By way of introduction this week, let's start out with a question from one Clinton Woodall of Tampa, Florida. You see, it's not a question I can really answer definitely. I can state my opinion – something the Answer Man avoids doing as much as possible in this space – but I won't necessarily divorce you from your own feelings on the topic.
Still, it's a fun issue to discuss, so I thought we'd tackle it in the intro, where it doesn't really count. Here's what Clinton had to say:
Oh enlightened one. Please, I beseech you, answer my one question. Do you believe in the trends and patterns of football, for example the Madden curse or super stats like the Bucs can't win against Green Bay if they have lost the week before (not true on the Buc one, just giving an example). And should the fans really follow these or is it just over-hype?
What about the one asserting the Buccaneers can't win in cold weather – that is, with a kickoff temperature of below 40 degrees? Oh, that's right…melted that one at Chicago in 2002 (winning a first-round bye in the process). Of course, there remains that one about the Bucs being unable to win on the West Coast. What's that? Ah, yes, San Diego in '96, Seattle in '99 and a little thing called the Super Bowl in '03. And I think I vaguely remember something about Philadelphia being an insurmountable challenge for the Bucs.
The thing about these trends is that they're rock solid…until they're not. As soon as one dies, another one comes along to take its place. I mean, the Green Bay Packers could have believed they were snake bit in Raymond James Stadium, given that they won in Tampa on four of their final five trips to old Tampa Stadium, then immediately lost five straight games in Raymond James. But they broke that streak in 2003; who will remember it now?
That being said, there is one of these trends that the Answer Man particularly likes, and so far it's still holding strong. Maybe you've heard it before. It goes something like this:
No team that has ever lost to Tampa Bay during the regular season has gone on to win the Super Bowl that same season.
You gotta like that one, because it seems to give the Bucs a certain amount of control over how the league comes out in the long run.
This past year, the only team that went into the playoffs with that albatross around its neck was Atlanta and, well...they did make it to the NFC Championship Game, which is nice.
The Rams beat the Bucs in the 1999 conference championship game and went on to win it all, but then suffered defeats to Tampa Bay the next three years and couldn't repeat. They were on the losing end of Super Bowl XXXVI after a 2001 season that included a 24-17 Buc win in St. Louis.
The Buffalo Bills made the second of four straight Super Bowls after a 1991 season that saw them lose, 17-10, in Tampa, and went on to lose number XXVI to the Washington Redskins. San Francisco barely squeaked by the Bucs, 20-16, in 1989, which freed them up to win number XXIV, much as they did in 1984. Super Bowl XVII, after the 1982 season, was the perfect test for the theory, as the Bucs played both Washington and Miami despite the season being shortened to nine games by a strike. Well, Washington beat the Bucs while Miami lost in Tampa…so you know what happened in the Super Bowl, right? Yep, Washington 27, Miami 17.
The Rams may have beaten the Buccaneers in the 1979 NFC Championship Game, but because Tampa Bay had prevailed in a regular-season contest earlier in the fall, Los Angeles couldn't overcome Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV. In addition, the Rams lost to the Bucs again early the next season and ended up flaming out of the 1980 playoffs in the opening round.
Had the Rams simply known about this unbreakable Super Bowl law, they could have tanked the rest of the season and gone after a high draft pick. Same with Philadelphia in 2003, after the Bucs followed their Super Bowl victory in 2002 with a dominant, opening-day victory over the Eagles the next fall. Oh, sure, Philly fought to the bitter end, losing in the NFC Championship Game, but it was all the same in the end.
So, Clinton, the answer to your question is that, no, the Answer Man doesn't put much stock in those supposed trends…except this one (because it's fun). This one might never be broken.
Until it is.
On to this week's questions.
- Dewey H. of Ross, California asks:
I understand that every year, offensive and defensive rookie of the year awards are given out. What was the latest a rookie has been drafted in the draft, or undrafted, and won an offensive or defensive rookie of the year award?
Answer Man: You ask good questions Dewey. Your work has appeared in the Answer Man's column before, no? Maybe one of these days you'll grace us with your full name.
Anyway, this was a fun one to research. First things first, we should define what we're talking about. Since you mentioned separate offensive and defensive rookie categories, I'm going to assume you are referring to the AP awards. Recently, the NFL has begun handing out an overall rookie award, voted on by fans, but that one combines both offensive and defensive players.
The AP has been recognizing an offensive rookie of the year since, amazingly, 1957. The defensive players got their own recognition beginning in 1967. Since there was one year (1980) in which the defensive award was shared by two players, that gives us 48 offensive and 39 defensive players to work with. That's a nice sample size.
