Monday, January 15, 2007

Top 50 Football Players of All-Time

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***Click here for UPDATED "Top 100" version***
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48 comments:

Anonymous said...

great analysis.
I totally agree with you on Rice and unfortunately Sanders.

Lombaowski said...

Great stuff. Rice is statistically the greatest player in NFL history and I have no issues with him being ranked first. The only big issue I have with the rankings is the placement of John Elway. To me Elway is the best QB in his era and 2nd to only Unitas all-time. Based on ability, execution, winning, and statistics Elway is better than Montana and certainly better than Marino.

Anonymous said...

Jesus great list. Tons of great analysis, clearly lots of research has gone into this. With all of your great explanations, it is hard to argue with any of the rankings, but I would have Reggie White higher, maybe even top 5. He was just unbelieveable, but I don't really know much about Deacon Jones, seeing as how you said, there are limited stats from his era. Also, when Marshall Faulk won the MVP in 2000, they didn't go to the super bowl, that is when Ray Lewis and the Ravens won. Great list!

Jake said...

Thanks for the comments.

Matt, Elway was a tough call for me. His career was a lot like Steve Yzerman's. Elway didn't reach ultimate team success until well into his career. His statistics aren't overwhelming but anybody who watched him play knows how great he was. I'm not sure that I can agree, though, that Elway was better than Montana on ability, execution, winning, and statistics. Marino and Elway was a tough call. I thought about what would happen if Marino played his career in Denver, and Elway played his career in Miami. I don't think Denver would have had less success. I don't think Miami would have either. It was a toss up but Marino's stats are just so ridiculous. Elway didn't start winning until he got the running game that Marino never got. I took that into consideration. It was difficult and I can understand either way.

Anon#2,

The Faulk issue is fixed. That was a momentary lapse in concentration. Thanks! I can't disagree too much on Reggie White. I'm still working that out in my head. I would guess that if I did this again in five years, White would be in the top 10.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Getting hyped for the super bowl, and happened to come across this list. Great job. Hard to argue with much at all. I am a niner fan, and it is great to see rice at the top. I think he belongs there, or if not, very close. And Barry Sanders was by far the most fun to watch of any player i have seen. My one question--No mention of steve young? He had some talented teammates obviously, but the niner dynasty didn't end until the day he stopped playing. Number one in passer rating, best running quarterback maybe ever (I still think vick is a throwing running back). I am biased of course, but I think he belongs.

Jake said...

Thanks for the kind words. Steve Young was definitely supposed to be on the near misses. I have him there now. He was one of the last two players that missed the top 50. I can't say for certain if I kept him out because I had too many QBs already or if I actually felt he was outside of the top 50. It was a very difficult call. I tried to be fair to all of the positions. As it is, the quarterbacks make up 20% of my top 50. I would never say that he is not a top 50 player. That is a situation that I would like to revisit at some point. He is one of the best quarterbacks I have ever seen. Take care!

Zach said...

Nice list - though even after saying such nice things about the offensive line / tackle - you had what - two total

Randall McDaniel and Gary Zimmerman both should have at least been considered :(

... everytime I see a list like this - makes me also think of what we never got to see in terms of Bo Jackson and Keith Millard.

Jake said...

Thomas, I appreciate the interest.


I cannot reasonably come to the conclusion, no matter how much I manipulate the statistics, that Shannon Sharpe, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, and Dermonti Dawson were in the top 50 of all-time. Reggie White and Marshall Faulk certainly have very good arguments for being ranked higher. I have no qualms with that.

Irvin- Chris Carter clearly has the edge over Irvin in virtually ever conceivable measurement. He didn’t make the list although I would not object if someone has Carter in the top 50. I liked Irvin a lot. However, I was surprised at how much better I thought his statistics were when he retired. This will probably surprise you but Irvin only had 65 touchdowns in 12 seasons (that’s five per year) and only reached 80 receptions in a season three times. Statistics aren’t everything but they are a lot. Irvin was a very good receiver and blocker and was clearly the second option to Emmitt Smith so those factors hurt his statistics.

Aikman- Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw would probably be ahead of Aikman although the latter comparison is really a coin toss. Aikman wasn’t terrible but he is nowhere near the top 50 football players of all-time—ask around. In 12 seasons, how many times do you think Aikman threw for even 20 touchdowns in a season? The answer is once. He had the task of guiding one of the greatest rosters ever assembled. He did it well but I think the criterion for being among the 50 best ever is much more than that.

