The Top Ten Boston Sports Moments Of The 21st Century

The New England region has been fortunate enough to witness some of the greatest athletes in the history of sports right in front of their eyes.  Fans in Boston have proclaimed their city as Title town, and with nine championships in the last fifteen years, it’s very hard to argue that they are wrong.  In honor of the New England Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl triumph, I have come up with a list of the top ten Boston sports moments of the 21st Century.  Here are my top ten: 

10. Nathan Horton’s Overtime Goal vs. Montreal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2011:  

The Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup run was one of the most exciting playoff runs in NHL history.  Twenty-five games were played, one hundred and thirty-four goals were scored, and six overtime periods were necessary.  Of those six overtime periods, none would prove more memorable than game seven against Montreal in the first round of the playoffs. The Bruins’ rivalry with Montreal may not have reached its peak in 2011, but it was certainly at its modern-day climax. Heading to Montreal for game three following two losses in Boston, the Bruins needed to rebound quickly.  They did so by winning three straight, but the Canadiens were able to force a game seven in Boston.  Tied at three, Nathan Horton sent Carey Price and company packing in overtime, as the Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The game displayed the resiliency and mental toughness that the Bruins would continue to show as they went on to claim Stanley Cup glory in Vancouver.  Frankly, one could argue Montreal was by far their toughest Eastern Conference opponent of the playoffs.

9. Curt Schilling’s Bloody Sock Game in Game Six of the 2004 ALCS:  

Curt Schilling’s borderline Hall of Fame career was highlighted by his electrifying playoff performances, as he boasted an 11-2 record and a 2.23 ERA in his nineteen games of postseason action.  Although the playoffs brought the best out of Schilling, none of his playoff starts will ever compare to his game six performance against the Yankees in the ALCS. Everyone knows the story, the Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees and battled their way back to eventually claim the American League pennant.  Maybe it was not the single most important performance of the playoffs, but the seven innings Schilling dealt at Yankee Stadium was certainly the most bold performance arguably in MLB history.  Having battled an ankle injury that only worsened following his start against the Angels in the ALDS, Schilling fought off the pain as his ankle proceeded to bleed for all to see.  Nevertheless, he earned the Red Sox the winin a historic effort, and no all you conspiracy theory clowns, it wasn’t ketchup.  

8. The Bruins’ Game Seven Comeback vs. Toronto in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2013:    

More than likely hockey fans will never again see what they saw the Boston Bruins do against the Toronto Maple Leafs in game seven of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in 2013.  With 14:31 left in the game, Nazem Kadri scored what was the apparent game winner against the Bruins.  The air was taken out of the TD Garden, and there was no hope.  With 10:42 to go, Nathan Horton scored what seemed to be a consolation goal that made the game 4-2, but there still was no hope.  1:22 remained, and the Bruins faithful were convinced the season was about to end, but as Milan Lucic wristed a loose puck into the back of the net, fans began to beg the question, “what if…?”  With fifty seconds remaining, Patrice Bergeron – of course, tied the game in the wildest comeback in NHL history.  Bergeron would go on to put it beyond a shadow of a doubt with the overtime winner that will haunt Leafs fans for the foreseeable future.  For Bruins fans, well, we stillcan’t believe it, but it happened.

7. The Celtics Twenty-Four Point Comeback in Game Four of NBA Finals in 2008:

A blast from the past, the Celtics and Lakers faced off in the finals for the first time since 1987.  With Kobe Bryant and Paul Piece at the peak of their powers, both led their respective teams to the number one seed, and ultimately the finals.  Down 45-21 with over six minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Celtics looked to be in for a long night against the Lakers in game four of the NBA Finals.  The Celtics led 2-1 in the series, having won the first two games at home, but lost the first game at the Staples Center.  Halfway through game four, it looked as ifthe series would be tied by the end of the night.  Roughly forty minutes in, the game looked tobe a never-ending struggle for Boston as they slowly crept back from 24 down, but could never seem to challenge for the lead. Towards the end of the third quarter, that all changed as the Celtics went on a 23-5 run to draw the game within two. It was Eddie House that gave the Celtics the 84-83 lead with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and they never looked back.  The resiliency of this Celtics team was on full display.  Although they lost the next game in Los Angeles, the Celtics would go on to win in game six in Boston, and Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce were crowned champions for the first time in their careers.

