Friday, July 29, 2011

Top 10 Godzilla Movies

The Incomparable King of the Monsters!

All throughout my early childhood, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. So when I was very young, my Dad introduced me to something that would change my life forever: Godzilla movies! My dad has since passed away, but I will always love everything about Godzillaa films. Not that BS atrocity made in the US in 1998, I'm talking the real-deal films made by Toho in Japan. So go ahead and add Godzilla, along with Star Wars and LOTR, to the list of reasons why I'm a huge closet nerd. But I will always be a huge G-fan! I've recently made some key additions to my Godzilla collection, to the point where it is almost completed (I only lack 4 movies in the entire series of 29). As part of the celebration, I'm going to write a Godzilla-marathon (Godzillapalooza if you will), reviewing each and every film of the franchise in detail and in order! And what better way to kick it all off than with a list of my Top 10 favs! I knew you'd enjoy this. So sit back, relax, and absorb the sheer glory that is GODZILLA!!!

10. Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, 2001:
The Godzilla film with by far the longest title rounds out the number 10 spot on my list. I guess I'm a Godzilla-purist, if there is such a thing, and for that reason I have a lot of issues with this movie's bizarre plot points and differences from every film prior (I'll discuss these more in my full review). However, I feel like overall the positives outweigh the negatives with this installment. First of all, Godzilla is evil in this one and because of that he looks extremely badass. There are also tons of homages to the first movie in this one, and I always love that. The special effects are terrific and the monster battles are pretty top notch. I also love the inclusion of Baragon in this film, even though he still doesn't get enough respect to be put in the title. Poor Baragon, nobody appreciates his genius.  

9. King Kong vs. Godzilla, 1962:
Of all of the classic Godzilla movies, this is the one that I would love to see get re-made the most, provided of course it is done right. It goes without saying that this match-up of the two most famous giant monsters in history is one of epic proportions. While it's predecessor, "Godzilla Raids Again", was the first time Godzilla faced another monster in battle, this movie was the first truly successful film of the "VS series" if you will. It's got all the elements of a solid, classic Godzilla movie: superstitious dancing natives, destruction of a pagoda, and a great monster brawl! The other cool thing about this movie is that there's not really a clear cut winner in the fight, leaving it open to debate. This movie is a fantastic introduction to the series.

8. Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, 1965:
Many G-fans prefer the original "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster", I personally am partially to it's direct sequel. This is the first in a long line of G-movies centered around alien invasion of earth through the use of monsters. It is  one of many films pitting Godzilla against his most famous enemy, Ghidorah. This is also the second in a long line of films in which Godzilla saves the earth, and it's generally ungrateful inhabitants, from destruction. Rodan also joins the party, which is an added bonus considering he was always probably my favorite of Godzilla's allies. I'll discuss the plot in more detail in my official review, but I will tell you it's pretty campy and it's a blast! You also gotta love the inclusion of the brash American astronaut character who is a ladies man with a bullet-proof attitude. Haha, Japanese impressions of American culture.  

7. Godzilla vs. Destroyah, 1995:
This movie blew my mind when I first saw it and is actually pretty sad at the end. It was originally intended to be the end of the series, as the Godzilla we've grown to love has his heart go into meltdown, which could trigger an explosion that could destroy the world. Eventually he dies, converting all of his energy to his dead son, thus reviving him. But let's not get too carried away with the plot. His enemy (one of the series' most original) is basically a byproduct of pollution caused by the Oxygen Destroyer weapon used to kill the original Godzilla. Thus the tie-ins to the first movie are abundant, which is always really cool (especially the title sequence, which is awesome all by itself). The movie is very well done and doesn't cast Godzilla in the role of clear cut villain, which is always nice. I can't wait to review this one in full!

6. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, 1974:
The Big Guy fights a robot version of himself many times throughout the series, but this first time is one of the best. Mechagodzilla is built by a race of ape-like aliens bent on, what else, world domination. So it's up to the real Godzilla to save the day. Fan-favorite, Anguirus, also makes an appearance, as well as a new ally with a goofy theme song, King Caesar. King C is kind of a bipedal Japanese lion-type thing who shoots lasers out of his eyes (exactly what you were expecting, I'm sure). For all its hokie-ness, it's an awesome Godzilla flick, though. Mechagodzilla is armed to the teeth (literally) with weapons and a bad attitude, which makes for some awesome battle scenes. Godzilla (the actor) also sports one of the better looking rubber suits of the early era. This movie is a true classic and a must-see for any G-fan!

5. Mothra vs. Godzilla, 1964:
Probably the first movie that comes to most people's minds when they think of Godzilla films. This is a benchmark piece in the Godzilla franchise. Grant it, I have never quite understood the Japanese's obsession with Mothra, in every movie everyone's totally in love with her. Whatever, I always give Godzilla the benefit of the doubt myself. In her last days, Mothra sets out to save her abducted egg and two surprisingly fashionable twin fairies from greedy businessmen. Meanwhile, Godzilla just kind of gets in the way, poor guy. The result is a memorable monster brawl, involving the hatching of Mothra's egg. Fun stuff. If you're not going to start out watching the series with the first movie or King Kong, I'd definitely recommend the first Mothra. 

4. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, 1993:
While the title says "2", in reality this is the 3rd installment of Godzilla against his metal doppelganger. The main difference is this time Mechagodzilla is built as a protective measure against Godzilla, by the "G-Force". A much improved version of Rodan makes an appearance and plays a key role in Godzilla defeating his much improved robot foe. The movie kind of becomes centered around Godzilla's son, not that dopey misfit Minya from earlier in the series, but Godzilla's legit son who is way cooler. Monster battles are superb and the special effects make the first Mechagodzilla look like he was built in someone's basement. This Mechagodzilla (while far more advanced) is much less menacing looking than it's predecessor. But I guess that's fitting since this one is used by humans and not malicious monkey aliens. Those damn, dirty apes!

3. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, 1991:
This movie is SWEET! It's got time-travel, probably the best looking version of Ghidorah, World War II scenes, references to movies and pop-culture, and Godzilla... what more could you ask for??? It explores Godzilla's mutation from a dinosaur that saved a group of Japanese troops on an island during WWII. Evil westerners from the future basically want to erase Godzilla from history, so they can use Ghidorah to destroy Japan themselves. It becomes a tangled web in the end, but makes for a completely awesome Godzilla movie. It also contains the sole appearance of Mecha-King Ghidorah after Godzilla rips the first one's head off (I know that made you want to see it so bad). It's really great on all fronts. It was easily my #2, that is until I saw the next beauty on my list.

2. Godzilla: Final Wars, 2004:
All I can say is WOW! Simply put, this movie is like the classic "Destroy All Monsters" on supernaturally enhanced steroids! The plot itself is kind of like the Godzilla meets The Matrix meets Crouching Tiger meets Star Wars meets X Men meets Star Trek meets Star Fox meets... I don't know Halo??! It's out of control and oh so awesome! Toho really ended the series right! Alien invaders take control of all the most awesome monsters (there's like 15 in the movie) and use them to destroy the world. Of course, Godzilla is having none of that shit and kicks some major ass! It's non-stop action from start to finish. Even the humans fight like there's no tomorrow! This movie is like G-fan heaven. The best special effects of any Godzilla movie, and probably best of all, it actually aknowledges and ties into all the previous movies (something that many of the most recent G-movies failed to do). Even the opening title sequence kicks ass! It's amazing. Need I say more?

1. Godzilla, 1954:
As is the case with so many things in life, you simply can't beat the original. The tone in this movie is different that any other Godzilla film and it's very powerful. It demonstrates the horrors and senselessness of nuclear war from people who experienced it first-hand. It's a masterfully made piece and was state-of-the-art for it's time. There's so many little things about it that make it superb, all of which I will touch on in my review. The score by Akira Ifukube (used in some form or fashion in every consecutive G-movie) is simply breath-taking and gives me chills everytime. Godzilla is presented as an unstoppable force of nature, but at the same time a creation by the recklessness of man. Such a great motif! The way in which Godzilla is finally destroyed is also very creative and a powerful scene. The scenes of the aftermath of G's attacks are also more sobering than any other G-film as they are a direct representation of WWII. Whether you love Godzilla or not, I strongly recommend this film to anyone who loves movies. It is simply a must-see and the the film (pardon the cliche) that started it all! 

Well there it is fair readers, my Top 10! Now let's kick off this movie marathon with a video dedicated to the Big Guy himself, courtesy of "clpking" on youtube! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Top 10 Running Backs of the 90's

Since ranking the Top 10 QBs of the 90's was pretty fun, I'm going to turn this into a series and now rank the 90's top 10 RBs! As far as the decade of my childhood goes, the debate has always centered around Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders. Was the lack of talent around Sanders further indicative of his superior talent? Could the Cowboys have still won the 3 Super Bowls they did without Smith? The debate still rages. I'll attempt to tackle all of these questions and determine the best once and for all, because we all know that my opinion is the only one that really matters. Furthermore, I'll sort out all the other great, but not as good, RBs of the decade. Aren't Top 10's fun??? Let's get started!

10. Rodney Hampton- New York Giants:
Hampton was drafted as the Giants' RB of the future in 1990, and while he was a part of that year's championship team, an injury kept him out of most of his Rookie year (thus allowing Otis Anderson to achieve his own Super Bowl glory). But things weren't over for Hampton. During his 8 year career, all in NYC, Hampton reached two Pro-Bowls in '92 and '93. His 6,897 career rushing yards set a franchise record, which was later broken by Tiki Barber. At 5'11", 215, he was a load and ran downhill with surprising break-away speed. Throughout the 90's, he proved to be NY's most consistent offensive weapon, breaking the 1,000 yard rushing mark each year from '91-'95. He retired in '97.

9. Jerome Bettis- LA/St Louis Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers:
"The Bus" was a fullback coming out of Notre Dame, but in the NFL his surprising quickness and bruising power made him an efficient weapon at RB for many years. His build was an enigma of sorts; at 5'11" 252, it was like trying to tackle a small defensive lineman. This 4-time 90's Pro-Bowler was also Rookie of the Year in '93 for the Rams. His greatest success, however, came with the Steelers, who won the Super Bowl in his final season (but that was in 2005). His 13,662 career rushing yards actually rank 5th on the NFL's all-time list.

