Daniel Cormier believes his name will belong in the same bracket as Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning if he retires by winning back the UFC heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic on Saturday. 

Win or lose in the Las Vegas trilogy bout, Cormier (22-2-0) will go down as an all-time great in the mixed martial arts world, having reigned in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions in UFC. 

Cormier it set to bid farewell to the fight game but says he should be considered alongside Chicago Bulls legend Jordan – a six-time NBA champion - and Manning, who retired a Super Bowl winner, if he can regain the belt he dropped to Miocic a year ago. 

"I think it puts you right alongside the greatest sports athletes of all time. Michael Jordan won with the Chicago Bulls when they beat the Utah Jazz, unfortunately he came back, I won't come back," he told a pre-fight news conference ahead of UFC 252. 

"Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl in his last season, it would put me in that type of sphere with some of the greatest athletes that have competed in any sport. So, when I win on Saturday, I will retire in that way." 

Cormier's legacy is without question, but a defeat would mean he ends his career with losing records against the two fighters who have also reigned in the same era - Miocic and Jon Jones. 

While admitting such a scenario would be damaging to his own ego, Cormier says he has earned the respect of his fellow professionals. 

"I'm a guy with a big ego and that would suck, I gotta be honest. To think there would be two guys in my career that were just better than me and I had multiple chances to beat them, it would suck," he added.  

"But Dana [White] didn't just go 'hey DC, you're a great guy I love you, fight for all these championships', I earned all these opportunities.

"So, all these tough guys I fight, again 10 title fights in a row, that's all earned, it's not because they like me. These guys aren't my friends to the point where they just give me championship fights.  

"I train, I fight and I win - that's why I continue to find myself in this position. But all this pressure is earned. The pressure of fighting a guy like Stipe Miocic, the pressure of fighting a guy like Jon Jones twice - when Jones beat me and he got in trouble I beat everyone else until he got back then I beat everybody else again until I fought Stipe.

"All this s***'s earned, man, it's not given and I think people need to recognise that." 

Miocic (19-3-0), who lost the first bout between the two back in July 2018, has no qualms with the focus being on his retiring opponent. 

"All good. He can take it all, man. It's all good. I don't mind it. Listen, good for him. I'm just going to hang out in the back," he said. 

"Thank God we're done with this. It's been great. We're done. Rubber match, everyone wants a trilogy, but when it's all said and done, it's going to be over.  

"I think it's always personal whenever you fight, because [your opponent is] trying to do something. They're trying to beat you. They're trying to take something away from you. 

"I've got no ill will towards the man and he's going to have a good retirement. God bless him, and I wish nothing but the best for him."

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning earned bragging rights against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in "The Match", but charity was the real winner.

It was an all-star cast for The Match: Champions for Charity – arranged to raise funds for coronavirus relief efforts – as 15-time major champion Woods teamed up with two-time Super Bowl winner Manning.

Woods and Manning secured a 1up victory over Mickelson and six-time Super Bowl champion Brady in Hobe Sound, Florida on Sunday.

Mickelson and Brady made a late surge on the back nine, but Woods and Manning held on at Medalist Golf Club, where social distancing was front and centre.

More importantly, over $20million was raised to help with COVID-19 relief amid the pandemic, which has wreaked havoc globally.

Bad weather delayed the charity contest by 45 minutes but there was plenty of fun and entertainment once the players teed off, with PGA Tour star Justin Thomas and NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley headlining the broadcast.

The star quartet exchanged banter, while Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brady struggled early.

Brady did not look like the NFL's G.O.A.T with a golf club in hand, until holing out for birdie from the fairway at the par-four fifth hole in South Florida.

Team Brady and Mickelson rallied, however, the Woods-Manning pairing were not to be denied.

"It's great, the fact that we all came together and we were able to raise $20million for those that have been so severely affected," said Woods, with the PGA Tour planning to return next month after golf was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis. "This is our arena. This is what we do. We couldn't imagine going out onto the field and doing what they do."

Former NFL quarterback Manning said: "I know Tom and I were kind of comparing notes and feelings to each other. To go behind the ropes in these guys' world and kind of be in the arena with them, it was a really special experience. I was not comfortable the entire time, from the first tee all the way down here."

Mickelson – a five-time major winner – added: "We fought hard. I was a little nervous, a little tight on the front nine. My man kept us in there, and the back nine he really shined. We made a run and came really close."

Is there anything Tom Brady cannot do?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar and six-time NFL Super Bowl champion holed out from the fairway in "The Match" on Sunday.

Featuring in the all-star charity contest – arranged to raise funds for coronavirus relief efforts – alongside Phil Mickelson, Brady had struggled with the golf club against Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning.

