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Who Is the Face of the Franchise for Every Team in the NFL?

Russell S. BaxterContributor IJune 3, 2014

Who Is the Face of the Franchise for Every Team in the NFL?

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    Pictured above is Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL and arguably the league that we are so very fond of.

    So who are the faces of the 32 teams that he presides over?

    We’ve assembled a list, and some of the answers came easier than others. But that’s the result of ever-changing names in an ever-changing product.

    Our suggestions come in the form of not just players but coaches and executives as well. Why these 32 choices? The explanations should make it obvious, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention a few other options as well.

    We don’t expect everyone to agree on the choices. The hope here is that the piece puts a smile on your face...at least sometimes.

    Just take my advice. I’m only tryin’ to school ya.

Arizona Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald

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    The Arizona Cardinals have had their share of quarterbacks and head coaches over the past 10 seasons.

    They also have prolific wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who continues his climb into the league’s all-time categories in terms of catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions.

    The third overall pick in the 2004 draft has totaled 846 receptions for 11,367 yards and 87 scores. Only 11 players in league history have caught more touchdown passes than Fitzgerald.

    And who could forget one of the greatest postseason performances ever put together in league annals? In four games in the 2008 playoffs, the eight-time Pro Bowler totaled 30 catches for 546 yards and seven touchdowns, totaling 100-plus yards and one score in each contest.

    Now that’s in your face!

Atlanta Falcons: QB Matt Ryan

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    The only thing consistent about the Atlanta Falcons for the first 40-plus years of their existence was their inconsistency.

    Then general manager Thomas Dimitroff, head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan showed up in 2008, and despite a down performance this past season, there have been a whole lot of positives.

    Ryan was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft, and despite a 4-12 disaster in 2013, he has brought a lot of stability to the franchise behind center.

    The two-time Pro Bowler has forged a 60-34 win-loss record as a starter, throwing for 23,472 yards and nearly twice as many touchdown passes (153) as interceptions (77). Critics will point to his disappointing play in the postseason, but it’s also worth noting that he led the Falcons to the No. 1 seed in the NFC in both 2010 and 2012.

    Consider that the franchise had never had back-to-back winning seasons or made two straight trips to the playoffs before the current regime’s arrival. Ryan and company strung together five consecutive winning campaigns and went to the playoffs four times in his first five years in the league.

    And yes, you could have made a compelling argument for wide receiver Roddy White for this spot as well.

Baltimore Ravens: General Manager/Executive VP Ozzie Newsome

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    It’s safe to say that we would have quite the discussion on our hands if linebacker Ray Lewis was still a member of this franchise.

    However, the legendary defender is a Baltimore Raven never more.

    So the logical choice is one of the very best in the business to do his job. By the way, he was damn good at his previous profession as well.

    General manager/executive vice president Ozzie Newsome was with the organization when it was the Cleveland Browns, both as a member of the front office as well as on the field. The team’s first-round pick in 1978, the standout tight end would go on to a Hall of Fame career.

    Starting in 1996, he’s been the face of the Ravens. He drafted tackle Jonathan Ogden and Lewis in the first round that year. The former is with him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while the latter figures to be there as soon as he is eligible.

    Along the way there have been nine playoff appearances and a pair of Super Bowl wins—and a long list of talented players added by Newsome along the way.

Buffalo Bills: DE Mario Williams

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    The recent death of Pro Football Hall of Famer Ralph C. Wilson Jr., the original owner of the Buffalo Bills dating back to 1960, makes the question regarding the face of this franchise a little more difficult.

    We are certainly willing to try, even though during the heyday of the franchise in the late 1980s and throughout most of the 1990s it would have been so much more interesting to discuss.

    For now the nod goes to defensive end Mario Williams, once upon a time the first overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Houston Texans. He has spent only two seasons in Orchard Park, but after a slow start in 2012 he has awoken. He has totaled 23.5 sacks in 32 games with the Bills and has yet to miss a start.

