Archive

Archive for the ‘American Football’ Category

Aaron Rodgers: Big Shoes Successfully Filled

January 14, 2012 3 comments

Back in October 2010, I wrote an article titled Aaron Rodgers: Filling Big Shoes in Green Bay (https://npwsport.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/aaron-rodgers-filling-big-shoes-in-green-bay) in which I outlined the size of the task the Californian faced in trying to replace the legend that is Brett Favre.

Less than 18 months on, the Lambeau Field faithful have forgotten all about Favre and his position as Green Bay’s demigod has been usurped by Rodgers. This is some achievement given that Favre played as a starter for the Packers for 16 seasons, led them to two Super Bowl appearances (won one, lost one) and set a whole host of NFL records in the process. So how has the unassuming University of California (UCal) alumnus managed to fill Favre’s shoes in such a short space of time?

Well firstly it must be said that Rodgers is a supremely talented quarterback in his own right. In fact former NFL wide receiver and NBC commentator Chris Collinsworth described him as being ‘born to play quarterback’ and anybody who has witnessed Rodgers’ performances over the last three seasons would find it impossible to disagree. It is still a mystery to many why Rodgers slid down the draft order to 24 back in 2005 and to this day, Green Bay can still not believe its luck in having snared such a precocious talent with such a low pick.

Most importantly however, Rodgers has delivered on the promise he showed as a young quarterback at UCal. After patiently waiting for his opportunity to replace Favre, Rodgers has lit up Lambeau Field with a string of amazing performances and, crucially, last year delivered the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory since 1996 with an MVP performance. In doing so he matched Favre’s tally of Super Bowl rings and having led the Packers to an astonishing 15-1 record this season, few would bet against him making it two in a row, a feat Favre failed to achieve when losing to a John Elway inspired Denver in 1997. If he is able to accomplish this, he will most certainly, and quite justifiably, be seen as a bigger legend and better player than the great number 4.

Aaron Rodgers has had arguably the best season by any quarterback in NFL history

 

Whilst it is fair to state that Rodgers has not single-handedly led Green Bay to a 15-1 season, it is impossible to overstate just how successful his season has been from a personal perspective, particularly considering that he was rested for the last game against Detroit and so played only 15 games. His tally of 45 touchdowns has only ever been bettered by three players (Dan Marino 48, Peyton Manning 49, Tom Brady, 50) and six interceptions is one of the lowest season totals in NFL history. Add to this a pass completion rate of 68.3 percent and you have the highest season passer rating in NFL history with 122.5. This has made Rodgers the overwhelming favourite to win the league’s MVP award and far surpasses anything Favre ever achieved in his time at Lambeau Field (his best rating was 99.5 in 1995). In fact, it would not be overstating the point to say that Rodgers’ 2011 season will go down in NFL folklore as possibly the greatest ever by a quarterback.

None of this will however mean anything to the superstar quarterback if Green Bay’s trip to the playoffs proves fruitless. Rodgers will be itching to win a second Super Bowl ring and ensure that the Vince Lombardi Trophy remains on display at Lambeau Field. He will undoubtedly be aware that he will need to maintain his almost superhuman level of performance throughout the playoffs if Green Bay is to achieve this goal as they continue to struggle to gain yards on the ground and allow more points than coach Mike McCarthy is happy with. You would however be a fool to write off Green Bay’s chances, especially with Rodgers pulling the offensive strings. If he lifts the trophy at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5th, we will have witnessed the birth of a true NFL legend and he will not have just filled Brett Favre’s shoes, he will have replaced them with his own pair, a pair which may prove impossible to fill.

Categories: American Football

Super Bowl XLV Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

February 6, 2011 1 comment
It’s here! Tonight in Arlington, Texas, the Biggest Show on Earth lands in the world’s most impressive sporting arena. A record crowd is expected to watch two of the NFL’s most storied franchises go head-to-head for the sport’s ultimate prize. Excited? You should be. Both teams have quality throughout the roster and seem to have peaked at just the right time. Sport Report previews an intriguing match-up.

