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The NFL 100: The Athletic’s pursuit of the best players in football history (1 Viewer)

Just Win Baby

Footballguy
Didn't see a topic on this, so hope this is not duplicative.

From The NFL 100: The Athletic’s pursuit of the best players in football history:

How do you determine the best of the best?

That’s a question we’ve debated here at The Athletic in recent months as we’ve endeavored to build the NFL 100. It’s our attempt to crown the 100 best players in the history of the NFL, from its inception in 1920 until now.

We were inspired by our friend Joe Posnanski’s efforts last year to author a similar project, the Baseball 100. Posnanski said of his massive project: “This is a nutty thing to do.”

Well, this was a nutty thing to do in the football world, too. There’s a reason they don’t rank the players at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, right? It’s too hard. Once you earn that gold jacket, you’re part of the club. There’s no pecking order. Also, football has changed drastically since 1920. Comparisons between players of different eras are not really fair. And unlike baseball, we can’t easily compare players across positions. The job requirements of a center fielder in the 1940s for Joe DiMaggio are largely the same today when Mike Trout is playing the position. The job requirements of a defensive back in the 1940s? Well, for one thing, he probably played both offense and defense, but the position bears little resemblance now to the roles that Jalen Ramsey and Tyrann Mathieu play.

So it was excruciating at times as we looked to separate the greatest players who have ever stepped on the gridiron. We were searching for blemishes on résumés that, frankly, don’t have any.

Still, we got there. Your NFL 100 will surely be different from ours. Your rankings of how the players should line up will also undoubtedly be different than ours. That’s OK. It’s part of what makes these projects enjoyable.

We compiled the NFL 100 with a panel of football journalists from The Athletic — former NFL managing editor Lisa Wilson and Pro Hall of Fame voters Ed Bouchette, Jeff Duncan, Dan Pompei and Mike Sando. These rankings reflect their collective decisions.


Here is the countdown to date (all articles linked at the link above):

100: OLB Derrick Brooks
99: C Dermontti Dawson
98: HB Steve Van Buren
97: C Jim Otto
96: TE Mike Ditka
95: QB Fran Tarkenton
94: E-HB Elroy Hirsch
93: MLB Mike Singletary
92: HB Lenny Moore
91: DE Willie Davis
90: CB Willie Brown
89: QB Bobby Layne
88: CB Darrell Green
87: CB Champ Bailey
86: DT Buck Buchanan
85: C-T Bulldog Turner
84: C Mel Hein
83: DT Leo Nomellini
82: TE Kellen Winslow
81: TE John Mackey
80: MLB Willie Lanier
79: CB Mike Haynes
78: QB Roger Staubach
77: OLB Ted Hendricks
76: LT Art Shell
75: WR Paul Warfield
74: OLB Bobby Bell
73: FB Marion Motley
72: RB Adrian Peterson
71: CB Mel Blount
70: RB Marshall Faulk
69: QB Terry Bradshaw
68: CB-S Charles Woodson
67: LG Gene Upshaw
66: RB Earl Campbell
65: LB Joe Schmidt
64: LT Walter Jones
63: E Raymond Berry
62: MLB Ray Nitschke
61: QB Bart Starr
60: LT Jonathan Ogden
59: LB Junior Seau
58: CB Herb Adderley
57: C Mike Webster
56: TE Rob Gronkowski
55: WR Lance Alworth
54: C-LB Chuck Bednarik
53: RB Gale Sayers
52: OLB Jack Ham
51: RB LaDainian Tomlinson
50: CB **** “Night Train” Lane
49: QB Steve Young
48: QB Sid Luckman
47: DT Randy White 
46: TE Tony Gonzalez
45: G Larry Allen
44: G-C-T Bruce Matthews
43: QB Drew Brees
42: T-G Jim Parker
41: RB O.J. Simpson
40: RB Eric Dickerson
39: S Ed Reed
38: WR Randy Moss
37: MLB Jack Lambert
36: RT Forrest Gregg
35: DE J.J. Watt
34: DE Gino Marchetti
33: FB Bronko Nagurski
32: DT Alan Page
31: DT-DE Bob Lilly
30: LT Merlin Olsen
29: RB Emmitt Smith
28: CB Deion Sanders
27: RB Barry Sanders
26: CB-S Rod Woodson
25: LG John Hannah
24: DT-DE  Aaron Donald
23: QB-S-P Sammy Baugh
22: QB Brett Favre
21: QB Aaron Rodgers
20: DE Bruce Smith
19: CB-S Ronnie Lott
18: QB Dan Marino

