The NFL draft annually brings back memories, and many of those memories aren’t exactly pleasant. With every draft bust comes the question, “What if we took [fill-in-the-blank Pro Bowler who’s on another team] instead?” On that note, what if you could go back and get a do-over on those draft picks that your team whiffed on?
That’s the premise of this exercise, as we asked our 32 NFL Nation reporters to go back over the past five drafts (2014-18) and correct their team’s biggest draft mistake during that time. We gave them the keys to the DeLorean and waived all speed laws.
The ground rules:
The re-drafted player has to be available at the pick in question (no using the 30th pick in 2017 to draft Patrick Mahomes).
You cannot trade the pick you’re looking to re-draft, but you can choose not to trade a pick the team traded (see the Buffalo Bills‘ entry).
With those rules in place, it’s time to rewrite history in the way each reporter sees fit. Click on the links below to go to each team:
Picked just seven slots after Bucannon, Lawrence would’ve given the Cardinals a dominant pass-rusher long before they traded for Chandler Jones in 2016. At the time, they could’ve paired Lawrence with Calais Campbell to give Arizona a forceful edge rush. Even though quarterback Derek Carr was still on the board, the Cardinals were in the midst of Carson Palmer’s run. Drafting a quarterback would’ve made sense long term, but Lawrence would’ve given the Cardinals stability on one edge right away. And imagine pairing him with Jones if history stayed on track. — Josh Weinfuss
Sure, pass-rush help was the No. 1 priority for the Falcons, but it’s hard to pass on an offensive playmaker who is right in your own backyard. Gurley could have made a dynamic Atlanta offense even more dangerous despite coming off a serious knee injury in college. And it wouldn’t have mattered that the Falcons already had an eventual Pro Bowl back in Devonta Freeman; they ended up drafting the now-departed Tevin Coleman in this draft. — Vaughn McClure
The Ravens were looking for a playmaking downfield target and chose to go with a prospect with questionable hands over someone who played a short drive from their stadium. Baltimore wasn’t the only team to pass on Diggs, who lasted until the fifth round because of durability issues. But this represents another cringe-worthy misstep at wide receiver for the Ravens, as Diggs has totaled 3,493 yards (or 2,577 more than Perriman). — Jamison Hensley
The Bills maneuvered extensively to acquire Josh Allen in the 2018 draft and hope he’s their franchise quarterback, but passing on Mahomes was a decision that could ultimately limit Buffalo’s ceiling. Then-rookie coach Sean McDermott and owner Terry Pegula went on the road before the 2017 draft to visit with quarterbacks as they explored long-term options to replace Tyrod Taylor, but with Mahomes and Deshaun Watson on the board at No. 10, the Bills punted on the pick in order to take White at No. 27 and add a 2018 first-round selection. General manager Doug Whaley was fired the day after the draft, adding to the confusion about who made the call. — Mike Rodak
The Panthers took a defensive tackle in each of the first two rounds of the 2013 draft, so this was then-GM Dave Gettleman’s insurance in case he lost one in free agency in the ensuing seasons. That happened when Star Lotulelei went to Buffalo in 2018. But the offensive line was a mess a year after Carolina went to the Super Bowl, particularly after left tackle Michael Oher was lost for the season with a concussion. Ifedi, who went No. 31 to Seattle, has started 44 games at guard and tackle. He would have helped solve problems on the line that continued in 2017 and ’18. Butler has been a disappointment, with zero starts and two sacks in three seasons. — David Newton
The Bears were searching for the heir apparent to Matt Forte in the spring of 2015, but instead of taking Gurley, Chicago chose White, who turned out to be a bust. The Bears eventually addressed running back in the fourth round that year by drafting Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford. But Langford lasted two seasons in Chicago, and Gurley is one of the league’s best skill-position players. — Jeff Dickerson
The Bengals tried to replace left tackle Andrew Whitworth several years before they needed to; in hindsight, they should’ve been trying to reshape their linebacking corps. The Ogbuehi experiment was a disaster and the play of middle linebacker Rey Maualuga dropped off sharply the following season, causing the Bengals to spend several years signing a series of middle linebackers to one-year deals. Four years later, the Bengals are still looking to fill holes at both tackle and linebacker. — Katherine Terrell
Johnny Manziel is now going by “John” in an effort to turn the page in his life and career as he looks to reestablish himself in football.
