Thursday, October 16, 2008

Strange Things Are Afoot In Charlotte, North Carolina

I'm pretty sure you don't care, but Carolina Panthers WR Mushin Muhammad is in the middle of a very strange career - one that has angered, frustrated and annoyed fantasy owners for a solid decade. At the age of 35, Muhammad is on pace for 77 receptions and 1,136 yards. That, by itself, is not all that strange, as receivers can stay productive for a long time. But that usually applies to guys who were consistently good (or great) throughout their careers (like Cris Carter, Isaac Bruce, Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice)...that is not the case with Muhammad.

Muhammad was a second round pick in '96 and didn't have his first 1,000-yard season until his fourth year, when he also had 96 catches. The following year he led the league with 102 receptions, and at age 27, appeared to be entering his prime. Think again. Over the next three years Muhammad redefined average, never topping 850 yards in any one season. His name continued to carry some weight in fantasy leagues, but he was always dropped in week four, picked up by someone else in week six and left for dead by mid-season; 3 grabs and 47 yards a week just wasn't cutting it.

Then came 2004, when, at age 31 and thought to be past his prime, Muhammad threw up one of the better seasons I can remember...93 receptions, 1,405 yards, 16 TDs. Where had this dude been for the last three years? Nobody had an answer, but it wasn't a reach to call him one of the best WRs in the NFL.

Then, of course, he went to Chicago to catch passes from a young Kyle Orton and a fat-faced Rex Grossman. While it obviously didn't help his production, it didn't change the fact that he was once again just another guy with mediocre statistics. He didn't top 900 yards or 5 TDs in any of his three seasons with the Bears. Once again, he was a forgotten man.

Until, of course, his third rebirth.

I don't know a single mammal who drafted Muhammad this season, and while he hasn't been spectacular, he's certainly been well above league average, and worthy of a No. 3 WR spot on almost any fantasy roster.

Can you think of anyone, in any sport, who has had a career as odd as Muhammad's? Send an email my way if you can.

The one guy I think of is former Cards and Rockies pitcher Jose Jimenez. As a member of the '99 Cardinals he threw a no-hitter in the 15th start of his rookie season, outdueling Randy Johnson and the 100-win D'Backs, 1-0. Two starts later he threw a 2-hit shutout against the very same team. The rest of his rookie campaign was hit-and-miss. But mostly miss. Regardless, dude had talent.

He was traded to Colorado that offseason where he was converted into a reliever. And a pretty good one, actually. He became a full-time closer in 2002 and saved 41 games with a spectacular (for a guy pitching half his games in a humidore-less Coors Field) 1.18 WHIP.

Jimenez was out of baseball only two years later. Strange. He finished his career with a 24-44 record, and an ERA pushing 5.00. That, to me, sounds like an awful pitcher. But how many guys do you know with a no-hitter and a 40-save season on the back of their baseball card? I can only think of a few: Dennis Eckersley, Derek Lowe and Dave Righetti.

And Jose Jimenez.

-Brad Spieser (


Chris Wesseling said...

First guy I thought of was "The Best Backup QB of All-Time" Earl Morrall. Backed up for most of his early career except for a dotted season here and there where he'd start and produce great numbers only to return to the backup role once again . . . which happens in the life of a journeyman. More "very good" season than most journeymen backups, but still not off the wall goofy. And then came his 13th season, 1968, where he won the friggin' NFL MVP starting in place of John Unitas. That's a pretty good story, right? Well, a few years later in his 17th season, 1972, he takes over for an injured Bob Griese and directs the Dolphins to nine of their 14 victories and earns 1st Team All-Pro honors on his way to Comeback Player of the Year. And nobody ever gave the guy a starting job. He always had to wait for Unitas or Griese to go down to show that he was one of the top QBs in the entire league.

Earl Morrall makes the Muhsin Muhammad story look ho-hum. How this guy doesn't have his own movie is a question that needs to be answered.

Other candidates: George Blanda, Jim Plunkett, Rich Gannon, Joey Galloway, how about Boomer's last season of his career?

Baseball: Best example that jumped to my mind was Muhsin Muhammad = the Ellis Burks of baseball players. Heck, even Eric Davis. Pre-World Series dominance, then a down period, then cancer, then Cincinnati encore rejuvenation, then final dominant season in Baltimore.

Also: Fred Lynn, Paul Molitor, Eckersley is a good one, Goose Gossage (mid career trial as a starter between two dominant relief stretches).

Twin Killing dot Com said...

Okay, nobody in the history of the world has had a stranegr career then Earl Morrall. Nobody. Good call.

As for Gannon, Galloway and E.D. I'm not sure how I forgot to include them in my post - because I think about them quite a bit. Seriously.

Am I crazy, or was Gannon drafted as a safety out of Delaware? Or maybe he was just briefly converted in Minnesota. Or maybe he's been a QB all along. Anyway, I think he's still throwing darts at Elvis Grbac's face in a poorly lit basement. That dude sure was wrapped tight...

Re: Galloway: Remember when he was holding out (and pissing off every Sehawks fan) and playing flag football in West Virginia with Major Harris?

And Eric Davis...Jesus, how could I leave him off my list? He almost won a batting title as a 36-year-old, after cancer and injuries had turned him into a shell of himself. You wanna make a grown man cry? Mention Greg Cook or Eric Davis to my father.

This is where things get odd...

Didn't E.D. make two spectacular diving catches in right field to preserve Jimenez's no-hitter? I'm almost positive he did, and on nearly identical sinking line drives.

I'm going to go look this up, and I'll be back with an answer one way or another.

Twin Killing dot Com said...

Eric Davs DID preserve the no-hitter with two diving catches, including one with one out in the 9th inning (link below). This is one of the few times in life when I feel really smart.