasons, but how they utilize him will be telling.

There may be other prop bets that will play a greater factor in the outcome of the season, but they’re all just a warmup to the most important one- what color will the Gatorade shower be in the Super Bowl? I have green as the early favorite.

You’re Fired

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I was asked the other day to name my favorite Duke basketball player of all time, as well as my least favorite. It was easy to name my favorite (Grant Hill) because it’s one of those things I’ve actually spent time thinking about.

It took me a while to think about my least favorite though, since I tend to try and forget them much like I do with the name of my 11th grade English teacher.

So, with that in mind, I figured instead of writing about the best head coach each NFC South team has hired, I’d go with the ones they couldn’t get rid of fast enough.

To start with, Atlanta’s may have been the easiest. Regardless of what criteria you’re looking at- overall record, handling of the team, how the coach represented the team- Bobby Petrino makes it a clean sweep in all categories.

Petrino’s .231 winning percentage is the worst in franchise history, not counting interim coaches, and the way he left the team by leaving a note in every player’s locker is just the sugar free icing on the gluten free cake that was his coaching tenure.

Not only is he the worst coach in Falcons history, he’s worse than any of the other coaches I’m about to mention, making him the worst hire in the division’s history. (And just think, he became even more of an embarrassment at his subsequent stops.)

Choosing Carolina’s coach was almost just as easy, but for entirely different reasons. Before the Panthers brought in new head coach Matt Rhule, there had only been four coaches in their short history.

Of those four, two made it to a Super Bowl (John Fox, Ron Rivera) and another (Dom Capers) was coach of the year in 1996 and helped the franchise get off to a strong start.

The only coach left is George Seifert, who couldn’t repeat the same type of success in Charlotte that he had achieved in San Francisco. He is also the only coach of the four to have never led the team to a winning season or a playoff appearance.

New Orleans is where the task got a little more difficult because they’ve always had decent coaches since I started following football, beginning with Jim Mora.

There are a few coaches back in the 70’s who didn’t do well, record wise, but I can’t really speak to what they did beyond that. Therefore, I’m going with Mike Ditka as the franchise worst.

As great as Ditka was for Chicago, he was equally as bad for the Saints. He won six games in each of his first two seasons and only three in his third and final one. Plus, there was that year he traded all their draft picks, including their first round pick the following year, to draft Ricky Williams.

Tampa Bay’s coaches are similar to New Orleans, it would’ve been easier to go with an earlier coach based on records. But, like with the Saints, I decided to go with a more recent coach, Greg Schiano.

The current Rutgers head coach will be remembered in Tampa more for having his team rush the quarterback on a kneel down play than anything they accomplished on the field. His tenure was the perfect example of round peg, square hole.

Not all coaching hires can be winners, but these are a few that fan bases would like to forget, all together.

Varied Winds

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Trying to get a community of sports fans to come to a consensus of how the draft went for their favorite team is like asking coffee connoisseurs what their favorite brand is- everyone has an opinion and almost no two will be alike.

Even if you find a majority that agrees, it’s mostly determined on the first few rounds only; outside of an NFL scout, who has time to read up on every available player.

So, instead of grading the Falcons picks here are few observations that came to mind regarding Atlanta and the draft.

Because of Atlanta’s draft position, especially in the first few rounds, the end result was almost predetermined to be underwhelming. The main talking points after almost any pick revolve around “value” and “need vs. talent”.

Early in the round you’re more likely to find a player that meets all those criteria, and you know you won’t find one towards the end of the round, so you basically pick a lane and stick with it; the middle of the round can get tricky though.

Do you do what Atlanta did and pick a player like A.J. Terrell, whom most people believe fills a need, fits the system well, and was the best available at that position with the most upside, but is considered to be a reach at that spot, especially when there was better talent available?

What makes the decision tough is that while all five draft recap articles I read unanimously agreed with what I just wrote, every single one listed a different player Atlanta should’ve drafted. So even had Atlanta drafted someone else, the same articles still would’ve been written, just with a different name.

The same issue rears its head in subsequent rounds, albeit on a much lesser scale. Point being, no matter who Atlanta picked, people were going to have issues, and it’s not entirely their fault.

Atlanta will need to hand out “Hello, my name is…” stickers at their first defensive meeting. Most of the Falcon’s biggest needs entering this season are on the defensive side of the ball and their draft reflected that. (When your lone offensive pick is a lineman that probably won’t play much for another year or two, you must feel ok with the side of the ball.)

Regardless of how people feel about those picks, the team will need some of them to contribute quickly, especially Terrell and 2nd round pick Marlon Davidson. I mean, that is why those guys were drafted where they were, right?

Is Atlanta fielding a second, secret team full of undrafted free agents? I realize the number of undrafted players a team signs after the draft has finished varies, but Atlanta almost signed enough to field an entire team before Tae Crowder could be crowned Mr. Irrelevant.

I know they’re making up for only having six draft picks, but it’s almost as if the Falcons front office wasn’t even wild about their draft.

Matt Ryan’s arm just may fall off after attempting his 10,000th pass of the year. Seriously, you’re good entering the season with one viable running back whose knee is one wrong cut away from ending his career? Good luck with that.

Obviously, I have no idea how these picks will pan out, and neither does anyone else. I just hope we all get a chance this fall to see for ourselves. I feel like that’s something we can all agree on.

 

Pay Me

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

At a time when we seem to rank everything from best to worst, we’ve forgotten about value.