8. Curtis Martin- New England Patriots, New York Jets:
While Bettis ranks 5th on the all-time NFL rushing list, Martin has him beat with the 4th place ranking, rushing for 14,101 yards throughout his 12 year career. While he is remembered more for his career as a New York Jet, much of his 90's success came playing for the rival Patriots. In '95, he was named the offensive Rookie of the Year and went to the first of his three 90's Pro-Bowls. Martin was also a huge contributing factor to the Patriots' Super Bowl appearance in '96. He rushed for over 1,000 yards each year of the decade. The key to Martin's game was speed, coupled with great vision and lateral quickness. A lethal combination.

Ricky Watters- San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks:
Certainly the most infamous member of this list and one of the most polarizing RBs in NFL history. Watters was a me-guy and a diva, which has probably negatively influenced his (so-far) non-inclusion in the HOF. Still, despite his personal issues, Watters was quite talented. Selected to 5 Pro-Bowls, Watters was also a major contributor to the 49ers' '94 Super Bowl Championship. Likely one of his most coveted skills was his receiving, which made him a huge weapon for Steve Young out of the backfield. In this way, he was somewhat ahead of his time. His production on the field was clear, but at the same time he was locker-room poison. And that's why his career is somewhat tainted.

6. Eddie George- Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans:
While George was more decorated as a college player at Ohio State, he was still a very solid pro and falls just short of my top 5 90's backs. The best way I can describe his running style is power and determination. George never missed a start due to injury, starting 128 consecutive games. He and Jim Brown are the only NFL RBs to eclipse the 10,000 yards mark while never missing a start. He was also a great leader on offense for the Titans, and put out a valiant performance in their Super Bowl loss in '99. Rookie of the Year in '96, George went to 3 Pro-Bowls in the 90's. It has been suggested that the Titans relied to heavily on George and wore him out before his time was done, as he carried the ball more than 330 times in 5 of his 8 seasons with the team. Of course, this wouldn't be the first time this franchise ran a great back into the ground (see Earl Campbell).

5. Terrell Davis- Denver Broncos:
Are there better initials for a RB than TD? The creator of the "Mile High Salute" deserves a salute himself for the major contribution he made the the Broncos' back-to-back Super Bowl titles in '97 and '98. His 7,607 yards make him the Broncos' all-time leading rusher. His career was short, but very bright. He went to 3 Pro-Bowls and was named Super Bowl MVP in '97 and League MVP in '98. As a late round draftee, he had to work uphill from 6th on the depth chart, but still managed to start his rookie season. Davis was strong, fast, and hit like a linebacker. He was also instinctive with the ball in his hands and had a nose for the endzone, scoring 60 TDs in his 8 year, injury-plagued career.

4. Marshall Faulk- Indianapolis Colts, St Louis Rams:
While this now HOF-er truly blossomed as a member of the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" from '99-'06, he was still a very potent weapon for the struggling Colts throughout the bulk of the decade in question for this list. Faulk is the only player in history to have over 12,000 yards rushing and 6,000 yards receiving and is also the only player to score 70+ rushing TDs and 30+ receiving. He reached 4 Pro-Bowls in the 90's and won his only Championship with the Rams in '99. Other 90's honors include Rookie of the Year in '94, Pro-Bowl MVP in '94, and Offensive Player of the Year in '99. His jersey number (28) has been retired by the Rams.

3. Thurman Thomas- Buffalo Bills:
The first of two OSU Cowboys on this list, both in the top 3. Thomas was an offensive force on the AFC juggernaut Bills that appeared in 4 consecutive Super Bowls from '90-'93 (losing all 4). He went to 4 Pro-Bowls in the 90's, was NFL MVP in '91, and Offensive POTY in '92. Thomas represented a lethal combination of speed and power, and his stocky frame made him increasingly hard to tackle. He presented a fantastic complement to the Bills dangerous downfield passing game, making their offense one of the most potent of the decade. 11,938 career rushing yards make him the Bills' franchise leader and 12th among all-time NFL rushing leaders.

2. Emmitt Smith- Dallas Cowboys:
As a Cowboys fan, it kills me to put Emmitt in the #2 spot, but I simply cannot rank him above Barry Sanders, all things considered. However, it is not fair for critics to cheapen his success by saying anybody could have run behind his o-line. The Dallas line was awesome in the early 90's, but you have to remember, Emmitt ran downhill and after he hit his hole (at lightening speed) he did most of the work in the defensive backfield. Emmitt was tough, determined, and extremely talented. You wouldn't know that a player as short as him could be not only so fast, but so strong. He also had about the best field vision of any back I've seen. He is a HOF-er and went to 8 Pro-Bowls (all in the 90's). He also holds the NFL records for career rushing yards at 18,355, rushing TDs at 164, and career 100+ yard rushing games at 78. Other honors include offensive ROY ('90), NFL MVP ('93), and Super Bowl MVP ('93). Before you bash Emmitt for simply being surrounded by an incredibly talented team, consider this: at the height of their dominance, in '93, Dallas went 0-2 to start the season without Smith on the team (he was holding out due to a contract dispute. The 'Boys, of course, got Emmitt back and went on to a 12-4 season and Super Bowl Championship. So it's worth thinking about just how vital Emmitt was to the Cowboys when he played, although the team as a whole was very talented. I would go as far to say, without Emmitt, there would have never been a Cowboys Dynasty in the 90's. He may be my #2, but he is a very close to #1.

