By John Turney
1915-25, the 1920s, the 1925-35 period, the 1930s, 1935-45, the 1940s, 1945-55 the 1950s, 1955-65, the 1960s, 1965-75, the 1970s, 1975-85, the 1980s, 1985-95 and now the 1990s.
Here are the picks for the decade for the nineties—
1990s Player of the Decade
1990s co-Defensive Players of the Decade
Bruce Smith and Junior Seau
Smith shares the 1990s award with Junior Seau. Even the best experts couldn't separate them.
Smith was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 (AP, PFWA, NEA), 1993 (PFWA, NEA) and 1996 (AP, PFWA). Additionally, he was the NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1990, 1993, 1994, and 1996 and the AFC Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1990, 1993-97.
Seau, often errantly listed as a Middle/Inside Linebacker, was a WILL 'backer who was usually stacked. He was a big-play machine—from 1990-99 Seau averaged 11.5 tackles for loss a season (if you slide his 'decade' to 1991-00 the average rises to 12.5 a year). He also had 41 sacks in the decade, excellent for a linebacker who was not a "rush backer" or who played defensive end in nickel.
He was the NEA Defensive Player of the Year in 1992. He was voted the NFL/AFC linebacker of the Year from 1992-94 and in 2000.
1990s Player of the Decade Runner-Up
We are giving honorable mentions to Brett Favre, (3 MVPs, 1 ring), Steve Young (2 MVPs, 1 ring), Jerry Rice, and Bruce Matthews.
1990s Defensive Player of the Decade Runner-Up
In the metric introduced by Stats, LLC, called the 'individual defensive passer rating' Sanders led the NFL three times (1994, 95, 97) and was second in 1996. Gannett News Service's Joel Buchsbaum, said in the early to mid-1990s, "(W)ill take the opponent's best receiver out of the game" and "is the best athlete and cover cornerback in the league" and later added, "Perhaps the best cover corner ever with great big-play potential".
While there are issues (due to baseball and other issues, a few times a season you had to start your nickel back. He won two rings and it could be argued he was the difference maker in those Super Bowl wins, helping the 49ers going over the hump in 1994 and then going to Dallas and getting them back on top.
He was an excellent kick and punt returner and also played offense and did it well.
In the final analysis, it was the "16/60" (16 games sixty minutes) factor that kept Sanders behind Smith and Seau. He just missed too much time hurt or playing baseball.
next up: 1995-05