Green Bay Packers: Regular Season Record 10-6. 2nd in NFC North.

The Packers are making their first appearance in the big one since 1998 in Super Bowl XXXII, when they lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Green Bay were many people’s favourites to go all the way prior to the season kicking off, but injuries seemed to have put paid to such aspirations, particularly as they had been robbed of star running back Ryan Grant for the entirety of the season. Mike McCarthy’s men battled on and thanks to stellar performances from the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews, made the playoffs where they have looked very impressive indeed.

Route to the Super Bowl

Wildcard Playoff: defeated Philadelphia Eagles 21-16

Divisional Playoff: defeated Atlanta Falcons 48-21

Conference Playoff: defeated Chicago Bears 21-14

Key Players

QB- Aaron Rodgers

Although Aaron Rodgers has only been a starter for three years, he is undoubtedly one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. The California native had another fantastic season passing for 3922 yards and 28 touchdowns despite missing a game with concussion. For the second consecutive year, he posted a passer rating above 100 (101.2) and proved his accuracy by throwing only 11 interceptions. Add in 356 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns and you have a picture of a complete quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers will be the Packers' key man (This image is The property of the Guardian)

More importantly for the Packers, he has performed even better in the playoffs. His numbers through three playoff games make impressive reading with 6 touchdowns, a 71% completion rate, a passer rating of 109.2 and he turned in one of the all-time great playoff performances against Atlanta. Rodgers is quite simply the Packers’ main man, especially in the absence of Grant. If he is on top form, the Packers should win.

WR- Greg Jennings

It is all well and good having a quarterback who is on a hot streak but you need somebody to catch the balls he is throwing and Green Bay have had that in the form of Greg Jennings. An excellent all-round receiver, Jennings has speed, strength, is a good route runner and offers Rodgers a safe pair of hands. The man from Kalamazoo, Michigan proved himself as one the league’s top receivers this year with 1265 yards (4th in the NFL) and 12 touchdowns. Nobody has caught more passes in the playoffs this year and Green Bay will no doubt see him as their number one outlet. The Steelers may look to use double coverage in an attempt to nullify the threat he poses, but with the likes of Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson also providing options, this may be a gamble.

CB- Charles Woodson

One of the team’s natural leaders and one of the few Packers with Super Bowl experience having lost with the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, Woodson is a key player in more ways than one. He has long been one of the league’s top defencemen and ball hawks. His ability to intercept passes shows his ability to read the game and this season he posted a career high 92 tackles, showing the key role he plays in an excellent secondary that also contains Nick Collins and Tramon Williams. Arguably more important are the intangibles that Woodson brings: leadership, composure and experience, all of which could be crucial against a team with far more Super Bowl experience. At 34 years of age, Woodson will know this may very well be his final shot at winning a ring and he will no doubt do all he can to make it happen.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Regular Season Record 12-4. Won AFC North. 

The Steelers won Super Bowl XL (2006) and XLIII (2009) and so are chasing their third Lombardi Trophy in six years.

Pittsburgh had the second best defence in the NFL during the regular season, giving up just 276.8 yards per game (YPG). Furthermore, they were the most effective defensive unit against the rush as they held opponents to an average of just 62.8 YPG. Whilst they may not have been one of the most prolific offences in the league, running back Rashard Mendenhall impressed and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was as reliable as ever. In safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison, the Steelers have two of the NFL’s best defensive players and with such a balanced team, they will fancy their chances.

Route to the Super Bowl

Wildcard Playoff: Bye

Divisional Playoff: defeated Baltimore Ravens 31-24

Conference Playoff: defeated New York Jets 24-19

Key Players.

QB- Ben Roethlisberger

Despite recent off-field misdemeanours which have not endeared him to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, ‘Big Ben’ continues to perform when it matters most. At the age of just 29, Roethlisberger already owns two Super Bowl Rings and is looking to join the likes of Tom Brady, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as a quarterback with at least three Super Bowl wins. His experience of playing in the big game could prove key in pressure situations. Roethlisberger missed the first four games of the season through suspension but still passed for 3200 yards and 17 touchdowns. Roethlisberger is an accurate passer with a big arm and if he is at the top of his game, the Steelers have every chance of winning. The only obvious weakness in his game is perhaps his lack of mobility, which may suit the Packers as they look to blitz.

