Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Top 100 Football Players of All-Time

Two years ago, I put together the 50 best players in history for each of the four major sports. That was a daunting and time consuming task but I was fairly happy with the results. As time moved along, it started to bother me more and more that I didn’t have a “top 100” so I’ve spent the last six months or so working on that. For the most part, the players rated in my original "top 50" stayed in the same spots with a few exceptions. There was limited player movement that mostly involved active players. Also, there were a few instances where a player moved into the top 50 who was previously left out two years ago.

Please read the following before moving on to the list…

1). It is important to know why and how I chose to rate active players. A list like this isn’t nearly as fun or accurate if we just pretend active players don’t exist. The way I rated active players is simple. I considered their accomplishments up to this point and then assumed a healthy, reasonable, finish to their careers.

2). None of the rankings are arbitrary or without multiple rationalizations. If you would like a clarification, feel free to ask. I’d be happy to rationalize a ranking. If I agree with an objection, then I'll be happy to make a change.

3). It is not uncommon for sports fans to discount current players with respect to history because a). present-day players don’t have the luxury of accumulating gaudy statistics and award-counts against weak competition and b). their most cherished memories are from childhood so there is an inherent preference towards players from earlier generations. I can understand why the overrating occurs but, at the same time, I’m not going to do it here.

4). These lists are based on the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL. I would love to have the insight to include players from international leagues. The same goes for the Negro Leagues. Instead of pretending to know more than I do, I only chose to rate players who did their work in the four major leagues.

5). The list is based on statistics through December '07.

6). First and last names for each player have different links. First names link to Wikipedia-entries and last names link to career-stats.

7). For more information, click here. It’s my criterion from the original "Top 50." It’s basically the same with more boring detail.


Top 100 Football Players of All-Time


1) Jerry Rice

I have never seen a list that rated Jerry Rice as the best football player in NFL history. Likewise, I have never seen a list that didn’t rate Jim Brown the best player in NFL history. I get the impression that everyone rates Jim Brown first just because everyone else does. Heck, I had him first when I started just because I had been taught to believe that he was the best. The only problem with that thinking is that Jerry Rice is the best player of all-time in terms of production, longevity, and career accomplishments and it’s not very close. Brown might win on perception but Rice wins every other comparison. Even if someone wanted to argue that Brown’s statistics are as equally impressive as Rice’s, there’s the fact that Rice played for 20 seasons. That is more than double Brown’s nine. Just to give a proper indication of how dominating Rice was throughout his career, consider his lead in the record-books. The difference between Rice and Chris Carter (second on the receptions list) is 448 receptions. That is as big as the difference between Carter and the #32 player on the list (Ozzie Newsome). The difference between Rice and Tim Brown (second on the receiving yardage list) is 8,000 yards. The difference between Brown and the 50th player on the list (Paul Warfield) is only 6,000. The difference between Rice and Carter (second all-time in receiving touchdowns) is the same as the difference between Carter and the 50th player on the list. Those are just receiving statistics. Rice’s dominance goes beyond receivers. Rice has 32 more touchdowns than any WR or RB in NFL history. He has 2,000 more total yards than any other WR or RB in NFL history. He also holds all of the major playoff and Super Bowl records by a receiver. His dominance in individual statistics is second to none and it’s not even close. If team success is your preference, Rice paced the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl victories. He was the Super Bowl MVP in 1988, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in ’87 and ’93, and the MVP (PFWA) in ’87. The number of truly great wide receivers in NFL history is nowhere near the number of great running backs, quarterbacks, and offensive lineman. No player in NFL history dominated his position more astonishingly. The difference between Rice and the second best WR of all-time is vastly more definitive than the difference between the top two players at any other position. If people don’t feel “comfortable” putting someone other than Brown at number one, then there’s probably not much that I can say to change their mind. But, there isn’t any doubt in my mind that Rice should be number one on this list.

2) Jim Brown

After writing that much on Jerry Rice, I almost feel like I just spent 20 minutes bashing Jim Brown. I assure you--that was not my intention. Brown had a phenomenal career—albeit a short one. He shocked the NFL by retiring in his prime after only nine seasons. Brown dominated the NFL with his superior speed and size. Brown retired holding virtually all of the rushing records for yardage and touchdowns. Brown was the NFL’s MVP three times (two AP, and one UPI). There are other players that could be put in the second spot ahead of Brown based on career length but Brown was just so much better than anyone when he played that he gets the nod.

3) Lawrence Taylor

One thing that I tried to focus on in compiling this list was to give proper credit to all positions on both sides of the ball. Quarterbacks and running backs often receive the bulk of the glory which takes away from the best players at other positions. Is there any reason to believe that the best defensive lineman of all-time has to be worse than the best quarterback of all-time? I think NFL fans have been brainwashed to think along those lines. Despite my best efforts, I still managed to include a larger percentage of running backs and quarterbacks on the list than other positions but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. It is entirely possible that Lawrence Taylor was the best player to ever play the game. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell. “LT” is the only player in NFL history to win three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. He is also one of only four players to win the NFL MVP award as a defensive player. Taylor was the most dominating pass-rusher in NFL history. He was fast and ferocious. He completely changed the opposition’s blocking schemes because it was nearly impossible to block him one on one. His dominance on defense helped lead the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles despite having less-than-stellar offenses.

4) Joe Montana

Was Joe Montana’s legacy inflated because of his good fortune of playing with Jerry Rice? Probably. But, it can be equally said that Rice’s legacy was somewhat inflated by his good fortune of playing with a quarterback as brilliant as Montana. A common criticism of Montana is the fact that a) he played in a system designed to put up big numbers and b) had supremely talented teammates. There is no question that both of those are true. But when has a well designed system and talented teammates ever guaranteed success, let alone four Super Bowl rings and the highest quarterback rating in NFL history when he retired? Also, it’s important to note that although Montana’s teams were talented, they weren’t that talented. The 49ers won because of Montana and Rice. The rest of the team was nowhere near as talented as Terry Bradshaw’s Pittsburgh Steelers, Bart Starr’s Green Bay Packers or Troy Aikman’s Dallas Cowboys. Montana led the 49ers to four Super Bowl wins in which he was named the Super Bowl MVP a record three times. He was also named the NFL MVP twice. There have been many great QB’s in the NFL but none can match Montana’s combination of efficiency, production, and success.

5) Johnny Unitas

Before Joe Montana came along, Johnny Unitas was usually the answer to the question, “who is the greatest QB of all-time?” Arguments can be made for other great QB’s like Sammy Baugh and Otto Graham but Unitas was probably the most common answer. Unitas was the first quarterback to throw for 40,000 yards in a career. He won three NFL MVP awards and led the Baltimore Colts franchise to two NFL Championships. Unitas was also one of the most influential quarterbacks in NFL history. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that league-wide passing took off after his arrival to the NFL.

6) Reggie White

I think it’s possible that Reggie White is the best defensive lineman of all-time. I suspect his greatness will be remembered more fondly with each passing year. His career statistics are just mind-boggling. He is second on the all-time sack list just two behind Bruce Smith. He made 13 Pro Bowls which is the second most of any player on the list (Merlin Olsen). He won two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. He is the franchise leader in sacks for two different organizations. He also led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory.

7) Emmitt Smith

For me, Emmitt Smith is like a fine wine. I grow fonder and fonder of his abilities as the years pass. When he was in his prime, I constantly rationalized why Barry Sanders was the better back. As a Detroit-fan, the last thing I wanted to do was admit that Emmitt was superior to Barry Sanders. Now I’m at the point where I feel comfortable saying that Smith had the better career but Sanders was more talented. Few talents in sports history were wasted as needlessly as Barry’s. Unfortunately for Barry, talent can only take you so far on a list like this. The most vivid memory I have of Smith was his remarkable performance in the 1993 regular season finale against the NY Giants in which he touched the ball 42 times for 229 yards with a separated shoulder. He holds countless rushing records including the most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in NFL history. He won an NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP and led the league in rushing four times. Only Jim Brown has won more rushing titles.

8) Deacon Jones

The problem with comparing old-time players in the NFL to present day stars is a) a lack of complete statistics and b) changes in the relevance of certain statistics. Deacon Jones’ official career sack total is zero. The NFL didn’t keep track of sacks until 1982. Had sacks been officially counted during Jones’ career, he would be the all-time single season sack-leader (26 in ’67) and third all-time in career sacks. Jones was certainly the first truly great sackmaster from the defensive end position. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award on two separate occasions. He arguably had as much of an impact on the NFL as any player in league history. He revolutionized the art of pass-rushing and even prompted rule changes ala Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

9) Don Hutson

What Unitas did for quarterbacks, Don Hutson did for wide receivers. Hutson did things in his career that were previously unheard of. His 99 career receiving touchdowns stood as the all-time record from 1945-1989. He was named the NFL MVP on two different occasions. It is hard to make a comparison to Jerry Rice or even some of the other great wide-outs. Hutson gets credit for doing things that nobody had ever seen before. He led the NFL in receiving yards seven times which is the most in NFL history. He also led the league in touchdown receptions nine times which is, by far, the most in NFL history.

10) Bob Lilly

Bob Lilly could very well be the greatest defensive tackle to play the game. With Lilly anchoring the defense, the Cowboys made the playoffs eight straight years including a Super Bowl win in 1971. Lilly made the Pro-Bowl 10 straight years and was first team All-NFL seven times.

11) Dick Butkus

In my opinion, Butkus has the greatest name in sports history. His legend is among the most noted of all NFL greats. Butkus was a brutal tackler. He made nine Pro Bowls and was selected first team All Pro six times. I had some difficulty separating Butkus from Packers great Ray Nitschke. Some say Nitschke was the greatest linebacker to ever play the game. Although I have no doubt that Nitschke was a phenomenal player, he was only selected to the Pro Bowl one time. I find that extremely curious. Nonetheless, that certainly speaks at least somewhat to Nitschke’s status during his playing days. So, Butkus gets the edge.

12) Otto Graham

Otto Graham’s career at first glance doesn’t look unbelievable. But trust me, it was. First off, Graham’s professional football career didn’t get started until the age of 24 due to his service in the Navy during WWII. As a result, he missed two or three years of his prime. Graham made the most of his time once he made it to professional football. He led the Cleveland Browns to the championship game in every season of his ten-year career. That is a remarkable accomplishment that probably will never be duplicated. His passing numbers don’t look like the numbers put up in the NFL today but compared to the league average at the time, his numbers were phenomenal. He led the NFL in passing yards five times. Nobody has done it more. He also led the NFL in touchdown passes and QB rating three times.

13) Barry Sanders

It is with tremendous disappointment and a considerable amount of bitterness that I put Barry Sanders at #13. I don’t blame him for leaving the Detroit Lions. I just enjoyed watching him play so much that his absence has left an emptiness in my life (sad but true). The reason why Sanders doesn’t rate higher on this list is because of all of the “could haves” that are brought up when talking about his career. He “could have” crushed Walter Payton’s (and now Emmitt Smith’s) all-time rushing record. He “could have” had even more yardage had he had the luxury of running behind one of the greatest lines in NFL history as Smith had. He “could have” won a handful of Super Bowl rings had he played for a team as good as Smith’s Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, “could haves” don’t count for a whole lot. Players who missed prime seasons serving in wars “would have” been productive assuming no injuries. The same can’t be said for Sanders because we simply don’t know the dynamics that went into his success in Detroit. Maybe he was the type of running back that was the same with a good or bad O-Line. He usually freelanced or chose his own holes anyways. There’s just no way of knowing. Considering what he accomplished individually and the lack of talent surrounding him, Sanders is the second best running back in NFL history in my opinion. Nobody was more elusive, feared or durable.

14) Tom Brady

When Brady’s career is over, I don’t think there will be any reason to rank him lower than any QB the league has seen. He has already won three Super Bowls with nowhere near the talent that Montana or Manning had the luxury of playing with. His career touchdown to interception ratio is among the best in the history of the game. He now boasts one of the greatest—if not the greatest—season by a quarterback in NFL history with his 50-toudchown, 4,806-yard, 117.2-passer rating effort in 2007. The only thing missing from his resume is longevity which only takes some patience to accomplish. If Brady stays consistent he will end up as one of the top 5-10 players in NFL history.

15) Anthony Munoz

Is Anthony Munoz really the best offensive lineman of all-time, hands down? I really have no idea. I know he is the most “respected” and most “talked about” lineman of all-time. I remember how much he was lauded during his playing days. Munoz was a big, athletic wall. He was named Offensive Lineman of the Year three times. He was selected to eleven Pro Bowls. He is also the highest ranking lineman in NFL history as judged by The Sporting News (#19). If Munoz really is the best lineman in NFL history, then I think he deserves to be rated higher than #19. The offensive line position is the most demanding position in the NFL. Players have to be equally big and athletic to exceed at the position. It’s possible that I have underrated his place in history at #15.


16) Joe Greene

“Mean Joe” Greene was great from the minute he entered the NFL. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1969. He won two Defensive Player of the Year awards. Only seven other defensive players have accomplished that feat. And most importantly, he led won of the greatest defenses in NFL history to four Super Bowl titles.

17)Marion Motley

I had a heck of a time trying to compare modern day players to players from earlier in the 20th century. Sports Illustrated’s Dr. Z lists Motley as the greatest football player of all-time. I don’t know how one could prove that. There certainly isn’t any statistical evidence that would indicate he is the best player of all-time. Any notion that he was is based on various eyewitness accounts passed on from one generation to the next. Motley helped lead the Browns to five consecutive championships (four in the AAFC, and one in the NFL). Comparing Motley’s career length and production to that of other players on this list, I can’t rate him any higher than #17.


