2007 Senior Bowl Review

By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football “Draft Guru” / Radio Analyst and Sr. NFL Analyst

Every year the best place for Scouts and NFL Talent Evaluators to view players “in pads” is at the Senior Bowl (remember football is not played in t-shirts and shorts).  The week long event is the real first leg on the road to the NFL Draft for many prospects.  Many draft experts that I talk to put more credence in this All Star game, because usually top players choose to participate (sorry agents), there is “live” competitive one on one drills, and NFL coaching staffs are in charge of the teams.   You can have the lesser All star games (East-West Shrine, Hula Bowl, “Favor of the Year” All Star game) and the combine, because the Senior Bowl is the place “football” players get to show their skills off in front of scouts, coaches, and general managers.  

This year’s group like in years past has good overall talent.  Several scouts have indicated that this senior group is a little lower in talent than last year’s stellar group (D’Brickshaw Ferguson, Jay Cutler, and others). We will have to wait and see if they can match the 14 first-round picks from last year’s game.

As for the game, the early talk of a “revenge” rematch of BCS quarterbacks Ohio State’s Troy Smith and Florida’s Chris Leak never materialized.  In front of a sell out crowd of 40,646 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Troy Smith outplayed Florida’s Chris Leak leading the North to three scores and a 27-0 win over the South.  Smith’s numbers (5 of 15 passes for 52 yards w/ TD) weren’t spectacular, but considering that it was a cold, rainy day he performed well. Smith let Leak (5-of-9 passing for 23 yards) make the mistakes as he had a crucial fumble that led to a North touchdown after being blindsided by Nebraska DE Jay Moore at his own 26.  .  In my opinion neither of them did enough in practice or in the game to overtake non-attendees Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn (Injured Knee) or LSU’s JaMarcus Russell (Junior) on the draft leader board.

The real star of the game was Penn State RB Tony Hunt.  Typically All-star games are not good venues for RB’s, because of the sharing of carries and not being able to establish a rhythm.  However Hunt a 239-pounder with good speed defied the odds winning the MVP after rushing for 38 yards on eight carries with a 7 yard touchdown.  With the performance he solidified his place in the late 1st or early 2nd round part of draft behind Kenny Irons of Auburn, Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma, and Cal’s Marshawn Lynch.  Hunt will be fighting with Michael Bush of Louisville for a place in the NFL for a “big” back.

Now that the weighing, practicing, questioning, and playing is over for the Senior Bowl, we have some observations, news, and notes from the 2007 Event.

Event Risers – These were players that we believe increased their value in at the Senior Bowl.

  • WR – Dwayne Bowe, LSU: Looked like the next “baby T.O” measuring in at 6’2 and a solid 200 plus pounds.  He was by far the best pass catcher in Mobile and he was very fluid in his downfield blocking. The big pass catcher separated himself from the rest of the WR group and distinguished himself as the top senior receiver in the country.
  • DL – Amobi Okoye, Louisville: Okoye was the talk of the practices this week. He weighed in at a chiseled 287-pounds and displayed the quickness and athleticism needed at the next level. The truly great part about Okoye is that he a prospect that will grow even more, because he is only 19-years-old.  Came off as a bright and polished speaker when interviewed. 
  • RB – Lorenzo Booker, Florida State:  Before the Senior Bowl he was considered a scat-back, who was often injured in college.  Booker never lived up to his recruiting hype at FSU and looked like a Day 2 – 4th Round Pick at best.  Booker in Mobile showed the explosiveness and hands that gets a player noticed.  He displayed the best hands of any of back.  He now looks like he could be a 2nd or 3rd Round player in the mold of Brian Westbrook. 
  • LB – Patrick Willis, Mississippi:  In practice looked like the next Jeremiah Trotter, a big physical MLB, who can take on Guards plus have a nose for the ball.  He lead all defenders with 11 tackles and was named the South’s defensive player of the game.  Does need to work on making plays out to the sidelines.
  • Alabama FB Le’ron McClain, a bruising 264-pounder who was also very smooth catching the ball.
  • Nebraska DL Adam Carriker: Another front four player who was tough to block, Carriker elevated his draft stock significantly. Displayed a combination of strength and intelligence, he also came across well during interviews.
  • C- Ryan Kalil, USC: An extremely tough battler in the pivot.  Looked great in one on one drills while displaying a solid anchor in blocking. Held his own against bigger opponents, he showed a lot of unexpected skill blocking in motion.

