Friday, November 30, 2018

The Franchise 9: Arizona Cardinals

I suppose this should be the St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals Franchise 9.  But since the team never changed its mascot through the cities it has inhabited during the Super Bowl Era, I'm only going to refer to them by their current incarnation.  The name aside, wow! this was a difficult team to choose.  There were about four team legends that absolutely had to make the cut, but there was a whole list of players who were around the same level.

1. Jim Hart, QB (1994 Ted Williams Roger Staubach's NFL)
When I started researching, Jim Hart was nowhere near the top of my mind.  I still feel somewhat like I may have slighted somebody to place Hart here, but I think the stats bear him out.  Consider the fact that he left the team in 1983--yet he is still the franchise leader in passing yards and touchdowns.  He is the team's approximate value leader overall, and Pro Football Reference ranks him in the top 150 of all NFL players all-time in weighted AV.  The Cardinals have retired 5 numbers in their history.  Three of those were of players who died during their playing career.  Of the other two, one played for the Chicago Cardinals, well before the era that I'm examining.  That means Jim Hart is the only Cardinal player to be honored entirely for his on-field play since the Super Bowl era began.

2. Ottis Anderson, RB (1982 Topps)
Ottis Anderson is another player who left the Cards in the 80s, but is still the franchise leader.  He burst onto the scene as a rookie, gaining 1,605 yards and earning 1st Team All Pro as a rookie.  He made the Pro Bowl again the following year.  He he rushed for 1,000 yards in three of the next four years; he was halfway there after eight games when the strike ended the 1982 season in the other season.  Another Cardinal who has been somewhat forgotten, Anderson was a fine player in his early days before he won a Super Bowl MVP award with the Giants.

3. Larry Fitzgerald, WR (2015 Topps)
Larry Fitzgerald is probably the best player in franchise history.  Eleven Pro Bowls, almost 1,300 receptions, over 16,000 yards and 115 TDs make a fantastic career.  His hallmark is consistency.  And his production.  And his overall good-guyness.  There's a lot to love about Fitz, and I find it sad to think that he could be hanging them up soon.

4. Dan Dierdorf, OL (1989 Pro Set Announcers)
Fun fact: Dan Dierdorf was born in Canton, OH.  After a 14-year career--all in St. Louis with the Cards--he made it back home for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  The most impressive thing to me about Dierdorf's career is the versatility.  He played tackle for most of his career, but he also saw significant time at guard and center.  His three All-Pro nods came while he was playing tackle, though.  For about a decade, Dierdorf was an elite offensive lineman in the league.

5. Darnell Dockett, DT (2011 Topps)
Dockett spent a decade in the desert; his entire career he was a Cardinal.  Like most interior defensive linemen, he didn't make headlines.  Except when he did, of course.  During the Cardinals Super Bowl run in 2008, Dockett was an animal.  He tallied 3 sacks and recovered a fumble during the playoffs that year.  That performance was sandwiched between Pro Bowl years.  Like many on this list, Dockett is here because he performed for the franchise for a good, long time.  The Cardinals don't seem to have many players stick around a long time.

6. Patrick Peterson, CB (2015 Topps Chrome)

I feel like this is a somewhat controversial pick.  Whenever the name Patrick Peterson comes up when people are discussing top corners in the NFL, I hear a bunch of people crying overrated.  But let's just see what he has done for his team, shall we?  He's now in his eighth season with the team.  In his first seven full seasons, he managed a Pro Bowl berth every year and has thrice been named All-Pro.  One of those All-Pro nominations came in his rookie year, as a punt returner.  That season, he took four punts to the house.  Of his 23 career interceptions, Peterson has one touchdown.  That means he has scored five non-offensive touchdowns.  He has never missed a start in his career, even from Day 1.  His consistency and performance earn him a spot in the Franchise 9.

7. Roger Wehrli, CB (1981 Topps)
All Roger Wehrli did for the Cardinals was play 14 years, intercept 40 passes, recover 22 fumbles, play in 7 Pro Bowls, and make 3 All-Pro teams.  Oh, and get inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Other than that, I'm not sure what his impact was for the franchise.  The St. Louis Cards selected the local kid from Mizzou with their first round pick in 1969, and he paid off for them.

