Alabama Crimson Tide in the NFL

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Founded in 1831, the University of Alabama took its time developing a football program, but the school has certainly made up for it since then. The university’s first football team took the field in 1892, quickly amassing wins and becoming noticed nationwide when they defeated the University of Pennsylvania in 1922. The 1925 season saw Wallace Wade coach the team to an undefeated and untied season, which was followed by a Rose Bowl invitation, where the Crimson Tide came from behind to clinch the win over Washington.  

Alabama has also rolled to a total of 16 national championships (the most in the SEC), six of those under head coach Bear Bryant. Alabama has two Heisman Trophy winners – Mark Ingram in 2009 and Derrick Henry in 2015 – but they’ve sent tons of players into the NFL, many of whom have made an impressive mark. Pro Football Hall of Famers who spent time as part of the Crimson Tide include Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, John Hannah, Dwight Stephenson, Ozzie Newsome, Derrick Thomas and Ken Stabler.

Considering Alabama’s long, storied (and championship-filled) history, it’s not a shocker to say there are plenty of former Crimson Tide players in the NFL today. Let’s take a look to see which current NFL players have spent time on the field at Alabama.

‘Bama Ballers

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There are tons of standout players currently in the NFL who were once part of the Crimson Tide. Julio Jones, wideout for the Atlanta Falcons, is one such player. Before he was drafted by the Falcons in 2011 (No. 6 overall), he was a national champion with the Crimson Tide and contributed to Alabama on a large scale, amassing over 2,600 receiving yards during his time there. As an NFL player, he’s continued pulling his weight, becoming the 2015 reception yards leader with 1,871 yards, being selected for the Pro Bowl four times, and reaching the championship game after the 2016 NFL season.

🏃🏿💨

A post shared by Jet Jones (@juliojones_11) on

His college teammate, Mark Ingram, has also enjoyed success after leaving Alabama for the NFL. Ingram was on that national championship team with Jones at Alabama, and won the Heisman Trophy that same season. The running back was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 2011 draft, which is where he remains today. He’s been to one Pro Bowl in 2014 and reached above 1,000 yards in 2016.

P R E S S U R E #22Savage #GodWins

A post shared by Mark Ingram II (@markingram22) on

Dont’a Hightower is another former Crimson Tide player who has found great success in the NFL. Hightower was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2012, and he’s a solid presence in their linebacker corps. He’s been selected to the Pro Bowl once, and he’s got two rings – so far.

A post shared by Donta Hightower (@_boomtower) on

These three players are certainly not the only stars to come out of Alabama. Consider Amari Cooper, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Eddie Lacy, and Derrick Henry – all set to make an impression for their respective NFL teams.

Roll Tide

It’s easy to be a college football fan if you love the Crimson Tide. If you’re looking for some amazing Alabama swag for the next game day, or you’re looking for killer birthday gifts, go no further than Fanatics (you can also find authentic NFL gear so you can cheer on your favorite Alabama alums).

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South Carolina Gamecocks in the NFL

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The University of South Carolina was founded in 1801 as the South Carolina College to unite the locals in the aftermath of the American Revolution. Their football program got its start nearly 100 years later in 1892, and although it was a very slow start (they only played a handful of games for the first several years and went without a coach for their first three seasons), they picked up steam at the turn of the century.

The Gamecocks football program brought home the 1969 ACC Championship and the 2010 SEC East Championship, and won an impressive handful of bowl games, including three Outback Bowls (2001, 2002, and 2013), the 2006 Liberty bowl, two Capital One Bowls (2012 and 2014) and the Duck Commander Independence Bowl (also in 2014). They recently enjoyed back-to-back-to-back 11-win seasons under coach Steve Spurrier (2011 to 2013) and are looking for a good season in 2017.

There have been many former Gamecocks who have appeared in the NFL, including the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, who was drafted No. 1 overall in 1981 by the New Orleans Saints. Rogers went on to win the Big Game with the Washington Redskins in 1988 and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice.

Let’s take a look to see what former Gamecocks are currently playing in the NFL.

