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Top Ten NFL Debates

By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: October 04, 2012

In light of last night's spirited debate, we at TFG wanted to keep the discussion rolling. Below, we present the Top Ten Current Debates in the NFL. In an unusual approach to the debate format, we (almost) always give a definitive answer to each question at hand. Disagree? Let us know!

10) Greg Little vs. Anyone Else on the Browns Roster: Brandon Weeden’s Primary Target? 

I thought Greg Little was going to make a name for himself this year (maybe even land a spot in those terrible KFC Chicken Little commercials), and he has. Sort of. His multiple drops and overall unreliability as a receiver have made headlines, as Cleveland is desperate to find rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden a consistent target to help build his confidence. Some alternatives include Mohamed Massaquoi, Travis Benjamin and Josh Cribbs, all of whom are battling injuries. Rookie Josh Gordon, acquired in this year’s supplemental draft, could be a viable option. 

Winner: Little. I might be crazy for doing it, but I’m still hanging on the Greg Little bandwagon. It’s nice and roomy at the moment, but Little knows he must improve or he’ll be on the bench. I give him six more quarters to make a change.


9) Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Jay Cutler: Best Way to Respond to a Knee Injury? 

The bad blood between Jones-Drew and Cutler is two years old (an eternity in NFL time), but both players will take the field in Jacksonville this Sunday, playing each other for the first time since Jones-Drew called out the Bears quarterback after Cutler famously exited the 2010 NFC Championship game and proceeded to watch from the sideline as his team lost to division rival (and eventual Super Bowl XLV champion) Green Bay. Although Jones-Drew was far from the only individual to express his opinion on the matter, his words carried particular weight, as he himself played the 2010 season on an injured knee and still finished as a top five running back. Jones-Drew has declined to discuss the matter further prior to Sunday’s meeting, insisting “I’m just happy that he’s smiling.  You know for a while he wasn’t smiling during the year and you always want to see players having fun and enjoying the game.” For his part, Cutler immediately cut off any line of MJD-related questioning, simply stating “There’s nothing to talk about”. 

Winner: Cutler. This is a tough call. As frustrating as it was to see Cutler sulk on the bench and offer no support or leadership to in-over-his-head backup Caleb Hanie, and with as many off-putting things he’s done since (just ask J’Marcus Webb), we can’t presume to know how badly the injury affected him that day. He loses points for having absolutely no sense of humor on the subject (or… any subject), but still wins this debate.

On second thought, no one wins this debate. We’re all losers here, as the media attempts to make a January 2011 Twitter comment relevant before an October 2012 game. Apologies for perpetuating the silliness.


8) Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton: Arizona Cardinals Starting Quarterback? 

The question of who should start for the Arizona Cardinals seemed more realistic during preseason, as Kolb underperformed and Skelton looked serviceable, but Kolb has run the offense admirably as starter in Skelton’s injured absence. Taking over in the fourth quarter of Week 1’s game against Seattle, Kolb hit receiver Larry Fitzgerald twice in under a minute for a net gain of 37 yards (Skelton connected with him two times for 26 yards in three quarters) before ultimately finding Andre Roberts for the go-ahead touchdown. In the subsequent three weeks, Kolb has averaged 228.7 yards passing, thrown six touchdowns, rushed for another and thrown two interceptions. His name hasn’t exactly been added to the MVP discussion, but he’s handling the offense well, establishing a rhythm with Fitzgerald and young receiver Roberts. Skelton’s ankle appears to be nearly healed and with his recovery, the starter debate may resurface. 

Winner: Kolb. To even consider Skelton ahead of Kolb at this point would be laughable. Kolb is finding success with improved protection and talented receivers. He’s hitting his stride, and that’s exactly what the Cardinals organization is paying him $65 million to do. 

 

7) Alfred Morris vs. Trent Richardson: Best Rookie Running Back? 

