By Kurtis Seaboldt
A week from Sunday the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos will meet in Super Bowl 50. Thusly, I will present you the All-Super Bowl Team. I tried to put it together the way a real NFL team is put together – 53 players.
They are not necessarily the best players in NFL history; they are the best players in the Super Bowl and, by that, I mean those who played the best – or at least had the largest impact – on Super Bowl history. I didn’t merely pick the players who accumulated the most yards or touchdowns, either.
So here goes (STARTER in BOLD FACE):
QB: JOE MONTANA, Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw
Montana started four for the 49ers (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV), threw 11 touchdowns without an interception and authored one of the great drives in the history of the game against the Bengals in SB XXIII. Brady started in six for the Patriots (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLII, XLVI, XLIX), winning four. Bradshaw started and won four for the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV). Montana (XVI, XIX, XXIV) and Brady (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX) are three-time MVP’s; Bradshaw won the award twice (XIII, XIV).
RB: LARRY CSONKA, EMMITT SMITH, Terrell Davis, Franco Harris
Csonka started three for the Dolphins (VI, VII, VIII), winning two and averaging 5.21 yards per carry. Smith started and won three for he Cowboys (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) and had the greatest single drive a running back has had in a Super Bowl against the Bills in SB XXVIII. Davis started and won two for the Broncos (XXXII, XXXIII) and also had a pair of 100-yard game, including 157 against the Packers in SB XXXII. Harris started and won four for the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV). He averaged less than four yards a carry but is the career Super Bowl rushing leader.
FB: TOM RATHMAN
Rathman started and won two for the 49ers (XXIII, XXIV).
WR: JERRY RICE, LYNN SWANN, John Stallworth, Ricky Sanders, Desmond Howard
Rice started and won three for the 49ers (XXIII, XXIV, XXIX) and started one for the Raiders (XXXVII). His MVP performance in SB XXIII (215 yards) would rank 12th on the career yards list. Swann and Stallworth both started and won four for the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV). Swann was the MVP of SB X and averaged well over 20 yards per catch, as did Stallworth. Both caught three TD’s. Sanders started and won two for the Redskins (XXII, XXVI) and averaged 23.4 yards per catch. His 193 yards against the Broncos in SB XXII was a record until Rice broke it the next year. Howard was the MVP of SB XXXI for the Packers and will be my punt and kickoff returner.
TE: JAY NOVACEK, Dan Ross, John Mackey
Novacek started and won three for the Cowboys (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) and just beats out Ross, whose 11-catch, 104-yard, two-touchdown day kept the Bengals in SB XVI against the 49ers. Mackey started in two for the Colts (III, V), winning one. His twice-tipped, 75-yard TD in SB V is the longest reception in Super Bowl history for a tight end.
T: JOHN KOLB, JOE JACOBY, Matt Light
Kolb started and won four with the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV). Jacoby started four for the Redskins (XVII, XVIII, XXII, XXVI), winning three. Light started five for the Patriots (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLII, XLVI), winning three.
G: BOB KUECHENBERG, GENE UPSHAW, Larry Little
Kuechenberg started four for the Dolphins (VI, VII, VIII, XVII), winning two. Upshaw started three for the Raiders (II, XI, XV), winning two. Little started three for the Dolphins (VI, VII, VIII), winning two. There were a lot of guys I could have chosen after Kuechenberg. I chose Upshaw and Little. So there.
C: JIM LANGER, Bill Curry
Langer started three for the Dolphins (VI, VII, VIII) winning two. Curry started one for the Packers (I) and two for the Colts (III, V), winning two overall.
DE: HARVEY MARTIN, RICHARD DENT, L.C. Greenwood, Charles Haley, Reggie White, Bruce Smith
Martin played in three for the Cowboys (X, XII, XIII) winning one and was named Co-MVP (with Randy White) in SB XII. Dent started in one for the Bears (XX) won MVP honors. Greenwood started and won four for the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV). Haley started and won two with the 49ers (XXIII, XXIV) and three with the Cowboys (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX), although he was a linebacker with the 49ers. He had to go somewhere. White started two for the Packers (XXXI, XXXII), winning one. He had one of the great games ever for a DE in SB XXXI against the Patriots. Smith started in four for the Bills (XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII) and got a safety (XXV).
DT: JOE GREENE, RANDY WHITE, Alan Page, Vince Wilfork
Greene started and won four for the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV). White started two for the Cowboys (XII, XIII), winning one. He was named Co-MVP (with Harvey Martin) in SB XII, Page started four for the Vikings (IV, VIII, IX, XI). Wilfork started four for the Patriots (XXXIX, XLII, XLVI, XLIX), winning two.
