NFL's 10 most interesting men

Posted Aug. 23, 2010 @ 8:28 a.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

I don't recycle column ideas triggered by consistently clever beer-advertising campaigns very often, but when I do, I prefer those savvy Dos Equis ads featuring the suave, bearded guy referred to as (brief pause) "The most interesting man in the world."

I'm pretty sure I just recently heard a brand-new Dos Equis commercial on the radio, and I'm proud to report that the content continues to bring a smile to my bearded face with every quip.

With that in mind, the time seems right for my personal take on the 10 most interesting men in the NFL with the regular season fast approaching.

In reverse order, they are as follows:

10. QB Tim Tebow / Broncos

When I first got up close and personal with Tebow at the National Scouting Combine in late February, I thought he was the real deal right away — at least in terms of the way he came across in his initial full-scale encounter with the pro football media on a national stage.

Josh McDaniels and the Broncos certainly believed he was the real deal, raising eyebrows to the rafters when they made the University of Florida folk hero their second of two first-round picks with the 25th overall selection in the 2010 draft.

I have been fascinated by the cult following Tebow appears to have so quickly earned, with all those adoring "Tebowmaniacs" making their presence felt at the Broncos' training camp, his current third-string status notwithstanding.

Just how fast a track is Tebow running on in pursuit of the Broncos' No. 1 QB job? If he keeps on running as recklessly as he did in Denver's preseason opener, when, true to his form at Florida, he appeared to suffer bruised ribs on the game's final play after steamrolling Bengals S Kyries Hebert, maybe not too fast.

But even if he remains a third-stringer the entire season, which I highly doubt, Tebow's uniquely genuine magnetism promises to maintain my interest well into early January.      

9. Owner Al Davis / Raiders

What's this? Could it actually be possible that, after reaching the ripe old age of 81 on the Fourth of July, Davis is starting to make sense again?

That has not been the case seemingly forever with Davis, whose frequently bizarre management style has been primarily responsible for turning the Raiders into a pitiful laughingstock in recent times.

But heading into the 2010 campaign, the Raiders actually look like they could be turning the corner toward being respectable again.

ILB Rolando McClain looks like a terrific first-round draft pick who could make the Raiders faithful quickly forget all those No. 1 reaches that made Davis look so silly.

New QB Jason Campbell looks like a dramatic upgrade under center, although Davis might have overdone it a bit comparing Campbell to Jim Plunkett.

But I'm thoroughly enjoying Davis and the Raiders slowly but surely appearing to be relevant again, even though I know full well that I could wake up tomorrow to the news that Tom Cable has inexplicably been given his walking papers.   

8. QB Matt Leinart / Cardinals

There are a host of players throughout the league with big shoes to fill, but nobody is filling any bigger shoes than Leinart, who faces the thankless job of replacing future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

It won't help that Warner will remain very much in the mainstream via his new football-commentator gig with Fox and his upcoming "Dancing With the Stars" appearance.

To hear Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt tell it, Leinart is well-equipped to handle the challenge, in no small part due to the tutoring he received from Warner.

But Leinart could be hard-pressed to satisfy a fan base that continues to have a hard time getting over the well-documented Internet images of Leinart doing beer bongs and frolicking in hot tubs with co-eds instead of studying the playbook and working at perfecting his craft.

Will a much more mature Matt Leinart keep the Cardinals atop the NFC West? That's a very interesting question.

7. QB Tony Romo / Cowboys

For starters, he has one of the best names ever for a football player, conjuring up visions of a Vegas high roller with high-powered mob connections. But what really makes Romo an NFL high roller of the highest order are his connections with arguably the league's most naturally talented collection of players.

Adding to the star power that surrounds Romo is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is guaranteed to be in an ornery mood should his team crash and burn in the playoffs again. Should that happen, the amount of blame Jones would put on Romo — who has been a very good QB for a while now but not quite good enough to rank with the likes of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning — could be considerable.

On the other hand, should Romo lead the Cowboys into a Super Bowl in Cowboys Stadium, of all places, nobody will be sitting any prettier, especially considering all the gorgeous starlets likely to be fawning over Romo's every move.      

