Sports

Nameless NFL participant ballot 2023: Greatest participant? Largest trash talker? Most annoying followers?

Spoiler alert: Gamers across the NFL assume Patrick Mahomes is fairly good.

The Kansas Metropolis Chiefs quarterback and two-time MVP was our runaway winner as one of the best participant within the sport immediately, in line with the 85 gamers our beat writers from The Athletic spoke to over the previous month. That’s no shock, however the remainder of the solutions weren’t so apparent, as we got down to conduct our first nameless NFL participant ballot.

We requested every participant we spoke to the identical set of questions, though not each participant answered all of them. They have been granted anonymity so as to candidly provide their opinions on the league’s gamers, coaches, commissioner and among the largest matters going through the league immediately — together with operating again salaries, the grass versus turf debate and extra.

Gamers have been polled on who dishes one of the best trash discuss, which coach moreover their very own they’d wish to play for and who’re essentially the most underrated gamers within the league. A number of the extra entertaining responses got here when gamers have been requested which workforce has essentially the most annoying fan base.

“Buffalo,” one participant responded. “They be mooning people and it’s like, ‘Why y’all exhibiting y’all ass?’ F— outta right here with that.”

Sorry, Payments followers, identical to the standings proper now, that wasn’t sufficient to get you into first place.

All through this participant ballot — and upcoming tales that may dive deeper into among the questions — we hope you be taught extra about what immediately’s NFL gamers actually assume.

(Editor’s word: In some instances, the mixed percentages of all of the solutions to a query might not add as much as 100%, as a result of particular person percentages have been rounded up or all the way down to the closest tenth of a share level. Half-votes have been awarded if a participant gave two solutions to a query.)


Did you actually anticipate anyone else? Almost half of the respondents chosen Mahomes, many with out giving it a lot thought.

“He’s Patrick Mahomes,” mentioned one participant.

“Don’t you need to say him?” added one other.

“There’s no person like him,” yet one more mentioned.

As if any justification for this vote was wanted, one participant supplied this: “Irrespective of how a lot you’re down, he nonetheless can carry your workforce again.”

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That mentioned, greater than half of the 84 respondents to this query went a unique route, with Los Angeles Rams defensive sort out Aaron Donald incomes runner-up honors.

“It’s self-explanatory on that one. Nobody can cease him,” supplied one participant.

Stated one participant who selected the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett: “I used to be gonna sit right here and debate quarterbacks, however there’s your reply. The man is out of this world.”


Speaking trash is part of sports activities, however there are some gamers within the NFL extra inclined to ruffle feathers with their on-field chatter.

Security C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who’s now with the Detroit Lions after spending final season with the Philadelphia Eagles throughout their Tremendous Bowl run, tops the listing. He did so regardless of not enjoying since Week 2, when he injured a pectoral muscle.

“I believe that’s simply form of like his schtick,” one participant mentioned. “I don’t know if it essentially works, but it surely’s what he reverts to.”

Jalen Ramsey, who additionally missed prolonged time earlier than returning to the sector final month for the Miami Dolphins, obtained the second-most votes. “He has so much to say,” one participant opined.

And don’t for a second assume trash discuss is restricted to simply defensive gamers. The Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen, one of many NFL’s most constant wideouts, is understood to have a factor or two to say throughout video games. “Huge-time s— talker,” one participant mentioned. “It’s nonstop.”

Offensive linemen are inclined to get in on the act, too. Stated a participant of Carolina Panthers guard Austin Corbett: “I believe his trash-talking is fairly elite. It’s the psychological warfare. It’s so good you don’t even know what’s happening.”


Almost 1 / 4 of the gamers we spoke to selected C.J. Gardner-Johnson because the league’s finest trash-talker. (Rey Del Rio / Getty Photos)

When unsure, go along with the pinnacle coach who remarkably has by no means had a dropping season. That continues to be the excellence for Mike Tomlin, who once more has the Pittsburgh Steelers properly on their option to a seventeenth consecutive .500 or higher marketing campaign with him in cost.

“His messaging, management and perspective appear in keeping with a successful method,” one participant mentioned.

“He’s robust and accountable, and he calls for that out of his gamers,” added one other.

From the veteran, Tremendous Bowl-winning coach in Tomlin, gamers shifted to the younger, quirky offensive mastermind in Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel.

“He looks as if a reasonably enjoyable coach to play for,” one participant mentioned of the 40-year-old in his second season in Miami.

Not far behind have been Kansas Metropolis’s Andy Reid and Detroit’s Dan Campbell, the latter of whom could be the favourite for this season’s NFL Coach of the Yr award.

“A man who actually loves ball,” mentioned a participant who selected Reid. “So I believe that’s a very good coach.”

Of Campbell, one other participant mentioned: “I respect coaches which are gamers’ coaches and get one of the best out of their gamers.”