Brady, who swapped the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers via free agency in the offseason, is regarded as the greatest NFL player of all time but he looked human at Medalist Golf Club.

That was until Brady produced an unforgettable moment of magic – holing out for birdie from 100 yards at the par-four fifth hole in Hobe Sound, Florida.

Reigning Super Bowl MVP and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, like many others, was left stunned.

"You got to be kidding!!!!! #TheMatch2," Mahomes wrote on Twitter.

Peyton Manning went one up on Tom Brady with quick-witted jibes before the first tee shot was struck ahead of "The Match".

The start of the all-star charity contest – arranged to raise funds for COVID-19 relief efforts – in which Manning has teamed up with Tiger Woods to face Brady and Phil Mickelson was delayed due to the wet weather in South Florida on Sunday.

When the quartet took to the range it was Manning who fired an early blow when asked who his caddie might have been if the quartet had someone to carry their bags at Medalist Golf Club.

With Tampa Bay Buccaneers new boy Brady in earshot lining up a practice shot, Manning replied to a reporter: "Do you bring Eli [Manning, his brother]? Could do that.

"Do you bring Nick Foles? Maybe."

Brady turned out and replied: "That's a cheap shot."

Manning was not finished yet, adding: "I was thinking maybe Bill Belichick ... just to see how that kind of would have worked."

Woods, wearing his famous Sunday red, and Mickelson ensured the first hole was halved after their legendary quarterback team-mates were wayward from the tee in the rain with concerns that a storm may be on the way.

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning's charity match against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady will be held at Medalist Golf Club in Florida on May 24.

The venue and date were confirmed on Thursday as the golfing and NFL greats do battle to raise funds for COVID-19 relief.

WarnerMedia and the golfers are donating $10million towards the cause, a statement said on Thursday.

Woods/Manning will take on Mickelson/Brady in a team matchplay with a four-ball format on the front nine and modified alternate shot format on the back nine, with the event sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unimaginable tragedy and heartbreak," WarnerMedia news and sports chairman Jeff Zucker said.

"We're hopeful this event and platform will help raise meaningful funding for COVID-19 relief, while also providing a source of brief distraction and entertainment for all sports fans."

All players will have open mics throughout the event, which comes with most sports around the world brought to a standstill by coronavirus.

There have been more than 270,200 deaths from COVID-19.

Mickelson and Woods previously faced off in a match in November 2018, when the former won on the fourth play-off hole.

Tiger Woods revealed the "trash talk" has already started as he and Peyton Manning prepare to face Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in a televised charity golf match next month.

The superstar quartet will raise funds for COVID-19 relief when they do battle in May, with a date and venue yet to be confirmed.

Mickelson came out on top in a winner-takes-all $9million pay-per-view duel with Woods in November 2018.

Woods says there have already been some good-natured exchanges over their next contest, which should generate even more interest with NFL stars Brady and Manning set to tee off for a great cause.

The 15-time major champion told Golf Digest: "It's gonna be Peyton and I against Tom and Phil, and we're gonna have a great time doing it.

"All the money and proceeds are going to go to all the COVID relief efforts. We haven't decided exactly what charities we're going to be donating the money to, but we're gonna be divvying it out to a lot of different causes."

Woods added: "There has been a little bit of trash talk already, a little bit of banter back and forth.

"Whether it's 'I might need extra caddies to carry my Super Bowls,' because he [Brady] has more Super Bowls than my partner. Or, 'I've got more majors than Phil, so I'm gonna have to have a truck come up to the first tee and U-Haul it out'.

"We've had banter back and forth, and it's been fantastic. But it's typical us, it's what we do. We like to give out the needle, and to give out the needle you gotta be able to take it.

"It's been fun, and it'll be like that when we play, when we compete. There will be banter back and forth, but it won't be as rough as what we have in our text exchange."

For the Indian Premier League and NFL legend Peyton Manning, April 18 is when it all began.

Twelve years ago the world's premier Twenty20 franchise cricket tournament began with a bang as Brendon McCullum delivered a thrilling example of the format's appeal.

A decade earlier, the Indianapolis Colts made a decision that would alter the franchise's fortunes, for the better, when they selected quarterback Manning.

We take a look at the most notable sporting moments to have occurred on April 18 in years gone by.

 

1998 - Colts opt for Manning over Leaf

Heading into the 1998 NFL Draft there was little to separate Tennessee quarterback Manning and Washington State signal caller Ryan Leaf in many experts' eyes.