17: MLB/ILB Ray Lewis
16: DE Deacon Jones
15: QB John Elway
14: DT Joe Greene
13: E Don Hutson
12: LT Anthony Munoz
11: QB Otto Graham

Predicting the remaining 18:

  • QB - Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning, Otto Graham, John Elway
  • RB - Walter Payton, Jim Brown
  • WR - Jerry Rice, Don Hutson (would be a bit surprised if another like Owens, Harrison, or Largent made it)
  • OL - T Munoz, C Dwight Stephenson?
  • DL - Reggie White, Deacon Jones, Joe Greene
  • LB - Lawrence Taylor, **** Butkus, Ray Lewis
Thoughts?

 
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wgoldsph

Footballguy
Brett Farve and Aaron Rodgers 22 and 21?  List is bogus.

Also, Terry Bradshaw what?   How does he even make the list? 

 

Ghost Rider

Footballguy
Ya know,. even though I grew to not really like Marino because of what a jerk he often seemed to be, I think the over-emphasis on championships when it comes to discussing QB's (they mean something, but some act like they mean everything) has almost made him a bit underrated in the sense that you rarely heard his name anymore in GOAT talk when it came to QB's (before Brady ascended to being, for most, the unquestioned GOAT the last couple years).  For me, the top 3 QB's ever are definitely Brady, Peyton and Montana, and Marino has as good an argument as anyone for being the 4th best (and I say that as a HUGE fan of Elway).

 

Just Win Baby

Footballguy
Ya know,. even though I grew to not really like Marino because of what a jerk he often seemed to be, I think the over-emphasis on championships when it comes to discussing QB's (they mean something, but some act like they mean everything) has almost made him a bit underrated in the sense that you rarely heard his name anymore in GOAT talk when it came to QB's (before Brady ascended to being, for most, the unquestioned GOAT the last couple years).  For me, the top 3 QB's ever are definitely Brady, Peyton and Montana, and Marino has as good an argument as anyone for being the 4th best (and I say that as a HUGE fan of Elway).


IMO:

Tier 1 - Brady

Tier 2 - Montana, Unitas

Tiers 3+ - everyone else

 

ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
Feel like Bruce Smith is a little low. Expected him closer to 15. Can see him after Reggie, LT and Butkus. Feel like he's right there with Deacon Jones or any other defender. 

 

Anarchy99

Footballguy
IMO:

Tier 1 - Brady

Tier 2 - Montana, Unitas

Tiers 3+ - everyone else
I saw an interesting QB list recently. I figured you would get a good laugh from it. Here was their Top 40:

01 - Tom Brady
02 - Drew Brees
03 - Peyton Manning
04 - Dan Marino
05 - Steve Young
06 - Aaron Rodgers
07 - Joe Montana
08 - Brett Favre
09 - Otto Graham
10 - Ben Roethlisberger
11 - Russell Wilson
12 - Philip Rivers
13 - Bart Starr
14 - Johnny Unitas
15 - John Elway
16 - Fran Tarkenton
17 - Sammy Baugh
18 - Kurt Warner
19 - Roger Staubach
20 - Donovan McNabb
21 - Sonny Jurgensen
22 - Warren Moon
23 - Jim Kelly
24 - Tony Romo
25 - Terry Bradshaw
26 - Ken Anderson
27 - Sid Luckman
28 - Troy Aikman
29 - Randall Cunningham
30 - Phil Simms
31 - Drew Bledsoe
32 - Dan Fouts
33 - Steve McNair
34 - Dave Krieg
35 - Vinny Testaverde
36 - Y.A. Tittle
37 - Norm Van Brocklin
38 - Joe Namath
39 - Kerry Collins
40 - John Brodie

LINK

 

 

STEADYMOBBIN 22

Footballguy
I saw an interesting QB list recently. I figured you would get a good laugh from it. Here was their Top 40:

