November 30, 2009
Time is running short on the last year of the '00s, so it's time to dive into the daunting task of ranking the NFL's best of the decade. Best what? Best everything. We're going with a series of top 10 lists, and if something miraculous happens between now and Dec. 31, well, we'll just have to catch it at the end of 2019.
10. Ed Hochuli's quick whistle against the Chargers.
Hochuli's mistake was unique in that it was directly, inarguably responsible for one team beating another, and there was no one in the stadium who disagreed that the wrong call was made. There was just nothing anyone could do about it. For some reason, Ed Hochuli just decided to blow his whistle randomly. It might be higher up on the list if history didn't right itself, with the Chargers eventually beating down the Broncos later in the season and claiming their rightful division title.
Once upon a time, David Boston was about to set a new mold for the ideal NFL wide receiver. He had the frame of a chiseled defensive end, but with the height and speed of a prototypical receiver. You were particularly excited about the David Boston era if you were playing fantasy football back then. He was a genetic (or chemical) freak. But then he signed a big free-agent deal with the Chargers, and David Boston turned into an oversized version of Charles Rogers(notes). He stopped producing, steroids were mentioned more than once, and Boston was rarely heard from again.
8. Janet Jackson's halftime show (of skin).
An incident that lasted less than a second currently has a Wikipedia entry of nearly 4,500 words. You don't need me to tell you what happened, but it was a desperate and sad attempt to create buzz for her new album, and even as an act of exhibitionism, it was a complete failure. We saw just the briefest flash of breast, with the nipple covered. Basically, it was nothing you couldn't see about 83 times in any video on MTV. That didn't stop it from causing one of the biggest, most confusing and most frightening media uproars of the decade, though.
7. The Patriots' attempt at 19-0.
I don't want to label an 18-1 season as a "flop," but I really wanted to see history happen. Going undefeated in the modern, parity-driven NFL is regarded as so impossible that I thought it would've been neat to see it happen in my lifetime. The Patriots were 13-point favorites in the Super Bowl, too. It could've happened. It should've happened. Then David Tyree(notes) and his magical helmet had to go and ruin everything.
6. The Tuck Rule.
What bothers me most about the Tuck Rule is that it still exists in the NFL rulebook. After the disaster in the 2002 playoff game between the Patriots and the Raiders, everyone sort of assumed that the NFL would wait a bit, let the heat die down, and then quietly change the rule, but that's never happened. As it stands now, it's incumbent on the official to determine if a forward motion of a quarterback's arm was an intent to pass, or if he changed his mind, attempted to tuck the ball away and just lost control of it. Almost seven years later, no one's figured out a better way to do things.
5. NFL broadcast issues.
The NFL Network itself is great. That it has the rights to Thursday night games, and much of the country gets shut out from watching them, is not so great. In fact, it's inexcusable. The league's own instrument is responsible for depriving people of their product, and on paper, that just seems like a really, really bad idea. The Sunday Ticket package has similar issues, in that the product itself is fantastic, but the fact that it is available only to DirecTV subscribers and costs up to $400 is borderline criminal.
4. Daniel Snyder's tenure as Redskins owner.
Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, and since then, he's been running the Redskins like a miniature, billionaire Matt Millen without the awesome mustache. His approach to football excellence has been to bring in the most expensive free agents, whether or not they were any good or fit the team's scheme (on the rare occasions that they've had one). It's all come to a head this season, with Snyder taking an unprecedented amount of criticism from fans and media.
3. ESPN's unrelenting attempts to involve non-football people in their coverage of football.
It started in 2000 with Dennis Miller in the Monday Night Football booth, and the reviews were mixed, but it ultimately failed. In 2003, Rush Limbaugh got a spot on ESPN's "Sunday Countdown," and that crashed and burned in about a week. Then Tony Kornheiser got a turn in the Monday Night booth in 2006, and everyone got a headache. If you've learned anything from the '00s, ESPN, I hope it's that you should keep entertainers separate from your football analysts. I fear that the '10s will bring us Zac Efron, Gallagher and the little kid in "The Blind Side" as ESPN football analysts.
2. The XFL.
It wasn't an NFL flop, but it was a flop of professional football, if I can use that term loosely. Vince McMahon, professional wrestling impresario, decided to launch a football league, and with the WWE's marketing and entertainment minds behind it, it didn't seem like a terrible idea. And ultimately, it wasn't doomed by any of the wacky ideas or intense focus on cheerleaders; it was doomed by awful, awful football. If you saw two touchdowns in a game, you were lucky. Television ratings for the XFL were lower than the average blood alcohol level of the viewers at home, and it died after a single year.
1. Matt Millen as Detroit General Manager.
Millen became Detroit's general manager in 2001 based on the strength of his performance as a broadcast analyst. This is a lot like hiring someone to teach music at Julliard because they once appeared on "American Idol." We don't have the space or the heart to go over all of Millen's bad decisions, but the Lions went 31-97 on his watch. How they won 31 remains a mystery. Millen is back where he belongs, in the broadcast booth where he can't hurt anyone.
Comments, criticisms, omissions, and your own top ten lists are encouraged in the comments below.
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