1. Barry Sanders- Detroit Lions:
If Detroit has nothing else to be proud of, they absolutely must be proud of the great Sanders. As complimentary as I am of Emmitt Smith, it would simply be foolish to rank him above Barry Sanders. If I was to describe his running style in one word, it would be "elusive". If I was to use two words, they would be "inexplicably elusive". There's really no way to describe or understand how it was that Sanders was able to avoid tackles. He WAS the Lions offense. Despite a dismal line and shouldering the full load, he still made amazing happen year after year, until he got burnt out and retired after  10 seasons, while still in his prime (in true Jim Brown fashion). It drives many people absolutely insane that he retired just before capturing the All-time rushing record, thus they bitterly throw darts at Emmitt Smith. But the record just wasn't that important to Sanders. He played because he loved the game, and when the love began to fade (which I can understand playing for the Lions) he didn't care to do it anymore. In the 90's, he went to 9 Pro-Bowls, won offensive POTY twice ('94, '97), and was NFL MVP in '97. He holds 10 Lions franchise records. While he was only 5'8", 200 lbs, his legs were like tree trunks, and you will never find a back with better quickness and agility. He had the uncanny ability to stop and start on a dime, and hit his top speed almost instantaneously. His 15,269 career rushing yards make him 3rd on the all-time NFL rushing list, behind Walter Payton and of course, Emmitt Smith. Bottom line is, I can lobe all the statistic at you in the world, but you can't truly appreciate Sanders unless you've seen him run. So please enjoy this highlight tape of my #1 RB of the 90's: Barry Sanders!


Friday, July 15, 2011

All-Time Texas Rangers

In the wake of the MLB All-Star game, I would like to take a short break from Football related posts and apologize to my readers for my lack of Baseball-oriented posts at the height of Baseball season. My deficiency of baseball posts is not due to a lack of interest or opinion, it's just that I've felt like there's not been much for me to say about recent events that hasn't already been said by a sports talk host or journalist. Not to mention it's kind of hard for me to do "Pick 'ems" for baseball games due to their frequency. Just wait til the playoffs. So anyway, to make up for this lack of Baseball on your favorite blog, I've assembled my All-Time Texas Rangers team. Hopefully this team brings back fond memories for older fans, and helps younger ones further appreciate how good times are now. It's worth noting, I included 3 starting pitchers for the sake of fairness. GO RANGERS! 

Catcher- Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez: Likely the greatest player to ever don a Rangers uniform. Pudge has become the model for a successful MLB catcher. The 1999 AL MVP made 10 consecutive All-Star teams (starting on 9). Pudge also won 10 consecutive Golden Gloves and 6 Silver Sluggers. Simply put, he dominated his position in the 90's. He had a career BA of .304, 217 HRs, and 842 RBIs. He also rarely missed a game, averaging 136 games per season during the later half of the 90's decade. It was a very sad day when Pudge left Texas. It will be hard to ever find another Ranger catcher anywhere close.         Backup: Jim Sundberg

First Baseman- Rafael Palmeiro: Let's take steroids out of the equation for a sec and be real. Needles or not, Palmeiro is one of the greatest Rangers to ever step into the batters' box. Statistically, he ranks in the top 3 in most offensive categories for Texas. His career BA of .290 is impressive, but it's his 321 HRs and 1,039 RBIs that are really head turning. He led the MLB in runs in '93, hits in '90, and tied for the league lead in doubles in '91. The steroid era is a tricky thing to talk about and presents some problems when talking about the best all-time, but in my opinion, Palmeiro still deserves the nod for the best 1st Baseman. Palmeiro is also a 2-time All-Star and owns one Golden Glove.    Backup: Will Clark

Second Baseman- Toby Harrah: This 3-time All-Star, who played in the '70s and '80s for Texas, is one of 9 Rangers to reach 1,000 hits. Harrah ranks 6th All-time in games played with 1,220, and was versatile, making starts not only at 2nd, but shortstop and 3rd Base as well. His career BA was .259 and he blasted 122 HRs while driving in 546 RBIs. Harrah also ranks 2nd in Rangers' history in stolen bases with 143.     Backup: Ian Kinsler

Shortstop- Alex Rodriguez: There was a time, long ago in the early 2000's, when every man, woman and child did not hate A-Rod, and he played for the Texas Rangers. Those were the days. In this mystical age of 3 seasons, A-Rod averaged .305 from the plate, hit 156 HRs and had 395 RBIs; that's an average of 52 HRs and 132 RBIs a season. Wow. All 3 of his seasons in Texas, he was a starter on the All-Star team and won 2 Golden Gloves. He was also AL MVP in 2003. Then of course, he fell to the dark side and started playing for the Yankees. Disgusting how that happens. Backup: Julio Franco 

