Digging Into The NFL Draft

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10 Years of First-Round Picks

After 32 picks, the first round of the 2017 NFL draft was over. Teams had the chance to select the next big thing – from a new face for the franchise to a highly talented player in a position of need – from the most recently declared class college athletes. These picks may have represented the dreams of not just a team, but a city of fans, and the hope that success is on the horizon.

Just what has the history of first-round picks looked like over the past decade? What positions have been most coveted? Have any vindicated their draft position, or did the franchise that selected them ask for a redo? We profiled the last decade of NFL drafts to highlight the highs and lows across the 32 teams in the NFL.

Positions in Demand

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In nearly 350 picks made in the past ten years in the first round of the NFL draft, almost 100 were used on either a defensive end or defensive back. The Cleveland Browns and five other teams helped this cause by using their first-round picks this year on defensive ends. Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett, Jonathan Allen, Takkarist McKinley, and Taco Charlton all joined the NFL in this year’s draft class as their team’s latest addition in this position.

The future is now.

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Only 6 players from the three safety positions – free safety, safety, and strong safety – have been drafted in a decade of first rounds. And over 30 percent came from the 2017 NFL draft, with Jamal Adams from Louisiana State University to the New York Jets, Malik Hooker from Ohio State to the Indianapolis Colts, and Jabrill Peppers from Michigan to the Cleveland Browns.

NFL’s Farm System

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While Alabama head coach Nick Saban couldn’t unlock a winning formula as the Miami Dolphins head coach, posting a 15-17 record over 32 games, he has proven to be a master of player development. The Crimson Tide accounted for 22 first-round draft picks in the last decade.

History made. #BuiltByBama #rolltide #nfldraft

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Four Alabama players were drafted in the first round this year: Marlon Humphrey by the Baltimore Ravens, Jonathan Allen by the Washington Redskins, O.J. Howard by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Reuben Foster by the San Francisco 49ers.

The Southeastern Conference is well-represented in regard to total first-round picks over the last 10 years, with two other schools in the top five: the University of Florida and Louisiana State University. One of the biggest picks from these prestigious programs was the 2010 NFL draft’s 25th pick, Tim Tebow. He’d post an 8-6 record as a starter for the Denver Broncos before he’d begin a new line of work, but not before uncorking a beautiful Hail Mary against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 AFC wild-card.

Adverse to First

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While some teams have had more picks in the first round, others have been less concerned about the glitz and glamour of those first 32. In fact, the New England Patriots have only had eight first-round picks in the last 10 years, but have had the league’s best record in the same period. With a 10-season record of 126-34, and 20 wins more than the second-place Green Bay Packers, the lack of first-round talent hasn’t hurt the five-time Super Bowl champions.

Only the Seattle Seahawks have had less draft picks in the first rounds – seven – and have made two trips to the Super Bowl, winning one. However, it wasn’t a first-round draft pick that came back to haunt them in their Super Bowl XLIX loss, but New England’s undrafted free agent cornerback, Malcolm Butler.

Who Goes Where?

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In seven of the last ten NFL drafts, a quarterback was selected as the number one overall pick, and four had a QB going in the second overall spot. In three drafts – 2012, 2015, 2016 – there were back-to-back quarterback selections in the top two positions.

If you’re looking for defenders to get drafted in the top 10, try and pay attention during the third and ninth picks. Defensive ends and linebackers have been picked most commonly over the past decade in these spots.

Stacking the Deck

While there’s plenty of roster moves that happen through free agency, many teams built their teams through their picks in the NFL draft. Just as there have been over-hyped players who never lived up to their potential, there were also stars who soared higher than anyone’s initial grades. Get all the best gear to represent your favorite NFL draft picks and team at Fanatics.com!

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The Top 50 Best-Selling NFL Player Jerseys 2016 season

The 2016 NFL season saw plenty of rookies breaking out and young players emerging into the forefront, but it takes a lot more than one big performance to become a top jersey seller throughout an entire calendar year. The NFL is dominated by household names who have built their brand over years of stellar play, but 2016 represented a changing of the guard with a number of rookies ranking at the top of the NFL’s top 50 best-selling player jerseys of 2016. (Top 50 best selling NFL player jerseys is based on sales data of Fanatics Inc across NFLshop, Fanatics & Fansedge for the period of July 2016 – January 2017). See the best-selling jerseys in the NFL updated every month on NFL shop.

  1. Ezekiel Elliott; (Dallas Cowboys) There were some chuckles around the league from folks who thought the Dallas Cowboys reached when drafting Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the 2016 draft. It’s the Cowboys who are laughing now after Elliott staked his claim as not only the NFL’s best back but the league’s top jersey seller as well. The former Ohio State star ripped off nearly 2,000 total yards and 16 touchdowns, propelling the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. At 21 years of age, Elliott’s reign at the running back position is only just beginning. Get your Ezekiel Elliott jersey here.

Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys

  1. Dak Prescott; (Dallas Cowboys) While Elliott’s ascension could have been predicted, few saw the emergence of Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott coming. He got his chance to start after Tony Romo’s preseason injury and never relinquished the job, leading Dallas to victory in 11 of his first 12 games. Prescott never hit the feared rookie wall, raising his level of play and throwing for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the Cowboys’ NFC divisional loss to the Green Bay Packers. Cowboys fans have a two-headed backfield monster in Prescott and Elliott to cherish for years to come. Get your Dak Prescott jersey here.

Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys

  1. Tom Brady; (New England Patriots) He’ll be 40 years old before the 2017 season begins, but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to be in his football prime as he leads New England to Super Bowl LI – what could become his fifth crown. The Pats have won 13 of 14 games with Brady in the lineup this season, with an average margin of victory of nearly 17 points. Father time inevitably gets everyone, but Brady is showing no signs of slowing down as his New England Patriots look to add another notch to a 15-year dynasty on Super Bowl Sunday. Get your Tom Brady jersey here.
  2. Odell Beckham Jr.; (New York Giants) Three seasons into his NFL career, Odell Beckham Jr.’s influence at the wide receiver position continues to grow exponentially. Beckham’s highlight-reel catches and elusive playmaking allowed him to rack up 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns while navigating the Giants to their first playoff appearance since 2011. His productivity – top-five among receivers in receptions, yards, touchdowns and yards per game – is as strong as there is, but Beckham’s personality and style of play resonate with fans in an increasingly passing-dominated league. Get your Odell Beckham Jr. jersey here.
  3. Carson Wentz; (Philadelphia Eagles) Carson Wentz had his critics prior to his first play after the Eagles traded away lots of picks to take him #2 overall in the draft, but they disappeared after Wentz’s pre-snap intelligence and rocket arm made the Eagles an early surprise team in 2016. Philadelphia would sputter to finish 7-9, but fans in the City of Brotherly Love no longer doubt that they have the signal-caller they need to ascend back into contention in the competitive NFC East. With a few more weapons around him, Wentz figures to be a top quarterback for years to come. Get your Carson Wentz jersey here.

Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles

  1. Rob Gronkowski; (New England Patriots) It’s been a difficult year for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on the gridiron, but his popularity off it has never been bigger. Gronk’s 2016 debut was delayed due to injury and he only played in eight games before a back surgery sidelined him for the remainder of the season, but he still managed to average 21.6 yards per reception as a perpetual mismatch in the middle of the field. New England hasn’t skipped a beat without Gronkowski, but the Pats could sure use him back heading into Super Bowl LI. Get your Rob Gronkowski jersey here.
  2. Antonio Brown; (Pittsburgh Steelers)From big-statistic performances to entertaining touchdown dances, the Steelers’ Antonio Brown rivals Beckham as the league’s most exciting and entertaining wide receiver. Including postseason numbers, Brown racked up over 1,500 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns before his Steelers crashed out in the AFC Championship Game. Free agency looms for Brown after the 2017 season, but he’s more than proved his worth to a Pittsburgh Steelers team with top-end talent at every skill position. Get your Antonio Brown jersey here.
  3. Derek Carr; (Oakland Raiders) Third-year quarterback Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders were perhaps the story of the NFL season as Carr led the Raiders to a surprising 12-4 record while performing like a MVP candidate. Carr threw for almost 4,000 yards along with 28 touchdowns and battling through injury to lead Oakland to its first playoff appearance in 14 years. A broken leg in Week 16 derailed Carr’s season and eventually the Raiders’ Super Bowl aspirations, but his leadership and moxie put the franchise in a great position moving forward. Get your Derek Carr jersey here.
  4. Von Miller; (Denver Broncos) The popularity of the Super Bowl 50 MVP didn’t waver throughout 2016, as Von Miller became the only defensive player to crack the top 10 in jersey sales. The sixth-year defensive end racked up 13.5 sacks in 2016, showing no signs of a MVP hangover after tormenting Cam Newton throughout Super Bowl 50. Miller is the de-facto face of the Denver Broncos after Peyton Manning’s retirement and is now right up there with J.J. Watt and Richard Sherman as the league’s most recognizable defensive player. Get your Von Miller jersey here.
  5. Russell Wilson; (Seattle Seahawks) It was a down year for the Seahawks from an outsider’s perspective simply because they’re not playing on Super Bowl Sunday, but Russell Wilson’s greatness was never more apparent in 2016. He set a single-season franchise record for passing yards with 4,219, progressing considerably as a pocket passer after injuries limited his mobility throughout the season. As if he hadn’t proven it before through two Super Bowl appearances and one championship, Wilson further showed that he’s the guy to lead Seattle to more hardware in the future. Get your Russell Wilson jersey here.