RB – Rashard Mendenhall

In only his second season as a regular starter, Mendenhall rushed for 1273 yards (7th in NFL) and added an impressive 13 touchdowns. With Roethlisberger passing for a solid, but unspectacular 17 touchdowns, this scoring contribution was a major factor in the Steelers’ success. Mendenhall demonstrated a safe pair of hands, fumbling on only two occasions through the regular season and has continued his good form in to the playoffs, rushing for 167 yards and three touchdowns in two games. The Packers defence was only 18th in the league against the run during the regular season and so Mendenhall may be the deciding factor.

Troy Polamalu (left) could be the difference between winning and losing for the Steelers (This image is the property of Getty Images)

SS – Troy Polamalu

The man with the $1 million hair is one of the NFL’s elite players regardless of position. Like Roethlisberger, Polamalu is looking for a third Super Bowl ring and will no doubt give his all to make it happen. The Steelers are a different proposition with Polamalu, as was seen last year, when he was injured for four games and his recent AP Defensive Player of the Year award is testament to his quality. He finished the regular season with seven interceptions (only Ed Reed had more) and continues to perform at a level that most players simply cannot reach. Polamalu is the complete safety; he can tackle, offers excellent coverage and is very quick. If Aaron Rodgers wants to throw the ball in Polamalu’s direction, he will have to make sure his accuracy is spot on.

Sport Report Final Verdict.

This year’s Super Bowl is a battle between two well-balanced teams which are both capable of beating each other. It will come down to who executes well on the day and, as Charles Woodson said earlier this week, who starts well. However, the Packers offence seems to be firing on all cylinders at the moment and their defence has stepped up its game in the playoffs, most notably against the run. These factors combined should mean that they have just too much for the Steelers and win a close, thrilling encounter.

Sport Report Prediction: Green Bay 21-17 Pittsburgh

Categories: American Football

Is T.O. victimised by the media?

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Terrell Owens is one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play in the NFL. During a career spanning 14 years (and counting), the man from Alabama has amassed over 15,000 receiving yards and 149 touchdowns (146 receiving, 3 rushing). He is a 5-times All-Pro; has been to the Pro-Bowl six times; was chosen in the NFL 2000s all-decade team; is second on the all-time receiving yards list and third all-time for receiving touchdowns. Furthermore, he is the only player in NFL history to record touchdowns against all 32 teams.

His greatest season arguably came during his two year stint in Philadelphia. In the 2004 season, Owens piled on 1200 yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 games before fracturing his fibula in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. Owens looked set to be out for some time but miraculously appeared in the Super Bowl when the Eagles took on the New England Patriots. Despite being only partially fit, Owens caught 9 passes for 122 yards. However, his brave effort was in vain as Tom Brady and co. prevailed. Soon afterwards, Owens’s relationship with quarterback Donovan McNabb and the Eagles’ management soured and he was forced to seek pastures new, eventually landing in Dallas.

Owens turns 37 this year so one could be forgiven for thinking that his powers may be on the wane. This is however not the case. Following a mediocre season in a poor Buffalo team last year, Owens has started promisingly for the Cincinnati Bengals. In his first five games, he has chalked up 476 yards and two touchdowns, overshadowing star teammate Chad Ochocinco in the process. He piled up a huge total of 222 yards in week four versus Cleveland and followed that up with 102 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following week. When T.O. is still capable of performing at this level, one must ask why it took so long for anybody to snap him up as a free agent.

The Cincinnati Bengals eventually took a chance on Terrell Owens

Owens himself provided the answer in last week’s Sunday Sitdown with the NFL Network. During the interview, T.O. raised the notion of ‘perception’ and spoke about how it had affected his career and opportunities as a free agent. His comments seemed to be aimed in particular at certain corners of the media who have portrayed Owens down the years as a trouble causer you can do without and while things may not be quite so simple, it has to be said that Owens has not always helped his cause.

