Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Must Be the Genes: Top 10 NFL Families

After watching Oregon's linebacker Casey Matthews running from sideline-to-sideline in last night's National Championship game, it got me thinking, what other families out there have produced great football players, considering Matthews is likely on his way to the NFL just like every other man in his long list of family members. Oregon may have lost the game, but to me the play of the game was when Matthews stripped Auburn's Heisman winner Cam Newton of the ball late in the fourth to give the Ducks another shot. It wasn't his fault the offense couldn't produce.

So here it is, my top 10 list of NFL families (including both players and coaches)...

10. Payton's: Walter, Jarrett

Walter "Sweetness" Payton passed his family genes on to his son, Jarrett, after his death at the age of 45 in 1999. Walter, as we all are well aware of, is a Hall of Fame running back for the Chicago Bears whom retired from the game in 1987 as the league's all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards and 110 TDs in 13 seasons. The nine-time Pro Bowler won the Super Bowl under Mike Ditka in 1985 and was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. His No. 34 jersey has been retired by the Chicago Bears. Jarrett, on the other hand, didn't come close to matching his father's accomplishments. After just one season in 2005 with the Tennessee Titans (33 attempts, 105 yards, 2 TDs), Jarrett was out of the league. Walter's genes may not have been passed on successfully, but the Payton's still squeeze on to this list because of what Walter accomplished in the league.

9. Shula's: Don, Dave, Mike

Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula is the league's all-time leader in victories (347) and led his Miami Dolphins to a perfect, undefeated 14-0 season in 1972. He won a second consecutive Super Bowl the following season. He has coached teams to seven conference championships and has fallen just short of four more Super Bowls. His two sons, David and Mike, obviously weren't quite as successful, but his elder son Dave (51) was head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals from 1992-1996, though his stint was very unsuccessful (compiled a record of 19-53). Mike is the current quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and was head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide from 2003-06.
8. Hasselbeck's: Don, Matt, Tim

Don, the father, played tight end for 10 seasons with four different teams in the late '70s to early-to-mid '80s. His best season was in 1981 with the Patriots in which he caught 46 balls for 808 yards and six touchdowns. Fortunately, his eldest son Matt made the Hasselbeck name a little more well-known. The three-time Pro Bowler was a backup to the legendary Brett Favre for a short time in Green Bay before getting his chance to shine in Seattle in 2001. With a 63-54 career record in Seattle, Hasselbeck has led the Seahawks to six postseason appearances (including this season) and a Super Bowl appearance. He didn't get the ring like he was hoping to in 2005, but just getting Seattle there for the first time in the franchise's history is quite an accomplishment. Tim, Matt's younger brother, didn't share the same kind of success as Matt, sadly, as he put up a 1-4 career record in four seasons with four different teams. He has, however, made a name for himself in the media world as an ESPN NFL analyst.

7. Ronnie Lott/Ryan Nece

Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott (San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets) posted solid numbers for 14 seasons, being selected to ten Pro Bowls, six first-team All Pros and picking off nine interceptions in seven postseason games (not including Super Bowls) and captured four Super Bowl rings. Lott's son, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Ryan Nece, is currently a free agent and hasn't played a game since 2008, but he put up decent numbers in seven seasons with the Buccaneers and Lions (204 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 INTs, 10 PDs in 45 starts).

6. Simms': Phil, Chris

Phil Simms is a two-time Super Bowl champion and a one-time Super Bowl MVP winner as the quarterback of the New York Giants from 1979-93. Simms has made a name for himself as a broadcaster for CBS over the years, pairing up with Jim Nantz in the booth. Simms finished his 14-year pro career with a 95-64 record as New York's starter and a 6-4 playoff record. His son Chris didn't get as much attention in his five-year career with three different teams. He is currently the backup quarterback in Tennessee and has posted a career 69.1 QB rating in 16 NFL starts. His life-threatening spleen injury at the beginning of the 2006 season while in Tampa Bay may be what he has gotten the most publicity for.
5. Long's: Howie, Chris

Howie Long, Oakland Raiders' defensive end, played 13 seasons and was selected to 8 Pro Bowls and two first-team All Pros. In five career postseason games, Long recorded four sacks despite his Raiders going just 2-3 in those games. Long was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000. Howie is another former player who has made a living in the media as well as on the field, he is currently an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. His son, Chris Long (also a defensive end), was drafted second overall by the St. Louis Rams in 2008 NFL draft after playing his college ball at Virginia. In his first three NFL seasons, Chris has played in all 48 games and put up solid numbers: 92 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 5 FF.