The 20 – 50 top selling player jersey’s in the NFL for the 2016 season are (which includes retired players like Joe Montana):

  1. Dez Bryant
  2. Jason Witten
  3. Aaron Rodgers
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Julio Jones
  6. Cam Newton
  7. Julian Edelman
  8. Ben Roethlisberger
  9. Matt Ryan
  10. Eli Manning
  11. Le’Veon Bell
  12. Amari Cooper
  13. Richard Sherman
  14. Drew Brees
  15. JJ Watt
  16. Luke Kuechly
  17. Larry Fitzgerald
  18. Jarvis Landry
  19. Peyton Manning
  20. Todd Gurley II
  21. Jordy Nelson
  22. Kam Chancellor
  23. Kirk Cousins
  24. Colin Kaepernick
  25. Clay Matthews
  26. Marcus Mariota
  27. Matthew Stafford
  28. Brian Dawkins
  29. AJ Green
  30. Tyler Lockett
  31. Stefon Diggs
  32. Bo Jackson
  33. Landon Collins
  34. Joe Montana
  35. Doug Baldwin
  36. Harrison Smith
  37. Jimmy Graham
  38. NaVorro Bowman
  39. Justin Tucker
  40. Andrew Luck

 

NFL Playoff Pet Pick ‘Em – Predicting NFL Playoff Winners: The Big Game

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First, there were 12 Big Game contenders. Wild Card Weekend whittled it down to eight, and after the divisional round, only four NFL teams remained. Now that the AFC and NFC championships were last weekend, we’re down to two teams to duke it out on the field on Sunday.

Again, we put our experts (this includes professional experts as well as other humans, plus actual animals, and a coin for good measure) to pick the winners of the championships. As evidenced after last week and the week before, some of our experts are pulling away from the pack, while others are content to twitch their tails and beg for treats.

As our experts sharpen their pencils (or claws) to choose this year’s Big Game winner, let’s take a look to see how they all fared after last weekend’s games.

The Ringleaders

It may come as no surprise that Kylo Ren, the pup, and Mike Golic, the human expert, are still leading the pack; both now sport a 9-1 record after they picked Atlanta and New England to advance to Sunday.

Directly behind this fearsome pair is NFL expert Dieter Kurtenbach, who is holding steady with an 8-2 record. Kurtenbach went astray when he picked Seattle and KC to advance to the championship round. Right behind him is amateur fan Matt, who rocks a 7-3 record. He erred when he chose the Chiefs and Cowboys to do the same and picked the Steelers to advance to the final showdown. Still not bad, considering they’re about as accurate as many of our animal pals!

Speaking of which, here are a handful of awesome critters who also hold a strong 7-3 record: Korra the cat, Dibs the bearded dragon, Chester the dog, and Polly the dog. We also have to mention former NFL great Michael Irvin, who’s picking as well as a beardie, and the FiveThirtyEight Data Lab, which is doing the same.

Coiney, our completely impartial and totally random pick picker, is doing about the same as it did last week, currently holding a .500 record.

Creeping Behind

Of course, we have a few mentions at the opposite end. Baby Leo edged up a spot with a 4-6 record, and our fave half-blind doggie Riggins is finally not in the last place, as he thought the Patriots were on their way to their ninth championship ring. This means the little cat Artemisia has dropped behind ol’ Riggins and holds steady at two correct picks and eight incorrect choices.

Big Game Picks

Now, most of our humans and animals have made their picks for the Big Game on Sunday, Feb. 5. Kylo, our top playoff pickin’ hound, thinks New England will be taking home their fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy. Ella the cat, standing strong at 8-2, thinks it’ll be Atlanta taking home their first instead.

Other picks for New England include Dibs the bearded dragon, Margie the human non-fan, Matt’s Grandma, Roofus the cat, and Bentley the dog.

Those gunning for Atlanta include Ella the cat, Tyler the amateur fan, Drake the dog, Coiney the coin, and Riggins the dog.

Who will come out on top Sunday night? Will Kylo still be the top dog, or will Ella the cat join him as the best picking critters out there?

Methodology

Our “animal experts” were pets submitted by members of the Fanatics.com team. Pet owners were given cutouts of the logos for each playoff team and asked to record their furry (or scaly) friends’ choices. Some owners chose to put the logos on the ground, while others put them in a bowl. There were no hard rules for how the choices had to be made, except that owners were not allowed to influence the choices.

The real experts included in this study were selected at random from a pool of former NFL players and sports journalists who currently cover the NFL across a variety of networks and mediums.
No real playoff prediction would be complete without a “wild-card” element, hence our inclusion of random people and inanimate objects, like our beloved Coiney.

Best Places To Watch The Super Bowl

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Getting tickets to the 51st installment of the NFL championship game in Houston, Texas, isn’t easy or cheap. With packages selling for thousands of dollars, fans of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots could be left to watch the game at home rather than side by side with fellow fans as the drama of the Big Game unfolds.

Thankfully, these two cities have vibrant food scenes and passionate fan bases, meaning there are plenty of spots to take in the game and root for their guys in the company of fellow supporters – all while getting to enjoy some food and beverages as well! Here are just a few of the locations in Atlanta and Boston where Falcons can #RiseUp their glasses together, and Patriots can order #OneMore side of fries.

