Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Best Cornerbacks, Now and Then

We continue our discussion of the top players that are playing the game now and players that many consider the best ever.   Now, for my usual caveat:  Reasonable minds will disagree on who makes these lists and why.  I don’t claim to be the final judge.  However, these are names any respectable football fan should know.
We began this journey through history with quarterbacks.  Today, cornerbacks.


Darrelle Revis, New York Jets (2007-present):  Darrelle Revis attended the University of Pittsburgh and was drafted 14th overall by the Jets in 2007.  As I mentioned in my last post, the athleticism and skill required of cornerbacks often gives these players a bit of an attitude and cockiness other players might not express.  Revis is one example of this phenomenon.  He has nicknamed his area of the field “Revis Island”.  Last year, he famously, and successfully, held out of training camp and the entire preseason to renegotiate his contract for more money.  He has already been selected for the Pro Bowl (the NFL’s all-star game) three times and won AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.

Nnamdi Asomugha (Oakland Raiders, 2003-2011, Philadelphia Eagles, present):  Nnamdi Asomugha (pronounced NAHM-dee  AH-sim-wah) attended University of California, Berkeley, and was drafted 31st overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2003.  He has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times, and from 2007 through last season, he has allowed no more than 13 receptions each season; he didn’t allow any touchdown receptions last season.  After the 2010 season, his contract with the Raiders was up and the Eagles snagged him at the end of the lockout with a 5-year, $60 million contract.

Charles Woodson (Raiders, 1998-2005, Green Bay Packers, 2006-present):  Charles Woodson attended the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and was drafted 4th overall by the Oakland Raiders in 1998.  Woodson won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan (edging out Peyton Manning), the only player ever to do so as a primarily defensive player.  Woodson has been to the Pro Bowl seven times, won NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and was part of the Packers victory in Super Bowl XLV (he broke his collar bone in the first half).

IN THE GAP:   Champ Bailey (Washington Redskins, 1999-2003; Denver Broncos, 2004-present):  I put Bailey in a special “in the gap” category.  By “gap” I mean the gap between active and retired players.  Champ Bailey has already cemented his position as one of the great cornerbacks of all time.  He is still in the League, but I hesitate to put him in the list of “Today’s Stars”; in my opinion, some of the younger guys are just a slight cut above at this moment.

Bailey attended the University of Georgia and was drafted 7th overall by the Redskins in 1999.  In 2004 he was traded to the Broncos for a second-round draft pick and running back Clinton Portis.  Bailey has been selected to ten Pro Bowls, a record for cornerbacks.  In 2006 and in 2009, he didn’t allow a single touchdown out of the passes thrown in his direction. 


Mel Blount (Pittsburg Steelers, 1970-1983):  Mel Blount attended Southern University (Baton Rouge, LA) and was drafted by the Steelers in 1970.  He was a member of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense that Naptime Huddle readers know was one of the reasons the Steelers were able to build a championship dynasty in the 1970s.  It is generally believed that it was Blount’s physical dominance over receivers and aggressive style of pass coverage that gave rise to today’s pass interference and other rules limiting physical contact against receivers.  Blount was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

Rod Woodson (Steelers, 1987-1996; San Francisco 49ers, 1997; Baltimore Ravens, 1998-2001; Oakland Raiders, 2002-2003):  Rod Woodson attended Purdue University and was drafted 10th overall by the Steelers in 1987.  He played in three Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XXXV with the Ravens.  He still holds two NFL records:  interceptions returned for touchdowns (12) and interception return yards (1,483).  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, the first year he was eligible for the honor.  Woodson is currently the cornerbacks coach for the Raiders.

Deion Sanders (Atlanta Falcons, 1989-1993; 49ers, 1994; Dallas Cowboys, 1995-1999; Redskins, 2000; Ravens, 2004-2005):  As I mentioned in my last post, Deion Sanders is known for his supreme self-confidence and flamboyant style.  However, his reputation for theatrics and taunting his opponents should not overshadow his on-field accomplishments.  Sanders, also known as “Neon Deion” and “Prime Time,” accomplished greatness not only in football but baseball as well.  He went to Florida State and was drafted by the Falcons in 1989.  He also started playing for the Atlanta Braves* that year and would continue to play baseball part-time for nine years.  He is the only athlete ever to hit a major league home run and score a touchdown in the same week; he is also the only athlete to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series.  Sanders won two Super Bowls and is only one of two players to score a touchdown six different ways:  interception return, punt return, kickoff return, receiving, rushing and off a fumble recovery.  This year, the first year he was eligible, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Famous for wearing bandanas, he put one on his bust at the induction ceremony.

*Braves fans already know that Deion Sanders is the man who brought the “tomahawk chop” to Atlanta.  The chop came from Florida State and continues to be used as a rallying cry for Braves fans today.

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