There are so many what-if propositions in life. What if you decided not to go out with friends that night you met your wife of 25 years? What if you hadn't elected to take that job offer from an up-and-coming company because it was too risky?
These are things we all think about consistently throughout our lives. They also happen all the time. It's the road not chosen.
The same can be said about the sports world.
What if the San Francisco 49ers decided to select local product Steve Dils over Joe Montana in the third round of the 1979 NFL Draft? One of the greatest dynasties in sports history likely wouldn't have been born.
At the very least, another former Stanford quarterback, John Elway, might have seen himself playing in the Bay Area rather than Denver.
We found ourselves thinking about specific "what-ifs" around the football world over the past decade.
Would the New England Patriots have finished off the greatest regular season in NFL history if the Oakland Raiders had decided to keep Randy Moss as a veteran presence for a player in Calvin Johnson they could have selected in 2007?
What if Jim Harbaugh decided against benching Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick? Would the head coach still be with San Francisco?
These are among the top what-ifs around the NFL world over the past decade.
Keep in mind that this is a tongue-in-cheek look at all the possibilities embedded within each situation that never came to fruition. The last decade around the NFL has been full of decisions that shaped the league we see today.
These are just a few of the biggest decisions during that span. Short of us writing an article akin to "Les Misérables," we can't hit on all of them.
Oakland Raiders select Calvin Johnson No. 1 overall in 2007 draft
Just imagine the scenarios in play here. What if the Raiders passed up on a quarterback in JaMarcus Russell some considered a once-in-a-generation-type talent? In lieu of Russell, the then wide receiver-needy Raiders would have likely picked up George Tech receiver Calvin Johnson.
As with all "what-ifs" in the sports world, this would have led to a trickle-down effect.
First off, you can forget about Matthew Stafford being taken No. 1 overall by the Lions two years later. Instead, the "what-if" here would have included Detroit potentially looking to find a pass catcher for Russell in the 2009 NFL Draft or maybe even a franchise left tackle.
With Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree as the top two receivers in that class, it's highly unlikely the Lions would have exhausted the No. 1 overall pick on that position. That leaves Jason Smith, a left tackle who was taken No. 2 overall by the then St. Louis Rams, as the logical pick.
Lions fans who are upset with their lack of success from this past season probably would have envied a seven-win season if this scenario had played out.
For the Raiders, the situation could have been vastly different if they had picked Johnson first overall in 2007.
Assuming Oakland would have still been picking No. 7 overall, Heyward-Bey wouldn't have been on the team's radar with Johnson in the mix.
Unfortunately, the next several picks in the 2009 draft haven't panned out too much. Only one of the next seven picks remain with the team that selected him. In fact, 10 of the 32 players selected in the first round of that draft are no longer in the NFL.
So, in the end nothing would have changed much from a Raiders perspective in the 2007 and 2009 drafts. They would have had a stud receiver but not much else. For the Lions, this "what-if" would have been nothing less than a dumpster fire of epic proportions.
The Randy Moss scenario
What if the Raiders had decided not to trade Randy Moss to the New England Patriots prior to the 2007 season? There's a scenario in play here that would have included Oakland deciding to keep Moss as a veteran presence for Johnson.
Just think about this one for a second. Not only would the Raiders have two of the best receivers of the generation, but the Patriots' undefeated 2007 season may not have come to fruition.
Would a Patriots team lacking Moss have defeated a game San Diego Chargers team in the AFC Championship game that season? Remember, Brady threw three picks in that outing. We could continue for a while on this one, but suffice to say an Eli Manning-Philip Rivers Super Bowl might have been in the cards here. Yeah, no backstories going on there.
Drew Brees signs with the Miami Dolphins
It was close to happening. Concerns over Brees' injured shoulder led to the Dolphins backing down with New Orleans stepping up to the plate.
But what if the Dolphins had signed Brees in March 2006? How would the dynamic of the NFL itself have changed? The trickle-down effect would have been real here.
First off, Miami wouldn't have had to select a quarterback in the second round in each of the next three drafts — a scenario that might have helped the team add a LaMarr Woodley, Martellus Bennett and Max Unger in each of those drafts. Instead, they were stuck with John Beck, Chad Henne and Pat White. Ouch!
Sticking with Miami for a second, the "what-if" selection of Unger over White in 2009 would have taken Mike Pouncey off the board in 2011, leaving open the possibility of adding another top-end first-round pick.
The most interesting thing to look at here is current Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who resigned from the Dolphins following a six-win 2006 campaign.
