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A Legend on His Last Stand

This is a photo of Charles Woodson announcing his retirement.  This was at The Oakland Raiders Practice Facility in Alameda, California.  December 21, 2015.
This is a photo of Charles Woodson announcing his retirement. This was at The Oakland Raiders Practice Facility in Alameda, California. December 21, 2015.

“Charles Woodson is one those players that comes along and reminds you why you love the game.” Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said it best after this past week Charles Woodson announced his retirement. Woodson has been elite on every level of football imaginable. Tonight will be his final game at the Coliseum, and it is
time we all reflect on what Charles Woodson brought to the game of football.

Charles Woodson flying for an interception against against Ohio State. November 22, 1997.
Charles Woodson flying for an interception against against Ohio State. November 22, 1997.
In college he became a starter two games into the season. He was then named to the All Big Ten first team by coaches and second team by the media leading his in interceptions and takeaways. He had a memorable game that showcased his ability to show up in the big games. Charles Woodson had two crucial interceptions against the 2nd best team in the nation at that time and rival Ohio State. A strong year by the kid out of Fremont, Ohio, but that was only the beginning. In his sophmore year he was named to the Chevrolet Defensive Player of the year, set a new school record of pass break ups, named to AP First Team All American, and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award. All of that aside though the year we all remember him for is 1997. In 1997 he had many games you can point out as the games that led to him being named the Heisman winner. Against the Michigan State Spartans, Woodson had an acrobatic sideline interception that became a highlight on Sportscenter for the next week. His game against Ohio State in particular was special.He had a 78 yard punt return, a interception in the end zone, and a 37 yard reception that ended up leading to the only offensive score that game for his team. That win became the win his team needed to appear in the Rose Bowl where Woodson again showed up big and got an end zone interception helping to lift the Wolverines over the Cougars and become National Champions. That year he won the Heisman with 268 more votes than Peyton Manning and other college greats Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf to become the only defensive player to ever win the award. Just for a little bit more of how crazy his impact was on the college level, ESPN had him ranked as the 11th best college football player ever. Whether or not you agree with that ranking or not the fact there is even an argument for a defensive back to be considered the 11th best college football player ever is damn impressive.

Woodson then became the 4th overall pick chosen by the Oakland Raiders. In his rookie season he led all defensive backs in tackles with 64, was third in the league in interceptions, had one interception returned for a touchdown and started all 16 games for the Raiders being the first one to do so for the franchise since 1971. He became the AP Rookie of the Year after that great start to what would be a historic career.

 Charles Woodson tackling Tom Brady on what would be remembered as the Tuck Rule play. January 19, 2002.
Charles Woodson tackling Tom Brady on what would be remembered as the Tuck Rule play. January 19, 2002.
In 2002 Charles Woodson became part of one of the most memorable and controversial plays in the history of the game. In a snowy blizzard of a game in the AFC Divisional Round on January 19, 2002, Brady was driving down the field and on a CB blitz Charles Woodson appeared to have stripped the ball from Brady. From most of the nation’s perspective it had been a clear fumble and would have sealed the game in the Raiders’ favor. The refs had overturned the call because what is now known as the Tuck Rule.

In 2003 Woodson and the Raiders managed to reach the Super Bowl where they faced off against their former coach, Jon Gruden. Woodson had appeared to be hobbled during the Super Bowl, but it was not his fault alone in the blowout loss against Tampa Bay and actually managed to grab one interception in the losing effort.

In 2006 Woodson signed on to a 7 year deal with the Packers and was not all that excited to go there at first but has since has since appreciated everything the fans and the organization have done for him. His time with the Packers started a new chapter of his career and many might remember him as a Packer rather than a Raider when it is all said and done.He had more interceptions in his first four years with the Packers than he did in his first 8 years with the Raiders. On November 15, 2009 Woodson became the first player to ever record two forced fumbles, a sack, and an interception within a single game against the Dallas Cowboys. He was also named NFC Defensive Player of the Month 3 times within that season becoming the first defensive player to ever win the award 3 times in a single season. That led to him being named the AP Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2010 Aaron Rodgers and the Packers suffered many injuries specifically to there defense but went on a miracle run through the playoffs. Woodson was locking down everyone he faced in the playoffs but ended up breaking his collarbone when diving to defend a pass to Mike Wallace. He gave a speech that everyone on the team said inspired the championship winning effort they put on in the second half. That led to Woodson earning his first and only Super Bowl title as a player.

Charles Woodson holding the Lombardi trophy after the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25. February 6, 2011.
Charles Woodson holding the Lombardi trophy after the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25. February 6, 2011.
Soon after that Charles Woodson had to take a step back and play safety to truly utilize his talents. On February 15, 2013 the Packers released Woodson and he signed a contract with the Raiders in what seemed to be the place Woodson wanted to retire. On December 21st, 2015, just 3 days ago, Charles Woodson announced this would be the end of the road for him as he knew his body was giving him the signs that he needed to retire.

