Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Edge of Reason

I should be slapped for daring to reference a cheap chick flick (and a sequel at that!) in a post about one of the toughest, best players to ever wear the horseshoe on his helmet, but whatever. It has come to my attention that some Colts fans don't hold fond memories of Edgerrin James. The knocks on Edge seem to be among the following:

1. He didn't have enough power to pick up short yardage plays
2. He was selfish and only cared about stats
3. He was a mercenary who left the Colts for a big pay day
4. He wasn't clutch
5. He was cocky and full of himself.
6. His lack of production in AZ proves he wasn't a great player
7. He wasn't a Hall of Fame player.

Let it be known that I couldn't possibly disagree more with this assessment. Perhaps the most unfair comments are the ones aimed at his character. Edge was one of the hardest working, hardest playing Colts ever. Manning said of him after he signed with the Cardinals:

"It's been different when you'd had a guy behind you for seven years. You start to get accustomed to it. Edgerrin James has been one of the best teammates I've ever had in my entire football career," Manning said.

"We won't be teammates anymore, but we'll still be friends. But I'm sad about not being teammates anymore. That's kind of where the business side of the game comes into play. Arizona took great care of him, and I'm happy about that."

He was gracious when he left Indy, and didn't have unkind words for anyone, showing up at the Super Bowl to root on the Colts. He challenged Matt Leinart to work hard to elevate his game to that of Peyton Manning. He described his time with Manning this way:

James says Manning forced players to come up to his level if they wanted the ball; James is trying to bring the same sense of urgency to Arizona. "P wasn't going to throw it to you if you weren't open," he says. "You always had to be on your game. Absence creates that. If you don't have that ball, then you have more respect for it. When it comes your way, you want to do more with it.

Edge wasn't a jerk or lazy or anything other than a player who left his body and soul on the turf at RCA. As of today, he has gained more yards from scrimmage than any active NFL player. He is 12th all time, and if he sees the field at all this year or next, he'll likely finish in the top 8 all time. He's 8th all time in most rushing yards per game. He needs just 300 rushing yards to be 8th all time. He's a four time Pro Bowler and 2 time rushing champion, despite playing in a pass first offense. His career page is littered with reasons to recognize him as one of the great players of this age.

He was spectacular before his knee injury and incredibly consistent after it. The Colts struggled in short yardage situations during his tenure, but Edge still posted record setting success rate numbers. He was a hard hitting runner, and allowed the Colts to function with a below average line for many years. Between his hard running and Manning's quick release, the Colts didn't need a great line to have success.

The only bad thing about Edge was that he never wanted to come off the field. That's a hard thing to criticize a player for. The Colts found success with two backs after Edge left, but that isn't Edge's fault. He wanted to play. And he he did. He was a savage blocker on passing downs, as well as a consistent threat out of the backfield. It was these qualities that endeared him to his teammates.

Edge didn't hold out and gripe when the Colts put the franchise tag on him. He knew he was done in Indy after that year, but still posted more than 1500 yards, averaging more than 100 yards a game. Polian had no interest in resigning a 28 year old RB for premium money, when he was faced with a great RB draft in 2006. Edge's struggles with the Cardinals said more about how terrible that team was than it did about his true skill. Most RBs start to decline in their late 20s (just look at LT). Edge managed to get his big payday before it was too late. Everyone seemed happy for him.

Let me end this ode to the Edge with this quote from an Arizona Central story:

Sometimes, Edgerrin James can be a bit bashful. Like when it comes to talking about his kids (he won't do it). Or when it's time to talk about his new Super Bowl ring, the one he recently received from his previous team in Indianapolis.

"I wanted to keep that a secret," James said.

Understandable. The ring is a symbol of the past. It brings up uncomfortable topics, like how the Colts won a championship without him. It reinforces conventional wisdom, and how it's unwise to spend big dollars on prime-time running backs, like the Cardinals did with James.

But you know what else it says?

It says that James really mattered in Indianapolis, and that the Colts openly recognize that they couldn't have won a title without him.

"Peyton (Manning) tells me all the time that, in the 19 to 20 years he's been playing football, Edgerrin James is the best teammate he's ever had," said former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli. "The one regret they all have is that they couldn't have won while (James) was still there."

In a coldhearted business like the NFL, that is the ultimate compliment.