8. Aeneas Williams, CB (1996 Skybox Impact)
Wehrli was #2 on the Cardinals all-time interceptions list until 1999, when Aeneas Williams passed him up.  Williams was one of the top corners of the 90s, and he has the All-Decade team nomination to prove it.  He represented the Cardinals in seven Pro Bowls and garnered 3 All-Pro bids, but I somehow always felt he was underrated.  He was a true ballhawk and playmaker.  Of his 46 picks for the team, he scored on five of them.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

9. Larry Wilson, S (1988 Swell Greats)
I mentioned that Aeneas Williams is second for career interceptions with the Cards.  The top spot belongs to Larry Wilson, who passed Night Train Lane on that list with his 10th pick of 1966.  Ten picks in a season is incredible.  His 52 picks still leads the team.  Wilson straddles the line between Super Bowl era and before.  He fits solidly into the later era because he played his best football after the age of 27.  Beginning at that age, he reeled off six consecutive Pro Bowl seasons and five consecutive 1st Team All-Pros.  Wilson is the third straight Hall of Fame defensive back on this team.

The Cardinals seem to have a knack for finding top-flight DBs.  I don't think any other franchise has four defensive backs of their top nine players.  Players like Fitz, Wehrli, Williams, and Wilson were slam dunks for this team.  Other players had some fierce competition.  Jim Hart or Neil Lomax?  Should another defensive back, Adrian Wilson, make the cut?  What about Terry Metcalf, Calais Campbell, Anquan Boldin, or Jackie Smith?  Or even kicker Jim Bakken?  I don't think there is much separating any of these guys.  So, what do you think?  Who would you have chosen for the Cardinals?  Let the discussion begin!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Card Collecting in Overtime

I don't live far from Salt Lake City.  I'm in the Valley in 10 minutes and downtown in less than a half-hour.  Even so, I'm far more likely to drive 30 minutes south into the heart of Provo than into Salt Lake.  I think it's mostly because I grew up in a small town, and I'm far more comfortable with Utah County's 600,000 people than I am with Salt Lake County's 1.5 million.  When I'm in Salt Lake, it's always to and from my destination with no messing around.  Last week, though, I had a conference in Downtown Salt Lake, so I made my way north.  Toward mid-afternoon, I found myself with a little extra time on my hands, so I tracked down the card shop that I knew was there in Midvale but had never visited.

Overtime Cards was a treat.  I found a dime box and made myself at home for a while, picking out cards I needed for my various collections.  Dime boxes are unheard of in these parts, even at card shows, I was ecstatic.  As I was digging, I came across an oddity that I had never seen before.

This is a 1998 Skybox Thurman Thomas.  But what is that marking under the Skybox logo in the top left?  I set it aside and when I had my stack ready to buy, I asked Heidi, the proprietor, about it.  She said she had never known what it was either and had finally concluded that it was some kind of mis-stamped card.  I decided that it was unique, at any rate, and put in with my pile.  It sparked a great conversation, and I learned that Heidi has been in the card shop business for somewhere around 30 years, which is about as long as I have been collecting.  We talked about the changes she had seen in the hobby and her perspective as a dealer.  It was a fascinating conversation for me.  When I mentioned that I had stopped collecting in the late 90s, only to pick it up again about 15 years later, she said that she heard that story quite often.  I told her about my blog and shared that it's also a common story amongst us bloggers--we all have a dark spot in our collection, and it usually coincides with the first decade of the 2000s.  That piqued her interest, so I shared a little about our blogging community.  The conversation alone was enough for me to go back.  I've never experienced that at other card shops.

Oh, and the Thurman Thomas card?  It turns out it's an oddball that could be obtained from Fleet Farm.  According to Wikipedia, Fleet Farm is a retail chain with 37 stores in the Midwest.  I'd never heard of it, but that stamp is the Fleet Farm logo.  I'm glad I grabbed it when I did.  There some other gems in the box, too.

Like vintage football!  Granted, these cards are in pretty rough shape.  All of the 1977s I picked out had the same "MK" marked in red pen.  You can see the scuffing on Ken Stabler and Franco Harris.  But still, vintage Hall of Famers in a dime box?  I didn't even question these well-loved cards.  The 1977 Lee Roy Selmon is a rookie, to boot.  I've almost picked that card up on COMC before, but I can handle this copy.

More from the same 1976 and 1977 sets, this time in Packer green and gold.

It wasn't all old and beat up, though.  Oh no, there was plenty of shiny, too.  These cards represent sets that were missing completely from my collection.  All except Troy Aikman fit into my All-Decade collection.

I should have scanned the Lee Roy Selmon rookie with these two.  That makes three Hall of Fame rookies I snagged from the box.  Yes, I'm counting Tony Gonzalez as a Hall of Famer in his first year of eligibility.  Book it.  1989 Score rookies are the premiere rookies of possibly the greatest draft class ever.  This card has some bent corners, but this copy is good enough for me.

