Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Oct 2010

Looking at the NFL Network's Top 20

As everyone knows, the NFL Network is counting down the top 100 players in NFL history with a series of shows on Thursday nights. You can find the list of players here. If you want to debate whether players are in the right place on the list, it's a good idea to know which 20 players are left. And, since I was one of the voters in the "Blue Ribbon Panel," I happen to be in a good position to help out with that.

As I noted when I posted my ballot back in September, the voting process did not actually have us rank players 1-100. Instead, we were asked to rate all players on a 1-10 scale. There are 22 players left who I rated at "7" or above. One of them is Junior Seau, who I had to add as a "write-in" because he was left off the ballot in a colossal error. Of the remaining 21 players, the most obscure is 50s Chicago Bears linebacker Bill George. I'm going to guess that he's the other player missing from the top 100.

That would leave these players as the final Top 20:

Sammy Baugh
Jim Brown
Dick Butkus
Brett Favre
Otto Graham
Joe Greene
Don Hutson
Deacon Jones
Ray Lewis
Ronnie Lott
Peyton Manning
Joe Montana
Anthony Munoz
Bronko Nagurski
Walter Payton
Jerry Rice
Barry Sanders
Lawrence Taylor
Johnny Unitas
Reggie White

If you would like to complain about quarterbacks being rated too high, that makes eight quarterbacks in the top 23 (including Tom Brady at 21 and John Elway at 23).

Here are the players I think were the biggest mistaken absences from the list. These are all guys I rated "5" or higher who did not make the top 100:

Carl Eller
Bill George
Marvin Harrison
Andy Robustelli
Junior Seau
Willie Wood

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 22 Oct 2010

189 comments, Last at 30 Oct 2010, 5:12pm by doktarr


by slipknottin :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 11:48am

What about Warren Sapp and Harry Carson

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 7:26am

Apparently Harry Carson has cancelled his NFL Network subscription because he didn't make the Top 100 ...

by Sander :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 11:54am

Warren Sapp and Walter Jones deserved to be on that top 100 ballot.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:32pm

If you're complaining about DTs who've been overlooked then I'd start with Merlin Olsen and Bob Lilly.

As for Sapp, I reckon he's very overrated. He had a lot of sacks but was not a very good run defender and as a pass rusher he didn't dominate consistently year after year. I always thought that Bryant Young was a better player on worse defenses but Sapp was more flashy and played in a scheme that suited his talents better. I'd say that John Randle and Henry Thomas deserve a long hard look as well.

by Southern Philly :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:35pm

Both Olsen and Lilly were on last night's episode.

Anyone else find it funny that Tom Brady was presented by Derek Jeter?

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:26pm

Ask yourself where Tom Brady went to college. Now ask yourself where Derek Jeter grew up, and was going to play college baseball had he not gone to the minors right after high school. It's not that strange.

by Southern Philly :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:36pm

There are plenty of people that can talk about Brady. To get, of all people, the face of the Yankees to do it made me laugh. This wasn't ARod talking about his childhood hero in Dan Marino. Brady and Jeter have nothing in common other than they lived in Michigan.

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:37pm

Next Rajon Rondo talks about his idol Patrick Ewing!

by Southern Philly :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:53pm

At least that's the same sport.

by tally :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:50pm

Nothing in common?

Brady is totally the Derek Jeter of the NFL.

by Southern Philly :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:01pm

A fair point. All the other players were presented by either writers, contemporary peers/coaches/execs, or players/actors/others who grew up idolizing them. New England icon Tom Brady however gets presented by a Yankee who fits none of those categories. I found it funny, I guess I'm the only one.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:55pm

Would've made the exact same comment.

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:18pm


by billsfan :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:29pm

They've both been photographed wearing Yankee hats.


Not sure if Jeter has a purse, though.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Bobman :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 11:40pm

Come on, they're founding members of the post-season clutchness, starlet-bangin', multi-championship-winnin', articulate athlete, handsome guys club. Tiger Woods is another founding member. Joe Namath is on the board. Matt Leinart's application has been tabled for about five years now and looks like he will not be admitted. Reggie Bush, Vince Young, and Jamarcus Russell all submitted applications when they were drafted, and Bush is the only guy who's gotten past the initial screening.

The criteria are pretty stiff. Two-time SB champ Ben Roethlisberger hasn't got a prayer (unless your definition of a super model or movie star is a passed-out 19 year-old coed, and 40 lbs of surplus facial fat is suddenly the new sexy look).