4. Winslow's: Kellen Sr., Kellen Jr.

Both Winslow's were drafted in the first round of their respected draft classes, and played/play tight end in the National Football League. Only difference between the two? Kellen Sr. was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after catching 541 passes and being selected to five Pro Bowls in nine seasons for the San Diego Chargers. In his first six seasons in the league, Kellen II has been a one-time Pro Bowler, but has finally humbled himself after making a huge mistake early on in his career (violated his contract by riding a motorcycle; crashed it and missed a full season as a result of the crash in 2005).
3. Ryan's: Buddy, Rex, Rob

This family tree has produced three well-known NFL head coaches. As head coach, the father, Buddy Ryan, put up a record of just 55-55-1 in his seven seasons at the helm in Philly and Arizona (three winning seasons, all with Eagles). But it was as the New York Jets' linebackers coach (1968-75) and the Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator (1978-85) in which he gained all his fame, and his two Super Bowl rings--'69 Jets, '85 Bears. Buddy was known for creating the 46 defense while in Chicago, and by 1982 he had perfected the 46 defense.

Buddy ended up having twin sons, both of whom also made a name for themselves in the coaching realm. Rex won a ring while in the Baltimore Ravens organization from 1999-08 before leaving Baltimore to take the New York Jets' head coaching vacancy. It was there where he became known as the smack-talker, always making headlines for things he says about opposing teams and, in general, having some pretty funny press conferences. Rob, a much more quiet guy than Rex, has never taken a job as head coach, but he was New England's linebackers coach from 2000-03 where he won two rings. He has been a defensive coordinator in the league since 2004, and is currently interviewing for possible head coaching jobs. By far the best family for NFL coaches.

2. Manning's: Archie, Peyton, Eli

Archie was elected to two Pro Bowls and had a healthy 15-year career with three different teams (Saints, Oilers, Vikings), but his numbers were no where near getting him to the Hall, and he never even participated in a playoff game throughout his prolonged career. Career record? 35-101-3. His rating on the day he retired from the game? 67.1. He threw for 125 touchdowns, but also 173 career interceptions. He was the "face of the franchise" of New Orleans back when they were referred to as the 'Aints.

Luckily for Archie, two of his three sons went on to win Super Bowl championships, and Super Bowl MVP awards, in back-to-back seasons. The elder of the two, Peyton, is known as one of the smartest quarterbacks in the game today, and was the first to win a championship when he led his Colts over the Bears in 2006. The following year, Eli, whom also attended Ole Miss as a quarterback, just like Archie, led his Giants to one of the greatest upsets in league history by defeating the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Even Cooper, Archie's eldest son, was a solid football player. He played receiver at Ole Miss.
1. Matthews': Clay Sr., Clay Jr., Bruce, Clay III, Kevin, Casey (LB at Oregon)

Forget the Manning's, the Matthews have by far the best football genes out there. Clay Matthews Sr. was the first to reach the National Football League, playing four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers on both the offensive and defensive line. From 1950-55 Matthews Sr. played in 45 games for the Niners. A year after his retirement, his son Clay Jr. was born. Clay Jr., a four-time Pro Bowler for the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons for 19 years, retired from the game in 1996 with 1,561 career tackles and 16 interceptions. Clay Jr.'s little brother, Bruce, born five years after Clay, played 19 seasons as well. Bruce, an offensive lineman for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans was elected to 14 Pro Bowls and a seven-time first team All Pro in 292 starts at guard, tackles and center. As one of the most dominant offensive lineman in league history, Bruce was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, just six years after his retirement from the game.

The family lineage does not end here, though. Both Bruce and Clay Jr. each have a son who is currently in the league. Bruce has a 23-year old son, Kevin, who is a center for the Titans after signing with them as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M. His other son, Casey, is a linebacker for the Oregon Ducks, who just fell to the Auburn Tigers in last night's national championship. Clay's son, Clay III, is a pretty well known linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. In his second pro season, Matthews was elected to his second Pro Bowl this season.

People seem to want to call the Manning's the best family in football, but I beg to differ. (Note: Unfortunately, the photo above only shows Clay Jr., Bruce and Clay III).

Honorable Mentions:

--Tatupu's: Mosi, Lofa
--Griese's: Bob, Brian
--Phillips: Bum and Wade
--Moss's: Santana, Sinorice
--Bailey's: Champ, Boss
--Metcalf's: Terry, Eric

Photo Credit
All photos in article belong to the AP, and can be found on NFL.com.

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