The Colts had the first overall pick and chose Manning, who would lead them to 11 playoff appearances and two Super Bowls - their victory over the Chicago Bears in the first resulting in the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy since they relocated from Baltimore.

Manning ended his career in Indianapolis with a glut of franchise records whereas Leaf, who was drafted directly behind him to the San Diego Chargers, proved to be one of the NFL Draft's biggest busts, playing in just 25 games.

 

1999 - 'The Great One' bows out

The crowd at Madison Square Garden said farewell to an NHL legend as 'The Great One' Wayne Gretzky played the 1,487th and final game of his decorated career.

He scored his 2,857th point - an assist - as his New York Rangers suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gretzky remains the leading scorer in NHL history and at the time of his retirement he held 61 league records.

 

2008 - McCullum stars in IPL's curtain-raiser

The IPL need not have worried about fireworks for their opening ceremony as they duly came from the bat of a New Zealander once the action began.

McCullum smashed an incredible 158 not out off 73 balls as Kolkata Knight Riders obliterated Royal Challengers Bangalore by 140 runs in the first ever IPL match.

The only man to better that total in IPL history is Chris Gayle, who became the first to surpass 10,000 runs in T20 cricket on April 18, 2017.

2008 - SuperSonics relocation gets the NBA owners' seal of approval 

April 18 is a dark day for Seattle sports fans as it was when they learned NBA owners had voted in favour of moving the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City.

Just five days after the Sonics had played what proved to be their final game in Seattle, 28 of the 30 owners approved a move to OKC, where the team became the Thunder.

Professional basketball has not returned to Seattle since, while a Thunder team featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden reached the 2012 NBA Finals, where they were beaten by the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.

Heading into the 1998 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts had what was deemed to be a tricky choice to make.

Armed with the first overall pick, new team president Bill Polian had two quarterbacks to choose from: Peyton Manning – the son of a former NFL player who starred at the University of Tennessee – or Ryan Leaf, the big man with a strong arm who had decided to leave Washington State a year early to enter the league.

History, of course, tells us the Colts made the correct call.

Manning spent 14 seasons in Indianapolis, his hugely successful spell with the team including leading them to glory in Super Bowl XLI. His jersey number (18) was retired by the franchise, while there is a statue of him at the team's Lucas Oil Stadium.

The San Diego Chargers, meanwhile, claimed Leaf at two. Their marriage did not run so smoothly – or last too long (three seasons, to be precise). He played just 25 games in a career that also included a stop in Dallas, throwing 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions, and is regarded as one of – if not the – biggest draft busts.

But what if Leaf had gone first instead? Let's start at the beginning…

 

THE COLTS

Having the first pick was the ideal building block for Polian, who was always going to hand new head coach Jim Mora a rookie QB to work with.

Manning started from the outset with the Colts. There were early teething problems and he finished his debut season with a 3-13 record, throwing more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26).

However, the chance to learn on the job aided his development. The Colts went on to make the playoffs in the next two seasons and while 2001 was not so successful, a 6-10 campaign led to the arrival of Tony Dungy as head coach and, well, the rest is history.

Whether Leaf would have developed in the same circumstances has to be considered doubtful with how his career panned out, but Indianapolis would have at least afforded him time in which to prove himself.

They also had two rather useful pieces to help, as a running back by the name of Marshall Faulk and a wide receiver called Marvin Harrison were already on the roster.

Had Leaf still flamed out in a similar timeframe with the Colts – it should be pointed out he missed his second season in San Diego through injury - they may well have used the 2001 draft to find a replacement. The Chargers did exactly that, using the 32nd pick on Drew Brees.

THE CHARGERS

Here is where an alternative NFL timeline gets seriously interesting.

Manning as a Charger may not have blossomed in time to keep head coach Kevin Gilbride in a job – he was fired midway through the 1998 season, his second at the helm – but he may well have been the key to keeping the team in San Diego.

Owner Dean Spanos moved the Chargers to Los Angeles after an unsuccessful attempt to get a new stadium built. A failure to secure tax-payer funding led to relocation in 2017.

Surely, though, the presence of Manning could have made a difference. On-field success - perhaps even a Super Bowl triumph like the one the Colts enjoyed - could have led to them getting the backing required to stay put.

Instead, L.A. is now home, though they have so far struggled in competition with the Rams to attract fans. There have even been rumours that the Chargers could move again soon, this time overseas to become the NFL's permanent residents in London.

And what of Brees? Manning's presence would have made picking another QB a waste of draft resources. In 2001, the team to next take a player at the position after the Chargers were the Cowboys, meaning Drew could well have gone on to become a star in Dallas instead.

THE 2004 DRAFT

Of course, there is another Manning whose career would have changed if you take a sliding doors approach to the '98 draft.