18) Sammy Baugh

At first, I had little success comparing Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, and Johnny Unitas. But the more I looked into it, the more it became clear that the order should probably go Unitas, Graham, and then Baugh. Although, I am not certain that Graham shouldn’t be rated ahead of Unitas. Graham was considerably more successful. His statistics compared to the rest of the league were equally impressive. But, Unitas revolutionized the position so I gave him the nod over Graham. Baugh was a tremendous player. He excelled on offense, defense, and special teams. He led the league in passing four times, punting four times, and interceptions once. He also led the league in completion percentage an amazing nine times. He led the Washington Redskins to two NFL Championships and five trips to the Championship-game.

19) Brett Favre

There are a lot of people out there who “hate” Brett Favre. I am not one of those people. I was bummed when he finally retired. I love watching a professional athlete hold on to his/her skills when there is every reason to call it a career. Favre’s career was not short on staggering numbers. He threw for 30+ touchdowns eight times in his career. Marino did it four times. Elway did it zero times. Montana did it once. Moon did it twice. Manning has done it four times. Favre is the all-time leader passing touchdowns and passing yardage. He is the only player in NFL history to win the AP NFL MVP award three straight seasons. Only two other players have even won three AP MVPs (Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas). Favre’s “reckless” style of play definitely has affected his image among the all-time greats. His numbers may have also benefited from Green Bay’s heavy emphasis on the passing game. However, Joe Montana played under a similar emphasis. The only knock on Favre’s resume is that he only won one Super Bowl. The rest of his work is pristine.

20). Steve Young

Young’s resume is a lot like Roger Staubach's. Young had to wait until he was 31 to get the keys to the 49ers offense. If you compare Young’s career to Montana’s, some measures might make it seem like Young was the better quarterback. Montana won four Super Bowls, though. He is also the greatest Super Bowl and Playoff QB of All-Time. That’s why Montana gets the edge. It’s all about the playoffs. What Young accomplished after the age of 30 is truly remarkable. He led the 49ers to victory in Super Bowl XXIX after winning two rings as a backup to Joe Montana. He won two NFL MVPs as well as a Super Bowl MVP. He is first all-time with a 96.8 career passer rating. He is 3rd all-time in completion percentage. He led the NFL in passer rating six times, touchdown passes four times, and passing yards per game twice. Young didn't pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season until he was 31. There is no question that having to backup Montana for so many years kept Young from putting up even more impressive statistics.

21) Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis is the best defensive player that I have seen. I got a chance to see “LT” later in his career but I missed out on his spectacular seasons. My memory has failed me in that regard. Lewis is the most physical linebacker I have ever watched play football. He is also second to none, in my opinion, with regard to his ability to pursue the ball-carrier. He has won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and a Super Bowl MVP. His superior play led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl victory despite having an anemic offense. In fact, the Ravens have been a successful franchise for the better part of a decade without much of an offensive presence. That should give an indication how valuable Lewis has been.


22) Walter Payton

I could’ve put Payton anyplace from 10th to 30th and rationalized it pretty well. Simply gaining a bunch of rushing yards doesn’t make a running back great. Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis are evidence of that. They were good backs but not great. Payton had something different. He ran with authority. He was a mixture of all styles. He was an elusive bulldozer. Could he have been better than Barry Sanders? I must concede that it is possible. Sanders would have crushed Payton’s all-time rushing record and with a significantly better average yards per carry to boot had he not retired early. Payton had some of Sanders’ misfortune but did manage to hang around long enough to play with the 1985 Chicago Bears. If only Barry had that same good fortune. Despite his “sweetness”, Payton only led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns once. That’s why I can’t rate him too much higher.

23) Gino Marchetti

Marchetti got off to a late start in his career because he fought in the Battle of the Bulge among other battles in WWII. He made 10 Pro Bowls and led his team to two NFL Championships. He is also one of only four defensive players to win the NFL MVP. I probably have him underrated compared to other lists but I have him as the fifth best defensive lineman of all-time just ahead of Alan Page. So, his ranking is somewhat determined by their ranking as well.

24) Peyton Manning

If Manning had three Super Bowls like Tom Brady, he would probably be considered the greatest QB of all-time. Manning has some staggering statistics. He has thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in 10 consecutive seasons. No other QB has even come close to that. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards eight times which is the most of any QB in NFL history (although, Brett Favre deserves a nod here. He threw for 4,000 yards five times and then threw between 3,800-3,999 yards seven more times). Manning is second to Steve Young on the all-time passer-rating list. His TD:INT ratio is exactly 2:1 which is one of the best marks in NFL history. He has led the league in passing yards three times, passer rating three times, and touchdowns twice. He also had arguably the greatest passing season in NFL history in ’04 when he threw for 49 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions and had a passer rating of 121.1

25) Dick "Night Train" Lane

What “LT” was to linebackers and Deacon Jones was to defensive ends, Dick “Night Train” Lane was to defensive backs. Lane still holds the record for interceptions in a season at 14. It is interesting, though, that there aren’t many “great” cornerbacks in NFL history. Sure, there have been really good players but Lane seems to be the default choice not necessarily because everyone knows that he was the best ever but because there aren’t many convincing alternatives.

26) Jack Lambert

To be fair to Jack Lambert, there isn’t a clear-cut case that Butkus and Lewis deserve to be rated higher. All three are exceptionally distinguished in NFL history. I do think that the fact that Lambert played for a team that had nine Hall of Famers makes it a little easier to have success. The Steeler-defenses that Lambert played for in the 70’s are considered by many to be the best in NFL history. On defense alone, Lambert had the luxury of playing with “Mean Joe” Greene, Jack Ham, and Mel Blount. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t better than Butkus and Lewis. It just means that the talent-level of the respective teams needs to be taken into account when factoring in team success.

27) John Elway

Marino’s statistics are in a different stratosphere than Elway’s. In fact, I think most people would be shocked to see Elway’s career numbers. He only threw for 30+ touchdowns once in his career. Until Terrell Davis came along, Elway’s numbers were Jake Plummer-esque. But, unlike Plummer and Marino, Elway always had the reputation of being a “gamer”. He took marginally talented Bronco teams to the Super Bowl in 1986, 1987, and 1989. All three appearances resulted in losses but they enhanced Elway’s reputation nonetheless. After his career seemed to be on the decline in the mid-90’s, Elway bounced back with authority to have the six best seasons of his career (other than his marvelous ’85 campaign). Elway remains the only quarterback in NFL history to start in five Super Bowls. He never had the fortune of playing for teams as stacked as the 70’s Steelers, 80’s 49ers, or 90’s Cowboys but his accomplishments are no less impressive.

28) Ronnie Lott

History is tough on safeties and cornerbacks alike. Defensive backs don’t get to parade around gaudy stats like the skill position players so it’s extremely difficult to ascertain a defensive back's true impact. I have no idea how many times Lott made a mistake in coverage. I don’t know how often he blew an assignment. All I know is that he hit hard, had a ferocious reputation, and played for great football teams. So I must decide where he falls by looking at other factors such as how he compared to other players from the same position and how much he was helped by playing with a phenomenal supporting case. As far as I can tell, Lott is the best safety the NFL has seen. I do think that safeties are the “tight ends” of the defense in terms of how fondly they are remembered. Sure, there have been fantastic players at both positions but the most skilled players on offense and defense probably don’t play either position.

29) Dan Marino

Can an NFL quarterback be the greatest ever without winning a Super Bowl? The frustrating answer to this question is that there is no “right” answer. There are countless opinions on the matter. I don’t necessarily think it’s impossible but I think it’s highly improbable. A quarterback cannot control what the front office does to the team. A similar scenario is what occurred with Barry Sanders while he played for the Lions. Is it fair to downgrade Sanders’ place in history because he had the misfortune of playing for the Detroit Lions? I think you have to give a player in a bad situation the benefit of the doubt. Now, Marino’s situation wasn’t nearly as bad as Barry’s. Marino just never got a running game to compliment his passing attack. John Elway was headed down the exact same path until Terrell Davis came along. Elway got the running game that he long coveted and, in turn, won two Super Bowls. Marino never got the running game and, in turn, won zero Super Bowls.

30) John Hannah

If it sounded like I had a hard time ranking Ronnie Lott, you should’ve seen me struggle with John Hannah. In 1981, Sports Illustrated declared Hannah the greatest offensive lineman of all-time. So, he must have been good. But, how can you tell how good an offensive lineman really is? If you go by team success, then Hannah wasn’t very good at all. If you go by rushing and passing statistics, Hannah was just an average player. But clearly he wasn’t just an “average” player. His teams were never as successful as Munoz’s and his individual honors fall just a tad short as well. He was selected to the First Team All-Pro Team seven times and the Second Team three times which means he was either the best or second best player at his position a remarkable ten times. I can’t place him ahead of Munoz but he is one of the most accomplished o-linemen in NFL history.

31) Alan Page

You can tell a lot about a player by the way they are talked about by other NFL greats. I must confess I hadn’t heard the same hoopla about Page as I did about Butkus, Deacon Jones, and even Gino Marchetti. That makes me wonder a little about how good Page really was. However, accomplishments don’t lie. Page is one of only four players to win the NFL MVP as a defender. Page was the leader of the “Purple People Eaters” defense (an all-time favorite nickname of mine) that went to three Super Bowls. He was named All-Pro six times and made nine Pro Bowls. He may not have the same name recognition as some of the other “greats” but his profile is among the best ever.

32) Deion Sanders

As far as I’m concerned, Deion Sanders is about as good as a modern day defensive back can be. He was a “hired gun” during his prime with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys as both teams used him to win Super Bowls. Sanders was often criticized for not being a physical cornerback and a reluctance to provide run support. Criticizing Sanders for that would be like criticizing Colonel Sanders for not perfecting the hamburger. Deion’s job was to shutdown the opposition’s best receiver and he did that better than anyone. Throw in the fact that Sanders is one of the most dangerous return men to play the sport and you have a top 35 player, easily.

33) LaDanian Tomlinson

If Tomlinson doesn’t get hurt, he might challenge Jim Brown for the top spot on the running back list. That is saying quite a bit considering he’d have to pass Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders along the way. Tomlinson is a two-way threat much in the same mold as Marshall Faulk except Tomlinson is a considerably better runner than Faulk was. LT already has 129 touchdowns in just 7 seasons. He had 31 touchdowns in 2006 alone. LT is well on his way to shattering every major running back record. I may have rated him a little low but I'm not really concerned with that right now. By the time he is finished, he'll be in the company of a whole different group of greats.


34) Roger Staubach

Upon the completion of my first draft, Staubach was nowhere to be seen in the top 50. In fact, I was actually trying to cut down on the amount of quarterbacks on the list (as not to give undue favoritism to certain positions) when I realized that I could not keep Staubach off. Staubach didn’t start his NFL career until he was 27 years old because of his service in the Navy. Even more remarkable is that by the age of 31, Staubach only had one season as an everyday starting quarterback (sound a bit like Steve Young?). Staubach didn’t waste his time once he became a starting quarterback leading the Dallas Cowboys to four Super Bowl appearances and two victories. Staubach won the Super Bowl MVP award in his first season as a starter with the Cowboys. He led the league in a number of offensive categories throughout his career. He is also remembered for his legendary fourth quarter performances that resulted in 23 come from behind victories. Had Staubach not started his full-time gig ten years behind most NFL players, his career numbers would be as impressive as his postseason accomplishments.

35) Forrest Gregg

Vince Lombardi said that Forrest Gregg was the best player that he ever coached. I’m not one to disagree with Lombardi especially on the merits of his own team so Gregg chimes in as the highest rated player who was coached by Lombardi.

36) Bronco Nagurski

Back in the early part of the 20th century, the fullback (along with quarterback) position was usually played by the best player on the team. Without the forward pass, the primary need for a team to have success was a bruising fullback who was equally good carrying the ball or clearing the way for a teammate. Offensive statistics from that era do not compare to the modern era so statistical comparisons prove to be fruitless. All I can really do is try to put Nagurski’s career in perspective as it pertains to the rest of the great players in NFL history. Nagurski led the Bears to a 78-21-12 record during his playing days. He was a four-time All-Pro in just seven full seasons. He also won three NFL Championships with the Bears.

37) Ray Nitschke

Ray Nitschke falls in the same mold as Dick Butkus and Jack Lambert as the quintessential brutalizing middle linebacker. Despite Vince Lombardi’s proclamations, Nitschke is often listed higher on all-time lists ahead of Forrest Gregg. I read story after story about Nitschke’s legend. I was all ready to put him in the top 15 or 20 when I came across an interesting and possibly telling statistic. Nitschke was selected to the Pro Bowl one time in his career. I don’t even know how that is possible. That is by far the worst total of any player on this list. It is possible for players to be remembered as being better than they actually were. I don’t think that is the case here because Nitschke was voted as the “greatest linebacker of all-time” in 1969 which was before his career ended.

38) Marshall Faulk

I have suspicions that a lot of people have forgotten how good Marshall Faulk was which is interesting considering how recently he played in the NFL. Faulk was named the AP Offensive Player of the Year three times. No player in NFL history has won the award more. Faulk gained over 2,000 total yards four straight seasons which is a feat that no other player in NFL history has accomplished. He holds the single season record for most yards from scrimmage and at one point held the record for single-season touchdowns. In 2000, he won the NFL MVP award and in 2001, led the Rams to their second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons. St. Louis' league leading offense was entirely predicated on Faulk’s versatility. His accomplishments are second-to-none as far as running backs go. His dominance as an “all-around” back is every bit equal to what Emmitt Smith accomplished running the football.

39) Earl Campbell

I came very close to omitting Earl Campbell from the top 50 but I ended up coming to my senses before it was too late. Campbell is one of four running backs to lead the NFL in rushing for three consecutive seasons (Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, and Steve Van Buren are the others). Aside from Brown, Campbell was the most punishing runner the league has ever seen. I normally wouldn’t have included a player whose career was so short but Campbell’s career was short because of the shear number of times he touched the ball and the punishment that he took when he carried it.