01 - Tom Brady
02 - Drew Brees
03 - Peyton Manning
04 - Dan Marino
05 - Steve Young
06 - Aaron Rodgers
07 - Joe Montana
08 - Brett Favre
09 - Otto Graham
10 - Ben Roethlisberger
11 - Russell Wilson
12 - Philip Rivers
13 - Bart Starr
14 - Johnny Unitas
15 - John Elway
16 - Fran Tarkenton
17 - Sammy Baugh
18 - Kurt Warner
19 - Roger Staubach
20 - Donovan McNabb
21 - Sonny Jurgensen
22 - Warren Moon
23 - Jim Kelly
24 - Tony Romo
25 - Terry Bradshaw
26 - Ken Anderson
27 - Sid Luckman
28 - Troy Aikman
29 - Randall Cunningham
30 - Phil Simms
31 - Drew Bledsoe
32 - Dan Fouts
33 - Steve McNair
34 - Dave Krieg
35 - Vinny Testaverde
36 - Y.A. Tittle
37 - Norm Van Brocklin
38 - Joe Namath
39 - Kerry Collins
40 - John Brodie

LINK

 
  :hot:

So much wrong with that list, McNabb being the most egregious

 
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Ilov80s

Footballguy
Just Win Baby said:
IMO:

Tier 1 - Brady

Tier 2 - Montana, Unitas

Tiers 3+ - everyone else
So you think Drew Brees and Dan Marino are in the same tier as Joey Harrington and Blake Bortles?

;)  

 

Ghost Rider

Footballguy
  • QB - Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning, Otto Graham, John Elway
  • RB - Walter Payton, Jim Brown
  • WR - Jerry Rice, Don Hutson (would be a bit surprised if another like Owens, Harrison, or Largent made it)
  • OL - T Munoz, C Dwight Stephenson?
  • DL - Reggie White, Deacon Jones, Joe Greene
  • LB - Lawrence Taylor, **** Butkus, Ray Lewis
Thoughts?
I would imagine the 10 I highlighted will be the top 10, as I cannot imagine any of them not being on there at all. 

If I had to predict the order (not the one I'd put), I'd go with: 

10 Butkus
9 Payton
8 Manning
7 White
6 Unitas
5 Montana
4 Taylor
3 Rice (would still my pick for number 1)
2 Brady
1 Brown (seems like everyone always talks this guy up as the best ever)

 
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jon_mx

Footballguy
I feel the same way about Payton. 


Sanders 5.0 yards per carry

Payton 4.4 yards per carry

Huge difference and considering Walter played on better teams, kind of hard to reconcile.  Barry's leg strength, elusiveness, and uncanny awareness are something that may never be matched.  Barry had 15 TD runs of more than 50 yards.  I believe Walter had about 10 (can't find his number, but less than Brown's 12) with 800 more Rushing attempts.  Waltee had twice as many fumbles as Sanders (86 vs. 41).  

 
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Just Win Baby

Footballguy
Sanders 5.0 yards per carry

Payton 4.4 yards per carry

Huge difference and considering Walter played on better teams, kind of hard to reconcile.  Barry's leg strength, elusiveness, and uncanny awareness are something that may never be matched.  Barry had 15 TD runs of more than 50 yards.  I believe Walter had about 10 (can't find his number, but less than Brown's 12) with 800 more Rushing attempts.  Waltee had twice as many fumbles as Sanders (86 vs. 41).  
Sanders is probably #3 all time on my list, behind Payton and Brown. So of course it is possible to make a great case for him.
 

Of course, here you are ignoring all of the things that make Payton’s case. I will post more later. 

 

Ghost Rider

Footballguy
Sanders 5.0 yards per carry

Payton 4.4 yards per carry

Huge difference and considering Walter played on better teams, kind of hard to reconcile.  Barry's leg strength, elusiveness, and uncanny awareness are something that may never be matched.  Barry had 15 TD runs of more than 50 yards.  I believe Walter had about 10 (can't find his number, but less than Brown's 12) with 800 more Rushing attempts.  Waltee had twice as many fumbles as Sanders (86 vs. 41).  
Sanders was unbelievable, but the one drawback to him was his negative plays, which I imagine had to be a lot higher overall percentage wise than the other guys normally put in the top tier of all-time RB's.   And it is not as simple as blaming it on not having a great O-line as E. Smith had.  The great thing about Sanders, his ability dance and move and bust huge players, was also the reason he had so many negative plays. Very much a boom or bust runner.  

