With Christmas just around the corner, we thought it would be fun to take a look at some players, coaches, and teams who have been Naughty and Nice this season.
Below is Santa’s Naughty and Nice List for the NFC, to be followed tomorrow by the AFC.
Michael Vick (QB- Philadelphia Eagles) - From backup QB to start the season, to MVP candidate with two games left. Vick has been nothing short of amazing this year. Vick is currently posting career highs with a 63.2 % completions and a 103.6 QB rating. His exceptional play has the Eagles thinking Super Bowl.
Jason Garrett (Interm Head Coach-Dallas Cowboys)-The 1-7 Cowboys were headed towards one of their worst seasons in franchise history under Wade Phillips when Garrett took over. The unproven coach enforced a new discipline code, reenergized the play calling, and motivated the Cowboy players. What is most amazing about the Cows turnaround and 4-2 record under Garrett is that it has been accomplished with the over-the-hill quarterback Jon Kitna.
Albert Haynesworth (DT-Washington Redskins)- Hard to imagine that this is the same player who dominated for the Titans just two short years ago. Nevertheless, Haynesworth has been a colossal bust with the Skins. His training camp distractions, conditioning issues, and willingness to quit on his team are as “naughty” as it gets.
Mike Shanahan (Head Coach-Washington Redskins)-Mike Shanahan entered the Redskins head coaching position with excellent credentials, including 2 Super Bowl championships. However, from his trading for/drama with Donavon McNabb, handling of Albert Haynesworth, questionable play calling, and confounding statements to the public, Shanahan has failed as a head coach in Washington. The coach’s failure has been so complete that many in the DC area believe that Shanahan should be fired at the conclusion of the season.
Julius Peppers (DE-Chicago Bears)- The NFL’s biggest offseason free agent hasn’t disappointed in his first year in the Windy City. Peppers 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions helped the Bears clinch their first NFC North title since 2006. Peppers is arguably the biggest difference maker in the league today.
Ndamukong Suh (DT-Detriot Lions)- The second overall pick in this year’s draft, Suh has been a dominating force on the Lions defensive line this season. The energetic playmaker has compiled 55 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 INT and 2 pass deflections. Easily the defensive rookie of the year, Suh is the defensive cornerstone of a Detroit team on the brink of becoming a contender.
Brett Favre (QB-Minnesota Vikings)-Old Grey Beard’s last season in the league (don’t even think about it Brett!) will likely go down as his least productive. For the majority of the season Favre has looked lost and unmotivated, as have the Vikings. Favre’s 69.9 QB rating is the lowest of his 20 year NFL career.
Mike Williams (WR-Tampa Bay Buccaneers)- The former Syracuse standout has been a savior for Raheem Morris’ Bucs so far. Williams entered training camp just trying to secure a roster spot. Instead he landed the Bucs number one receiver spot andthe rest is history. Williams currently leads all NFL rookies with 880 receiving yards and 8 TDs.
Matt Ryan (QB-Atlanta Falcons)-Ryan is developing into one of the top quarterbacks in the league and a player few experts are talking about. The third year player has having his best season and has led the Falcons is a 12-2 record. What is particularly impressive about Ryan is his ability to make plays and most importantly his willingness to throw the ball away instead of forcing something that isn’t there.
Pierre Thomas (RB- New Orleans Saints)- Coming off a 2009 season that saw Thomas establish himself as the Saints primary back, 2010 has been a disappointment. Thomas has missed 9 games this season due to injury. He has also seen his rushing yards per carry drop from 5.4 in 2009 to 3.2 this year.
Carolina Panthers Entire Franchise-The Panthers entered this season with question marks abound and have lived down to whatever merger expectations people had for this team. Uncertainty at the quarterback position, unmotivated players and lame duck coach in John Fox has led to a 2-12 season. Carolina’s performance this season has been so embarrassing that owner Jerry Richardson publically apologized to season ticket holders and fans.
Sam Bradford (QB-St. Louis Rams)- Bradford continues a trend of recent first year QBs (Joe Flacco & Matt Ryan) who have produced for their teams from day one. Bradford looked like the best QB in the NFC West after just one week in the league. His quick release and superb accuracy have the Rams closing in on a playoff berth.
Mike Williams (WR-Seattle Seahawks)-The former first round bust Mike Williams has amazingly turned his non-existent NFL career around under the guidance of Pete Carroll in Seattle. Williams is having the best season of this career with 60 receptions, 720 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. He is also the difference maker on offense for the Seahawks, providing Matt Hasselbeck with a go-to wide receiver.
Alex Smith (QB- San Francisco 49ers)- Huge optimism surrounded Smith and the 49ers at the beginning of the season. However, Smith hasn’t looked any different than when he entered the league 6 years ago. His pocket awareness and accuracy have looked awful this season. The fact the Smith’s name is on Santa’s Naughty list makes it apparent that the quarterback’s days in San Francisco are numbered.
Ken Whisenhunt (Head Coach- Arizona Cardinals)-It’s hard to recall another team in recent memory that has fallen as hard from championship contenders to worst team in the league like the Cardinals have done. Key off-season losses on offensive and defense, including Kurt Warner, haven’t assisted coach Whisenhunt this season. However, his decision to cut Matt Leinart and sign/start Derek Anderson has been an utter failure. The result has been a team without an offensive identity and an inability to consistently move the ball and score.