Here are the top three answers to your question:
- E Jimmy Orr, Pittsburgh, Offensive, 1958. Orr, who was actually drafted by the Rams in 1957, was still considered a rookie in '58. The Rams got him in the 25th round, with the 291st pick. 2. LB Al Richardson, Atlanta, Defensive, 1980. Richardson, taken in the eighth round with the 201st pick, shared the award with his teammate, LB Buddy Curry, who went 36th overall in the second round. 3. RB Mike Anderson, Offensive, 2000. Anderson was drafted in the sixth round, 189th overall.
In 48 years, nobody else has gotten really close to those three. The Answer Man compiled a list of all the winners and their draft spots, and it is striking how many of them are first-round picks. On the offensive side, 33 of the 48 all-time winners were first-round picks. Another seven were taken in the second or third rounds.
It's even more striking on the defensive side, where 29 of the 39 winners were first-rounders. Amazingly, 21 of those 29 were selected among the first 10 picks of their respective drafts.
I'm not going to print the entire chart, but here's the winners from the last 10 years, to give you an idea of how top-heavy the list is, particularly on the defensive side.
|**Year**||**Off. ROY**||**Rd.**||**Pick**||**Def. ROY**||**Rd.**||**Pick**|
|2004||Ben Roethlisberger||1||11||Jonathan Vilma||1||12|
|2003||Anquan Boldin||2||54||Terrell Suggs||1||10|
|2002||Clinton Portis||2||51||Julius Peppers||1||2|
|2001||Anthony Thomas||2||38||Kendrell Bell||2||39|
|2000||Mike Anderson||6||189||Brian Urlacher||1||9|
|1999||Edgerrin James||1||4||Jevon Kearse||1||16|
|1998||Randy Moss||1||21||Charles Woodson||1||4|
|1997||Warrick Dunn||1||12||Peter Boulware||1||4|
|1996||Eddie George||1||14||Simeon Rice||1||3|
|1995||Curtis Martin||3||74||Hugh Douglas||1||16|
Did you notice that Roethlisberger and Vilma went with back-to-back picks last year? That actually happens several times on this list. The most interesting occasion was in 2001, because Thomas and Bell went consecutively in the second round.
The same thing occurred in 1989, when Barry Sanders and Derrick Thomas were taken third and fourth, respectively, and in 1971, when the Packers took RB John Brockington ninth and the Rams followed with Isiah Robertson 10th. The teams got it right in 1981, when RB George Rogers went first and LB Lawrence Taylor went second and they ended up with the two awards.
Overall, offensive award-winners have been taken, on average in "Round 2.3," ; the defensive award-winners have an average of "Round 1.4." Since the Answer Man isn't sure exactly what that means, it's probably more informative to look at the overall pick number. After all, rounds are a lot longer now then they were in 1957. For the offensive players, the average pick is number 35; for the defensive players, it's number 22.
No undrafted player has ever won either award.
- Jay of Staten Island, New York asks:
In general, (say over the last 10 years) where have the later-round picks paid off more...offense or defense?
Answer Man: That seems like a good follow-up to our discussion above, Jay. You may not find a Rookie of the Year in the sixth round, but you can definitely come up with a player who is going to help your team.
To begin addressing this issue, the Answer Man harkens back to a conversation he had with a former Buccaneer personnel man. In the later rounds, he said, you are often looking at players who impress you in one particular area. That is, if you take a player in the first round, you probably are impressed with how he measures up in all or almost all facets of his play. In the sixth round, few such players remain, so you often take men who have impressed you in one facet of their play and hope you can, through good coaching, improve the rest of their game.
This applies particularly well to defensive linemen, which is why you'll often see that position addressed in the later rounds. Between 1993 and 2002, the Bucs drafted 10 defensive linemen in Rounds 5-7. Many of those players failed to make it with the Bucs (think Anthony DeGrate or John Stamper) but several did, such as Chidi Ahanotu, Jason Maniecki, James Cannida, John McLaughlin and Ellis Wyms.
Maybe the Bucs saw some pass-rush ability in Wyms but thought his game as a whole was still raw. Well, he has proven that he can rush the passer, and his overall game has developed wonderfully under the Bucs' unparalleled defensive line coach, Rod Marinelli.
Back to the question. I'm going to define the terms, as usual. We're going to assume "later-round" means the sixth round and on since, as we discussed in Series 2, Volume 4, almost all fourth and fifth-rounders make it.
We're also going to assume you were talking about the Buccaneers. As much as the Answer Man likes research, applying this question to the whole NFL for any number of years would be massively time-consuming.
Here is the Answer Man's opinion on the most notable late-round picks in team history: