Football Diehard’s Bob Harris researched the film for his team…sci-fi cinema.
Yeah. … So I’m not the guy who spends a ton of time breaking down film, right? I’m basically just your average, ordinary run-of-the-mill fantasy player who tends to fly by the seat of his pants. I am, however, a fan of the game. I follow NFL news very closely; I can recite depth charts backwards and forwards; I’ve developed a sound understanding of how football teams operate; and I’ve been doing this long enough to see the tea leaves and read between the lines. I rely heavily on all those things in the day-to-day running of my fantasy teams.
Given all that, I tend to (okay, substitute “totally” for “tend to” there) leave the serious film study to the Matt Waldman’s of the world (while paying careful attention to what they have to say). But as I sat down to begin this project, I realized film study would be imperative. So I hunkered down. I cranked up the DVD. And I learned. A ton.
Of course, my breakdowns weren’t actual game film. I took a different route, watching, re-watching, studying and dissecting some of my favorite science-fiction flicks. The emphasis was on battling and/or fending off alien attack. I watched. I learned.
And now, much like Rowdy Roddy Piper’s character, Nada, in the 1988 classic “They Live,” I am ready to get this thing rolling in the appropriate manner.
We’re using this game to defend earth from alien invaders. I’m not sure why we’d even want rules.
That said, I’m fine with the set currently in place, which offers sufficient offensive flexibility to take full advantage of my squad. On the other side of the ball? I might draw an inordinate number of flags; but if you’re working under the assumption that flags equal intimidation (and I am), that’s just fine.
I might even encourage it…
- Head Coach: Bill Belichick
- Offensive Coordinator: Charlie Weiss/Josh McDaniels/Bill O’Brien
- Quarterback: Tom Brady
- Tailback: Jim Brown
- Fullback: Larry Centers
- Wide Receiver: Jerry Rice
- Wide Receiver: Randy Moss
- Wide Receiver: Wes Welker
- Tight End: Rob Gronkowski
- Tight End: Tony Gonzalez
- Left Tackle: Anthony Munoz
- Guard: Larry Allen
- Center: Mike Webster
- Guard: Conrad Dobler
- Tackle: Jonathan Ogden
Behind The Selections
The thing that stood out most in my film study was how important intelligence and physical play are when going up against aliens. Given that, I needed a David Levinson, Jeff Goldblum’s character from the 1996 blockbuster “Independence Day.” Somebody capable of thinking outside the box, breaking down the opposition and finding weaknesses the rest of the league — hell, the rest of the entire world — might overlook.
Who else to cast here but Belichick?
As NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal put it, “Belichick’s ability to adapt is his defining trait as a head coach. That includes changing the plan during a game, during a season and often during the team-building phase of the offseason.
“[The Patriots] are a game plan organization, looking for smart, versatile players that can help the organization shape-shift on a weekly basis depending on their opponent. Belichick and Tom Brady don’t stay married to a specific offensive philosophy for too long. Belichick repeatedly says he only worries about putting points on the board, no matter how it gets done. They adjust their offense to their personnel perhaps more than any team.”
In other words, exactly what I need.
As for the offensive coordinator? I don’t really care which of the last three Patriots play-callers are standing at Belichick’s side. Ultimately, this is the Brent Spiner’s Dr. Brakish Okun to Goldblum’s Levinson; helpful but not essential. Let’s say one of them goes down unexpectedly…
Another one can step right in and get the job done with equal aplomb. Again, the key is the ability to adapt. Belichick and all of his coordinators have shown the ability to tailor their game plan not just to maximize the talents of their own personnel, but to take advantage of weaknesses and flaws in opposing defenses that others might overlook.
Rosenthal suggests the ultimate proof that Belichick (and in this case, McDaniels) can adapt at the highest level came in 2008 when the Patriots managed to win 11 games and finished eighth in points with Matt Cassel at the helm. “They led the league in first downs by playing a ball-control offense” Rosenthal recounts, “with an emphasis on play action, and a four-pronged effective rushing attack, including guys like Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan. There’s an argument to be made that the Patriots were better on offense in ’08 than in some of their early Super Bowl seasons.”
I’ll remind you that just the year before, the Patriots were a pass-first (…and second…and third….) offense. Moss set the receiving touchdown record. Welker led the league in receptions. They started a trend as spread offenses soon became the norm.
In terms of personnel, I need smart and tough. Like a fighter pilot who has the intellect, skill, and coordination to overcome superior alien technology, but one also capable of punching an alien in the face and knocking his ass out cold.
Yep. I need Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller. Or, somebody who will rise up in the face of great odds when the moment demands it.
I need Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley from the “Alien” franchise. And I’ll need some every-day kind of guys capable of delivering more than expected, as in “The Terminator’s” Kyle Reese and “Aliens‘” Cpl. Dwayne Hicks (both portrayed by Michael Biehn) or Tom Cruise’s Ray Ferrier from “War of the Worlds.”