Event Maintainers – These were players that we believe were solid and did not hurt their value at the Combine.  

  • S – Michael Griffin, Texas: Displayed an array of talent in deep coverage. Griffin made an impact every practice. His ball skills in coverage were outstanding as was his play defending the run.
  • QB – Troy Smith, Ohio State: Displayed a strong arm to the sidelines and showed good leadership in the huddle.  Was accurate with his short and intermediate passes, but his long throws were off.
  • FB/RB – Brian Leonard, Rutgers:  We are not sure if he is big and physical enough to be a full-time FB at the next level or fast enough to be an every-down RB. He did display though that he is one tough football player who can catch, block and isn’t afraid to go downfield on special teams.

Event Crashers – These were players that we believe hurt their value at the Combine and will need to make up ground going into the draft. 

  • DE – Quentin Moses, Georgia: The Bulldogs pass rusher checked in much lighter than expected at 249 pounds and was handled all week by blockers. During interviews, Moses did not come off as a confident individual.
  • OL – Ryan Harris, Notre Dame: Continuing what was a poor senior season, Harris was beaten regularly in Mobile. At one point he was chastised by Jon Gruden for allowing a sack on Thursday.
  • DB – Marcus McCauley, Fresno State: Another who struggled in the 2006 regular season.  He is not as physical or fast as former teammate and high draftee last year Richard Marshall. McCauley was beaten with regularity all week. His performance during Thursday’s no pads practice was not good, with him being beaten over and over in drills. 
  • QB – Jordan Palmer, UTEP:  His brother Carson got all the “arm” in the family as Jordan was weak on out patterns. He also did not seem to take command of the huddle.

Miscellaneous Note

  • WR’s are Deep – The deepest position in the 2007 draft class seems to be the WRs.  The group is led by underclassmen Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Jarrett and others. In Mobile the aforementioned Bowe and other WR’s Aundrae Allison of East Carolina, Johnnie Lee Higgins of UTEP, Chris Davis of Florida State and Rhema McKnight of Notre Dame accounted well for themselves.
  • DB’s were unimpressive – Pro scouts probably left Mobile scratching their heads just a bit about the CB play. Michigan CB Leon Hall, one of the top-rated players at any position coming into Mobile, was physical and aggressive, but gave up way too many completions for a player expected to go in the 1st round. Cal DB Daymeion Hughes also was only okay before being hurt and missing the last part of camp.  South Carolina DB Fred Bennett looked stiff before missing some time with a leg injury.
  • The Senior Bowl is the place where the unemployed come looking for job interviews. Several coaches looking for work were chumming it up with coaches looking to fill out their staffs.  One of them was Larry Coker, the recently released coach from the Miami Hurricanes, was at practice all week hoping to catch on with an NFL team.

That is a wrap and BIGPLAY will definitely be there next year to cover the Senior Bowl, which is now a major happening.

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Smith and Dungy Become the 1st African American Head Coaches in the Super Bowl after Historic Victories on Championship Sunday