Would he have remained in South Beach if Brees was under center? That's a real likelihood considering the Dolphins would have finished with a much better record with the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
What would this have meant for the Crimson Tide football program? Well, that's pretty much anyone's guess. We can, however, conclude that four national titles in a seven-year span wouldn't have been in the cards.
For the Saints, this scenario is akin to a bad nightmare you wake up from in a cold sweat. No Drew Brees in 2006? How about a quarterback by the name of Vince Young who was coming off a national championship? Would Young have performed better in that situation than the eventual dumpster fire he found in Tennessee? Probably not.
There goes that Super Bowl title from the 2009 season. There goes a quarterback putting up franchise records in nearly every major statistical season. There goes Sean Payton becoming one of the most successful coaches in the NFL.
Houston Texans take Reggie Bush No. 1 overall
Leading up to the 2006 NFL Draft, everyone assumed that Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush would be the No. 1 overall pick. It made perfect sense for a relatively new Houston Texans franchise to nab a running back for "franchise" quarterback David Carr.
Flying under the radar was a defensive end in Mario Williams who had also dominated at the college level. But that wasn't the splashy move the Texans needed to overcome a horrendous start to their existence in the NFL.
So when Houston opted to take a pass rusher over a potentially elite running back, everyone was thrown off.
Here is a look at how the Texans' fortunes might have changed if they had gone with Bush.
Instead of being given an opportunity to prove that he was an NFL-caliber running back, Arian Foster likely wouldn't have been provided with a chance to strut his stuff just a few short years later.
What about Carr and the quarterback position? He was sacked a league-leading 68 times in 2005. This number dropped to 41 the next season. That very same season saw a washed-up Ron Dayne share carries with Wali Lundy in the backfield.
Would a strong running game, led by Bush, have changed the perception of Carr? After all, he was jettisoned by the Texans following the 2006 season.
That's the same offseason that Houston acquired Matt Schaub from the Atlanta Falcons for two second-round picks.
Among the players available with that second-round pick in 2007 were Sidney Rice, LaMarr Woodley, David Harris and Ryan Kalil.
As it relates to the 2008 draft, a bevy of options were available. Those names include DeSean Jackson, Calais Campbell and Ray Rice.
While Schaub did lead the Texans to two consecutive playoff appearances, there's no telling how this scenario would have played out.
Personally, I think the options available to Houston if it had taken Bush No. 1 overall while holding out hope for Carr seem to have represented much more upside.
Denver Broncos keep Jay Cutler
Imagine if the Broncos never traded Cutler. The possibilities are endless here. First off, it's highly unlikely that Tim Tebow would have received deity-like status from some in the Mile High City.
Secondly, how would the Broncos have handled the 2010 draft with Tebow likely out of the picture? It's safe to say they would have selected a player who made much more of an impact than the 14 career starts Tebow made with the team.
We can even take this "what-if" a few levels further here.
Would the Broncos have been in the market for Peyton Manning following the 2012 season? If not, maybe the San Francisco 49ers or Tennessee Titans would have had an opportunity to sign the future Hall of Famer.
Remember, San Francisco met privately with Manning in North Carolina before he signed with Denver.
That scenario opens up a whole other can of worms.
If San Francisco had signed Manning, it's highly unlikely that Colin Kaepernick would have been the starting quarterback in 2013.
San Francisco 49ers don't bench Alex Smith
So many possibilities exist here. The first thing to look at is whether San Francisco would have earned a trip to the Super Bowl in February 2014.
Kaepernick put up one of the greatest postseason games in recorded history against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round that year. He tallied 444 total yards and four touchdowns in the 45-31 win.
Is there absolutely any way Smith would have led San Francisco past Green Bay in that game?
Overall, San Francisco's defense yielded an average of 30 points per game in its run to the Super Bowl that postseason. As we have seen with Smith since, those aren't necessarily indicators for success for teams he's leading.
Moving forward, everything else might have changed drastically in San Francisco. If the 49ers had not earned a Super Bowl trip that year, would have Jim Harbaugh overplayed his hand in looking for a raise? Would the team have completely fallen apart like we saw during the second half of the 2014 campaign? If not, would Harbaugh have "mutually parts ways" with the 49ers?
So many questions, so few answers. What we can definitely say here is that the situation as it played out has worked well for Smith and Harbaugh. As it relates to the 49ers and Kaepernick, well, that's up to Chip Kelly.
Source : http://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/the_biggest_what_ifs_from_the_nfl_this_past_decade/s1_13132_20215429