Spoiler alert: Players around the NFL think Patrick Mahomes is pretty good.
The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and two-time MVP was the runaway winner as the best player in the game today, according to the 85 players our athletic beat writer spoke with last month. That’s no surprise, but the rest of the answers weren’t as clear when we set out to make our first anonymous NFL player poll.
We asked the same questions to all the players we spoke to, although not every player answered them all. The league’s players, coaches, commissioner and others have been kept anonymous so they can give their candid opinions on some of the biggest topics facing the league today – salary cap returns, the grass vs. turf debate and more.
Players are polled on who delivers the best trash talk, which coach they’d rather play for other than themselves, and who are the most underrated players in the league. When players were asked which team had the most annoying fan base, some hilarious responses came up.
“Gosh,” replied one player. “They’re moon people and they’re like, ‘Why are you all showing ass?’ F – With this out of this.
Sorry, Bills fans, as of today’s rankings, that wasn’t enough to get you in the first place.
Hopefully during this player election — and upcoming stories that delve deeper into some of those questions — you’ll learn more about what today’s NFL players think.
(Editor’s Note: In some cases, the cumulative percentage of all answers to a question may not add up to 100 percent, because individual percentages are summed or rounded down to the tenth of a percentage point. If a half-vote is awarded. A player has given two answers to a question.)
Did you really expect someone else? About half of respondents chose Mahomes, with many not giving it much thought.
“He’s Patrick Mahomes,” one player said.
“Shouldn’t you say it?” He added another.
“There is none like him,” said another.
As if this vote needed justification, one player offered: “No matter how hard you lose, your team can still get back up.
What Patrick Mahomes learned as a high school safety helped him become an outstanding QB.
That said, more than half of the 84 respondents to that question went the other way, with Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald taking the runner-up honor.
“It’s self-explanatory at that. No one can stop him,” offered one player.
One player who picked Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns said: “I used to sit here and argue about quarterbacks, but there’s your answer. The man has left this world.
Talking trash is part of sports, but there are certain players in the NFL who are more inclined to ruffle feathers with their on-field talk.
Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, after spending last season with the Philadelphia Eagles on a Super Bowl run, now tops the list with the Detroit Lions. He did, though he hasn’t played since Week 2 with a pectoral muscle injury.
“I think he’s kind of a schtick,” one player said. “I don’t know if it will necessarily work, but it comes back to him.”
Jalen Ramsey, who missed an extended period of time before returning to the field for the Miami Dolphins last month, received the second most votes. “He has a lot to say,” said one player.
And don’t think for a second that trash talk is limited to defensive players. Los Angeles Chargers Keenan Allen, one of the NFL’s most consistent wideouts, has been known to have a thing or two during games. “Big time s-speaker,” said one player. “It’s non-stop.”
Offensive linemen also tend to get in on the action. “I think the trash talk is pretty good,” said Carolina Panthers linebacker Austin Corbett. It is psychological warfare. It’s great that you don’t even know what’s going on.”
When in doubt, go with a head coach who has never had a spectacular losing season. That continues to be the difference for Mike Tomlin, who once again led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a career-best 17-game winning streak.
“His message, leadership and attitude seem to fit the winning formula,” one player said.
“He’s tough and responsible, and he demands it from his players,” added another.
From a Super Bowl-winning coach in Tomlin, players transitioned to a young and dynamic offensive mastermind in Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel.
“He seems like a really fun coach to play for,” one player said of the 40-year-old in his second season in Miami.
Not far behind were Kansas City’s Andy Reid and Detroit’s Dan Campbell, the latter of whom is likely to win this season’s NFL Coach of the Year award.
“A guy who really loves the ball,” said a player who picked Reid. “So I think this is a very good coach.”
“I admire coaches who are players’ coaches and get the best out of their players,” another player said of Campbell.
Sometimes on-field production doesn’t get players the respect they deserve. No matter how well some perform, their names rarely come up when discussing seniors everywhere.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins leads the vote, but there are several players who are underrated and gain recognition from their peers.
“His production speaks for itself, and when it comes to the best quarterbacks in the league, nobody talks about him,” one player said of Chargers dual-threat Austin Ekeler. Another player added: “It’s crucial for that offense to run and playoff game as well.”
And although the tight end discussion is typically led by Chiefs All-Pro Travis Kelce, the players feel they should get more credit than the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle and the Baltimore Ravens’ Mark Andrews already do.
“I think he’s the best hitter in the league,” one player said of Kittle.
“I don’t know how low he is, but everybody’s talking about Kelsey and Kittle, not him,” another player said of Andrews.
Players will not be intimidated by the sight of the stadium, which has hosted five straight AFC Championship games. (Then again, maybe the constant presence of Arrowhead Stadium on their televisions is influencing their decision.)
Whatever the reason, players love playing in the NFL’s third-oldest stadium (opened in 1972), despite some issues with Kansas City’s cramped locker rooms.
“That place is electric,” one player said. “This is one of the best places to play. Loudest in the NFL in my opinion.
Minnesota’s seven-year-old U.S. Bank Stadium — albeit an indoor stadium with turf — has been praised for many of the same ear-splitting reasons.
“That place was loud,” said one player.
Los Angeles’ Sophie Stadium scores well with Green Bay’s historic Lambeau Field – “The fans and atmosphere are the best in the league.” – and Seattle Lumen Field.
“If it was grass — oops! — it would be perfect,” said one player who chose Seattle, while another added, “You’ll feel like you’re in a bird’s nest. Gotham City.”
Arrowhead and US Bank led the way for the best stadiums, but players had contrasting views of MetLife Stadium, FedEx Field and Highmark Stadium, which were top vote-getters for playing poorly.
