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We just couldn't have done it without ...

So many people to thank. So little time. Up here on the podium, your head swims a little. The cameras flash, the applause soars and darn it, you want to thank the whole world. Your family. Your directors. Your co-stars.

By GARY SHELTON
Published January 18, 2007


So many people to thank. So little time. Up here on the podium, your head swims a little. The cameras flash, the applause soars and darn it, you want to thank the whole world. Your family. Your directors. Your co-stars.

Most of all, you want to thank the little people who made all of this possible.

For instance, the New Orleans Saints want to thank Denver Broncos safety John Lynch. Sincerely. If not for Lynch, whose hit ripped up Drew Brees a year ago, the Chargers might not have let Brees slip away and the Saints might have had to settle for, say, Joey Harrington. Or worse, Aaron Brooks.

The Chicago Bears would like to thank Alabama coach Nick Saban. Profusely. It was Saban who wanted complete control, including of his bosses, when the Bears were coach-hunting three years ago. Instead, the Bears turned to Lovie Smith. Honestly, it worked out.

The Indianapolis Colts would like to thank Steve Spurrier. Repeatedly. Back in '96, Spurrier changed his mind and turned down the Bucs' coaching job. Instead, Tampa Bay gave Tony Dungy his first head coaching job. The Colts also want to thank the Glazers, who made it possible for them to give Dungy his second.

The New England Patriots would like to thank former Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. Endlessly. Like Lynch, Lewis broke the right quarterback at the right time. His hit on then-Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe wrote the introduction to the Tom Brady story.

The Saints would like to thank Charley Casserly, the ex-Texans general manager who drafted Mario Williams over Reggie Bush. Oops.

The Bears would like to thank Tony Romo, who dropped the snap on a potential winning field goal for Dallas against Seattle. Given how much trouble they had with the Seahawks, the Cowboys may have been too much for them.

The Colts would like to thank Kevin Gilbride, the ex-Chargers coach. Gilbride's team beat the Colts in the '97 season. Eventually, that helped the Colts finish with the No. 1 pick (Peyton Manning) while the Chargers had to pay a fortune to move from No. 3 overall to No. 2 (and Ryan Leaf).

The Patriots would like to thank Marty Schottenheimer, just for being Marty. Also, for making the worst challenge in the history of replay, which cost the Chargers an important timeout.

The Saints owe thanks to Al Davis, the Raiders owner who tried to hire Sean Payton in 2004. Payton thought about Davis' control factor and turned down the job.

The Bears want to thank the Steelers, who drafted Plaxico Burress with the No. 8 pick in 2000. Chicago, sigh, had to settle for this Brian Urlacher guy with the next choice.

The Colts want to thank the Patriots, who didn't put the franchise tag on kicker Adam Vinatieri last year. The Colts not only paid Vinatieri money, Dungy has made it his nickname.

The Patriots would like to thank San Diego's Marlon McCree, who fumbled away the game-clinching interception. If Joe Pisarcik were a safety, he would be named Marlon McCree.

The Saints would like to thank former Hofstra coach Joe Gardi, whose clashes with receiver Marques Colston may have made Colston fall in the draft to the fourth-from-last pick.

The Bears would like to thank defensive tackle Tank Johnson for showing restraint and not actually purchasing a tank. If he had, the team might have suspended him for two games.

The Colts would like to thank the St. Louis Rams, who also wanted a receiver in the '96 draft. The Rams picked Eddie Kennison. With the next pick, the Colts took Marvin Harrison.

The Patriots, too, would like to thank Gardi. If Colston hadn't been so impressive, the Saints might not have traded Donte Stallworth to the Eagles, and the Eagles might not have cut Jabar Gaffney, and the Patriots wouldn't have had Gaffney's 10 receptions against the Chargers.

The Saints would like to thank the Chicago Bruisers, the Arena League team that Payton once played for. To this day, you cannot hear the name "Payton" without thinking of Chicago.

The Bears would like to thank M&R Contracting. It isn't that Robbie Gould didn't like working there. It's just that being an NFL kicker pays better.

The Colts would like to thank Ron Dayne, whose big day convinced teams the Indy defense was soft. It was the NFL's first successful use of the rope-a-dope strategy.

The Patriots would like to thank Russian president Vladimir Putin, who walked off with the Super Bowl ring of team owner Robert Kraft. Maybe, just maybe, that helped fuel Kraft's desire for another one.

Odd the way things work out, isn't it? Odd the way a team comes together like tumblers falling into place. So to all of you guys who played a part, enjoy the games.

And, hey, thanks.