Sharpe- John Mackey would be the first tight end on the list if I felt a tight end should have been there. He was on the first draft but got squeezed near the end. My intentions were not to put together an All-Pro team. I don’t believe that we have seen a tight end that is one of the 50 best of all-time. It’s important to remember that 50 spots fill up really fast. I would love to put 75 different players in the top 50 but that doesn’t work. I would argue that tight ends and guards/centers are the least impressive positions on the field. What I mean by that is they are the easiest positions to get to the NFL. Just think of how many basketball players have become tight ends or how many tackles that couldn’t handle their position switched to guard/center. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that no tight ends or centers made the list. There have been good ones for sure. I just think the cream of the crop for those two positions doesn’t stand up to the cream at the other positions. If Antonio Gates keeps playing the way he’s playing, I can definitely see him breaking into the list. Tony G. would probably be in ahead of Sharpe, too. Tony G. will have more yards, touchdowns and receptions by the time his career is over.

Dawson- This goes along with the tight end. With over 22 positions on the field, the only way to guarantee every position be included is to force every position to be included thus invalidating the list in my opinion. I do not believe that there has been a tight end, or a center that has been in the top 50 football players of all-time. Both positions are important but that hardly means that the best players at those positions were among the 50 best ever.

Vinatieri- If you’re going to put a kicker on the list, then I think this is the guy to include. I might have a kicker in the top 100. Other than that, you won’t find me putting kickers alongside the players I have in the top 50. If Vinatieri played for any other team than the Patriots, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Their style of play (close contests decided by late field goals) combined with so many playoff games allowed Vinatieri to gain fame. There have been a ton of good kickers but nobody ever gets that famous. He had the good fortune of having his kicks come in the Super Bowl in important situations. He has made some very difficult kicks. But, I don’t believe that makes him one of the top 50 players in NFL history.

Take care!

drew said...

drew says jack lambert is awsome

Anonymous said...

Great list (especially ranking Jerry Rice #1). But no love for Walter Payton at #18. Payton played on some of the worst offenses, with some of the worst lines I've ever seen. You played the Bears, and defenses only had one man to worry about and that was #34. And he played 13 years, and was kept out of 1 game due to a coach's decision. He could run, block (unlike Jim Brown), and I believe he is still the Bears all time leading receiver with nearly 500 catches. I'd slide him into the top 10, if not top 5.

Anonymous said...

love the list, although im not too sure about your sudden spurt of current players. While i am one of the biggest fans of T.O. (especially now hes a cowboy) i can't justify including him yet. I'm a little stunned at the lack of love for paul krause, the all time interception leader and darrell green, another guy with a consistantly great career for 20 years. 2 redskins, and this is coming from a die-hard cowboys fan.

Anonymous said...

where Troy Aikman? and why isn't bradshaw in the top 50 he won four superbowls in ten years...aside from montana no other player has done that...and lynn swann where's he, back to troy did he not bring the cowboys out of a 1 and 15 season and go three out of four in superbowl wins? now i totally agree with rice but shouldn't walter payton be number 2? and staubach? why is he so high? and if peyton manning can make this list where's Danny White (maybe not top 50 but certainly close.)

Anonymous said...

And jack... you don't need to throw 20 touchdown passes with players like emmit smith and moose johnston, or bernie kosar backing you up.

Anonymous said...

Tom Brady won three rings with no where near the talent that Peyton has??? If you mean OFFENSIVE talent, that would be correct. But Brady has always had a dominant defense and the best coaching staff in the league, which is why Brady got a ring (and was named Superbowl MVP) passing for 150 yards. Think that would ever happen for Peyton?

Anonymous said...

Great List Im not a big fan of Jerry Rice caues somepeople dont know but he was a very ball hog person. Thats not horrible persay but im not a fan of that. Some people say thats why TO is the way he is today.Sorry to disagree but Walter Payton should be atleast in the top 10 he was amazing and just beacues he could handle being on a losing team better than Barry could that should be a bouns beacues look at the early bears when Walter first got drafted they were worse than te lions. But i love Barry too but when making a list you cant go so much on a what if. I mean if you were basing this on a what if basis then Gale Sayers whould be #1 beacues he had the most potenchal out of anyone but he was injured. Also You cant have a top 50 list without Red Grange. You just cant he was the NFL he was the best when there was nothing no one on this list (other than Johnny U) could do that. If he hadnt come in the game NFL players would be getting payed far less a game than they do now.
But for a top 50 list you did great im happy not to see OJ on there and decon jones so high and Emmit so low.
But Eric Dickerson was a very good player he might diserve to pass up people like LT for now that is.
Great list i can tell you worked hard.

Anonymous said...

Rice is by far the greatest player of all time and I completely agree. The only player that I think you could say competes with him is Lawrence Taylor. I love the list it's awesome.