6. The Snow Bowl vs. the Oakland Raiders in 2001:     

Call it lucky, call it unfair, call it whatever you want, the result is never going to change despite the tears that are still shed to this day by Raiders fans and former players. The “Tuck Rule” game launched the dynasty that is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.  The game was a rather boring one until the end, as the Patriots and the visiting Raiders had difficulty getting anything going on offense.  Brady struggled in the first half of the game as he was held to under 100 yards passing and threw an interception.  With twelve minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Raiders clung to a 13-3 lead over the Patriots.  With roughly eight minutes remaining, Brady capped off his sixty-seven yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run.  The Patriots got the ball back again still down three points, and then the play that change the NFL forever – NFL Rule 2, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2.  It looked clear that Brady fumbled the football as Charles Woodson forced the ball out of his hand and the Raiders recovered.  The game looked to be over, but referee Walt Coleman deemed that “the quarterback’s arm was going forward” and that it was an incomplete pass.  Adam Vinatieri proceeded to kick a forty-five yard field goal through thick snow to tie the game, and ultimately hit a twenty-three yarder in overtime to win the game.  The rest is history. 

5. David Ortiz’s Grand Slam vs. the Detroit Tigers in Game Two of the ALCS in 2013:

Coming off one of the most tumultuous seasons in Red Sox history, there were low expectations for the 2013 season.  Under head coach Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox finished 69-93, and the team’s integrity was under scrutiny following a ridiculous fried chicken-eating and beer-drinking incident that occurred in the Red Sox bullpen.  Changes needed to be made, and they were, as former pitching coach John Farrell was hired as the head coach, Mike Napoli, David Ross, Shane Victorino, and Koji Uehara were signed, and underperforming players worked their way back into shape.  Ultimately, the Red Sox found themselves in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers following their 97-65 record in the regular season.  Down 5-1 in g
ame two following a 1-0 loss in game one, all the momentum seemed to be swaying in Detroit’s favor.  With the bases loaded, none other than David Ortiz stepped up to the plate and tied the game at five.  The Red Sox would then go on to win the game 6-5, and win the series.

4. Patrice Bergeron’s Second Goal in Game Seven the Stanley Cup Final in 2011:

It had been thirty-nine years since the Boston Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup.  As mentioned previously, Nathan Horton’s goal in game seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals sparked what would be an incredible playoff run, but no series was as intense as the finals.  From Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron like an out of control three year-old, to another two game deficit, and a ten goal game that drastically shifted momentumin Boston’s favor, this was a series to remember.  Game seven in Vancouver was supposed to be the night the Canucks finally did it. The Bruins forced a game seven after a defiant 5-2 win, and many expected Roberto Luongo to respond to the criticism he had received throughout the series like an elite goalie would. He didn’t, and after Boston took a 2-0 lead, Patrice Bergeron came crashing into Luongo’s net after being tripped up.  The puck followed him, and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. 

3. Malcolm Butler’s Interception in Super Bowl XLIX:

It’s clear that Malcolm Butler’s name will never be forgotten by all the 12’s out there in Seattle.  In New England, the undrafted free agent out of West Alabama will be known as a Boston sports hero forever.  The Seahawks were of course driving down the field with 2:02 left on the clock in Super Bowl XLIX.  Russell Wilson hit Marshawn Lynch on a long pass down the sideline.  Following what appeared to be a third fluke catch that would cost the Patriots another SuperBowl, the Seahawks had the ball inside the five-yard line.  Marshawn Lynch took the ball down to the one, and with over fifty seconds left, Bill Belichick did not call a timeout.  Instead he allowed Russell Wilson to let the clock bleed down to twenty-five seconds. Wilson stepped back, looked for Ricardo Lockette, and out of nowhere came of all people, Malcolm Butler.  Butler’s phenomenal interception secured the Patriots their first Super Bowl title in ten years.