LB: ROD MARTIN, BILL ROMANOWSKI, Jack Lambert, Ted Hendricks, Chuck Howley, Ray Lewis
Martin started and won two for the Raiders (XV, XVIII) and picked off a Super Bowl-record three passes in SB XV. Romanowski started four and played in five for the 49ers (XXIII, XXIV), Broncos (XXXII, XXXIII) and Raiders (XXXVII), winning four. Lambert started and won four for the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV) and had 14 tackles in SB X. Hendricks started and won one for the Colts (V) and three for the Raiders (XI, XV, XVIII). Howley started in two for the Cowboys (V, VI) and was the MVP in a losing cause for in SB V. Lewis started and won two for the Ravens (XXXV, XLVII) and was the MVP in SB XXXV.
CB: HERB ADDERLEY, TY LAW, Darrell Green, Randy Beverly, Willie Brown
Adderly started in four (I, II for the Packers; V, VI for the Cowboys), winning two. He had a pick-six for the Packers against the Raiders in SB II. Law started four for the Patriots (XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX), winning three. His pick-six against the Rams turned the game in the Patriots’ direction in SB XXXVI. Green started three for the Redskins (XVIII, XXII, XXVI), winning two. Beverly picked off two passes in the Jets’ win in SB III. Brown started two for the Raiders (II, XI) and had a pick-six against the Vikings in SB XI. Old Man Willie.
S: JAKE SCOTT, DWIGHT SMITH, Charlie Waters, Mike Wagner, Ronnie Lott
Scott started three for the Dolphins (VI, VII, VIII) and was the MVP of SB VII. Smith had two pick-sixes for the Buccaneers in SB XXXVII. Waters started in five for the Cowboys (V, VI, X, XII, XIII), winning two. Wagner started and won four for the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV) and had two interceptions. Lott started and won four for the 49ers (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV), though the first two were at CB. Again, he had to go somewhere.
K: ADAM VINATIERI
Vinatieri kicked in four for the Patriots (XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX) and one for the Colts (XLI). He is the career leader in FG’s made and PAT’s made.
P: JERREL WILSON
Wilson punted in two for the Chiefs (I, IV) and is the career leader in punting average (46.5).
LS: KENDALL GAMMON
Gammon snapped in one for the Steelers (XXX) and is the greatest long-snapper in NFL history.
HEAD COACH: CHUCK NOLL
Only one head coach won four without a loss. And it's Chuck Noll
by Kurtis Seaboldt
A Columbia, Missouri, radio station this week decided to mark the end of the Gary Pinkel Era at Mizzou by putting together an All-Pinkel Team. They even came up with a two-deep chart. I couldn’t really quarrel with any of the selections, even the omission of Kony Ealy and a top ten NFL draft pick in Blaine Gabbert. It was a good read and it reminded me, once again, the impact Pinkel had on the Tigers football program.
After their second straight Big 12 North title in 2008, I wrote a column about the steps the team had taken under Pinkel: winning games, winning big games, playing for titles and, finally, putting players in the NFL, especially the heavily-watched-by-top-recruits first round.
As it turns out, he wasn’t close to being done.
Forty-one players brought to Columbia by Pinkel have played in the NFL. Thirty have been drafted, half of those coming in the last four drafts. The last seven drafts saw seven Missouri Tigers taken in the first round. The previous six head coaches – going all the way back to Dan Devine – combined for ten. Not only did Gary Pinkel win more games than any other Missouri head coach (118), he won more than the previous four coaches combined (106).
Did things break well for Pinkel in his time at Mizzou? Sure. His best seasons in the Big 12 coincided with the slippage of Kansas State and Nebraska. His best seasons in the SEC happened during lulls at Florida and Tennessee and he faced the SEC West’s big three – Alabama, LSU, Auburn – only once in the regular season.
Each of his four division winners was overmatched in the conference championship game, losing by an average of 27 points. But three of the four teams that beat Missouri were ranked either #1 or #2 in the nation the week after the game. What does that mean? It means that Missouri wasn’t up to the challenge of the very best teams in the country.
But think of where that bar is in comparison to where it was when Pinkel arrived in Columbia 14 years ago. In the course of finding their way in the monstrous SEC, they found their way into the conference title game twice in their first three years. No apologies are required for that.
