Mailbag: Disturbed by D-line rankings

Ryan Pickett
(AP Photo)

Doing any type of ranking of anything in the NFL (including who has the best sideline chain gang) can quickly get you into deep water. The latest installment of emails and other messages from readers demonstrates the pratfalls of taking any type of opinion.

But it’s all in fun:

Riled by rankings

Here is a suggestion: How about you do some actual research before writing a piece like this. The Packers had the No. 1 ranked defense last year and they are ranked No. 20 on this list. Ryan Pickett(notes) as a “journeyman”! Since when has playing for two teams in a nine-year career been considered a journeyman? (B.J.) Raji was a freaking rookie; how about giving him some time. This list makes it look like you are an uneducated, uninformed joke of a sports writer. I don’t know what you won these supposed awards from that make you an award-winning writer. but it sure as heck wasn’t because you know a darn thing about football. You are worthless.


Actually, the Packers had the No. 2-ranked defense in the league last year, including the No. 1 overall against the run. That said, as you’ll see later, I like the Packers linebackers and secondary a lot more than the line. Furthermore, the difference between the 12th-best line and the 20th-best line in the league is pretty small. I also think that some of the Packers’ defensive stats are boosted by the success of their offense and, more specifically, the passing game within that. I think opponents become one-dimensional against the Packers very quickly because of Green Bay’s ability to score (the Packers were third in the league in scoring last year). The philosophy is similar to Dallas’ in the early 1990s, when the Cowboys won three titles in four years. The bottom line is that the defensive line is OK, but far from great, and the stats are only a small part of the equation.

After reading your D-line rankings, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that the No. 1 line is the one with two guys who have two things in common: a last name (Williams) and the ability to continue avoiding a drug suspension because of legal loopholes. As far as I know, these guys have never denied using the substances and yet they manage to keep on playing as if nothing happened because they have good lawyers? Good grief! I used to not hate the Vikings, but that has changed 180 degrees. Thanks for the usual good work!

Justin Dunham
Kansas City

Kevin and Pat Williams(notes) … No. 1 in your heart and No. 1 in the courtroom.

Please look up yards per carry given up by defenses in 2009, and then look up “pressures” and “hits” by defensive linemen. Considering the comments you made about the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive line, I’m positive each statistical category will be quite revealing to you. Perhaps, the next time you set out to write one of your silly articles, you’ll actually do some research and not embarrass yourself. Either way, mommy’s putting it up on the fridge, but do it for the rest of us, who are wondering why you’re even being paid for what you write.


Perhaps I should reveal to you this little-known fact: The 49ers are mediocre right now, and that’s actually something of an achievement for them based on the team’s performance since last making the playoffs in 2002. Ranking the defensive line No. 19 overall was completely fair. They’re OK. Great? No. Above average? Not even. Yards per carry, hits and pressures are pretty empty stats when taken on their own. There is nothing fearsome or game-changing about that unit. That doesn’t make them bad, but it doesn’t make them good, either. Maybe you should think about that before you write another one of your silly emails. But you can print this article now and post it on your mom’s fridge. I’m sure she’ll love reading it while she makes breakfast for you every day.

(Sorry, I’m not usually this snarky).

Wow, just wow … As a 49ers fan, I’d just like to say: what a slap in the face. Fourth best at stopping the run and we are (ranked) 19th – that is a joke. Our D-line pretty much manhandles anyone in the run game. I believe we only allowed two 100-yard rushing performances on the year. We were also top 5 in sacks. Our D-line helped us do all of that. Just an absolute joke. To have the Lions ranked ahead of us is laughable, even if they got (Ndamukong) Suh. But then again, being that you were a writer for 15 years of impotent Dolphins football, one can see why a person in your position would make such insolent comments.

Jared Walker
San Jose, Calif.

OK, I won’t rant again. I’d just like to point out, again, that I’m not a Dolphins fan. And, like the previous reader, you should be careful about using words like “impotent” when you’re a fan of the current incarnation of the 49ers.

