T-minus 48 hours until the 2016 Olympics kick off in Rio de Janeiro in what is sure to be the most disastrously entertaining games the world has ever seen. Team USA looks to continue their usual international dominance on the court, the pitch, the track, and in the poop water, but what if the gridiron was included as well? What if in some parallel universe the IOC voted to make American Football an actual Olympic sport? What would that team look like?
In the spirit of international competition and also because I have too much time on my hands, I decided to put together a hypothetical roster of America’s best and brightest football talent to compete for a gold medal on sport’s biggest imaginary stage.
A couple things:
- America has a history of not always sending professionals to compete internationally (i.e. the pre-Dream Team basketball era), but this roster has been assembled under the assumption that Uncle Sam has decided to take off the white gloves and come at the world with everything we’ve got.
- American Football is actually played on an international stage with each team allowed 45 available non-professional roster spots, however I was unable to confirm that number and since the NFL is the measuring stick of all American Football and because whittling the worthy down to 53 was hard enough, the NFL’s standard 53 available roster spots is what we’re rolling with.
- The roster was assembled under the assumption that every player selected is willing to miss training camp and brave disease, toxic water conditions, theft, and the possibility of potential murder for the chance to win America’s first ever football gold medal.
With that said, let’s get right to it.
Tom Brady – Did you really expect anyone else to be starting under center for Team USA? In addition to being probably the greatest QB to ever lace ‘em up, Brady embodies everything the rest of the world thinks about your stereotypical American man. A tall, unbelievably good looking, rich, super-model wife having, red blooded winner. Love him or hate him, it’s tough to picture an American football Dream Team without Brady at the helm and his hoodie clad overlord patrolling the sidelines.
Aaron Rodgers – There are plenty of QB’s out there capable of posting big numbers. There are a handful of guys who are capable of winning an MVP trophy, and there are even fewer guys who are gonna be at the top of that list year in and year out. Aaron Rodgers is certainly one of those guys. In fact, Rodgers is still probably the most talented QB in the NFL right now. Not the most accomplished, not the biggest or the fastest, but no one has shown to have a better combination of arm strength, accuracy, mobility, decision making, and overall feel for the game longer than Rodgers. See exhibit A:
Ben Roethlisberger – Let’s just get this out there, I HATE Ben Roethlisberger. As a Bengals fan, I’ve seen him wreak havoc on my team far too many times, not to mention he’s a shit human being. Having said that, if this were an episode of “Game of Thrones” and I was facing a trial by combat where I needed to win one football game to continue walking this Earth, I still might be picking Big Ben as my QB. The dude just wins football games and posts numbers at an alarming rate. All personal biases aside, he’s probably got another Super Bowl in him and will likely be a first ballot Hall of Famer regardless.
Side Note: Tough to keep reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton off the team, but at least one of these guys have started 9 of the last 15 Super Bowls with each getting at least one Lombardi Trophy. Not saying that Cam can’t or won’t end up doing that, but this is all about winning that gold medal and America has always had to make sacrifices to achieve a common goal. In 1941 Rosie didn’t really want to pick up a wrench and become a riveter and my boy Cam doesn’t want to be that guy who watches from home, but every team needs a camp arm to take a few snaps and hold some clipboards at tryouts before they become the full time starter at the 2020 games in Tokyo.
Adrian Peterson – The bell cow. Most people would agree that Peterson is one of the most talented and physically imposing runners to ever set foot on the field. Likewise, Peterson is going to be among the leaders in your fantasy league if he isn’t busy beating his kid with a stick. Not a whole lot else to add here. Just imagine some little squirt from Guatemala or some shit trying to step up and tackle AD in the 5 hole.
Todd Gurley – The slasher. Much like it’s considered cool to hate on Nickelback, it’s considered cool to hate on running backs being drafted in the first round. The modern game seems to have devalued the running back position, thus devaluing the need to select a running back high in the draft- unless that guy’s name is Todd Gurley. Gurley was as can’t miss as they get coming out of Georgia. So much so that a torn ACL didn’t stop him from being selected in the top ten and leading the league in runs over 20+ yards last season. At just the tender age of 22, Gurley may already be the best RB in the game.
LeVeon Bell – The third down back. LeVeon Bell will be Jamaal Charles when Jamaal Charles finally loses a leg due to injury. That just means that Bell is as complete of a back as they come and will account for a large part of his team’s offense for years to come. He can run, he can catch, and he can block. Basically everything you’re looking for out of a third down runner. And since Roger Goodell is getting ready to make sure Bell isn’t going to be doing much until October, the 2016 games in Rio would be a nice place to kill some time.
Mike Tolbert – Whatever position that Mike Tolbert plays. Not really a RB, but as close as you’re going to get to a true fullback in today’s game. Japan is surely going to stock their D-line full of former sumo wrestlers and those Eastern European guys eat steroids with their cereal, so Team USA is going to need themselves a bruiser that can move the pile, something that Tolbert excels at with the best rushing team in the league. Not to mention Tolbert actually logs some carries and catches the ball out of the backfield pretty effectively. Something I think more teams should adopt with their FB but I guess that’s why I’m sitting here writing hypothetical articles about fake football teams and not running an NFL front office.
Antonio Brown – Another Steeler I’ve seen faaaaaarrrr too much of yet can’t deny his prowess on the field even the slightest little bit. Statistically, Brown has put together the best three year stretch in the history of professional football. Not to mention he’s probably the most complete receiver in the game today. He’s got elite speed and quickness, can go deep, can go underneath, can run after the catch, and not to mention he’s an absolute hound in the return game.
Julio Jones – To be honest with you, I’m a bit of a Julio Jones truther. I think his numbers get inflated a bit because he’s the beneficiary of a shitty Falcons team that’s lost a lot on offense, but there’s still no doubt about what Julio can do on the gridiron. Julio is one of those guys you could have looked at in the sixth grade knew immediately was going to be a 5-star recruit and future first round draft pick. A condition more commonly referred to as “physical freak.”
Odell Beckham Jr. – OBJ is another one of the more complete receivers in the NFL. Beckham would probably be used more in a slot role on this team due to his speed, quickness, and ability to get up the field after the catch, and who can forget that OBJ is the ONLY football player in the history of the world to make a one handed touchdown catch per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Brandon Marshall – This spot was a tough toss up between B Marsh and Dez Bryant, but I gotta give the edge to Marshall. For being a big guy, Marshall excels in the short to mid-range passing game, but is also a big time red zone threat which really rounds out this receiving corps nicely. No shitty QB’s on this roster to throw under the bus. Also Marshall and Brown can get that Porsche bet started a few weeks ahead of schedule.
AJ Green – Biased? Yea, probably, but AJ Green has posted 1,000 yards and gone to the Pro Bowl every single year of his still young NFL career. The only other player to do that was a guy named Randy Moss. I checked out his Wikipedia page and apparently he was pretty good. Regardless of where AJ lands on your top receivers list, it’s tough to deny that AJ is the best deep ball, go up and get it threat in the league now that Detroit ruined Calvin Johnson’s career. Speaking of Calvin…
Calvin Johnson (Maybe) – Calvin insists he’s hung up the jockstrap for good, but let’s be honest, dude could still dominate the league if he just got healthy and linked up with a team not named the Lions. Team USA has plenty of firepower even without Megatron, but don’t forget the ’92 Dream Team extended an invite to Magic Johnson even after he revealed he was HIV positive. Expect this Dream Team to do the same for Calvin after spending his entire career in Detroit, which may be worse than the AIDS thing.
Rob Gronkowski – Perhaps no player on this team was more of a shoe in for a roster spot then Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is unquestionably the best player at his position and not giving Tom Brady his favorite target to throw to makes less sense than having the Olympics in Rio in the first place. Not to mention the party videos from Gronk coming out of the Olympic Village would be the stuff of legends.
Greg Olsen – Guys like Gronk, Tyler Eifert, and Travis Kelce get all the shine, but Olsen’s career has been as solid as his beard game. Olsen has emerged as Cam Newton’s favorite target, posting over 800 yards in four straight seasons as well as proving to be a force in the league’s number one running game. The former 7th Floor Crew member and his third leg should also provide some veteran leadership to an otherwise young tight end corps.