    And while you may be able to make a case for running backs Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller, perhaps it’s a bit too early for head coach Doug Marrone, linebacker Kiko Alonso or quarterback EJ Manuel. The latter three just wrapped up their first season with the team.

    Of course, what if always-entertaining wideout Stevie Johnson was still around?

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton

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    What kind of discussion would we be having if wide receiver Steve Smith was still with the organization?

    That’s now a moot point. The defending NFC South champion Carolina Panthers were led by one of the league’s best defenses in 2013 and just enough from ever-improving quarterback Cam Newton.

    This season, the talented signal-caller may be called on to do a lot more—that is, if the Panthers are to become the first team in the history of their division to win it two consecutive years.

    Carolina’s defense has stars in middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, as well as defensive ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. They even have a real “star” in defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

    Make no mistake: Newton is the law when it comes to this club. In three NFL seasons, he has managed a winning record as a starter (25-23), thrown more touchdown passes (64) than interceptions (42) and has already rushed for 2,032 yards and 28 scores.

    Now let’s see if we see this face in the playoffs for a second consecutive year, a feat that Panthers have yet to manage in their brief but interesting history.

Chicago Bears: OLB Lance Briggs

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    When you think of the Chicago Bears and their glorious history, those thoughts usually begin with defense.

    Of course, there wasn’t a lot of that played in the Windy City this past season. The first year of the Marc Trestman Era saw injuries devastate that unit. Hence, the Bears ranked 30th in the league in total yards allowed, were dead last in the NFL stopping the run and surrendered a whopping 478 points.

    But performances like that are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to this franchise. And one of its exceptional performers on defense has been outside linebacker Lance Briggs. The 11-year pro has totaled at least 100 tackles eight times, and in 2013 he finished fourth on the club with 71 stops despite missing seven games.

    The seven-time Pro Bowler has also totaled 15 sacks, 15 interceptions (five returned for touchdowns) and 18 forced fumbles.

    Not a bad resume for a third-round pick from the University of Arizona in 2003.

Cincinnati Bengals: Head Coach Marvin Lewis

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    He is currently the second longest-tenured head coach with the same team in the NFL and has led his club to the playoffs a franchise-record three straight years and counting. He is also the team’s all-time leader in coaching wins (90, including playoffs).

    However, more times than not, you are usually hearing what Marvin Lewis hasn’t done for the Cincinnati Bengals.

    In 2013 the club won a division title for the second time in five years. Since he took over the job in 2003, the Bengals have won the AFC North three times and made five postseason appearances. Unfortunately, the team is still looking for its first playoff win since it made Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field its home in 1990.

    That’s not all on Lewis, as the postseason failures predate his arrival. But he is front and center when it comes to the franchise today, and it comes with the job.

    Still, let’s not forget the job he has done. From 1991 to 2002, the Bengals went through four head coaches and never managed a winning season, compiling a dismal 55-137 record in those campaigns.

Cleveland Browns: T Joe Thomas

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    Where’s Jim Brown when you need him?

    Some out there think that rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel has already become the face of the Cleveland Browns. Longtime followers of the franchise wouldn’t mind seeing the “Dawg Pound” get the nod.

    Whoa. Before “Johnny Football” inherits the title, he has to play some football.

    Meanwhile, what about offensive tackle Joe Thomas? Yes, he’s pretty quiet and has let his play on the field speak for itself. However, since the Browns were reborn in 1999, he has easily been the club’s best player.

    The third overall pick in the 2007 draft, he has played and started in all 112 games since entering the league. And while he has yet to make an appearance in a playoff game, his seven years in the NFL have all ended with the same invitation.

    And you know the saying: What happens at the Pro Bowl stays at the Pro Bowl.

Dallas Cowboys: Owner/President/General Manager Jerry Jones

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    How could it be anyone else?

    Quarterback Tony Romo certainly is in play. But this is about the face of the franchise, not the team’s whipping boy.

    Since purchasing the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, current owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones has seen both the highs and lows. The club was 1-15 in his first year, but not long afterwards, the Cowboys became the first team in league annals to win three Super Bowls (XXVII, XXVIII and XXX) in a four-year span.