More Packers, this time of the late 90s variety.  This marks my first Doug Pederson card.  He didn't play much for the Pack, but he did win a Super Bowl as a coach last year.  The Dorsey Levens card is a serial numbered insert (a mere 8700 copies!).

I picked up some inserts, too.  These three players all made the All-2000s team and eventually the Hall of Fame.  I'm not a TO fan, so I'm trying to fill my All-Decade project with higher quality cards of him.  If I've got to gather cards of him, I may as well make sure their quality.

If there are BYU players, I'll snag 'em.  The Head to Head card is interesting.  It gives a scenario on the back with no resolution.  "The ball is snapped.  Smith charges.  Young rolls out.  Does he get the pass off?"  Well, does he?!  I guess we'll never know.

Speaking of colleges, how about some Heisman winners?  I'm digging the Crown Royale (original incarnation) of Eddie George.

The box was mostly football with some basketball.  Baseball pickings were slim, but I did manage to find some needs from this year's Heritage. 

The dime box said 12 cards for $1, so I picked out 108 cards.  I figured that $9 of cards plus tax would be about right for the 10 spot I had in my wallet.  I sat and chatted with Heidi for a while and then went to pay.  She looked at my stack and said, "How about $5 for the stack?"  All right!  Just like that, the dime box turned into a nickel box.  All the cards above set me back about five cents apiece.  Overall, the experience was great.  The discovery of a dime box + a great card conversation + a generous shop owner = a happy customer.  Now I feel like I might have to make trips to the Salt Lake Valley more often--and leave myself some extra time to stop in for a true hobby experience at Overtime Cards.

And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I'm truly grateful to be part of a community with whom I can share my hobby and that is made up of true collectors.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Franchise 9: Carolina Panthers


Only two franchises have a shorter existence in the NFL than the Carolina Panthers.  They entered the league as an expansion team in 1995, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  With newer franchises, it becomes harder to find a long list of greats in their history.  There are just too few total players to choose from.  That's not to say that this team doesn't have any great players.  No, this is a pretty solid team.  It's just the newness of the team that will leave many people thinking that there just aren't any household name, Hall of Fame caliber players.  But I think if we narrowed this project down to just the two decades since the Panthers joined the league, they would probably be able to hold their own against most teams.  They have had a solid--if unspectacular--group through the years.

1. Cam Newton, QB (2013 Panini Prizm Monday Night Heroes)
Carolina has only picked at the top of the draft once, and they probably got it right.  Cam Newton is the lone signal caller to represent the Panthers.  Other quarterbacks, like Jake Delhomme and Steve Beuerlein, found modest success with the Panthers, but none have truly been franchise QBs.  Newton, on the other hand, has used his extraordinary size and athletic ability to lead the team to a Super Bowl appearance and take home the NFL MVP award.  He may not be as consistently great as some people may like him to be, but he is the best to have lined up under center in Charlotte.  Plus, his off-field persona has probably brought more attention to the franchise than they have ever had before or would have had without him.  Picking Newton was a win for the team.

2. Muhsin Muhammad, WR (1999 Skybox Dominion)
Muhammad wasn't one of those rookies to take the league by storm.  He eased his way in, collecting just over 50 total receptions in his first two years.  And then he broke out.  For the next seven seasons in Carolina, Muhammad averaged 75 receptions for just north of 1,000 yards and 6 TDs on the way to becoming the most prolific receiver in franchise history, at the time.  He led the league in receptions (102) in 2000, and receiving yards (1465) and touchdowns (16) in 2004.  He was named to two Pro Bowls and one 1st Team All-Pro team and was the franchise's first ever explosive offensive threat.

3. Steve Smith, WR (2013 Prestige)
If Muhammad was the Panthers' first threat, Steve Smith remains their ultimate threat.  The man who ultimately passed Muhammad as the top receiver in Carolina history.  As a rookie in 2001, Smith impacted the game despite catching only 10 balls.  That year, he was an All-Pro kick returner, taking two kicks to the house.  One year after teammate Muhsin Muhammad led the league in receptions with 102, Steve Smith bested the franchise record and led the league himself with 103 receptions.  In fact, he led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns that year.  He is the all-time franchise leader the same three categories.

4. Ryan Kalil, C (2014 Topps)
Kalil has been anchoring the Panther offensive line since 2007.  In that span, he has been named to five Pro Bowls and two All Pro teams.  Pro Football Reference ranks him 5th all-time for the Panthers in approximate value.  Only ten players have played more games in a Panther uniform, and his number is growing with each passing week.