He is infamous for a string of touchdowns which have cost him thousands of dollars in fines and his teams hundreds of yards in penalties. In 2000, he celebrated a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys on the Cowboys logo at centre field. Cowboys safety George Teague, not pleased with what he saw, took matters in to his own hands and hit Owens. Both were disciplined. In 2002, Owens once again entered the endzone and celebrated in style, this time pulling out a marker pen and signing the ball. He followed this in 2003 by throwing snow at fans in Cincinnati and in 2007, he stole a fan’s popcorn and poured it in to his helmet. Such celebrations are deemed unsporting and excessive and so T.O. has been seen by some as too much of a clown.

A more unsavoury incident that caused Owens’ stock to fall occurred when he was playing for the Dallas Cowboys against the Atlanta Falcons in 2006. Falcons Cornerback DeAngelo Hall claimed after the game that Owens had spat at him. Owens admitted he had, saying that he had been frustrated listening to Hall’s taunts. He was promptly ordered to apologise and fined $35,000.

In September 2006, doubts were cast over Owens’s mental stability when he was found unconscious next to an empty bottle of pain killers. Rumours abounded that the wide receiver had attempted to commit suicide, something which an initial police report seemed to support. Owens and his publicist however denied this. It has never been established what happened, but the incident was an unwelcome blot on Owens’ copybook.

Such antics unfortunately tend to receive more press than sporting achievement in a day and age in which readers are more interested in sportsmen as celebrities than in their sporting talents and it is this that has worked against Owens. His quality is undeniable and somebody of T.O.’s experience and ability should be snapped up immediately on free agency. However, such behaviour has clearly put off some suitors and so it was the Bengals that took a chance on him and it looks at this point like it may pay off. Furthermore, they have managed to get Owens on the cheap. While his assertion that he is basically playing “for free” may well be something of an overstatement, a $2 million a year deal for a wide receiver of such standing is a bargain. It is now up to Owens to prove that he is worth more.

So, does Terrell Owens get a rough ride from the media? Probably not. Although his ability and talent do not get the coverage they warrant, he has brought a lot of the negative press on himself and we unfortunately live in a world where this overshadows sporting talent, just ask the likes of Tiger Woods and Wayne Rooney.

Categories: American Football

Aaron Rodgers: Filling big shoes in Green Bay

October 6, 2010 Leave a comment

When Aaron Rodgers was drafted as the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, it was firmly as a back up to longstanding starting quarterback Brett Favre. Five years on, Favre has departed Lambeau Field and Rodgers has established himself as one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. He has a long way to go to emulate the legendary number four, but so far he is making a good fist of it.

In his 16 seasons in Green Bay, Favre led the Packers to triumph in Super Bowl XXXI, defeat against John Elway’s Denver Broncos in the following year’s Super Bowl, broke a whole load of NFL passing records and cemented his place as one of the great all-time quarterbacks. Favre’s star was the biggest in the NFL galaxy and the Lambeau Field faithful adored the man from Mississippi. However, in March 2008, he announced his retirement from the sport. Favre quickly changed his mind, but the Packers by this time had decided that it was a time for a change and so the man who had for so long been their talisman was allowed to leave for New York. This was a bold move by Green Bay’s management. Favre had poor seasons in 2005 and 2006, but not in 2007. In fact, his performance in 2007 was massively improved, with a return of 28 touchdowns against only 15 interceptions. His season passer rating of 95.7 was his best since 1996.

The man charged with replacing the seemingly irreplaceable was a young Californian named Aaron Rodgers. Perfectly built for a quarterback at 6’2 and 225 lbs, Rodgers impressed at the University of California and was tipped by some to be a top-five pick. This did not happen and his slide down the order became one of the draft’s major talking points. Eventually, Green Bay took him with the 24th pick overall and it is now starting to look like an incredibly good bit of business.