Third Baseman- Buddy Bell: This 4-time All-Star ranks in the top 10 in 11 offensive categories in Rangers history. Bell had a solid career BA of .293 (hitting at least .294 in 5 of his 8 seasons). He also hit 87 HRs and has 499 RBIs as a Ranger. His fielding was equally impressive, as Bell won 6 consecutive Golden Gloves during his Texas career. Backup: Larry Parrish 

Left Field- Rusty Greer: Certainly an All-Time fan favorite from his time in Arlington, Rusty Greer was a great hitter to say the very least. While averaging .305 during his Rangers career, he hit at least .296 in 7 of his 9 Texas seasons. Greer hit 119 HRs and 614 RBIs for the Rangers. He can also be credited with 17 walk-off hits. It would not be a stretch to say that he was the Josh Hamilton of his day.                                            Backup: Ruben Sierra

Center Field- Josh Hamilton: I don't care who your favorite team is; it is impossible to not love Josh Hamilton. Between the redemption story, the strong faith, and awesome play on the field, this dude is about as awesome as they come. His Rangers career isn't anywhere near over yet, and he's already started in the All-Star game in each of his 4 seasons and was the 2010 AL MVP, helping Texas make it's first World Series appearance. His career BA is .313 and up to this year he has hit 85 HRs and 333 RBIs. He's also a solid fielder. In 2010, his .359 BA led the MLB and is the highest single-season BA in Rangers history. Backup: Al Oliver 

Right Field- Juan Gonzalez: Gonzalez can easily be in the conversation for the greatest Ranger of All-Time. The man was a Slugger. He is the only 2-time AL MVP in Rangers' history and is the franchise leader in HRs (372), RBIs (1,180), and extra-base hits. For 5 seasons, he did not hit less than 40 HRs and led the league twice. He also had 7 seasons of at least 100 RBIs. Backup: Jeff Burroughs

Pitcher- Nolan Ryan: Every Rangers fan knows who Nolan Ryan is, whether as a player, current team president, or knockout hitter (hitter with fists that is, not a bat). He is one of 2 Rangers to have their jersey number retired, and for good reason. In his first season with the Rangers, at 42, Ryan was not a young man, but still led the MLB in strikeouts with 301. He led the League again the next year, with 232. He struck out 939 batters in 840 innings during his Rangers career, en route to a 51-39 record and 3.30 career ERA. Ryan threw 2 no-hitters, earned his 300th victory, and threw his 5,000th career strikeout all playing for Texas. Backup: Fergie Jenkins

Pitcher- Charlie Hough: Some would consider Hough to be the greatest pitcher in Rangers history. I'm not one of those some, as I'm partial to Nolan Ryan, but Hough is no lower than 2nd best ever. Thanks to his command of the knuckleball, Hough is the franchise leader in wins (139-123 record), complete games, innings, and strikeouts. His 3.68 ERA is 6th in Rangers history. This one-time All-Star only won less than 10 games twice in his 11 year Rangers career. Backup: Kevin Brown

Pitcher- Kenny Rogers:
No, not the country singer. This Kenny Rogers is the only player in Rangers history to pitch a perfect game. This 3-time All-Star ranks first in games played, 2nd in wins (133-96 record) and innings, and 3rd in strikeouts. He also won 4 Golden Gloves throughout his 12 year Ranger career and posted a career ERA of 4.16.
Backup: John Wetteland

Designated Hitter- Michael Young: I cannot say enough good things about Michael Young. The man is the definition of a team-first guy, as he has allowed the Rangers to move him all over the defensive infield throughout his career to best help the team. But his brightest point is his offensive ability. He is already the all-time franchise leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, and multi-hit games. The 7-time All-Star (game MVP in '06) has a career BA of .301 and has hit 166 HRs and driven in 870 RBIs. He has recorded 200 hits in 5 seasons and is responsible for 4 of the Rangers top 6 hitting seasons of All-Time. He also had the MLB's best BA in 2005. With all these accomplishments under his belt, Young's career is still far from over. 
Backup: Mike Hargrove

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top 10 Quarterbacks of the 90's

I love NFL Network, and recently I watched their list of the Top 10 Quarterbacks of the 80's. I found the list very intriguing and strongly agreed with it (except I pretty firmly believe John Elway should be ranked 3rd, above Dan Fouts). While I found the list accurate, it got me thinking, "Hey, where's the list of QBs from my formative years?" Whether or not such a Top 10 is in production, I don't know, but I took it upon myself to assemble my list of the Top 10 NFL Quarterbacks of the 1990's. Enjoy!

10. Joe Montana, Kansas City Chiefs/ San Francisco 49ers:
Joe Montana is without a doubt the greatest QB to ever play pro football. However, his true heyday was in the 80's, as the early 90's saw him plagued by injuries and on the downward slope of his career. In 1990, it looked as if Montana might lead the 49ers to the first-ever "3-peat", posting them to a 14-2 record. That year he threw just short of 4,000 yards and 26 TDs despite a career-high 16 INTs. After a loss to the Giants in the 1990 NFC Championship, things got rough. Montana missed the '91 and most of the '92 season due to an injury, prompting Steve Young to take the reigns and Montana to start anew in KC. In both his years in KC, he battled injuries and, with the help of Marcus Allen, led his team to the playoffs. He reached the AFC Championship in '93. In spite of everything, he remained potent until he retired after the '94 season, and that nets him the #10 spot on my list.

9. Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots:
In the time before Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe was New England's golden boy and widely thought to be the Patriots savior. In fact, this deep seated trust in Bledsoe created a huge QB controversy when Brady succeeded him as starter in the 2000's, but that's another story. After he was drafted, in '93, the Pats began seeing immediate improvement. By 1996, Bledsoe had already carried a once hopeless team to the Super Bowl, which they lost to the Green Bay Packers and fellow Top 10 member, Brett Favre. Bledsoe followed up '96 by taking the Pats to two more consecutive playoff appearances. '97 was his best statistical season, passing for 3,706 yards and 28 TDs and gaining a passer rating of 87.7. In '99, Bledsoe's career began to decline, just in time for Tom Brady to ride into town. Bledsoe earned 3 Pro-Bowl appearances in the 90's and while he did not get them over the Championship hump (as a starter anyway), he still has a special place in the heart of every Patriots fan.

8. Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia Eagles/ Minnesota Vikings:
Imagine Michael Vick, but with a much better arm. That's kind of what Randall Cunningham was during his career. While he had his share of memorable moments in the '80s, I believe the highest point of his career was during the era of Fat Free cookies and Operation Desert Storm. Like in the 80's, the early part of the decade saw him making more jaw-dropping escapes and producing gaudy numbers with the Eagles. But, an ACL injury at the beginning of the '91 season would create nothing but problems for the next 3 years. The injury combined with Philly fans doing what they do best and hating one of their stars for no apparent reason, led Cunningham to say, "screw this" and retire in '95. However, it was not the end. He came out of retirement to play for the Vikings in '97 and would have two of the best years of his career. A playoff appearance in '97 would be nothing compared to the success of '98. Leading one of the best teams ever to not win a Super Bowl, he threw 34 TDs and had a league-leading 106 passer rating. The Vikings had a 15-1 regular season and scored a then-record 556 points, before losing a shocker in the NFC Championship to the Falcons. After '98, Cunningham's career was past it's peak, but it was enough to push this 2x 90's Pro-Bowler into my #8 spot.

7. Warren Moon, Houston Oilers/ Minnesota Vikings/ Seattle Seahawks/ Kansas City Chiefs:
Arguably one of the most under-appreciated QBs in NFL history early in his career, Moon went undrafted in '78 (largely due to his skin color), and wrecked shop in the Canadian Football League for 6 years before the NFL got wise. Moon did great things for the Oilers in the 80's, but we are of course talking about the 90's, so I'll skip that part of the story. In 1990, he led the NFL with 4,689 passing yards and in attempts (584), completions (362), and TDs (33). He again threw for over 4,000 yards in '91, becoming one of only 3 QBs to do so in back-to-back seasons. '93 was Moon's best season with Houston, winning their division before being bounced from the playoffs by none other than Joe Montana and the Chiefs. Moon continued to pass for 4,000 yard seasons with the Vikes as he played well into his 40's and entered the twilight of his career. The 7x 90's Pro-Bowler can be accredited with 49,325 career passing yards and 291 passing TDs.

6. Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins:
Like many on this list, Dan Marino's best years were in the 80's, but he continued his excellence throughout the 90's and is certainly among the greatest QBs of all time. While he never returned to the Super Bowl in the 90's, he reached 4 more Pro-Bowls and was always a force in the playoffs. A possible Super Bowl season in '93 was cut short by a freak Achilles injury that ended Marino's season. He came back with a vengeance in '94, passing for 4,435 yards en route to a 10-6 season and being named Comeback Player of the Year. Marino also won an epic game against Drew Bledsoe and the Pats that season, in which both QBs combined for 894 yards and 9 TDs. Marino engineered 36 comeback wins during his career. He can easily be considered the Peyton Manning of his era, and had he won a ring, he very well might be higher on the list of the greatest ever.

5. Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills:
Jim Kelly rounds out an AFC East that had some of the league's greatest QBs throughout the 90's. While Kelly could never win a Super Bowl, he is the only QB to lead his team to 4 consecutive Super Bowl appearances ('90, '91, '92, '93). Kelly made the Pro-Bowl in 3 of his 4 Super Bowl seasons. In 8 of his 11 seasons in Buffalo, Kelly led the the Bills to the playoffs. Behind Kelly, the Bills dominated the AFC in every sense of the word. He is without a doubt the greatest QB in Buffalo history, and holds many franchise records. Kelly also holds the NFL's single-game record for yards gained per completion at 44. Kelly is one of many Hall of Famers on this list. Had it not been for the infamous "Wide Right" loss in the 1990 Super Bowl, things could have been very different and we could be talking about Kelly at the top of this list.

 4. Brett Favre, Atlanta Falcons/ Green Bay Packers:
Although public opinion of Favre has been somewhat tainted in recent years, it cannot be under-stated just how good of a QB he was. He was the epitome of a gun-slinger. As he matured, once reckless plays became improvisational works of art. He is the only player to win 3 consecutive League MVP awards. His best statistical season came in '95, when he passed for 4,413 yards and 38 TDs. He won a Super Bowl for the Pack and appeared in another the next year. Favre deserves a great deal of credit for reviving a franchise that had faded into obscurity after dominating the 1960's. Favre is also a symbol of NFL toughness, not missing a single start for 19 seasons. His career is a story of constantly overcoming adversity and proving critics wrong. In my opinion, it was a sad day when Favre officially had to finally hang up his cleats.

3. Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys:
As a Cowboys fan, it kills me that I can't have the leader of the Triplets higher on this list. Of course, if success is measured solely by Championships, no one would come close to Troy in this decade. He led a dominant Cowboys team that won 3 Super Bowls in the early 90's and could have easily won 4 if Jimmy Johnson had not left town. Still, the 'Boys were a dynasty, and Troy was a big reason why. It was Aikman's responsibility to captain a team that had become dismal in the late 80's and, with the help of Jimmy Johnson and some great drafts, lead them to the promised land. He did just that. He threw ball with pinpoint accuracy and power. Aikman led the 'Boys to the playoffs in 8 of 10 years during this decade. He was selected to 6 consecutive Pro-Bowls and regularly threw for over 3,000 yards a season. He is a Hall of Famer and Super Bowl Bowl MVP and deserves every bit of praise he gets for his stellar career in Dallas.

2. John Elway, Denver Broncos:
John Elway IS the Denver Broncos. Throughout his career, mostly as a young and growing QB, he shouldered many sub-par Broncos teams and took them to 3 Super Bowl appearances in the 80's (all losses). However, it was as a hard-nosed veteran that Elway finally achieved glory. He won back to back Super Bowl's in '97 and '98 and appeared in 6 Pro-Bowls in the 90's. Elway owns one of the best winning percentages for a QB in NFL history. In addition to developing his accuracy throughout the decade, he also remained an excellent scrambler. He was the sort of player who would never shy away from contact and would always dive head first. You have to admire that. Few players have given more of themselves for a franchise than Elway to the Broncos, so it could not have been more appropriate for Denver's owner to exclaim after winning the team's first Super Bowl, "This one's for John!"

1. Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers:
It's really just unfair that the 49ers had the luxury of starting two of the greatest QBs of all time in consecutive decades, much less having them both on the same team. Much of Young's career was about escaping Joe Montana's shadow, and that drove him to be his best. While no one is better than Joe in my mind, Young certainly quieted his critics in SF when he led the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory in '94, passing for a Super Bowl record 6 TDs. '94 was also the year that Young passed for a then-franchise record 35 TDs, and compiled the highest completion percentage of the decade at 70.28%. Young also holds the NFL record for most rushing TDs by a QB at 43. He reached 7 Pro-Bowls and won 2 NFL MVP awards. Like Aikman, Young also led his team to the playoffs 8 out of the 10 years of the 90's in a very tough NFC, and frequently found themselves losing to the eventual Champions. One Super Bowl ring as a starter is nothing to scoff at considering Steve Young's resume, and if a record-breaking Championship performance didn't "get the monkey off his back", hopefully the #1 spot on my list of 90's QBs will.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

College Football Preview Part 9: Big East

It's been a long road, but we have reached the final installment of my 2011 college football preview! Now we just gotta get the dang season started! I apologize if it offends anyone that I'm not covering the Sun Belt or MAC. I simply assume that none of my readers have any legitimate interest in either of those conferences. If I'm wrong, please correct me. So anyway the Big East. If you thought the WAC was a dead even race, let me tell you about these guys! The Big East will enjoy one more year of intense parity before TCU rolls into town next year. Until then, it's anybody's conference. Let's see who's got the best shot.

MY Preseason Rankings:

1. Pittsburgh Panthers-
The Big East this year is the definition of wide open. While the top 4 teams are a cut above, really the top 6 could have a legitimate shot at a title run. That being said, I give Pitt the preseason edge to grab the 2011 BE crown. Pitt has a great defense and a good offense, both featuring solid talent in the trenches. I believe that Coach Todd Graham will be the perfect fit for the Panthers and put the offense, led by QB Tino Sunseri and RB Ray Graham, in a position to succeed right away. And another big reason why I give Pitt an edge, is their schedule (starting to see a pattern readers?). They get almost all of their tough games, both conference and non, at home. West Virginia is essentially the only road game they have to worry about and should be a brawl (as the rivalry name suggests). Still, I would be shocked if the Panthers didn't end the season with at least a share of the title and the Big East's BCS bid.

2. West Virginia Mountaineers-
West Virginia comes in a close second in my Big East rankings. In fact, they are most experts' favorite to win the conference title. They feature one of the best QB-WR combos in the nation in Geno Smith and Tavon Austin. Both the offensive and defensive lines, though featuring some great talent, still have some holes. The defense as a whole only returns 4 starters, so while WV won't have much trouble scoring, they might run into some real issues stopping anyone. I also have reservations about the schedule. Cincinatti presents a tough road game and WV must travel to face USF on a short week immediatly following an intense rivalry with Pitt. WV certainly has a shot at winning the BE, but they might need to catch a few breaks to do so.