5. Kris Jenkins, DT (2004 Playoff Hogg Heaven Unsung Hoggs)
This spot really came down to Kris Jenkins and his counterpart and contemporary on the offensive side of the ball, Jordan Gross.  Jenkins gets the nod here due to his dominance at this position during the era.  While Gross was a solid tackle, he was never considered elite.  Jenkins, though, received four Pro Bowl and two 1st Team All Pro nods.  As a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Jenkins never piled up stats.  But that wasn't his job.  He clogged holes and did it well.  In 2002 and 2003, Jenkins led the team in AV.

6. Julius Peppers, DE (2006 Topps Chrome)
If I were to decide on the single greatest player for this franchise, I think I would go with Julius Peppers.  Taken with the 2nd overall pick in the 2002 draft, Peppers is simply a quarterback's nightmare.  Here is is line as a Panther: 95 sacks, 34 forced fumbles, 3 defensive touchdowns, and 103 tackles for a loss.  He has represented Carolina in the Pro Bowl 8 times, with another 3 appearances on the All Pro squad.  In case you're wondering, the Panthers drafted Steve Smith, Kris Jenkins, Julius Peppers, and the aforementioned Jordan Gross in the first 3 rounds between 2001-2003.  It's easy to see why they had success in those years.

7. Thomas Davis, LB (2016 Panini Unparalleled All-Pros *The writing you see is on the page, not the card.*)
Thomas Davis played safety at Georgia and was drafted as a bit of a tweener player in the first round.  After one year at safety in the NFL, the Panthers moved him to linebacker, and it was a genius move.  Since his move to linebacker, Davis has started every game in which he has appeared.  He has been a team leader and a tackling machine, recording nearly 1100 tackles in his career.  Injuries have hampered his career, and it's impressive to think what he really could have done had he not lost a nearly two full seasons with a knee injury.

8. Luke Kuechly, LB (2012 Topps Prime)
Anyone who has seen a Panthers game since 2012 has surely seen #59 everywhere on the field.  Everywhere.  Kuechly is one of those guys who is always near the ball.  In six-and-a-half seasons, he has already racked up 930 tackles, been named to 5 Pro Bowls and received 4 1st All Pro nods.  That's impressive.  Only his rookie year did he miss out on the Pro Bowl, and in 2016, his only year not being named All Pro, he still recorded 125 tackles.

9. Sam Mills, LB (1996 Skybox Impact)
Sam Mills was the original heart and soul of the Panthers.  The diminutive linebacker was a playmaker.  He played only 3 seasons in Carolina, but it was good enough to be in the top 25 of the team's career AV rankings.  What does that mean?  By a per game approximate value, only Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly have had a bigger impact on every game they played than Mills.  In those 3 years, he forced 6 fumbles, picked off 7 passes, and scored twice.  When the Panthers found success early in their history, it was largely because of Sam Mills.

Looking at this team, it's easy to see that defense has been Carolina's calling card since the beginning.  However, when a great offensive star takes the field, that's when success really comes to Carolina.  The defense (especially the linebackers) always seems to be solid.  Offensive playmakers push the team to deep playoff runs.

I already have a couple of names that I expect to hear in the comments, but I feel pretty confident in these picks.  But what do you think?  Who would you have replaced and with whom?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Ho Hum, It's Just a Pedestrian Collection Package

Chris, the Collector, has recently finished his Sports Card Tour and has been one of the most active bloggers I've seen in the cardsphere of late.  When he's not posting new content, he's one of the first commenters on a lot of the blog posts that I read.  It seems like it just registered with each of us that we are both cheeseheads, and Chris reached out to offer me some extra Packers he had.  Since he is just getting started with the Trading Card Database (username: hockeydude), we went that route to complete our trade.

First, Chris found some early 90's holes to plug in my collection.  I feel like I had most of these cards at some point in my life, but I'm not sure whatever happened to them.

Here are three QBs who appeared on cards in 1992.  All three of these cards pull double duty in my collection.  Ty Detmer is a BYU legend who was drafted by Green Bay in 1992.  This card will go in the Packers binder.  Mike Tomczak started 7 games for the Pack in 1991 and was rewarded with green and gold card in 1992, but he spent the '92 season in Cleveland.  This particular Tomczak card will go in my 1992 Ultra set build binder, as it was missing before.  1992 was the first year a kid named Brett Favre donned a Packers helmet.  Sixteen years later, he would retire as a Packer.  Kind of.  The first time, at least.  This card will go in my 1990s All-Decade Team binder.  Three QBs, one year, three different binders.

