Even if you've only recently become a fan of the NFL, you probably know about how great the 2000s were.
No, we're not being nostalgic here when we discuss how great the 2000s were. There was legitimate parity (no NFC team made the Super Bowl twice in the decade and nearly every team made the postseason), some of the greatest quarterbacks in history were starting up, and we even finally got to see P!nk and Faith Hill do football songs.
Oh, and a certain catch to take down a perfect team and a dynasty team in the making…
So, let’s take today to identify some NFL stars from the 2000s. For this quiz, the normal rules that we usually have still apply: you’ll be given a picture of a player – but this time, we'll give you a very slight clue to aid you – and asked to answer who they are. However, because we’re dealing with a relatively recent era, all players in this quiz will be retired; some may have played into the 2010s, but there will be no active players on this list.
In other words, if you read this and you're wondering where guys like Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, and Darrelle Revis are, now you know. That’d be a bit too easy.
Are you ready to revisit recent NFL history? Load up those classic Madden games, turn up EA Trax, and prepare to lay the boom because we’re headed back to the 2000s!
An All-Pro running back and a member of the 2,000 yard club...
We start our list off with a fairly easy one - and if you can't get this one, this may not be the quiz for you. Spending his prime years with the Baltimore Ravens, this former first-round pick ran over 2,000 yards in 2003 and was among the league's best rushers in various other years; however, he hasn't really gotten much support for the Hall of Fame. With this year's induction of Terrell Davis, though, that may change soon. Who is this?
A Super Bowl champion with the Patriots
Recent years have seen Tom Brady and the New England Patriots offense dominate in the Super Bowl - at least when you forget about that 28-3 deficit - but there once was a time when it was Bill Belichick's defense that kept the team in the game. This cornerback, who has garnered some support for the Hall of Fame, was a key part of those Patriots teams when he wasn't a journeyman. Remember his stint with the Denver Broncos? More importantly, can you name him?
The hardest hitting safety in the league...
If you got that joke, then you should have no problems getting this right. If you didn't get that joke, we'll try to make things a bit easier for you. A hard-hitting safety for the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, this perennial Pro Bowler was a key member of the Saints team that went on to win Super Bowl XLIV - and he's not the only member from that team on this list. His post-football career, however, hasn't been as successful. Who is this?
NFC Champion and, at least to us, snubbed for an MVP
When you think about this veteran quarterback, MVP votes probably don't come to mind; at his best, he was a solid starting quarterback who could guide the right team to the playoffs, and at his worst, he was a serviceable backup. It's easy to forget, then, that this guy had a fantastic 2008 season - not the same year he took his team to the Super Bowl - and didn't receive an MVP vote. What's up with that? Who was this?
Former 49ers quarterback accused of being gay
I know, that's certainly a hell of a way to introduce this player, but it's impossible for me to see his name and not think, "Oh, right, Terrell Owens accused him of being gay." A journeyman quarterback that played everywhere from San Francisco to Philadelphia, fans will remember this four-time Pro Bowler for helping the Eagles to a playoff berth in 2006 after Donovan McNabb's season-ending knee injury and, the following season, helping the Bucs to an NFC South title. 5Who was this?
Hall of Fame running back? He thinks so..
Before unceremoniously finishing his career struggling to reach the marks he set in his prime, this Jacksonville Jaguars running back was a reason to watch them even in their toughest years - and a cheat code in Madden, if used right. His career stats all seem to show a Hall of Fame case and recently, this former All-Pro asked why he hasn't gotten any support yet. We're wondering the same thing! Can you tell us which potential Hall of Famer this is?
An All-Pro pass rusher for the Atlanta Falcons
When we last saw this All-Pro defensive end/linebacker hybrid, he was finishing his career on a NFC team that was soon to become a championship contender. Years before, though, this former first-round pick was dominant for several teams but saved some of his best ball for the Atlanta Falcons. Even in his final years with the Dirty Birds, quarterbacks hesitated when they saw him coming, knowing he was still capable of knocking them to the ground with power. Who is this?