The NFL will celebrate a historic first in Super Bowl XLI as two African American head coaches Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears) and Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts) will lead their teams into the biggest game of the year.  It took 41 years for an African American head coach to make it all the way, but Conference Championship Sunday proved to be the golden day for the not just the pair, but for all minority coaches as Smith led the Bears to a convincing 39-14 win over the New Orleans and in the night cap Dungy’s Colts came from behind to beat the mighty New England Patriots 38-34 in an instant classic thrilling game. Forget being a journalist, it is impossible to not be happy for them especially Dungy, who endured family tragedy in 2005 and was wrongly labeled as a “soft” coach who couldn’t get it done. Both coaches have worked extremely hard and deserve the merits that are now coming their way from their victories. They are exceptional respected coaches who make people in the NFL forget that they are black, white, green, or any other color, by their motivation of players and their “preparation =  performance” attitude.  The ironic thing about their scheduled meeting at the Super Bowl is that the pair have a friendship grown from their mentor-student relationship when Smith served on Dungy’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff in the early 2000’s.  During their time together Smith learned Dungy’s vaunted “Cover 2” defense and how a true professional coach goes about his day to day business.  The conference championship wins made the coaches/friends feel pride for each other and their race.  They spoke of the thankfulness of the accomplishment and what it meant to them.  “It means a lot,” Dungy said after his win. “I’m very proud of being an African-American. I’m very proud of Lovie.”  “Being the first black coach to lead this team, of course our players knew about it and they wanted to help us make history,” Smith said. “So I feel blessed to be in that position.”I’ll feel even better to be the first black coach to hold up the world championship trophy.”

The historical significance of the two African American coaches competing against each other in the Super Bowl and one becoming the first African American champion coach is a subject some don’t want to discuss, because it is not politically correct. But it is about time the NFL took notice to all coaches when it is hiring time.  The NFL until recent years has had a “spotty” hiring record when it came to minority head coaches.  Many African American assistant coaches, who were more than qualified were told to work hard and wait their turn, which many times never came (ex. Sherman Lewis and Ted Cottrell) while other white coaches benefited from the old boy mentality of some NFL owners getting 2 and 3 chances to lead a team.  The situation got so bad between minority coaches and the league that in 2002 after another off-season where African American coaches did not receive “fair” looks, civil-rights attorneys Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnny Cochran took the issue to the forefront of the league by threatening an Equal Opportunity lawsuit and having a fairness in hiring study done.  The study by Dr. Janice Madden of the University of Pennsylvania analyzed the data on league hiring and gave some startling numbers. Dr. Madden found that while 70 percent of all NFL players were black, only 28 percent of the assistants and coordinators and six percent of all head coaches were African-American. Whereas whites accounted for 30 percent of all NFL players, comprised 72 percent of the assistant coaches and coordinators, and 94 percent of the head coaching positions.  She also found that the win/loss records of the five African-American coaches from 1986-2001 (Dennis Green, Art Shell, Tony Dungy, Ray Rhodes, and Herman Edwards) were on average l.1 more wins per season better than their 86 white counterparts. 

The light shown on the problem caused past Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to actively seek a way of changing the NFL’s mindset toward hiring qualified minority candidates as head coaches.  The NFL formed a committee headed by Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney to create a hiring process to include minority candidates.  The committee came up with the “Rooney Rule” adopted in late 2002, saying that for every head coaching vacancy a list of viable minority candidates would be provided and that at least one should get the opportunity to be interviewed for the open position.  The rule is not perfect, but Dan Rooney understood that “opportunity” was the key to a successful minority candidate getting a foot in doors that were usually closed.  The rule in my opinion works though it has its critics who say owners should be able to interview and hire whomever they want.  I like the rule because it gives minority candidates a chance to be in front of decision makers, who may not have much interaction with minorities other than players on the field and give the candidates the chance sell themselves/credentials.  We are seeing the fruits of the rule with Smith and other coaches (ex. Crennel, Green, Lewis) getting jobs since its inception.  We are even seeing African American “retread” coaches like Herman Edwards, Art Shell, and Dennis Green getting a second chance.  The NFL also instituted the Minority Coaching Fellowship Program to help get minority candidates qualified and tutored.  The program is helping the problem and in 2006, a record 86 minorities took part in the summer program.