40) Marvin Harrison

Marvin Harrison is the most underappreciated player in the NFL. His routes are the most crisp in the league. Harrison owns at least ten NFL records and is on pace to steal many of Jerry Rice’s spots in the record books. Harrison recorded at least 1,100 yards and ten touchdowns in eight straight seasons. Barring an injury, Harrison will finish second in just about every career receiving/touchdown record in the NFL behind Jerry Rice. With averages better than Rice, Harrison could become the all-time leader in touchdowns and yards if he opts to play as long as Rice did.

41) Larry Allen

Is it possible for a guard to be better than Larry Allen? I’m not sure it is. Allen was versatile—he made the Pro Bowl at three different offensive line positions. Allen was strong—he is, in all likelihood, the strongest player in NFL history having bench pressed 700+ pounds. Allen was accomplished—he was named All-Pro eight times and a Pro Bowl selection ten times. He also helped form one of the great offensive lines the league has ever seen for the 1995 Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl team. It would be tough for a guard to have a better career than Allen’s.

42) Mel Blount

Blount generally falls behind “Mean Joe” Green and Jack Lambert in terms of the great players from the “Steel Curtain.” Blount’s career wasn’t as accomplished individually as either Green or Lambert’s. Blount was selected to the Pro Bowl five times while Green and Lambert were selected 10 and nine times respectively. It’s important to note that falling short of Green and Lambert is nothing to scoff it. Blount helped lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl Championships and was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 1975.

43) Lance Alworth

Alworth’s numbers don’t jump off the page when compared to the players from present day. However, considering the time period that Alworth put up his numbers, his accomplishments are staggering. His impact on professional football is similar to what Johnny Unitas accomplished. Both still have impressive totalss compared to contemporary players but their accomplishments at the time were revolutionary.

44) Bruce Smith

Should the all-time sacks leader be ranked this low? That’s a difficult question to answer. I think Reggie White gets the edge in a head-to-head comparison. Smith played longer than everyone else which helped in his pursuit of the all-time sack record. He also has the luxury of not having the sack statistic count prior to 1982. That’s not to say that Smith wasn’t great. It’s just important to put numbers in context before overvaluing them. Smith was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. He was also selected to 11 Pro Bowls. He led the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances. If Smith isn’t a top 50 NFL player of all-time, then I don’t know who is.

45) Willie Lanier

Lanier is one of the great middle-linebackers in pro football history. He started his career when the Kansas City Chiefs were still in the AFL. Between the AFL and NFL, he was selected to eight consecutive Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams. Lanier was also selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

46) Jim Parker
Parker was a highly accomplished offensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts. He was selected to eight Pro Bowls. He teamed with Johnny Unitas to lead the Colts to two NFL Championships. He is probably the greatest offensive lineman pre-1970.

47) Merlin Olsen

I miss the old Merlin Olsen florist commercials. It’s amazing that a guy as wholesome looking as he was in those commercials could be so menacing on the football field. He has the most Pro Bowl appearances of any defender in NFL history. He teamed with Deacon Jones to form part of the famed “Fearsome Foursome” that anchored the Los Angeles Rams defense in the 60’s and 70’s. Although Olsen was clearly a dominating force, there is no question that he benefited from the attention that was paid to Deacon Jones. That is why I don’t have him rated higher.

48) Herb Adderley

I doubt the average NFL fan has ever heard of Herb Adderley. He was the premier defensive back of the 60’s. He is only one of two players to play for six NFL Championship teams. He won three Super Bowls (two with Green Bay and one with Dallas). He was also selected to five Pro Bowls.

49) Mike Singletary

Mike Singletary was the premier linebacker when I started to follow professional football as a kid. His instincts are stuff of legend. He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. He was also selected to ten Pro Bowls. He was the backbone to what is often regarded as the greatest defense in NFL history—the ’85 Bears.

50) Terrell Owens

Aside from Owens' constant distractions, he is unquestionably one of the most dominating players the NFL has ever seen. He is virtually impossible to defend one on one. He is extremely strong and physical. The level of speed for a man his size is unique to the NFL. He will likely finish in the top three in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. If he can stay clear of off-field issues for the remainder of his career, (which is asking a lot) then his place in NFL history is much higher than where I have him right now. Owens could be knocked out of the top 50 if he doesn’t keep putting up big-time numbers. I just can’t ignore the fact that, on the field, he has been among the best wide receivers ever. I thought for sure that Moss would be much higher than Owens on this list but Moss mysteriously tanked for a few seasons. Now that Moss appears rejuvenated with NE, the race is one to see who will have the better career. Moss is three years younger so he’ll have a chance to catch T.O.


51) Joe Schmidt

Schmidt is another NFL great living in anonymity. He is one of only four defensive players in NFL history to win the league’s MVP award. He was selected to ten Pro Bowls while leading the Detroit Lions to two NFL Championships. Apparently, the Lions were good at some point in history.

52). Rod Woodson

I'm not convinced that I haven't underrated Woodson. An argument could be made that he is the greatest defensive back in NFL history which would put him in the top 20 of all-time. I'll need more time to digest his career before putting him in that company. Woodson tore his ACL in 1995 which ended up causing a move to safety. Without the injury, it's not a stretch to say that he was on his way to becoming the best ever at the position. Even with the position-switch, Woodson became one of the best safeties in the league. As a safety, he made five Pro Bowls and was selected All-Pro three times. He helped the Baltimore Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV. As a cornerback, he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 1993, was selected All-Pro six times, and made six Pro Bowls. Woodson is first all-time in interception returns for TDs, second all-time in non-offensive touchdowns, and second all-time in interceptions. Woodson played in three Super Bowls and was one of the best kick/punt-returners in NFL history.

53). Randy Moss

Moss and T.O. are in a battle for the third best wide receiver of all-time. Right now, I have Marvin Harrison at #3 but he is slowing down and could be passed by both. Moss and T.O. will have an opportunity to surpass Harrison if they can continue their current level of production. I have T.O. over Moss by a sliver just because T.O. is more physical and runs better routes. Moss is the best "home run" threat in NFL history but I think T.O. is a more versatile receiver. It's not by much and I don't think it's set in stone. Moss could pass T.O. with ease with another season like '07. Moss has led the NFL in touchdown catches four times and holds three of the top five single-season totals in NFL history. He holds the record for most TD catches in a season at 23. Only Jerry Rice and Don Hutson have led the league more times. Moss is fourth all-time in both touchdowns and receiving yards.

54). Derrick Brooks

Brooks is one of the more underappreciated players in the NFL. Most savvy fans know how good he has been but he doesn't get near the recognition as someone like Ray Lewis. Brooks is one of only four players in NFL history to be selected to 10+ Pro Bowls, voted Defensive Player of the Year, and win a Super Bowl. Ray Lewis will join Brooks, Samurai Mike, The Minister of Defense, and LT in that club next season if he can make the Pro Bowl. Brooks holds the record for most interception returns for TDs in a season by a linebacker and was named the MVP of the 2006 Pro Bowl.

55) Bruce Matthews

The O-line is the most grueling position in the NFL. Every offensive play, O-linemen get pounded on by the defense. They don't get the notoriety as the skill-position players but that doesn't make them any less important. It's not as easy to judge a great lineman as it is to judge a great running back. There aren't telling statistics like yards and touchdowns. There is however, longevity and honors. Matthews was selected to 14 Pro Bowls which is tied with Merlin Olsen for the most of any player in NFL history. Matthews played 296 games in 19 seasons. Both marks are the most by any lineman that has played the game.

56). Sid Luckman

I initially underrated Luckman and even now I might have him ranked lower than he should be. He is easily one of the least recognized stars in NFL history. The novice fan has probably heard of Johnny U, Joe Montana and even Fran Tarkenton. Most probably have never even heard of Luckman. Luckman led the Chicago Bears to four NFL Championships in seven years. He QB'd the Bears to their infamous 73-0 drubbing of Sammy Baugh's Redskins in the 1940 Championship Game. Luckman led the NFL in yards and touchdowns three times each. He was the first QB in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in a game. He still holds the record for most passing touchdowns in a game at 7. He is also won the NFL MVP in 1943.

57). Eric Dickerson

Dickerson led the NFL in rushing four times. Only Jim Brown has done it more. Dickerson holds the record for most rushing yards in a season at 2,105. He holds three of the top 18 single-season rushing totals in NFL history. He is the only running back in NFL history with three seasons of 1,800+ rushing yards. He is 6th all-time in rushing yards and 12 all-time in rushing touchdowns. Dickerson was the precursor to the big, strong, fast running backs in the NFL today like Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden.
58). Bart Starr

It's difficult to put QBs on great teams into context. They are the most popular players in the NFL and there have been a boatload of good ones. The problem is that so many have won multiple Super Bowls--which is supposed to be the mark of a great QB--that it's hard to get a feel for where a QB stands in NFL history. It seems like Starr is vastly underrated at #58 since he led the Packers to two Super Bowl wins and five NFL Championships overall. I think it's important to not give in to the urge to overrate QBs. They touch the ball on every possession. By definition, they are responsible for more than any other player on the team. A pretty good QB can take a great team and lead it to championships. Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw are examples of this. Neither was an unbelievable QB. Some may disagree on Bradshaw but he was a below average QB in the regular season. He stepped up come Super Bowl time but that just proves my point. Team success can make a QB look a lot better than he actually is. Starr is an all-time great. That's not the question here. The question is how to interpret his five championships. He was selected as an All-Pro just once and never led the NFL in passing touchdowns or yards. That's why he doesn't rate higher.

59). Chuck Bednarik

Bednarik was the last of the two-way players. He played both center and linebacker. He was an integral part of Philadelphia's championships in 1949 and 1960. He was selected as an All-Pro ten times and was named the MVP of the 1953 Pro Bowl. Bednarik was a devastating tackler. If you ever get an opportunity to view the NFL Films special on Bednarik, I highly recommend it.

60). Fran Tarkenton

Tarkenton was the first Dan Marino--not in terms of style but in terms of accomplishments and championships. You'll find his name on the leaderboard of just about every measurable QB statistic. He is fifth all-time in passing yards and third all-time in passing TDs. He was also the first great running/passing QB having rushed for over 4,000 yards in his career which is the 4th highest total for a QB. His 125 wins as a starting QB are fourth most in NFL history. He won the NFL MVP in 1975. He was the Pro Bowl MVP in 1964. He led the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances. Like Marino, though, Tarkenton was never able to win a Super Bowl. That keeps him out of the upper-tier of QBs.

61). Steve Van Buren

Van Buren was the first true "workhorse" in NFL history and that cost him his career. He only played eight seasons but they were jam-packed with accomplishments. Van Buren led the NFL in rush-attempts four times. Only Jim Brown has done it more. Van Buren led the NFL in rushing yards four times . Only Jim Brown has done it more. Van Buren led the NFL in rushing for three consecutive seasons. Only Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, and Earl Campbell have accomplished that. Van Buren led the NFL in rushing TDs four times. Only Jim Brown has accomplished that. There seems to be a theme here. Few players in NFL history have accomplished what Van Buren accomplished. He was selected as an All-Pro in seven of his eight seasons. He retired as the all-time career leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He also led the Eagles to back-to-back NFL Championships in '48 and '49. The more I write, the more I think I may have underrated him.

62). Jonathan Ogden

At 6'9, 345 lbs, Ogden is one of the largest players in NFL history. Ogden uses his size and unique athleticism to dominate opposing d-linemen. He has made the Pro Bowl 11 times in 12 seasons. Only 33 years old, Ogden is well within reach of Merlin Olsen's record of 14 Pro Bowl selections. Ogden led the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV. He also helped pave the way for Jamal Lewis' 2066 yards in 2003 which is the second best rushing total in NFL history. Lewis also broke the single-game rushing record that season with 295 yards.

63). Ken Houston

Houston was selected to more Pro Bowls than any other DB in NFL history. In 14 seasons, Houston made 12 Pro Bowls. Houston holds the record for most defensive touchdowns in a season. He scored 5 in 1971. Houston is 3rd all-time with 11 career defensive touchdowns behind only Deion Sanders and Aeneas Williams.

64). Randy White

White is one of the great defensive tackles in NFL history. Sacks weren't officially recorded until later in his career which has stifled his reputation as a ferocious pass-rusher. He recorded 12.5 sacks at the age of 30 and 31 and then tallied a 10.5-sack season at the age of 32. Unofficially, White has 111 career sacks which is one of the highest totals of any tackle in NFL history. He helped lead the Cowboys to victory in Super Bowl XII in which he was named MVP. He was named an All-Pro nine times and was selected to nine Pro Bowls.

65). Michael Strahan

Strahan is 5th all-time in "official" career sacks and 9th all-time on the "unofficial" list that includes players before 1982. Strahan is one of only four players to have led the NFL in sacks in multiple years since the sack was officially recorded in '82. He is one of only two players to have two seasons of at least 18.5 sacks. He holds the all-time single season sack record at 22.5. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2001. He helped lead the Giants to two Super Bowl appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XLII.

66). Ted Hendricks

Hendricks is one of the great linebackers the league has ever seen and there is a pretty good chance that I have underrated him. He led the defenses for four Super Bowl Champions. He is the all-time leader in blocked kicks at 25. He is the all-time leader in safeties. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 60 sacks and 25 interceptions. In 15 seasons, he was selected as an All-Pro 11 times.

67). Mel Hein

Hein is probably the most decorated center in NFL history. He is the only offensive lineman who has won the NFL MVP which he won in 1938. That was also the first MVP ever awarded by the NFL. He helped lead the NY Giants to seven NFL Championship appearances in nine seasons including two NFL Championships in '34 and '38. In 15 seasons, Hein never missed a game.