Divided Cowboys star who, more than once, lost his mind (and helmet)
It may be easy to forget, because of how much talent the Dallas Cowboys have had for the past decade or so, but there was a time when they really were a forgettable team in the 2000s. Could this former first-rounder come in and fix the culture? Well, he definitely tried, catching at least six touchdowns and 70 passes in each season with the Cowboys, but his attitude made him a divided figure before, during, and after his tenure in Dallas. Who are we talking about?
A Super Bowl champion with the Patriots
A third-round pick way back in the 1996 NFL Draft, would you have guessed this potential future Hall of Famer only made one Pro Bowl? Winning three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, this linebacker was a capable, durable leader and when the Bills - Parcells and Belichick - needed him most, this Arizona product could deliver. Will we ever see him in the Hall of Fame? Maybe one day - off a committee vote - but likely not anytime soon. Who was this?
A Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Bengals
For as bad as the Cincinnati Bengals have been when it comes to their postseason success - or, really, lack thereof - they've had some extraordinary success with their wide receivers. This former seventh-round pick is no exception, making a Pro Bowl with the Bengals after catching 112 yards for 1,143 yards and twelve touchdowns in a single season. Though he never had the popularity of other receivers at the time because he lacked 'gimmicks', Carson Palmer could still rely on him as an important target. Who is this?
The greatest running back of our generation? Probably.
At times on this quiz, you're going to have to deal with some hard ones, as you've likely already seen. But this? If you get this one wrong and you're still taking the quiz, you either are brave or misclicked. This should be an easy one for any NFL fan.
This ex-Titans star once held the single-season all-purpose yards mark
Would you have guessed that, when Darren Sproles set the single-season all-purpose record in 2011, it was this veteran Titans player who previously held the mark? During the 2000 season, this Michigan State alum caught 63 passes for 895 yards, led the NFL in punt return yards with 662, and returned 41 kickoffs for 1,132 yards. That's 2,690 all-purpose yards - more than any running back in the 2,000 yard club had (or has) done. Who exactly was this man?
One of Peyton Manning's favorite targets
Of course, we were going to have to mention one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets at some point - and yes, we'll save Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne for something else. We promise. But today, let's talk about this former All-American and a 2009 Pro Bowler. One of the best at his position in Colts history, this Iowa product spent nine seasons with the Colts before moving onto the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This one should be easy, but can you get it right?
A two-time Pro Bowler with the New York Jets
Yes, the Jets actually had some highlights during the 2000s - and that's despite going 4-12 in 2007 with Kellen Clemens as their quarterback. Woof. Anyways, this former first-round pick was a two-time Pro Bowler during his time in New York and had four seasons of eight or more sacks; his career-high in sacks was 12.5, the same year he made his first Pro Bowl. This impact defender had a combined eleven sacks in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, helping the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Games. Who was this?
A star in Seattle before the Legion of Boom
A second-round pick in 2005, we're not joking when we say this USC product was THE Seattle Seahawks defense before Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and the rest of the Legion of Boom cemented their place in NFL history. Named to the Seahawks' 35th Anniversary Team in 2010, this veteran linebacker played in all but one game through his first four seasons before battling injuries in 2009. For his final season in 2010, he re-emerged as a dominant force but was out of the league by 2012. Who are we talking about?
When healthy, this Chargers star was among the best at his craft
We're in the home stretch, so show up to these final questions with the intensity this ex-Chargers star brought when he was healthy. Snakebitten by various injuries and never playing more than 15 games in a season, this three-time All-Pro and 2005 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year was definitely something special when the Chargers landed him with the 12th overall pick that year. In his first three seasons, the ex-Maryland star had 39.5 sacks! Alas, injuries took their toll and, by 2010, he was done as a regular player. Who is this?
Future Hall of Famer (most likely) and former NFLPA President
I know I said I'd try to keep my own bias out of this, but that this eight-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro offensive lineman - with seven of those being the first team! - isn't in the Hall of Fame yet is a travesty. I get the outrage about Terrell Owens not being in but show the former LSU star some love. A second-round pick in 1994, the current Bears assistant offensive line coach was also known by fans for being the NFLPA's president. Who is this?