6. Owner Jim Irsay / Colts

Why Irsay at No. 6? It's pretty simple.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, he's going to reach into his deep pockets and make Colts QB Peyton Manning the richest player in the league.

Tell me you're not interested in just how rich is rich, taking into account the NFL's increasingly tenuous financial structure courtesy of a Collective Bargaining Agreement gone bad.

5. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

With all the tension created by the very real threat of a lockout in 2011, it will be interesting to see how the NFL's No. 1 public-relations man holds up, especially the closer we get to the deadline for a new CBA.

Will "The Sheriff" get shot down if he suddenly softens his iron grip on the league's personal-conduct policy? For example, if he reduces Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger's suspension from six games to four, which more than a few observers are already predicting, how much of an uproar would there be?

From the moment he took over for Paul Tagliabue, I've been a big Goodell booster, and I continue to believe that, after all is said and done, he will somehow manage to pull a rabbit out of his hat and spearhead an acceptable new labor agreement, even though the owners and the players' union seem miles apart at the moment.

4. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz / Bears

It could be that I have Martz too high on my interest meter, but because he is currently operating near PFW's home base in the Windy City's northern suburbs, the Bears' new offensive coordinator with the glittering track record has become impossible to ignore.

Although the Chicago media wouldn't mind it at all if Martz addressed them with a little more regularity than he has up to now, the fact he isn't afraid to speak his mind every time he opens his mouth couldn't be more refreshing, considering the consistent lack of substance in Lovie Smith's so-called interviews since becoming the Bears' head coach.

Martz's freewheeling, high-risk, high-reward offensive style offers another refreshing change of pace for a team that couldn't have been more lackluster last season, even with the cannon-armed Jay Cutler under center.

Even though I think the Bears might have a hard time finishing .500 in the same division with the Packers and Vikings, Martz will still make them very interesting to watch.

3. Head coach Mike Singletary / 49ers

Talk about intrigue.

On the one hand, the Niners have become worthy of newfound respect, establishing themselves as the favorites in the NFC West after years of turning mediocre football into an art form.

On the other hand, weird occurrences have been the order of the day this offseason in Niners Nation, beginning with the mysterious departure of GM Scot McCloughan. RB Glen Coffee's sudden decision to trade in his shoulder pads for a higher calling created the most recent bizarre Niners buzz.

Is there just something in the Bay Area air that guarantees the Niners will somehow find a way to shoot themselves in the foot? Or will the straight-shooting, God-fearing Hall of Famer Singletary continue proving his detractors wrong and lead the Niners to pro football's promised land, no matter how many pratfalls stand in the way?

I can't wait to find out.

2. QB Brett Favre / Vikings

He turns 41 in October and is coming off one of his better seasons in a career that is guaranteed to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Entering his 20th season, he is coming back from left ankle surgery this past May, one month after his 21-year-old daughter Brittany gave birth to his first grandchild.

Without him on the roster, many leaguewide observers would have instantly labeled the Vikings as also-rans. However, with Favre on the roster, the Vikes are widely considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders, even though his ill-timed interception late in the fourth quarter against the Saints in the NFC championship game ended his '09 season on a most discouraging note.

He is Brett Favre — the most interesting player in the NFL, whether you like him or not.

1. Head coach Rex Ryan / Jets

Who needs Tony Soprano? Cable television and the National Football League have a new superstar in Ryan, an irreverent son of a gun if there ever was one, who continues to capture the fancy of pro football watchers far and wide.

Suffice to say, the undeniably wholesome Tony Dungy was far from enamored with Ryan after watching him hurl one F-bomb after another on the HBO series "Hard Knocks," which is setting the table for future fiery shenanigans from the Jets' loosey-goosey head coach.

But Ryan was far from enamored with Dungy's reaction and went out of his way the other day to clear the air in a "man to man" conversation that included an invitation for Dungy to visit the Jets' facility.

To me, Ryan is pro football's answer to major-league baseball's Ozzie Guillen, displaying a flair for grabbing the limelight with an equally brash demeanor well-suited for a major media market.

He makes me laugh and wince at the same time, and he is never, ever boring. If I had a Dos Equis handy, I wouldn't hesitate to propose a toast to Rex Ryan, my no-brainer No. 1 "most interesting" man.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

 

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