First round of the 2014 draft (No. 22 overall)
Actual pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Do-over pick: Anyone else
Literally, any other player drafted after Manziel (pass-rusher Dee Ford went 23rd) would have been better. The damage from this pick cannot be fully calculated, because missing on a quarterback taken high sets a team back the number of years it commits to him, plus the same number of years to find the next guy. In the Browns’ case, this choice set them back four seasons — or until they found Baker Mayfield. The signals and signs Manziel was not truly committed were there, but the Browns went ahead with a choice they should have avoided. — Pat McManamon
Charlton is the only Dallas first-round pick since 2013 not to make a Pro Bowl, so there is some disappointment thus far. While many believe T.J. Watt should have been the Cowboys’ pick due to his success in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, the organization (front office and coaches) did not feel he was a perfect fit for their 4-3 scheme. Ramczyk is the pick because he has started every game and would have allowed the Cowboys to keep La’el Collins at guard instead of moving to right tackle. The Cowboys like to say they want to keep their strengths strong, and Ramczyk would have done that for their offensive line. — Todd Archer
The Broncos traded up in the first round — from No. 31 and threw in a third-round pick (No. 94) — because they wanted their quarterback of the future. But Lynch failed to win the starting job in back-to-back training camps and then didn’t win the backup job in his third training camp, in 2018. He was waived last summer after four starts, four touchdowns and four interceptions.The Broncos have taken a tight end in three of the past four drafts (Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli) because it has been, and still is, a need position. While Henry has dealt with injuries — as have the three tight ends Denver has drafted — he has produced when healthy and would have presented a tempting option. — Jeff Legwold
This has been one of the most spirited (and even heated) discussions among Lions fans for the past five years. The Lions passing on Donald, Taylor Lewan, Odell Beckham Jr. and others to take Ebron hurt the franchise because of the impact any of those players would have had. Donald, of course, was the biggest potential impact player of the bunch considering how dominant he could have made Detroit’s defensive line in 2014 and how he could have slid in to replace Ndamukong Suh after that season. Drafting Donald could have created far-reaching implications for the Lions that might have saved jobs. Ebron flourished last season in Indianapolis, but it never totally worked for him with the Lions. Part of that had to do with who he was compared to. — Michael Rothstein
After the Packers traded down in Ted Thompson’s final draft as general manager, the Steelers picked Watt at No. 30 and the Packers took King with the first pick in the second round (the Packers also got the No. 104 pick in trade). It seemed like a risk at the time given the Packers’ need for a pass-rusher and King’s history of shoulder problems. Sure enough, Watt had seven sacks as a rookie and 13 last season, while King has finished each of his first two seasons on injured reserve. The Packers then had to use their top pick in 2018 on another corner, Jaire Alexander, and spent big money on their pass rush in free agency this year with Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. — Rob Demovsky
The Texans are obviously ecstatic to have Deshaun Watson, but they could have found their franchise quarterback three years earlier in the second round. Instead, Houston went with Su’a-Filo, whom the Texans did not bring back after his rookie contract expired following the 2017 season. In those three seasons — Bill O’Brien’s first in Houston — the Texans had eight quarterbacks start a game. The Texans, of course, drafted Derek’s brother, David Carr, with their first-ever pick in 2002. After Derek was drafted by the Raiders, David told reporters he didn’t “know if [the Texans] wanted that attention or distraction” that could have come had they taken his brother. — Sarah Barshop
Taking Dorsett was one of many things that went wrong in the 2015 offseason for Indianapolis. Safety was a glaring need for the Colts, but they were so caught up with trying to beat New England, which beat them in the AFC championship the previous season, that they thought the speedy Dorsett would help them get past the Patriots. Dorsett never lived up to his potential and was traded to, of all teams, the Patriots in 2017. Collins was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons. — Mike Wells
Blake Bortles was coming off a terrible season and new executive vice president of football ops Tom Coughlin could have hit the reset button on the position with the big-armed Mahomes. The Jaguars might not have made an appearance in the AFC title game that season (Fournette played a major role in that), but taking Mahomes (or Deshaun Watson) would have set up the franchise for long-term success. Plus, the Jaguars wouldn’t have signed Bortles to a four-year extension that February, a move that cost the team $16.5 million in dead money when it released him last month. Jacksonville wouldn’t have had to sign Nick Foles to a contract that averages $22.75 million a year, either. That money could have been used in free agency or to sign CB Jalen Ramsey and DE Yannick Ngakoue to extensions. — Mike DiRocco
Max Kellerman tries to make sense of the Twitter beef between Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, saying Brown is insecure about his time in Pittsburgh.
