Print and Go Back Page 2 [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Look, the Writers' Bloc would be the last group to take lightly the idea of anybody being "overrated" -- especially after all the things people have said about us. But after the Bucs discarded Keyshawn like a used dish towel, try as we might, we could not avert our eyes.

Personally, we'd never say that Keyshawn is overrated -- well, all of us but Ralph Wiley -- but we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that at least one well-respected Super Bowl-winning coach (the one who most closely resembles a horror movie star) obviously believes that to be the case. So, in addition to the man from USC, we offer 10 nominees for the title of Most Overrated NFLer.

Keyshawn Johnson | By Ralph Wiley

Hmmm ... so, Keyshawn Johnson being declared inactive by Tampa made the Writers' Bloc think of overrated football players.

Whatever for?

Could it be that Key makes a case for himself not for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and certainly not for diplomatic attache to the U.N., but for being Kwame Brown before Kwame Brown? It's not just that Keyshawn is basically insecure because he runs 4.6, and that only on a good day; it's that he's a possession receiver and doesn't know it. He's not Marvin Harrison, much less a young Jerry Rice. That's OK. Who is?

But Keyshawn believes he is such an impact player, on that level, and so he can't help but be a disappointment, to the team that hires him, certainly, but mostly to himself. He was No. 1 in the entire draft. That doesn't happen to any receiver, much less to a a guy who finds out he's a possession receiver, and that his peers are, best-case scenario, Keenan McCardell and Hines Ward -- fine enough ballplayers, just not all-timers. Keyshawn, although I'm sure this will come more as a shock to him than you, is not an all-timer.

I don't really know who the most overrated player in the NFL is. Kurt Warner, maybe?

But I do have a clue on who the most disappointing player in the NFL might be.

Can you say Trojan Man, hombre?

Warren Sapp | By Tom Friend

Keyshawn Johnson now, Warren Sapp later.

If the Bucs are sincere about clearing out all narcissists, the fat defensive tackle has got to go, too. Keyshawn got by for years on a name and good book title, but he's got nothing on Sapp, who this year has only gotten physical in warmups

Not only is Sapp overrated, he'll tell you he's underrated. Take nothing he says seriously. He has shown decent hands as a secret tight end this year ("I want to see if I can get to the Pro Bowl both ways," he says), but if he goes to Hawaii this year, there ought to be a California recall. No one doubles him anymore, not with other more dangerous teammates like Anthony McFarland and Simeon Rice, and I hate to break this to you, but he's 11th -- 11th!!!!!! -- on his team in tackles. He has three sacks to his name this year, and yet there was this guy in New Orleans, Grady Jackson, who got cut for non-production ... and Grady has 3½!

Not good timing, either. Warren, who has a $6.6 million base salary, is a free agent come February, and the Bucs won't enter the bidding ... if there's any bidding at all.

Chris Hovan | By Tim Keown

To begin, there's nothing at all fresh about the pro-wrestling thing. It's tired, it's tacky and it brings up so many bad images (death by 35 is one, unfortunately) that it's a wonder any professional team athlete still adopts the persona.

Well, maybe it's no wonder, since every time someone like Minnesota's Chris Hovan runs the schtick, every camera focuses in and every reporter breaks out a new tape. All the hair and the tattoos and the buffoonery will get you the attention, but it can't hide the stark truth: one sack and 13 tackles through 10 games.

Bill Romanowski | By Luke Cyphers
In the same vein ... Bill Romanowski. "He's a guy you hate when he's on the other team, but when he's on your team ..." you hate him more.

Unless it's his legal team.

Jeremy Shockey | By Eric Neel

It's not so much that Jeremy Shockey's overrated as a talent ...

... though I will say the Messiah Train got rolling mighty early, and the Gotham press got itself worked up in a particularly eager lather over him, and I'll also say that with the possible exception of Dave Casper, I don't buy superstar tight end talk at all, and if I DID buy it, I'd be buying up shares of Tony Gonzalez and diversifying my portfolio with some Dallas Clark long before I spent a penny on stock in young Jeremy

... it's that he's overrated as a personality, a tough guy, and a force. His calculated shaggy 'do and his cartoonish, potty-mouth badmouthing are straight off the junior high playground. He's about as believable, relevant, interesting and intimidating as William Zabka playing the headbanded bully in "The Karate Kid." He ain't controversial, he's clownish, in that I'm-bored-can-we-go-now-I-hate-the-circus sort of way.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins | By Steve Wulf

The most overrated NFLer of this -- or any -- season is a team: the 1972 Miami Dolphins. When the Bengals beat the Chiefs on Sunday, we all envisioned those great old Fish popping corks in celebration of their continued distinction as the only undefeated team in NFL history. But they were also just about the luckiest stiffs in NFL history.