3. USF Bulls-
South Florida is another team very much in the hunt for the Big East title, thus garnering my close 3rd place ranking. While they only return 11 starters, QB BJ Daniels continues to improve and the offense should be pretty solid. USF has a lot of talent and their speed is arguably the best in the conference, which can be a huge factor. The schedule is very manageable and gives the Bulls as good a shot as anyone at the Big East title. I just feel like Pitt and WV represent slightly better competition, and that's why the Bulls are my #3.

4. Cincinnati Bearcats-
With 15 returning starters and under 2nd year Coach Butch Jones, Cinci looks to show improvement and compete for a title. The offense should be stout, featuring a great QB, the conference's best RB, and some good WR talent. Ironically, it's the defense, which returns 10 of the 15 starters, that is the biggest question and weakness. The Bearcats will score, but at some point you have to stop someone. Cinci plays USF, Pitt, and WV back-to-back-to-back (two of which on the road). A tough October/November and bad defense= #4 on my rankings.

5. Connecticut Huskies-
While last year's slim Big East champ has some chance at repeating, they are really on the outside looking in as far as the top half of the conference is concerned. They return 16 starters, and the defense looks to be pretty good and keep them in some games. But 3 of their 4 games against the conference's best are on the road, and they are under a completely new coaching staff. Last year was very lucky and they look to take a step back in 2011.

6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights-
Rutgers has potential following last season's collapse. 14 starters return and look to turn the ship back around. Young QB Chas Dodd could surprise some people, and it doesn't hurt that he has some great talent at WR to throw to. The defense looks to be improved as well. The Knights get all the conference's best teams at home, so there is high likelihood for an upset at some point. But the chances Rutgers gets a shot at a BE title are slim to none.

7. Syracuse Orange-
'Cuse appears to be slowly rising from the ashes of their recent mediocrity, but it could be a while before they are back among the conference's best. Like so many teams in the Big East this year, the Orange have a pretty good offense and an awful defense. From the outset, it looks like most of their competition will simply outscore them. But they do have some potential to make some waves. That's why they are my solid #7.

8. Louisville Cardinals-
The Cards are something of a wildcard this year. As I see it, they could finish anywhere from 4th to where I have them now, last. While they only return 10 starters, they get some key games at home and have a strong motivational Coach (no pun intended, Coach's name is Strong). As I look at the roster, I feel like there are too many questions to be confident in this team, but they could be a few upsets away from the postseason. In the mean time, I would consider this another rebuilding year.

MY All Conference Team:

Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati
QB- Geno Smith, West Virginia

RB- Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati

RB- Ray Graham, Pittsburgh

WR- Tavon Austin, West Virginia

WR- DJ Woods, Cincinnati

WR- Mohammed Sanu, Rutgers

TE- Nick Provo, Syracuse

Tavon Austin, West Virginia
C- Joe Madsen, West Virginia

OG- Chaz Hine, USF

OG- Chris Jacobson, Pittsburgh

OT- Don Barclay, West Virginia

OT- Mike Ryan, Connecticut

Bruce Irvin, West Virginia

DE- Bruce Irvin, West Virginia

DE- Brandon Lindsey, Pittsburgh

DT- Chas Alecxih, Pittsburgh

DT- Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati

LB- Max Gruder, Pittsburgh

LB- DeDe Lattimore, USF

LB- Najee Goode, West Virginia
Max Gruder, Pittsburgh

CB- Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut

CB- Quenton Washington, USF

S- Hakeem Smith, Louisville

S- Terence Garvin, West Virginia

K- Ross Krautman, Syracuse 

P- Pat O'Donnell, Cincinnati

Ret- Lindsey Lamar, USF

5 Games to Watch:

1. Pittsburgh @ West Virginia: The hate-filled rivalry know as the Backyard Brawl should have championship implications this year, adding to the brutality. The matchup to watch will be Pitt's defense vs WV's offense, however I think Pitt's offense will be the difference. Overall, these teams are evenly matched and this year's installment of the rivalry should live up to its name.

2. West Virginia @ USF: Another game with major bearing on the title race. The Bulls catch WV in Tampa and on a short week following my #1 Game to Watch. If WV doesn't bring their "A game" (and perhaps even if they do), USF will win this game. These teams are very similar to each other. Should make for a close game.

3. Utah @ Pittsburgh: I love the story line for this OOC game. It's a rematch of the 2004 Fiesta Bowl that featured Utah as the first ever BCS buster. Now both teams are in AQ conferences and go into this season fairly evenly matched. If it's anything like last year's OT battle, this should be a fantastic game.

4. Miami @ USF: Another OOC game with some intrigue. USF always plays second fiddle to their south Florida counter part, and I'm sure many players on both sides know each other. Besides the small rivalry, this is a great measuring stick opportunity for USF's growing program. Plus it's at home. You won't want to miss this one.

5. West Virginia @ Cincinnati: Don't forget about the Bearcats. They will be just as in the hunt for a BE title as anyone, and this home contest against WV could provide them with a giant leap toward their goal. This is also somewhat of a geographical rivalry. Expect a shootout. 

That does it for my 2011 NCAA Football preview! Can't wait for the season to start! Stay tuned though, cause I've got plenty of ideas to hold our attention, in case Rangers baseball isn't enough to keep you satisfied.