All-decade offense: Brady leads packed roster

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

To fully appreciate the star power of ESPN.com's all-decade offensive team, consider who did not make the cut: Peyton Manning. Randy Moss. Orlando Pace. Terrell Owens. Will Shields. Antonio Gates. Larry Allen.

They are Hall of Fame names and they didn't make the cut. The decade has been that good.

With training camps beginning next month for the final year of the decade, we thought we had sufficient evidence to determine our all-decade teams. ESPN.com tapped into the knowledge of coaches, players, scouts and other league observers to compile the squad. Criteria included statistics, impact on the player's team, Super Bowl wins/appearances and Pro Bowl berths.

It was inevitable that several superstars would be left off. Here are the 11 players who made it:

Brady Quarterback, Tom Brady: The New England Patriots' quarterback won a battle against Manning, as he has done so many times on the field. Manning is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game and easily could have been named the quarterback of the decade.
But Brady's successes could not be denied.

Since replacing an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady has been the face of the NFL and has nearly attained royalty status. He is a living legend.

Brady is the consummate winner. Manning may be more gifted and have more impressive numbers, but Brady has won three Super Bowls and is widely considered one of the most cunning players ever to suit up.

"You're talking about a guy that was a sixth-round draft pick," said former Jets and Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, now an ESPN analyst. "He wasn't a first-round pick. I love Manning. I think he's great for the league, an ambassador for the league, but he was the first player picked. Either one would be great, but [Brady] has won Super Bowls and was a sixth-round pick. Nobody really knew who he was."

Tomlinson Tailback, LaDainian Tomlinson: This was an easy call. Tomlinson has been one of the most dominant players in the league
this decade. Tomlinson, 30, may be nearing the finish line, but he was immediately a special player after entering the league in 2001.

Tomlinson won the NFL MVP award in 2006 when he set an NFL record with 28 rushing touchdowns and gained 2,323 yards from scrimmage. He has amassed at least 1,110 rushing yards in each of his eight seasons.

"I think my consistency, that means more than anything." Tomlinson said when asked what he is most proud of about his career to date. "As an athlete, you set out to be consistent over a period of time. When you're consistent, your teammates and coaches know what they're going to get from you each and every week."

Neal Fullback, Lorenzo Neal: Neal, who recently signed with Oakland at the age of 38, was a runaway choice. The bulldozer is considered one of the best fullbacks to play in the NFL. Fullback is going the way of the dinosaur, but Neal has shown it can still be a relevant position.

Neal was Tomlinson's lead blocker for five years in San Diego. The Chargers clearly missed him last year after releasing him. In Baltimore, Neal gave the Ravens' run game an instant boost.

"Neal is a sixth offensive lineman," Seahawks coach Jim L. Mora said. "He relishes that job. He can't wait to go out and block you."

Harrison Holt Wide receivers, Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt: This was one of the most hotly contested positions. With Harrison and Holt in, superstars Owens and Moss were out.
We couldn't go wrong with any of these choices, but Harrison and Holt were just too good to deny. Each made seven Pro Bowl teams (which was a league high this decade for receivers). Harrison won a Super Bowl ring this decade and Holt, who won a Super Bowl in the early days of 2000 after the 1999 season, played in a Super Bowl this decade.

Over six consecutive seasons (2000-05), Holt had at least 1,300 receiving yards. Harrison, who is not in the league right now after being cut by the Indianapolis Colts, had 95 touchdowns this decade.

"You cannot just look at the stats and get carried away with that stuff," ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson said. "I look at that list of names, and Holt and Harrison have to be at the top. Both of them won Super Bowls -- and they weren't in there getting cheap touchdowns like some guys. Too many guys in the media just look at those numbers. You can't put an all-decade team on the field without Holt and Harrison."

Gonzalez Tight end, Tony Gonzalez: With all due respect to the ultra-productive Gates, this was no contest. Gonzalez is the best tight end ever to play in the NFL. He owns every major receiving record by a tight end to prove it.

Gonzalez, who was traded from Kansas City to Atlanta in April, is still playing at a high level at age 33.

He has been to nine Pro Bowls this decade and has four 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career.

"Tony has been dominant for such a long period of time," Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He's just the best."

Jones Ogden Tackles, Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden: Jones, a 13-year standout in Seattle, and Ogden, who retired from the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, were standard-bearers at one of the most vital positions on the field. The two players were similar: They were massive, quiet and both were top-six picks in the draft.

Both players were named to eight Pro Bowls this decade and Jones is still playing at a high level. Ogden won a Super Bowl and Jones played in a Super Bowl this decade. Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has said Jones was the greatest offensive player he ever coached. Holmgren coached Brett Favre and he was an assistant on San Francisco 49ers staffs that featured Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young. Pace was great, but he couldn't quite match what Jones and Ogden accomplished this decade.

"It's a great honor," Jones said. "You look back at your career, and you come in, just hoping not to get cut as a rookie. But I've listened to my coaches and still try to get better every year."

Faneca Hutchinson Guards, Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson: This was one of the toughest positions to figure. Shields and Allen are two future Hall of Famers, but Faneca and Hutchinson have enjoyed longer careers in this decade.

In the end, it was too difficult to deny those two players. Faneca, who is now with the New York Jets, has made eight Pro Bowls this decade and won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hutchinson, now with the Minnesota Vikings, has been named to seven Pro Bowls and he went to a Super Bowl with the Seahawks.

"Those guys set the tone," Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said of Faneca and Hutchinson.

Added Jones, who played with Hutchinson in Seattle for five years: "There has been great guard play, but I have to say Hutchinson wins a spot. He has been dominant for two teams. He was a great guy to play with."

Center, Olin Kreutz: This was a three-way toss-up between Kreutz, Kevin Mawae and Matt Birk. All three players have been to six Pro Bowls.

The tiebreakers: Kreutz appeared in a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears and more league personnel named him than Mawae or Birk.

"You look at a guy like Kreutz and you really appreciate his consistency," San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "He is an all-decade-type player."

Tim Hasselbeck and Michael Smith break down the all-decade offense.