After life with Leaf failed to pan out, the Chargers had better luck with Brees before then moving on to Philip Rivers.

However, they selected Peyton's younger brother Eli with the first pick in 2004, rather than Rivers, even though the former Ole Miss quarterback never had any intention of playing for them.

Eli ended up in New York with the Giants in a trade that saw Rivers, who was drafted at four, head in the opposite direction. The next QB taken that year? Ben Roethlisberger, who went to the Pittsburgh Steelers at 11. The Buffalo Bills also used their first-round pick on the position, opting for J.P. Losman after moving up to 22.

Yet had Peyton's place been in San Diego, several notable signal callers selected early in 2004 could have ended up in different locations to begin their pro careers.

After two decades as a New England Patriot, Tom Brady will be wearing a different uniform in 2020.

The six-time Super Bowl winner was drafted by the Patriots in 2000 and has played 326 games for New England in the regular season and playoffs.

Yet Brady has not agreed a new deal with the Patriots, who in turn will not apply the franchise tag to their quarterback, and he confirmed on Tuesday that he will continue his "football journey" elsewhere.

The 42-year-old is not alone in being a great quarterback who switched late in his career, though, and here we take a look at others who wound up moving away from the franchises they became synonymous with. 

 

PEYTON MANNING

The Indianapolis Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium is known as 'The House That Peyton Built', such is Manning's standing in the Hoosier State

Manning, the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, took the Colts to the playoffs in 11 of his 13 seasons as the starter, but in 2012 Indy cut ties rather than pay an aging quarterback coming off a succession of neck surgeries a $28million bonus.

The Colts also had the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft which they spent on Andrew Luck, then considered the most sure-fire QB prospect since, well, Manning.

But 'The Sheriff' was not done. In four seasons with the Denver Broncos he twice made the Super Bowl, set NFL single-season records for passing yardage (5,477) and touchdowns thrown (55) and added a second ring at Super Bowl 50, after which he headed off into the sunset.

 

JOE MONTANA

Brady's childhood hero won four Super Bowl rings across 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, though he would end his career as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Montana missed virtually all of 1991 and 1992 with an elbow injury and in 1993, faced with one of the biggest quarterback controversies of all time, the Niners decided to apply their succession plan and stick with reigning MVP Steve Young under center.

So Montana was shipped to Kansas City, where he took the Chiefs to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons before calling it a day.

At the culmination of Montana's final season in 1994, the Niners won their fifth Super Bowl title with Young as the starting signal caller.

BRETT FAVRE

Though Favre was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, it was in TitleTown where the gunslinger made his name as he racked up the yards and records across 16 seasons and led the Green Bay Packers to victory at Super Bowl XXXI.

Favre appeared content to bow out in March 2008, when Aaron Rodgers had been identified as his heir apparent, yet things got messy when the veteran performed a retirement U-turn in July.

Green Bay had no interest in trading him to the Minnesota Vikings, their rivals in the NFC North, so Favre was moved to the New York Jets, where he spent one up-and-down season before retiring again.

Yet in 2009 Favre did the unthinkable and signed for the Vikings. Minnesota went all the way to the NFC Championship Game - beating the Packers twice in the regular season along the way - but Father Time appeared to have finally caught up with Favre in the 2010 season and on this occasion his retirement stuck.

 

JOE NAMATH

While his statistics do not measure up to Brady, Manning et al, Hall of Famer Namath is still one of the most renowned NFL quarterbacks of all time.

His "guarantee" that the underdog New York Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III is etched into NFL folklore.

Away from the gridiron, 'Broadway Joe' was perhaps the NFL's first celebrity and it seemed fitting that he went from the Big Apple to the City of Stars, signing for the Los Angeles Rams in 1977 after he had gone 4-17 as a starter in the previous two seasons.

However, by that point, injuries had taken their toll and Namath's time in the NFL ended with a four-interception outing against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. At least he was in the right place to launch his acting career...

Pat Mahomes may become the NFL's first $200million player but he can expect to earn double that amount in endorsements, according to a sports marketing expert.

The quarterback further enhanced his blossoming reputation by steering the Kansas City Chiefs to a first title in 50 years, with his performance in the 31-20 win over San Francisco 49ers enough to earn Super Bowl LIV MVP honours.

After a trip to Disneyworld and an open-top bus parade to celebrate the team's success, Mahomes now finds himself playing a waiting game as he looks ahead to the offseason.

A first-round pick by the Chiefs in 2017, he is moving into the last year of his rookie deal. There is no doubt that his employers will pay him; the question is more about how much he gets.