Now is where we figure out where we place Woodson in history. Most seem to believe he is one of the 5 best corners to ever play and I personally have him at number 4. Ronnie Lott had this to say about Woodson and whether or not he is the greatest. “Hands down. His body of work has shown that time doesn’t affected him.” It is hard to argue with Mr. Lott’s analysis there as Charles Woodson has been an elite player ever since he stepped into the league and even as he is having his last stand. Charles Woodson will leave with more pro bowls than Deion Sanders and Richard “Night Train” Lane, have more interceptions than Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed, and the only player in history with 60 interceptions and 20 sacks ever. We are seeing a surefire 1st ballot Hall of Famer on his last ride out. Let’s all sit back and acknowledge the greatness standing before us.

Top 10 Defensive Ends of All-Time


10. Gino Marchetti

Known as the first true pass rusher alongside Doug Atkins, Gino was ahead of his time. He was adept at stopping the run, but best know for his pass rushing techniques. Teams used to double team and sometimes even triple team Gino but to no avail, as the rest of the Colts defensive line would step up and make a play. If there was a sack stat during his time, then we would know more about how well he rushed the passer, but sadly, the sack stat didn’t come into existence until 1982.


9. Julius Peppers

Peppers came in with a lot of hype. Some may say he hasn’t completely lived up to it do to his inconsistency, but when this man had good years he had dominating good years.For the Panthers in 2004, Peppers recorded 11.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 9 pass deflections, and 2 defensive touchdowns. If it wasn’t for the greatness of Ed Reed, he could have easily won NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Peppers could effect the game in various ways whether it was stopping the run, rushing the passer, or dropping into coverage. If he could have done those things on a more consistent basis, then he would be higher on this list.


8. Jared Allen

Jared Allen is the best defensive end I’ve been able to fully watch as his career has unfolded. He almost went 9 straight years with 10 sacks each year but came a little short in 2006. Allen started his career in Kansas City, but he was able to truly take off when he became a Viking in 2007; recording 15.5 sacks his first year in Minnesota. I will always remember Allen for his playoff game against the Cowboys. His stats were not outstanding, but it seemed like on every single play, he was in the backfield in Romo’s face causing havoc. As of today he is 9th all time in career sacks and playing for the Chicago Bears.


7. Chris Doleman

Recording one of the best seasons ever by an end with 21 sacks in 1989, Doleman gave O-Lines hell. Doleman, as physical as he was, only missed two games his entire 15 year career. He is 4th all time in career sacks with 150.5. You could argue for him to be higher on this list if you only looked at the stats, because as a straight pass rusher, he has an argument as a top 5 guy.


6. Lee Roy Selmon

This is another guy that’s hard to show his impact on the game because of there being no sack stat in existence. He battled injuries at the beginning of his career but by 1978 he found his groove. He was named to five All-Pro teams, was named the NFC defensive lineman of the year four times, and won defensive player of the year in 1979. A back injury in 1985 caused a premature end to what could have been an even greater career than it already was.


5. Howie Long

I like to compare JJ Watt to Howie Long. Howie Long was a rare case of overall speed, size, strength, and quickness. He was an essential piece to a championship Oakland Raiders team. He was able to affect games in all kinds of ways. He was also a member of 5 all pro teams and collected over 84 sacks.


4. Doug Atkins

It’s hard to describe how good he was. There wasn’t a sack stat until 1982. He was 6’8 playing defensive end. He used to leapfrog defenders…..at 6’8. Atkins revolutionized the position along with Gino Marchetti. He was best at batting down the ball at the line of scrimmage and causing all kinds of havoc no matter if it was against the run or the pass.


3. Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith made a living of abusing offensive lines. He’s the all time leader in sacks with 200, has two defensive player of the year awards, and has been selected to 11 all pro teams. You could make a case for Smith to be at the top of this list because he dominated for such a long period of time, and didn’t really experience any down years until the end of his career.


2. Deacon Jones

Deacon’s numbers aren’t great but that’s in part to the fact sacks weren’t recorded until 1982. Deacon was the one that actually came up with the term “sack”. According to Deacon he had 20 sacks in 1963, 26 sacks in 1967, and 24 sacks in 1968. Regardless of the validity of those statistics, Deacon was an unstoppable force on defense. He was the leader for arguably the greatest defensive line in NFL history, the Fearsome Foursome.


1. Reggie White

Nobody can convince me of a better pass rusher than Reggie White. He absolutely abused any man in his way to the QB. He has two defensive player of the year awards, 198 sacks (second all time), and a super bowl ring. He was huge in that super bowl championship; as he was in Drew Bledsoe’s face the entire game. Most of his stat stuffing years were in Philadelphia with the Eagles. From 1985 to 1993 he only had one season with less than 13 sacks, and even then he had 11. He was arguably the biggest free agent signed out of all of the years of the 1990s when he went to the Packers. Think about this. Reggie White had 198 sacks in a 15 year career which is second all-time. Kevin Greene in a 14 year career, who is 3rd on on the career sacks list, has 160 total sacks. That’s 30 more sacks White has over the guy one spot below him in career sacks. I want you to try and name anyone better because I sure can’t.

