ESPN is always one for coming up with totally objective lists sure to bring on the debate and get people talking. Their latest list is no different.
If you haven't seen it, it goes something like this: A couple of guys are talking football at the water cooler when one comments that if you were to take LaDainian Tomlinson out of San Diego's lineup, the Chargers would be done. Suddenly the offended Chargers appear to correct the know-it-all who, in the words of Rich Eisen, was guilty of exaggerating his football knowledge, Merriman warning the fan that it isn't wise to offend "Mr. Gates." It's a great spot. Very poignant.
What the embarrassed fan was trying to say was that Tomlinson, in a word, is indispensable. Perhaps. And then again, perhaps not. Fortunately for the Chargers, L.T. has missed only one game in his career, and while one would assume San Diego's offense would sputter without its all-time great running back, backup Michael Turner has looked pretty good when he's carried the ball.
You hear that word being thrown around a lot with regard to elite players: indispensable. By definition it means "absolutely necessary, essential, or requisite." In football terms, it's an irreplaceable player without whom his team would not be successful. It's the guy who has to not only play but to play well for his team to have a chance to win.
The article goes on to talk about certain players, and whether there is a player that is actually indispensable, especially in Pro Football, the ultimate team sport. They use Steve Smith, whose Panthers struggled to an 0-2 record before Smith returned from injury to lead Carolina to 3 straight wins, as an example.
In my opinion there are indispensable players on a team, guys that not only do it on the field, but off as well, and it goes well beyond catches, or completions, or tackles. It's an attitude, a confidence that the certain player brings to a team. Take the only Bronco to make the list, Champ Bailey. He missed action last season, and the Broncos were still able to win, beating a tough Jacksonville team on the road, but I would definitely consider Bailey indispensable. He brings an attitude to his fellow defensive backs, and to the defense as a whole. The way he goes about his work, the way he practices, the way he studies, everything rubs off on his teammates. Take Champ out of the mix, and the Broncos defense would struggle on and field and off.
Are there any other Broncos that you would consider indispensable? I know of a couple I think.
On defense, other than Bailey, I'd have to go with Al Wilson. Not only does he play at a much higher level than he is given credit for, but he is the emotional leader of the defense, and probably the emotional face of the team. Lose Wilson for an extended period and the defense would definitely struggle.
On offense, I'd go with the silent leader of the team, Center Tom Nalen. If you are going to be as good as the Broncos have been for as long as they have, there needs to be consistency, a rock of sorts, and Nalen is that.
Tough as nails, and as fundamentally sound as any center in the league, Tommy doesn't get the recognition he deserves because the line has a vow of silence. Sure the Broncos did alright with Ben Hamilton at center in 2002, when Nalen tore up his knee, but let's face it, the Broncos didn't make the playoffs.