The 24-year-old is expected to sign the biggest deal in the league's history, yet the eye-catching number - whatever it ends up being in terms of overall value, and guaranteed money - is not the only chance Mahomes will have to cash in on his superstardom.

Asked if Mahomes could match his record-breaking new contract in off-field deals, Darrin Duber-Smith - a lecturer in marketing at the Metropolitan State University of Denver - told Stats Perform: "For sure.

"The thing about endorsement potential is success is only one of a few important variables in whether an endorser becomes wildly financially successful.

"Pat Mahomes is likeable. Success helps, but likeability is a bigger factor. Longevity is a big issue, attractiveness is a big issue, as is success. Those are sort of the four biggest variables for endorsement success, in my opinion.

"Tom Brady has longevity and has had success, and is good-looking too, but he doesn't have that likeability.

"Mahomes doesn't have the longevity aspect yet, of course. We don't know about that because an injury can derail someone's career very quickly.

"I would compare him to Peyton Manning, though. He even has more endorsement potential than Manning, who is one of the most likeable and also one of the highest-grossing celebrity endorsers ever."

 

While Manning is still earning in retirement, Mahomes is part of a new generation of quarterbacks. Alongside Deshaun Watson and reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, he is a superstar who will attract in sponsors, not just with his play on the field but also his personality.

His profile is aided by a change in the marketing landscape, according to Duber-Smith. Where once teams were the main attraction, now it is the players who have the pulling power.

"It's all about what we call 'star power' in the sports marketing world," he explained. "We can thank 15 or 20 years of fantasy football for that.

"Star power drives almost everything – people will go out and watch really poor teams, so long as there are one or two great stars. Teams can also make millions of dollars despite not winning for decades, just so long as the star power is there.

"The NFL has rallied this year, and I think that's down to a couple of things. First, they are paying a lot more attention to which games they are showing on television, so that really helps, but we also have 'Generation Z' coming in.

"They are different. With the millennials, we had a malaise for a period of time. Now, though, we have in this batch of new quarterbacks, probably the most exciting bunch we've possibly ever seen.

"It's all about quality. The Premier League is rated number one in the world, and the way you look at that is through player salaries. The thing about Americans is – and you're going to see this when the XFL fails – they don't like to watch poor sports.

"They like to watch the best in the world, which explains why the Premier League ratings are so much higher than our own MLS. We don't care where it comes from – if it's high quality, we will watch it."

There is little doubt about Mahomes' quality. Kansas City have drafted and developed a franchise QB who should be worth every penny of what they end up paying him. As one of the faces in the NFL, he should expect to be in high demand.

Tuesday marked the end of an incredible decade for the NFL, which will crown the champion of its 100th season in February at the end of a campaign that has seen the man who dominated the past 10 years show signs of fallibility.

The 2010s largely belonged to a sixth-round pick from the University of Michigan who turned the New England Patriots into the greatest NFL dynasty.

However, there were plenty of others who helped define a fascinating period and a plethora of exciting talents queueing up to try to ensure it is they who stand out when the world looks back on the 2020s.

Here we reflect on 10 players who made the most lasting impact on the 2010s, and assess the players most likely to have the same influence on the 2020s.


2010s

Tom Brady

Five seasons into his NFL career, Brady had already secured a remarkable legacy, as a sixth-rounder who rose from Drew Bledsoe's injury replacement to a quarterback who guided the Patriots to their first three Super Bowl titles.

He led what many consider to be best offense ever in 2007 when the Patriots went 16-0, however, when the story of the greatest quarterback in NFL history is told, his and New England's second act will be the most compelling chapter.

The 2010s proved a decade in which Brady consistently and spectacularly defied Father Time. After a heart-breaking Super Bowl XLVI defeat to the New York Giants at the end of the 2011 season, a 37-year-old Brady authored a Super Bowl MVP performance three seasons later as the Patriots won their fourth title by defeating the Seattle Seahawks. 

His stunning response to a four-game 2016 suspension for his role in the Deflategate saga was a dominant 15-game stretch in which the Patriots lost only once and completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history in a 34-28 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons.

Brady followed that with an MVP campaign in 2017 that may unfairly be forgotten by many due to New England's 41-33 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles in which he threw for 505 passing yards, breaking his record from the previous year.

Super Bowl LIII was won largely on the back of the Patriots defense and the 2019 season has provided further evidence the 42-year-old is finally declining. No player can outrun Father Time, but Brady has redefined what is possible for ageing quarterbacks.
 

Peyton Manning

Manning's career appeared to be nearing its end at the start of the decade. A playoff defeat to the New York Jets marked his final appearance for the Indianapolis Colts as neck surgery ruled him out of the 2011 season and he was released in March 2012.