Watching Pinkel’s last team – the last team he will ever coach – was difficult for Missouri fans or just fans of good football. The Tigers were bad in his last home game and they were even worse in his last game on any field. There is an outside chance that the Tigers could still make one of college football’s 718 bowl games but I don’t know of a fan that wants that to happen. They want to get 2015 behind them as fast as possible. So do I.
But what will 2016 bring?
At this point, the school doesn’t have a chancellor or a president. The last president was ousted in a coup that was aided by the players. The athletic director has been on the job less than a year. It’s hard to imagine that combination not having an impact on the current search to find the next head coach. Whoever takes the job will be stepping onto what could be a shaky limb but there is little doubt that the job of Missouri head football coach is a much better one than it was in 2001. It’s not a program in need of a rebuild because it was already built. And it was maintained.
Losing six of their last seven was ugly but it says a lot about where the program is that limping to a 5-7 record is considered a major disappointment. Gary Pinkel didn’t win a national championship or even a conference championship. But he completely transformed the image of Missouri football. That’s a mighty fine legacy.
by Kurtis Seaboldt
It was one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in NFL history. In his first year as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, Andy Reid took a team that finished 2-14 the previous season and won 11 games.
The Chiefs were the 34th team since 2000 to follow a 10-loss season with a 10-win season. That was the good news. The bad news heading into 2014 was what tends to happen to teams that go from 10 losses to 10 wins in one season.
Heading into 2014, the previous 31 teams to make such a leap had fallen back significantly in Year Three. Those 31 teams had an average record of 5-11 in their 10-loss season and 11-5 in their 10-win season. Their average record in Year Three was just 7-9.
But there is an interesting distinction within those Year Three teams and here is where the history mentioned in the title portends a good 2015 for the Chiefs. Even though the average Year Three team only won seven games, the individual win totals are all over the map, from three wins (2013 Redskins) to 13 (2006 Bears).
Nine of the 31 teams won four or fewer games in Year Three, a huge drop off from their 10-win season. But nine other teams won at least 10 games in Year Three and 12 teams had winning records, including the Chiefs at 9-7. And that Year Three performance is where the teams separate a little bit going forward.
The 19 teams that were 8-8 or worse in Year Three had an average record of 8-8 in Year Four, with just seven of the 19 (37%) making the playoffs. The 12 teams that had winning records in Year Three (as the Chiefs did last year) had an average record of 11-5 in Year Four, with eight of the 12 (67%) making the playoffs.
The Chiefs – and the other Year Three winners from 2014, the Eagles and Cardinals – appear poised to keep that trend going.
It’s a small sample size but three teams were exactly 9-7 in Year Three. The 2002 Patriots went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl in 2003. The 2005 Chargers went 14-2 in 2006. The 2009 Falcons went 13-3 in 2010.
Again, a small and very specific sample size but, as the late Fred White was fond of saying, “If ya wanna dream a little”.
by Kurtis Seaboldt
In the beginning, it was a hope, then a possibility, a probability and now a near certainty. For the second year in a row, the Kansas City Royals are going to the post-season.
But what will they do when they get there? A year ago, they were the darlings of October, piling up win after win, each one more unexpected than the one before, as they swept their way to the World Series. They were “Cinderella”.
This year, the Royals are the favorite. The target they were shooting at last October is now on their own back. Hunter. Hunted. Yada, yada, yada. You get the picture.
Sometimes the favorite wins it all. See the 2013 Boston Red Sox. Sometimes they win nothing. See the 2014 Los Angeles Angels. Or the 2014 Washington Nationals. Which one will the big, bad 2015 Kansas City Royals be?
Sadly, it’s almost impossible to get much of a handle at all on what lies ahead this Blue October. I’ve looked at a handful of possible indicators and the results have been, for the most part, inconclusive.
Rolling to a division title hasn’t been a plus. Since 1995, 32 teams have won their division by at least ten games. Half of them lost in the LDS. Eleven more lost in the LCS. That leaves just five that got to the World Series. Of those five, only the 1995 Atlanta Braves and the 1998 New York Yankees won the whole thing.
Playing well against other playoff teams in the regular season doesn’t mean that much, either. The Royals have not played particularly well against those teams this year. They are 18-19 against the teams that would, if the season ended today, would be in the post-season (Yankees, Blue Jays, Astros, Angels, Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs).
But of the ten teams to make the World Series in the last five seasons, six were under .500 against playoff teams from that year. Their overall win percentage is just .479. So the Royals’ mediocre play is anything but a harbinger.
