By: Lucas Kochevar
Another week, another lack of an Aaron Rodgers trade. The Packers are making sure to hold out for all the picks, while the Jets are likely waiting for the Packers to calm down on their asking price. Speaking trades, there have been a few notable names that have been on the move. The Cowboys have been active on this front and they picked up two very productive guys in Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks. The former defensive player of the year, Gilmore, should add to the Dallas defense a dependable number two cornerback on the other side of Trevon Diggs. Cooks should provide relief for star receiver CeeDee Lamb. I think it definitely will raise the ceiling for the Cowboys. They'll still need Dak Prescott to up his play if they want to go anywhere as he largely underperformed at the end of last season.
Their NFC East foe, the Giants, also added a big time weapon with tight end Darren Waller. Now that they've tied down quarterback Daniel Jones, they decided to really go after some weapons to help him out. Waller was a breakout star over his years with the Raiders, but injuries have held him back. With breakout coach Brian Daboll, Waller looks to capture that magic back. The last big move that happened recently was cornerback Jalen Ramsey finding a new home in Miami. The Rams moved off of the star corner after finally deciding the price tag wasn't worth the dip in quality of play. Ramsey adds on to a defense that was fairly effective last season. They added notable defensive coordinator Vic Fangio over the offseason and he should also help utilize Ramsey. There are still a number of names out there that'll likely be moved, but I'll talk about those when the time comes. In this edition of LK League Notes for volume 20, I wanted to go back to the year 2000 and just remember some fun names from the game.
The 2000 NFL Season
I've been a historian of the game for as long as I can remember. I went to the Canton when I was younger to see the NFL Hall of Fame. I corrected the tour guide when he failed to remember that Brett Favre had the record for all-time interceptions. The early 2000's is still a hard time for me to remember because of how random it feels. The Super Bowl champ was the defensive-led Ravens and they blew out a Giants team with Kerry Collins at quarterback. The poster for the Super Bowl featured Kerry Collins vs Trent Dilfer. That seems absurd given the talent in the league at that time. As I stated earlier, the Ravens blew out the Giants 34-7 on the back of a four interception performance from the Ravens defense
Speaking of those Ravens, the defensive player of the year was Ray Lewis. In the prime of his career, Lewis was a force to be reckoned with. The defensive rookie of the year was also a linebacker, who was fairly notable to football, Brian Urlacher. A substantial difference in this season was the importance of certain positions. The offensive rookie of the year was actually someone I've never heard of, running back Mike Anderson. A very fascinating player, Anderson actually enlisted in the military after high school. He played on the contact football team and was seen by a JUCO coach. He was honorably discharged and pursued football at a JUCO school, where the coach I mentioned earlier worked. After a couple seasons, he transferred to Utah, where he played with future star receiver Steve Smith Sr. He was drafted by the Broncos and rushed for 1,487 yards and 15 touchdowns under Mike Shannahan's famous zone-blocking scheme. He only rushed for over 1,000 yards one more time over a seven year career. He was a very intriguing player and I don't want to say it was a failure of a career since he was able to make it in the league after a very non-traditional path.
He wasn't the only running back to receive big time awards. Marshall Faulk was named the NFL MVP, as well as the offensive player of the year. Faulk seems to be a very deserving candidate for the award as he was in the midst of four straight seasons rushing for over 1,300 yards and receiving around 1,000 yards on top of that. Out of this legendary run, Faulk had his career high 26 total touchdowns, including 18 rushing. Faulk was a star attraction on top of the NFL world as a big time run for running back during the 90's and early 2000's with the year 2000 as his exclamation point.
The MVP results are also a real treat to look at with names. Donovan McNabb was second in voting and Eddie George was third. The league leader in passing was fifth place in voting. He was some young gun named Peyton Manning with 4,413 yards. Another shocker was Rich Gannon at third place, even though he captured his MVP two years later, I never think of him when I consider early 2000's quarterbacks. Names that come to mind are guys like Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and, to a smaller degree, Daunte Culpepper. These type of names are littered throughout the passing leaders leaderboard.
The names listed above are some fantastic quarterbacks, but there are some names that have been forgotten through the years. Jeff Garcia was close behind Manning and actually had some good years with the 49ers before turning into a backup in his later years. A name that I wasn't familiar with at all was the third place guy in passing yards, Elvis Grbac. The career backup was a late bloomer as he never truly got off the ground until he was 29 with the Chiefs and in his second year as the full-time starter, he threw for 4,169 yards and made the pro bowl. Other notable guys on the passing yards list include the late Steve McNair on the Titans, Ryan Leaf on the one-win Chargers and 34-year-old Troy Aikman, who retired after the season.
Before I get back to naming dudes around the league, the standings also tell an interesting story. Starting from worst to first, the Chargers, who lived in San Diego at the time, had one win. It was the worst in the league as no team was 0-16 in NFL history at that point. The Cardinals, Browns, Bears and Falcons were still just as bad as they are today. The Titans and Giants were the respective one seeds in their conferences, led by the quarterbacks I mentioned earlier. The other teams in the playoffs make sense given the talent they had, but there were two surprises to me. The Dolphins won the AFC East, despite not having legend Dan Marino, who retired the year prior. The Denver Broncos also won 11 games to get a playoff berth under Brian Griese, the son of Super Bowl winning quarterback Bob Griese. This was a year after the Broncos won the Super Bowl and legend John Elway decided to hang it up.
Looking at the Pro Bowl is the best way to see all the legends that played the game back in this year since it actually mattered compared to todays version of the Pro Bowl. Some big time names on this list include 23-year-old Randy Moss, Tony Gonzalez, Terrell Owens and Orlando Pace. Corey Dillon and Warrick Dunn were notable running backs on the team. Rod Woodson at age 35 made the Pro Bowl during this second renaissance in his Hall of Fame career. Left guard Bruce Matthews and wide receiver Cris Carter are also older players that managed to make the Pro Bowl during this season. There truly were stars everywhere on the field during this game and countless Hall of Famers.
The last trip down memory lane I wanted to look at was the NFL draft that followed this season in 2001. This draft featured a strong crop of Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers. The first overall pick in this draft was traded by the Chargers to the Falcons. With that pick, the Falcons drafted big name Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick. A very noteworthy player, who has remade his image, Vick was a highlight machine during his playing days. The Chargers used their pick on Hall of Famer and one of my favorite players ever, LaDanian Tomlinson. A few other Hall of Famers include defensive end Richard Seymour and offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson. Some future Hall of Famers include Justin Smith, Reggie Wayne, Drew Brees and Steve Smith Sr. It was a fascinating year to look back on and it's always fun to just go back and take a look at all the legends of the game that were in their prime or starting to blossom before our eyes.
Sources: Image via Baltimore Ravens. Information on Mike Anderson here. Stats and more found here.