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A Salute to the NFL Ironmen of the Decade

Mitch Goldich
The players who haven't missed a game in the 2010s.

I just came back from 10 days off the grid. I was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro—not exactly sitting on a beach drinking daiquiris—but those nights in the cold mountain air still had me contemplating the value of taking some time off. Of course when I returned, I expected it would take me a while to dig through all the tweets and podcasts and aggregated blog posts to catch back up with the daily NFL news cycles I had missed. It took about eight seconds; it seems nothing of much consequence happened in my absence.

But one of the few stories I did see is that Glover Quin retired. The former Texans and Lions safety was an ironman by NFL standards, having played all 16 games in each of the last nine years. So in honor of my time off and Quin’s upcoming time off, I thought I’d salute the rest of this decade’s NFL iron men. Thanks to a quick search on the indispensable Pro Football Reference Play Index, I found 16 players who have played 16 games in all nine years this decade. Here’s who has (or had) a chance to go a perfect 160-for-160 in the 2010s:

END OF THE LINE

Two of the 16 have already announced the end of their streaks. In addition to Glover Quin, the list’s other high-profile retirement is courtesy of Julius Peppers. Peppers’s absence will be felt for many reasons:

As for the 14 who can still get there...

QUARTERBACKS

Even though it seems QBs can all play forever now, it’s hard to make this list as a quarterback. Plenty of them are benched for performance reasons, or get hurt and miss a game here or there. Others are merely victims of timing. 2010 may look like a nice round number, but decades are still arbitrary end points—it’s not Russell Wilson’s fault he was born in 1988 and drafted in 2012.

Two quarterbacks came very close to making this list, but Eli Manning missed one game this decade (thanks, Ben McAdoo) and Tom Brady has missed four (thanks, Roger Goodell). The two quarterbacks who have played all 144 games this decade, if you haven’t been able to guess yet: Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan.

KICKERS & PUNTERS

These are the guys you would expect to see on this list. The least likely to get hurt. The most likely to play into their old age. Still, given the speed with which coaches and GMs are often willing to churn through their specialists after just one mistake, it’s fairly common for many of them to spend a week on the street at some point. But not surprisingly, five of the 14 names on this list make a living with their legs.

The two kickers: Ryan Succop and Mason Crosby. Succop, Mr. Irrelevant from the 2009 draft, has split his career between the Chiefs and Titans. Crosby has been in Green Bay since 2007, and remains there despite one disastrous game last season, though he will be challenged for a roster spot this year by Sam Ficken.

The three punters: Britton Colquitt, Dustin Colquitt and Sam Koch. I have long been a fan of punters, and how can you not love that both of the Colquitt brothers make this list? Britton played for the Broncos from 2010 through the Super Bowl 50 victory, and has been a Brown ever since. He did have two games with zero punts—as you may have expected from the punter on a Peyton Manning team—including a memorable 51-48 shootout win over the Cowboys. But Colquitt is credited in the box score with nine special teams snaps, thanks to Matt Prater’s six extra points and three field goals—his ability to hold on placekicks kept the streak alive. Dustin, meanwhile, enters his 15th season with the Chiefs. Koch has handled every single Ravens punt since 2006.

THE LONE DEFENDER

With Quin and Peppers retiring, only one player has a chance to finish out the decade playing every game on the defensive side of the ball. That man is Brandon Carr. Carr was a fifth-round pick in 2008 who has started every game of his career. The DB spent four seasons with the Chiefs, five with the Cowboys and now enters his third with the Ravens. Aside from the quarterbacks, he is the only other every-down player on this list. Because the most common position on this list is…

LONG-TERM LONG SNAPPERS

The NFL’s least talked-about position offers a roster spot for some of the NFL’s most durable players with the most job security. These players are not household names, so they deserve their moment in the sun as much as anyone. On behalf of The MMQB, I salute them all.

These long snappers are John Denney, J.J. Jansen, L.P. Ladouceur, Don Muhlbach, Garrison Sanborn, Jon Weeks. Five of them have spent the entire decade with one team: Denney (Dolphins), Jansen (Panthers), Ladouceur (Cowboys), Muhlbach (Lions) and Weeks (Texans). Each of them appears in line to return in 2019, according to my rudimentary googling skills.

The other one, Sanborn, has played for the Bills and Bucs, but is now a free agent. Hey NFL GMs, sign Garrison Sanborn!

So there you have it: 14 NFL players have a chance to finish out the decade with a clean 160 games played. You have one more thing to follow this season.

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2. After signing Grady Jarrett, the Falcons make Deion Jones a wealthy man.

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THE KICKER

That feeling when you return from 10 days off the grid.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com