Anonymous said...

I think Brian Westbrook should be number 45 on the list

Anonymous said...

very god list im a little scepticle on how you didnt rate jim thorpe in the top 50. but other than that it is awesome

Anonymous said...

what about Joe Namath?

Anonymous said...

Good job with Rice number 1, you may be the first to put that on writing. But Dan Marino is number one for pure quaterbacking skills, Elway's arms with Montana's accuracy and enough elusiveness to avoid sacks. Just never had a pro-bowl running back. If you watched football in the 90's, don't forget about Andre Reed Like everyone else. He was essentially Jerry Rice playing in worse weather

Anonymous said...

wow! great job. i guess i would only make one argument. lawrence taylor played on teams with nobody else from your list and literally changed the game single handedly. without him the gints had no chance. jerry rice had montana, young, lott and other superstars. L.T. was a defensive player as you already know for some reason can't win these contests. #1 L.T.

Anonymous said...

FAVRE = #1

Anonymous said...

jerry rice is overrated especially on this list. He played with 2 of the top 4 qb's all-time. Oh yeah and steve young should be much higher on that list. Sam Baugh should be considered the greatest no doubt. 6 time passing leader 4 time punting leader and once in interceptions. no one will ever do that again like gretzky 4 200 point seasons and chamberlaine avging over 50 pts and over 20 reb for a season.

Anonymous said...

When you figure out which quarterback is the all time leader in playoff yards passing, super bowl yards passing, playoff touchdowns passing and super bowl touchdowns passing, and then realize you excluded him from the top 10 (let alone the list), I'll re-read your list. I'll wait a year to see if you figure it out.

Jake said...

That's funny. I always thought Joe Montana was the leader in all of the categories you mentioned which is why I rated him the #4 player in NFL history (which I'm pretty sure falls in the top 10). But, apparently I was mistaken. Please enlighten me. Who is this mystery QB you speak of? I'm so disappointed that I'll have to wait a year to find out!

old time brown fan said...

There never was a better player than Jim Brown... and the older I get and the more football I watch, I am convinced there never will be another player that accomplished what Brown did in his 12 GAME SEASONS. Rice was great and I can understand most of your rationale....But Jim Brown truly was, and remains, in class all his own.

James said...

I disagree on some stuff, but overall a great analysis. Randy Moss is a much better wide receiver than Terrell. A lot of people disagree with me here, but i think Tom Brady is the best player of all time, and i don't base this just on skill of passing. He can fake a handoff better than anyone, he knows when to run, and he is Super Bowl maniac. When quarterbacks like Payton Manning (most overrated player) is on the side line, crying and sucking his thumb with Dungy, Brady's is thinking up new plays. Dont think i am just a Patriots fan, i just like good football. Tony Romo will probably make the list, it will take some time though. Barry Sanders is number two defiantly cause he can run with no blocking and 200 pound guys on his back. Next time you make a list, remember players are getting better so an all star back then might be a back up now.

JSmith79 said...

i would think jim brown is #1 because this is about football players of all time, not the players with the best stats. i mean if you look at the tennessee titans defense, albert haynesworth is a perfect example. haynseworth doesnt make all the plays, but because the offense concentrates so much on haynesworth, it frees up the other d linemen like vanden bosch. and personally my favorite is earl campbell, who had no disregard to running straight at someone which is as just mentally challenging as is physically, unlike finnesse runners.

vote for your favorite running back of all time at http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/315275

Anonymous said...

Brett Favre should be No. 1

Ronald said...

Check out this link for the "all-time passing" questions for the playoffs posted above, and I only come up with Joe Montana as an answer, who is listed at #4. Thought I'd save others a bit of searching for the answer without waiting for a year.

XLIXers said...

As a 49er fan I was understandalby happy to see Joe Montana rated so highly in your list of the NFL's top players. However it was very surprising to see the author had credited much Joe's success to being paired with Jerry Rice.

Though Rice is considered by many to be one of the greatest ever to play his position. And he and Montana did enjoy enormous success ... what many people forget is the simple FACT that Montana won two NFL championships, Super Bowls XVI & XIX, before Jerry Rice ever joined the team.

We should also like to point out that the 1984-85 team (that beat the Dolphins in SB XIX) were 18-1 that season. the first team to record that many victories in a single season.

Jake said...

XLIXers,

I just re-read what I wrote about Joe Montana and I don't think I was unfair to him in the slightest. I don't think I attributed much of his success to Rice. I said that was a criticism by some who knock Montana and I also said that Rice helped Montana as much as Montana helped Rice.