Top 10 Tight Ends of All-Time


10. Ozzie Newsome

Ozzie is one of the greatest Brown’s players ever. He held the team record for receiving yards in a game with 191 which stood for 29 years up until Josh Gordon broke it. He has over 7,000 yards, 47 touchdowns, and 662 receptions. There are other options to this spot but I decided to go with Ozzie because of his toughness and the dominance he would show when the moment called for it.


9. Dave Casper

He started off very slow only bringing in 9 receptions in his first 2 seasons. However, he started producing heavily after those seasons. In a time that the games were battled in the trenches, Casper hauled in 52 touchdowns during his career. Casper was also involved in some miraculous moments. Telling the details of each one would be an article all of its own so I highly suggest you google Dave Casper and fill yourself in with all he’s done.


8. Mike Ditka

Known mainly for his coaching career leading one of the best defenses of all time in the 85′ Chicago Bears and as an analyst on ESPN. Best believe he was one of the best football players to ever step on the field. His numbers aren’t just ridiculous but he was a very good blocker as well which sadly can’t be shown in the stat sheet. In his first year his presence was felt by winning rookie of the year, scoring 12 touchdowns, and having 58 receptions. Alongside Mackey, Ditka helped revolutionize the position.


7. Jason Witten

Witten will go down as one of the greatest Cowboys of all time and could be argued that he should be higher up on this list. He broke his jaw early in his career and still continued to play. From that point onward was when the legacy started. He is the only Cowboys TE to date to record 1,000 yards in a season. He’s a leader, and the locker room in Dallas falls in line behind him. He still has the potential to go a few pegs higher on this list before he’s done.


6. Shannon Sharpe

1996-2000 were some very good years for Sharpe. He already had some good years before then but was able to really shine in that 4 year span. In that time, he had 306 catches, 3,971 yards, and 28 TDs. The greatest moment that Sharpe ever had was his 96 yard TD in the AFC Title game which still stands as the longest TD in playoff history. You may hear him brag about himself a lot, but it is well earned by coming in as a 7th round pick and ending his career as a top 5 tight end in touchdowns.


5. John Mackey

Mackey was the main weapon for the great Johnny Unitas. They have awards named after him as he was the first great tight end to ever play. He was a deep threat. In his first four seasons, he averaged 18 yards a reception. There are few who believe he was the best ever as his numbers can’t translate when comparing his era to the tight ends who have played in the last 20 years. We can all thank him though for what the tight end position has become.


4. Rob Gronkowski

Gronk is just an absolute monster. In my opinion, the best receiving option in the game today. He’s had many issues staying healthy but his numbers speak for themselves. The man has only played 5 years and has more touchdowns than almost everyone on this list who have played over 10 seasons. In 2011, he had the best statistical year ever for a tight end posting 1,327 yards, 90 receptions, and 17 touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns are the most ever by a tight end in a season. I believe by the time his career is over he will go down as the greatest ever; leaving a huge gap between himself and the man I have at number one.


3. Antonio Gates

Another guy who played basketball, Gates was undrafted out of Kent State. Damn there were so many people who wish they found this diamond in the rough. Gates redefined the tight end position. Nobody had ever seen a player at this position with that type of power and speed. He is one of only two tight ends to have four seasons with at least 10 touchdowns. Another guy I really wish could get a ring but sadly it is just out of his hands. As soon as I thought Father Time finally hit him, Gates blew up this past year with 12 touchdowns. He has a very good chance of leading all tight ends in touchdowns if he plays another two years.


2. Kellen Winslow

Kellen Winslow was a huge weapon for Dan Fouts and the Chargers offense. Winslow had the most receiving yards by a tight end ever in the 1980 season when he recorded 1,290 yards. That record stood for 30 years until Rob Gronkowski broke it in 2011. In 1981, Winslow tied a record of 5 receiving touchdowns in a single game. All of those accomplishments are great but none of those compare to his game against the Dolphins in the 81′ playoffs. He had what I describe as the best individual performance ever in a playoff game. He caught 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. He also blocked what could have been the game winning field goal for the Dolphins to send the game into overtime. To make the game even more memorable, Winslow was treated for a pinched nerve in his shoulder, dehydration, severe cramps, bruised ribs, and received three stitches to his bottom lip. The picture above is of his teammates helping him off the field.


1. Tony Gonzalez

Without a doubt the greatest tight end of all time. His numbers are up there with top 5 wide receivers. He is 2nd all time in receptions, 5th all time in receiving yards, and 6th in receiving touchdowns. Coming into Kansas City, Gonzalez worked with a lot of below average guys. He wasn’t able to win a playoff game until his 16th year in the league when he finally was with a good team. It’s sad that he couldn’t add a ring to his ridiculous resume, but regardless Tony Gonzalez will always be remembered as an all time great.