Maybe in the future I will not have to hear a fan-coach exchange like I did listening to the Ray Rhodes radio show in 1998.  A caller expressed the sentiments of some fans and evaluators at the time when he asked the embattled coach “When are you going to leave and let a White Guy coach the Eagles?”  Rhodes responded at the time that he and other African American coaches were going to stick around, so the caller better get used to a black man being the coach.  Rhodes was right, but the change has been sometimes painfully slow.  The league has grown in regards to hiring African American coaches (Mike Tomlin signed by Steelers as head coach today) and front office executives like the Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome and the league even received a grade of a B+ on the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport’s report card (Highest Rating to date).  However when you look at the history of the league (Almost 100 years of play and only 10 African American Head Coaches) there is still much work to be done to level the coaching ranks.  Hopefully with the success of Smith and Dungy a new generation of coaches will be on more equal footing, thus causing a non-story of two African American coaches meeting in the Super Bowl. 

African American Head Coaches in the NFL

Fritz Pollard – Akron Pros
Art Shell – Raiders (Twice Head Coach)
Ray Rhodes – Eagles and Packers
Tony Dungy – Buccaneers and Colts
Dennis Green – Vikings and Cardinals
Herman Edwards – Jets and Chiefs
Romeo Crennel – Browns
Marvin Lewis – Bengals
Lovie Smith – Chicago Bears
Mike Tomlin – Steelers

2007 NFL Draft Gets a Boost as Underclassmen Deadline Passes

One of the bigger days on mine and other draft gurus calendar past this week as the 2007 NFL Draft underclassmen deadline was on Monday, January 15, 2007.  This deadline is important because every year the upper echelon of the draft is boosted by talented underclassmen. The deadline is for players 3 years out of high school, usually college redshirt sophomores and juniors. Remember there have been rare cases of players like former Cardinals defensive tackle Eric Swann (6th overall pick in the 1991 NFL Draft) who have no college experience, but who are just coming of draft age.  This year’s group features several high level underclassmen that surely will have an impact.  Some of the bigger players I have listed below.  A complete list can be found at our friend site Great Blue North at http://www.gbnreport.com/juniors.htm and we will have much more at BIGPLAY including draft podcasts and blogs.

o LSU QB JaMarcus Russell – With the Raiders owning the first overall pick and their affinity for big down the field passers, Russell may fit the bill.  He has the size (6’6, 250) and arm (can throw 80 yards) to bring the Raiders back.  Russell was the nation’s No. 3-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency this season while setting a school record for completion percentage at 67.8 percent and for completions with 232 out of 342 attempts and tying the record for touchdown passes at 28. Russell became only the second quarterback in LSU history to throw for 3,000 yards with 3,129 and finished his LSU career with 6,525 yards and 52 touchdowns in three seasons — two as a full-time starter. He clearly out played Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn throwing for a career-high 332 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 41-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.  Reminds me of Redskins Super MVP QB Doug Williams.

o Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson – The 2007 Biletnikoff Award winner as the best receiver. This junior may be the most exciting and complete receiver to hit the NFL since Randy Moss in 1998. NFL personnel evaluators are drooling over his size (6-5, 200), speed, and athletic ability. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and has a 45-inch vertical leap.   Impressed me throughout the 2006 college football season despite facing constant double-teams and playing with an erratic quarterback (Reggie Ball).  Johnson caught 76 passes for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season and had his best game in the Gator Bowl versus West Virginia narrowly losing 38-35.  In the game he caught nine passes for a career-high 186 yards and two touchdowns.

o Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson: Considered a high first-round draft pick. Peterson a junior, missed seven games this season with a broken collarbone, but still finished with 1,012 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. He ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns, including a 25-yarder on the first play of overtime, in Oklahoma’s 43-42 overtime loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1st.  Peterson ran for 4,045 yards in three seasons, ranking behind only 1978 Heisman winner Billy Sims (4,118) and Hall of Famer Joe Washington (4,071) on Oklahoma’s career rushing list. His 1,925 yards in 2004 were a school rushing record and the most by a freshman in NCAA history.

o Ohio State WR/DB/KR Ted Ginn Jr: A former nationally ranked track star, there isn’t a more explosive player in the draft. He could be this year’s Devon Hester (Raw, but Explosive Homerun Threat).  Look for the 6 foot, 190 lbs Junior to help out on special teams immediately while learning the WR position.  He is a threat to take it to the house combining quickness, speed, and acceleration. Began his Ohio St. career as a cornerback, but was switched to receiver just before his freshman season, because of his big play potential. This season he caught 59 passes for 781 yards and nine touchdowns and as a returner averaged 11.1 per punt return, with one touchdown.