Would the Patriots have won the Super Bowl--assuming they do--this season without Randy Moss? I'm not so sure. That doesn't make Brady a worse QB. Just because Brady won Super Bowls before Moss doesn't mean that Moss' presence hasn't helped Brady increase his profile even more. Would SF have won the SB in 88 and 89 without Rice? I'm not so sure. Maybe in 88 but it would've been dicey without Rice in 89. Montana was already great. I wouldn't have listed him as the greatest QB of all-time if he wasnt. But, I don't think there is any doubt that having Rice helped him reach 4 SB's. That's not a knock on anyone.

Thanks for the comments and I hope you're less inclined to take what I wrote as a knock or a half-truth than you were before reading this.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Steve young is better than Montana!!!

Let us look at the career numbers (Young's numbers are shown first below. NFL career records are marked with an asterisk):

Completion Percentage: 64.3% vs. 63.2%
Average Gain per Attempt: 7.98 vs. 7.52
Touchdown Percentage: 5.6% vs. 5.1%
Interception Percentage: 2.5789% vs. 2.5783%
Super Bowl Championships: 1 vs. 4*
Average Rushing Yards per Carry: 5.9 vs. 3.7
Passer Rating: 96.8* vs. 92.3

When you consider Young's numbers are a little skewed by spending two horrendous years at Tampa Bay during the start of his career, Young's numbers are even more impressive.

Anonymous said...

what about Gale Sayers

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate what you have done here it is a great list. having said that i feel like Barry sanders should have been higher up. It is true that he doesn't have the astounding numbers that he would if he stayed in the league. Still I think that the list should be talent based, and not numbers based, and there are not many who have more talent than him. Hell even Emmitt said that Barry would have broken every NFL RB record if he stayed. So I think that barry should be right behind Butkis because I feel he is in that neighborhood of greatness

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jerry Rice, but i believe that Walter Payton should be in the top 10. For all those who seem to beleive Peyton Manning is better than Tom Brady, think about this: Manning has had better recieving options for his whole career, and finally when Brady got some targets (Wes Welker, and Randy Moss) he broke Manning's record and Peyton always collapses in the off-season, and if you notice, all the greatest quarterbacks are great because of their skill in the post-season. Tom Brady finally has a "Jerry Rice" in Randy Moss, too bad theyre not many years left in Randy's career. Tom Brady will deffinatley surpass John Elway, and will comprable to Joe Montana.

gregroark said...

great anaylisis i agree for just two of them 1. jerome bettis should be ahead of marshall faulk 2. terry bradshaw he should be in the top 20 he won 4 super bowls and he played a very good career

Anonymous said...

Jim Brown should have been listed at #1. As you mentioned, he didn't have as long of a career as many other guys, but when he was playing he was the greatest player in pro-football history.

John

Anonymous said...

CURTIS MARTIN?

Julian said...

Great list. Overall I think you nailed it, but what about Paul Krause? He holds the all-time career record for interceptions with 81. A feat That I don't think will ever be broken. And maby Randy White?

Anonymous said...

good list but i think that you should have barry sanders much higher no one can tackle him one on one hes to quick and could juke anyone and why is steve largent not on the list and what about mike ditka great as a coach and player

Anonymous said...

What is with all the people in lover with Favre he is a great player indeed but i guess if he wasn't in the top 50 he would probably cry about it.

Anonymous said...

Alright, let me get this straight. Who do I think should be number one? Real simple: Tom Brady. Look at him, he has three super bowl wins and I didn't see a Reggie Wayne or Terrell Owens on his team when he did it. Let's face it, they really didn't have a stand out halfback either. He holds the record for touchdowns in a single season. 50-8. Can anybody say wow!!!!

David said...

for the same reason that terry bradshaw is ranked so low, Emmitt Smith can not be ranked so high. Watch any ESPN Classic game of the 90's cowboys, and you will realize that Smith's gaudy production is the result of his hall of fame offensive line and equally potent passing attack. Barry Sanders had neither. It is unexplainable that Emmitt Smith could be ranked ahead of Barry Sanders.

Anonymous said...

I agree but only one question. Where is Art Shell?

Anonymous said...

Where is larry fitzgerald not even in honrable mention

Jake said...

Not yet!

Anonymous said...

Emmit Smith was a good running back, but he was not great. He played with the best offensive line, of his time and he had the deepest, widest holes to run through. He was not nearly as elusive and/or fast like Barry Sanders and/or strong, dominant as Brown. Steve Young had never the the luxury of an offensive line as good as the ones Joe Montana had, but he always put better passing stats and was always a threat to score himself, from any place of the field...

 

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