The Chiefs’ home field has never been a popular playground, and that comment made sure players were showered after the New York Giants beat Washington even before Sunday, when there was no hot water or adequate water pressure.
“Almost everything about (FedEx) is below what an NFL stadium should be,” one player said. “The place is a dump,” said another.
“The turf is wet and the whole place is lame,” one player said of MetLife, where the Giants and Jets play. Another agreed about the turf, adding: “The fans are terrible. Everything about that place is horrible. “
Although Lambeau Field was in the top five for best stadium, it was also in the top five for worst stadium — for one obvious reason: “F—ing Green Bay, because it’s so cold!”
Meanwhile, the robbers in 2010 After moving to Las Vegas in 2020, the Oakland Coliseum was unused, but still managed to get a couple of votes.
The Eagles and Cowboys aren’t just competing on the field, both received nearly a quarter of the votes from the 73 players who answered the question.
One player said of Eagles fans, “So loud, rude and obnoxious, they might as well be nodding in agreement at this point.” Another added: “They swear they are the biggest football pundits on earth.”
“They usually think they have to win the Super Bowl every year,” said the player who picked the Cowboys.
In the AFC East battle for third place between the Bills and Jets, the classic “JETS, JETS, JETS, JETS” chant prompted one player to pick New York, as the moonrise in Buffalo left Bills fans indifferent.
“That JETS stuff. They used to do it during the heats,” he said.
From the outside looking in, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t appear to be well-liked around the league. But speaking to players for our poll, the majority of voters gave it their stamp of approval.
“He keeps making everyone more money by moving up the league,” said one player.
Another player said he gives Goodell a thumbs up “the way he’s growing his game right now, the way he’s growing his game.” Because once upon a time when I was in college and all the distractions were coming out, I was afraid that they would say, ‘Hey, football might not last,’ but now I don’t feel that way.
Not everyone supported Goodell’s approach.
“Debari. He’s penalized me too many times,” one player added, while another quoted Goodell as saying, “The league often forgets that it’s about the players.
Perhaps the biggest story here is that two players — out of 81 who responded — rated NFL officials 10 out of 10. Overall, however, the results were largely as expected, with most scores falling in the middle range, as 57 players (70.4 percent) were selected between 4 and 7.
“Some calls are missed, but it’s a tough job,” said one sympathetic player who rated it an 8.
“Either the obvious calls are missing or they’re calling everything,” said the 4th ranked player. “There’s nothing in between, and the differences between employees are so different that you never know what to expect,” he said.
One player who rated 2 offered a solution for improvement: “They should all be full-time employees. It’s mindless.”
There’s no debating how players around the league feel about the ongoing grass vs. turf debate. About 83 percent of those who responded said that this was very serious.
“You wake up in the morning feeling 10 times better after playing on grass,” says one player.
“I was very vocal about it. I think our locker room is very united on it,” another player added. “It’s too bad, and there’s enough money to destroy it. The time has come.”
Some say that they can feel the difference not only after the games, but before the first photo is taken.
“Even warming up on the turf in Minnesota hurt my knee,” one player said.
“You feel it,” the linebacker added. “Especially being a big guy, running on the turf, your knees hurt. When you fall and stumble, you don’t want to get up. You’ll feel great the next day.
The value of the running back position has been a hot topic this offseason with the contract situations of Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Jonathan Taylor. Only Taylor got a long-term extension (and only after a mess). As the league gathers to discuss solutions for running backs until the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2030, the NFL Players Association has few options as it tries to seek changes to the franchise tag.
Running backs have complained about how the tag unfairly hurts them — only shooters and punters would pick up on the franchise tag — but the reality is they need support from their locker room to make changes. Increases in pay for back-runners can reduce wages in other positions. Although our results show some degree of support, it is not overwhelming.
“What? No, what makes them better than me?” offered one player.
Another, who already seems to have the future in mind, paints an even darker picture.
“I know people running backs are complaining about the market,” he said. “But from an insider’s point of view, if I were the GM, I would never pay to run. There are plenty of talented backs that come up every year in the draft – at any position in the draft. I would never set up a race in the first round.
Other players were more aware of the runners situation.
“Yes. Because they are definitely underpaid,” said one. “What’s the franchise tag for a linebacker, $15 (million), $16 million? I mean, s—, that’s more than a lot of money. So, yes, I definitely feel like they should be paid more.
Others advocated change, but not just for running backs: “The whole franchise tag rule needs to be changed.” It has become a very powerful tool.
The value of NFL running backs continues to decline. How did we get here?
The NFL has been doing its best to expand its reach beyond the United States. This season, five games have been played internationally (three in London and two in Frankfurt, Germany). Games have also been held in Mexico City in previous seasons.
After hearing rumors for years, what if there was a team outside of the United States? Players looking for a chance to play for one? Although the majority said no, more than a third of those we spoke to said they were ready to accept the idea.
“Yes! Because they pay the money overseas.” He said the player who forgot the salary cap still exists. “Think about the team in Saudi Arabia. I know that’s up to f— but whatever. Think about Saudi Arabia and soccer players. They’re giving away billions of dollars, so hell yeah I’ll play in Saudi Arabia.
One player on the fence said it depends on where the team is. “in case. That was good. Only in England though. I’m not going to Germany.
“Hell no. I’ll retire,” said another player.
He was not alone. Another player said, “No. I love dropping my kids off at their awesome school and ordering pizza from the place down the road. If I was 23, maybe (it would be) different. But this is not just for me.”
(Credit: John Bradford/The Athletic; photos by Mike Tomlin, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Donaldby Cooper, Neal and Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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