Those Dolphins beat only two teams with winning records that year, and those two were 8-6. Their regular-season opponents had an aggregate winning percentage of .396; their schedule was easier than 99 percent of the schedules from 1950 to 1972. They had three close victories in the regular season, over the Vikings (16-14), Bills (24-23) and Jets (28-24) -- none of whom made the playoffs. And once in the postseason, the Dolphins barely beat the Browns (20-14), Steelers (21-17) and Redskins (14-7). They were a memorable bunch, what with Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, Mercury Morris, Jake Scott, Bob Griese, Nick Buonoconti and Garo Yepremian. But never forget their soft schedule, either.

Ricky Williams | By David Schoenfield

When will NFL teams learn? You don't build a playoff team around a running back. Especially one like Ricky Williams, who has had one great season in his career.

Well, sort of. Williams led the NFL in rushing last season, but the Dolphins didn't even make the playoffs. But that's not a shocker: None of the top 11 rushers in 2002 made the postseason.

This season is a little better, as five of the top 11 (although just one of the top five) running backs are currently in a playoff position, including Williams and the 6-4 Dolphins. But don't thank Williams for that; he's averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and has lost three fumbles. Franchise player? Don't fool yourself.

Daunte Culpepper | By Eric Adelson

Who led the league in turnovers last year? Not Tiki. Not Ricky. It was Daunte Culpepper. He had 32. Last week he had five, leading to 21 Raider points.

Culpepper has been sacked 20 times -- more than 24 other QBs. Daunte's fierce, and fast, and fun to watch, but the truth is that mobile quarterbacks as a whole are overrated. When they leave the pocket, they confuse not only the defense but also the offense. Blocking assignments and running routes get muddled.

In Culpepper's four wins, he has run for 84 yards. In his four losses, he has rushed for 148. Oh, and he lost three games to a back injury on a touchdown run against Detroit. Sure, I'd love to have Daunte on my fantasy team, but I don't know if I want him or any other mobile QB on my NFL team. Name one double-threat QB, besides Steve Young, who has won a Super Bowl. Think Terrell Owens, after playing a couple games with Tim Rattay instead of Jeff Garcia, would disagree? I'm sorry Mike Vick isn't around to blow up my theory. But he's on the sidelines because of an injury sustained while scrambling.

Michael Vick | By Jim Caple

Don't get me wrong -- Michael Vick is a fantastic, exciting player. I'm just not convinced that after 17 starts, he has reinvented the game.

There was so much hype for Vick last year that you would have thought he had gotten engaged to J-Lo. We ran a poll and more people said they would draft Vick at age 22 than Joe Montana, Brett Favre and John Elway combined. Yes, Vick threw for 2,936 yards and ran for 777 last year, his first full season as a starter. Those are great numbers, but we've seen it before. Donovan McNabb had similar totals three years ago. So did Daunte Culpepper last year. And in 1990, Randall Cunningham rushed for nearly 1,000 yards while throwing for almost 3,500.

Let's wish Vick a healthy return and see what he can do over a couple seasons before ordering his Hall of Fame bust.

Kurt Warner | By Dan Shanoff

As a human-interest story, Kurt Warner's dream season in '99 ranks among the all-time best in NFL history. (He almost single-handedly rekindled my fizzled interest in pro football.)

Since '99, he has been exposed as -- cue ominous music -- "a system quarterback." Because of his great personal story, Warner gets way too much credit; because of Mike Martz's grating personality, the Rams' brilliant offensive scheme doesn't get enough.

Not many QBs could have offered Warner's back-story, but many QBs -- from 1999's would-be Warner, Trent Green, to his eventual replacement, Marc Bulger -- could have performed similarly on the field.

Paul Tagliabue | By Patrick Hruby

Oh, sure -- pick on the crippled Vick. The irritatingly God-fearing Warner. The simply irritating Shockey. Easy targets, all of them, especially since they can't hit back without the threat of a lawsuit (hey, we know how much they make, even if it isn't guaranteed).

But truth be told, you're fingering the wrong guys.

The most overrated person in football isn't a player. It's the man behind the curtain: Paul Tagliabue. The man collects hosannas like trading cards, encomiums like stamps. And for what? Because the NFL is the undisputed King of Leagues? Whoop-dee-damn-do. Put a monkey behind the commissioner's desk, and the league would still be riding Master and Commander over the choppy swells of the sports world. The product is just that good.

Granted, Tags deserves kudos for steering the good ship Football. But keep in mind: It's a really big boat. And the icebergs out there look like popsicles. Tags is just a steady, reassuring hand, the jolly cap'n on a cruise (controlled) ship. The owners, players, networks and fans all power the enterprise. When they decide to go along and get along, life is all good.

It's often said that coaches get more credit than they should for wins, and more blame for losses. As much as it pains me to slag a fellow Georgetown grad, the same goes for Tagliabue.