Better still, they should be smart, tough, and they should be cocky.
(Given the circumstances, open-minded might be helpful as well.)
Brady, of course, is a natural fit as the leader of my offense. He might not be the most physical player in the league, but his simpatico with Belichick is reminiscent of the Hiller/Levinson vibe. And even if he doesn’t have a knockout punch, Brady isn’t afraid to get all up in somebody’s grill and let them know what he thinks.
My starting running back was easy. Whether it was higher-profile guys like Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon or more mundane talents like Laurence Maroney, Jordan, Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray, Belichick’s Patriots have proven to be more than capable of getting the most out of power backs.
Jim Brown is that and more.
As NFL.com described him: “Brown was not only an electrifying runner who is often called the greatest in NFL history, he was also tough, rugged, and virtually impossible to bring down. With the moves of a halfback and the size and power of a fullback, Brown was a handful for the very best defenders in the game.”
Brown retired after only nine seasons as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. He held the record of 12,312 yards until it was broken by Walter Payton on October 7, 1984, during Payton’s 10th NFL season. But as impressive as Brown’s 5.2-yard per carry career average might be (and it’s very impressive indeed), the willingness to wade into an entire cadre of aliens all on his own that really sets Brown apart.
Belichick’s Patriots have also relied heavily on receivers out of the backfield. Kevin Faulk and Shane Vereen are prime examples of this. But instead of going with a scatback type to fill that role, I’ll go with a fullback who also happens to be the most effective receiving back the NFL has ever known: Larry Centers.
It’s easy to forget the fullback/pass-catching specialist.
Centers’ 827 receptions are currently the most by any running back and the second most by any non-wide receiver in NFL history, with Gonzalez having surpassed his mark in 2008. Centers finished his 14-year NFL career by earning his first Super Bowl ring with — wait for it — Belichick’s 2003 Patriots.
Studying “Terminator 2,” “Men In Black” and “District 9” made it obvious to me that being an alien (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reprogrammed Terminator in T-2 and pretty much every character not played by Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rip Torn or Linda Fiorentino in MIB) or at least part alien (Sharlto Copley’s Wikus Van De Merwe in D9) can be beneficial. That being the case, I’m going with two players at wide receiver who, if not actual aliens, are totally other-worldly in Rice and Moss.
I believe their presence speaks for itself. With Moss, there’s no real question right? Straight up alien. When it comes to Rice, perhaps not so much alien as just not human.
It’s no coincidence either that Moss had one of the best seasons of his illustrious NFL career in 2007 while a member of the Patriots (98 catches, 1,493 yards and the above-mentioned NFL-record 23 touchdown catches) and that he’s on this squad.
Rice? C’mon now.
I’m including Welker as well, primarily for his uncanny ability to be right where Brady expects him to be when the QB expects him to be there. Evidence of that can be found in the fact Welker pulled in a prodigious 672 passes during his six-year run with the Patriots.
Gronkowski and Gonzalez are great fits at tight end. In the case of the former, it goes beyond his connection to the Patriots and my heavy reliance on them. It’s a “Gronk Smash” thing. I need somebody who can stomp on alien defenders like they were — well, insects.
It helps that he’s been one of the most dominant scoring machines the NFL has seen during his brief tenure to date.
In 2011, Gronk’s second season in the NFL, he set the single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end with 17 scoring grabs (as well as the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end, with 1,327) making him the first tight end in NFL history to lead the league in receiving touchdowns. In his first three seasons, he had 38 receiving touchdowns in 43 games; no other tight end has had more than 25. In terms of NFL records, Gronkowski is tied with Moss for the most offensive touchdowns in first two seasons with 28.
Gonzalez will fit right in with the crew as the “F” or move tight end, the role that seemed to be propelling Aaron Hernandez to stardom. Suggesting Gonzalez would fare even better in that spot doesn’t require a huge mental stretch. The 14-time Pro-Bowler holds the NFL records for touchdown receptions (111) and total reception yards (15,127) by a tight end. Gonzalez was also known for his durability, missing only two games in his seventeen-year career.
My offensive line is a mauling, physical bunch with plenty of brains, finesse, and technique to go with the brawn. Dobler adds width to the already-considerable mean streak this unit boasts.
Key Offensive Reserves
Who knew Peyton Manning was so influential? Good thing Bob Harris is a sci-fi buff.
- Barry Sanders and Payton: See Moss, Randy and Rice, Jerry.
- Marshawn Lynch: The ability to generate earthquakes is a super power that might come in handy.
- Peyton Manning : Does that forehead remind you of anybody?
- Calvin Johnson: doh
- Terrell Owens
- Lance Alworth
- Todd Christensen: Smart, tough, productive and a character that stood out in a locker room full of them.
- Bruce Matthews: Capable of playing any position across the line — and doing it well.
FSWA Hall of Famer Bob Harris is the inspiration for countless fantasy writers. You can (and should) follow him on Twitter at @Footballdiehard.