ATLANTA

Atkins Park Taverns

With multiple locations in the Atlanta area – this chain offers the coziness of a local bar with plenty of great food and beverage options. You’ll be able to take in the game among your fellow Falcons in these two spots.

The Elder Tree Public House

TGIF! Tonight’s special is braised turkey ribs carmelized w/housemade honey BBQ. On draft @orpheusbrewing Atlanta #fridayspecial #atleats

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This Irish pub is bracing for the NFL championship game. Here’s a place where you can feel the appreciation the owners have for sports. Try ordering some fish and chips, a fun alternative to wings, if you’re trying to change up your gameday food choices!

Twin Peaks Buckhead

Enjoy an ice cold beer with us and come watch the football game! #mondaynightfootball #knottybrunette

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TVs, TVs, and more TVs. Twin Peaks is ready to make sure that anywhere you turn, you won’t miss a second of the action. They have a menu with something for everyone, making pleasing the pickiest Falcon in your flock easy on gameday.

BOSTON

McGreevy’s

Billed as “America’s First Sports Bar,” McGreevy’s couldn’t have more local pride if they tried. If you want to hang out with real Patriots fans, the ones who know facts about the team (when Belichick was a head coach for the Browns and Brady was a backup at Michigan), this is the place.

Tavern in the Square (10 Locations!)

If you want modern menus and enough TVs to ensure you won’t miss a moment of the action, one of the ten Tavern in the Square locations is likely within walking distance or at least walking distance from your train stop.

The Lower Depths Tap Room

 

They may not have the most TVs, but with a curated selection of beers from around the globe and an elevated food menu, perhaps this is the place to be on gameday if you want a more refined experience. You most certainly won’t be washing your food down with your average beer here.

Tasty Touchdowns

Wherever you’re watching the Big Game this year – at home, at a bar, alone, or with friends – make sure you’re sporting your team’s colors. Head over to Fanatics to pick up the best officially licensed NFL merchandise and apparel for the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots.

The Super Bowl MVPs

Football is a team sport, but that doesn’t mean personal honors aren’t awarded. And while personal heroics are often awarded for the best performances over a season – All-Pro, Most Valuable Player, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year – there’s one game that’s a little bit different.

The NFL championship game between the winners of the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC) determines the best team of the season. However, the best individual player, whether offense or defense, is awarded MVP honors for his big plays on the big stage.

Do certain positions have a lock on this award? Does your team have to win the Big Game to earn the MVP? Here’s what you need to know about one of the greatest honors in professional football.

Positional Awareness

Fifty-one MVP awards have been issued after the final whistle, and over half of those were awarded to quarterbacks. While the belief is that defense wins championships, offensive players – quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers – have won the award over 75 percent of the time. However, 12 of the recipients played defense, and one was a special teams player.

Within this group of players, some individuals have won the award more than once. San Francisco 49ers Hall-of-Fame quarterback Joe Montana and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady have both won the award three times. If the New England Patriots can beat the Atlanta Falcons, Brady may be a large part of that victory – possibly earning him his fourth Big Game MVP honor.

Three other quarterbacks – Bart Starr, Eli Manning, and Terry Bradshaw – have all won the award twice. There’s only one special teams player, Green Bay’s Desmond Howard, who had an almost 100-yard kickoff return to propel The Pack past the Patriots.

The “I” in “Team”

Even though the Dallas Cowboys have only won five league championships, they have had seven players receive MVP honors. Defensive end Harvey Martin and defensive tackle Randy White share this honor as co-MVPs. Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley also received this honor during a game where his team lost, but he performed well with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Two of the last three awards have bucked the trend of quarterbacks winning. Linebackers Malcolm Smith, from the Seattle Seahawks, and Von Miller, of the Denver Broncos, have hoisted the trophy for playing a big part in their team’s victory. Smith made an interception and returned it for a touchdown, recovered a fumble, and completed 10 tackles. Miller completed six tackles, delivered two-and-a-half sacks, and defended one pass.

Body of Work

There are some average results players looking to receive an MVP trophy in 2017 should try to achieve. Quarterbacks who have received the Big Game MVP threw for over 270 yards and over two touchdowns. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young delivered an above-average performance when he earned this honor, throwing for 325 yards and six touchdowns. And Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw just shy of 120 yards and two touchdowns when he was awarded the MVP.

Running backs who earned the honor rushed, on average, for over 150 yards and over one-and-a-half touchdowns. The last running back to win this award was Terrell Davis of the Denver Broncos, who had 30 carries for over 150 yards and three touchdowns. There are a lot of powerful running backs on the Atlanta Falcons’ and the New England Patriots’ teams – Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Dion Lewis, and LeGarrette Blount – who might be looking to pick up an MVP award in February.

Perhaps the same can be said for the wide receivers heading to the Big Game in 2017. Whether it’s Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan for New England or Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu for Atlanta, these are explosive offensive wide receivers capable of reaching averages of 140 yards or close to a touchdown.