Carolina Made

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The Houston Texans currently have the most former South Carolina players on their roster, including Jadeveon Clowney, Bruce Ellington, and Johnathan Joseph. The Carolina Panthers have two: Captain Munnerlyn and Damiere Byrd. And the Bills do as well: Patrick DiMarco is on the active roster, while Marquavius Lewis is on the practice squad.

Several other teams feature former Gamecocks. Melvin Ingram, for example, is on the Los Angeles Chargers, and Pharoh Cooper is on the Rams. A.J. Cann plays for the Jags, and Stephon Gilmore takes the field for the Patriots.

Former Gamecocks in the NFL range in age as well, with the youngest born in 1995 and the oldest making their world debut in 1984.

Let’s focus on a few standout South Carolina players. Jadeveon Clowney entered the NFL when he was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 draft by the Houston Texans, where he still plays for their defense today. Clowney had a stellar high school career and his large size and speed certainly fared him well at South Carolina. He received quite a few accolades in college, including the 2012 Consensus All-America and the Ted Hendricks Award, and there was plenty of pre-draft hype, with experts agreeing that he was something special.

😳😳😳

A post shared by Jadeveon Clowney (@clowney__90) on

Since entering the NFL, Clowney has been selected to go to one Pro Bowl (so far) in 2016, and while he’s been plagued with a bit of an injury bug, he’s still an important part of the Texans defense (and he even rumbled a Tom Brady interception back for a score earlier in the 2017 season).

Another former Gamecock, cornerback Stephon Gilmore was drafted in 2012 10th overall by the Buffalo Bills, where he played for five seasons before heading to the New England Patriots. Gilmore was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and has nabbed 15 interceptions over his career so far.

Whatever it takes #Patsnation #Craft #Work

A post shared by Stephon Gilmore (@bumpnrungilmore) on

Wideout Pharoh Cooper, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 2016, is another former Gamecock the school should be proud of, especially when he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in mid-October 2017.

Either way it goes…. I'm blessed .!!

A post shared by Pharoh Cooper (@kingtutt_chdown) on

Go Cocks Go!

So you’re a South Carolina fan, or you really enjoy watching former Gamecocks make huge plays for your favorite NFL teams? Well, you’re in luck. Not only does Fanatics carry a huge assortment of Gamecocks gear, but they also have plenty of authentic NFL swag so that you can take in the games in style.

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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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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

A photo posted by The Elder Tree Public House (@theeldertree) on

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

A photo posted by Twin Peaks (@twinpeaks_atl) on

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: 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

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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.

NFL Playoff Pet Pick ‘Em – Wild Card

NFL Pet Pick 'Em Header

Every year, 12 football teams vie for the ultimate victory at the end of the NFL season – the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The days leading up to each playoff weekend are rife with analysis and predictions from former players and experts. Predicting the outcome, however, isn’t an easy task, as games can go in either direction at the drop of a hat.

Here at Fanatics.com, we decided to turn to some experts of our own. In addition to random football fans and professionals who know a thing or two about the game, we checked in with some furry experts … and yes, we do indeed mean pets. Super cute and adorable pets.

Shorty debates which playoff team to pick
(Shorty faces a tough decision between the Seahawks and the Lions.)

Who Are the Experts?

Experts part one for the pick 'em.

We had a wide variety of experts on hand to pick the winners of each playoff game. In addition to Coiney, our trusted flip coin, and the data lab from FiveThirtyEight, we checked in with the “real” experts. This includes former player Mike Golic, who now opines for ESPN, and Michael Irvin, former wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, who spends time roaming the desks at NFL Network.

We also put the expertise of a few sports journalists to task. FOX Sports writer Dieter Kurtenbach’s picks are here on display, as are Mike Florio’s (he’s a writer for and creator of Pro Football talk).

We also talked to a few amateur fans. Tyler is a huge Saints fan whose picks might be more from the heart than from strong statistical analysis. We also have 5-month-old Leo and a grandmother from the U.K. There are also a few non-fans, like Margie, who picked on a whim.