Rodgers remained patient in his first three years at Lambeau Field as he saw little playing time and had to deal with Favre’s ‘yes I am retiring, no actually I am not’ game. On one of the rare occasions he did see game time versus Tom Brady’s New England Patriots in 2006, he broke his foot and missed the remainder of the season. Things just did not seem to be going Rodgers’s way. All that changed when Favre was shipped out to New York and Rodgers was given the responsibility of leading the team.

Aaron Rodgers and the man he replaced in Green Bay, Brett Favre (This image is the property of Sports Illustrated)

In his first season, Rodgers impressed, proving his ability as well as his mental and physical toughness. The team however, did not, as it finished with a poor record of 6-10. Nonetheless, Rodgers had proved his ability as a starting quarterback, passing for 4038 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. This gave him a passer rating of 93.8 in his first season as a starter – more than respectable.

If Rodgers was good in his first season as a starter, he was sensational in his second, leading the Packers to the playoffs with a much improved record of 11-5. On a personal note, Rodgers passed for 4434 yards, 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. His passer rating of 103.2 was better than that of Peyton Manning and placed him fourth in the league behind Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers and no other regular starting quarterback threw fewer interceptions (Favre also threw only seven). His yardage total of 4434 made him the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4000 yards+ in his first two seasons as a starter. Furthermore, whilst he may not be a mobile quarterback in the Michael Vick mould, he proved his ability to run with the ball when required, rushing for 316 yards and five touchdowns. His performance looks even better when one considers the poor protection he was given by his offensive line which gave up 50 sacks.

It is not fair to dismiss the contributions of other Packers players such as Ryan Grant (who rushed for 1253 yards) and in the likes of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, Rodgers has very capable receivers. After all, what is the use of throwing a great pass if there is nobody to catch it? However, the fact is that Rodgers was the man charged with taking the Packers to the playoffs and he did. His impressive performances earned him a Pro-Bowl appearance where he ended up starting for the NFC team following an injury to Favre and Brees’s involvement in the Super Bowl. Once again he performed admirably, passing for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

In his first two seasons as a starter, Rodgers has established himself one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. His stats stand up against those of Favre, Brees, Manning, Roethlisberger etc. He has a lot to achieve before he can be considered a legend of the sport in the way his predecessor is, but if he can continue to perform at this high level for years to come, he just may be able to retire and say “yep, I filled Brett Favre’s shoes.”

Aaron Rodgers Quick Stats

Height: 6ft 2 inches

Weight: 225 lbs

College: University of California

Games Started: 36*

Passing Yards: 9741*

Passing Touchdowns: 67*

Interceptions: 26*

Passer Rating: 96.8*

Rushing Yards: 639*

Rushing Touchdowns: 11*

*Accurate as of Week 4 2010 season

Categories: American Football

LT at the Jets: blast off or crash landing?

June 9, 2010 2 comments

Few stars in the NFL galaxy shine brighter than that of LaDainian Tomlinson. The 30 year old Texan is one of the greatest half-backs to ever grace the league. In his nine year career, Tomlinson has notched up 12,490 yards on 4.3 yards per carry (YPC) to put himself 8th on the all-time list of rushers by yards and second only to the great Emmitt Smith for career rushing touchdowns. In addition to this, the famous number 21 has started his own record book: NFL record for single season touchdowns (31), single season rushing touchdowns (28), most points in an NFL season (186), most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (18), most consecutive games with more than one touchdown (8), most consecutive games with three touchdowns (3)… One could go on but you get the picture.

The number five pick in the 2001 draft has achieved all of these feats in San Diego with the Chargers, the team which took him out of Texas Christian University. LT will forever be a legend for his achievements on the West Coast, even if he did fail to deliver the Vince Lombardi Trophy. However, all good things must come to an end (or so Nelly Furtado tells us) and on February 22nd 2010, the Chargers decided to release Tomlinson.

There is no doubt that Tomlinson’s output has diminished in recent years following a series of ankle problems. The 2009 season saw him fail to rack up 1000 yards in a season for the first time in his career as he posted 730 and his YPC of 3.3 was also a career low. He did, however, still plough his way in to the end zone an impressive 12 times.