An underrated Washington Redskins running back quickly forgotten in the Daniel Snyder Era
At first, we were considering giving former Buffalo Bills Fred Jackson this spot, but he fits more into a similar quiz about stars from the 2010s. This two-time Pro Bowl running back, however, is a perfect replacement, especially when looking at his prime. In his first seven seasons, the fewest amount of yards per rush he had when playing double-digit games was 1,262. That's pretty damn good! Unfortunately, injuries and concussions plagued this running back's final years, prematurely ending what easily could have been a Hall of Fame career. Who is this?
The Eagles replaced this All-Pro with someone 'Shady'
Another easy one? Perhaps, but as that clue implies, him being replaced by a 'shady' running back means he easily gets forgotten by fans outside of Philadelphia. A third-round pick in 2002, it may surprise some people to know this Villanova product only ran for more than 1,000 yards in a season twice; though, never playing in 16 games and having several seasons where a full season would have meant at least 1,100 yards likely was the cause. Who are we talking about?
Defensive Player of the Year for the Green Bay Packers
Again, we try to remain as unbiased as we can be with these entries, but this former Michigan star taking home Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 over Darrelle Revis was ridiculous. Revis had no stats because quarterbacks were afraid to throw his way! Still, don't let that take away the fact that this Heisman Trophy winner will be a first ballot Hall of Famer in a few years, especially after a career that saw him make eight All-Pro teams. Who is this?
Definitely a Hall of Fame cornerback come next year...right?
Of all the players on this list that have yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, this former third-round pick has to have a shoo-in next year. This should be a very easy one even if you only caught the end of his career in Tampa Bay, but you had to have seen him making five Pro Bowls, five All-Pro teams, and be named to the 2000s All-Decade Team, right? Maybe you'd even know his twin brother, who went into broadcasting following a premature end to his career. Who are we talking about?
One of the 50 Greatest Vikings
Unfortunately, we really only care about defensive linemen when they're getting to the quarterback and when the defensive lineman in question is a nose tackle...yeah, they get overshadowed. A six-time Pro Bowler and a five-time first-team All-Pro, this former first-round pick was named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team in 2010 AND the 2000s All-Decade Team. Without his impact on defense, the Vikings probably don't win the NFC North in 2008; and yet, he gets lost in history? Not fair! Who is this?
A Super Bowl champion...with the Baltimore Ravens?
No, that's not a misprint. Even though he's remembered much for his exploits outside of Baltimore, especially with the Kansas City Chiefs, this former University of Texas star did indeed win a Super Bowl with the Ravens. A three-time first-team All-Pro, this back once led the league in rushing and had to prematurely end his career because of a bad neck injury. Granted, he was probably on the way out anyway, but one or two more solid seasons may have helped his Hall of Fame case. Who is this?
This Oakland Raiders star was worth coming to the Colosseum - even if things didn't end so well
I think we can all agree that while Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, and the other young stars turning the Oakland Raiders into a Super Bowl contender were still in middle school, Al Davis' teams were impossible to watch. And no, Lane Kiffin is not to blame. There were times, though, where it was worth coming to the Colosseum to watch this former first-rounder play. Making four All-Pro teams in his time with the Raiders, things, unfortunately, didn't end well between the two, but that was to be expected given how bad the Raiders were. This was...
More of a villain in Washington than any politician
Is that too harsh a headline? Maybe, but walk around the stands at FedEx Field or Redskins training camp this summer and try to bring up this former first-rounder's name in conversation. Named to two Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams, this former Tennessee Volunteers star is unfortunately remembered more for behavior and legal issues, including several suspensions from both his team and the NFL. Even in New England, this guy fought the coaches. Who would fight someone working under Bill Belichick? You tell me.
Master of the Wildcat Formation
Say what you want about the Wildcat formation being nothing more than a gimmick that only worked for the Miami Dolphins because it took teams by surprise - not unlike the read option a few years back - but you can't deny the Dolphins worked it to perfection. It probably helped when the 'Master of the Wildcat' was an ex-Auburn running back with blazing speed and a dangerous ability to break away. If you know the Wildcat, you'll know the answer to this.