You can't read that quote and not realize that this was a special player. I gave Demond a helmet signed by James and Manning for Christmas one year. It's not dated or passe at all. It's a symbol of the rise of the Colts. Edge James is a Colt forever in our hearts. I hope he makes it back into blue and white before it's all over. I hope I can make it to Canton when he's enshrined.

Links:
Shake does a great job defending the Dungy Era in Tampa, and Dungy in general. Fine work.

Big Blue goes Ricardo Montebaum on us. Since I've been letting my 4 year old watch "The Arena" all week, I can freely admit that I love the reference.

27 comments:

Julio Queiroz said...

Even in AZ last year he had pretty solid numbers. Edge is a real Colt, and I agree with everything here.

Demond Sanders said...

Well said. I'm glad you brought out those quotes. This was a very quality guy. It is sad to see people suddenly bashing on 2 of the 3 triplets. I hope this kind of stuff doesn't happen to Peyton, 5 years from now.

Edge has gotten three carries in the past three weeks. He deserves better than that. Maybe in some great irony he'll be fresh and make some key plays in January for the Cardinals.

Anonymous said...

Arizona's idea is that if Tim Hightower gets jacked up, Edge will be there to fill the void...

The problem is, after benching him because you somehow feel he isn't producing at all, why would he really want to come out and play hard for you after you told him that you think he sucks and can't do shit for your team?

Ken Wisenhunt is a dick, I hope to see the Cards get obliterated in the Playoffs by someone. Warner throw a couple of duck picks and fumble a few times before being smooshed like a bug and have to be taken out. That'd be hilarious: Warner and Hightower go down, and it's up to Matt Leinart and Edge to save their season.

Times like these, I get beside myself on things. As a Colts thankful the Titans didn't take Leinart, and yet as a USC fan, torn they didn't. Seeing him languish on the bench because the ownership of Arizona is retarded is exactly what's wrong with the NFL. Oh well, if he goes somewhere and "has a resurgence" as they say on ESPN, I'll be happy.

Man, how trippy would it be to see Edge, Addai, and Dom at running back for the Horse next year? If, hypothetically, he gets released and he doesn't want a gob stopper amount of money.

Bob M. said...

A THOROUGHLY KICK-ASS PIECE.

Worthy of national publication in a major sports mag/nerspaper. (and I don't mean this as a tongue in cheek insult because often national publications feature no-talent hack-jobs)

One small possible oversight, but when Edge left Indy, he was #1 all time just ahead of Jim Brown in total yards from scrimmage per game. Since then his numbers dipped and LT's rose (then again, LT might have hurt that silly stat this year). But being ahead of Jim Brown in any football category for one's career is might impressive. One could argue his numbers dipped because AZ bit the big one (not his fault) or because of age (not really his fault but since every RB faces it, you might as well blame each of them, including Edge). So I could see wanting to leave that "stat" out.

As for a return, I am afraid Mister 32 is still too talented and has too much gas left in his tank to take a 10-touches per game job. Some might see it as an easy payday for minimal work but he strikes me as the type who does 100% work, or 0%, and nothing in between. If he takes a new job, it will be to compete for a starting gig.

I'd still love for him to retire with a blue horse shoe on his hat.

Also, thanks for finding the exact PM quote--I have been mischaracterizing it the past couple years as "the best [implied single] team mate ever" and not one of the best. BFD.

Anonymous, my impression of Edge is that he always plays hard and is a true professional. He never played "me" games at Indy. His classic response to questions about that shit were "I'm a baller. I play ball." The implications were, let the agents and lawyers figure out the contract and political stuff.

Anonymous said...

Great piece.

I love Edge.

Peyton also mentioned after winning the Superbowl that it was the entire Colts organization - PAST players and present - that won the championship. I couldn't help but think he was referring to Edge. (and Stokley)

Adam said...

Honestly, I can't see the Colts carrying 4 RBs next season (Addai, Edge, Rhodes, and Hart), but it's a nice thought.

Great piece, BTW. If only the MSM actually wrote interest pieces instead of crap, they'd be better off.

Have we had any Roy Hall sightings lately? He's dropped off the radar.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Don't assume Hart will ever see daylight again. Boarder line players don't always come back from injuries like the one he has.

But yeah, Edge won't be here next year. But I do hope someday.

Hall is hurt. Phil B basically says he's invisible. The team keeps him around because he's a good ST player if he ever gets healthy. I doubt he ever sees the field again either.

Robert I. said...