Eagles choose to “Punt” season away losing to the Saints 27-24

In a game that featured a thrilling rollercoaster like ebb and flow, the ending was non-climatic with New Orleans Saints Drew Brees triumphantly kneeling on the ball and thanking the football gods that his errant pitch to Reggie Bush didn’t matter. The ill-advised toss play with 3:46 left in the game was strangely called by Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and almost handed the Eagles another improbable victory when Brees missed Bush and the Eagles recovered. In my opinion, the next Eagles series after the fumble recovery was the key moment in the game with the Eagles play caller (Reid or Marty Morningweg) calling first a short pass to RB Brian Westbrook resulting in 1 yard loss, then a short run by Westbrook for a 1 yard, and finally another short incomplete pass to Westbrook on 3rd and 10. This headscratching series resulted in the first of two crucial punts down the stretch. The second crucial punt was on 4th down and 15 yards needed with 1:46 minutes left in the game, Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid chose to punt the ball away on the play and leave the game in the hands of his weary defense. I am not sure what Reid was thinking in punting the ball back to the Saints at a point in the game where his D-Line was clearly tired and didn’t have much left. On the previous 4th and 10 play before the punt, I swore Freddie Mitchell and not Hank Baskett caught the ball on the improbable conversion, but once again it was a mirage with the conversion being called back on a crucial false start on Eagles guard Scott Young on the play. There would be no miracle ending this week for the overachieving 2006 Eagles squad.

The final plays after the last crucial punt showed the Eagles greatest weakness, which is their defense’s inability to get off the field on 3rd downs (Saints converted over 40%) and stopping their opponent’s running game. The Saints pounded the Eagles, running for 208 yards and had a 10 minute edge in time of possession. Saints RB Deuce McAllister (143 yards, w/ 1 TD Rushing and Receiving), who has been overshadowed all season by rookie sensation Reggie Bush, once again was the thorn in the Eagles’ side attacking the lighter Eagles interior with tough inside runs that gouged the clock and took away the defensive unit’s will.

The Eagles team made their usual big plays downfield including a beautiful 75 yard Eagles postseason record throw from QB Jeff Garcia to WR Donte “Revenge” Stallworth, but they didn’t do the little things that got them past their superstar Donovan McNabb going down earlier in the season. Brian Westbrook was under utilized with only 13 rushes for an amazing 116 yards w/ 2TD’s. The Eagles needed to get him going early and often, which had been the key to them winning their recent games. He clearly wanted the ball and the Birds “forgot about him”, especially in the first half when they had only 12 yards rushing and on a crucial 3rd and 1 at the Saints 4 at 11:57 of the 3rd quarter. On the play Reid going back to his old ways threw the ball to FB Thomas Tapeh for a 1 yard loss and settled for a short David Akers 24 yard field goal cutting the score to 27-24. The field goal was the Eagles last score of the game and left you with the question, “What If?” The game was eerily reminiscent of the Eagles’ NFC Championship game loss to the St. Louis Rams in 2001. In that game, which the Eagles lost 29-24 they were also in it until the end due to some big plays, but they could not stop the run or control the clock in crucial situations giving up over 200 yards of rushing with Marshall Faulk leading the way with 31 rushes for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns.