Big Game Glory

Will the Atlanta Falcons or the New England Patriots hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy and see one of their team’s players be recognized for being the biggest player in the biggest game? Regardless of who you’re rooting for, or against, get ready for the big day with the best officially licensed merchandise and apparel from Fanatics.com.

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An overview of 50 years of Super Bowl Rings

Beyond the eternal glory that comes with winning the Super Bowl – only 19 of the 32 franchises have ever hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy under the bright lights as the confetti falls – players, coaches, front office personnel, owners, and other selected staff from the winning side will end up walking away with some rather ornate, and pricey, jewelry. These rings serve as a reminder of the blood, sweat, and tears that are shed over an NFL regular season, and the added challenge of navigating a one-and-done postseason in pursuit of immortality in America’s most popular sport.

Which NFL teams and players have the most rings? What are some of the best and worst looking rings? Read on to learn more.

Bling & Things

Jostens – the company typically associated with high school class rings and yearbooks – crafted the first NFL championship ring to recognize the Green Bay Packers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs (35-10) in 1967. Since then, they’ve had the honor of producing 32 out of the 50 rings awarded to the winning franchises of football’s biggest game.

While 13 of the 32 franchises have never won the Big Game, several individuals have earned multiple rings – a few who even have enough for their second hand. Neal Dahlen collected the most rings during his time in the NFL, earning seven championships with two teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. His work in front office and administrative roles allowed Dahlen to earn an honor that no other player, coach, staff member, executive, or owner can claim.

There are a few people who are close behind Dahlen, however, and hope to share the spotlight with him in 2017. Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, currently has six rings – two from his time as a defensive coordinator for Bill Parcells’ New York Giants and four from his time as head coach of the Patriots – and has No. 7 in sight. Belichick will even need to schedule a service for his boat if the Patriots win again. The coach renames his boat, currently called “Six Rings,” after each championship victory.
Several members of the Steelers organization have earned six rings, but no player has earned more than Charles Haley, who has five. Haley won his rings with the San Francisco 49ers in 1989, with a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, 1990, by besting the Denver Broncos, and with the Dallas Cowboys in 1993 and 1994, defeating the Buffalo Bills in back-to-back seasons, and in 1996 when America’s Team vanquished the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Diamonds and Championships Are Forever

 

You can see how the appearance of these NFL championship rings has changed over time. From the first ring awarded to the Green Bay Packers – made of yellow gold and a solitaire diamond over a globe to recognize them as world champions – to the most recent awarded to the Denver Broncos (using orange stones to enhance the team’s mascot and the image of three Lombardi Trophies in the background), each ring tells a story about the franchise receiving it.

The number of diamonds used, the colored stones picked for mascot replication, and the use of white gold or alternative metals have all taken hold in the more modern ring creation process, but every ring still serves as a beautiful reminder of the year that team reached the top of the mountain.

Take the ring awarded to the Pittsburgh Steelers after their victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008-09 season. The organization’s sixth ring opted for setting six diamonds (instead of multiple Lombardi Trophies) around the team’s logo. Oh, the struggle of being a team with an institutional problem of winning champions!

Has your team won it all? If they have won multiple championships, how have their rings changed over time?

To the Victor Go the Stones

Is your team looking to earn its first Vince Lombardi Trophy and appointment with Jostens for a 53-man roster this year? Or are you looking to volunteer to help Coach Belichick repaint his boat? Whoever you’re rooting for, pick up the best officially licensed merchandise and apparel from Fanatics.com. Sorry, NFL championship rings are not sold to the public.

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Coaching Arcs: Andy Reid

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NFL head coaching can be one of the most challenging jobs in the world, and it’s no secret that landing one of the 32 spots isn’t easy to do. All NFL head coaches have a ton of football behind their names, whether they played the sport themselves. All had to work their way to the top over the years.

Andy Reid’s story is no different, although it has its own touches that make his tale uniquely his. After coaching 14 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reid got a second chance with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, where he’s now looking to lead them into the playoffs for the third time during his tenure. How did he get here? Let’s find out.

Early Days

Andy Reid was born in California and looked up to his older brother, who was a standout athlete. Even before Reid took up sports at his local high school, he had plenty of experience on the sidelines as a ball boy, and famously took part in a “Monday Night Football” NFL Punt, Pass & Kick youth competition at 13 years old, where he dwarfed the other competition.

Reid played college ball at Brigham Young University after lettering in several sports during high school, but an injury sidelined a possible professional playing career. Those around him could tell he was keenly intelligent and not only worked well in a group but could see outside the box – the makings of a great coach.

Beginning of Coaching Career

Timeline of Andy Reid's journey to the Kansas City Chiefs

Reid transitioned to coaching as a graduate assistant in 1982 and from there, went on to different positions at a few universities. San Francisco State was the home of Reid’s next opportunity, where he worked as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He followed this stint with offensive line coaching gigs at Northern Arizona, University of Texas at El Paso, and for the Missouri Tigers in Columbia.

