June 29, 2020

Steinberg’s MMQB: All-Decade dilemmas

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

Being on the media voting committee for the first ever CFL All-Decade Team presented by Leo Vegas is an absolute privilege. It’s also one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been a part of. With my portion of the voting done, I thought it would be fun to kick around the biggest dilemmas I had while finalizing my ballot.

The first window of voting is open now until July 7th on receivers and defensive backs, with different positions opening up incrementally until September 1st. I don’t want to influence your selections, so I won’t give any of my definitive thoughts until voting on a given position is done. But I can give you some of my thought processes, both overall and at specific positions.


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Maybe it’ll add a little context, maybe it’ll be good food for thought, or maybe it’ll further cement your opinion I have no idea what I’m talking about.

The biggest dilemma I had was determining whether I was voting strictly on the best players or for their overall accomplishments. After consulting with some fellow media members and a few players, former and current, I settled on trying to identify the best players, regardless of how many years they played in the decade.

Of course, you can’t completely ignore longevity. In fact, in many cases, a long career is a big indicator of being one of the best at your position, so it was definitely factored in. And, for me, I used longevity and/or tenure as a tiebreaker when I was really close on a vote.

It was also interesting getting input from different people, specifically players. It’s fascinating to find out how different my perception was of a player compared to a guy who played or plays the same position. It certainly helped shape my votes.

Now, when looking at the first round of voting, here are a few of the things I struggled the most with.

Receiver: So many candidates

The league didn’t ease you into voting by going receiver right off the bat, as it’s the likely most stacked position over the last ten years. I could reveal my top five votes and it honestly wouldn’t give you even the slightest clue as to what the consensus is going to look like come September. That’s how varied I believe voting is going to be.

For me, I debated as many as eight different guys for my top three, let alone filling out all five, where I probably considered up to 15 receivers. Derel Walker, Adarius Bowman, Nik Lewis, Greg Ellingson, SJ Green, Brandon Banks, Fred Stamps, and Jamel Richardson all got a top three vote at some point while I was drafting and redrafting my ballot before eventually submitting.

What made it so difficult was the fact every single one of those guys was dominant, and an elite receiver, for multiple seasons over the course of the decade. How do you determine who was more dominant when comparing, say, 2013 to 2017? It was difficult, but I was really happy with the top five I finally settled on.


Defensive back: Recency and positional bias

I struggled with two things when selecting my top four DB’s for the decade. I had more issues with the concept of “recency bias” at this position than any other, and I’m not entirely sure why. Being inherently biased towards what you’ve seen most recently was something I actively fought against throughout the entire process, but it was worst when selecting my defensive backfield.

For instance, Winston Rose, Tre Roberson, Richard Leonard, and Delvin Breaux all got significant consideration for my top four. They’ve all been elite in the last three years and very much deserve to be in the mix for best DB’s of the decade.

Where it really became interesting was when I started factoring in players like Ryan Phillips, Jovon Johnson, Keon Raymond, and Brandon Smith. All three were still playing in the back half of the decade but probably were at their most elite between 2010 and 2015. Even though their accomplishments weren’t as front of mind, they deserved just as much consideration as the others previously mentioned.

Also difficult was determining how to weigh each position. While safety was kept separate for voting, we decided not to separate halfbacks and cornerbacks, which I think was the right call for the sake of not complicating things. But weighing the impact of a very good field half compared to, say, a high-end boundary corner was not easy.

To be honest, I didn’t really come to a definitive decision on that dilemma. But it was definitely something I gave a lot of thought and consideration to while voting.

Safety: A razor-thin margin

While there are just seven candidates for you to vote on at safety, the margin between them is ridiculously thin. Because safety has evolved into a very Canadian-specific position, the good ones usually are in the league for a while and don’t do as much bouncing around.

Of the candidates, no one played more than six or less than four seasons in the 2010’s. The statistics are all very close, as are the single-season highs. As such, I had a lot of trouble coming to a final consensus on this one. Every time I was about to vote, I went back and reassessed, because I felt I was leaving an extremely deserving player off my ballot.