By Sam Frye Kienzle
The NFL season ends February 5th, as the New England Patriots take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
Stunning, surprising events have unfolded in the playoffs, like the Packers (15-1 in regular season) losing to the eventual NFC Champion New York Giants in the NFC Divisional round. One would think that Green Bay fans were more stunned and saddened than anything else, but who is actually surprised that the Giants–unfazed on the road over the years under head coach Tom Coughlin–made it to the Super Bowl yet again with a modest regular season record?
Over the past few years, the teams that punch their ticket to the playoffs in the final frantic games of the regular season have proven to be most dangerous. Teams like Pittsburgh (2006 playoffs), Green Bay (last year), and the Giants have twice now arrived at the Super Bowl after winning multiple games–if not all their games–on the road.
Only one team will be content going into the 2012 season. For everyone else, this time of the year is about contract extensions, trades, making Pro Bowl appearances, injury rehabilitation, and maybe taking a day cruise on Lake Minnetonka with some friends from Stiletto’s.
With the University of Iowa football team having 34 former players in the NFL (according to espn.com), we at KRUI Sports want to honor the Hawks who had some of the finer statistical performances of the year among their black and gold club members.
With apologies to those who’s impacts were more subtly felt on their respective team (Tyler Sash, small Giant projectile), here are some former Iowa Hawkeyes who produced the numbers (in alphabetical order):
Pat Angerer, Linebacker, Indianapolis: Angerer finished with 148 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and an interception for the 2-14 Colts. Angerer’s numbers will surely keep him in the league, especially for teams who’s main priority is stopping the run. Angerer was all over the field for the Colts in 2011–their record certainly not indicative of Angerer’s effort and contribution to the team.
Scott Chandler, Tight End, Buffalo: Before the 2011 season, journeyman tight end Scott Chandler had 1 catch for 8 yards before impacting the Bills in the highest. Bills’ head coach Chan Gailey discovered that Chandler’s height (6’7”) was most useful around the goal line and in short-yardage passing situations. Chandler could be considered a former Hawkeye/NFL Comeback Player of the Year after snaring 38 passes for 389 yards and 6 touchdowns. As a Hawkeye, Chandler was arguably nothing special compared to former tight ends like Dallas Clark, Tony Moeaki, and Brandon Myers, who played under Kirk Ferentz. It seems he has found his groove as a Bill, and now at least has some stats to sell to another team should he be traded.
Adrian Clayborn, Defensive End, Tampa Bay: Disappointed as Hawkeye fans were with Adrian Clayborn’s performance in 2010 (his senior year: sacks dropped from 11.5 in ’09 to 3.5 in 2010), it would be hard to convince Tampa Bay’s incoming coach Greg Schiano that Clayborn is not worth keeping around. As a rookie, Clayborn tallied 42 tackles, forced 3 fumbles, and produced 7.5 sacks for the underachieving Bucks. Schiano will expect more sacks from Clayborn, but overall it was an ingratiating rookie season for the defensive end.
Shonn Greene, Running Back, New York Jets: By his third season in the NFL–all with the New York Jets–Shonn Greene has finally had the type of season that most Hawkeye fans expect him to. Greene set career highs for rushes (253), yards (1,054), and touchdowns (6). Though perhaps meager numbers for a starting NFL rusher, the former Doak Walker award winner is just beginning his career in the league and could have used more help from a Jets offensive line that fizzled–a reflection of his team that finished 8-8. Fajitas sizzle, Alka-Seltzers fizzle. Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan knows as much.
Chad Greenway, Linebacker, Minnesota: The Vikings’ upper management can look at Chad Greenway as one of the safest first-round draft picks in the past decade for the organization. Yet again, Mr. Greenway led the team in tackles with 154 in 2011. Since coming back from a torn knee ligament at the beginning of his rookie season in 2006, Greenway has been piling up more tackles than anyone else on the team. And although he did not chip in any forced fumbles or interceptions, his nearly ten tackles per game were good enough to get him a Pro Bowl invitation as a substitute.
Karl Klug, Defensive Tackle, Tennessee: So many factors work against Klug in the NFL. He plays one of the most exertive positions in the NFL (defensive tackle, or any position on either line for that matter), he’s undersized for such a position, weighing in at 275 pounds. He is probably heavier than that, but is no where near the weight of flesh plugs B.J. Raji or Vince Wilfork. Add in the fact that he was a rookie in 2011, and most would accept a “learning” year from Klug. Not so, as Karl amassed 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles on 20 tackles for the Titans as a reserve tackle. What’s notable is that Klug played as a substitute and notched 7 sacks, which is high even for a starting defensive tackle.
Amari Spievey, Safety, Detroit: No observant football fan would confuse the 2011 Detroit Lions defense to, say, the 2011 defense of the Baltimore Ravens. That being said, Spievey turned in a solid second year in the league. He set career highs in tackles (70, which is on the high end for a defensive back) and interceptions (3). If the Lions don’t want to lean on Spievey to contain big plays down field, they should work on getting their linebackers and defensive lineman more tackles–which would naturally make them a better defense.
Casey Wiegmann, Center, Kansas City: Wiegmann did not make the Pro Bowl for this past season’s work, not even close, and Kansas City stumbled to a 7-9 record. Why is Wiegmann here? Because he’s the last Hawkeye in the NFL who played all of his college years for only Hayden Fry. Wiegmann finished 2011 as his 16th year in the league, and has some ridiculous records for consecutive snaps played. He could have played with Nile Kinnick on the 1939 Iron Man team, he’s that tough and durable. Wiegmann will likely retire this offseason, but don’t be surprised if he gives it one more year.
Marshal Yanda, Guard, Baltimore: Yanda is a hot commodity for the Ravens. Before the season started, he signed a nice contract extension. He thanked the Ravens for the deal with a season of results that earned him a starting Pro Bowl invitation. He’s the only Hawkeye in the NFL who made the Pro Bowl as a starter.
Elsewhere in the world, former Hawkeye cornerback Jovon Johnson won the Canadian Football League’s Defensive Player of the Year. The Winnipeg Blue Bomber trapped 8 interceptions (returned 2 for touchdowns) to go along with 53 tackles. Johnson is the first defensive back to ever take the defensive POY honor. His team lost to the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup this past November.
Former Hawkeye quarterback Drew Tate signed a contract extension with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. Tate took over the starting job for the last three regular season games, winning all of them, before losing in the first round of the CFL playoffs.
Now, here are some pictures of Kirk Ferentz shirtless.