68). Junior Seau

Seau's career would've been properly stamped with a Patriots win in Super Bowl XLII. Unfortunately, the Pats couldn't cap off their perfect regular season with Seau's first Super Bowl ring. While a ring would be nice, Seau's career has already been cemented as one of the best by a linebacker in league history. With two more interceptions, Seau would become only the second player in NFL history to record at least 50 sacks and 20 interceptions (Ted Hendricks is the other). Seau has been selected to 12 Pro Bowls.

69). Jack Ham

Ham was one of the all-time great players on one of the all-time great defenses. He played with Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, and Mel Blount who are all in my top 100 of all-time. That unit led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in six years. Ham was an all-around linebacker. He was one of the fastest linebackers of his time. He was regarded as one of the most intelligent players in the game. And, he was a ferocious hitter. He is one of only eight players who are officially part of the 20/20 club and he was selected All-Pro seven times.

70). Emlen Tunnell

Tunnell is second all-time in interceptions behind only Dick "Night Train" Lane. He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times. He was an integral part in the New York Giants winning the NFL Championship in 1956. He was also a member of the Green Bay Packers for their Championship in 1961. Tunnell was also one of the great returners in NFL history. He ranks 5th all-time in kickoff return yardage and 14th all-time in punt return yardage.

71). Mike Webster

It's difficult to recognize Webster's playing career without mentioning the tragedy that said career gave way to. Webster sustained significant trauma over his 17-year career which led to a number of mental and physical issues and, ultimately, his death. Webster was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and a winner of four Super Bowl Champions as a Pittsburgh Steeler. He was selected as a center on both the NFL's 1970s and 1980s teams.

72). Warren Sapp

Sapp was as dominant as he was controversial. He is the only defensive tackle in NFL history to record 16+ sacks in a season, win a Super Bowl, and win a Defensive Player of the Year Award. Sapp led the moribund Tampa Bay Buccaneers to one of the most dominating defenses in NFL history. He also ranks second all-time in sacks by a defensive tackle behind only John Randle.

73). Willie Brown

I think it's safe to say that Brown is one of the few undrafted players on this list. He caught on with the Denver Broncos and then made it big-time as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Brown made nine Pro Bowls and was selected to the NFL All-70s. Team. He also could've—and probably should’ve—been selected to the All-60s team. He helped lead the Raiders to victory in Super Bowl X with a 75-yard interception return for a TD. He also helped the Raiders get to Super Bowl II where they fell short against the Green Bay Packers.

74). Bobby Layne

The old-timers will tell you that Layne's greatness wasn't necessarily found in his stats but rather his leadership and toughness. Sports Illustrated proclaimed Layne "The Toughest Quarterback Who Ever Lived" in 1995. That may be true but I wouldn't underestimate his statistics and accolades. When Layne retired in 1962, he was the career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Layne finished in the top five in passing yards and passing touchdowns nine times. And most importantly, he led the Detroit Lions--yes, the Detroit Lions--to three NFL Championships in five seasons.

75). Terry Bradshaw

There are a lot of people out there who will passionately argue that Bradshaw is one of the five greatest quarterbacks who ever lived. I'm equally passionate that he's not. I'm not going to deny that he was a very good QB when the Steelers needed him to be. However, there are two things that cannot be disputed that I can't get over. 1). Bradshaw played for the greatest assembly of talent the league has ever seen. His numbers weren't great yet that team still destroyed the NFL. So, attributing four Super Bowls to Bradshaw's greatness is not a great argument. 2). Bradshaw played great in the playoffs which is very important. He did not play great, however, in the regular season which is where the bulk of the games are played. Great players are judged by their total resume. Bradshaw was merely an average regular season QB. It is solely by his Super Bowl success that he ends up on this list at all. I don't think being #75 on the all-time list is such a bad thing. There is a difference, IMO, between Bradshaw and Troy Aikman. Aikman was a better regular season QB and led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl Titles. The difference is small but it's there nonetheless. Bradshaw won one more Super Bowl MVP and won one more Super Bowl. The result is Bradshaw at 75 and Aikman just missing the cut.

76). Derrick Thomas

When I was a kid, Hank Gathers was my favorite college basketball player, Chris Benoit was my favorite wrestler, and Derrick Thomas was my favorite football player. I remember the days that all three died like they were yesterday. I started following Thomas when he was at Alabama and had his annual battle with Tracy Rocker and the Auburn Tigers. When Thomas got to the NFL, it was on. He made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season when he recorded 10 sacks. He tallied 20 sacks in his second season which led the league and still stands as the 6th highest single-season total of all-time. He holds the record for most sacks in a single game at 7. He also holds the record for most forced fumbles in a career. In just 11 seasons, Thomas tallied 126.5 sacks which is good for 11th on the all-time list. He was also selected to nine Pro Bowls in just 11 seasons. Thomas played his last NFL season at 32.

77). Roosevelt Brown

Brown was an integral part in the great Giants teams of the 50s and 60s that also featured Emlen Tunnell, Y.A. Tittle, Sam Huff, and Frank Gifford among others. Brown plowed the Giants to the 1956 NFL Championship as they hammered the Bears 47-7. Brown combined his size and athleticism to dominate his era. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro six times.

78). Franco Harris

Franco gets lost in the annals of NFL history for two reasons, in my opinion... 1).I think he gets overshadowed by some of his own teammates from the Steelers dynasty. 2). I think people remember him more for the Immaculate Reception than anything else. Harris had quite a spectacular career though. Has made nine consecutive Pro Bowls as a running back. That is unheard of. He is 10th on the all-time rushing TD-list and 11th on the all-time rushing yards-list. He played on four Super Bowl Championship teams with the Steelers and was the MVP of Super Bowl IX.

79). Willie Wood

Like Willie Brown, Wood was not drafted. He was picked up by the Green Bay Packers and five Championships later, he had played a Hall of Fame career. Wood was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times and was named First Team All-Pro six times. He was also an accomplished punt and kick returner.

80). Gene Upshaw

Before everyone hated Upshaw, he was a beast on the O-Line. He helped lead the Oakland Raiders to two Super Bowl victories and three appearances. Upshaw's 15-year career included seven Pro Bowl selections and five First Team All-Pro selections. Upshaw started every game over his first 14 seasons.

81). Gale Sayers

Sayers is the Sandy Koufax of the NFL only more severely tilted towards brevity than even Koufax. There is no denying Sayers's greatness. He was easily one of the 10 most electrifying and unstoppable players to ever set foot on a football field. Sayers essentially played five seasons. There is no question that they were five productive seasons. He was named First Team All-Pro in each of those five seasons. He led the NFL in rushing twice and he won three Pro Bowl MVPs. Sayers had a great start to a career but he was done by 26. Longevity--even just 10 seasons--plays a huge role in putting together a list like this.

82). Norm Van Brocklin

In terms of his place in NFL history, I think Van Brocklin is underrated. He was not included on The Sporting News' list of the 100 greatest players and I think that's an injustice. I'm not sure how someone could look at Van Brocklin's career and argue he wasn't one of the 100 best players of all-time. I would even argue that I have underrated Van Brocklin on this list. He took his teams to four NFL Championship games. He won the NFL Championship in '51 and '60. The '60-Championship was Vince Lombardi's only playoff loss. Van Brocklin was the NFL MVP in 1960. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls. He holds the single-game passing record for yards in a game at 554. He finished in the top four in the NFL in passing yards ten times and led the league in yards in '54. He finished in the top five in touchdown passes and passer rating eight times. His resume stacks up pretty well with most of the great QBs in league history.


83). Tony Gonzalez

You won't find too many tight ends on this list but Tony G. is certainly on it. Kellen Winslow was a revolutionary tight end because he brought a wide receiver-feel to the position. Winslow might have inspired new use for the tight end position but I think he is often overrated. I'm not saying he wasn't good. There have been 500 good players in NFL history. I'm just saying that Winslow barely makes the top 100 while others swear top 50 is better suited. Winslow led the NFL in receptions twice and had three 1,000 yard seasons. That was it. His career was plagued by injuries. In his short stint as a star, he was a game-changer and had a great career for a tight end. However, Antonio Gates is one season away from having an equally great career and nobody is ready to put Gates on a top 100 list. Winslow was important but his production doesn't stand up to Tony G's. Gonzalez, on the other hand, is a different story. Gonzalez will go down as the greatest tight end who ever played at least statistically speaking. He has had seven seasons of at least 900 yards (Winslow had three). Gonzalez is a nine-time Pro Bowler (Winslow made the Pro Bowl five times). Gonzalez is 14th on the all-time receptions list which is amazing considering he's a tight end. He will have an excellent shot at finishing in the top 10 all-time in receiving yards which, again, is amazing considering his position. As a tight end, he is the leader in just about every statistic for that position. He will likely pass Shannon Sharpe in Game Two of 2008 as the all-time yardage leader for tight ends.

84). Bobby Bell

Bell was the original Brian Urlacher. He was 6'4, 230 lbs and could run the 40 in 4.5. He anchored the Chiefs defense along with Buck Buchanan on their way to victory in Super Bowl IV. Bell played 12 seasons—all for the Chiefs—and was selected to nine Pro Bowls. He is also an unofficial member of the 20/20 club.


85). Will Shields

The three-spot run on Chiefs has been totally accidental but fitting for a franchise that has had very good players who have played their entire careers in KC. Shields is easily one of the best guards the league has ever seen. The Chiefs never achieved team success in the playoffs but during Shields' playing days, KC had one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the league. Shields paved the way for historically significant seasons by Priest Holmes--who set the record for most rushing touchdowns and most total rushing/receiving touchdowns in a season in 2003--and Larry Johnson. Johnson became only the third back in league history to rush for at least 1,750 yards in back-to-back seasons (Eric Dickerson and Terrell Davis are the others). Shields was selected to 12 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons. He started 230 consecutive games over his career and never missed a game in 14 seasons.

86). O.J. Simpson

Simpson gets bunched in with Sayers and Winslow on my list. Longevity is important. Production is even more important. And, the combination of both is the gold standard. Simpson was a great running back for five seasons. He led the NFL in rushing yards four times and rushing touchdowns twice. He was the NFL MVP in 1973. Simpson's career was not much better than Terrell Davis's, though. Of his 11 seasons, only five of them were above average. Plus, he never won anything as a player. That's why you won't see him close to the top 50 on my list.

87). Champ Bailey

It's getting to the point where Bailey has to be considered one of the all-time greats. Nobody throws his way anymore. He is one of the most physically gifted players in NFL history. He has made the Pro Bowl in eight consecutive seasons. If he avoids serious injury, I think you'll see him skyrocket up this list by the time his career is finished.

88). Mel Renfro

Renfro didn't get any love from The Sporting News in '99 as he was left of their list. Renfro was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons. Ken Houston and Rod Woodson are the only defensive backs in history with more Pro Bowl appearances. He helped lead the Cowboys to four Super Bowl appearances and victories in Super Bowls VI and XII. He also led the NFL in punt return and kick return yards in 1964.

89). Shannon Sharpe

Tony Gonzalez is the best tight end of all-time but that honor used to go to Sharpe. In fact, I suppose an argument could still be made that Sharpe should be #1. His career numbers are eerily similar to Tony G's and Sharpe was an integral part of three Super Bowl Champions. Gonzalez has never come close to reaching the Super Bowl. Gonzalez is only 32, though, and will likely distance himself from Sharpe significantly by the time his career is over.

90). Bill George

George was one of the first--if not the first--great middle linebackers. He was a stalwart on the '63 Bears defense that led the league in virtually every defensive category including points against at an incredible 9.6 per game. The Bears went on to win the NFL Championship that year as well. George was selected First Team All-Pro an amazing eight times.

91). Y.A. Tittle

Like Van Brocklin, Tittle is one of the most underrated players in NFL history. Sporting News didn't find it fit to put him in their top 100 in '99. I'm not sure how that decision could possibly be rationalized. Tittle won four NFL MVPs. No player in NFL history has won more MVPs. Jim Brown is the only other player with four. That alone should put Tittle in everyone's top 100. Tittle holds the record for most touchdown passes in a game with 7. He led the NFL in touchdown passes three times. Only four players have led the league more. He finished in the top five in passing yards and passer rating ten times in his career. He finished in the top five in passing touchdowns eight times in his career. Tittle never won an NFL Championship which keeps him from being rated higher but he did take the Giants to three consecutive title games.

92). Randall McDaniel

McDaniel and Will Shields are fairly indistinguishable. McDaniel started every game for the Vikings from 1990 to 2001. Like Shields, McDaniel was selected to exactly 12 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons. McDaniel also was selected First Team All-Pro seven times.

93). Yale Lary

Lary was selected to nine Pro Bowls as a member of the Detroit Lions. That number likely would've been 11 had he not missed two seasons in his prime serving in the military. He won three NFL Championships as a member of the Lions. He was extremely versatile acting as a defensive back, kick/punt returner and punter. Lary was one of the best punters in NFL history leading the league three times. He was selected to the NFL's All-50's team as safety.

94). Larry Wilson

Wilson was to "safety blitz" what Bill George was to middle linebacker. The Cardinals experimented with blitzing the safety and Wilson was the guy who made it effective. He is considered one of the toughest players who ever played. He was selected to the NFL's All-60s and All-70s teams and made eight Pro Bowls. He was also selected First Team All-Pro six times.

95). Darrell Green

Green's career is somewhat difficult to put in perspective. There is no doubt he was very good. He is the fastest man in NFL history. He played an astonishing 20 seasons as a defensive back which is the most difficult position to play in the NFL. He played in three Super Bowls and helped lead the Redskins to wins in Super Bowls XXII and XXVI. Where it becomes difficult to judge is that Green was selected to the First Team All-Pro just once in 20 seasons. He also managed just seven Pro Bowls in 20 seasons. I'm comfortable with Green being on the fringe of the top 90-100 players. Anything higher than that is probably a little unreasonable.