    These days, the club remains known for its consistency, as well as its instability. Dating back to 1997, Dallas owns a 136-136 regular-season record, has compiled four 10-plus win seasons, lost 10 or more games six times, utilized six different head coaches and 15 starting quarterbacks and amassed a dismal 1-6 record in the playoffs.

    In each of the past three seasons, Jones’ predictable club has entered the final week of the season at 8-7, had a chance to capture the NFC East with a win and wound up finishing 8-8.

    Are the Cowboys destined to win another Super Bowl anytime soon the way they are currently constructed? Jones may need to hoist another Lombardi Trophy if he wants to save face when it comes to his recent legacy.

Denver Broncos: QB Peyton Manning

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    Yes, he just got there and doesn’t look like he’s leaving anytime soon.

    Not without a little more hardware at least.

    In two seasons with the Denver Broncos, quarterback Peyton Manning has led the club to a 26-6 regular-season record, a pair of AFC West titles and an appearance (sort of) in Super Bowl XLVIII. After setting a new franchise record with 37 touchdown passes in 2012, he went out and set a new league mark this past season by throwing for 55 scores. Denver totaled an NFL record 606 points and 76 touchdowns in 2013.

    Don’t worry. We haven’t forgotten the fact that Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway is still very much a part of the team. The franchise quarterback is now running the franchise, adding the title of general manager to his job description back in February, as Mike Klis of The Denver Post pointed out four months ago.

    Of course, it was Elway who brought Manning to the Mile High City. This offseason, the executive added pieces like defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and strong safety T.J. Ward in an attempt to give the Broncos their first Super Bowl title since 1998.

    If the team wins another championship, Elway would have played a big hand in it. But today, it’s Manning’s arm and leadership that take center stage.

Detroit Lions: WR Calvin Johnson

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    He’s been good.

    Call it mega-good.

    When you have a quarterback like Matthew Stafford who puts up big numbers on a yearly basis, there’s a tendency to think he’s the face of the team.

    There are exceptions to that rule that doesn’t really exist. And Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has been awfully exceptional.

    The second overall pick in the 2007 draft, “Megatron” has put up sensational numbers in seven NFL seasons. He has already totaled 572 catches for 9,328 and 66 scores. In 2012 he set a new league receiving mark with 1,964 yards.

    Over the past two seasons, the Lions wideout has totaled 206 receptions for a gaudy 3,456 yards (16.8 average) and 17 touchdowns in 30 games.

    Those are some pretty catchy numbers.

Green Bay Packers: QB Aaron Rodgers

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    Replacing one of the most popular players in the history of a franchise is far from easy.

    So far, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made it seem that way in his somewhat brief tenure with the Green Bay Packers.

    We say somewhat because he was a first-round pick in 2005 by the team but didn’t become the starter behind center until 2008. Some guy named Brett Favre kept getting in the way.

    After the team went through a rocky start during his first campaign, the Packers have been back in the playoffs ever since. Five straight postseason appearances have been highlighted by three straight NFC North titles and a win in Super Bowl XLV as a wild-card team. Rodgers was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2011 during a season in which he threw an amazing 45 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.

    In 2013 an injured Rodgers missed seven starts as the Packers went through four different starting quarterbacks. But the talented signal-caller returned in Week 17 to rescue the team against the Chicago Bears.

    Cue the music.

Houston Texans: DE J.J. Watt

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    From 2-0 to 2-14, no one wants to talk about what happened with the Houston Texans this past season.

    And we won’t be the exception.

    Last month the franchise selected defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. The talented performer hopes to live up to what some call “once in a lifetime” potential.

    The Texans are not a team without talent, making last year’s performance even more mystifying. There are stars like wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster, both of whom have made marks in this league.

    However, these days the face of the franchise is J.J. Watt.

    The NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, he brings a lot to his club. His combination of intensity and performance is impressive. In three seasons he has already totaled 36.5 sacks (20.5 in 2012), knocked down 27 passes and totaled eight forced fumbles.