2. Dave Roberts’ steal in Game Four of the ALCS vs. the Yankees in 2004:    

Dave Roberts’ steal was the single most influential moment of the Red Sox’s comeback from three games down in the ALCS.  In fact, it’s fair to say that it was the most influential moment of the entire playoffs in 2004.  Following the steal, one could almost feel the pendulum swing.  That is why reversing the curse in St. Louis is not on this list.  One steal… one moment changed the entire series.  Down 4-3 with Mariano Rivera on the mound, Kevin Millar drew a walk, thus forcing Terry Francona to call on Dave Roberts to pinch run.  Everyone at Fenway Park knew he was going to steal. Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, the fans… everyone knew.  Roberts went anyway, he made it, and from then on, you could feel the momentum shift. Bill Mueller hit a game tying single, David Ortiz won the game in extra innings, and the Red Sox never looked back.

1. Adam Vinatieri’s Game-Winning kick vs. Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI:

Entering the game, the Patriots were 14.5 point under dogs to the greatest show on turf.  With Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Tory Holt, and Isaac Bruce leading the most dynamic offense in NFL history, the Rams were looking for back to back titles.  The Patriots looked to be outmatched, but they did not back down from the challenge. Following a Ty Law interception for a touchdown, Tom Brady hit David Patten to go up 14-3 just before the end of the first half.  The Rams eventually came back to tie the game at seventeen a piece with a minute and twenty-one seconds remaining.  With no timeouts, the coaching staff agreed to let Tom Brady throw the ball and get the Patriots in field goal range.  Everyone thought they should play for overtime, including announcer John Madden who expressed these sentiments veryclearly on national television multiple times throughout the drive.  Brady hit J.R. Redmond for a few crucial catches, Troy Brown for a long play to get out of bounds and past the fifty-yard line, and finally Jermaine Wiggins. With seven seconds left, Brady spiked it, and Vinatieri made the 48-yard field goal as time expired.  Before this play, nobody thought any team in New England had a chance.  The Patriots’ first Super Bowl title sparked what is considered the glory days for Boston sports.  After the Patriots’ first, eight championships from New England teams in under fifteen years followed, and most likely there are plenty more to come. 

Falcons cut Justin Blalock

The Atlanta Falcons have cut veteran offensive guard Justin Blalock.
Blalock started 125 games in eight seasons.
The 6-foot-4, 326-pound Blalock was drafted in the second round in 2007.
Blalock is more of a mauler than a finesse zone-blocking fit with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider

Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

Michael Sam invited to NFL veteran scouting combine

Former St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys defensive end Michael Sam has accepted an invitation to the NFL scouting combine, according to a source.
Sam will be joined by veteran quarterback Vince Young and former Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins defensive tackle DaJohn Harris.
Sam was with the Cowboys’ practice squad after being released by the Rams.
Sam is the first openly gay active player in NFL history.
Sam is a former Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year from Missouri.
Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider
Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

Bengals cut Robert Geathers, Greg Little

The Cincinnati Bengals cut veteran defensive end Robert Geathers and wide receiver Greg Little.
Geathers played 11 seasons for the Bengals.
He ranks third in Bengals history in games played by a defensive lineman with 152 career games, trailing Tim Krumrie (188) and Eddie Edwards (170).
“Robert has been with us for all my seasons except the first one,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.“And he has been a team leader as well as a very productive player. He’s an incredible teammate and a true professional, a big part of the winning seasons we’ve achieved. If Robert elects to pursue an opportunity with another NFL team, the timing of this move will allow him the best possible chance at that.”
Geathers had 10.5 sacks in 2010 and has 473 career tackles and 34 sacks with three interceptions, six forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Little caught six passes for 69 yards with the Bengals last season with one start.
Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider
Aaron Wilson cover the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

Dolphins to cut Brian Hartline

The Miami Dolphins are cutting wide receiver Brian Hartline.
Hartline was due a $5.9 million base salary entering the third year of a five-year, $30 million contract.
Hartline had just 474 receiving yards in 16 starts last season.
He had 1,000-yard seasons the previous two years.
Hartline is likely to have a solid market despite the crowd of receivers growing with his release and Harry Douglas being cut by the Atlanta Falcons.
Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider
Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

What Happened To Cam?