As a life long Eagles fan, I had to wonder will it ever be our turn. ESPN writer Bob Simmons can cry the “ Boston ” blues all he wants, our beloved town is the “City of Championship Starved Fans ”. As a Philadelphia fan, who has never been to a parade (wasn’t allowed to go to Sixers 1983 parade), all week I tried to look away from the statistics that showed the Eagles went into the game ranked near the bottom in rushing defense and time of possession, but I too got caught up in “Jeff Garcia mania”. Garcia playing for McNabb showed that he is as gritty and tough as a day old cheese steak. The team was reborn under him and we all believed that after six straight wins and a new found ground churning/chain moving running game behind mercurial Brian Westbrook and a nasty O-line led by Pro Bowler Shawn Andrews that the ‘Iggles” were on their way to the Super Bowl. My eyes couldn’t believe them as the “Air-Andy” Eagles finally instituted the basic tenets of football: Run the Ball, Stop the Run, and Don’t Turn the Ball Over. The Birds were supposed to be going to Miami and the whole city was invited, just like Jacksonville in 2005. Unfortunately now the Saints (11-6) move on to their first championship game in their history against Chicago, (Congrats by the way – The region deserves it) and the Eagles go back to the drawing board for another year. Will year nine of the Andy Reid regime bring a championship? we will have to wait and see and now it is on to the draft. My draft list begins with the Eagles going after a playmaking OLB, a larger attacking DE, an explosive KR, and a better coverage SS.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

  • The loss of Pro Bowl Guard Shawn Andrews in the 1st half of the Saints game was huge for the Eagles. Not only because replacement Scott Young had some bad penaltie. Andrews, who was my comeback player of the year, who was the key to the Eagles power running game getting to the 2nd and 3rd level and controlling the middle with Jamal Jackson.
  • Where was Brian Dawkins?? Dawk unfortunately was under the weather with the flu and contributed 6 tackles, but no game changing plays like had been doing down the stretch during the Eagles 6 game win streak.
  • Once again the Eagles did not have any big returns on Punts or Kickoffs. Their longest kickoff return was 28 yards on a reverse by backup WR Jason Avant. This must be a priority in the off season whether Jeremy Bloom or a draft pick are the guy. Remember Westbrook is too valuable to be back on kicks.
  • Did you notice how many times the Saints ran the same middle seam route against Trotter and Constandine. They need to start planning for a replacement for the aging Trotter at MLB and a coverage Safety (BTW: I love LSU Safety LaRon Landry in this upcoming draft)

Florida rolls Ohio State 41-14 in the TOSTITOS BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

It seemed like an eternity between the Florida Gators (13-1) winning the SEC Championship and them having the opportunity to face the “mighty” Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1) in the BCS National Championship Game. During that month long wait, the Gators and QB Chris Leak were treated like the ugly step sister going to the ball while Heisman Trophy winner QB Troy Smith and Ohio State were anointed as the eventual champions. Everyone thought the game didn’t matter, but it did to the Gators and Leak. He led the Gators to an embarrassing win over the Buckeyes, showings the speed and skill of a well drilled team who skipped the banquet circuit unlike the overly hyped complacent Buckeyes. Accordingly the Gators got all but one of the 65 first-place votes in the final Associated Press poll and Ohio State dropped to second in the poll. It was the second national title for Florida adding to the 1996 title from the Spurrier led squad. With the win Florida became the only school to simultaneously hold the football and basketball championship.

Going into the game Troy Smith (2542 yards, 30 TD’s) the Heisman trophy winner came in with more fan fare than Gators QB Chris Leak (2942 yards, 23 TD’s), who had to adjust to splitting time with freshman phenom Tim Tebow. Both wanted to follow in the steps of last year’s National Championship QB Vince Young (467 total yards, 3 TD’s), who played the game of his college career leading Texas to a 41-38 Rose Bowl victory. Leak was the closest to VY delivering the answer when the Gators needed it. Leak was as cool as a cucumber passing for 213 yards with 25 completions on 36 attempts and a touchdown. Smith however did not live up to his heisman credentials, joining a long list of Heisman Trophy quarterbacks (Vinny Testaverde, Jason White, Eric Crouch and Gino Torretta) who fell apart in championship games after winning the award. Smith was just 4-of-14 for 35 yards with one interception, sacked him five times and held him to minus-29 yards on 10 runs.

The ironic thing was Four years ago, Leak was a record setting high school quarterback and the number 1 recruit in the nation. He led Independence High School to 4 straight North Carolina state titles and had every school including USC and other powerhouses fawning over him. He committed on national television to the University of Florida and vowed to lead the Gators to a national championship. During his next 3 years Leak was much maligned by the Gators faithful for not winning the “big” game even though he was a Day 1 starter at Florida . He had many victories on SEC Saturdays, but none silenced his critics like his victory in the BCS title game. Leak delivered on the biggest stage in his final game as a college player. The usually quiet Leak answered his critics by saying, “My legacy was to get the University of Florida back here,” and he did, backing up his vow with his performance in the game.