Reid entered the NFL life in 1992 as the tight ends and assistant offensive line coach for the Green Bay Packers with Brett Favre, who joined the league the year prior. His success with the Packers led to his first head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles

Reid was the head coach of the Eagles for 14 seasons, taking over in 1999 and leading the squad to a 5-11 record. This was an improvement over the team’s 1998 season, though, when they played into the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Reid helped select dual-threat quarterback Donovan McNabb with the high draft pick, who eventually helped turn Philly into an NFC East powerhouse with five consecutive playoff appearances, capped off by an NFC championship and a Super Bowl loss.

Although the Eagles didn’t reach the Super Bowl again, Reid led the team to the playoffs nine times over a 14-season span. Reid was let go from the club following a dismal 4-12 season after getting blown out by their division rivals, the New York Giants, at the tail end of 2012.

He wasn’t going to be unemployed for long, however.

Kansas City Chiefs

In 2012, the Kansas City Chiefs had also let their most recent head coach go. Romeo Crennel took over the reins in 2011 after the team fired Todd Haley, and his first and only full year manning the helm in KC was disastrous, leaving the team with a 2-14 record. Andy Reid made an immediate impact in Kansas City, leading the team to the playoffs his first season, and again in 2015 when the squad won their first playoff game since 1993.

These days, the Chiefs are hoping to head to yet another postseason berth. Andy Reid has done nothing more than win like crazy in the NFL, notching 13 winning seasons out of his 18. He’s well-respected in the league and well-liked in the locker room.

If you’re hoping to catch some Kansas City Chiefs postseason action, be sure to grab all your gear at Fanatics.com, which has plenty to keep you warm at home while you tailgate or sit in the stadium.

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Coaching Arcs: Bill Belichick

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With only 32 spots available in the National Football League, ascending to the top of the organization as the head coach isn’t an easy task. Less a gift, and more something earned through hard work and paying one’s dues, every current head coach boasts a unique story to how they crafted their resume.

Head Coach of the New England Patriots Bill Belichick is one of these 32 head coaches. How did he get there? Here, we look at his path to securing one of the most elusive jobs on the market and where his current team is heading.

How It Started

Belichick’s journey through the world of professional football started over 40 years ago, when he accepted his first post as a Special Assistant to Baltimore Colts Head Coach Ted Marchibroda. He would bounce around between two other teams – the Detroit Lions and the Denver Broncos – over the next three seasons as an Assistant Special Teams Coach. These jobs were part of the legwork that would carry him away from assistant roles as he made his way to leadership.

Beginning of Coaching Career

Bill Belichick Coaching Timeline

 

In 1979, Belichick joined the New York Giants as the Special Teams Coach under the Head Coach Ray Perkins. Two years into his tenure with the G-Men, his role expanded as he took accountability for the Linebackers too. When Bill Parcells joined the Giants in 1983, Belichick survived the changing of the guard and saw his focus shift fully to the Linebackers. By 1985, he would be serving as the Defensive Coordinator to Parcells. He was the architect of their 1986 defense, which helped to secure a 14-2 regular season record and a victory over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Before leaving the New York Giants for his first job as a head coach, Belichick would win one more Super Bowl with the G-Men. This victory came after the 1990 season, when the New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills, 20-19. He was now the perfect target for several teams with head coach vacancies.

Cleveland Browns

Belichick, only 39 years old at the time, took over the head coach position for the Cleveland Browns. His first season saw a 6-10 record, which placed him third in the AFC Central Division. Eleven of the 16 games they played that season were decided by a touchdown or less.

Things didn’t get much better in 1992 or 1993 – both seasons ended with 7-9 records. It would have been fair for fans to question Belichick at this time, but he had an answer for them in 1994. Turning in an 11-5 record after three seasons with losing records, he was able to bring the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs. They would win their first game, against the New England Patriots, 20-13, only to lose in the next round, 29-9, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With a letdown the following year, where the team regressed to a 5-11 record, Belichick’s time with the Cleveland Browns came to a close. The 1995 season would be his last as their head coach, in addition to Cleveland’s last year with these Browns. They moved to Baltimore and became the team we now know as the Ravens.

New England Patriots

Belichick’s next chance at a head coach position wouldn’t come for several years, but he would get a chance to audition for that team as an assistant head coach for Bill Parcells and the 1996 New England Patriots team. He would be part of a Super Bowl run that saw the Pats lose 35-21 to the Green Bay Packers.

It would take a first-round draft pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, as well as fourth- and seventh-rounders in 2001 to acquire Belichick as their head coach from the New York Jets, where he had been serving as the assistant head coach. It could be argued this was the best trade in the history of modern football.