Regarding Aaron's list, I think Favre is a compiler. There is nothing wrong with that and obviously a guy doesn't last 20 years by being shitty. If he had missed two games in Season 10, would he still have the mythic aura? Don't know. And if the compiled wins and TDs and yardage stats add to his luster, then the all-time leader in fumbles and INTs also has to be reckoned with. A HOF QB to be sure, but top 20 of all time regardless of position? I don't think so.

by Sander :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 8:27am

Well he did win three League MVPs, that's pretty impressive.

by jebmak :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 3:53pm

and Bush is the only guy who's gotten past the initial screening.

Yeah, didn't read that as screening the first time through.

by justanothersteve :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:59pm

True. On the "makes PK go all googly-eyed" list, only Brady currently ranks higher than Jeter.

by Sander :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:05pm

Olsen, Lilly and Randle are all in the Top 100.

And I doubt Sapp is very overrated. Sapp in his prime was by far the best 3-technique in the league, and he was absolutely dominant. They'd have to double-team and chip block him to get anything done, and at his peak he was nearly unblockable. He had a 16.5-sack year as a Defensive Tackle and was a key component in a defense that was the best or one of the best in the NFL for years on end.
Also, don't underestimate the role he played in bringing the Bucs from the laughing stock of the NFL to the Super Bowl. He and Randle changed that undertackle position.

by jebmak :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:42pm

He had a 16.5-sack year as a Defensive Tackle

I thought that bared repeating.


by D :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:30pm

If we are talking about about offensive tackles I would also add Orlando Pace to the list.

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 11:55am

We know Sapp is not on the list because the NFL Network has said that Deion Sanders is the highest network employee. I would doubt very much that Carson makes it above the players listed in this top 20, let alone George, who was All-Pro eight times.

by slipknottin :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:52pm

I didnt mean top 20, I meant make the list at all.

by SteveNC (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 11:58am

Let me guess how many QBs are in the top 24, without even looking? Eight? 8 in the top 23--that kind of cherry-picking of category boundaries I thought was reserved for web sites that don't advertise "innovative statistics".

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:28pm

Well that's a little harsh as FO wasn't soley responsible for this list. You're not the only one who dislikes the qb obsessed media drivel but don't hang it on Aaron (though I wouldn't have given Brady anything near a 10 but that is a different argument).

by Sander :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:10pm

You're misunderstanding his point. His issue is with taking #23 as a cutoff to maximize the impact of your statistic (X QBs in the Top Y).

by tally :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:53pm

Give them a pass there, because that's not even the most optimal cutoff.

7 of the top 21.
8 of the top 23.
9 of the top 25.
10 of the top 33.
11 of the top 46.
12 of the top 50.
13 of the top 51.

Regardless, it's pretty top heavy with QBs and the distribution of QBs on the list are closer to the top than to the bottom.

by SteveNC (not verified) :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 8:21am

I am not arguing that the list is not heavy with QBs. If there are many possible cutoffs to make the point, why would you report the number in 23 (rather than 20, for example)?

by RickD :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:21pm

Because there are 3 more in the next 5?

If somebody else "there were 7 in the top 23" I think that's more informative than "5 in the top 20" since the former representation also tells us that #23 was a QB.

by rob lewis (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 9:56pm

i think steave young should be on the list before brady anyway

by Tim Wilson :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 11:58am

Michael Strahan over Junior Seau? Really? Odd.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:04pm

Strahan was the greatest DE of his generation, no contest. Seau was one the best LB's of his generation, hard to make an argument he was ever the best.

by Tim Wilson :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:11pm

Strahan greatest DE of his generation? Really?

I guess I instinctively didn't think that was the case-- my recollection was that he peaked late in his career and had a few very strong years but was not at an elite level for a long enough time.

Looking at his stats, though, I see that that's not completely true. He had 6 seasons with double-digit sacks. Same as Jason Taylor. After this season, DeMarcus Ware will already have 5. So not automatically elite, but very good, especially when you consider one of those Strahan seasons was the NFL record number (if you count the infamous Favre sack) and one was an 18.5 season.

He played the run well for most of his career, so that helps him. He's not Simeon Rice.