Following his release, there was a media frenzy as the press speculated on where the affable running back would end up. Many franchises expressed an interest in taking Tomlinson, but the press got their answer on March 14th when he signed with Rex Ryan’s New York Jets. Tomlinson’s stock has fallen somewhat in recent years following injury problems and the comparatively ‘meagre’ $2.6 million a year guaranteed salary is a fine illustration of the point, but make no mistake, LT is still capable and raring to go for his new team. But is New York a good fit for him?

The Jets were the surprise package of last season’s NFL as they reached the AFC Championship game where they lost to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets played a run heavy offense all year as Ryan looked to ease in rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Thomas Jones carried the bulk of the load, clocking up a career-high 1402 yards in the process. Shonn Greene emerged in the postseason and proved that he is a more than capable running back. Jones has now departed for pastures new (Kansas) and this leaves room for Tomlinson in a run-first offense.

On the face of it, people may see a move to the Jets as a step down for the 2006 NFL MVP. Sure, the Jets beat the Chargers in the playoffs last season, but the men from California have been perennial contenders for a good few years now. Under Head Coach Norv Turner however, they have become a pass-first team. One of the reasons LT was so prolific in his early years in San Diego was the fact that he WAS the Chargers’ offense. The emergence of Philip Rivers as an elite quarterback has changed that and with top calibre receivers like Vince Jackson and Antonio Gates at your disposal, why not pass the football?

LaDainain Tomlinson was therefore forced to seek a fresh challenge. He is no longer capable of being an every down back (an opinion shared by NFL great Deon ‘Primetime’ Sanders) as his body simply will not allow it, but he still brings plenty to the party. He has an uncanny knack for finding the end zone and can spot gaps in a defence like no other back in the league. As Ryan and his coaching staff look to continue to bring Sanchez along slowly but surely, the Jets will continue to run the ball more than any other team in the league. Sharing the load with the emerging Greene should allow Ryan to get the most of LT and if he can, it may just prove to be one of the shrewdest acquisitions in NFL history.

LT in action for the San Diego Chargers (This image is the property of Sports Illustrated)

LaDainian Tomlinson

Name: LaDainian Tramayne Tomlinson

Place of Birth: Rosebud, Texas

Date of Birth: June 23rd 1979

Height: 5”10 (1.78m)

Weight: 221 lbs (100 kg)

College: Texas Christian University

NFL Draft: 2001 Number 5: San Diego Chargers

Career Rushing Yards: 12,490

Career Receiving Yards: 3955

Career Rushing TDs: 138

Career Receiving TDs: 15

Awards: AP NFL MVP (2006), PFWA NFL MVP (2006), Walter Payton Man of the Year (2006), Best NFL Player ESPY Award (2007), Best Record-Breaking ESPY Award (2007), Best Male Athlete ESPY (2007), NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, 5 time Pro Bowl selection (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), 4 time First Team All-Pro (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)

Categories: American Football

2010 NFL Draft

April 24, 2010 3 comments

Over the last three days, the annual cattle market that is the NFL draft has been taking place at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. For those of you who are not familiar with the draft, representatives of the league’s 32 teams attend and select new, eligible players coming out of college. The 2010 draft was slightly unusual as a record 53 non-seniors entered in an attempt to secure bigger NFL contracts before a new Collective Bargaining Agreement can be agreed.

Going in to the draft, there were many questions being asked by analysts and fans alike. Would 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford be the number one pick? How would 2007 winner Tim Tebow fair? Would Jacoby Ford’s lightning quick 4.28 40 yard dash at the recent NFL Combine be enough to secure him a high pick? Another name on analysts’ lips and tipped to be a top 10 pick was Notre Dame Quarterback Jimmy Clausen and here lies the big story of the draft.