One was taken with the third pick of the 2012 draft, with the expectation of franchise-altering play. The other was picked up with the 173rd overall pick, a simple afterthought to a rookie quarterback taken with the expectation of franchise-altering play. DC has become Robert Griffin III’s town, while Morris has quietly assumed the role of NFL’s #5 rusher with 376 yards. He’s also accounted for four touchdowns, which is all the more impressive given Griffin’s propensity for running with the football. Richardson has shown glimpses of brilliance in his first month as a Brown, but he has yet to overwhelmingly influence the course of play, as the organization had hoped when trading up to draft him. 

Winner: So far, it’s Morris. An unheralded rookie landing in the top five rushers after a quarter of the season is extremely impressive. Richardson does have the skills to improve upon his 20th-ranked 222 yards through four games (Even RGIII is ahead of him with 234), so this debate may need to be revisited in another four to six weeks.

 

6) A.J. Green vs. Calvin Johnson: NFL’s Best Receiver?

Detroit’s Johnson is the reigning receiving yards champion, notching 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. Cincinanti’s Green was just named AFC Offensive Player of the Month and is on pace to tally more overall yards in 2012 after posting 428 through the first quarter of the season. His connection with quarterback Andy Dalton continues to develop and impress. Johnson has faltered early this season, with just 369 yards and a single touchdown, and looks likely to relinquish the crown. 

Winner: Green. It’s early in the season, but barring unforeseen injury, he should contend for this year’s receiving title. Let’s just hope it doesn’t land him the Madden cover (and requisite curse). 

 

5) Team Most Shafted by NFL Officials, Replacement and Regular? 

First, it was the game-winning Russell Wilson interception. The furor in response to the outcome-impacting error committed against Green Bay resulted in the much-anticipated return of our regular NFL referees after three long weeks (literally long.. like, four hours a game long) of miscues from the replacement crews. Among the returning heroes was Jeff Triplette, an oft-maligned referee who unwittingly continued in his Week 3 predecessors’ footsteps, blatantly missing a Darren Sproles fumble. The turnover occurred in the 4th quarter, moments after Green Bay successfully took a 28-27 lead, but Sproles was called down by contact. The Packers were out of challenges and the booth declined to review the play, so the Saints kept the ball and drove within field goal range. Kicker Garrett Hartley ultimately missed the attempt and the Packers notched the win, but fresh off one of the worst botched calls in NFL history, this error stung at Lambeau Field. 

Undisputed Winner(?): Green Bay. The Packers hung on to win in spite of Triplette’s gaffe, but the loss in Seattle still may have playoff implications. Here’s hoping it’s smooth sailing this week in Indianapolis.

 

4) Mark Sanchez vs. Tim Tebow: New York Jets Starting Quarterback? 

This debate has been roaring since April, but all Sanchez needed to do to dull the roar was play like an NFL-caliber quarterback. In a Week 1 shellacking of AFC East opponent Buffalo, Sanchez appeared up to the task with a 266 yard, three touchdown effort. The subsequent three weeks have exhibited a return to 2011 form, as he has posted three interceptions, one lost fumble, a completion percentage of 43.6 and a passer rating of 69.6. Sanchez looks rattled at the slightest hint of pressure; it’s like he’s terrified of being hit, which is unfortunate when playing behind one of the leagues more penetrable offensive lines. But you know who doesn’t mind getting hit? Tim Tebow. Sure, his 2011 completion percentage was a scant 46.5%, he threw six interceptions and lost six fumbles, but he also accounted for 18 touchdowns (twelve in the air and six on the ground). It’s been firmly established that Tebow will never be a classic, Tom Brady-style quarterback. But you know who else stands no chance of achieving Bradydom? Mark Sanchez. 

Winner: Tebow. The Jets are slumping in every phase of their offense and need some sort of kick start. He may not be able to salvage the season, but his toughness, heart and leadership are three things this current Jets team is sorely lacking. Besides, it physically can’t get worse than a 34-0 shutout at home. Bring on Tebow Time.

 

3) Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning: Greatest Quarterback? 

