Friday, May 30, 2008

Jonesin' for some respect

Not much has been made of this yet, but Chipper Jones is hitting .420. Although it might seem like I’m referring to recreational drug-use, I assure you that Jones has a .420 batting average. It’ll be June in 48 hours. Hitting .420 for two straight months is incredible (half the dudes on my hall freshman year--and probably Joakim Noah--would be giggling uncontrollably right now). It would take a truly remarkable player to accomplish such a feat. Jones is just that. I realize batting average isn’t the greatest statistic but its significance increases exponentially when we’re talking about an historical mark. The last two players to make runs at .400 for an entire season were Tony Gwynn and George Brett. As of May 29, 1994, Gwynn was hitting .389. As of May 29, 1980, Brett was hitting .289. Of course, Brett went 65 for 139 the following month for an unbelievable .468 average so he caught up in a hurry. I’m not sure .400 is realistic in this era of baseball, but Jones is in great shape with respect to Gwynn and Brett who fell short of .400 but were the last two players to hit .390+ in a season. It’s interesting that after a splendid 14-year career, it will probably take a run at .400—or maybe just one of the best single-season batting averages of the last 50 years—to get anyone to notice just how good Chipper Jones has been. He might even be the best third baseman of all-time.

Jones is having the best season of his career. Along with hitting .420, he has a .500 OBP% which would be the highest non-Bonds OBP% of the last 50 years. In most years, he would be running away with the MVP. This year, however, his chances are 50/50 at best with Lance Berkman leading the NL in RBIs, Runs, OPS, Slugging %, and Total Bases, and Albert Pujols putting together another monster-season. Still, a second MVP is possible which would immediately thrust him into the realm of some of the elite players who have ever played.

In fact, it’s time for the baseball world to acknowledge the kind of career Jones has had. There is a good chance that he will become the first player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs, 3,000 hits, and have a .310 + batting average (Manny Ramirez could also accomplish that feat. Both are the same age and need about the same number of hits). Jones would also be the first third baseman to hit 500 home runs and reach 3,000 hits. Jones’s significance is probably best measured by comparing him to the other great third basemen in MLB history. Mike Schmidt and George Brett are probably the most accomplished players at the position. Alex Rodriguez still has played close to twice as many games at shortstop than at third so I will consider him a shortstop until that number moves closer to 1:1. Jones has been a better all-around hitter than Schmidt and Brett. He has more plate discipline than Schmidt and more power than Brett. Even with Schmidt’s reputation as an elite power-hitter, he only holds a 147-145 OPS+ advantage over Jones. Chipper will likely pass Schmidt in every significant offensive category with the exception of home runs. He hits for power, average, and has phenomenal plate-discipline. He’s also equally potent against righties and lefties.

Jones has won 11 Division Titles with the Braves including three World Series appearances and a World Championship in ’95. He was the only Braves-player who played for all 11 Division-winners. Mike Schmidt won five Division Titles, played in two World Series and also won a World Championship. Brett won five Division Titles, played in two World Series and also won a World Championship. Comparing team-success in baseball isn’t always the best way to compare players but it is just another comparison in which Jones stands out.

At the very minimum, Jones has to be considered one of the three best third basemen of all-time. The way his career is headed now, he will easily beat Brett in a straight-up comparison by the time he retires. Mike Schmidt’s three MVPs and reputation as the superior defensive third baseman give him a better resume than Brett and thus the unofficial title of “Greatest Third Baseman of All-Time”. However, if Jones picks up the MVP this year and becomes the first player in MLB history to have 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and a .310 batting average, I think there will be a compelling argument to pass that title on to him. It’s just unfortunate that Jones has been building one of the all-time impressive resumes and he is rarely—if ever—considered one of the stars in MLB. Maybe a run at .400 will change that.

Update: According to Jayson Stark, Jones has the fourth highest batting average through May 28 of the last 50 years.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Top 100 Football Players of All-Time

It's been a while! Check out all of my updated and maintained lists at  

--Jake (2/27/21)

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

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