The egos of the AFC East
I’m a Midwestern guy, born and raised. If 21 years of tireless observations have served me right, we’re pretty much an egoless group of people.
It’s the perfect place for Peyton Manning -- who says all he wants is championships and actually means it -- to become the most dominant quarterback of the 2000s. It’s the perfect place for Kirk Ferentz and Jim Tressel to recruit corn-fed and team-first high schoolers. And it was the perfect place for Vince Lombardi, the anti-prima donna, to become one of the all-time great head coaches.
It’s why Mark Mangino never truly worked out at Kansas, why Steve Alford was shuttled out after eight years at Iowa and why Rich Rodriguez has never felt like the right fit at Michigan. Egos don’t work in the Midwest.
(Somehow, the Midwest successfully housed Michael Jordan, perhaps the most egocentric athlete of my generation, for 13 years. This still baffles me.)
But from D.C. to New York to Boston, egos thrive in the East — a philosophy that no doubt funnels down to the region’s football teams, particularly those in the AFC East. With the new addition of Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins, it seems as if the powers-that-be intentionally compiled the most ego-ridden conference in football.
Consider this list:
New England Patriots: Is there a single non-Patriots fan who would characterize New England as anything less than conceited? Absolutely not. The Pats also pass the coach-owner-quarterback trifecta of egos. (Quick note: I know very little about Robert Kraft, but he wears those banker’s shirts. Who’s he trying to look like, Gordon Gekko?)
New York Jets: After being humbled by the Colts 30-14 in the playoffs, Rex Ryan said, “We're the biggest show in town, and that’s the way it’s going to be.” Well, so much for being humbled, coach. You followed that up by bringing in the dynamic ego duo of Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes. Please draft another USC star, preferably Taylor Mays, to complete an offseason full of egos.
Miami Dolphins: I actually liked the Dolphins before they traded for Marshall on Wednesday. Having Chad Henne play quarterback somehow made me forget Bill Parcells was their vice president of football operations. Now, after the Marshall trade, it’s all I can think about. And nothing says smugness quite like Parcells.
Buffalo Bills: All right, this one may not apply too well, but three out of four isn’t bad.
Of course, there are ego-driven NFL players, coaches and executives in the Midwest, too, and to say otherwise would be an extreme distortion of the truth. But to find a collect team that emits an aura of smugness, superiority and self-righteousness is impossible.
To be sure, let’s run down the list (for the record, I’m constituting the Midwest as anything North of Texas, East of Colorado and West of Pennsylvania):
Chicago Bears: Jay Culter has to be one of the least-popular/arrogant players in the NFL. Still, a Lovie Smith-coached team could never be described as pompous. He learned from Tony Dungy, and Dungy still thinks an ego is something that can be found in the fozen-food section of your local supermarket.
Cleveland Browns: Coming from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, Eric Mangini is more than a little smug. If this team ever starts winning games again, look out.
Cincinnati Bengals: I can’t figure out if Chad Ochocinco is arrogant or funny. I’m leaning toward arrogant. Regardless, this team seems to have dumped its collective egos — and arrests — in the past few years.
Detroit Lions: How could such a consistently awful team have an ego? Plus, an arrogant team in Detroit would never fly. All the unemployed people would burn Ford Field to the ground.
Green Bay Packers: Vince Lombardi would strike down Brandon Marshall if he ever played for the Packers. Seriously, when was the last time Green Bay went after anyone with half of Marshall’s ego? Never. The Packers ooze class.
Indianapolis Colts: Jim Caldwell and Peyton Manning. That’s all you need to know.
Kansas City Chiefs: The men running the show, Todd Haley and Scott Pioli, seem to have a certain arrogance about them. But see Lions, Detroit for further explanation.
Minnesota Vikings: Yes, Brett Favre is the most secretly arrogant person in the NFL, but I’m not sure Brad Childress knows what an ego is. He’s still busy shopping for a new headset.
St. Louis Rams: See Lions, Detroit and Chiefs, Kansas City.
Tennessee Titans: Their biggest ego issue was bringing Pacman Jones into the league. But they refused to give big-headed Albert Haynesworth a record deal (he went out to the East coast for that). Plus, their coach is Jeff Fisher, who seems to have somehow mellowed Vince Young. Nothing more needs to be said.
The point is, the East thrives on players like Marshall and coaches like Ryan and owners like Kraft. But it’s hard to argue with success. Seven of the last 10 Super Bowl winners came from the East, including three from Belichick’s Patriots. And New England, Miami and New York all look like playoff contenders.
Nice guys don’t always finish last, but in the NFL, it doesn’t appear they win too often, either.
Scott Miller, a junior at the University of Iowa and a contributor to the National Football Post, recently won second place in the Hearst Sports Writing Competition. Follow him on Twitter: @stmillr