However, Manning landed in the perfect environment to prove he was still among the elite. His Denver Broncos spell was historic as he helmed an explosive offense that reached its apex in 2013, Manning delivering arguably the greatest season ever for a quarterback.

He set single-season records for passing yardage (5,477) and touchdowns (55) that have yet to be broken. However, after a 43-8 Super Bowl thrashing at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, Manning would have to wait until the 2015 campaign – during which he suffered the ignominy of being benched for Brock Osweiler – to win his second ring.

Manning regained the starting job and, despite his clearly declining abilities, won Super Bowl 50 with significant help from the Denver defense. It may not have been in the fashion many expected but, four years after his career was threatened by injury, Manning was able to go out on his own terms.

Rob Gronkowski

The Patriots' second spell of superiority owed much to their decision to draft a tight end out of Arizona with durability concerns in the second round of the 2010 draft.

New England's addition of Gronkowski paid instant dividends. He caught 10 touchdowns in his rookie season and developed into the league's ultimate red-zone weapon.

With four 1,000-yard seasons and five years with double-digit touchdowns – including a 17-score campaign in 2011 – Gronk's blend of athleticism, brute force and blocking ability saw him become the best tight end of his generation and the focal point of the New England offense.

Colin Kaepernick

Even with the dominance enjoyed by the likes of Brady, Manning and Gronkowski, no player from the past decade has transcended the sport more than Kaepernick.

A supremely athletic, gangly, long-striding dual-threat dynamo, Kaepernick exploded onto the scene in 2012, setting the record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a playoff game with 181 against the Green Bay Packers as he led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII, coming within a few yards of victory in an agonising 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

But, for all he did on the big stage, it was his actions during a preseason game that had the greatest impact on the sport, Kaepernick's life, and wider society.

His decision first to sit and then to kneel during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and racial injustice sparked both admiration and condemnation and led to a plethora of players replicating him. Though he gained plenty of supporters and attention for his cause, the movement he started cost Kaepernick his NFL career.

He has not been signed since parting with the Niners in 2017 and filed a since-settled grievance against the league, accusing the 32 franchises of colluding to keep him out of a job.

An NFL-organised workout last month fell apart at the last minute but the large crowd that attended a hastily arranged session on a high-school field the same day was indicative of his massive societal influence. That he is still unemployed remains the greatest stain on the reputation of a league obsessed with image.

Aaron Donald

In years gone by, a dominant edge rusher was often seen as the final piece of the puzzle. Now, teams are just as committed to unearthing the next Donald as they are to finding difference-making outside pass rushers.

Donald has transformed the value of interior defensive lineman by rapidly blossoming into arguably the NFL's best player. His quickness, power, intelligent hand usage and versatility have made him near-impossible to block. He can play every position on the defensive line and is devastatingly effective from each spot.

A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Donald had 20.5 sacks in 2018 and still managed 12.5 sacks in 2019, a season viewed as a disappointment. Donald is already close to a certainty for the Hall of Fame and may well go down as the finest defensive player of his generation.

J.J. Watt

Five first-team All-Pro selections, five double-digit sack seasons and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, the most incredible aspect of Watt's career is that injuries may have prevented the NFL from witnessing his true ceiling.

Watt has been robbed of much of his prime years, only completing a full regular season once since 2015, yet his CV, which includes two 20.5-sack campaigns, is likely already good enough for the Hall of Fame. 

Firmly in the MVP discussion in 2014, Watt was the face of defensive football for much of the decade but, as the 2010s end, there is danger he will come to be partly defined by an inability to stay on the field at a time when the Texans have been most competitive. Thankfully, at 30, he still has the time and the talent to make sure that is not the case.

Adrian Peterson

Only one non-quarterback won the MVP award in the decade, and that came in 2012 when Peterson produced one of the best running back seasons in history.

Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging an astonishing 131.1 yards per game on the ground. Off-field controversy interrupted his career and, though he enjoyed a renaissance in 2015 with a 1,485-yard campaign, he has never recaptured his unbelievable best. 

He has, however, succeeded in remaining effective enough to stretch his career well into this thirties and achieved his long-held ambition of passing Walter Payton on the all-time touchdowns list with his 111th score.

Drew Brees

While Manning and Brady took the majority of the acclaim and, in the latter's case, the titles in the 2010s, Brees has enjoyed consistency unmatched by most quarterbacks and racked up a plethora of records.

Brees led the league in passing yards five times in the decade and broke Brett Favre's all-time pass completions and passing yardage records in a 2018 season where his New Orleans Saints were a controversial non-called pass interference penalty away from the Super Bowl.