    And while the Texans will be attempting to find themselves once again, Watt will be front and center when it comes to this franchise.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck

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    It seems like being the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts comes with a little extra workload.

    We saw it with Peyton Manning, especially in his later years with the organization. And these days, it seems like Andrew Luck has a lot more on his plate than other signal-callers.

    There are good and the bad sides to that. When you talk Colts quarterbacks, you immediately think Johnny Unitas, Manning and now Luck. It’s been a nice two-year start to his career. The team has finished 11-5 and reached the playoffs each time. The second-year pro has had his electrifying moments and has shown a knack for the big comeback.

    Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs.

    But in two years, it also seems that Luck has done a lot without a lot. Teaming with veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and a lot of fellow rookies in 2012, the Colts enjoyed a magical year. This past season, a lack of balance due in part to numerous injuries was overcome by the young signal-caller and his teammates. And we are still waiting for the Indianapolis defense to round into championship form.

    For now, Luck continues to do his share. And that also means being the most recognizable of performers for this franchise.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Owner Shahid Khan

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    As the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for their 20th season in the NFL, it’s still hard to fathom how they were far more successful in their first five years than in recent times.

    Born in 1995, the Jaguars would amass a 49-31 record, making four straight playoff appearances after a 4-12 debut campaign. Led by head coach Tom Coughlin, the club would reach the AFC title game in both 1996 and 1999, falling short of the Super Bowl on each occasion.

    Now consider that over the past six seasons following a playoff appearance in 2007, the Jaguars are a disappointing 31-65. Talk about a fall from grace.

    Second-year head coach Gus Bradley and his staff made some strides in 2013, and this team may finally be headed in a better direction. The team selected quarterback prospect Blake Bortles in last month’s draft.

    So what about the face of the team? With popular running back Maurice Jones-Drew now a member of the Oakland Raiders, owner Shahid Khan is now the man on a somewhat faceless team these days.

    Let’s just give it some time.

Kansas City Chiefs: RB Jamaal Charles

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    In 2012 the talented Kansas City Chiefs didn’t live up to their talent. They finished 2-14 despite having six Pro Bowlers on the roster. They ranked dead last in the NFL with 211 points and managed a mere 18 touchdowns in 16 contests.

    This past season, led by head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs finished 11-5, more than doubled their point production and saw their Pro Bowl running back lead the league with 19 touchdowns in only 15 contests.

    Jamaal Charles’ big-play ability as a runner and pass-catcher makes him one of the more electrifying performers in the league. Back in 2011 his season lasted two games before he was cut down by a knee injury. Over the last two years, he’s been making up for lost time.

    In 31 games since 2012, the Pro Bowl runner has rushed for 2,796 yards and 17 scores, plus he has caught 105 passes for 929 yards and eight touchdowns. Charles led the team with seven touchdown receptions in 2013.

    Don’t recognize him? That’s only because opposing defenses have had a hard time catching up with him as of late.

Miami Dolphins: Head Coach Joe Philbin

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    A franchise once known for its “No Name” defense has been somewhat faceless in recent seasons.

    The Miami Dolphins have not produced a winning campaign in the last five years. After going to the playoffs five consecutive seasons from 1997 to 2001, these mammals have been like a fish out of water.

    Since 2002, the team has been to the playoffs just once, winning the AFC East title in 2008 and then bowing out in the first round of the postseason. Over that span, the club has gone through seven head coaches, including interim sideline leaders Jim Bates (2004) and Todd Bowles (2011).

    Now highly regarded Joe Philbin enters his third year at the helm. Unfortunately, there are the memories of locker-room issues and a crippling season-ending two-game losing streak that ended Miami’s playoff chances in 2013.

    Quarterback Ryan Tannehill also enters his third season with the club. But save for three-time Pro Bowl defender Cameron Wake, there’s not a lot of star power here. And what talent the team has brought aboard in recent years is...recent.