Kpassagnon contributed little in two seasons and was often a healthy scratch late last season. Had the Chiefs drafted Smith-Schuster, who went three picks later to the Steelers, they wouldn’t have needed to overpay for Sammy Watkins in free agency the next year. Perhaps Kpassagnon’s career is revived by a switch from linebacker to his college position of defensive end this season, but he’s looked like a lost pick so far. — Adam Teicher
Verrett’s talent is undeniable, as he made a Pro Bowl in his only healthy season in 2015. However, injury concerns were an issue for Verrett coming out of college because of his smaller frame. Those concerns proved accurate, with Verrett missing 55 of a possible 80 games during his tenure with the team due to an assortment of injuries. Roby, selected six picks later by the Denver Broncos at No. 31, missed one game in five seasons, totaling seven interceptions and 60 pass breakups during his time in Denver. — Eric D. Williams
The Rams needed to draft an offensive tackle in 2014, but Robinson was a complete bust. After three disappointing seasons, the Rams signed veteran Andrew Whitworth, then traded Robinson to the Detroit Lions for a sixth-round pick. And to think what might have been. Also on the Rams’ list of needs in 2014? A wide receiver. With the second overall pick, they could have selected Beckham, a head-turning playmaker who would turn into a star on and off the field with the Rams’ eventual move to Los Angeles and the eventual hiring of offensive-minded coach Sean McVay. — Lindsey Thiry
The Dolphins were hoping to find a pass-rusher to complement and eventually replace veteran Cameron Wake, but they chose the wrong one in Harris. With three sacks in two seasons, he hasn’t found ways to win one-on-one matchups and make a true NFL impact. Miami hasn’t given up on Harris yet, but the team would jump at the chance to correct its error by nabbing the slightly undersized but uber-effective Watt (20 sacks in two seasons). — Cameron Wolfe
This is a no-brainer. The Vikings have struggled to find a No. 3 receiver, as the Treadwell experiment has run its course the past three seasons. Thomas, who was taken by the Saints 24 picks later, had a career-high 12.4 yards per catch as a rookie, compiled the most receptions by a player in his first three seasons (321) in NFL history and led the league in receptions last season (125). While his numbers might not have been as gaudy in Minnesota with teammates Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, having Thomas in the mix would give the Vikings the deadliest receiving corps in the league. — Courtney Cronin
The Patriots’ wheeling-and-dealing with draft picks has often produced solid results, but this was a case where it backfired on them. Entering the draft, they traded their second-round pick (No. 64) in exchange for defensive end Kony Ealy and a third-round pick (72). An eight-spot move down the draft board for Ealy seemed like a low-risk move at the time, but Ealy never made it out of training camp, as it was clear early that he wasn’t a good scheme/program fit. Meanwhile, that eight-slot drop cost the Patriots a chance to select Kamara, a player coach Bill Belichick personally visited with before the draft. And then when the Patriots were ready to select C/G Dan Feeney at No. 72, the Chargers took him one slot before, which led to another trade down to regroup. Rivers might wind up being a solid player, but after missing his rookie season with a torn ACL, he had a quiet second season and was lower on the depth chart. So 2019 is a big year for him. — Mike Reiss
Sure, just about every team in the NFL would love to go back and take Jimmy G. But this should have been a strong consideration for the Saints, since Drew Brees was 35 at the time and Sean Payton knew Garoppolo well from their shared alma mater. Even if Garoppolo didn’t wind up becoming Brees’ heir apparent, they could have traded him for a premium draft choice. Instead, they got nothing out of Jean-Baptiste, who was cut after one season. — Mike Triplett
Flowers started 48 games but didn’t play well and was eventually cut. The Giants could’ve had Gurley and Odell Beckham Jr. growing up together one year apart. It would have left them in position to draft a quarterback several years later instead of Saquon Barkley. And it would’ve all made sense. The Giants’ running backs at the time of the Flowers selection: Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa. — Jordan Raanan
First round of the 2014 draft (No. 18 overall)
Actual pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Do-over pick: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The Jets gave up on Pryor after three years and now he’s out of the league. One segment of the organization lobbied for Carr, but the Jets mistakenly stuck with Geno Smith — a decision that proved disastrous. They did a poor job of scouting Pryor, who was undersized and athletically limited. — Rich Cimini
Second round of the 2016 draft (No. 44 overall)
Actual pick: Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
Do-over pick: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Maryland