It only took two seasons before Belichick brought the first Lombardi trophy to the case at Foxboro, as he nurtured the then green Tom Brady to carry his team to a 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams. This would begin a history of dominance not replicated, and potentially never to be repeated. After winning their most recent Super Bowl in 2014, and ushering the Patriots to a 14-2 regular season record in 2016 without Tom Brady available for the first four games, is there a better head coach currently working in professional football today?

All-Time Best?

Lombardi. Landry. Madden. Shula. These are names you could consider as part of a Mount Rushmore of NFL head coaches. But with his success across multiple teams, and four Super Bowl rings as a head coach, it’s easy to make a case that Belichick is the greatest coach of all time. Will he continue to further his case with a Super Bowl win this year? Patriots fans can only hope.

Dress like the sidelines version of Belichick by getting the best officially licensed hoodies through Fanatics.

Sources

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/BeliBi0.htm

http://www.patriots.com/team/coaches/roster/bill-belichick

http://grantland.com/the-triangle/bill-belichick-new-england-patriots-trade-new-york-jets/

NFL Playoff Pet Pick ‘Em – Predicting NFL Playoff Winners: Championship Weekend

NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Header

There were 12 contenders fighting for the Vince Lombardi trophy. After Wild Card Weekend, there were eight. Now, four more contenders have fallen away after a crazy Divisional Round, and the four left standing head into their respective conference championship games next Sunday.

Last week, we put our experts head to head (or paw to toe) with the pros. Check out the original post where we introduce the contenders if you want a refresher on which pets and objects are in the running as well as their impressive resumes. The real experts, consisting of former players and professional sports journalists, fared generally very well over the last few weeks, and some of our animal friends did surprisingly well too.

Of course, there is the flip side. Some pups just can’t pick worth a dang, but also, some humans can’t either. Where does everybody stand after the Divisional Round?

Albert faces a tough decision
Albert faces a tough decision.

NFL Pick 'Em Leaderboard

Leading The Pack

We have two front-runners in our Pet Pick ‘Em challenge. One isn’t much of a surprise – Mike Golic is not only a human, but he’s a former NFL player and currently hosts a popular sports talk radio show. His current record is an impressive 7-1 (his only wrong pick was Dallas in the Divisional Round).

The other 7-1 record holder? Yep, it’s a pooch. Kylo Ren the pup is also rockin’ the picks with the ease and proficiency of an honest-to-goodness football expert, whose only misstep so far has been going with the Seahawks before they were rolled by Atlanta.

Kyle enjoys his position at the top of the leaderboard.
Kylo enjoys his position at the top of the leaderboard.

There are a bunch of other top contenders in our pool of experts, including humans, like amateur fan Matt. Matt is 6-2, which isn’t too shabby. He’s joined in a tie with several others, including Fox Sports writer Dieter Kurtenbach, Dibs the bearded dragon, Ella the cat, Korra the cat, and Mr. Chester the dog. Good job, Mr. Kurtenbach and Matt – you’re picking as well as these fine animals!

Interestingly, our trusty Coiney (er, coin we used for our coin toss) who got them all right last week, faltered and missed every single pick this week. The other qualified experts, such as Michael Irvin, aren’t doing as hot as Kylo the dog (Irvin is at 5-3, same as Mike Florio). The FiveThirtyEight DataLab is also falling off a bit with a 5-3 record. You can see how Coiney and your other favorite pets are faring in the complete rankings at the bottom of this post. 

The NFL Pick 'Em Pound

Trailing Behind

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those experts who aren’t doing all that great. Most of these are pets, but Leo, a baby human, is also running a 3-5 record (we certainly don’t hold that against him, though – he’s an infant and probably just wants more milk right now).

The rest of the 3-5 (and under) crowd are all cats and dogs. Fortunately, even those at the bottom aren’t completely missing all the picks, as Artemisia the cat and Riggins the dog both have a couple correct picks. Riggins, as we mentioned last week, is half blind, so you can’t blame him at all (don’t you dare even try), and Misi (as her humans like to call her) has better things to do, such as rule over the household like the queen she is.

Artemisia remains undaunted, despite being tied for last place.
Artemisia remains undaunted, despite being tied for last place.

This Weekend’s Games

As we gear up for the conference championships, we’ll really get to see who pulls away from the pack, and who is happier chasing tails or sitting on a windowsill. Now that we’re getting down to the wire, there are fewer games to pick. As the numbers grow smaller, the games become exponentially more important. The winners of this weekend’s matchups will go on to represent their respective conference in the Super Bowl.

Our most fabulous pet picker, Kylo, is gunning for Atlanta and New England to head into the big dance. Amateur fan Matt thinks Pittsburgh will edge out the Pats, while 6-2 Korra the cat thinks the Packers will represent the NFC in Houston. Our favorite half-blind canine, Riggins, also feels strongly that the Super Bowl will feature Green Bay and New England. Bentley, his partner in the Pick ‘Em Pound, is also predicting an Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady Super Bowl.

What will your picks be?

Complete Rankings

Below is a graphic that contains the full standings. But first, we thought you might like to see some of these pets in action!