You know, like the $5.95 lunch menu at your local Chinese restaurant, where the food isn’t the best, but you always leave full.

In that spirit, instead of ranking the SEC coaches, below is whether or not I think they’re worth the money they’re making; within the context that all coaches are overpaid, of course.

Nick Saban, Alabama: $9.1 million- Yes. The better question is what number would Saban’s salary have to reach before the answer is “no”?

Ed Orgeron, LSU: $8.7 million- No. I realize it’s a little strange to knock a coach coming off a national championship, but compare what Orgeron has accomplished in his career to Saban, and then convince me it justifies him making only $400k less than the Alabama coach.

Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: $7.5 million- No. They had to pay it to pry Fisher away from FSU, I just don’t think he’s worth it.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn: $6.9 million- No. Never. Nope. Not in this lifetime.

Kirby Smart, Georgia: $6.8 million/Dan Mullen, Florida: $6.1 million- Yes. Once Saban retires, one of these two will be considered the best coach in the SEC.

Mike Leach, Mississippi State: $5 million- Yes. Even though I view Leach as the John Calipari of college football, minus the smarts, he tends to win wherever he goes. At the very least, he’ll make Mississippi State fun to watch.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky: $5 million- I guess. He’s gotten about as much out of the Kentucky program as one can ask for, which should validate his salary.

Eliah Drinkwitz, Missouri: $4 million (taking 10% reduction this year due to Covid-19)- No. I’ve always understood the hire, but not the money. Drinkwitz’s lone season at Appalachian State was extremely successful, but was that because of him or the fact the roster was pretty loaded to begin with?

Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss: $3.9 million – Yes. Out of all the contracts, Ole Miss may just be getting the most bang for their buck. Sure, there are a lot to question about Kiffin, and his last name opened doors for him early on in his career that hadn’t been earned, but I’ve thought he was a pretty decent coach. I suspect that number will be higher in 2-3 years, it may just not be with Ole Miss.

Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: $3.8 million- Eh, ok. Pruitt isn’t as good a coach as some of the ones listed above, his pay is commensurate with his coaching ability. Honestly, the whole situation says more about the state of Tennessee football than anything.

Will Muschamp, South Carolina: $3.3 million- Yes. Perfect example of getting what you pay for; near the bottom in salary, near the bottom in on the field play.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: $3.3 million- Yes. At any other school Mason would’ve already been let go, but everyone seems happy with whatever arrangement they’ve got going on in Nashville. Who am I to argue?

Sam Pittman, Arkansas: $3 million- Sure, why not. I feel like if I’m going to complain about Drinkwitz, who at least has some head coaching success, making $4 million, I should do the same for Pittman, who has no major college head coaching experience. However, you won’t get a SEC coach for less money than that, so you might as well spend it on someone with a good reputation.

Decade Of Dominance

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the 2010’s in our rearview mirror it was only a matter of time before the All-Decade NFL Team was announced.

While there were some individual teams that had more representation than the entire NFC South, it’s not as though the division was under appreciated, garnering five players itself.

Julio Jones- The NFL records and Awards & Honors section of Jones’ Wikipedia page reads like one of those Lifetime Achievement speeches at the Oscars; there are twenty-five currently listed.

Jones is that rare case where he may not have ever been the best receiver in the NFL at any point over the past ten years, but when you look at the totality of the decade, you could argue there wasn’t anyone better.

The Atlanta wide out still has a number of productive seasons left in him and I wouldn’t be shocked to see his name on the Best Of…. list for this upcoming decade.

Alex Mack & Jahri Evans- My dad, who is a newspaper editor, recently joked with me that sports writers are like wide receivers (divas) and editors are more like the lineman (unsung heroes).

I joked I would at least compare him to a defensive lineman, since most fans actually had an idea who those players are. I should know more about both players, and offensive linemen in general, but I don’t root for either Atlanta or New Orleans (or any of the teams Evans has subsequently played for) and my brain only has a finite amount of space to hold information.

Most of that storage is currently being used to hold useless pop culture references and the multiple storylines in Tiger King. That said, both players are obviously considered to be the best at their positions, hence the award, and you’ll certainly not get any argument from me.

Julius Peppers- Depending on the day, my favorite Carolina Panther rotates between Cam Newton, Steve Smith, and Julius Peppers.

Now, I’m taking some liberties even including Peppers since he spent the better part of this last decade playing in Chicago and Green Bay, but he began and ended his career with the Panthers, so that’s my reasoning.

I was a bit surprised to see his name on this list since his production had dropped over the latter half of the decade, but still glad he made it.

Peppers’ incredible athleticism was one of the more incredible displays I’ve seen from an athlete, in any sport. If only he hadn’t gone to UNC.

Luke Kuechly- There was a stretch of time where Kuechly was the best defensive player in the NFL.

Besides his athletic ability, I loved his mental approach to the game. One of the things the former linebacker was known for was his ability to call out the opposition’s play based on their formation and pre-snap movement.

Had injuries not pushed him into an early retirement I truly think he could’ve been not only one of the greatest linebackers of the decade, but one of the greatest of all time.

I’m sure there’s a player or two you feel was deserving of being added to the list, but it’s a difficult job that, for the most part I think the Hall of Fame did a pretty decent job of putting it together.

There is so much talent in the NFL right now, I can only imagine what the next All-Decade team will look like.

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