Leak and Smith both will now follow Young’s path into the NFL Draft’s talent evaluator land field. There are already questions on the 6 foot-ish pair’s ability to see over NFL lines of scrimmage and arm strength. But I have a feeling that they both will make the leap and compete at the next level, because they are ‘winners’.

Vince Young Justifiably wins the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award

As called for by me weeks ago, Vince Young was named the 2006 Rookie of the Year.  He received 23 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.  His votes easily beat out 2nd place finishers New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston (early favorite) and Jacksonville running back Maurice Drew, who had 9 votes each.  The rest of the player receiving votes were San Diego OT Marcus McNeill (6) and Saints RB Reggie Bush (3).

The award was justified because Young had the most impact of any rookie this year. He took over as the unquestioned leader of the Titans in a short period of time, not missing a beat after winning the National Championship for Texas in 2005. His poise, leadership, and charisma led to victories including upsets over Philadelphia, New York (Giants), Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Buffalo. His overtime game-winning touchdown scamper of 39 yards led the Titans over Houston (Titans 26, Houston 20) and may be a play of year candidate. The play and the win were a cruel reminder to Texans fans of what they were missing by their team’s decision not to use the top overall pick of the draft on Young. Young turned in several veteran type performances after taking over for the ineffective Kerry Collins (0-5) and providing a spark to a Titans team that many picked to finish last. 

Young showed good game management and his throwing skills were just as dangerous as his explosive running outside the pocket. By the way where are all those so-called “experts”, who said Young’s throwing motion and wonderlic score (meaningless) would cause him to falter as a pro. I even heard some talk show hosts and message board participants say Young should be converted to a WR. Well the laughs on them now. Norm Chow and Jeff Fisher made the move to bring in Young and they now have the Rookie of the Year award to validate their selection of him with the 3rd overall pick.  His numbers (8-3 as a starter with 51.5 Completion %, 2199 yards passing with 12 TD’s and 552 yards rushing w/ 7 TD’s) for the season proved that Young has all of the intangibles and skill that we knew he had when “haters” said he could not make the leap to the NFL during last year’s draft process.  Young should give the Titans’ faithful much hope for the future.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

  • Brett Favre looked like he was saying good-bye and even cried when interviewed by Andrea Kremer on NBC after the Pack’s 26-7 win over the Bears.  I definitely admired Favre fighting through bone chips in his ankle and leading the Packers to a 8-8 record.  He had a career-high 613 pass attempts, but a career-low 56.0 completion percentage throwing for 3885 yards w/ 18 TD’s and 18 INT’s. I  thought he played rather well for throwing to an aging Donald Driver, inexperienced Greg Jennings, and Notre Dame converted QB Carlyle Holliday.  If it was your last year, THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES #4 you are an All-time gamer.
  • My comeback player of the year is Eagles Guard Shawn Andrews, who went from 380 + to 340 pounds in the off season making him lighter, stronger, faster, and having more endurance.  He made his 1st Pro Bowl and was the anchor in the middle of the line with Center Jamal Jackson.  The Eagles ranked 2nd in total offense with 6293 yards with a 4.77 yards per rush average ranking 5th.  Westbrook over 1200 yards and Eagles finishing with 5 straight wins to end the season going 10-6 winning the NFC East.
  • Honorable Mention Comeback player of the year definitely goes to Detroit WR Mike Furrey. He torched the Cowboys catching 11 balls giving him an incredible 98 catches and over 1,000 yards for the season.  Furrey is a former Rams safety, who just needed a chance and was such a team player that he played on the Lions’ punt team.  Mike Martz did a great job creating a weapon out of Furrey, a guy who most fans couldn’t recognize on the street.  Are you listening 2005 Lions Draft Bust Mike Williams !!!!