Bentley ponders his choices.
Bentley ponders his choices.
Maizy seems unimpressed by Dallas or Green Bay.
Maizy seems unimpressed by Dallas or Green Bay.
Garnet is rolling with the Steelers!
Garnet is rolling with the Steelers!
Odellio is on the move to make her picks!
Odellio is on the move to make her picks!

NFL Pick 'Em Complete Rankings

Methodology

Our “animal experts” were pets submitted by members of the Fanatics.com team. Pet owners were given cutouts of the logos for each playoff team and asked to record their furry (or scaly) friends’ choices. Some owners chose to put the logos on the ground, while others put them in a bowl. There were no hard rules for how the choices had to be made, except that owners were not allowed to influence the choices.

The real experts included in this study were selected at random from a pool of former NFL players and sports journalists who currently cover the NFL across a variety of networks and mediums.
No real playoff prediction would be complete without a “wild-card” element, hence our inclusion of random people and inanimate objects, like our beloved Coiney.

Coaching Arcs: Jack Del Rio

Jack Del Rio Coaching Arc Header

With only 32 head coaching positions available in the National Football League, ascending to the top of the organization as head coach isn’t an easy task. Less a gift and earned more through graft, every current head coach boasts a unique story to how they crafted their resume.

Jack Del Rio is one of 32 head coaches in the NFL today. How did he get there? We took a look at his path to securing one of the most elusive jobs on the market and where his current team is heading.

Early Days

Jack Del Rio began his affiliation with the NFL as a player. He played college football at the University of Southern California as a linebacker and was ultimately drafted 68th overall by the New Orleans Saints. He would only play there for two years before making his way to Kansas City. Del Rio would play three seasons for the Dallas Cowboys and four for the Minnesota Vikings before hanging up his cleats for the clipboard.

Beginning of Coaching Career

Jack Del Rio made the transition from player to coach when he was 34 years old. He joined Mike Ditka’s staff as the strength and conditioning coach for the New Orleans Saints. After two seasons in the “Big Easy,” he headed up Baltimore and the defensive side of the ball to take the job of linebackers coach for the Ravens. With Brian Billick, Del Rio would earn his first Super Bowl Championship ring in 2000. While Del Rio was still there, Baltimore would also advance to the division round of the 2001 playoffs, losing to the Steelers 27-10.

Given the reputation of the Ravens defense, Del Rio parlayed his experience into a defensive coordinator role with the Carolina Panthers. It would only take one season working under John Fox in Carolina for someone to come knocking at Del Rio’s door to offer him a head coaching role.

Timeline of Jack Del Rio's Career in the NFL

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jack Del Rio would get his first swing at being a head coach in the NFL in Jacksonville, Florida. He succeeded Tom Coughlin, the franchise’s first ever head coach, who orchestrated three losing seasons in a row (2000, 7-9; 2001, 6-10; 2002, 6-10). Although Del Rio struggled during his first season – with the Jaguars achieving an 5-11 record – he navigated his way to successive winning seasons (2004, 9-7; 2005, 12-4) and a trip to the playoffs in 2005. The Jaguars would lose to the New England Patriots 28-3.

While Del Rio earned his best win total in 2005, his best season came in 2007, when the Jaguars achieved an 11-5 record. In the postseason, they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round 31-29, but ultimately lost to the Patriots (again) 31-20 in the divisional playoff round. With two .500 seasons (8-8), four losing seasons, and three winning seasons, the Jacksonville ownership had seen enough. Jack Del Rio was relieved as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars 11 games into the 2011 season.

Oakland Raiders

After parting ways with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Del Rio joined Denver Broncos head coach John Fox’s staff as the defensive coordinator. He bided his time in Mile High for three seasons – going to the Super Bowl in 2013 – before heading to the Oakland Raiders, replacing interim head coach Tony Sparano. Although the 2015 Oakland Raiders ended up finishing third in the AFC West, behind the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, four Pro Bowlers would help form a foundation for Del Rio to build upon in 2016: quarterback Derek Carr, running back Latavius Murray, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive end Khalil Mack.

With the 2016 regular season completed, the Oakland Raiders are headed to the postseason while Del Rio’s former employer, the Denver Broncos, will be watching the playoffs from the couch. He’s marshaled the team toward a 12-4 record claiming the #5 Wild Card seed in the AFC. What remains to be seen is if the Raiders will be able to cope without Derek Carr, who suffered a broken fibula in week 16. This will be the biggest test of Del Rio’s coaching legacy to date: Is he able to bring the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl with their MVP-caliber QB sidelined?

Del Rio Grande

Jack Del Rio is just one of 32 lucky individuals – a head coach in the NFL. These jobs don’t come around often, and he’s been fortunate enough to get two shots at it with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. Want to show off your Raiders pride and root Del Rio deep into the playoffs? Head to Fanatics.com for the best officially licensed merchandise and apparel for all fans of Raider Nation.

Sources

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/D/DelxJa00.htm

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/DelRJa0.htm