My Own All-Time NFL Rankings
The NFL Network intrigued a lot of people recently by organizing a panel of esteemed experts and having them select the 100 Greatest NFL Players, in order.
Talk about starting a great bar conversation.
Well, having covered NFL football for more than 42 years and having observed it even longer, I naturally have my own opinions. I thought you might be interested in what they are, and I’m sure you have some thoughts of your own.
I’ll stick to the Top Ten all-time, since I don’t have room for the Top 100. The NFL Network’s Top Ten is: 1. Jerry Rice. 2. Jim Brown. 3. Lawrence Taylor. 4. Joe Montana. 5. Walter Payton. 6. Johnny Unitas. 7. Reggie White. 8. Peyton Manning. 9. Don Hutson. 10. Dick Butkus.
My own Top Ten, complete with comments, follows, with the only difference being I’m limiting my selections to players I’ve seen. Hutson, for example, had to be a fabulous player, but how do I rate him if I never watched him play? Anyway, here’s how I ranked those I did watch:
1. Jim Brown. Hard to imagine picking anyone else in this spot. Nobody took over games the way he did.
2. Dick Butkus. To me, Brown and Butkus are the two best pure football players I’ve ever seen.
3. Joe Montana. You can’t play quarterback much better than he did, especially in the postseason when his TD-to-interception ratio was 22-2.
4. Johnny Unitas. You could switch him and Montana. They were that close. In his own era, calling his own plays, defining the two-minute drill, he was definitely No. 1.
5. Jerry Rice. No question he’s the best ever at wide receiver. I just think quarterback is a more difficult position.
6. Lawrence Taylor. The definition of a disruptive force. He changed the way the game was played.
7. Deacon Jones. Mr. Head Slap. If they’d kept stats, he would have out-sacked them all, and by plenty. Nobody rushed the passer better.
8. Walter Payton. The finest all around back of them all. There was nothing he couldn’t do.
9. Reggie White. He was the next generation’s Deacon.
10. Ronnie Lott. He is regarded as the prototype safety. Nobody delivered more devastating hits.
Without going into detail on the network’s top 100, there were a few players who shouldn’t have been left off, probably because some of the “experts” were too young to have seen them.
They include: Hugh McElhenny (maybe the greatest broken field runner of them all), Lynn Swann (the most graceful of the wide receivers), Junior Seau (a dominant force at linebacker, although he played all over the field) and Steve Largent (the best route runner of his generation).
Interesting that the network’s top ten included seven offensive players, while mine was split with five offensive and five defensive players.
But then, I’ve always been a sucker for great defense.
The network’s Top Ten quarterbacks were ranked this way: 1. Montana 2. Unitas 3. Manning 4. Sammy Baugh 6. Otto Graham 6. Brett Favre 7. Tom Brady 8. John Elway 9. Dan Marino 10. Sid Luckman.
You could argue those for a while, too, huh?
I love lists like these. It’s what makes following sports so much fun.
— STEVE BISHEFF