When it comes to accolades in the National Football League, obviously getting that gold jacket in Canton, and being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame tops the list. The next notch below that, though, almost serves as a precursor to Canton, and that is being named to the NFL's All-Decade team.
The All-Decade team is actually selected by the same 48 selectors that decide the Hall of Fame class each season, hence the "precursor to Canton" designation, and on Monday the team for the decade covering 2010 through 2019 was released by the NFL. Here are the offense, defense, specialists, and head coaches, in four separate Instagram posts:
Here are the highlights that probably interest you, a Houston audience, the most:
J.J. Watt was one of eight unanimous selections
To nobody's surprise, Watt was one of four defensive ends named to the All-Decade team. In fact, he was one of eight unanimous selections, along with Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Marshal Yanda, Joe Thomas, Von Miller, Justin Tucker, and Aaron Donald. Those are eight sure fire Hall of Famers right there, although admittedly, as a kicker, Tucker may have to wait a while. (Hey fun fact — did you know that the Texans used a fifth round pick on Randy Bullock the year that Tucker signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent? Thanks Kubiak!) As for Watt, his three Defensive Player of the Year awards pretty much clinched this accolade for him back in 2015, but it's wild to think that he's missed the majority of three different seasons this decade and still was a deserving unanimous pick.
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DeAndre Hopkins got robbed
The four wide receivers on the All-Decade team were Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Larry Fitzgerald. I have no problem with the first three names on that list, as each were first team All-Pro multiple times — Johnson three times, Brown four times, and Jones twice. However, the fact that Fitzgerald made the team over former Texan DeAndre Hopkins (man, it hurts to type those words) is a joke. Fitzgerald made just one All Pro team the entire decade, a second team berth in 2011. Hopkins made second team All Pro in 2015, and first team All Pro each of the last three seasons. On top of that, Hopkins had just 1,408 fewer yards and just seven fewer touchdown catches in FOUR FEWER FULL SEASONS. Fitzgerald is a tremendous human being and the son of a sportswriter, so this has all the feeling of a group of media members taking care of one of their own. Hopkins got jobbed.
A couple other former Texans made the team
The Texans do show up in one form or another two other times on this All-Decade team. First, at punter, future Hall of Famers Shane Lechler, who spent 2013 through 2017 with the Texans, was one of two punters named to the team. Meanwhile, safety Tyrann Mathieu was one of two to make the team with a general "defensive back" designation, which is kind of the defensive version of a "flex" player, I suppose. Mathieu, of course, played one season in Houston in 2018 before moving onto the Kansas City Chiefs and making first team All Pro for a Super Bowl winner in 2019. This, along with his All Pro season in 2015 in Arizona, was enough to cancel out several injury marred seasons in his Cardinals career.
Which players' Hall of fame cases are helped the most by this?
Actually, I think there are two honorees whose cases for Canton are aided greatly with this All-Decade designation. First, Frank Gore, even though he is third in all time rushing yards, has never been a guy who was ever thought to be one of the best backs in the league at any point in this past decade. To wit, he didn't have a single first team or second team All Pro season. Think of just a few of the backs who played in this decade who didn't make the team — Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster even. They're all more dangerous backs at their respective peaks than Gore, but Gore has managed to quietly hang around and pile up yards in fairly unspectacular fashion, with no injury or contractual issues. The All-Decade honor is a validator for Gore. On the coaching side, Pete Carroll's case for Canton is helped greatly by this. Think about how long it took someone like Jimmy Johnson, a clearly better and more historically significant head coach than Carroll, to get admission into Canton. This All-Decade honor is essentially a FastPass for Carroll.