The "generation" tag is a nebulous one, though-- who are you comparing him to? His career spanned 1993-2008. Are you comparing him to Reggie White (16 sacks as late as 1998)? Bruce Smith? Chris Doleman? Jason Taylor (who brought playmaking ability to the table in the pass defense game that Strahan did not)? Demarcus Ware?

I don't want us to assume Strahan is a top 100 all-time player just because he was the best at his position over a 6-7 year stretch where the league was without many elite DEs. If the question is, "Was Michael Strahan a superior player to Simeon Rice and Javon Kearse?," then sure, the answer's yes. But that's not enough to make him a shoo-in for the top 100, by my way of thinking.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:33pm

Where was Bruce Smith? 150 or so sacks in ten years as a 3-4 end!!!!!

by Sander :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:08pm

31st on the list. See: http://top100.nfl.com/

by VinnyMurphSully (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:02pm

I thought the consensus was that he was superior to Reggie, not just because of raw sack totals, but because of his efficacy with inferior teammates.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:34pm

Really? I've rarely heard anyone suggest Bruce was better than Reggie. Also, Smith definitely gets hurt some by the fact that he clearly hung around for a couple years chasing records even when he had become a bit of a liability on the field. Not that Reggie had a dignified end to his career (anyone have his Panthers jersey?) but the talk at the time with Smith was for sure "He's embarrassing himself and crapping on his legacy for really transparent, stat-related reasons."

by Shattenjager :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:37pm

I have never heard anyone say Smith was better than White.

by Dean :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:41pm

I've heard it a bunch. I don't agree with it, but I lived in Redskins country for a while. Magically I started hearing it around 2000 and stopped hearing it around 2003. Go figure.

Smith was a great DE who hung on about 5 years past his prime because he wanted an individual goal.

by billsfan :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:30pm

That's still enough to put a QB in the top 20...

(I also like the Eagles)

by RickD :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:26pm

When both were young, there was some talk that Bruce Smith was the best D-Lineman in the league. Reggie White's rep eclipsed his largely due to higher sack totals and his Super Bowl run with the Packers.

I don't think Smith helped his reputation by sticking with the Redskins long after he was an elite player. Also, White's premature death makes it difficult to have any sensible comparison of the two.

And Strahan is definitely overrated. Not that he was less than an elite DE, but any player who plays in the New York media market gets quickly overrated.

by Dean :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:42pm

Duplicate post deleted.

by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 10:30pm

Bruce Smith had 2 more sacks than Reggie White while playing 3 more seasons in the NFL; White's NFL career was shorter as he spent his first two seasons in the USFL. As such I didn't think anybody considered Smith's advantage in raw sacks to be indicative of a superior career. Moreover, White's peak career was unparalleled - in his first 8 seasons with the Eagles, he averaged just over 1 sack per game; including 21 sacks in a strike-shortened 12 game season.

As for inferior teammates, elite DEs will always be subject to double teams, particularly when they are clearly the best on their defensive line, therefore I doubt that the teammate factor is anywhere near as significant as, say, the quality of the offensive line play is upon the performance of any offensive skill position.

For what it's worth, PFR has Reggie White as the best player (regardless of position) in terms of Career AV, and Bruce Smith as the sixth best. (Granted, I'm from a biased area, but I had never heard anybody suggest that Bruce Smith was superior to Reggie White in any aspect of the game. Whereas NFL Network gave #1 Pass Rusher of all time to Deacon Jones.)

by RickD :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:32pm

It's doubtful that you would have heard such a thing, but there was a lot of talk about how Smith was better. That was especially true when the Bills were at the top of the NFL and the Eagles were continually disappointing.

See Vic Carucci on this:


Carucci argues that White's higher sack totals are somewhat due to the fact that he played in a 4-3 defense, while Smith played in a 3-4. It is much harder to get sacks from a 3-4 line.

Certainly I would reject any analysis that just looked at sack totals.

by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:54pm

Of course, I would agree that raw sack totals aren't enough to determine the worth of an elite DE - my post was merely countering the points brought up by the previous poster (who brought up raw sack total + inferior teammates). I actually didn't remember that Bruce Smith had played in 3-4 for most of his career.

I'd suspect that Reggie White had more disruptive plays in run defense than Smith (at least on a per-game/per-season basis); although even assuming that this assertion is eventually proven correct one would still have to account for the differences between their systems. Perhaps I'll purchase FO premium when they have data going back to 1985, when a complete comparison between the two would be more feasible. ...regardless, I'll probably never be fully convinced in favor of Smith - unlike White, he didn't waste the first two years of his career on the wrong side of history.

by JB (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:37pm

Where is Urlacher on this list?

by Southern Philly :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:10pm

Right where he should be.