The Raiders had three consecutive whiffs on second-round picks from 2015 through 2017, but let’s go with the selection of Ward based on his lack of production in Oakland and, well, Oakland’s current quandary at edge rusher and the dearth of production when it comes to sacking quarterbacks. Yes, we realize trading away Khalil Mack did not help matters, but when you consider Ward had all of one sack in 21 games for the Raiders and Ngakoue, who went 25 picks after Ward, has 29.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a touchdown and a Pro Bowl nod in 48 games for the Jaguars, well, there it is. More insult to injury — Ward seemed to find his footing with three sacks for the Colts last season. — Paul Gutierrez
First round of the 2014 draft (No. 26 overall)
Actual pick: Marcus Smith, DE, Lousiville
Do-over pick: DeMarcus Lawrence, DE/OLB, Boise State
With their list of primary targets already off the board, the Eagles traded back and selected Smith, who was coming off a 16-sack season at Louisville. The production didn’t transfer to the pros, as Smith notched just four sacks in three seasons with the Eagles before he was cut. Lawrence was taken eight picks later by Dallas and has 34 career sacks and two Pro Bowl appearances under his belt. — Tim McManus
The Steelers scoured the earth for cornerbacks in 2016. They really liked William Jackson, who went No. 24 overall. So the Steelers zoned in on Burns, who showed flashes in his first two seasons but got benched in Year 3. Howard, a Pro Bowler in Miami, would have become a staple at outside corner opposite Joe Haden to solidify the Steelers’ pass defense. — Jeremy Fowler
A top receiver has been a need for the 49ers since Terrell Owens departed in 2003, but it was heightened further in 2016, when Anquan Boldin left. Plenty of fans and outside observers thought the Niners should use their second-round pick, which was No. 37 overall, on Thomas. Instead, San Francisco traded that pick, a fourth-round choice and a sixth-round choice to Kansas City for No. 28 and a seventh-round choice. Garnett showed promise as a rookie but has been plagued by injury while Thomas has been to two Pro Bowls and averaged 107 catches, 1,262 yards and eight touchdowns per season. The 49ers still find themselves seeking a top wideout and could have had Thomas without trading up. — Nick Wagoner
Second round of the 2017 draft (No. 35 overall)
Actual pick: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
Do-over pick: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
McDowell was considered a boom-or-bust prospect because of well-documented questions about his effort, but no one could have predicted his Seattle career would end before it ever began when he suffered a head injury in an all-terrain vehicle accident that has prevented him from playing a down in the NFL. It got worse for the Seahawks when they replaced McDowell by trading another second-round pick for what turned out to be one underwhelming season from Sheldon Richardson. Smith-Schuster wouldn’t have matched the production he’s given Pittsburgh while playing in Seattle’s run-heavy offense, but he would have given the Seahawks a No. 1 receiver with the type of big body they were seeking when they made another do-over-worthy selection by taking Amara Darboh in the third round (No. 106). — Brady Henderson
Second round of the 2016 NFL draft (No. 59 overall)
Actual pick: Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
Do-over pick: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Maryland
The Bucs could have selected anyone in this spot and it would have been better than Aguayo, who made it through just one season. While tempting to go with cornerback James Bradberry (who one could argue would have been a better pick at 11th overall instead of Vernon Hargreaves), the Bucs should have doubled up on pass-rushers by selecting Ngakoue, who has accumulated 29.5 sacks over the past three seasons. Noah Spence, the Bucs’ other second-round pick, had some off-the-field concerns, so Ngakoue would have functioned as a safety net. Also, the aging Robert Ayers wasn’t a long-term solution and you need a healthy rotation of pass-rushers, anyway. To win in the NFC South — arguably the best quarterback division in the league — you simply can’t allow the ball to leave the quarterback’s hands. — Jenna Laine
Second round of 2016 draft (No. 33 overall)
Actual pick: Kevin Dodd, OLB, Clemson
Do-over pick: Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
The Titans need another player that can get after the quarterback. They thought selecting Dodd would fill the void, but that ended up being a colossal mistake, as he isn’t even in the NFL anymore. Jones was selected four picks later by the Chiefs and posted 15.5 sacks last season. — Turron Davenport
The Redskins entered this draft needing help along the defensive line but didn’t take any until the fifth round (a gem in Matt Ioannidis). That led to a trickle-down effect in the first round of the next two drafts, when they selected Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, respectively. They have a terrific young line corps, but had they selected Jones they could have added other parts to the defense instead the past two years– maybe LB Tremaine Edmunds or S Derwin James last spring. Jones has become a force along the line — he recorded 15.5 sacks last season — and could have helped the Redskins in their base and substitution packages. Meanwhile, Doctson has caught a combined 81 passes in three seasons. — John Keim
Winningest coach-athlete duos in sports history
“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan’s assistant, that he returns the favor,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Popovich joined the Spurs organization in 1996, then Duncan was drafted by San Antonio as the first overall pick of the 1997 NBA draft.