    So the tag of franchise face goes to Philbin, who can only hope his team can overcome last year’s disappointing conclusion and make a playoff run in 2014.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson

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    Who needs a face when you have initials?

    Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is simply known as A.P. As far as his play, the seven-year veteran is known for a lot more than that.

    He’s already totaled 2,033 rushing attempts for 10,115 yards and 86 scores. He led the league in rushing yards in both 2008 (1,760) and 2012 (2,097)—the latter were the second-most yards in a season in NFL history.

    While Super Bowl success has eluded him and the Vikings to date, he is arguably the best player at his position in the game. With the franchise beginning anew again (Mike Zimmer will be Peterson’s third different head coach), there has to be a constant.

    Say no more.

New England Patriots: Head Coach Bill Belichick

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    OK, let the debate begin.

    Yes, we do know that the Belichick came before the Brady.

    The New England Patriots are in the midst of a run that includes 13 consecutive winning campaigns, 11 straight years of 10 or more wins, 11 AFC East titles and five Super Bowl appearances, three resulting in victory.

    To ignore the accomplishments of quarterback Tom Brady would be senseless. But we have to make a choice here, and frankly, it all started with head coach Bill Belichick. It’s been all uphill for the franchise since the former Cleveland Browns head coach struggled to a 5-11 record in 2000.

    Since 2001 it’s been the Belichick and Brady show, with an appearance by understudy Matt Cassel in 2008.

    Again, there’s one choice here, and we have to take the head coach over the veteran quarterback.

    After all, we are not two-faced.

New Orleans Saints: QB Drew Brees

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    Let the debate begin, Part Deux?

    We just got done discussing the New England Patriots and their success under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

    Both head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees debuted in the Crescent City in 2006. And it’s been a glorious run by the New Orleans Saints, who took 20 years before they even enjoyed their first winning season.

    That’s ancient history as far as the franchise is concerned. These days, the team has been in the playoffs four of the last five years and won Super Bowl XLIV in 2009. Payton is regarded as one of the league’s most creative offensive minds, and Brees has executed with perfection. The prolific passer has thrown for 5,000 or more yards each of the last three seasons and been named to seven Pro Bowls in his eight seasons with the club.

    So why choose Brees over Payton? The 13-year pro has meant so much more to the city of New Orleans than just being the team’s quarterback.

New York Giants: QB Eli Manning

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    The New York Giants are coming off a season in which they lost their first six games, finished 7-9 and led the league with 44 turnovers.

    Quarterback Eli Manning led the NFL with 27 interceptions and was guilty of 29 of those 44 miscues. The Giants have surrounded a Super Bowl win in 2011 by missing the playoffs four of the last five seasons.

    So is this about a face? Or is it about saving face?

    Manning is no doubt the leader of this club and the first name brought up while discussing Big Blue. He has started every contest for the club since taking over the quarterback job with seven games to play in 2004. He owns a pair of Super Bowl rings and was the game’s MVP in both instances.

    He owns an 8-3 record in the playoffs, but it’s also worth noting that those eight wins came in the team’s last two title seasons. Manning and the Giants were one-and-out in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

    You could have a healthy discussion about how good this Manning has been throughout his career. But there’s no question as to who is the current face of the New York Football Giants.

New York Jets: Head Coach Rex Ryan

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    It wasn’t that long ago that the New York Jets were making trips to the AFC title game, and their outspoken head coach was making predictions.

    Of course, the franchise still hasn’t been back to the Big Game since 1968, when quarterback Joe Namath made good on a poolside guarantee and helped guide his team to a win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

    But that hasn’t stopped the bravado from current Jets head coach Rex Ryan, the sideline leader for the past six seasons. His team has been just as bold as he has been.

    That hasn’t added up to much the last three years, as the club has finished a combined 22-26 since 2011. But with a new season comes new hope. The defense is once again on the rise, and there are hopes that second-year quarterback Geno Smith will make a quantum leap in 2014.

    Call it Ryan’s hope.

