You may have missed it Friday amid a raging Romo/Eli debate that generated nearly 1,200 comments, but I asked for your help in determining which person connected with each NFC East team has undergone the most dramatic change in public perception (for better or for worse) over the past year. The question grew out of a column I wrote about the incredible shift in public perception of Michael Vick, who is the obvious runaway answer of this question for the Eagles, and your insight was appreciated as always. Let's break it down team by team:
You guys liked my suggestion of Jason Garrett, whose star was fading a year ago as people wondered if he'd missed his chance at a head-coaching opportunity. Even once Garrett took over midseason for Wade Phillips, there was some thought that he might not be able to keep the job long-term. Now, Garrett is seen as a ray of hope, given the way the team responded to him late last year. Some of you wrote in suggesting Garrett was about to become "the face of the franchise" and allow Jerry Jones to fade into the background a bit. Not sure about that one. I don't expect Jones to stop doing postgame interviews in the middle of the locker room anytime soon. But if Garrett does have success, he's got a real opportunity to become a beloved figure in Dallas, where a year ago people seemed like they were kind of over him.
I said Ahmad Bradshaw, because a year ago everybody was excited about him being the starter and then he went out and fumbled all over the place. But you guys seem to still like Bradshaw. And more importantly, as someone pointed out, so do the Giants. So his role and his place in the consensus public opinion seems to be relatively unchanged. The most popular suggestion here was Osi Umenyiora, because a year ago no one knew whether he'd be able to come back from his injury and be the player he used to be but he ended up being a very disruptive defensive force for the Giants for most of the season. Osi's running about sixth or seventh right now in our informal fan poll of the division's best defensive players, and I think people view him the way they did two years ago more than the way they did one year ago. That counts for a major overhaul.
Yeah, well ... some people still don't like Vick. But I stand by my assertion that the overall public perception of the guy is radically different than it was a year ago, whether you like it or not. Someone suggested Stewart Bradley, since his latest injury seems to have convinced people he'll just never be healthy enough to make a major contribution again. So we'll give Bradley an honorable mention here.
This was a case of me reading the fans wrong (or talking to the wrong ones). Those who wrote in seem still to be Mike Shanahan believers, which is good, because you're stuck with him for at least four more years. Best Redskins suggestion I heard was actually Albert Haynesworth, given the drubbing his public image has taken over the past year. I guess I didn't think of him, because from my perspective the Shanahan-Haynesworth feud was already bubbling this time last year, but it may not have exploded into the public consciousness until training camp and the conditioning test fiasco. I also didn't think of Donovan McNabb, who may be the best answer, because I (like, I imagine, most people) just don't consider McNabb a Redskin anymore. Even though he technically still is.
I appreciate the help and the discussion. We'll do much more of this, I promise.