The draft started as expected with Oklahoma’s Bradford being taken first up by the St Louis Rams where he should be a good fit in a run heavy offensive. Other highly regarded prospects such as Tennessee’s Eric Berry (5th pick – Kansas), Alabama’s star linebacker Rolando McClain (8th pick – Oakland) and Clemson’s CJ Spiller (9th pick – Buffalo) followed. Clausen did not go in the top 10 but his name was expected to be called any moment. General Managers from all over the league came and chose but still Clausen’s name had not been called. Tim Tebow, not viewed as being as suited to the pro game as Clausen, was picked at 25 by the Denver Broncos. God knows what Clausen must have been thinking. Then, almost unthinkably, the first round came to a close. Clausen would have to come back on day two.

Surely he would go early on day two? Not quite. Franchises continued to overlook him and then came the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals could use a QB following Kurt Warner’s retirement and could do worse than look to acquire a young player around whom they can build their team. Moreover, the Cards had traded up and so seemed to be interested in Clausen. They were not, passing up on the opportunity to draft the man from Notre Dame. The next pick, the 48th of the draft, was held by the Carolina Panthers. At the end of last season, the Panthers released long-time starting Quarterback Jake Delhomme, leaving them with Matt Moore as their first string passer. He has only started eight games in the NFL and so it remains to be seen how well he will do as a week in week out starter. Drafting a quarterback therefore made sense for Carolina and the Panthers’ General Manager Marty Hurney agreed. He wasted no time in pouncing to pick Clausen and he feels they have done well to secure such a player with the 48th pick. Clausen can now look forward to a quality target in four time Pro Bowler Steve Smith and with a strong run offense led by DeAngelo Williams, (1117 yards in 13 games on 5.2 yards per carry last season) he will not have to carry the offensive load on his own. All in all, it could turn out to be a good move for the former Fighting Irish star.

Clausen is not the first quarterback to suffer such a snub at the draft. In 2005, Aaron Rodgers was a projected top 10 pick but had to wait until the 24th pick before the Packers finally snapped him up. Brady Quinn, now of Cleveland, suffered a similar fate two years later when he went at 22. Those two however, still went in the first round. If they dropped, Clausen has plummeted. Why?

In all honesty, it is not quite clear why. The young quarterback has recently undergone toe surgery so perhaps there are concerns about his ability to step in to the throw. There are also rumours that some doubt his leadership qualities, but is that enough to cause such a slide down the draft order? NFL.com’s Vic Carucci believes it may be down to concerns about his ability to throw long. According to Carucci, coaches have studied his passing mechanics and feel that he struggles when doing so, having to twist his body quite a lot to generate sufficient power. This seems to be a reasonable explanation, particularly as there is no hint of anything more sinister being the reason.

So should Clausen worry? No. Being taken high in the draft is not a guarantee of success in the NFL. Anybody remember the king of all draft busts Ryan Leaf? Let’s not forget Tom Brady was the 199th pick (yes you did read that correctly) when he was drafted and look what he has achieved. As mentioned above, Carolina could well turn out to be a good home for Clausen so it could be a blessing in disguise.

What may concern the youngster is how much in guaranteed money this will have cost him. It could well be anything up to $20 million. If he can prove himself at Carolina however, he will be able to command the big bucks in no time so his focus will be on his game and let’s face it, he will hardly be on the bread line.

Incidentally, the last quarterback to suffer such an ignominious drop down the draft order was the great Dan Marino in 1983, who dropped to 27th following concerns over the state of his knees. If Clausen can achieve half of what the great Hall of Famer did, he will retire a happy man.

2010 Draft Key Picks

No. 1 Pick: Sam Bradford – Oklahoma (St Louis Rams)

Mr Irrelevant: Tim Toone – Weber State (Detroit Lions)

Surprise Pick: Tim Tebow – Florida 25th (Denver Broncos).

Other Notable picks: Eric Berry – Tennessee 5th (Kansas City Chiefs), Rolando McClain – Alabama 8th (Oakland Raiders), CJ Spiller – Clemson 9th (Buffalo Bills), Colt McCoy – Texas 85th (Cleveland Browns), Jacoby Ford – Clemson 108th (Oakland Raiders)

For full details of this year’s draft visit nfl.com

Categories: American Football