Oakland Raiders: FS Charles Woodson

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    For those fans of the Oakland Raiders who still remember the good times provided by one of the legendary franchises in football history, perhaps this is the year that the Silver and Black return to some semblance of glory.

    Veteran defensive back Charles Woodson remembers the last time we saw the club in contention for an NFL title. Under head coaches Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan, the team made three straight playoff appearances from 2000 to 2002, culminating with a Super Bowl XXXVII appearance in San Diego.

    But that commitment to excellence has been silver and bleak ever since. The Raiders are a combined 53-123 dating back to 2003 and have suffered through 11 straight nonwinning seasons.

    After a seven-year stint with the Green Bay Packers from 2006 to 2012, Woodson returned to Oakland in 2012, and it was like riding a bicycle (of course, the bikes in “Titletown” were a lot more successful). This past season, the 16-year veteran started all 16 games, finished third on the club with 97 tackles and totaled two sacks, three forced fumbles and three takeaways.

    All told, he is the face of a franchise that could still use a few more lifts and tucks.

    No pun intended.

Philadelphia Eagles: Head Coach Chip Kelly

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    Ask this question two years ago, and the answer would have been Andy Reid.

    However, it’s 2014, and Chip Kelly is at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles these days.

    After a 3-5 start this past season, the Birds soared to seven wins in eight games. The Eagles featured the league’s second-ranked offense and top-ranked ground attack led by LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s rushing champion in 2013.

    And don’t think you could not make a case for McCoy for consideration as well.

    Philadelphia is simply loaded at the skill positions with McCoy, quarterback Nick Foles, wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin (looking to bounce back from a lost 2013), tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz and backfield option Darren Sproles.

    And these days, it’s Kelly’s shade of green that makes the whole thing work.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger

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    Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, no team has won more regular-season games and more Super Bowls than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Let’s face it. They have been the model of consistency in this league for more than four decades. It’s amazing considering that for nearly four decades, this franchise couldn’t get out of its own way.

    These days, the team that has had only three head coaches since 1969 is being run on the field by Mike Tomlin.

    And it’s also being led by veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who sets sail on his second decade in the league in 2014.

    With three Super Bowl appearances and pair of championship rings on his resume, he’s the field general for a club that has been a different kind of football team than the one that Big Ben commandeered during his early days in the league.

    Roethlisberger has somewhat quietly thrown for 34,105 yards and 219 touchdowns (122 interceptions) during his career. And for those willing to question our choice, he is who we have deemed the face of the franchise to be.

    The hair of the franchise is another discussion altogether.

St. Louis Rams: Head Coach Jeff Fisher

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    Once dubbed “The Greatest Show on Turf,” success has now eluded the St. Louis Rams for more than a decade.

    So isn’t it interesting that this team is now being led by a head coach who was on the losing end of one of the franchise’s biggest victories?

    The Rams haven’t enjoyed a winning season since 2003 and haven’t reached the postseason since 2004. These days, it’s up to head coach Jeff Fisher, whose Tennessee Titans lost to these Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999, to return the club to prominence.

    Why not quarterback Sam Bradford, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft? We haven’t seen enough of him in four years to get a true reading.

    But keep this in mind: The Rams added talented defensive tackle Aaron Donald to a front four that includes defensive end Chris Long and Robert Quinn as well as defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

    So if the topic of “current Mount Rushmores for all 32 teams” comes up, well...

San Diego Chargers: QB Philip Rivers

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    San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been a part of both good and bad times.

    Off last season, it’s back to the good.

    The 10-year pro is coming off a campaign in which he led the team to a playoff appearance for the first time since 2009 and a postseason win for the first time since 2008. San Diego rebounded from a 5-7 start to win its final four games and earn some extra playing time in 2013.

    From 2011 to 2012, the Chargers were a combined 15-17, and Rivers was cited as one of the problems. The prolific signal-caller committed 47 of the club’s 54 turnovers over that span.

    Dating back to 2006, the former first-round pick has started 128 consecutive games. His fiery spirit and competitive nature make him an easy choice here.