Typically on-field manufacturing doesn’t all the time result in gamers getting the respect they deserve. No matter how properly some carry out, their names aren’t introduced up as a lot when discussing the highest guys at their respective positions.

Cincinnati Bengals broad receiver Tee Higgins led the vote, however there are a large number of gamers who obtained recognition amongst their friends for being underrated.

“His manufacturing speaks for itself, and no person ever talks about him when the subject of finest RBs within the league comes up,” one participant mentioned of Chargers dual-threat operating again Austin Ekeler. “He’s very important to that offense operating and in addition within the move sport,” one other participant added.

And although the tight finish dialogue is often dominated by Chiefs All-Professional Travis Kelce, gamers really feel the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle and Baltimore Ravens’ Mark Andrews ought to get much more credit score than they already do.

“I believe he’s one of the best tight finish within the league,” one participant mentioned unapologetically about Kittle.

“I don’t understand how underrated he’s, however everyone is all the time speaking about Kelce and Kittle, not him,” one other participant mentioned in regard to Andrews.


It seems gamers aren’t scared away from the sight of the stadium that’s hosted 5 consecutive AFC Championship Video games. (Then once more, possibly Arrowhead Stadium’s regular presence on their TV is influencing their choice.)

Regardless of the motive, gamers love enjoying within the NFL’s third-oldest stadium (opened in 1972) even when some did point out points with Kansas Metropolis’s cramped locker rooms.

“That place is electrical,” one participant mentioned. “That’s one of many coolest locations to play. In my view, the loudest within the NFL.”


It could be one of many NFL’s oldest venues, however gamers respect the loud ambiance at Kansas Metropolis’s Arrowhead Stadium. (Kara Durrette / Getty Photos)

Minnesota’s seven-year-old U.S. Financial institution Stadium — regardless of being an indoor stadium with turf — was lauded for most of the similar ear-rattling causes.

“That place was f—ing loud,” one participant mentioned.

Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium additionally fared properly, together with Inexperienced Bay’s historic Lambeau Area — “The followers and the ambiance are one of the best within the league.” — and Seattle’s Lumen Area.

“If it was grass — whoo! — it will be excellent,” one participant who selected Seattle mentioned, whereas one other added: “It nearly feels such as you’re in a hen’s nest. Gotham Metropolis.”


Arrowhead and U.S. Financial institution led the best way for finest stadiums, however gamers had reverse viewpoints of MetLife Stadium, FedEx Area and Highmark Stadium, which have been the highest vote-getters for worst to play in.

The Commanders’ dwelling subject has by no means been a preferred enjoying vacation spot, and this ballot solidified that even earlier than Sunday, when there wasn’t any scorching water or ample water stress for gamers to bathe after the New York Giants’ win over Washington.

“Nearly every thing about (FedEx) is under the usual of what an NFL stadium must be,” one participant mentioned. “The place is only a dump,” mentioned one other.

As for MetLife, the place each the Giants and Jets play, a participant voiced that the “turf sucks and the entire place is lame.” One other agreed in regards to the turf, including that the “followers are horrible. Every little thing about that place is horrible.”

Although Lambeau Area was among the many high 5 for finest stadium, it was additionally high 5 for the worst stadium — for one apparent motive: “F—ing Inexperienced Bay, as a result of it’s tremendous chilly!”

In the meantime, the Oakland Coliseum hasn’t been used because the Raiders moved to Las Vegas in 2020 however nonetheless managed to choose up a few votes.


The Eagles and Cowboys apparently aren’t simply competing on the sector, with each grabbing a couple of quarter of the votes from the 73 gamers who answered this query.

“Simply loud, impolite and obnoxious,” one participant mentioned of Eagles followers, who could be nodding alongside in settlement at this second. “They simply swear they’re the most important soccer gurus on earth,” added one other.

Stated a participant who picked the Cowboys: “They normally assume they need to win the Tremendous Bowl yearly.”


Half of our respondents wasted little time in choosing the Eagles or Cowboys followers as essentially the most annoying. (Andy Lewis / Icon Sportswire through Getty Photos)

As for the AFC East battle for third place between the Payments and Jets, whereas mooning in Buffalo earned Payments followers demerits, the traditional “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets” chant drove one participant to choose New York.

“That J-E-T-S stuff. They have been doing that in warmups,” he mentioned.


From the skin wanting in, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t look like beloved throughout the league. However when speaking with gamers for our ballot, the vast majority of voters gave him their seal of approval.

“He continues to raise the league and make everybody extra money,” one participant mentioned.

One other participant mentioned he’d give Goodell a thumbs up due to “the best way he’s rising the sport proper now, the best way he’s increasing it. As a result of at one level once I was in faculty, and all the concussion stuff was popping out, I used to be scared, like, ‘Hey, soccer may not final,’ however now, I don’t really feel that manner.”

Not everybody polled was in favor of Goodell’s method.