Speaking of great quarterbacks, all three of these Packer signal callers have a legitimate argument as the best of their generation.  They face stiff competition, to be sure, but they were (and are) outstanding for years at the helm of the Green Bay offense.  Yes, we Packer fans have been spoiled.  I'm really not looking forward to the day when Rodgers calls it quits.  We've seen Hundley and Kizer and what this team is without Aaron Rodgers.  It's not pretty.

Here is an indication that there is something wrong with us collectors.  These two cards came in the same package.  They look identical.  Did I really need both?

Yes, apparently.  If you look at the birthplace line, they are different.  The bottom is an error; Sharpe was born in Chicago.  See, they're two completely different cards.  See?

 We're not done with the legends, either.  Here is another card filling a dual role for me.  This card will likely end up completing my Hornung page in the Heisman binder.

There were some notable rookies included in the trade package.  I believe this is my first Robert Brooks rookie, so I'm very pleased.  The red foil Johnathan Franklin is serial numbered to 199.  I don't know why, but Franklin is a guy I just like to collect, even though he had only 19 carries in his pro career.

How about some fan favorites?  I'm always happy to add a new Jordy Nelson, who is probably my #2 PC guy.  John Kuhn and B.J. Raji are fun, too.  I believe this is the first Tramon Williams that will go into my Packers binder, outside of the set builder cards I have of him.  And I love that Leroy Butler.  He was probably my favorite 90s Packer besides Reggie White.

Chris also threw in some extras.  The Schwarbers are nice, especially the 1st Bowman Chrome card.  Orlando Pace and Dermontti Dawson were beasts, and I love the o-line cards.

Chris may call his blog "The Pedestrian Collector," but this trade package was a bit more than that for me.  Thanks for the great first trade!  I hope there are many more to follow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Purchases from Toys 'R' Us Via Wal Mart (I Think)

The card section in both of the Walmarts near me was shrinking.  As this past summer went on, I noticed fewer and fewer cards being offered.  Fewer new products were hitting the shelves, and the clearance blasters had dried up months ago.  Then one day, I walked into the card section and found the hangers of jumbo packs of 2018 almost empty, but there were two full boxes of blasters and value packs from years past marked with big stickers denoting a clearance situation.  I was shocked.  Then, as I searched through the offerings I noticed something interesting: some of the clearance items advertised exclusive purple parallels.  Wait.  Purple parallels?  At Walmart?  I started to wonder if Walmart had bought out some soon-to-be liquidated merchandise from Toys 'R' Us to sell in their stores.  With that thought in mind, I decided to splurge and buy more than I would normally have, just because I worried that once this supply was gone, that would be it.  So, for discounted prices, I picked up four value/jumbo packs and two blasters, just to strike while the iron was hot.

This is what I got, and it will take me a series of posts to get through:
  • 2012 Bowman baseball value pack
  • 2016 Topps Chrome baseball value pack
  • 2017 Absolute football jumbo pack
  • 2017 Panini football jumbo pack
  • 2017 Elite football blaster
  • 2017 Playoff football blaster

Since it's football season right now, I'll start with a football break.  Here are the results of my 2017 Absolute jumbo pack.

As has been the trend for the past few years, 2017 Absolute was shiny.  The shine might not show up well in the scan, but the scan does a better job of showing something I hadn't really noticed: there are sections of the card in which the background is still visible.  It gives the background almost a ghostly feel, but it's not as noticeable in-hand.

There were two inserts in my pack.  Doug Martin is still in the NFL, but this Fantasy Flashback to a monster game he had in 2012 may well represent the last time he was truly fantasy relevant.  Hurdles is an odd theme for an insert set, but I guess it does give a chance for Panini to show off some interesting photos.  Although I find this card interesting, both of these cards are available if somebody would like to trade for them.  Any Bucs fans out there?  Lions?  Anybody?  Anybody?

So the question remains: did Walmart obtain these cards from a now defunct Toys 'R' Us?  I'm not sure.  I know that the card scene has picked up somewhat, but the selection has never been overwhelming.  I bought a bunch of stuff impulse-style for fear that it would be my last chance at Walmart clearance cards, but they have actually kept it stocked since then.  So I don't know.  Regardless, even though I spent more than I probably should have, I dragged out opening the cards for a few months, so I have been able to resist too many retail purchases since.  I guess it evened out.