With the 2010s coming to an end, the time is right to look back on what has been an electrifying decade of football and put together the team of the 2010s.
QB: Tom Brady
I mean, what is there left to say that hasn’t already been said?
Ten AFC East Championships, five AFC Conference Championships, five Super Bowl appearances (three consecutively 2016-2018), three Super Bowl victories, ten consecutive seasons with double-digit wins, ten pro bowls. The accolades go on. Looking past the trophies and broken records, Brady’s legacy will be that of a supreme willingness to win. Above the Lombardi’s and MVP’s, Brady’s dominance this decade has been indicative of his fight with father time. Tom Brady is the GOAT, and that’s all there is to it.
RB: Marshawn Lynch
Few players have transcended the shield of the NFL and been able to exist in the celebrity sphere outside the gridiron. Marshawn Lynch is one of those players. Lynch erupted in the 2010 NFC Wildcard game away to the Saints to create one of the most famous plays of not only the decade but all time. Throughout the changes the NFL experienced through the decade (the emergence of scat-backs and third-down backs), Lynch just put his head down and continued to punish opposing defences.
Lynch was also a large part of the success the Pete Carroll, L.O.B. led Seahawks experienced at the mid-point of the decade. From 2011-2015 Lynch never rushed for less than a 1000 yards (1590 high in 2012.) If only he got the ball on the one-yard line…
WR1: Julio Jones
With the retirement of Calvin Johnson in 2015, Julio Jones has comfortably taken up the mantle of ‘terrifying silent superman defences cannot stop. Somewhat looked down upon by the fantasy community for not scoring five touchdowns a game, combined with his silent demeanour, Jones has somehow flown under-the-radar in terms of people not fully appreciating his greatness. Since 2014, Julio has enjoyed receiving yard seasons of 1593, 1871, 1409, 1444 and 1677 yards.
WR2: DeAndre Hopkins
Besides putting up impressive numbers week in, week out and making highlight-reel catches every other game, Hopkins has earned his place on this list through having to catch passes from quarterbacks such as Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, T.J. Yates, and Brock Osweiler. Hopkins has also stepped into the shoes left by Andre Johnson in the wide receiver room in Houston seamlessly.
TE: Rob Gronkowski
Whereas players such as Tom Brady and Julian Edelman have excelled in New England through using their smarts and tactical nuance despite their shortcomings as pure athletes, Gronk did the opposite. In recent years San Francisco tight end George Kittle has taken the mantle of most complete TE in football, but even Kittle couldn’t hold a candle to prime Gronk.
With his size, athleticism and seemingly robotic arm-cast, Gronkowski took the field purely to destroy the defences will. There was never a better red-zone weapon than Gronkowski and there never will be a better red-zone weapon than Gronkowski. The greatest TE of all time.
LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Quenton Nelson
RG: Zack Martin
RT: Lane Johnson
DE1: J.J. Watt
One of the most dominant defensive players of all time. Watt has become one of the household names of the NFL. A player which some saw as heir to Lawrence Taylor as the best defensive player of all time before his string of injuries in the second half of the decade. Throughout the decade, Watt has boasted single-season sack numbers of 20.5 twice, 17.5 once and 16 once.
DE2: Von Miller
The leader of one of the most dominant defences of all time, the 2015 Denver Broncos. Von Miller cemented himself as perhaps the best pure pass rusher of the decade in Super Bowl 50, with some help from Demarcus Ware (honourable mention for this position), Miller dismantled the near impossible to stop offence of the Carolina Panthers on the biggest stage. His defensive know-how combined with his elite speed and agility, watching Von Miller dip past a T has made for wonderful viewing this past decade.
DT1: Aaron Donald
While only being drafted almost halfway through the decade, Aaron Donald far and away deserves his spot on this list. Donald won 2014 DROY, back-to-back DPOY awards in 2017 and 2018, as well as six consecutive pro bowls appearances and four all-pro spots. Donald’s unmatched dominance from the interior is almost unheard of in the modern, pass-happy NFL, something that only adds to his legacy.
DT2: Geno Atkins
On the all-decade team, there can be no other mike, and leader, than Luke Kuechly. A more cerebral Jack Lambert, more athletic Ray Nitschke with the field vision and leadership skills of Mike Singletary, Luke Kuechly has been at the apex of his position and his sport for almost the entire decade.
LB: Dont’a Hightower
Hightower possesses a similar skillset to Kuechly but has 3 Super Bowl rings. Hightower also played a vital role in the greatest comeback in NFL history, Super Bowl LI. A cornerstone of many of Bill Belicheck’s defences, Hightower sometimes doesn’t get the credit he deserves but he’s more than earned a place on this list.
LB: Bobby Wagner
A close second to Kuechly, Wagner has been the leader of a Seattle defence that will be remembered forever. While the ‘Legion of Boom’ has faded away in recent years, Wagner has stayed in Seattle and still kept his position as leader of a respectable defence. Slightly faster and rangier than Kuechly, with a Super Bowl ring to his name, there would be few qualms about Wagner claiming the top spot.
CB1: Richard Sherman
One could argue that Richard Sherman has been the face of NFL defence for the 2010s. Drafted in 2010, the tall, loud-mouthed corner never failed to live up to the theatre of the NFL moment. Whether it be breaking up a crucial pass or telling us ‘when you try me with a SORRY RECEIVER LIKE CRABTREE that’s the result you gon’ get!’ Still playing at a high level in 2019, without a doubt, Sherman is a decade-defining player.
CB2: Darrelle Revis
Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson was in strong contention for the number 2 spot opposite Sherman, but in the end, Revis Island won out. Five pro bowl appearances during the 2010s and four first-team all-pro awards, Revis was as dominant as any corner in the history of the league. They don’t nickname you after an island for no reason.
FS: Earl Thomas
The third L.O.B. member to make the team, Earl Thomas was perhaps the most valuable member of that Seattle defence, allowing Pete Carroll to run a cover 3 shell, knowing he had one of the best safeties of the decade covering the back end. 30 interceptions, a Super Bowl ring and a member of the defence of the decade. Earl Thomas was the best FS this decade.
SS: Kam Chancellor
Rounding out the secondary for the team of the decade is Wam-Bam Kam Chancellor, the hard-hitting defensive enforcer that formed one of the most effective partnerships in defensive history with Earl Thomas. Chancellor was a special type of throwback, a man who played with reckless abandon and was rewarded for it. Chancellor personified the L.O.B. and was an integral part of the defence of the decade.
Special shout out to Eric Berry, who overcame cancer to return to the field.
I know many lists will feature Johnny Hekker here and rightly so. But Texans punter Shane Lechler has a case for most underrated player of the decade and should be a Hall of Famer when he hangs it up. The 43-year-old has been punting consistently for almost two decades. Shout out Shane.
Justin Tucker gives kickers a bad name. Tucker is so good that he gives credence to any casual fan who constantly says ‘why don’t they just make it all the time? It’s so easy! How do they miss!?’ Tucker makes it look easy, that’s just a testament to his greatness. Most likely the GOAT kicker when it’s all said and done.