Week 15 of the 2019 season saw him break Manning's record for career passing touchdowns with his 540th. His arm strength may have declined but, Brees is still poised to enter his third decade in the league upholding the remarkable standard he has met since arriving in New Orleans.

Odell Beckham Jr.

The man who produced perhaps the defining play of the decade, Beckham has not quite hit the heights he once promised.

However, his scarcely believable one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys on November 23, 2014, is one of the NFL's indelible images. Falling backwards as Brandon Carr attempted to drag him down, Beckham arched his back and plucked the ball out of the air with his fingertips before tumbling into the endzone.

Whether through remarkable catches, arguments with coaches or an on-off relationship with a kicking net, Beckham has made the headlines throughout the decade and will surely continue to do so in the 2020s.

Antonio Brown

Brown's status as one of the players of the decade was already secured prior to his tumultuous 2019.

He made the unlikely journey from Pittsburgh Steelers sixth-round pick to a premier NFL receiver. Boasting incredible speed, agility and ability to make spectacular contested catches in spite of his smaller stature, Brown racked up four seasons of at least 1,400 receiving yards, including a 1,698-yard year in 2014. 

Yet for all his on-field exploits, Brown may well end up being most remembered for a 2019 offseason in which he forced an exit from the Steelers, left the Oakland Raiders without playing a snap after a series of controversies and was then cut by the New England Patriots after allegations of sexual assault. Despite an outstanding on-field career, Brown ends the 2010s with an asterisk against his name. 

2020s

Patrick Mahomes

No quarterback has taken the league by storm in their first season as a starter in the manner that Mahomes did in 2018.

Mahomes threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns as the Kansas City Chiefs just missed out on the Super Bowl, defying belief with his ability to make plays on the move from a variety of arm angles.

After returning from a knee injury, Mahomes looks back to his best in 2019 and, with one of the best offensive minds in the league as his head coach in Andy Reid, he is primed to secure his place as the NFL's pre-eminent gunslinger in the 2020s.

Lamar Jackson

While Mahomes may be the most spectacular thrower to grace the NFL, Jackson is well on his way to cementing a reputation as the best running quarterback of all time.

Jackson and the Ravens have dominated the NFL in 2019 with a near-unstoppable offense. Defenses have found it almost impossible to decipher whether he is going to throw or run, with defenders frequently embarrassed by his elusiveness when he does the latter.

The only quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a season, Jackson has already surpassed the achievements of Atlanta Falcons legend Michael Vick. He broke Vick's single-season quarterback rushing record by racking up 1,206 yards in 2019.

The final campaign of the 2010s could end with Jackson lifting the Lombardi Trophy. If he continues on this trajectory, the 2020s will see him become the greatest dual-threat quarterback of all time.

Trevor Lawrence

A pre-ordained NFL superstar since his high school days, the Clemson phenom has lived up to the massive hype in college and is effectively a lock to be the first overall pick in the 2021 draft.

Composed, mobile and possessing a cannon for an arm, several NFL teams in need of a quarterback will likely already be considering tanking 2020 to have a shot at landing Lawrence.

Regardless of whether he joins the league's elite or spectacularly fails, how Lawrence performs at the highest level is certain to be one of the most compelling storylines of the 2020s.

Kyler Murray 

The Arizona Cardinals took a significant risk in giving up on Josh Rosen to select a quarterback for the second successive year and pick Murray first overall.

Despite another losing season for Arizona in 2019, Murray's development as a rookie should provide great encouragement for the Cardinals, whose fans were treated to a series of dazzling displays from the former two-sport star, who was drafted ninth overall by MLB's Oakland Athletics in 2018.

Murray's decision to eschew baseball for the NFL was the most intensely debated issue of last year's draft. However, a year into his career, the dual-threat star has gone a long way to silencing the doubters and more two-sport athletes will follow his lead if he continues to excel.

Saquon Barkley

The second overall pick of the New York Giants in the 2018 draft, Barkley's career will, for many, settle the argument over the value of selecting a running back that high.

With a remarkable 2018 followed by an injury-affected 2019, it is the 2020s that will see Barkley provide the answer to whether it is worth using premier draft capital on a tailback in a league dominated by the passing game.

Those with a passion for analytics have largely already decided it is not. However, Barkley – regarded as the best running back prospect since Barry Sanders – has the talent to make a spectacular impact on the ground and in the passing game and prove them wrong.

George Kittle

Already cemented as the successor to Gronkowski as the NFL's premier tight end, Kittle is a bona-fide superstar with everything in his armoury to compile a Hall of Fame CV in the 2020s.