Really? The Steelers sixth?! Have you watched any football over the past five years? They were third against the run last year even without Aaron Smith(notes) (who Peter King had on his all-decade team) for most of the season. Casey Hampton(notes) went to the Pro Bowl. Two years ago, they almost led every major category on defense … and you can’t tell me it’s the DBs making that D tick and the LBs get swapped in and out all the time. Not to mention the guys have a couple Super Bowl rings in the past few years. Also, I guess a first-round pick in Ziggy Hood(notes) last year and Chris Hoke(notes) (who helped them be a top D several years ago when Hampton was out) are just chump change as backups. I think you could put the Vikes, Ravens and Steelers in any order from 1 to 3 and be right, but to have the Steelers sixth behind the Cowpies, the weakling Giants, and the wimpy Colts is absurd. PS: Look up Sunny Harris as well as an prospect.

San Francisco

I actually thought No. 6 was a pretty good ranking.

You wrote: “You don’t find many Jared Allens or Dwight Freeney’s(notes) playing on a 3-4 defense.” Please explain why you felt it appropriate to insert an apostrophe after the “y” in “Freeney.” When you use the plural, you just add an “s.” You would only insert an apostrophe if you were describing something belonging to Freeney, such as, for example, “Freeney’s play was outstanding. ” You, as a so called professional writer, should have had this elementary aspect of the English language burned into your cells years ago. Get with it, man!

Hollywood, Calif.

I feel like I’m in some journalistic version of “Full Metal Jacket.” I’m half-expecting you to write: “Now drop and give me 40 antonyms and 40 synonyms!”

Tilting against windmills

Cut the entitled, spoiled brats! That is what works. The college game is great, and they have “less talent” than the pros. The important point is balance of talent, not total talent. Hold the line on the brats; just because god blessed you with speed, size, and quickness does not entitle you to a damn thing. If baseball had gone with the replacements instead of caving back in ’94, I would still watch the sport; now it is dead to me and a whole generation of others that feel like if a $250K minimum salary isn’t enough then to hell with all of you. That is all.

Asheville, N.C.

I really don’t understand this thinking. If people have talent and work hard (and most football players work pretty hard), then why shouldn’t they have the right to earn whatever they’re worth? If somebody is a great singer like Jane Monheit or Alicia Keys or Eddie Vedder and people are willing to pay to hear them, why shouldn’t that singer earn a great wage? What about a great banker? What about Steve Jobs? God presumably gave him a gift for inventing. What’s wrong with him making a lot of money if he invents something (or many things) that people want and use?

Jason, Please tell some of your readers to lay off the players when it comes to salary. The owners are just as greedy. The owners decided to cut back on the CBA length, rolling out the possibility of a strike. The owners routinely cut players or force players to renegotiate contracts. That’s the situation that produces these holdouts. If a player has a good year, they have to demand payment right then. If they don’t, the player is risking his health and income for what? Loyalty to a team that won’t care about them when they don’t produce? Look at Tom Brady(notes). He took a lower than market value contract a few years back for the team. Is anyone arguing his case now? Nope, it’s just him, his agent, and a Brazilian Supermodel in his corner. Anyway, your readers should understand that greed and loyalty are both two-way streets. If the players received loyalty, you’d see less holdouts. But instead, you see teams cutting offers and wrecking seasons over money.


Actually, I’ll let your words speak for me. Everybody wants cash. Some people have the leverage to ask for more, and they can use that leverage as they please. I try not to take sides in the fight. Also, I want to caution people that not all owners are greedy, just as not all players are greedy. Plus, it’s not so much about greed as it is about business. We all get bent out of shape about money when it comes to football because the game stirs so much passion. In addition, the salary cap (from 1993 to last season and probably on into the future after a new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated) makes money an integral element of the game. But the bottom line is that the players and owners are primarily motivated to make as much money as they can. That’s a pretty normal motivation.