96). Sam Huff

Huff was a member of the stacked NY Giants squads of the 50s. Not only did the team feature a number of all-time greats, the coaching staff was equally impressive. The offensive coordinator was Vince Lombardi and the defensive coordinator was Tom Landry. Huff anchored the '56 Giants defense that led the league in yards allowed on its way to the NFL Championship. He was name a Pro Bowl five times and was selected First Team All-Pro twice.

97). Torry Holt

Holt's place in NFL history will surprise a lot of people. At 31, he has already made the Pro Bowl seven times and has put together one of the greatest runs ever seen by a wide receiver. He is the only player in NFL history with six consecutive seasons of at least 1,300 yards receiving. He holds the 5th and 9th best single-season receiving totals in NFL history. He is quickly climbing the all-time lists for receptions, yards, and touchdowns. In two seasons, he'll likely be in the top five all-time in receptions and yards and in the top ten in touchdowns. No player has reached 11,000 yards receiving faster. Holt also holds the record for most receiving yards per game over a career at 84.7.

98). Kellen Winslow

Despite a relatively short career, Winslow's career was significant. He was the first game-changing tight end that could spread the field like a wide receiver. Winslow made five Pro Bowls and was First Team All-Pro three times. He led the league in receptions in back-to-backs seasons. He still holds the single-season receiving record for tight ends. Winslow's notoriety will probably start to dwindle as more freakish tight ends take over the position a la Antonio Gates.

99). Willie Roaf

Roaf was a monstrosity of a man at 6'5, 320 lbs in his playing days. In the latter portion of his career, he teamed with Will Shields to give the Chiefs one of the best rushing attacks in the league. Roaf was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times in his 13-year career.

100). Raymond Berry

Berry was the second great wide receiver following Don Hutson. Berry led the NFL in receptions and yards three times each. He also led the NFL in touchdowns twice. Berry helped lead the Colts to back-to-back NFL Championships in '58 and '59. Only Don Hutson led the NFL in receptions more and only Jerry Rice and Hutson led the NFL in receiving yards more.

Honorable mention (in no particular order): Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Namath, Kurt Warner, Frank Gifford, Jim Taylor, Lenny Moore, Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas, Curtis Martin, Tony Dorsett, Shaun Alexander, Jerome Bettis, Terrell Davis, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Crazy Legs Hirsch, Steve Largent, Fred Biletnikoff, Michael Irvin, Lynn Swann, Jim Otto, Gary Zimmerman, Ron Yary, Walter Jones, Tom Mack, Jackie Slater, Steve Wisniewski, Orlando Pace, Dan Dierdorf, Steve Hutchinson, Dwight Stephenson, Jerry Kramer, Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Antonio Gates, Randy Gradishar, Harry Carson, Brian Urlacher, Dave Wilcox, Nick Buoniconti, Kevin Greene, Cortez Kennedy, Jack Youngblood, Buck Buchanan, Richard Dent, Lee Roy Selmon, Dan Hampton, John Randle, Carl Eller, Doug Atkins, Howie Long, Ernie Stautner, Leo Nomellini, Chris Doleman, Elvin Bethea, Andre Tippett, Curly Culp, Shawn Merriman, Len Ford, Art Donovan, Julius Peppers, Simeon Rice, Mike Haynes, Paul Krause, Lem Barney, Roger Wehrli, Lester Hayes, Jack Christiansen, Aeneas Williams, Ed Reed, Art Monk, Isaac Bruce, and Dick Anderson

Top 100 Football Players of All-Time (list only)

1) Jerry Rice
2) Jim Brown
3) Lawrence Taylor
4) Joe Montana
5) Johnny Unitas
6) Reggie White
7) Emmitt Smith
8) Deacon Jones
9) Don Hutson
10) Bob Lilly
11) Dick Butkus
12) Otto Graham
13) Barry Sanders
14) Tom Brady
15) Anthony Munoz
16) Joe Greene
17)Marion Motley
18) Sammy Baugh
19) Brett Favre
20). Steve Young
21) Ray Lewis
22) Walter Payton
23) Gino Marchetti
24) Peyton Manning
25) Dick "Night Train" Lane
26) Jack Lambert
27) John Elway
28) Ronnie Lott
29) Dan Marino
30) John Hannah
31) Alan Page
32) Deion Sanders
33) LaDanian Tomlinson
34) Roger Staubach
35) Forrest Gregg
36) Bronco Nagurski
37) Ray Nitschke
38) Marshall Faulk
39) Earl Campbell
40) Marvin Harrison
41) Larry Allen
42) Mel Blount
43) Lance Alworth
44) Bruce Smith
45) Willie Lanier
46) Jim Parker
47) Merlin Olsen
48) Herb Adderley
49) Mike Singletary
50) Terrell Owens
51) Joe Schmidt
52). Rod Woodson
53). Randy Moss
54). Derrick Brooks
55) Bruce Matthews
56). Sid Luckman
57). Eric Dickerson
58). Bart Starr
59). Chuck Bednarik
60). Fran Tarkenton
61). Steve Van Buren
62). Jonathan Ogden
63). Ken Houston
64). Randy White
65). Michael Strahan
66). Ted Hendricks
67). Mel Hein
68). Junior Seau
69). Jack Ham
70). Emlen Tunnell
71). Mike Webster
72). Warren Sapp
73). Willie Brown
74). Bobby Layne
75). Terry Bradshaw
76). Derrick Thomas
77). Roosevelt Brown
78). Franco Harris
79). Willie Wood
80). Gene Upshaw
81). Gale Sayers
82). Norm Van Brocklin
83). Tony Gonzalez
84). Bobby Bell
85). Will Shields
86). O.J. Simpson
87). Champ Bailey
88). Mel Renfro
89). Shannon Sharpe
90). Bill George
91). Y.A. Tittle
92). Randall McDaniel
93). Yale Lary
94). Larry Wilson
95). Darrell Green
96). Sam Huff
97). Torry Holt
98). Kellen Winslow
99). Willie Roaf
100). Raymond Berry

112 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does Andre Reed continue to get disrepected? That man could get deep like Moss despite not having 4.2 speed, and he was elusive like Rice and T.O underneath, but with better hands than T.O. He was a main cog of those Buffalo teams that went up and down the field at will

Anonymous said...

I cannot agree with a lot of your list. For one, Barry should be considered above Emmit Smith. How many more seasons did he play than Barry Sanders. Five or six something like that. And yet his stats are hardly ahead of Barry's. Also, you said it yourself, Emmit had probably one of the best if not the best offensive line in history. Not to mention a great quarterback in Troy Aikman, and a great probably top 10-15 wide receivers of all time. Oh and what about the great fullback Moose Johnston. All of these attributes took a lot of pressure off of Emmit. Making it extremely easy on him. I could have run through those holes. And putting T.O. ahead of Randy Moss is insane. Look at every single statistical category that a wide receiver is looked at. Yards per game, yards per season, touchdowns, and catches.... who is higher in every single category......ummmm Randy Moss!!!!! Thats all....

Jake said...

Anonymous #1,

Andre Reed was a good receiver but he doesn't come close to the top 100 players of all-time. A top-100 list with him on it probably wouldn't carry a lot of credibility. Thurman Thomas has a better case than Reed. Reed could most definitely not go deep like Randy Moss. In 15 years, Reed scored 10+ touchdowns once. He had 75+ receptions only three times. He never led the league in any statistical category. If you're going to argue for a WR that I left out, it should be Cris Carter.


Anonymous #2,

I appreciate your passion but some of the things you’ve stated are simply not true. You said: “Look at every single statistical category that a wide receiver is looked at. Yards per game, yards per season, touchdowns, and catches.... who is higher in every single category......ummmm Randy Moss!!!!!”

Ummm, sorry, but that’s not correct. T.O. has more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Moss. Since T.O. is three years older, there is a good chance that Moss will pass T.O. I said that in my write-up. Until T.O. starts to slow down, he’ll stay ahead of Moss.

As for Barry and Emmitt, it comes down to personal preference. If you like Barry, you’ll put him ahead of Emmitt. If you are objective, you’ll put Emmitt ahead of Barry. I don’t play the “what if” game when comparing careers. Sure, Barry might have had more success with a better offensive line. But all of the things that Barry might have done, Emmitt did. He won Super Bowls, MVPs, broke Payton’s rushing record, broke the all-time TD record etc. Does it suck that Barry a). didn’t play for a good team and b) retired early? Of course. But, it doesn’t make sense to discount Emmitt’s career in retaliation. It's hard to argue that Barry had a better career than Emmitt.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Andre Reed. As extensive as your list is, its safe to assume that you'r e not just a guy who goes by numbers but who actually watched games. Forget about Reed not leading in certain catergories as he was always near the top, but that man from 85 to Kelly's retirement in 97 was about the most dangerous reciever to touch a football outside of Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and maybe even John Taylor. They were gamebreakers. I'm not a Bills fan but living in NYC I saw many Bills games against the Jets and they were on Monday night Football alot.I would not attempt to make a case for Chris Carter or Michael Irvin because to me they were glorifedwas possession guys and nothing more. As for Emmitt Smith, well I think again if anyone watched games, theres at least 10t 15 better back including your own Barry Sanders

Jake said...

Of course I watched Andre Reed play but, “I’ve seen him play” arguments don’t carry much weight. Statistics and accomplishments are evidence. When a career is over, that is what a resume is based on. Statistics obviously have to be read correctly in terms of what era they were accomplished in but if you aren’t looking at statistics and accolades, then it’s difficult to put forth a convincing argument. When Michael Irvin and Andre Reed were in their primes, there was no doubt in my mind that Irvin was the better player. But, just saying that, “I watched them so I know that Irvin was better” doesn’t carry much weight. You watched him and you have a different opinion. So, that’s where statistics help settle the debate. I’m sure your mind is already made up but Irvin had more yards per game and yards per reception than Reed and the difference is substantial. Irvin also had the better high-end seasons. He had five seasons of 1,200+ yards. Reed had two. Dallas’ offense was equally as loaded as Reed’s so they both have the same “spreading it around” argument. I watched Reed and Irvin. I felt Irvin was the better player and I believe statistics support it. If we don’t use statistics and accolades as the primary means for comparison, then I could simply argue that Jeff Query was better than all of them because I watched him play. Obviously, that’s insane. Statistics are the primary evidence of a player’s career and impact.

Now, the difference between Irvin and Reed is relatively minimal so I don’t have a big problem if you want to say Reed was better. I disagree but there is enough subjectivity in this thing for that to be a reasonable conclusion. What isn’t reasonable is to suggest that Reed had a better career than Cris Carter. In a world ruled by opinions, it is very nearly fact that Carter’s career was better by virtually every possible measure.

As for Barry and Emmitt, again, the statistics and accomplishments don’t lie. Who is the all-time leading rusher? Who is the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns? Who lead the league in attempts and rushing touchdowns more often? How many Super Bowls did they win? How can Emmitt be the answer to all of those questions and yet Barry somehow end up with the better career? Barry has virtually no advantages over Emmitt. Both led the league in rushing four times. Both led the league in yards from scrimmage twice. Both led the league in yards per carry once. Both led the league in yards per carry three times. The only advantage Barry has over Emmitt is in yards per carry and yards per game and it’s not hard to guess why he might have an advantage in those categories. Emmitt had 1,400 more carries than Barry. If you gave Barry 1,400 more carries, his yards per carry would drop significantly. If you took 1,400 carries away from Emmitt, his yards per carry would rise significantly. Emmitt was reliable at the end of games. He kept the chains moving. He was a tough, physical runner between the tackles who wasted carries eating up clock. Can you say the same about Barry? People can say all they want about how fortunate Emmitt was that he got to play with the Cowboys, but, Emmitt was, by far, the best player for a dynasty that won three Super Bowls. He wasn’t along for the ride. He drove the train. How can a running back sans Jim Brown have a better resume than Emmitt Smith?

davis said...

can i get a cris carter?

Jake said...

You can definitely get a Cris Carter. He is probably the biggest snub who isn't on my list. I tried to fit him in but couldn't. He had a great career that very easily could be among the 100 best in NFL history.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

A very useful and informative list of names that provides a valuable education to someone such as myself, an Englishman with a love for the history and traditions of the game of football. I do not have the knowledge to argue with any of your selections, but was pleased to see heroes of mine such as LT, Brett Favre and Ronnie Lott figure highly on the list. I must confess that I was hightly surprised to see Jerry Rice at the number one position, as I always thought that he was a bit of a lightweight fairy who merely relied upon his speed when there were 'real men' fighting battling away in the trenches. Alan H. from England

Jake said...

Alan,

I’m glad you enjoyed the list. I can definitely see where you’re coming from with respect to Rice being more off a finesse player but that is the nature of the wide receiver position. There have been many, many Olympic-level sprinters who have tried to play the position to no avail. In fact, Rice was relatively slow with respect to the position. Like any position in any sport, mastering the position of wide receiver is an art form and Rice was brilliant at it. He wasn’t the toughest player—as you point out—but I think he was the best.

Regards,

Jake

Anonymous said...

jake,

Chris Carter not being on your list is bad. Other then that it is really good. But i do think you could have put in Aikman,and i dont know if i missed him on your list but how about Steve Largent stats or no stats he was amazing to watch.

-Buck

Julian said...

Overall its hard to argue any of your list, good job. That is a lot of work. The only thing I saw is: Dick Lane actually had 14 interceptions in a season not 13. And Sammy Baugh led the leauge in passing 6 times not 4. Other than that i like it.

Jake said...

Thanks for the comments Julian. I'll make the correction on Lane's interception total. As for Baugh, he led the league in passing yards four times according to pro-football-refrence.com. He led he league in yards per game six times which might be what you are referring to.