Kittle broke the record for single-season receiving yardage by a tight end in 2018 and in 2019 has proven himself the most valuable player for a San Francisco 49ers team two wins from Super Bowl LIV.

A freakish athlete and monstrous blocker whose sheer refusal to be tackled has seen him become the top yards-after-catch threat, Kittle produced one of the defining NFL images of the 2019 season as he carried three New Orleans Saints defenders with him on the game-clinching play of a Superdome shootout. Defenders across the league can expect to regularly receive the same treatment in the new decade.

Michael Thomas

The most astonishing aspect of Thomas breaking Marvin Harrison's record for receptions in a single-season is that the Saints star did so while still only 26.

As the focal point of arguably the NFL's most consistently potent offense, the sky is truly the limit for Thomas, who finished his record-breaking 2019 with 149 catches for 1,725 yards. 

He did so despite being subject to extremely tight coverage on seemingly every snap. Thomas rarely has the benefit of separation, but the 2020s could be the decade in which he separates himself from his contemporaries and becomes an all-time great receiver.

The Bosa brothers

There is a history of success between siblings in the NFL, and Joey and Nick Bosa are well on their way in joining Peyton and Eli Manning and J.J. Watt and T.J. Watt as two of the best brothers to play in the league.

Joey, selected third overall in 2016, has 40 sacks through four seasons for the Los Angeles Chargers, establishing himself as a dominant pass rusher, and Nick needed only one year to join him.

In his maiden season with the 49ers after being picked second overall, the younger Bosa racked up 80 quarterback pressures, the most ever by a rookie, according to analytics website Pro Football Focus.

He is among the favourites to win Defensive Player of the Year and, providing they avoid injury, the two best edge rushers in the 2020s may well be from the same family.

Jamal Adams

Though much of the focus for those of a Jets persuasion is on the growth of Sam Darnold, Adams is just as crucial to their hopes of crawling out of the doldrums.

The heart and soul of New York's defense, Adams is a ferocious, hard-hitting safety who could quickly vault to superstar status should the Jets become one of the AFC's best.

Reportedly close to being traded to the Dallas Cowboys during the 2019 season, Adams is in the perfect market to become one of the faces of the league if Gang Green can wrest AFC East superiority from Brady's Patriots.

The Jets are a franchise starved of success since the days of 'Broadway Joe' Namath. 'Broadway Jamal' may not have the same ring, but he can expect similar levels of hero-worship if the Jets return to postseason relevance.

Tom Brady and Brett Favre congratulated Drew Brees after the New Orleans Saints quarterback set the NFL record for most career touchdown passes.

Brees surpassed Peyton Manning after taking his overall tally to 541 TD passes as the Saints crushed the Indianapolis Colts 34-7 on Monday.

A Super Bowl champion and MVP, 12-time Pro Bowler Brees – who made history in the third quarter – threw four scores in an almost flawless performance in New Orleans.

Brees also set the NFL single-game completion record with a 96.7 per cent performance after going 29 of 30 for 307 yards at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

New England Patriots superstar Brady – whose 538 mark was also eclipsed by Brees – and Hall of Famer Favre led the praise for the 40-year-old via social media.

Brady tweeted: "Congrats drew!! Couldn't be more deserving. Passing Peyton in anything is an incredible achievement and your records will be tough to beat! But it's worth trying [winking emoji]."

Favre, who was the first quarterback to pass for 500 touchdowns, wrote: "Congrats @drewbrees on an amazing achievement."

Another Hall of Famer Kurt Warner – who won the Super Bowl and MVP during his career – also hailed Brees following the achievement.

"On a historic night for @drewbrees seems only fitting that he has also tied the record for completion percentage in a game at 96.7 per cent [tying Philip Rivers]... Coach Payton - how about one more screen pass to make this an even more historic night?? #WhatSayYouWhoDat?"

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson wrote via Twitter, "LEGEND! @DrewBrees", while Washington Redskins veteran Adrian Peterson added: "First Ballot Hall of Famer. Congratulations @drewbrees!!!".

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke the NFL record for most career touchdown passes.

Brees moved up in the record books yet again, surpassing Peyton Manning with his 540th TD pass on Monday.

A Super Bowl champion and MVP, 12-time Pro Bowler Brees made history by tallying three scores against the Indianapolis Colts.

Brees – who passed New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (538) in the process – set the record with a five-yard pass to Josh Hill in the third quarter.

Prior to Monday's game, the 40-year-old Brees had 537 career TD passes, 76,577 career passing yards and an NFL-best 67.5 career completion percentage.

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