There is one indicator that seems to show something: How well a team plays in September. Nine of the last ten World Series winners were over .500 in September. Their combined win percentage was .611. As for pennant winners, 17 of 20 were over .500 with a combined win percentage of .602. The only teams in that stretch to reach the Fall Classic after a losing September were the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals and the 2006 Detroit Tigers. That was a weird year.
For the Royals, last year was all about getting to the post-season. This year, it’s all about what happens once they get there. On that score, unfortunately, history is of little help.
Bo Jackson was perhaps the biggest star on the planet. Bret Saberhagen was flattening bats in route to his second Cy Young Award. George Brett, Frank White and Willie Wilson were still in the lineup. Mark Gubicza, Charlie Liebrandt and Jeff Montgomery were on the mound.
It was 1989 and the Royals were very good. They were also very popular. It was that season that the club set an all-time attendance record that is still standing today. On average, 30,971 fans filled then-Royals Stadium, a total of 2.48 million for the year. The team went on to draw two million fans in both 1990 and 1991 but diminishing stars and diminishing returns soon resulted in diminishing crowds.
The team hasn’t drawn two million since then. That is going to change this season and it won’t even be close. The Royals, fresh off their first World Series in 29 years and bubbling over with exciting players, have packed Kauffman Stadium on a regular basis. They’re average attendance this season is 32,255, a mere 11,537 more than a year ago. At the current pace – keep in mind a team’s attendance increases in the upcoming summer months – the Royals will hit 2.61 million this season, breaking their franchise mark by more than 130,000.
And the attendance has been consistent. They have drawn 30,000 in 19 of 30 home dates, putting them on pace for 51 on the season. Their previous high was 45 in 1989. Last year, they had 16. In 2013, they had 10. In 2012, they had seven. Last month, they had six in a single home stand. They have drawn a crowd of 30,000 or more on every day of the week. And they are barely a third of the way through their home schedule.
The Royals just played two games in Minneapolis against the team that began the week in first place. The Twins have a brand new ballpark and a winning team and they drew crowds of 22,796 and 22,497. The fans haven’t bought into the Twins yet. Royals fans clearly have.
Three years ago, they hosted the All-Star Game; this year they are owning it. They have overloaded the All-Star voting to the point that there is almost surely going to be a rule change, one that will bear the name of the team that made it necessary.
A year ago, the only mention of crowds of 30,000 at Kauffman Stadium had to do with how poorly the Royals played in front of them. Now it’s how crowds of 30,000 have become the norm. It is a different time, indeed. Royals fans are proud of their team. They should also be proud of themselves.
By Kurtis Seaboldt
Wednesday night was a banner night for the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Jeremy Guthrie tossed six scoreless innings, running the team’s current streak to 24 straight, tying a franchise record set way back in 1976.
Three innings later, Luke Hochevar struck out Brandon Phillips for the final out of the Royals’ 7-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Kansas City’s third straight win ran their record to 26-14, the best 40-game start in the club’s 47-year history.
It’s great. But what does it mean? What does history say about teams that sit where the Royals sit right now and where they eventually sit when the season is over? I wanted to know and so, as I do from time to time, I checked it out.
Since 1995, when Major League Baseball adopted their current six-division format, 16 teams have started a season exactly 26-14 (not including the Royals, Cardinals and Astros this season). I initially looked at teams that were 26-14 or better but decided that would not be an accurate predictor. The Seattle Mariners started 31-9 in 2001; what could that predict about at team that started 26-14?
So, how did those 16 teams fare? Not as well as you may have expected, certainly not as well as I expected. Their average win percentage that season was just .553, which works out to an average 162-game record of 90-72. That’s just one game better than the Royals were last year when they started the season 20-20.
But, how many of those 16 teams had a run differential that matched the Royals’ current differential of +68? Just one. The 1996 Texas Rangers had exactly the same record and exactly the same run differential as this year’s Royals and they finished – you guessed it – 90-72.
Even the post-season wasn’t a lock for the “Sweet 16”. Only nine made it, though it must be pointed out that, from 1995 through 2011, there was only one Wild Card team in each league. The 2006 White Sox would have made it as the second Wild Card team.
One oddity that may or may not have anything to do with the Royals’ chances: From 1995 through 2004, seven of the eight made the post-season. From 2005 through 2014, only two of the eight did although, again, the 2006 would have.
The Royals are off to the best start in their history and the fans should enjoy every minute of it. But any thoughts that they are a post-season lock should be tabled for the moment.