Not even sniffing it.

by n8 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:53pm

I think he's ranked right below Jeff George

by Daniel2772 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 4:33pm

Just ahead of Brian Bosworth

by JB (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 7:20pm

Some Bear fans have told me that if Ray Lewis is on this list then Urlacher should be right there.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 7:22pm

Sound liek a lot of drinkign going on today in Chicago. would be good place to be right nwo

by BigCheese :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 11:21pm

As a Bears fan, I can definitely say Urlacher has no place on this list. Bill George does though and it's a sahem we have Micheal Strahan and Troy Friggin Aikman ahead over him (if there is one player that made it that doens't deserve to sniff it, it's him)

- Alvaro

by JIPanick :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:54pm

I want to know where Charlie Essman is, dagnabbit!

On a more serious note, while the position balance is...debatable, I think that a lot of the rankings inside position are pretty horrible.

Montana, Elway, Brady, Favre, Unitas, and Manning are not the best 6 QBs of the post-1960 era by any reasonable measure. Tom Brady is especially questionable. If you want the players with the highest level of play drop Brady, Elway and Favre for Staubach, Young, and Anderson. If you want the guys with the most career value, nix Brady and Montana for Tarkenton and Marino.

Barry Sanders belongs below a lot of guys not on there...did he ever have a better season by DYAR than TD when they were playing at the same time?

WR is fine, at least on this portion of the list.

That covers the positions I know well. I figure the others are just as bad, and I just don't know enough to find the errors. Maybe others will...

Bill George could very easily be argued to be the GOAT at MLB. There's something very wrong with him not being on the list at all.

by ChrisH :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:15pm

Sanders and Davis overlapped for only 3 seasons, 96-98. Sanders led in 96, Davis in 97 and 98. Unfortunately my FO almanac with the Top 100 RB seasons is in storage, but I'm sure someone else will check and note that Sanders has a ton of them, more than anyone other than possibly Jim Brown I believe.

by D :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:26pm

Sanders had 3 in the top 10 and no one else had more than one. He also had 6 in the top 100 which was tied with Brown for the most. And when you consider that Davis played behind a much better O-line I think it's fair to say Sanders was the better player.

by JIPanick :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:39pm

Over 1995-1998, the Lions had 4 linemen named to the pro bowl and one to the all-pro team (per pfr). Denver had 6 and 1, hardly "much better" by that measure. I realize that is a crummy metric, but I don't have a better readily available; if you do, go for it.

You also need to consider Davis' 8 playoff games - they amount to another 1271 yard half-season against (obviously) playoff caliber defenses.

As for Sanders, let's be charitable and not talk about his playoff appearances.

I think that it isn't unreasonable at all to argue that Davis was the better back.

by Sander :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:09pm

Longevity counts too. It's not like TD's peak was higher than Sanders peak in terms of rushing ability or rushing production. Including playoffs is disingenuous because Sanders was on a much worse team than TD was.

TD played for effectively five seasons before he was forced out of the league due to injuries. Barry Sanders played for ten and quit because he couldn't take the losing anymore. You could argue that Davis' peak was higher, which I don't agree with, but a higher peak does not make a better back overall.

by Tim Wilson :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:18pm

Agree 100% on the longevity issue-- that's why to me it's a little nuts that Sayers is so high on the list. Would you have rather had Emmitt Smith for his career or Gale Sayers for his career? I was raised by Bears fans, love Gale, and frequent his bar here in Chicago, and he was obviously a singular runner, but this isn't a ranking based on pure talent, right? I assume it's weighted towards production?

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:26pm

Sayers played in the 60s, careers weren't as long then. He also had an insanely high peak, and people discount his special teams contributions.

He produced 9397 all purpose yards in 66 games, Jim Brown produced 10954 in 82.

For the record Terrell Davis produced 8887 in 78 games, during an era were offensive yards are easier to get and medical technology keeps careers going longer.

by Tim Wilson :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:33pm

Yep, fair points, but I would argue that "all-purpose yardage" is not a valuable metric, because a higher percentage of Sayers' yardage was kick and punt return yardage, while a higher percentage of Brown's was rushing yardage, which is harder to come by. Kick return yardage can be piled up more easily and should not be counted as equally valuable-- certainly Sayers gained more of it than an average player would, but it needs to be discounted in some way versus rushing yardage.

