Labriola On

Schoolyard-pick-'em vs. Top 100 list

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Ready or not, here it comes:

  • I'm going to violate one of my own rules, here, and it's not something done lightly. Once it's over, respecting myself in the morning is going to be out of the question, but it has to be done.
  • I'm going to comment on NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2015 list.
  • This has been going on for some time, this annual farce seemingly designed for nothing more than to try to manufacture some buzz for a network fighting for relevancy. NFL Network promotes the list as being voted on by players only, but that "fact" has been disputed by many members of the alleged electorate.
  • Browns safety Donte Whitner said that when he was with the San Francisco 49ers, none of his teammates voted for NFL Network's Top 100 list, nor did any of his friends on other teams around the league. Tony Romo has said he knows of nobody on the Dallas Cowboys who ever voted for this. And these are just a couple of examples of the players who have gone public.
  • In May 2013, ProFootballTalk.com reported that 481 players voted on that year's list, or 28.3 percent of the potential electorate. And lest anyone believe NFL players have any real knowledge of who the league's top 100 players actually are, just remember it was NFL players who used to be the sole determiners of who made the Pro Bowl. Those rosters were skewered by analysts every single season.
  • So now that we understand how uninformed and apathetic the electorate actually is – kind of sounds like we've meandered into the world of national politics – let's poke some fun at the results.
  • Ben Roethlisberger was No. 26 on the list. Drew Brees was No. 30.
  • Which of those is more ridiculous can be argued, but there can be no disagreement that BOTH are ridiculous.
  • Imagine every NFL general manager sitting in a room for the ultimate game of schoolyard-pick-'em, with every current professional football player available. Lots are drawn to set up the order of picking, and then the GMs have at it. And remember, there are no players on any of these GMs' rosters. Starting from scratch. Just like it was for every pickup game you ever played as a kid.
  • Does anyone believe there would be 25 picks made before one of those GMs chose Ben Roethlisberger? Twenty-nine picks before Drew Brees? In a league dominated by quarterbacks? In a league where it's nearly impossible to win a championship without a legitimate franchise quarterback? Really?
  • So, there you have it. A stupid idea that was poorly executed and doesn't realistically portray what it advertises. Other than that, enjoy the show.

Take a look at some photos of Dick LeBeau throughout his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

  • The Pro Football Writers of America recently named Tom Moore, Dick LeBeau, and Dante Scarnecchia as the Class of 2015 for the Paul Zimmerman Award, given for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL. Two of those three men were long-time employees of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was Chuck Noll who first gave Moore an opportunity to coach in the NFL, and he won two Super Bowl rings coaching wide receivers and quarterbacks here in the late 1970s. LeBeau was given a chance to resurrect his career by Bill Cowher as a defensive assistant in 1992 after being fired for the first time by the Cincinnati Bengals. He also won two Super Bowl rings while working for the Steelers.
  • A well-deserved honor for Moore and LeBeau, and examples of wise hires by Noll and Cowher.
  • Is it important to him? That's a question asked by NFL teams about prospects all the time. The profession requires such a commitment of time, to say nothing of what an individual has to be willing to put his body through in quest of a career in professional football.
  • When applied to Rashard Mendenhall, the question wasn't easily answered. He came to the Steelers as a first-round draft choice, and so he had the ability. Was it important to him? In some ways it had to be important to him, because a guy cannot carve out a six-year NFL career as a starting running back if it's not important to him. But Mendenhall also gave off a vibe that he had other interests, that football was only something he did.
  • Such a perspective can be infuriating to coaches and frustrating to an owner who is writing some big checks. In 2014, Mendenhall retired from football at the age of 26, having made upwards of $13 million as an NFL player. Today, Mendenhall is a member of the Writers Guild of America, and he landed a job as a writer on the first season of HBO's "Ballers," a series that's 30 minutes per episode and stars Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a., The Rock, as an ex-NFL player who transitions to life as a sports agent.
  • In a blog post for The Huffington Post, Mendenhall wrote, "I wasn't supposed to walk away from the NFL, but I did. I wasn't supposed to be writing television, but I am. I'm supposed to be lost after football. I'm not. I've reinvented myself. This is my first transformation. I'm supposed to be broke right now, or maybe the statistics say five years from now. Either way, I'm not even close. I'm not supposed to be anything but a football player. But really, I'm just a guy who used to play football. There's a reason I'm doing this."
  • Good for him to have found something satisfying, because football never seemed to be his primary interest, or focus. That doesn't make him a bad person. Maybe it's going to make him a good writer.
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