Super Bowl champion turned NFL coach
If this was a basketball or baseball quiz, you'd probably find more players that are currently coaching. With the NFL, this ex-New York Giants star is one of the few that has gone into coaching as a post-football career. The eighth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, this popular NFL player - who somehow never made a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team - is serving as a coaching intern with Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals. Maybe he can help them to a Super Bowl the way he did the Giants. Who is this?
A teammate of Plaxico's with the New York Giants, but on defense
Undrafted in 2001, it's easy to forget this veteran Giants Pro Bowler started his career with the Washington Redskins and didn't exactly have the most spectacular career. Yet, he still managed to lead by example in his time with the Giants, helping them to a Super Bowl XLI victory and four postseason appearances before retiring in 2010. Without his leadership, that 2007 New York Giants team doesn't even rebound from their 0-2 start. Even if you missed him then, you likely haven't missed him on TV. Who is this?
A Pro Bowl running back that spent some of his final days with the Texans
Before the Houston Texans became perennial AFC South contenders, they were a rising team that still was in the "do we sign the veteran thinking he can be a key contributor?" phase. This four-time Pro Bowl running back is a perfect example, joining the Texans in the final stages of his career and averaging nearly 4.0 yards per carry in his two seasons. Though he was far removed from his prime, including a year that saw him nearly join the 2,000 yard club, this former All-Pro was a valuable leader and mentor for a young team. Who was this?
Potentially a Hall of Fame center that won a Super Bowl with the Colts
Will this legendary center - who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in February 2018 - be inducted into Canton? Given all he did in his career blocking for two of the greatest quarterbacks in history - and those six Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams probably look really nice as well - I'd have to think he'll be in by 2019. Winning a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, this North Carolina product actually attempted a pass during a 2004 game, but it fell incomplete. Imagine how awesome that'd have been??? Who is this?
Unlike Ronde Barber, he won a Defensive Player of the Year
With all that Ronde Barber accomplished in his career, would you have guessed that this player would have a Defensive Player of the Year Award but Ronde wouldn't? I know what you're thinking - well, there's a bias against players in the secondary - but this guy was an elite safety when he could stay on the field! Taking home the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year and winning a championship in another season, this two-time All-Pro may have been bound for Canton if he could just stay on the field; his natural talent was that special. Who was this?
Super Bowl winning linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers
And I make that point about running backs and linebackers with all due respect to this former third-round pick, but make no mistake: this guy was closer to elite more than people may remember! A four-time All-Pro linebacker and another member of the 2000s All-Decade Team, this Colorado State product helped the Steelers to a Super Bowl title (as you can see by the picture, duh) and has gone into coaching in retirement. If you know the Steelers, you'll have no problems knowing this one.
This Cowboys star nearly set the single-season sack record
Even if you only recently became an NFL fan, you should have no issues getting this one right. A hybrid defensive end/linebacker with both the Cowboys and Broncos, this former first-round pick was named to seven All-Pro teams and twice led the NFL in sacks. During the 2008 season, the future Hall of Famer came oh-so-close to breaking Michael Strahan's single-season sack record by getting to the quarterback 20 times! Those are Madden numbers! Who was this fierce linebacker?
Before Michael Oher, he was the blind side
When you're doing a quiz like this and you have to choose offensive linemen, those who were the best at their craft almost always have to be the go; it's not like running back or linebacker when you can pick someone good, but not elite. This offensive tackle, even in his old age, was elite. Making six All-Pro teams with the Seahawks and named to the 2000s All-Decade Team, John Madden put it best when he thought this Florida State alum could have been one of the best tackles of all time. Who was this?
All-Pro Saints cornerback released before the Super Bowl win
Imagine signing with a team midseason that is almost certainly headed for the NFC Championship Game the way they're playing and quickly making an impact. Granted, you've probably lost a step since your prime, but you help the New Orleans Saints keep their undefeated season alive by forcing a key fumble - and cut from the roster a couple days later, meaning you miss out on the ring. Woof. At least this two-time All-Pro cornerback had won a Super Bowl ring in the past, right? Who is this?