The player-coach duo went on to win five NBA championships together, in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. Duncan, now 43, retired after the conclusion of the 2015-16 season. Popovich is 70 years old and still going strong.
So that got us thinking: What other duos have dominated sports? And it got us thinking even further: With Popovich and Duncan on an already stacked coaching staff that includes Becky Hammon, is this officially the start of a new dominating era for Spurs basketball?
Long-term winningest player and coach duos (10-plus seasons)
Ryan Giggs and Alex Ferguson (21 seasons and 13 Premier League titles): If you’ve been knighted by the Queen of England, you’re clearly a sports legend. Sir Alex Ferguson racked up one heck of a résumé throughout his 26-year tenure with Manchester United, winning a total of 38 trophies — including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League titles. During those 26 years, Ferguson had star midfielder Giggs on his squad, who spent his entire professional career in sheer dominance with the Red Devils (1990-2014).
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (19 seasons and six Super Bowls): Do we even need to remind you of these two? They’ve spent 19 seasons together and won six Super Bowls — including the most recent one in February. Fans of the New England Patriots hope that Brady (41 years old) and Belichick (67) never say goodbye to football.
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre (12 seasons and four World Series): Arguably one of the best MLB managers of all time, Torre led the New York Yankees to glory, winning four World Series in five seasons: 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Having Jeter — aka “Mr. Clutch” — at shortstop and Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history who was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, didn’t hurt either.
Franco Harris and Chuck Noll (12 seasons and four Super Bowls): The Steelers brought glory to Pittsburgh in the 1970s, and running back Harris was a huge part of that, winning four Super Bowls in six years (1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980). The late Noll spent his entire head-coaching career — 23 years — at the helm of the Steelers, and his four Super Bowl victories rank second behind Belichick’s six for most by an NFL head coach.
Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll (14 seasons and four Super Bowls): Noll also was lucky to have an all-time great quarterback on his team during the Steelers’ run. In his 14 seasons with Pittsburgh, Bradshaw helped the team win four Super Bowl titles.
Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson (11 seasons and five NBA championships): The face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise — still — is undoubtedly Kobe Bryant. He spent all 20 years of his basketball career with L.A. and helped the Lakers to win five NBA championships. The last NBA team to three-peat? The Lakers, in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Bryant, still with head coach Jackson, also won again in 2009 and 2010.
Joe Montana and Bill Walsh (10 seasons and three Super Bowls): “Joe Cool” set quite a few records during his 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. With Walsh as the head coach for 10 of them, Montana won four Super Bowls (1982, 1985, 1989 and 1990) and was named Super Bowl MVP three times. After Super Bowl XIX in 1985, in which Montana defeated Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins, Walsh (rightly so) declared: “Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback today, maybe the greatest quarterback of all time.”
Otto Graham and Paul Brown (10 seasons and seven NFL championships): Brown not only founded the Cleveland Browns, but he had a coaching career that spanned 25 seasons with them. Before the Browns joined the NFL in 1950, the team won four All-America Football Conference championships. Then, Brown and Graham won three NFL championships together, in 1950, 1954 and 1955.
Bill Russell and Red Auerbach (10 seasons and nine NBA championships): The paring of Russell and Auerbach helped create what could be called professional sports’ greatest dynasty, combining to win nine NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, first in 1957 and then every year from 1959 to 1966. Russell — who also won two titles as a player-coach after Auerbach retired — was so dominant that the NBA renamed the NBA Finals MVP trophy after him in 2009.
Short-term winningest player and coach duos (Five or fewer seasons)
Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and Van Chancellor (five seasons and four WNBA titles): Widely considered one of the best women’s basketball players ever, Cooper-Dyke won four straight WNBA titles while with the Houston Comets, from 1997, when the league was created, to 2000. The 1998 Comets had a record of 27-3 (.900) with Chancellor as coach, giving them the highest winning percentage of any team in the history of both the WNBA and the NBA.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Steve Kerr (five seasons and three NBA championships): There will arguably never be a better backcourt than the Splash Brothers. Curry and Thompson put the San Francisco Bay Area on the hoops map when they started racking up titles with the Golden State Warriors, winning three NBA championships (2015, 2017 and 2018) in five years. The two guards came close to three-peating last season, but the Toronto Raptors put a stop to that. Despite changes to the Warriors’ lineup and an injury to Thompson, the team is still one of the most dangerous in the league. The two shooters would be nowhere without their genius of a coach, Kerr, who also won five titles as an NBA player before becoming a coach.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra (four seasons and two NBA championships): These three best friends also came incredibly close to three-peating, but regardless, James, Wade and Bosh changed the NBA forever when they joined forces on the Miami Heat to start the trend of creating superteams. James has since moved on to the Lakers after winning a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and both Wade and Bosh have retired. But under Spo — who is still with Miami — they won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 before being stopped in 2014. James was crowned league MVP and NBA Finals MVP in both 2012 and 2013.
Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Jimmy Johnson (four seasons and two Super Bowls): Dubbed “The Triplets,” these three offensive juggernauts absolutely dominated the 1990s for the Cowboys. Smith, Aikman and Irvin won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, including two back-to-back in 1993 and 1994 with the legendary Johnson as their head coach.
Duos too good to leave out but didn’t fit in either category
Wayne Gretzky and Glen Sather (nine seasons and four Stanley Cups): Sather brought Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, and a glorious hockey dynasty was born. “The Great One” and Sather helped lead the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships (1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988) and forever changed the face of hockey.
Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi (nine seasons, six NFL championships and two Super Bowls): If the trophy you get when you win a Super Bowl is named after you, there is a clear reason why. Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to six NFL Championships (1956, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967). The team also won the first two Super Bowls ever, in 1967 and 1968, with Starr at the helm. Starr was not selected by the Packers until the 17th round of the 1956 NFL draft, but he clearly was a success with the team, playing with them until he retired after the 1971 season.
Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson (eight seasons and six NBA Championships): How can you talk about greatness without referencing MJ and Phil? With Jackson as head coach, the Chicago Bulls made the playoffs every season from 1987 to 1998, winning the NBA championship with Jordan six times (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998). Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player ever, also won the NBA Finals MVP every year the Bulls won it all.
Joe DiMaggio and Joe McCarthy (eight seasons and five World Series): As general manager, McCarthy led DiMaggio and the “Bronx Bombers” to seven World Series championships (1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941 and 1943). And for someone who spent his entire 13-year career with the same team, center fielder DiMaggio is sure glad he did so with the Yankees. DiMaggio ended up winning nine World Series (1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1950 and 1951) with the Yankees, but he served in World War II, causing him to miss the 1943, 1944 and 1945 seasons.
Eagles’ Jenkins talks mental health at summit
The topic was mental health. Michelle Obama, addressing a crowd of more than 50 first-generation college-bound students at her annual Beating the Odds Summit at Howard University on Tuesday, looked over at Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins as she finished her point and signaled for him to take the floor.
“I know for me, mental health wasn’t anything we talked about when I was in school. But … I am in therapy once a week at this point in my life because I recognize that I’m somebody who’s responsible for a lot of things and I put a lot of pressure on myself, and so with that comes stress and a little anxiety,” he said.
“A lot of you, if you’re a first-generation college student, you’re the first one to do it, you feel like your family is counting on you, depending on you, you have these outside pressures that are on top of being a college student, you have to find ways to recognize that and deal with that in a healthy manner.”
This is how Jenkins spent his final day before the start of the Eagles’ training camp: A chair over from the former First Lady, speaking to a group that had overcome everything from homelessness to special needs to be in a position to receive a post-secondary education. Tuesday’s workshop was designed to equip the students with strategies to ensure they see things through, and Jenkins was called on to help in that messaging.
“For me, that was an easy yes,” Jenkins said.
The Players Coalition, co-founded by Jenkins, has supported Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative before. In May, coalition members including Anquan Boldin, Demario Davis and Josh Norman traveled to California for its college signing event.
A first-generation student herself, Obama started the Reach Higher Initiative during her time in the White House. According to stats provided by Obama’s camp, students from the bottom income quartile have a nine percent six-year college graduation rate, compared to a 73 percent graduation rate for students from the upper-income quartile. In some communities, as many as 40 percent of students who are accepted to college never make it there, for reasons that include financial burden and fear of leaving home.
“Every single one of you here had to get over some deep, dark obstacle, whether it was in your own mind or something that was real that was going on in your lives and that has given you the strength to do what you have to do next,” Obama said. “So I just want you to know: You can do this. You belong here. This was not a mistake.”
The Players Coalition has three main areas of focus: Criminal justice reform, community and police relations and education and economical advancement. Much of the effort since the coalition’s inception in 2017 has gone towards criminal justice reform. They are beginning to ramp up the other two pillars of the operation.
“We’ve already shifted some of that [focus] already. … We’ve started to roll out a little bit more in that area and will also be rolling out some campaigns around policing this fall,” Jenkins said. “We’re still growing in the development of all of these focus areas.”
The focus on the educational side was on display Tuesday, as Jenkins offered some advice to the students that Obama’s event had gathered.