Jordan Reed – With Tyler Eifert hurt and Travis Kelce busy with new dating shows, Jordan Reed gets the nod for the last TE spot, although it might have been his regardless. When Reed isn’t hurt himself, the guy posts MAJOR numbers. At least that’s what my fantasy scoreboard tells me. Every time I see the Skins play (which admittedly isn’t much), it’s Reed running and people chasing.
Joe Thomas – Thomas is, and has always been, widely considered the best offensive tackle, and maybe the best offensive lineman in all of football. Naturally, that makes the six time All Pro selection a shoe in for a spot on the roster. Unfortunately for Joe, he’s had to spend his career in Cleveland, but a shot at gold in 2016 should make up for that. Luckily for Thomas, the adjustment to the poor water conditions in Rio shouldn’t be much of a factor considering his proximity to the Cuyahoga River for the past nine seasons.
Tyron Smith – If Joe Thomas is the incumbent as the best tackle in the game, then Tyron Smith is the young buck looking to take the crown. Jerry Jones has built a monster offensive line down there in Big D and Smith has been a monumental part of their success. Linemen don’t get much bigger and more athletic than Smith and if Pro Bowl defensive ends have their hands full with Smith, then one can only imagine the problems he might pose on the international scene.
Andrew Whitworth – Outside of the Queen City, Big Whit doesn’t get nearly the kind of love and respect deserved out of a lineman who consistently posts some of the best pass blocking numbers of anyone in the game. The only way Team USA doesn’t cruise to gold is if injuries start piling up and morale starts suffering. Whitworth is about as solid as they come and will make sure the signal callers stay upright and their jerseys stay clean.
Jason Peters – No one is arguing that Peters’ best days as a football player are behind him, but Jason Peters has had about as good of a career as an offensive tackle as anyone in recent memory. While the pass blocking has declined a bit, the giant Peters is still a force in the running game and should be able to toss around the competition in short yardage situations.
Marshal Yanda – It’s no secret that the key to winning games in the AFC North rests in the ability to control the line of scrimmage and pound the rock, and perhaps no guard is more of a force in today’s game than Mr. Yanda. Yanda possesses outstanding explosiveness off the line and plays with excellent body control not indicative of an interior offensive lineman.
Zack Martin – Much like his teammate Tyron Smith, Zack Martin is an integral piece of what is widely considered the best offensive line unit in all of football. Martin is two for two in Pro Bowl appearances for his first two seasons. The last Cowboy to do that: Emmitt Smith, who was also a pretty good player according to his Wikipedia page.
David DeCastro – Speaking of the AFC North, David DeCastro knows all about getting down and dirty in the trenches. DeCastro has pretty much been one of the best guards in the NFL since entering the league in 2012, and it’s blatantly obvious that the Steelers high powered offense isn’t nearly as potent when he and center Mike Pouncey aren’t on the field. That isn’t a coincidence.
Richie Incognito – America didn’t become the greatest super power the world has ever known by being the nice guy on the block. Sometimes you have to get dirty and do things like spend more money on the military than most other developed nations combined, or bully big fat pussies out of the locker room before finding a nice little career resurgence in Buffalo. Richie hasn’t always had the greatest reputation off the field, but no one is denying that Incognito’s play at the guard position is still considered among the best in the game.
Richie has no time for individuals of any creed or color that stand in the way of Old Glory and that celebratory 24 karat medallion.
Ryan Khalil – Carolina has been one of the best running teams in the league dating all the way back to the Thunder & Lightning days. Guys like Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Cam Newton naturally get all the credit, but a good line is built from the inside out and Khalil leads the way for 2015’s top rated rushing team.
Nick Mangold – The casual NFL fan can name dozens of running backs, quarterbacks, and wide receivers, but ask that same fan to name a few centers and the list gets considerably shorter. One guy on that list just about everyone knows, however, is Jets center Nick Mangold. Much like Peters at the tackle position, Mangold’s days in the sun are far behind him, but his leadership and likability are as strong as ever. Mangold’s veteran presence will be key for some of the younger lineman and his role on the roster will be understated yet important a la Coach K’s token Duke guy who always seems a way to crack the USA Basketball roster.
That’s it for the offense. Stay tuned for Part II, the defense, coming soon.