Despite a playoff win, the 2014 season was arguably the worst of Cam Newton’s career. The fact that the Panthers had a playoff win is a deceiving measure of their season, considering their playoff win was against a quarterback who was originally third on the depth chart, and that they had finished the regular season with a losing record of 7-8-1. Along with a losing record, Cam posted a career-low passer rating, after a steady increase in this category every year. It was only last year when Cam led his team to a winning record and was voted 24th on the Top 100 Players list by his peers.  Cam Newton seemed to have been evolving into an elite NFL quarterback, but where did he go wrong? Last year it seemed as though Newton had entirely settled into the NFL game and made the full transition from college football to the NFL, but did he regress? The concern regarding whether or not Cam Newton could be a sufficient passer was a major one ever since he came out of college and was understandable considering the option heavy offense he had run at Auburn – doing a lot of this:

College running quarterbacks such as Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel have struggled in their translation to the NFL. In the college game, running quarterbacks often looked for a hole to run through if they could not find their first or second reads, and tend to have a lack of patience in the pocket. In the NFL, this simply does not cut it; the pocket is tighter, there are more bodies around you, and pass rushers are bigger and faster than you have ever seen before. However, unlike Tebow or Manziel, Newton had no trouble playing from the pocket, putting up 422 passing yards in his first NFL game. 

At 0:16, you can see him go through his progression, read the defense, and deliver a great deep ball. Furthermore, you can see his ability to throw bullet passes into tight windows with free defenders coming at him at 2:10. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of this game was that even when Newton had running room, he kept his composure, stood in the pocket and threw the ball downfield, showing no compulsion to take off running even when he had space such as at 1:55. Newton has always had the patience to stand in the pocket and go through his reads; ninety-nine percent of the time Newton tucks and runs on a designed passing play, is after contact, such as on this play:

You will never see Cam Newton take off on a pass play unnecessarily, he literally has to be FORCED out of the pocket, and when he is loose, he makes good use of his freakish athletic ability and makes defenders pay. His combine numbers show you this rare physicality, running a 4.58 40-yard dash at 6’5” and 245 pounds. But despite his physical gifts, he understands the importance of putting time in the film room, and his knowledge of the game is one of his most overlooked strengths.

We often look at Cam Newton’s physicality and overlook the things that show his potential to become a great quarterback, such as his mental approach and passion for the game of football. His preparation and love of the game draw comparisons to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. But with all this upside, both physically and mentally, what was it that hindered Newton this season? Not to make excuses for his lack of production, but the major causes for decline this year may not be self-inflicted. Coming back from ankle surgery and a back injury caused by a car accident definitely affected his health, but Newton was probably stinted the most by his own offensive coordinator Mike Shula. We thought that the last time we would see Cam Newton in formations like this was in college but Mike Shula decided he was going to bring them back.

 Image title

However, wishbone and veer option offenses simply do not work in the NFL. The Panthers often try to force multiple option plays and designed quarterback runs into their playbook to take advantage of Newton’s running ability. While they can blow up for large pickups, these plays are stopped relatively easily and put the quarterback in too compromised a position. This is not to say the read option has no place in an NFL offense. The read option is a great play to prevent negative yardage in certain situations, and almost any quarterback can pull the ball and turn a potential 2nd and 12 to a 2nd and 8; and with Cam Newton at quarterback, 20 yards off the option is more likely than 2 yards. But no NFL offense should revolve around the option. While it is nice to have in your back pocket, and your quarterback’s athletic ability IS an asset, neither should be relied on and should especially never be abused. In the playoff game against Seattle, the Panthers came out running option after option out of weird formations like this one, getting little out of it besides beating up their quarterback. But when Newton was given the opportunity to make the proper audibles and checks, and make his reads from the pocket, he exceled. Although he made his share of mistakes against Seattle, such as targeting Richard Sherman in a one-on-one situation, if he was given the opportunity to take control of the offense on his own on more drives, we may have seen a better outcome. It seems however, that the Panthers simply do not have that trust in Newton as a quarterback and as a passer. It is incomprehensible why this trust does not exist, because purely from a quarterbacking aspect, Cam Newton shows the physical skills as well as the intangibles and mental presence to be a great quarterback. It may be seen as an unequitable comparison, but his mental presence in the film room and on the football field draws an evocation of a young Peyton Manning. It is easy to see the work ethic and attention to detail Newton has, and his passion for the game is irrefutable. Even if there are questions about his accuracy, footwork and mechanics, it needs to be reinstated that these are all things that can be improved upon, but the more subjective qualities that he possesses cannot be taught. Despite the sloppy outcome of this season, there still should not be any doubt in Cam Newton as a quarterback, but rather in whether or not the Carolina Panthers will let him be that quarterback.  