Regarding the guy who wrote in saying that “ninety-nine percent of the people in the world would jump through fire to make $3 million … “: $3M apparently seems like a ridiculous sum to him, and he’s morally repulsed that someone would not immediately take that. What would he hold out for? If he’s an average American, he makes somewhere around $50,000 (very rough). Would he request a raise? Because for the vast majority of the world, $50,000 is an incredible sum – just as incredible as $3M is to him.

Josh Orum
San Francisco

Indeed, it’s always about perspective. Some people have it and some don’t.

You stated that if the NFL went to cable only, it would end up costing more for the average person in the way of higher costs from advertisers. I find that humorous at best. If the NFL went to cable only or pay per view to start with, they would make a lot of money but (… eventually lose) revenue due to bad teams or a lack of what games to watch. Their contracts with the NFL would begin diminishing, to the point of who wants to watch a 2-10 team? No one that I know of, and of course if you have to pay to watch the games on TV a lot of people wouldn’t. To make my point, since Monday Night Football went to cable, I have not watched a single game. Why? Because cable wants too much money for the privilege. I find it funny that you – a journalist who makes his money from sports – defend the rights of players who for the bottom line are playing a game be it football, basketball, hockey, or tennis, to name a few. That’s why we as a country seem to be lacking – we put more emphasis on sports than on medicine, science, business or any of the important things in our lives. The Olympics got it right till of course they started allowing pros into it.

El Paso, Texas

I defend the right of anyone to make what they are worth based on a free-market economy. That’s one of the foundations of capitalism. Now, if you really think that moving to cable would hurt the NFL, you might check the ratings. Since moving to ESPN for Monday night games, the NFL has posted the highest ratings ever for cable TV. Since much of the country now buys some basic cable package, I think you’d end up being very wrong. The NFL is a ratings magnet. Always has been and it probably always will be. Not that I much care. I cover it, but I’m certainly not so limited in scope as a journalist that I couldn’t write about something else. In other words, I’m not defending the rights of athletes to make money just so I can also make money. Furthermore, I would never argue that the NFL is more important than medicine. But the fact that a football player makes more at age 22 or 23 than a doctor at a similar stage of his career is just a reality of how those businesses work. Like it or not, football players make a lot of money. So do actors and actresses. So do lots of people who you might classify as mere entertainers. But, in the case of football players and most other athletes, they do so over a short period of time. That means that most doctors end up making far more than most NFL players because most doctors work for 30 or 40 years. Football players last about four years, on average. In four years, the average football player will be lucky to make $1.5 million – and that’s before taxes. I dare say that most doctors will far out-earn that player over the long run. I’d also bet a large sum that most doctors stand a much smaller chance than a football player of getting hurt in the process of doing their job.

Actually Jason, I am very wealthy. Self made in fact. Jealousy? Again an atrocious suggestion. See, you missed the point yet again. They are walking out on their teammates and organization. And you are right about other players being paid more money and not winning anything. Even more reason for A.J. Smith (whose ways of doing business I do not like) not to open the coffers for unproven winners. You see Jason, more times than not, the guys crying about disrespect and money are the ones who don’t win anything. And that’s because they are selfish, self-centered, and not good team players. You never heard Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, John Elway, etc., etc., etc. crying about money. They just went out and won games and championships and then were rewarded. That same statement applies to all sports. The guys who are winners, win, plain and simple, and then collected. So to answer your little snippet about jealousy. Never would I be jealous of anything someone else has. Never would I want what someone else wants. Nor would I care, either. I just go out and earn everything. I am a diehard Chargers fan for 30 years now. Go out and win us a friggin’ Super Bowl, then you will have earned your money. If you’re worried about getting injured, then get off the friggin’ football field. See Jason, what I said to you was that this was a poor argument. I didn’t say to you stop kissing ass and riding coattails in an attempt to rub elbows with celebrities did I? I said your argument was atrocious. Have some insight and perspective into the real issues. Greed, selfishness, and shortsightedness. And not having won anything yet. First-round exit. Shut down by Darrelle Revis(notes). And he deserves what? How about a standard raise and a chance to do better … cause that’s what everyone else would get. Don’t get personal next time Jason. That is classless.