“Thumbs down. He’s carried out fined me too many instances,” one participant added, whereas one other talked about Goodell “forgets too typically that the league is in regards to the gamers.”


The largest story right here could be that two gamers — among the many 81 who responded — gave NFL officers a ten out of 10 ranking. General, although, the outcomes are largely what you’d anticipate, with the overwhelming majority of scores falling within the center vary, as 57 gamers (70.4 %) chosen between a 4 and seven.

“They miss some calls, but it surely’s a very exhausting job,” mentioned one sympathetic participant who rated them an 8.

“Both they’re lacking apparent calls or they’re calling every thing,” mentioned a participant who rated them a 4. “There’s no in-between, and it varies a lot between crews that you just by no means know what to anticipate.”

One participant who gave a 2 ranking supplied an answer for enchancment: “All of them must be full-time staff. It’s a no brainer.”


There’s no disputing how gamers throughout the league really feel in regards to the ongoing turf versus grass debate. Almost 83 % of those that gave a solution mentioned it’s an actual concern.

“You get up within the morning feeling 10 instances higher after you performed on grass in comparison with if you performed on turf,” mentioned one participant.

“I’ve been vocal about it. I believe our locker room is fairly unified on it,” one other participant added. “It sucks, and there’s sufficient cash to remove it. It’s time.”

Some say they will really feel the distinction not solely after video games however earlier than the primary snap is taken.

“Even warming up on the turf subject in Minnesota harm my knees,” a participant declared.

“You’re feeling like s—,” a lineman added. “Particularly being a giant man, operating on turf, your knees harm. Whenever you fall and journey, you don’t wish to stand up. You’re feeling it the following day so much.”


The positional worth of operating backs was a scorching subject this offseason with the contract conditions of Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Jonathan Taylor. Solely Taylor earned a long-term extension (and solely after a messy standoff). Whereas operating backs throughout the league gathered on Zoom to debate options, there are few choices till the collective bargaining settlement expires in 2030, when the NFL Gamers Affiliation might attempt to search adjustments to the franchise tag.

Working backs have complained about how the tag unfairly impacts them — solely punters and kickers make much less on a franchise tag — however the actuality is that they would wish help from their locker room to enact adjustments. A rise in pay for operating backs might cut back salaries at different positions. Although our outcomes present that help exists to some extent, it’s not overwhelming.

“What? No. What makes them higher than me?” supplied one participant.

One other, who already feels like he has an govt future in thoughts, painted an excellent bleaker image.

“I do know that operating backs complain in regards to the market,” he mentioned. “However from an insider’s perspective, if I used to be ever a GM, I might by no means pay a operating again. There’s numerous gifted backs that come out within the draft yearly — at anyplace within the draft. I might by no means draft a operating again within the first spherical.”


Whereas 53.4 % help franchise tag adjustments for operating backs like Josh Jacobs, there’s loads of disagreement amongst gamers. (Steve Marcus / Getty Photos)

Different gamers have been extra understanding of the operating backs’ plight.

“Yeah. As a result of they’re positively underpaid,” one mentioned. “The franchise tag for a lineman is like, what, $15 (million), $16 million? I imply, s—, that’s greater than nice cash. So, yeah, I positively really feel like they need to be paid extra.”

Others supported a change, however not solely for operating backs: “The entire franchise tag rule needs to be modified on the whole. It’s develop into too highly effective of a instrument.”

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The NFL has been doing its finest to increase its attain past the US. This season, there have been 5 video games performed internationally (three in London and two in Frankfurt, Germany). Video games have been additionally performed in Mexico Metropolis in earlier seasons.

After years of listening to the rumors, what if there actually have been a workforce situated outdoors the US? Would gamers be taken with the opportunity of enjoying for one? The bulk mentioned no, however greater than one-third of these we spoke to mentioned they’d be open to the concept.

“Hell yeah! As a result of abroad they’re gonna pay that cash,” mentioned one participant who might have forgotten a wage cap would nonetheless exist. “Take into consideration a workforce in Saudi Arabia. I do know that’s far as f—, however no matter. Take into consideration Saudi Arabia and the soccer gamers. They’re giving out billions of {dollars}, so hell yeah I’ll play in Saudi Arabia.”

One participant on the fence mentioned it will rely upon the place the workforce was situated. “In all probability. That’d be cool. Solely in England, although. I’m not going to f—ing Germany.”

“Hell no. I’d retire,” one other participant mentioned.

He wasn’t alone. Stated one other participant: “No. I like dropping my youngsters off at their very nice college and ordering pizza from the place down the road. If I used to be 23, possibly (it will be) completely different. However that’s simply not for me.”

(High illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic;
photographs of Mike Tomlin, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Donald
by Cooper Neill and Justin Edmonds / Getty Photos)


“The Soccer 100,” the definitive rating of the NFL’s finest 100 gamers of all time, is on sale now. Order it right here.

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