 
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Uruk-Hai

Footballguy
Sanders 5.0 yards per carry

Payton 4.4 yards per carry

Huge difference and considering Walter played on better teams, kind of hard to reconcile.  Barry's leg strength, elusiveness, and uncanny awareness are something that may never be matched.  Barry had 15 TD runs of more than 50 yards.  I believe Walter had about 10 (can't find his number, but less than Brown's 12) with 800 more Rushing attempts.  Waltee had twice as many fumbles as Sanders (86 vs. 41).  
What? Those Bears teams Payton played for most of his career were horrible. By the time they got good, Payton was on the downside. The Lions in the '90s were much better than most of Payton's teams in the '70s and early '80s.

I don't have a dog in this fight - both deserve to be ranked highly - but that claim is ridiculous.

 

Uruk-Hai

Footballguy
I'd put Rice at #1 and Taylor at #2, but that ain't gonna happen - Boston would have a collective brain-melt if Tawmy wasn't Top 2.

 

Just Win Baby

Footballguy
Of course, here you are ignoring all of the things that make Payton’s case. I will post more later. 


I posted this here in 2010:

I definitely think as time passes, people forget just how great Payton was. He is my favorite player of all time.

He WAS the offense.

QBs he played with: Bob Avellini, Bobby Douglass, Gary Huff, Virgil Carter, Vince Evans, Mike Phipps, Jim McMahon, Steve Fuller, Greg Landry, Rusty Lisch, Mike Tomczak, Doug Flutie, Jim Harbaugh. Heck, Payton himself lined up at QB a few times. Basically, Jim McMahon was the best he played with. That's not saying much.

Payton played with 1 Pro Bowl QB in 13 seasons: McMahon in 1985. (And why exactly did McMahon make the Pro Bowl? The Bears passing offense was 22nd in yards and 23rd in TDs... McMahon threw for 2392 yards and 15 TDs.)

Not only did he never play with a 1000 yard receiver, he never even played with a 900 yard receiver. In fact, only 3 times in his 13 year career did any Bears receiver top 800 yards, and only 3 other times did any Bears receiver top 700 yards. And there were no good receiving TEs, either. It should come as no surprise that no Bears WR (or TE) made the Pro Bowl during Payton's career.

To reinforce this, consider Chicago's pass yardage ranks during Payton's career: 23 (of 26), 28 (of 28), 21, 26, 26, 28, 28, 22, 17, 26, 22, 24, 14. They finished in the bottom quarter of the league 10 times in Payton's career.

Payton himself led the Bears in receptions 6 times, and had the second highest total 5 other times.

In his last few years, his offensive lines were pretty good, but for most of his career it wasn't. Two of Payton's linemen made the Pro Bowl a total of 5 times in his 13 seasons, all in his final 3 seasons: Jim Covert (1985, 1986), and Jay Hilgenberg (1985, 1986, 1987).

Despite the lack of support, he retired as the all time NFL leader in rushing yards, yards from scrimmage, all purpose yards, and rushing TDs. He retired #1 in receptions and #2 in receiving yards for a RB in NFL history. He retired with the most 100+ yard rushing games and 1000+ yard rushing seasons in NFL history. And after missing a game in his rookie season, he didn't miss another game in the rest of his career, playing 186 straight games.

Aside from all that, Payton was arguably the most well rounded RB in history. He was a great runner, receiver, and blocker. He ran equally well to the outside and up the middle (or over the middle). He was great in short yardage and goalline situations as well as other running situations. He was the Bears' emergency QB, and he passed for 8 TDs in his career. He was the Bears' emergency kicker and punter for part of his career. He didn't return many kickoffs (17), but he averaged 31.7 yards per return, and led the NFL in kickoff return average the one season that he returned more than 2 kickoffs (1975). He was also known as a great leader, and he was such a great person and class act off the field, the NFL's man of the year award is named after him.

I think for all these reasons, he is the best RB, and possibly the best football player, in NFL history.


:coffee:  

 

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