Breaking down the NFL Draft

Draft Choice Trade Value Charts would have you believe that the NFL draft is an orderly process where a drafted player has less chance of succeeding than the player drafted right before him. That may be the only logical assumption that can be made for purposes of the Charts. In truth, though, the draft is a disorderly process where an undrafted player can succeed and a first round draft selection can fail.
While not perfect, a better way to view the draft is as a series of draft selections that can be divided into groups (called Draft Ranges in this article). Each of the selections in a group is about equal in value (e.g., produces similar results). While this is useful information there can be no dispute that there are plenty of “blips” within the draft. The 44th draft slot, for example, has produced more players (nine) that were Pro Bowl selections than the 10th draft slot selection (four).
This article proposes Draft Ranges based on historical data. These historical Draft Ranges can then be applied to the 2015 draft. In future articles, success probabilities for various metrics will be discussed for each Draft Range based on historical data.
The information in this article sets the stage for pretty much all of the later draft articles. The Draft Ranges were determined by reviewing the outcome of draft selections over the past 20 years (1995-2014). For each individual draft slot the following data was accumulated and evaluated:

  • Average career length in years
  • Average number of starter years
    • A starter year is any season where a player started at least eight games
  • Average percentage of rookie starters
  • Average number of games started during a player’s career
  • The percentage of players earning post-season honors
    • Percentage of players selected to the Pro Bowl at least once and at least three times
    • Percentage of players named All Pro at least once and at least three times

It should be noted that a player receives credit for a Pro Bowl appearance only if he was the original selection, regardless of whether he played in the game or bowed out due to “injury” or his team being in the Super Bowl. Alternates and other substitutes do not receive credit for a Pro Bowl appearance.
While the analysis is based on hard data there is definitely an element of subjectivity at play. This surfaces in determining the weighting of various factors. Should more importance be placed on players earning post-season awards or on the number of games started in a player’s career? The approach taken in this article is to make it less a calculation and more a balanced assessment of the individual factors.
As a result of this process and analysis, there turned out to be eight Draft Ranges defined as follows:

The following table summarizes the data used in setting the Draft Ranges:

For those of you who have read some of my past work, it should be pointed out that this is a pretty significant difference from prior writings. Last year, for example, the first Draft Range included selections one through 13. This year, after much thought, more emphasis was placed on the percentage of players who earned post-season honors and two smaller Draft Ranges evolved.
Future articles will further analyze the draft and use the Draft Ranges established in this article while using appropriate time periods for evaluation.
Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

14 players that need to have a strong Pro Day

Now that the Combine is complete, the next phase in the evaluation process are the pro days. Starting next week, there will be numerous pro days Monday through Friday, through the month of March. When a club really wants to get up close and personal with a prospect, they will schedule a private workout with the player but we wont see many of these until after their school has it’s pro day.
The pro day is important for a number of reasons. First off, the players from a school who weren’t invited to the Combine get to workout in front of NFL evaluators. Every year there are about 35 players who did not get invited to the Combine who end up getting drafted.
Over the years, I have seen some drafted as high as the second round, but the majority of these players start coming off the board starting around the fourth round. While teams are interested in these players because of the way they played during the season, their performance on their pro day is also important in the evaluation process. These non-combine players have to have workout numbers better or similar to invited players at their position.
The pro days are also important for the players that didn’t live up to expectations at the Combine. The players who are happy with their Combine results will not take part in the measurable events such as the 40, the 20 yard shuttle, the 3-cone and the jumps. They will only do the position-specific drills for coaches after the measurable drills are finished.
There are other players who feel they need to improve on some of their combine times in order to keep their value high. After going through the Combine results, here are some players who may want to redo some of their drills.
Ameer Abdullah – Nebraska –  While his jumps and agilities were excellent, he only ran 4.61. He may want to run the 40 again.
Melvin Gordon –  Wisconsin – The same holds true for Gordon. I think every scout in the league felt Gordon would break 4.45. When he ran 4.52 that was a bit disappointing.
Duke Johnson – Miami – He is another running back who ran slower than expected. He may also want to try and improve on his 33.5″ vertical jump. Johnson did not run any of the agilities, so he needs to run those also.
Trae Waynes – Michigan State – While Waynes ran fast, his agility times were slow compared with the other top corner prospects. Slow times in the agility drills can mean a prospect is tight in the knees or hips.
Marcus Peters –  Washington – Marcus looks fast on tape, but he didn’t run fast at Indy. 4.54 is not first round corner speed. His other drills were good enough.
Kevin Johnson – Wake Forest – With Kevin, it’s the same story as Peters, excellent jumps and agilities and an average 40 time.
Ladarius Gunter – Miami – Most felt he would run in the low 4.5’s. He ran in the 4.60’s. He has to run again.
Quinten Rollins – Miami (Ohio) – He ran much slower than anticipated, the problem he may have is Miami (Ohio) does not have an indoor facility and he may want to wait until early April before he attempts to run again.
Danny Shelton – Washington – Every one want to compare Shelton to Ngata, but Ngata ran a 5.13 at Indy and Shelton ran in the 5.6’s. He needs to improve his speed or his value will drop a little.
Justin Hardy – East Carolina – I never thought Hardy was a burner, but his average time of 4.58 is not quite fast enough.
Vince Mayle – Washington State – The same holds true with Mayle as he ran 4.67.
Maxx Williams – Minnesota –  His speed was disappointing in that he ran 4.85, 4.77. He needs to run in the 4.6’s if he wants to be considered as a first round candidate.
Paul Dawson – TCU – No one thought he was going to be a speedster, but 4.95 is way too slow. I would think he will be first in line to run at TCU’s pro day.
Shaq Thompson – Washington – Shaq plays like he can run in the mid 4.5’s. His 40 times were 4.72 and 4.69. If I were him, I’d run again.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Don't Always Trust The 40