Take care!

Jake

Anonymous said...

I gotta say, you did a pretty good job for all that ground that needed covering. As a life long, die hard broncos fan, I was a little disappointed to see Elway at 27. 87 is good for Champ Bailey for now, but I've got a feeling that by the end of his career you might have to bump him up a few spots. Still, I think you did a great job. I really enjoyed the list!

Anonymous said...

this list was awesome but im kinda depressed seeing the lack of eagles players...but still its a good list

scott said...

LT the greatest of ALL-TIME!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow man, impressive. Regardless of which numbers in your list can be contested, you stated a valid and convincing case for each person as listed. In addition, you came back and defended your listings, which is commendable to say the least. Based on your recollections, I would venture to say that we are of about the same age. Adoring Barry Sanders as I did, you can imagine that I was ready to be all "up in arms" upon reading that as I normally would. However, to your credit, you produced the most logical argument I’ve heard, to date. Having spent too many hours of my own recent life lost in the (web)pages of pro-football-reference.com, (I LOVE SPORTS-REFERENCE.COM!!!) I can only imagine the amount of time that was spent here to weigh stats, opinions, memories and history and you did it all with few to no errors, as well as being intelligently spoken.

Very Entertaining and Interesting!
Well Done!!!

If you are not an attorney, you may have missed your calling.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely astounding and equally impressive. Very valid points you made. I was sad to see Sweetness so low, but you did make a great point and yes, the '85 championship did help his cause. Tony Gonzalez's argument was the best on the list. I always thought Winslow or even Gates was better, but you really convinced me otherwise. My only complaint is that Devin Hester is not on the list. I know he doesn't have a real position as he played cornerback and WR, but the way he returns kicks and punts has never ever been duplicated. He does things on special teams the way the real "LT" dominated at linebacker. He really has no longevity either, but he is such a God at return that kickers would rather have the Bears and their crummy offense start at the 40 than take chances with Hester. And no, Josh Cribbs is not better than Hester. Not in a million years.

Dan from Chicago (obviously)

Jake said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for the comments! I appreciate it. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I am not an attorney. I'm just a dude with a blog.

Dan from Chicago,

I kind of raised my eyebrows when I saw Hester’s name but if he keeps things up, he could sneak his way onto a list like this some day. He’s not much different than Mariano Rivera in terms of playing time vs. impact. Both don’t get in much but both are as good as there has ever been. I will have to see quite a bit more, though, before I put a return man in the company of a list like this. Once upon a time not so long ago, Donte Hall was THE man. He kind of fell of quickly. It would really help Hester’s case if he can make the transition to wide receiver. Oh, by the way, Josh Cribbs is better than Hester. Just kidding.

Take care!

Scott said...

Why no love for Jim Otto? Not even an honorable mention? 12 years all-star out of 15, didn't miss any games, Hall of Fame. In my opinion the best center ever. And, he had 40 surgeries to show for it, including 28 knee surgeries.

Jake said...

Scott,

Otto most definitely should've been in the honorable mention. He was one of the players who I was considering for the last few spots in the top 100. I had to take another look at my honorable mention list after reading your comment because I was sure I had him in there. Thanks for letting me know.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

you have ronnie lott up there but among safties you seem to be missing rodney harrison. The one and only reason mr. dirty deserves to be on this list is because he is the only member of the 30/30 club

Neilson said...

i think its a pretty acurate list
i have two things to change though
i think 1, antonio gonzalez should definetly be somewhere on that list. Hes better than tony gonzalez now(maybe not in carrer numbers, but he hasnt played nearly as long) and he will be better than tony at the end of his career. Also, i think that peyton manning should be a little closer to tom brady, tom brady may have more rings, but peyton makes up for that because hes got balls unlike tom brady

Anonymous said...

Just wondering where is Walter Jones, Steve Largent, or Steve Mcnair

Anonymous said...

Hey Wheres Vince Papale in this list he was a great wide reciever
he was a bullet that could catch.
And din't you see his superbowl win for the eagles? ()) yard run tackles and picks up a fumble and gets a touchdown!

Anonymous said...

I think it's really neat that you made this list, but Bo Jackson and Jon Riggins aren't even on the list. They deserve some respect.

Anonymous said...

The same argument you used against Terry Bradshaw could easily be used against Tom Brady, who you have way, way too high.

Now, I'm not one of those 'Bradshaw was in the top-five' guys you speak of... but that's my point. He and Brady were similar players, and Brady is way up on the list while Bradshaw is right where he should be.

Anonymous said...

I don't think at all that Emmit smith should be no7 cause he had the best offensive line of all time.The whole line together had 29 Pro Bowls!!! Pretty darn good! And I think fully that Sweetness and Barry should be higher and it is clear that the two are better than Emmit Smith(both WP and BS had horrible lines).
I think that you are a bit too much based on stats because you put jerry rice no1 (I would put him no2) just because he had the best stats of all time and emmit smith just because he had the most rushing yards ever. Other than that the list is pretty good! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Theres only one running better than walter payton, thats jim brown. Sweetness could catch, throw a pass and had more heart than anybody, not to mention tons of talent. Barry sanders was great but he got shutdown and sometimes held to negative yards, barry was not very good at running up the gut in key plays. Emmit had a hall of fame team with a great line.
Ranking walter payton outside the top ten is insane.

Anonymous said...

I just read you top 100 nfl players. I have just one question. You missed the greatest QB of all time, Joe Theisman!!

Thanks,

-Doug from Ortonville

Jake said...

Written by a true Skins fan!

Anonymous said...

Why is'nt Isaac Bruce on the list?

Anonymous said...

this is a pretty well written list...I dont agree with everything you said< but id say 80-85 players i do agree with...and the Emmit Barry thing is tough, and id take Emmitts career but for a game/ season most likely barry........otherwise excellent top 100

jgrimsl1 said...

I have to disagree with most of your list, after all your list is titled best football players of all time not best football careers of all time. Some players i.e. Barry Sanders are better than some ranked ahead of him i.e. Emmit Smith, however, they did not have better careers. Furthermore, Jim Brown was a better football player than Jerry Rice, however, Rice had a better (longer) career, he also played more games per season. So change the name of the list or change the list. Its obvious this was written by a Michigan fan, go Bucks, I believe its been 5 in a row, soon to be 6.

Jake said...

jgrimsl1,

Why use resumes when we can just trust your opinion, right? Seriously, any list that doesn’t use resumes and statistics to distinguish better players is a list that I have no interest in and it’s also a list that most people wouldn’t have an interest in. That’s why every list of the best players in any sport is always, always, always based on “resumes.” People don’t want to read jgrimsl1 say things like, “Player X is the best ever because I say so.” They want to know why. And the “why” can’t be, “because I saw them both play and that’s what I think.” When professional athletes are done playing, they have resumes. That’s what they are judged on. If you don’t care about statistics or resumes, then let’s just say Bo Jackson is the greatest player ever. Few would argue that he wasn’t one of the greatest athletes of all-time. He was faster and stronger than everyone else. Who care if he got hurt and has virtually no resume, right? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever—or at least I should say it makes no sense to non-Buckeyes—to say, “Although Jerry Rice dominated the NFL like no player at any other position has ever done and did so in a more difficult era”, he is not the greatest player of all-time. That goes to a man who retired at the age of 29 who played in one of the weakest eras in NFL history. Who needs to consider the fact that Rice played 12 more seasons? I realize that level of thought is probably too difficult for a Buckeye but that doesn’t make it right. Jim Brown was very good. There’s no way he was a better player than Jerry Rice all things considered.

As for the Barry-E. Smith thing, again, why give the nod to a guy who is the all-time rushing leader, all-time rushing touchdown leader, and, by far, the best player on three Super Bowl winning teams when you can give it to a guy who retired at 30, scored 65 fewer touchdowns, and won one measly playoff game? That makes total sense. Lists like these aren’t based on ability. Everyone in the NFL could’ve, would’ve, should’ve. The question is, did you? Barry did not do it better than Emmitt. Maybe if he would’ve played longer. Maybe if he would’ve played on a different team. Maybe if he were a better goaline back and didn’t get pulled in short yardage situations. This isn’t about “maybes”. Take care!

kc3829 said...

KC WHY DIDN'T YOU PUT ON THE GREATEST QB OF THE COWBOYS TROY AILKMAN LEFT OFF WARREN MOON HOW ABOUT KURT WARREN OR ART MONK OR JOHN RIGGENS OR MARCUS ALLEN OR DARRELL WOODSON

Jake said...

150 names won't fit in 100 spots.

Easywolf said...

You seem to be missing rodney harrison!

Anonymous said...

Y.A. Tittle had a backfield of Jim Brown and Gale Sayers for a pro bowl game. He was asked how it felt to have the best running backs he had ever played with. He replied, "You have to remember that I had Hugh McElhenny and Joe 'Jet' Perry with me in San Francisco."

Anonymous said...

great list n' all but i think Terrell Davis should be in here. if he didn't get injured he would have had i nice career. the only reason why he is not in the HOF. is because he didn't have enough seasons rushing over 1,000 yards, and the reason why he didnt do that is cuz he got injured. i mean he hit 1,000 yards every season till he got injured, and was the 4th running back in history to reach 2,000 yards. he had speed, power, the hands, and the ability to win super bowls when Elway couldnt do it alone. i think all that deserves to be on the top 100 list. and there are a couple other things i would change on this list, but the fact that TD isn't on here is my main beef

Anonymous said...

its really hard to list NFL players because there are so many that you can put in the top 100. i agree with the players in the top 100 (i would reorder a few) but there are some of the players you put in the honorable mention that i cant see why you didn't put them on the list. like Joe Namath. a guy who garanteed a super bowl win, and the first to throw for over 4,000 yards should be on the list. there are also some other players that i think should be in there too. i also think Champ Bailey should be a little higher, this last season he wasn't too good due to injuries, but QBs dont like throwing in his direction, a decent tackler, but his speed is his best trait. and only matched by very few players, and getting 10 interceptions is really sayin somethin

Anonymous said...

I think your list is fantastic. Your logic in defending your picks is impeccable. I have a couple of disagreements, but cannot defend them well enough to suggest any changes. There is one glaring mistake in your honorable mention catagory that I must address as an avid Steelers fan. You mention Lynn Swann, but not John Stallworth. Yes Swann was flashier, but Stallworth had far supior statistics. To your credit I would still put Carter ahead of both.

SB

Anonymous said...

i think that John Elway should be higher. i know that you would expect this for Broncos fans but as great as he is i think some people under rate him sometimes. sure he lost 3 Super Bowls, but just to even get to the Super Bowl you need to be good, and he took the Broncos to FIVE Super Bowls, winning two of them back-to-back. sure 300 TDs isnt that great of number any more, but it still is more than like 98% of all the QBs to ever play the game. and imagine if he didnt get sacked all the time, his stats would be much higher. but even with 500+ sacks he could have had 1,000 for how many he dodged. 47 4th quarter comebacks is something you notice in a QB. and with all those wins as a quarterback, like 148 i think, something like that, how many quarterbacks have that? only one other Brett Farve and Dan marino missed by one game. and even when he had a bad game every play, every one in the stadium was at the edge of their seats, waiting to see what else he does that is amazing. and note: John Elway has one of THE strongest arms in HISTORY. just interview the CBs that played against him they say he threw HARD. and just for the position of a QB John filled it and played it better than some of the modern greats. Manning and Brady are no doubt very good but they are not there yet to be placed SOOO far ahead of Elway, i mean #27? thats weak for a player like Elway. make it more like #17 would be right.

connor said...

how bought red grange where is he

Anonymous said...

I think that Joe Theismann should at least be an honorable mention, prior to LT's brutal break-a-leg hit on Theismann was a good quarterback.

Thanks. And you have the 100 greatest player lists I've encountered.

Kalen said...

Excellent list! I have read this list as well as your MLB list and I'm impressed. Being younger (22), I haven't been able to see many of these players play but I know a considerable amount of football history and I couldn't agree more with most of this list. The only person I was surprised about not being on the list is Ed Reed. In my opinion, he's the best safety I've ever seen and maybe ever. Of course, he doesn't hit as hard as people like Lott or Tatum, but he is the epitome of a "ball-hawk". He might not be on the list now, but he could definitely be considered at the end of his career. And, he's been a part of one of the best defenses in a long time! Again, awesome list. I had a lot of fun reading it!

Thanks,

Kalen

Jake said...

Thanks, Kalen! Ed Reed will definitely be on this list.

Take care,

Jake

Katie said...

I may be biased cause I'm a Bear fan, but Payton at 22? Dude Emmit Smith had one of the best O-lines in football for pretty much his entire career. Sanders and Payton had shit. I'll give you Barry being slightly better than Payton. He had nothing and was elusive as hell. But Emmit had an All-Pro offense line his entire career. It's pretty easy to run the ball when you can consistently get to the secondary before even getting hit.

Jake said...

Katie,

Thanks for the comments. Here is the problem I have with what you're saying...We don't know how Payton would've performed on a better team and we don't know how Smith would've performed on a worse team. Smith holds all of the records and has three Super Bowl rings. He was always the best player on the Cowboys. I don't think it's fair to the process of creating a list like this--however subjective it might be--to start making decisions on what we don't know.

If you want to argue that Payton would've been better than E. Smith if he played for the Cowboys or E. Smith would've been worse than Payton if he played for the Bears, then that's fine. This list isn't about would'ves, though. If Dan Marino would've played for the Dallas Cowboys, he would've had three Super Bowl rings instead of zero. The "what if" game opens up a whole lot of worms.

I know what you're saying. I'm not saying that you're wrong. I just don't see how anyone can look at their careers and say Payton deserves to be rated higher than E. Smith. Your reasoning is based entirely on things we don't know. My reasoning is based entirely on what actually happened.