Brian Kennedy
Carmel, N.Y.

Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
(Tim Sharp/AP Photo)

While I’m glad to hear your rant wasn’t jealousy-based, you might want to check your facts. For instance, Emmitt Smith held out for two games at the beginning of the 1993 season because of a contract dispute. Yes, even a winner wanted more money. Imagine that. As for Jerry Rice, he constantly complained about how much he was paid (or not paid) in his career, if you actually followed it. Furthermore, using the Super Bowl as the standard of getting paid is an absurdly high standard since only one team wins it every year. Plenty of great players never won a Super Bowl but certainly earned their money. Dan Marino is a pretty good example. So is Barry Sanders. Or how about Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow(notes) Sr. or even LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) (so far)? I’m sure, as a 30-year Chargers fan, you enjoyed watching Fouts, Winslow Sr. and Tomlinson, right? Didn’t they get paid well, and deservedly so? But now Vincent Jackson(notes) and Marcus McNeill(notes) insult your sensibilities? I don’t get that. Also, you might want to check the numbers on Jackson against Revis. Jackson had seven catches for 111 yards (though those numbers didn’t exclusively come against Jackson). He held up his end of the bargain. The real problem for the Chargers that day was kicker Nate Kaeding(notes).

Detrimental conduct

You said in your recent mailbag: “There are ways to suspend players, such as for conduct detrimental to the team, but a holdout or not signing doesn’t qualify for that.” But isn’t a holdout (not refusing to sign) detrimental to the team? You miss important meetings about new schemes/plays/scouting reports, valuable practice sessions especially in a new scheme. You force the team to play with a lesser player. You may even cause the team to lose games. On another note: I understand a guy on his rookie contract wanting an extension after a few years, but not after a team pays you $31 million in under a calendar year, and not after a player has multiple DUIs either.

Meriden, Conn.

That’s a good point. The only answer to that is that the players and owners have collectively bargained over what a player is allowed to do in terms of missing games. In other words, they have an agreement in place about what is acceptable to both sides. To that extent, some level of holding out is allowed in that it is only subject to a certain amount of fines. If the player is willing to pay the fine, suspension isn’t an option.

Hall of Fame thought

I wanted to go to the HOF this year to witness Emmitt’s induction. I’ve been a Cowboys fan all my life. I decided I couldn’t afford it initially, but when I got an email from the HOF about autograph packages, I opened it up and quickly read it, hoping I’d still have a chance to get to meet my favorite Cowboy. Well, he was my favorite Cowboy. Five-hundred dollars just to get autographs from the guys, and then Jerry Rice and Emmitt have their own set of rules about what they’ll sign; no pictures taken with the fans; and charging an extra $200 just to write “HOF 2010” on whatever they sign? You gotta be (kidding) me! These guys are multimillionaires from playing a game for a living, and still want to stick it to the fans? I’m not going to the HOF this year, and probably never will. I met DeMarcus Ware(notes) up in Minneapolis for the playoff game in Jan. Nicest guy you could ever meet. Gave me more than one autograph – one for my helmet and one picture for my little girl – and took a couple of pictures with me. Same thing with Jason Witten(notes) a couple years back when I was in Dallas. At least some of my Cowboys get it. If it wasn’t for us working class schulbs who love the game, what would there be for these guys? In this economy, shouldn’t these “all-time greats” try to be great human beings as well?

Dan Libke

Sorry to hear about that. Frankly, I would never pay for an autograph, and I’ve never really understood that whole fascination with signed memorabilia. However, if that’s the market, so be it. I think you should stick to your guns and not pay if you don’t feel it’s worth it. If more people did that, autographs wouldn’t be worth so much.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Jul 11, 2010