What if? Every sport fan has uttered that phrase. What if we would’ve went for it on fourth down? What if the coach would’ve challenged that play? What if we would’ve drafted player A over player B? It gives us both a false sense of satisfaction but also drives us completely insane at the same time. In this edition of BTL Top 5 Friday, I’m going to look at the Top NFL What If’s. Here are 5 of MY what if’s. Yes I could do what if the AFL failed to merge with the NFL in 1970 or what if Vince Lombardi had decided to wait for the New York Giants job opening? These will mostly focus on the past 20 years I have watched football, enjoy:
#5 – What if Sean Taylor was never murdered?
- Washington Redskin physically imposing and ridiculously gifted safety was murdered in November 2007. He died just a few days short of my 20th birthday. No other athlete’s death has resonated so much with me than his.
- Standing 6’3″ and weighing nearly 230lbs, he was built like a linebacker but ran a blistering 4.30 40-yard dash. Just combine Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor’s abilities into one player and you had Sean Taylor.
- In 2007 (drafted in 2004) he had just started to put together all his attributes into the most lethal all-around secondary defender in the NFL.
- If he had lived, he was on pace for one of the single-greatest seasons put together by a safety in 2007…ever.
- He would’ve gone on to have his name placed among the likes of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu for best safety of the 2000s.
- He could’ve anchored a Washington Redskin defense and team that would’ve made deep playoff runs from 2007-2010.
#4 – What if the Packers pulled off the 2007 Randy Moss trade?
- Green Bay and New England were the clear front runners for Moss in the spring of 2007. Moss wanted to play with Favre more than anything.
- On Draft weekend ’07, the Pats pulled the coup for Randy with a 4th round pick to Oakland and guaranteeing his second year (something Ted Thompson would not do).
- If Green Bay had not ruffled his feathers beforehand and guaranteed the 2nd year, Moss would’ve been a Packer.
- Green Bay most likely goes to the Super Bowl that year and wins, probably beating New England. Green Bay even had a chance to run the table that year too (went 13-3 without Moss).
- Brett Favre most likely retires after riding off into the sunset, only for Moss to talk him out of it (don’t think he’d have to push Brett too hard though).
- The Rodgers vs Favre drama still happens, with Randy taking Favre’s side. Both are traded out of town, probably both to the the Jets.
- Favre returns to the Vikings with Moss in 2009, both hell bent on beating the Packers after getting jettisoned after the 2007 SB win.
- With pissed off Favre and Moss, THE VIKINGS WIN THE SUPER BOWL IN 2009!! They already should’ve that year anyways…….. Or Favre throws that same pick again and Paul Allen goes nuts….
#3 – What if the San Francisco 49ers drafted Aaron Rodgers over Alex Smith?
- In the 2005 Draft, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith were the presumptive #1 picks. The Niners went with Smith and Rodgers slid all the way to #24 to the Green Bay Packers (cut to me silently fist pumping).
- Now if the Niners had drafted Rodgers, would they still had enjoyed all the same success that Green Bay did?
- Alex Smith falls to #24 and is picked by the Green Bay Packers because GM Ted Thompson believes in BPA (best player available) and well, it doesn’t get any easier than that for Teddy.
- Mike Nolan turns the tutelage of Aaron Rodgers over to guess who? Offensive Coordinator Mike McCarthy (Packers current HC since 2006). He begins to immediately revamping Rodgers’ flawed quarterback mechanics.
- Let’s say for the sake of argument that Rodgers’ overall talent wins the Niners a few more games in 2005. But, Ted Thompson hires away OC McCarthy in 2006 anyways because HC money is better than coordinator money and he gets to develop Alex Smith in Green Bay.
- Rodgers continues to struggle but improve in San Fran. Everything turns around when a former quarterback named Jim Harbaugh takes the reigns in 2011.