Incredible piece Deshawn. Like you and many other Colt fans, I hope he comes back and plays for Indy again before Edge decides to hang it up. Other people may not admit it, but he is one of the greatest RB's of all time.

Demond Sanders said...

My thoughts exactly, DZ. We never saw James Mungro again after he blew out his knee.

Obviously Polian and company would have to see Edge as an upgrade over Dom Rhodes, which he probably still is. There's no reason to rule it out.

Scott P. said...

Excellent article. I always felt that Edge could've been one of the very best RB's ever & his numbers have proven that. As Bob said, Edge always played hard & was a true professional here in Indy...that's why his request for a release was surprising.

While it is a bitter pill to swallow for any player, if the Coach says you're second-string now, then you've got to swallow your pride, keep working hard & be ready when you're called on. And that is especially true if your team is winning games with a probable home-date in the playoffs. Every team needs 2 or 3 good RB's due to injuries & the long season, so the Cardinals will probably need Edge to come in & play well sometime in the next 2 months. I hope he gets his mind right & gets the job done when his team needs him.

Deshawn Zombie said...

2nd string is one thing. They don't play him AT ALL. That's not cool. This isn't Dom behind Joe. This is Dom behind Edge. He's had what...3 carries in two games? Not cool. I don't blame him. It's hard to feel like part of the team if they don't want to use you at all.

Colts Girl said...

Okay, so this was a really good piece that included a lot of stuff that I hadn't heard before and wasn't aware of. I'm not saying that I'm now Edge's biggest fan, but this definitely sheds a different light on him than that which I've understood him by in the past. Thanks.

And your writing is excellent. As a former high school English teacher and current freelance writer, I am really impressed. Really impressed. I've always been impressed by the research, background, and writing capabilities you guys have, but this particular entry is tremendous. Really excellent.

I hope that didn't come off as condescending because I meant it as a straight-up compliment.

Deshawn Zombie said...

I always appreciate a complement.

I'll have you know that once we got a PC with spell check, I got straight A's in high school English.

Most of my favorite people are (were) high school English teachers.

If I ever get my book written, I'll be sure to pimp it here first.

chipbennett said...

I didn't need to read past the accusation that Edge is "cocky" or "full of himself".

That (along with the rest of the accusations), is horse manure (pun intended).

Edge was (and will always be) a true Colt. I would love to see him wearing the 'shoe again (though I know it isn't likely ever to happen).

Real Colts fans know what Edge meant to this team, and we will always love Edge.

Bob M. said...

Well done, Shake. You might also add the fact that while in indy Dungy's teams were among the 3 youngest 5 or 6 years. Think about that--"coaching up" a lot of rookies, and a lot of them undrafted.

slash196 said...

OK, that Super Bowl ring story almost brought a tear to my eye. I can still remember the power of the Triplets, all those gaudy numbers and great games and great sportsmen that played under the RCA dome, on top of the big blue horseshoe (standing on it remains one of the highlights of my life). And whether he's a HOF back is up for the Hall voters to decide. And I know that whatever Joseph Addai is, he ain't no Edge. So I'd like to temper, but not retract, my previous comments. I don't WANT to rip on Edge, but the single, overriding fact in my mind is that we won it all after replacing him and we never even came close with him on the roster. Is that his fault, per se? Not at all. Maybe he was just a victim of his own talent; he was too good to not overuse.

Jareb said...

I was at the game in Kansas City when Edge tore up his knee so I had no idea of the severity of the injury until I got home that night. I just remember being so pumped because we won that game in Arrowhead(I went to the game with a group of lifelong Chiefs fans) and then I get home and my girlfriend at the time tells me that Edge tore his ACL. It took all the wind out of my sails.

When Edge left there were no hard feelings from me, much like Dom he took the money when he could. There's nothing wrong with that in the NFL where your career could end on any down.

Justin Landon said...

The apocalypse is here...

Bill Simmons is quoted saying this in his Week #12 picks: "Peyton Manning has to be the MVP through 11 weeks."

Westside Rob said...

Finally back from the Left Coast, and I'm greeted by a great piece by DZ on Edge. The only thing I'm wondering is who has been "bagging" on the Edge to warrant the defense? I know I've been out of town for almost 2 weeks but was their a sudden resurgence in Edge Hating while I was gone?

Jacob Burch said...

I have learned today that my girlfriend--who attends UCSD--"strongly hints" that I should bring one of my Colts jerseys and should not expect to leave San Diego until later in the evening Sunday.