Take care!

Jake said...

When I made this list, AP had 1,341 career rushing yards and 12 TDs. I'm not sure that even AP's dad would've put him in the top 100 at that point.

Ryan said...

Love the list and I appreciate the time you have taken to put together this list. But I would like to point out something you might have missed. Jerry Rice was a 10x first team all pro and is listed at #1 on your list. Jim Otto was a 10x first team all pro and is not on your list. Now you could argue different eras and the difficulty in being a first team all pro at that position but leaving someone like that off the list completely is a slap in the face to their legacy.

I want to pull my hair out over the Jim Taylor snub but I will leave that for a different day.

As far as Ditka goes, to quote SNL "Ditka versus God? Who wins?"

sterling said...

I just want to make a point and say ask people this, look at how many people on the list played for the NINERS!!!! (or coached ha ha). Great List, I would have Peyton higher, moss higher, and TO lower though. And i completely agree on Jerry Rice.

Anonymous said...

what about Adrian Peterson? he is gonna be freakin amazing later on down the road i mean just in his rookie season he broke the record for most yards in a game... not many rookies can do that

Jake said...

There are three places that A.P. could end up, in my opinion.

1). Larry Johnson--he'd need to fizzle out like right now but LJ is the absolute basement for A.P.

2). Eric Dickerson--They have similar running styles. They both have the speed to take it the distance but love to run over people. The reason Dickerson isn't rated higher is because a). didn't play for accomplished teams and b). he was plagued by injuries near the end of his career. Still, I have E.D. #57.

3). The G.O.A.T--If A.P. avoids injuries and plays for really good Vikings teams, he could become the greatest running back of all-time. Those are big-ifs. Favre is going to retire so there will be a big question mark at QB. Plus, it's nearly impossible to run with A.P. ferocity and not deal with injuries.

In the meantime, he's the best in the game. Take care!

Anonymous said...

You overrate the players had the element of winning games and superbowls. As just a football player, Peyton for sure is 100 times better, even at 2008. Barry Sanders is obviously 3498380 times better than Emmit, hell he might be better than Jim Brown.

Anonymous said...

I notice that you have left out alot of wide recievers before the 1990's like James Lofton, Steve Largent, Paul Warfield, Art Monk, Charley Joiner, Charley Taylor,etc. You do realize that they played during an era where the ball was thrown half as much right?

I have a hard time believing that Terell Owens or Marvin Harrison would catch the ball 100-120 times if they played during the 1960's or 70's.

Just look at Paul Warfield's yards per reception and look at how many times he finished top 10 in recieving yards during his era. He is easily a top 100 player of all times.

Using raw stats to compare old wide recievers to new ones are plain wrong. Back then, wide recivers would only get the opportunity to catch the ball 40-65 times a season.

Anonymous said...

Can I get a Karl Mecklenburg?

Anonymous said...

gale sayers is way to low good list tho but remember gale only palyed 4 seasons and is still one of the best RB that ever palyed he got in the hall of fame after 4 seasons thats carazy and he should be right behing jim brown in a top running back list

Anonymous said...

Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield, Bob Greise, Larry Little and Jim Langer were pretty good players.

Phillip pane said...

Im sorry sir, but Emmit Smith's ranking on this list is unfathomable. How does a good second-effort rusher get a top ten ranking on a list of the greatest players of all time. He didn't have power, speed, flair, elusiveness. What he did have was a great offensive line, great talent at the skill positions and a very long, durable career. His longevity is unquestionably impressive. But to rank him above Payton, Sanders, and even the likes of Dickerson and Tomlinson is upsetting. I hope you read this comment and give some weight to it.

nicholas said...

What about Jim Thorpe?

snoutbagger said...

A nice list here. It's virtually impossible to do this objectively, but seeing Larry Allen was great. Totally agree.

Blake said...

I saw somewhere up top that someone argued that Ed Reed should be on the list because he is the best "ball-hawk" of all-time. While I agree that Reed is phenomenal (and also could make a point that Darren Sharper might even be a better "ball-hawk" than Reed, though he lacks Reed's versatility) the fact that Paul Krause is not in the top 100 is disconcerting to me. I suppose the youth just don't know some of these old time greats.

Think about how hard it is to completely change the complexity of the game from the defensive side of the ball. Factor in that in Krause's era the ball was put in the air, CONSIDERABLY less than it is now. With all that said, Krause still managed to have 81 interceptions in 16 seasons. He was an 8x pro-bowler, an 8x all-pro, and not to mention could have played in the MLB if he wanted to.
He was a tremendous athlete and while I respect that this is your list, as someone that played defensive back/safety his whole life, I respect what Krause did for the game.

I leave you with this, Krause finished his career with 81 interceptions and 19 fumble recoveries, who else in NFL history can claim they were resposible for 100 turnovers??
81+19 = Top 100, easily.

Ward said...

joe namath and marcus allen should be in the top if shannon sharpe is.

Anonymous said...

Bronko Nagurski: "He probably broke more bones, legitimately, than any other player," said biographer Harold Rosenthal. "Contact with him, either trying to stop him as a runner, or trying to block him as a lineman, was extremely costly. If he hit you right, you suffered a broken shoulder." Bronko did it Chicago Style!!

Anonymous said...

How about one of the most under rated QB's of all time and one of the best of all time! Ken Anderson of the Bengals!

Anonymous said...

Where the heck is Jim Thorpe?!?!?

Anonymous said...

it breaks my heart that you wouldn't even have art monk, but you would have michael irvin. monk had all the recieving records before rice came along. plus monk was the consumate professional while irvin was off being a criminal

Jake said...

No need to be heartbroken. Not listing Monk in the honorable mention category was an oversight. He was certainly in consideration for a top 100 spot.

Anonymous said...

HOW how do you leave off chris carter he is in my opinion the 3rd best receiver ever just behimg jerry rice and don hutson

Anonymous said...

Where is iron mike ditka? I think he should make the list because he won superbowls and was the first tight end inducted in the hall of fame.

Anonymous said...

wheres curtis martin? One of or was the most consistent player in NFl history

Anonymous said...

I don't believe you putt Steve Largent on the honorary mention list are you kidding me and not at least #50!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mcnabb4life said...

Tom Brady?! Really?! He shouldn't be that high! He shouldn't even be in the top 100
Dan Marino behind all those guys?! Andre reed is better than t.o. Why isn't he here?!

Throwback said...

This is a great list. Thanks for putting it together!

Anonymous said...

I think your list is way off on some of the people. Steve Young shouldnt be that high for one. Granted, it is a 2 year old list but Steve Young doesnt deserve to be their. He is #80 on the list as presented by NFL films.

I wonder about Lawrence Taylor being that high too. He did define the position so he should be pretty high.

I might reorder your top 5 but not sure that I disagree strongly with them.

I think Peyton Manning should be in the 6 to 10 area.

Anonymous said...

Although this list is opinion based, there is absolutely zero excuse for not having Cris Carter on it. "Possession" receiver or not, he is 2nd all time in receiving touchdowns, so he made big plays too. C'mon man!!!!

Anonymous said...

Come on I have no clue how you put Brady so high on your list above Farve? Above Bradshaw. What matters is when it counts and Bradshaw never lost a Superbowl, but Brady did!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the others about how in the world Tom Brady ranks as high as he does? I think Brady should be behind Bradshaw, Farve, Marino? I mean Bradshaw never lost the Superbowl, but Brady did! It matters when it counts not the rest of the time!

Anonymous said...

Walter's only #22? If you're ranking football players for being just a straight up pure football player I think walter has to be at least in the top 5. For me, hes top 3. The guy played for 13 years, he was amazing all 13 seasons and was basically the entire bears offense for 7 of those seasons. Plus he broke Jim Brown's all time rushing record and that record was broken by a guy who had an awesome offensive line his whole career and an awesome qb too. Also, he's the bears all time leading receiver, and he's thrown something like 8 touchdown passes in his career. To me, thats horse hockey.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised there are no Hogs, Joe Jacoby, Russ Grim etc. at least on the Honorable Mention list. Or John Riggins? Maybe I am just too biased but it seems like maybe there could be more Redskins.

Anonymous said...

Incredible LISTS!!! Excellent work!! do you have an email?

Anonymous said...

Bravo...Applause!!!
Sir, Oustanding Sports Lists!
My hats off for All your Effort!
Really...Great...Job!!!

Question, with the NFL Network currently listing the Top 100 each week:

The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players

Every now and then some one comes out with a "list"
some "experts" are putting out a list for 2010,
each week they name 10 players
here is the list thus far, they have 30 more to go,
as you can see there are a few "Active" players on this list.
And only 30 more names to go.
Consider those that did not make the list?
For example will Manning or Brady & others make this list & should they be in the
last top 30 of All-Time unamed so far?
How many "Active" players are really better then the ones on the list so far?
How many QB's, RB's, WR's LB's, DB's or Offensive or Defensive players will they name in the final 100?

==

1. Jake, do you plan to update your current list?

2. Any thoughts on their current list thus far?

3. If you do update can you break it down by position? It seems so very hard to compare a Barry Sanders against lets say Randy White, both outstanding in their own rights?

4. I do respect that you state these are your opinions, they are very well thought out! My opinion is it is so very hard to rank them, there are so many factors and variables for each era, each decade, how long each player played, rule changes, the length of the season changed, "steroids" -PED's, etc.....

Look forward to hearing from you...

Anonymous said...

here is the updated list:
The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players

Every now and then some one comes out with a "list"
some "experts" are putting out a list for 2010,
each week they name 10 players
here is the list thus far, they have 30 more to go,
as you can see there are a few "Active" players on this list.
And only 30 more names to go.
Consider those that did not make the list?
For example will Manning or Brady & others make this list & should they be in the
last top 30 of All-Time unamed so far?
How many "Active" players are really better then the ones on the list so far?
How many QB's, RB's, WR's LB's, DB's or Offensive or Defensive players will they name in the final 100?

31 Bruce Smith - DE - 18 seasons

32 Jim Parker - T - 10 seasons

33 Sid Luckman - QB - 17 seasons

34 Deon Sanders - DB - 12 seasons

35 Chuck Bednarik - LB - 12 seasons

36 Raymond Berry - WR - 13 seasons

37 Jim Thorpe - RB - 8 seasons

38 Lance Alworth - WR - 10 seasons

39 Gino Marchetti - DE - 14 seasons

40 OJ Simpson - RB - 11 seasons

41 Rod Woodson - DB - 15 seasons

42 John Mackey - TE - 8 seasons

43 Alan Page - DT - 15 seasons

44 Mel Blount - DB - 14 seasons

45 Tony Gonzalez - TE - 11 seasons Active

46 Roger Staubach - QB - 8 seasons

47 Ray Nitschke - LB - 13 seasons

48 Red Grange - RB - 10 seasons

49 Mike Haynes - DB - 12 seasons

50 Terry Bradshaw - QB - 13 seasons

51 Bart Starr - QB - 13 seasons

52 Eric Dickerson - RB - 13 seasons

53 Willie Lanier - LB - 11 seasons

54 Forrest Gregg - T - 11 seasons

55 Earl Campbell - RB - 7 seasons

56 Gene Upshaw - G - 14 seasons

57 Steve Van Buren - QB - 8 seasons

58 Mike Singletary - LB - 12 seasons

59 Mike Ditka - TE - 8 seasons

60 Jack Ham - LB - 12 seasons

61 LaDainian Tomlinson - RB - 8 seasons Active

62 Randy White - DT - 11 seasons

63 Jim Otto - C - 15 - seasons

64 Herb Adderley - DB - 12 seasons

65 Randy Moss - WR - 11 seasons Active

66 Willie Brown - CB - 16 seasons

67 Kellen Winslow - TE - 7 seasons

68 Mike Webster - C - 14 seasons

69 Bobby Bell - LB - 12 seasons

70 Marshall Faulk - RB - 11 seasons

71 Paul Warfield - WR - 11 seasons

72 Jonathan Ogden - OL - 12 seasons

73 Ozzie Newsome - TE - 13 seasons

74 Marion Motley - FB - 10 seasons

75 Darrell Green - DB - 15 seasons

76 Art Shell - T - 12 seasons

77 Tony Dorsett - RB - 11 seasons

78 Bruce Matthews - G - 19 seasons

79 Emlen Tunnell - DB - 12 seasons

80 Troy Aikman - QB - 12 seasons

81 Steve Young - QB - 16 seasons

82 Ted Hendricks - LB - 15 seasons

83 Norm Van Brocklin - QB - 18 seasons

84 Joe Schmidt - LB - 11 seasons

85 Marcus Allen - RB - 12 seasons

86 Willie Davis - DE - 11 seasons

87 Crazylegs Hirsch - WR - 13 seasons

88 Ed Reed - DB - 7 seasons Active

89 Ernie Nevers - FB - 6 seasons

90 Kurt Warner - QB - 12 seasons

91 Fran Tarkenton - QB - 18 seasons

92 Michael Irvin - WR - 10 seasons

93 Sam Huff - LB - 13 seasons

94 Lenny Moore - RB - 13 seasons

95 Larry Allen - G - 13 seasons

96 Mel Hein - C - 15 seasons

97 Derrick Brooks - LB - 14 seasons

98 Lee Roy Selmon - DE - 9 seasons

99 Michael Strahan - DE - 14 seasons

100 Joe Willie Namath - QB - 9 seasons

Anonymous said...

you diss tim brown, steve atwater, charles haley, bill romanowski, harry carson, and several others. you overrate favre, smith, sanders, CHAMP BAILEY?!? AENEUS WILLIAMS!!!!! antonio gates and some others. We may disagree on some names, but a good list. I am not a Giants fan, but LT is by far #1 and ray lewis is 50 at best. I wish you were born 5 or 6 years earlier and you would know what I am saying.