The framework of this debate can vary: which of these two is the best active NFL quarterback? The best of the 2000’s? The best… ever? With the two quarterbacks meeting at Gillette Stadium this Sunday, the merits of each quarterback are sure to be scrutinized, and it truly is difficult to definitively name one quarterback as clear frontrunner. (Unless you’re Joe Flacco, in which case you already know that YOU’RE the best quarterback in the NFL, rendering this debate nothing more than a meaningless waste of breath.) One has more MVP trophies (Manning has four to Brady’s two) while the other has more Super Bowl rings (Brady has secured three, while Manning has just one). 

Winner: Manning. Their on-field credentials are too similar, but Brady had an elite, complete defense in support of his three Super Bowl victories, something Manning has never truly benefitted from. But beyond that, when stats fail to separate, I defer to comedic chops. Brady has impressed with performances for Funny or Die and The Mayne Event, but Manning will always have The United Way and “Cut that meat!”. 

 

2) Best Fans in the NFL?

 The NFL benefits from a loyal, passionate fanbase that sells out many games in all 32 markets, more so than any other professional sport. But which fans are most devoted to their team? I’m torn between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams have benefitted from great success in the last decade to complement impressive traditions of winning; the Packers have more NFL championships than anyone while the Steelers are the lone NFL franchise with six Super Bowl rings. Both teams have waitlists for season tickets and travel incredibly well, often giving even away games a home crowd advantage feel.

Winner: Green Bay. With a debate this tight, I’m inclined to defer to fan accessories. The Green Bay cheese head is, let’s be honest, unappealing. This should give the Steelers, with their Myron Cope’s Terrible Towels, the clear advantage save for one little known fact: Terrible Towels are manufactured by McArthur Towels. It’s a towel manufacturer that was founded in the small town of Baraboo, WISCONSIN. Looks like the Packers (and their fans) have a monopoly on NFL fandom. Go Pack.

 

1) Best Team in the NFL through Four Weeks? 

With a quarter of the season in the books, three undefeated teams remain. Of those three, the Arizona Cardinals have mostly dazzled on defense, but have also shown pretty obvious offensive cracks (see #8 for the ongoing/unnecessary quarterback debate in addition to its heretofore failure to establish a run game). That leaves a toss up between the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans. Both teams have posted fearsome defensive performances (Peyton Manning, meet the Falcons secondary; Ryan Tannehill, welcome to the NFL) but have dynamic offenses as well. Texans running back Arian Foster’s already run for 384 yards with four touchdowns and could see as many as 400 carries this season, while receiver Andre Johnson remains one of the game’s elite receivers (even if his numbers have yet to adequately reflect as much). Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has taken control of his offense this season, finding receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez for impressive yardage, even as second year receiver Julio Jones has struggled out of the gate. Running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers are becoming a complementary tandem of size and speed. The more this offense clicks, the scarier it will get. 

Winner: Falcons. I love what I’ve seen from the Texans and think they’re for real, and this is a very close call. In such a case, I’m going with the better quarterback. He may have yet to win a postseason game, but Ryan has the clear edge over Matt Schaub. He’s never played better than he has through the first month. He looks like a man on a mission, and with a down NFC South this year, he should easily lead his team to a division crown and a favorable seed in the playoffs.


And just for fun, we threw in a bonus nonsense debate as an Honorable Mention:

LeSean McCoy and Osi Umenyiora: Least Mature NFL Player? 

They’ve called each other soft, Lady Gaga, a ballerina in a football uniform and “she”. Umenyiora wished McCoy a happy Mother’s Day on Twitter. And no one understands why, exactly. McCoy insisted before last week’s matchup between his Eagles and Umenyiora’s Giants that his feelings for the defensive end were sincerely unpleasant; Umenyiora, for his part, apologized for referring to McCoy as a female in multiple ways (as a woman, it’s always nice to hear that the lowest blow some of these guys throw is to relegate an opponent to my gender). 

Winner: US! After Sunday’s game, Umenyiora reportedly asked McCoy to be done with the feud. Both will go on with their terrific NFL careers and we fans can expect the media to focus on (gasp!) their football skills.

 

Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik      

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