“Allow yourself to grow. Allow yourself to grow into whoever it is you’re going to become. College is not the end goal, it is just a process,” he said. “So there is going to be plenty of times when you fail. You might meet some confusion. You may change majors. Whatever it is, you might take some time to figure out what you really want to do. Your beliefs may change as your experiences change. But treat college as just that: An opportunity to learn and grow as an individual and really find your own purpose.”
Christian McCaffrey does it all
Inside a Denver recording studio not far from his offseason home, Carolina Panthers All-Pro Christian McCaffrey, one of the most versatile gridders in a league full of elite hybrids, reveals the off-field obsession that could one day add a few new hyphenates to his job title: RB-pianist-songwriter-music producer.
As McCaffrey, 23, tickles the ivories, his pals Nick Shanholtz and Rob Abisi, better known as DJ duo Lost Kings, tackle the drums and bass guitar, respectively — while Levi Waddell, aka rapper Levi Todd, pens lyrics on the fly. What begins to emerge from this 90-minute recording session is a pop/hip-hop track that defies genre, much like the third-year pass-catching ball carrier who’s doing much of the quarterbacking here.
Eventually, the group gathers in the control room to assess the unfinished product. “I think it’s missing a layer,” McCaffrey says before sticking me on the cowbell because, as he says, he has “a fever, and the only prescription is … more cowbell!” When the laughter subsides, the versatile star adds a layer of his own via the harmonica, which he taught himself to play back at Stanford when he wasn’t busy trying to win the Heisman Trophy. I get the feeling we’ll be sitting here into the early morning hours laughing, fist-bumping and “adding layers” if I don’t play party pooper and pull McCaffrey aside for an interview.
ESPN: Why are we in a recording studio?
Christian McCaffrey: One of my big passions in the offseason, or just when I get time off in general, is playing music, and I’ve been fortunate to be around people who are a lot more talented than I am. I met Rob and Nick a long time ago, and every time I go to LA, I’ll hit them up and we’ll just jam in different genres. And Levi is one of my best buds from high school. First time we all jammed, it was a come-to-Jesus moment where we were like, “We should do something with this.”
What sparked your interest in performing?
My childhood neighbor played piano, and he told me we’d get all the girls if I learned how to play-and I was probably in eighth grade, going into high school, so I said, “Sign me up.” There was a talent show with a cash bonus, so we learned a little song together [Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”] and ended up winning it, took home one of those big checks, like in Happy Gilmore.
Who are your musical influences?
There’s a guy right now who’s probably my favorite: Tyler Childers, a country artist. I love his sound. I love Mac Miller. I’m a big Drake fan. I love Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley. I probably have the most versatile playlist in the world, from country to rap to classic rock to classical.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you listen to?
I’m proud of everything I have in my library.
I’ll give you one if you give me one: I like Taylor Swift.
I love Taylor Swift. I’m not ashamed of that. Why are you embarrassed by that?
You’re right: I love Taylor Swift.
There you go.
Could we hear an album one day?
[Laughs] That’d be really cool. We’ll see where it goes. I’m still learning. I’ve always played by watching somebody’s fingers and listening, but these last two weeks I told myself that I was gonna commit to learning how to read actual sheet music and trying to, like, classically train myself. It’s funny, I’m back at “Ants Go Marching.”
Can you write lyrics or sing?
I’ve written lyrics, but it’s not for me. And the downfall of my music career might be singing. [Laughs] I kind of have a vision of how somebody should perform a certain song.
You do seem to know exactly how it all fits together, like a producer.
That’s a fair description. Being able to produce music and grow a song from nothing is a lot of fun. With technology nowadays, I have a keyboard where I can play any instrument and do it all myself on the computer. And the beauty of it is, every once in a while you make something you like. Ed Sheeran said songs are weird — they come and go and you never know when they’ll show up.
Cam Newton has said you have “swagger through the roof.” What in the world could zap your swagger, besides a microphone?
[Laughs] That’s an honor coming from the Drip God, as he calls himself. But to answer your question: spiders. I’m not a fan of spiders. Not at all. I could do without insects.
So, if a spider dropped on your lap right now?
I’d freak out. Yeah, that’d be no good.
If you could do a collab with any teammate, who’d you have on your album?
I’d have Greg Olsen on the mic. He’s an electric singer. Anytime there’s a song on, he’s the first one belting it. Pregame, he’ll be belting out Adele, and it’s the best thing ever.
This offseason, we discovered another thing you’re good at: being ripped. What’s it like to go viral for a photo of your muscles?