San Francisco 49ers: ILB Patrick Willis

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    The temptation is to put head coach Jim Harbaugh here.

    After all, think where the San Francisco 49ers would be without him as of late.

    Eight consecutive seasons without a winning campaign have been followed by three straight appearances in the NFC Championship Game and a combined 36-11-1 regular-season record, the last three all under the unpredictable head coach.

    Still, the choice here is inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who has been the club’s symbol of defense for all seven of his NFL seasons, which is fitting for a franchise that has lived by defense as of late. The former first-round pick has been named to the Pro Bowl each year he’s been in the league.

    Is young quarterback Colin Kaepernick the heir apparent when it comes to the franchise’s face? Stay tuned.

Seattle Seahawks: CB Richard Sherman

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    We thought long and hard about giving this spot to the franchise’s fabled 12th Man.

    But that’s a lot of faces when it comes to representing the Seattle Seahawks.

    The defending Super Bowl champions have their share of stars. Head coach Pete Carroll has assembled quite a talented crew, and two-year quarterback Russell Wilson has helped solidify the offense.

    But these Seahawks are built on defense. No team in the NFL in 2013 gave up fewer yards or points, and no club could match the team’s 39 takeaways.

    You could also argue that no player on Carroll’s club has been more of the team’s face these days than standout cornerback Richard Sherman. In three seasons in the league, he’s totaled 20 interceptions and has made a statement in more ways than one. In 2013 he led the NFL with eight interceptions.

    Sherman has made plenty of noise in his brief career. It sounds (literally) like he has learned well from that 12th Man.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Head Coach Lovie Smith

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    For now, Lovie Smith has the job. And for the sake of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, let’s hope he hangs onto it for a decent amount of time.

    Yes, we are not only talking about the head coaching position but the face of the franchise as well. Smith becomes the franchise's third sideline leader in six years and inherits a club that has finished last in the NFC South the last three seasons.

    Roughly a decade ago, this would have been quite the debate. Jon Gruden? Warren Sapp? Derrick Brooks? The recent passing of owner Malcolm Glazer on May 27 also makes this a very sensitive subject as well.

    So the nod goes to Smith, who looks to get this club back on track on the field.

Tennessee Titans: Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt

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    It wasn’t that long ago that Jeff Fisher was the face of a franchise that began as the Houston Oilers in 1960 and eventually morphed into today’s Tennessee Titans.

    Some will recall that at one time, Fisher was the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL, having led the Oilers/Titans from November of 1994 through 2010. Over that time, he led the club to its lone Super Bowl appearance (XXXIV).

    That was another coach ago, as Mike Munchak was recently let go after three disappointing seasons.

    Enter Ken Whisenhunt, who hopes to get this club back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. That was the rookie season of very recognizable running back Chris Johnson, who is no longer a face in Nashville after being released this offseason and signing with the New York Jets.

    Like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Titans have also had to deal with tragedy in the last year. The franchise’s longtime owner, K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr., passed away last October.

    Now, like Lovie Smith in Tampa, Whisenhunt hopes to take a team to a Super Bowl after falling short in the Big Game with another franchise as head coach.

Washington Redskins: Owner Daniel M. Snyder

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    It’s almost odd to talk about a face when one of the biggest stories surrounding the Washington Redskins is the team’s name.

    But that’s a topic for another time.

    Daniel M. Snyder has been the owner of the franchise since July 1999. This season, Jay Gruden becomes the eighth different head coach under his guidance.

    The club has made three playoff appearances during his tenure but hasn’t come close to the success the team enjoyed under Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs’ first stint with the club from 1981 to 1992.

    Yes, the Redskins won the NFC East in 2012 with head coach Mike Shanahan and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III. However, the franchise has also finished last in the division five of the last six seasons dating back to 2008.

    Could Snyder and his pride and joy be ready for another bounce-back season in 2014? Unfortunately, this club gets too many chances these days of going from last to first.

     

    Some statistical support for this piece came from Pro-Football-Reference, NFL.com and ESPN.com.

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