Anonymous said...

AP is getting mentions here? seriously? 1. Chris Johnson is better over the last 2 years. 2. I could name terrelle davis, bo jackson, jamal lewis, priest holmes, jamal
"dirty bird" anderson, tiki barber, ickey woods, steven jackson, christian okoye, and several others who put up great stats for the short term. Top 5 RB's in recent history, no order, Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Earl Campbell. Sanders, Smith, Martin, Bettis, Dorsett and Allen are in the next level. If you watch the games you know that Emmitt was very good, and a product of an all-time great team. Sanders was the flashiest ever, but could put up a minus 3 better than anyone all-time. You can all argue stats if you want, but I know who was great by watching the games, the teams, and the opposition. Just my opinion of course.

Anonymous said...

what about Ricky Williams or Mike Vick.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinion I think you are msitaken by not putting Walter Payton on top of the list. Walter Payton did more than Jerry Rice, Jim Brown and just about anyone you could name on the football field! He did what he did on some of the worst teams in NFL history! All you have to do is research NFL history! You'll see that Walter Payton was the most complete player to ever play the game! He did more than those so called best players and he did it with the worst supporting cast than any other player on the list.

Anonymous said...

Lawrence Taylor did coke the whole time he was playing. Hes not even on my list. Piece of shit then piece of shit now!

Anonymous said...

allen page and the purple people eaters were in four super bowls not three as you said in your comments on page

Anonymous said...

What about paul horning highest total points scored in a season by all but one other player?

Anonymous said...

what about mic tinglehoff. He was nfl all pro more years than any other offensive center in the history of the league and also started more games than any other offensive lineman.

Old Giant said...

What happened to Andy Robustelli and Frank Gifford? Both are in the Hall of Fame, both were among the best at their position ( "positions" for Gifford ) during their carrers, and both were All-Pro's multiple times. And, if Mike Singletary is on the list, then Harry Carson should be there also.

Anonymous said...

great list but you did leave one player out jim kelly

Anonymous said...

ossie newsome 662 catches 7980 yrds named offenive player of the year his rookie season 3x pro bowler 5x second team all pro 2x first team all pro 47 tds he should be on the list

Anonymous said...

You know, i'm not gonna jump over all the emotional details of the list and why a guy should be number 22 instead of 46, or whatever, but there was one displacement i immediately noticed when i read them: Barry Sanders behind Emmit Smith. .....yea...that's just a plain mistake.

Mad Houston Oiler Fan said...

This list is a joke !!!!
Where the hell !!! is Warren Moon
are you kidding me.T.O and Warren Sapp should not be on this list !!
Moon is the first and and only Black Quarterback to be inducted in the HALL OF FAME.

Mad as hell Houston Oiler Fan !!!

mCorn said...

Not to get too nitpicky, as the list overall is as solid as any other arbitray list of similar nature, but I was surprised to not see Isaac Bruce even listed in the H.M. group. The man is 2nd all-time in yards recieved (yes, in a WR era with high yard totals across the board of course), and had one of the biggets TD recpetions in S.B. history. His 1995 season was one of the best ever by a WR - especialy when you consider that Chris Miller was his QB. In the early 2000s, he was up there with Harrison on many experts All-NFL teams. Now I don't know if he cracks the top 100, but not even an H.M.? Seems strange

Jake said...

Bruce was definitely considered and should be on the honorable mention list. I'll get him on there. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Where is the Bus he is going to be in the hall of fame give him some respect

wes said...

I would like to see Kenny "The Snake" Stabler on the mention list. he might not have great "statistics" but he led great Raider teams. He actually led the league in passing in '74 and '76. He was also the MVP in '74and is placed on All '70s team. The Snake needs a mention.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of observations. One, I am very surprised you don't have Charley Taylor, even on your honorable mention. His stats are down the list now, but at the time of his retirement, he was top 5 in most of the stats. I think someone else intimated this, but you appear to pay more attention to stats than is warranted to determine who was better. Sometimes secondary stats are needed to rate players if they played for inferior teams. You can only take inferred ability so far, but the crackback block rule was written because Taylor was so effective blind-siding LBs on a sweep. Further, John Mackey basically defined the modern TE, though Ditka was a heckuva TE too.

Anonymous said...

Did you consider Russ Grimm? He was the most dominant lineman on one of the best O lines of any era, the Hogs. He played several positions as well. He was durable and brutal at the same time. While it doesn't bear on his playing career, he's also proven to be a heckuva coach. I keep hoping he gets his shot at a head job soon.

Anonymous said...

I loved the list for the most part, just had a few issues with it.
1. Gale Sayers is way to low at 81, should be at least top 40. I know he had a short career, but he needs to be higher solely because hes arguably the most talented running back ever.
2. Manning @ 24 is very low. Should be within 1 or 2 spots of Brady.
3. Sammy Baugh should be at least top 15. Revolutionized the quarterback position, and showed incredible versatility as a safety and the leagues best punter too.
4. Aikman needs to make the list.
5. One of the best to ever play the position, Raymond Berry at 100 is really low. He should make the top 75 at least, especially if you have Harrison at 40 and TO at 50.

The rest of the list was good though.

mb1520 said...

Overall, great job with the list, just a few issues in my opinion.

Some of these guys are way too high on your list. Bobby Layne ahead of Terry Bradshaw makes zero sense to me. Yale Lary doesnt belong on the list. Hes in the same category as guys like Lem Barney and Roger Wehrli. Franco is too high. If hes on your list then you need to include a guy like John Riggins or Lenny Moore too. I also think you overrated Sapp. Hes not much different than a guy like John Randle, who's on your honorable mentions list.

Some guys that got underrated, in my opinion, are OJ, Gene Upshaw, Bobby Bell, and Raymond Berry. OJ's 2000 yard season is one of the best a running back has ever had. Upshaw was just as dominant in the 70s as a guy like Larry Allen during his prime. Bell is arguably top 3 olbs of all time and shouldn't be behind Derrick Thomas. Berry should be higher if Harrison is 40 and TO is 50.

Thanks, and please respond back cause I'd love to hear what u have to say about these guys.

Anonymous said...

Mike Haynes? He along with Sanders and Woodson are the three best corners (imho) that I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Where is Warren Moon?..greatest qb to play in any league.

Keith said...

hey! I really liked this list but I totally disagree with Payton. Payton was not just a great running back, but he was the greatest all around football player. he could've played any position! and I hate how everyone forgets about jack tatum...he was the fiercest tackler of all time and should be in at least the top 80

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see this list revised even with more perspective on today's and yesterday's players and How they would rate - higher or lower. Time and perspective always change things.
Please respond even if it moving some player higher up or lowering some an/or adding a few.

Jake said...

It would take more time than I have to retool this list in a way that I’d feel comfortable with. It took months to put the original list together so you’ll have to understand that I wasn’t able to accomplish much in the 60 minutes I spent trying to answer your question (s). But, here goes…

I first went through the list to see if there were players who I think need to be moved up or down. I was surprised that there weren’t more obvious choices. I thought four years would have dated the list more than it did. I expected that—given his abrupt falloff from being an elite back—that Tomlinson would probably slide. However, his overall numbers and accomplishments still probably merit being ahead of Marshal Faulk which would mean—at most—a minimal 1-4 spot drop in the rankings if any. I thought I would see obvious needs to drop T.O., Randy Moss, and Marvin Harrison since all three hit an unexpected wall a year or so after I made the list. However, their numbers still stack up favorably to players rated lower on the list. These three players are nearly indistinguishable statistically yet very distinguishable stylistically. Harrison was not a great playoff performer which I may have overlooked when I made the first list. So, I’d slide Harrison behind T.O. and Moss which would mean a 15-20 spot drop for him.

Of all the active players on the list, Brady probably has the most opportunity to move up (of, course, keeping in mind that "moving up" near the top of the list is more significant than moving up near the bottom). I don’t think there’s any reason to move him at this point although that’s probably more out of indifference or laziness. I’d rather just wait and see how things play out over the next few years. He’s been to five Super Bowls and won three. Montana went to four Super Bowls and won four. If Brady wins another Super Bowl, I think he eclipses Montana. His career numbers and averages merit consideration over Montana right now. I think he’s just missing one Super Bowl which would give him a whopping six Super Bowl appearances and four wins. Keep in mind that while winning the Super Bowl is certainly much more impressive than losing the Super Bowl, getting to the Super Bowl is much more impressive than not. Brady may have lost two Super Bowls but he’s already been to more Super Bowls than Montana.

I would drop Marino and Staubach 10-20 spots each. I think we’re seeing more and more that elite QBs win Super Bowls. Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers have all won Super Bowls. The fact that Marino never did—and the fact that outside of 2-3 seasons he really didn’t have high end statistical production—probably should be taken more into consideration than I did previously. Staubach was great but didn’t play long enough (rather he started too late) to make as much of a difference as some of the other players.

I also think Champ Bailey would get a 20+ spot bump simply from adding four more seasons of elite CB play to his resume. Continuing.....

Jake said...

Continued from above...

As for active players who did not make the original list who I think would make it now; I think there are at least five and possibly seven. The “high” debut would go to Drew Brees. I think it’s pretty clear that he has had a better career than Marino. He beat Marino’s single-season passing mark and nearly did it a second time. He won a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP. With the 20-spot drop I mentioned for Marino and the fact that I think Elway still edges out Brees, that would put Brees somewhere between 28 and 45. After that, there is a major run on DB’s making debuts. Ed Reed and Charles Woodson probably jump into the top 50 in that order. Troy Polamalu is probably in that 50-60 range. Aaron Rodgers would be in the last 25 spots or so. I’m non-commital on Brian Urlacher and Darrelle Revis. Urlacher is right on the fringe and Revis probably needs two more seasons of elite play to make it with room to spare.

Here’s a little rundown of who I think will make significant jumps onto the list in the next 5-10 years... First, Revis is the best CB I’ve ever seen and the statistical dominance that he has over opposing elite receivers is as impressive of a stat as there is in the NFL today. Deion was great and his ranking on this list reflects that. However, Revis’s anticipatory skills and physicality are truly unique in NFL history. Having said that, if Revis suffers a major injury or fizzles out for some reason, he may not even make it into the top 100. If he keeps his current level of play for the next 5 years or more, he’ll easily be in the top 50 and could be much, much higher than that. Calvin Johnson has the talent and statistical start to his career that, if he continues on his current path, could end with him being the second greatest WR in NFL history. He is a combination of T.O. and Randy Moss which makes for an absolute monster of a player. He just needs to stay healthy which isn't a sure-thing for him. Joe Thomas has made the Pro Bowl in his first five seasons and very well could end up being one of the top 10 OL of all-time. Obviously, he’ll need to keep it up for a number of years since there are quite a few OL who have 10+ pro bowl appearances. DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Andre Johnson, Julius Peppers, Larry Fitzgerald, Clay Matthews, Jake Long, Terrell Suggs, and Antonio Gates are also players who could jump into the list in the short term.

Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are putting together Terry Bradshaw type careers which would surely land both on the list if they can get another SB victory.

I hope this answers your questions. Keep in mind that if this list got deleted and I had to start over from scratch with no reference point like I did the first time, the list would likely look very different. I could make hundreds of minor revisions to the list if I had hours and days to kill. For the purposes of this post, I simply focused on things that seemed the most obvious to me.

Take care!

BC said...

Absolutely great work, and makes a lot of sense about 4 years later. Natually, some of the guys who were 'on their way' to being all time greats, your TO/Moss/AP group, have falled hard, and several others (LOVE the mention of Ware and Patrick Willis) probably take certain guys spots away with another year+ of consistent play.

I think Aaron Rogers is a great player, but I cant take him seriously in comparison to Montana, Brady, and Young, then you have that next tier of guys like Favre, Manning, Brees, Bradshaw, and looking at those names, I dont see much to make any kind of argument that Rodgers is better than Montana, Brady, Young, Aikman, Favre, Bradshaw, Manning or Brees. He's just another "should be" phenominal player, but he's got a lot of work to do. Most people dont understand that for every Rice there are 1000 'best ever for 2.6 seasons of play' guys in the NFL, so longevity has to be considered. Favre threw a lot of picks, but he also made a lot more plays, without nearly the talent Rodgers has. Give Rodgers 2 more years+ of solid play, then Id consider ranking him with the elites.

Offense, in any sport, is always the sexier aspect of winning the game, but defense is equally important (ask the whooped-in-every-SB-we-played Bills) I liked that on all your lists, you make the correct assumptions of who is a more important player, but still gave the right about of respect to the right defenders (or pitchers, etc).

Id rank Dieon Sanders no lower than top 10. He wasnt just the best cover-corner ever, he made the difference - ALONE - between who won in 1994/1995. Goes to the 49ers, shuts down Irvin. Goes to Dallas, shuts down Rice. Opposing QB's just would NOT test the guy after his first few years, he would lull them into making a throw and close the gap in like 2 seconds. Sure, it would be great if he could tackle like Lott, but he didnt need to. That WR, with #21 across the line, was not having a career day. He shut down some of the greatest WR to play the game, despite being one of the worst tacklers in the game. He is one of the greatest athletes you'll ever see.

I wouldnt touch it, except for minor changes that come down solely to personal prefference. Some guys, Rice/Montana, are just clearly the best, but then you get to that second/third level, its all what you think, there is little seperation. I think you did great
1

Spencer Urquhart said...

I find it odd that Rickey Jackson is not on this list. He was one of the greatest linebackers of all time and was very similar to Lawrence Taylor. Ricky had 128 sacks, 40 forced fumbles, and 1173 total tackles. LT had 132.5 sacks, 33 forced fumbles, and 1008 tackles. LT was ranked 3rd and Ricky wasn't on the list. That makes no sense to me. Other than that I thought the list was pretty good.

 

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