Pets for Playoff Pet Pick 'Em

The pets, though, may be stealing the show. Dogs, cats, fish, a gecko, and a bearded dragon made playoff picks. Obviously, these are no ordinary pets.

For example, 10-year-old Albert is a Yorkie who also answers to “Sir Snuggles,” and he’s just fine with that. Shorty, a miniature dachshund, may just be a bandwagon fan, but we’re not telling anyone. Another dog, named Kylo, is a very spoiled only child, much like his namesake. And Charley, who was rescued when he was 2 years old, spends his time trashing his owner’s bed and barking a whole bunch.

Cat picking
One of our feline experts makes her selection.

As far as cats go, Molly is a catnip freak, and Roofus tends to fixate on laser pointers. Basil spent his youth chasing footballs and hockey pucks … on the TV screen (which obviously makes him an expert in NFL picks), and Korra spends her days perfecting her litter box skills.

Finally, Dibs – the bearded dragon – spends his days stressing out about his reflection, and Tunachi, the fish, is the perfect impartial picker.

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 placed them in bowls. There were no hard rules for how the choices had to be made, except that owners were not allowed to influence the choices.

Ranking the Contenders After Wild Card Weekend

The Wild Card Weekend has come and gone. How did our experts fare?

It seems our coin toss got them all – that’s right, the most random expert on the board was four for four. Check out amateur fan Matt, who avoided picking with his Southern Florida heart and was 100 percent on his picks last weekend. Former defensive lineman Mike Golic was also in the top spot.

We even had a few adorable animals bat 1.000. Korra, the cat, along with Kylo and Vinny, the dogs, were on fire with their picks. How did they complete this amazing feat? What are they eating that’s giving them all this brainpower? Most importantly, will they keep this trend going?

 

Playoff Pet Pick 'Em Pound

However, not every animal pal did well this past weekend. A couple of dogs failed pretty hard. Riggins, the pooch, chose all the losers in the contests, as did poor little Albert (a.k.a. “Sir Snuggles”). We can’t blame them, though, because they’re canines (also, Riggins can’t see out of one eye, so cut him some slack).

On the human side, one of our non-fan “experts” also put up a huge zero, so picking ’em wrong is not just limited to four-legged creatures. Even professional sports writer Mike Florio only correctly picked two out of four times.   

While Wild Card Weekend was a snoozefest and lacked a ton of drama (all four home teams and higher seeds won their respective contests), there were a few big moments as the winning teams all hit their stride while bowling over their opponents. On the AFC side, Le’Veon Bell certainly turned heads with his unique and super patient rushing attack, and Jadeveon Clowney demonstrated a circus-like acrobatic interception that defensive players dream of. For NFC teams, Aaron Rodgers threw a Hail Mary – again – that was caught for a touchdown – again. We also can’t overlook Doug Baldwin’s fantastic catch … with his butt.

This Weekend’s Games

This weekend is the divisional round when the winners of each of the four games will head to their respective conference championship. Houston rolls into Foxborough as a huge underdog, making New England an easy pick for most of our experts, but not everyone has Tom Brady fever – Vinny, the dog, threw caution to the wind, picking Houston to shock the world with a win in the Northeast.

The rest of the games are more evenly matched (at least, according to Vegas), and the picks coming in reflect that, with some going toward Kansas City. However, Shorty, one of the pups finding himself in the pick ’em pound this week, picked Pittsburgh instead.

Korra, the only feline with a perfect record is picking Seattle and Dallas to meet in the NFC championship game.

Who do you think is going to come out of this weekend with a win?

Cuteness Overload in the NFL

No matter what picks these pets make, they are all super cute (even the fish). Above all, they are loved very much by their humans, who are going to completely overlook their totally wrong NFL playoff picks and instead give them more smooches, catnip, crickets, or dog treats – because that’s what they deserve.

Our pets aren’t the only ones who deserve a treat. Did your team make the playoffs? Celebrate the occasion by buying some gear from Fanatics.com. Even if your team missed out, it’s never too early to start dreaming about next year.

Ella prepares to make her selection.
Elly May ponders who she will choose in the next round.
Garnet remains cheerful despite not being in first place.

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.

Sources