Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
That's for your help on compiling our first (and possibly last) All-NFC North team. I read through all 128 of your suggestions and used them to fill in the blanks from Thursday's post.
I like the idea of recognizing the best players in the division. But a pool of four teams doesn't necessarily guarantee a player worthy of recognition at every position. I'm not a big fan of picking the best of a mediocre (or worse) group. That was the case at several NFC North positions this season, including left tackle, right guard, middle linebacker and the second safety position.
Let's all endeavor to develop a more creative way to point out the best of the division in 2009. To start off the discussion, I'm working on a separate set of NFC North awards to publish early next week. Hang on to your hats.
A few notes on my final decisions:
I went with Chicago's Greg Olsen at tight end for several reasons. Olsen had 12 more receptions than Minnesota's Visanthe Shiancoe, for starters. And I think part of the Shiancoe campaign was based on how much improvement he made over 2007, which was admirable but shouldn't be a qualification for an all-division team.
There was as much debate about kicker as any other position. I went with Minnesota's Ryan Longwell over Detroit's Jason Hanson and Chicago's Robbie Gould. The primary reason: Longwell drilled the biggest kick of the season, a 50-yarder to win the regular season finale over the New York Giants. At the time, Longwell wasn't aware of the tiebreaker situation and thus carried the weight of a division title onto the field. The kick would have been good from 58 yards, and Longwell was unfazed by three preceding timeouts.
Shame on me for considering Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe over Chicago's Brad Maynard. To wit: Maynard led the NFL with 40 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and his 38.1 net average was nearly three yards ahead of Kluwe.
After much teeth-gnashing, I went with Chicago's Mike Brown at the second safety position. Bears teammate Kevin Payne had twice as many interceptions, but Brown was a force against the run until he was sidelined with a calf injury.