I'll be going with the authentic #87 I picked up after I met Mr.Dungy at the Colts Pro Shop when I visited Nap Town last summer. I'm 1-0 in Colts games going back to...last year, so let's have the streak continue!

Deshawn Zombie said...

No, no strawmen here. Just read the comments section from the Wednesday post.

Re: Jacob...wow, sweet dude.

Westside Rob said...

Wow, sorry I missed those comments on Wed. I actually managed to read that post from the road and read the the comments, but I checked it a few comments before Slash went ape sh$#% on Edge.

Colts Girl said...

Just one last thing on the topic of Edge.

I've just read back through everyone's comments both on this post and the one from Wednesday, and all I have to say is this: we can love the same team and have differing opinions about its players, management, strategy, or bathroom facilities. We can also have different impressions of people; that doesn't make one set of people jerks or morons for having their own opinions.

I've been a football fan for quite a while--since high school--but because I'm a girl (and not necessarily a particularly young one), I never had the opportunity to play football other than the occasional flag game. That puts me, unfortunately, behind the eightball a bit when it comes to making a call on certain aspects of the game. In the past three years or so, I have been watching football much more religiously as well as attending games, so I've been able to really see the effects of certain areas of play on other areas of play. It's a learning curve. Edge was a player for Indy before I had the understanding of the game that I now have--an understanding which is still not what I would like it to be.

Having read this post, I realized that there were more things going on the years of Edge's play than I realized as a once-a-week kind of football fan. Some of my assessments may not have been very accurate, but they were based on my understanding of the goings-on of the time.

So step off my back. It doesn't make me or anyone else a bad fan for having a different opinion. It doesn't make me an idiot for not knowing everything that goes on behind the scenes. Underinformed to speak with authority? Sure. But I only said that those were my impressions--not that I was the reigning expert.

Because I leave being the reigning expert to DZ and DS. That's why I looked forward to the Edge piece and why it was able to allow me to see him in a different light. They have the background, the understanding, and the resources to prove a point. I'm just an opinion. Or levity.

Looking forward to Sunday.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Don't take it personally, Colts Girl. The venom around these parts is much more reasonable than the insanity on most boards.

You hit on the key aspect though when you said you started going to games. That's what transforms your opinion of players. Going to games and then watching the tape is the best way to really learn about who is doing what. Most TV coverage is pretty lame, but there are still things you can't see live from the upper deck. When you see a RB stone a blitzer about two dozen times a year, you start to realize that he's sold out for the team and serious about winning. The TV guys might comment on it once in a while, but generally focus on the flash.

Having people flame you when you make a mistake goes with the territory whenever you post on line. I still lose sleep over the time I blasted Ask Vic about something and was dead wrong and he skewered me in his column. The only thing worse than getting called an idiot is getting called an idiot by a moron. We've all been there. When you're wrong...you just have to take the heat that comes with it.

For that reason I will eternally be grateful to Eli Manning, no matter what.

Colts Girl said...

Yeah, I've seen other boards. Yikes! That's why I'm here--it's friendly.

What we need is the return of the F-Pats rivalry venom so that we're not being cranky with one another--just with all the F-Pats fans! Now there's a loony bunch. :)

Anonymous said...

Colt girl,

good for you. My son plays on the high school team. I'm a former college player and college coach. Yet, my wife of 20 years sometimes starts chants of "de-fense" when we have the ball.

If you want to see where games are won and lost, watch the line play (focus on the guards and you'll pick up the rest). When you get a sense of which team is doing a better job of pass pro and run blocking, you will understand who will likely prevail by game's end. If you want to learn how QB's like 18 decide where to pass, watch the safeties and "feel" the patterns develop. You will quickly get a feel for where the QB is likely to go with the ball by "reading" the coverage through those safeties.

stan

Colts Girl said...

Thanks, Stan.

My husband played college ball, and that's where I really started to pick up a basic understanding. I was the go-to girl in my sorority for football understanding, if you can even imagine that--I knew what the penalties were, and that was about it.

I'm starting to not only recognize but also understand terminology like nickel defense and cover 2 (especially Tampa 2--can't follow Dungy without knowing that one...). Still, having never been on the field myself makes me slower to recognize who's where, and that frustrates me.

I thought the comment about your wife cheering de-fense was funny. At least she's cheering! :)