- Rodgers flourishes under Harbaugh when he is handed an elite defense and running game and Harbaugh has a quarterback who no only limits the turnovers but can and will make every throw on the football field.
- The Niners win back-to-back Super Bowls in both 2011 and 2012. The Niners lead the NFL with 7 SB titles and Harbaugh/Rodgers are the taste of the town.
- Meanwhile in Green Bay, MM develops Smith into the ultimate West Coast quarterback. There is still the power struggle in 2008 with Favre but what there isn’t is a Super Bowl title in 2010.
- Alex Smith fails to put a Packers team on his back time and again in the playoffs and subsequently runs out of chances, leading to the president cleaning house in 2013.
- As a Packers fan myself, I’m so glad I don’t live in this universe…..
#2 – What if Eli Manning stays with the Chargers in the 2004 Draft?
- Archie Manning got his son Eli traded on draft day 2004 to the New York Giants because San Diego was basically New Orleans West except they had better weather. Philip Rivers ended up getting traded from NYG to SD in the process.
- With Eli manning (pun intended) the Chargers from 2004-present, we have a couple things that would go different for both quarterbacks.
- Eli will still have the Patriot/Belicheck krytonite gene and he takes care of them in the 2006 Divisional Round. Eli has the far superior team, playing at home and even Pats fans will tell you that they had no business winning two playoff games that year.
- Which sets up the first major “Manning Bowl” in the 2006 AFCCG. Which Eli would win (giving the nod to home field). Which would put his brother Peyton into a near manic depression.
- Eli and the 2006 Chargers win Super Bowl XLI because can Rex Grossman really be allowed to have a Super Bowl ring?
- Eli also has a very decent shot to repeat the following year in 2007. He wouldn’t be hurt in to AFCCG (no dis at Rivers but has Eli ever been hurt, like ever?!), he already beat Brady/Belicheck the previous year and oh yes, he’s Eli-freaking-Manning who owns the Pats. Which would set up…..
- Eli’s Chargers vs Rivers’ Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Rivers may have a chip on his shoulder since he may believe that SD should’ve taken him #1 in ’04 but I can’t be too sure. I want to give the game to the Giants since nothing about that pass rush would change but I don’t know, I feel Eli does Eli things in the final minute and wins back-to-back.
- Going forward, not much would change outside of Eli being a pain in Tom Brady’s backside and the NFL getting a Manning Bowl every two years.
#1 – What if the “Tuck Rule” was never created?
- NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2: The Tuck Rule.
- In the 2001 AFC Championship Game, Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson had what looked like the game sealing strip-sack on Patriots Tom Brady. The “Tuck Rule” overturned the fumble as an incomplete pass. You know the rest.
- But what if the rule never existed? Would Brady and Belicheck still have four Super Bowl rings and countless AFC titles?
- One thing is for certain, the Patriots certainly don’t win Super Bowl XXXVI. It would be 2001 Rams up against the 2001 Raiders. Given that Belicheck had a penchant for defensive game-planning, I don’t think Jon Gruden and company hold the Rams down to 17 points like the Pats did. Rams win SB XXXVI, there second in three years.
- New England doesn’t have the shine that it would’ve, Tom Brady still isn’t Tom Brady yet. It’d be tough to think Brady preforms as well as he did in SB XXXVIII without his experience two years earlier, specifically as well as he did in the fourth quarter with his duel with Jake Delhome. I’ll give the slight nod to the Panthers in the 2003 Super Bowl.
- I’ll still give the Pats the Super Bowl in 2004. They were by far an elite team and no other team was really that close to them that year. After 2004, Brady/Belicheck 1-1 in Super Bowls, a far cry from a dynasty.
- The rest pretty much goes as chalk, they may just pull off one of the two Giants losses in 2007 or 2011. They still probably win in 2014. But 2-3 or 3-2 in Super Bowls is a far different narrative then we have currently. Brady’s and Belicheck’s legacy are both shaped irrevocably by that fateful play in January 2002.