The 40-yard dash is by most considered the mecca of the NFL combine drills. Tenths of a second in this drill can make or break a player’s draft status. The irony in this however, is that the 40-yard dash tests a player’s speed in a position that is extraneous to the positions that they would be in during a game. Nevertheless, this drill holds its significant amount of prominence in the combine and players are very aware. Athletes spend a great deal of time training to run the 40-yard dash, which includes adapting sprinting mechanics used in track in field to drop every possible fraction of a second from their time. However, many of these very mechanics that players adapt do not translate to the football field, and therefore the 40-yard dash is not necessarily a test of a player’s football speed. One of the main strategies that players use when running the 40 is to keep their feet directly under their hips to eliminate any side stepping as seen here:Image title

While this is an extremely effective sprinting method to ensure all of the distance covered by the runner with each step becomes forward displacement and none is wasted going to the side, it does not translate to the football field. Unlike in track, side stepping is essential in football because it gives a player the ability to cut and change direction at any given moment. When the feet are directly under the hips, all the force of the athlete’s weight is straight down. On the other hand, when the feet are further apart, it introduces a horizontal component to the force which decreases the vertical force that the athlete has to fight against when decelerating into a cut. Therefore, it takes less time for a player to decelerate and allows them to change direction faster. Keeping a wide stance also allows a player to maintain a low center of gravity, which allows them to better control their movement when changing direction because it reduces the amount of torque on the body. This type of running improves body control, which then results in faster cuts, crisper routes, faster recovery in pass coverage, etc. Here, you can see how Frank Gore’s side-stepping allowed him to make a sudden cut and change direction quickly without losing control of his body. 

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However, the 40-yard dash does not test for this kind of football speed, it instead tests for the track speed that does not translate to the football field. For this reason 40 times are at times a misrepresentation of a player’s game speed. In last year’s draft, Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas speed was immensely misrepresented by his official 4.50 40 time. Being that he is a player whose chief asset is speed, a 4.50 in the 40 tremendously lowered his draft status. Originally projected as a first or second round pick, Thomas fell to Kansas City in the FOURTH ROUND and was undoubtedly the biggest steal of the 2014 NFL Draft. This is a prime example of how speed should not be judged by 40-yard dash times, and rather by the film, specifically plays like this:

During his college career, Thomas made innumerable plays like this, plays that should not be made by a 4.50 40-yard dash runner. Many of the defensive backs that could not catch him on this return are the same players who run 4.3-4.4 40-yard dash times. So, while fast players will obviously tend to run fast 40 yard dashes, a separation needs to be made between track speed and football speed, because they are clearly not the same thing.