[Laughs] The internet’s a crazy place. When I came into the league, I was 20, so naturally I’m getting bigger, faster, stronger. But I’m only about a pound or two heavier than last year. I like playing at around 207, and that’s what I’m at right now. But I’m definitely stronger. This is one of the first times that I’ve been able to train for a full offseason because I came out of the season healthy. That makes a huge difference.
Coming into the league, some doubted that you could be an every-down back — in part, let’s be real, because of the color of your skin. How did that make you feel at the time?
I just kinda let that pass, know what I mean? I get it, there’s not a whole lot of white running backs out there. [Laughs] It’s just the way it is. But every single NFL player has doubters. I’ve always fought the criticism that I can’t run between the tackles, but I feel like I’ve kind of put that to rest. [McCaffrey ranked first last year in yards per carry between the tackles among backs with 150-plus attempts.]
Because of your versatility and the versatility you afford an offense, The Ringer declared: “Christian McCaffrey is the future of football.” Do you think that’s true for you and guys like you?
Yeah, I do. The league is shifting. It’s becoming a smaller league, way more speed-dominant. So you’re seeing more backs like me who can run between the tackles, pass-protect, catch and become matchup nightmares. You also have more receivers who are getting jet sweeps, doing different things with the ball in their hands. A lot of it stems from college offenses. There’s very few pro-style college offenses nowadays, so you see NFL coaches adapting to the players that are coming in. That’s why [Panthers offensive coordinator] Norv Turner has been huge for me. He’s a guy who’s been in the league so long, but you constantly see him adapting.
He’s also a guy who’s coached some of the greats at your position.
Yeah, I’ve seen more LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles clips than anybody out there, and I hear stories all the time about those guys — Adrian Peterson, LT, all the guys I watched growing up. Knowing that their coach believes in me is something I really appreciate.
Last year you ran, caught or threw for 14 touchdowns. Where’s one place on the field that I can’t pay you to line up at?
[Laughs] You could pay me to line up anywhere if the money’s good.
Where would you like to line up and haven’t yet?
Oh man, I’d love to play safety. I played it when I was a kid, back when I was watching guys like Brian Dawkins and John Lynch come down full speed and hit someone. Or rush end! I always got a ball in my hand, so being able to let loose would be really fun. But Coach [Ron] Rivera would probably shut that down quick.
You’re a fantasy superstar. Have fantasy owners been showing their appreciation?
Every time I’m in public, somebody’s like, “Yo, thank you so much for my fantasy points last year.” I’ve had multiple waiters and waitresses give me free meals for helping them win their league. Hopefully I do it again this year, otherwise the tabs might go up.
Last season was a forgettable one for the Panthers. Give your fans reason for hope. Why will this year be different?
This is a team that’s a few years removed from the Super Bowl with a lot of the same guys from that team. We got great leaders with Luke Kuechly, Cam, Greg Olsen, and we just added Gerald McCoy, Chris Hogan, guys who’ve won in this league and know what it takes. We have the talent. It’s just a matter of staying healthy, executing on Sundays.
How would you assess your own leadership skills right now?
I’ve had more of a vocal presence this year. We’ve got a young running back room — so I’m able to verbalize things that I see for them. Other than that, I’m just working as hard as I can, showing guys what it takes. I’m lucky to have come into a team with guys like Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen, who set the standard.
Your dad, Ed, won three Super Bowls, two here in Denver when you were a child. Do you have any memories of those wins?
My only memory is a picture on our wall from SI where I’m running on the field with confetti and a big ol’ blond ‘fro. I was [not quite] 2 and 3 when he won those. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen his rings. He keeps them locked up.
He’s afraid you’re gonna steal them?
[Laughs] No, he’s just a humble man. I want my own rings. One for every year that I play. That’s the goal.
What other goals have you set for yourself?
I got a lot of goals that I keep to myself, but one goal is definitely the 1K/1K club [1,000 yards rushing and receiving]. I almost did it last year and it was a bummer not getting it. Two guys have done it — Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig — and there’s a race to be the third. There’s a lot of backs in the league who can get there.
Yeah, in a time when backs are being devalued, there are a heck of a lot of good ones out there.
Especially in the NFC. I think Saquon [Barkley] is a great back. Todd Gurley. Zeke [Ezekiel Elliott]. David Johnson. Melvin Gordon. Phillip Lindsay, a hometown guy in Colorado. Alvin Kamara is a guy I’m watching constantly.
If you had to pick, which one do you want more: Football Hall of Fame or the rock ‘n’ roll one?
[Laughs] Both would be great. That might be a first. I’d never considered that one. There ya go, that’s another goal. Perfect.
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