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:44pm

If you come up with a good way to do it, I'll be happy to read it. Sayers remains the all time yards/kick return leader, so he should still look fairly good.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:09pm

but Pro Bowl balloting can be affected by rushing yards ... people may assume the Lions' line was better simply because Barry ran behind it. (I can assure you that was not the case.)

Yes, Sanders was unable to carry his team during those 6 playoff games in his career, mostly because opposing teams chose to plan for Sanders rather than whoever was standing in as QB Lions. (This was true even in their lone playoff win: IIRC, Jack Del Rio, a Cowboy at the time, was quoted roughly as saying that they took Sanders away and dared Kramer to beat them, and "by golly, he did it.")

By contrast, Davis had John Freaking Elway at QB. Taking the running game out of the picture and leaving it up to the QB was simply not an option. TD was an excellent back, yes, but he had one hell of a supporting cast. Sanders had Herman Moore and some guys.

If you think Barry Sanders belongs below a lot of players on that list, I can only assume that you never saw him play.

by JIPanick :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:32pm

They also overlapped in '95 - Davis 233, Sanders 159. Davis had nearly 100 fewer runs.

As another comparison, Emmitt also takes 4 of 6 of the years we have DYAR for both him and Sanders, most of them not close (either way). I'd guess that in DYAR Smith will take both other years (91 and 92) they were both starters, as the stat lines for both backs those two years were very similar to the 93-95 window Emmitt dominates. Sanders didn't come in ahead until the Switzer collapse began.

I suspect that Sanders is a guy that is going to look meaningfully worse in "real" DVOA rather the approximation used in previous "Top 100 Seasons" articles, because I think the play by play will see and penalize his boom-and-bust style more than applying a formula to conventional numbers does.

by tally :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:57pm

Even then, DVOA/DYAR can't say much more than Smith/Davis, running behind their lines, in their respective offenses, were more effective than Sanders behind his line and in his offense, without being able to dissociate context from the individual.

Using subjective measures and our own observations, we can suggest that Smith and Davis were both running behind better lines and had the benefit of a better QB and offense.

by Lyford (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:57pm

Tom Brady is especially questionable.


If you want the players with the highest level of play drop Brady, Elway and Favre for Staubach, Young, and Anderson.

What did Roger Staubach, for example, do that makes him a much better player than Tom Brady? I understand that you can't compare numbers because the game is different, but what makes Staubach a superior player in your eyes? I apologize if this is an old topic, but if so, I've missed it, and I'm curious.

by piratefreedom (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:33pm

better haircut (duh!)

by tally :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:40pm

I agree. To follow up on the Jeter comparison...

Brady may have been overrated because he won early in his career, and while an integral part of those championships, he got a lot more credit than perhaps he was due.

But because winning those Super Bowls forms the central theme of any argument about Brady, his other merits get overlooked, like the fact that he has consistently been a great QB for most of the last decade by any statistical individual measure as well, with only Manning to match or exceed those accomplishments.

by JIPanick :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:32pm

It is the numbers, actually. If you adjust for era, Staubach and Young come off as Peytonesque, although with shorter careers.

Go here and take value/att : http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=3378
Or here, and again value vs. career length: http://armchairgm.wikia.com/index.php?title=The_100_Greatest_Quarterback...

Or just observe that (per PFR) only three quarterbacks have led the league in pass eff (in terms of ANYA) more than twice, and all three rang that bell four or more times. The three guys? Roger Staubach, Peyton Manning, and Steve Young.

by BSR :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 8:48pm

Both metrics are incredibly flawed and are weighted for QBs with completed longer careers. Further, you totally missed this note in the Pro-football reference write up:

"It’s important to remember that this is just a measure of each team’s passing game, assigned to the quarterback on the field for those plays. Obviously the quality of the offensive line, the ability of the receivers, the versatility of the tight ends and running backs, the philosophy of the coaches, the strength of the schedule, and good old randomness have a significant impact on the above numbers. The reason for these posts is to accurately measure quarterback statistics, and nothing else."

The author of those statistics even recognizes that it isn't a total measure of the greatest quarterbacks but rather just another data point.

Frankly, a list of greatest QBs without including Montana, Brady and Elway is just crazy.

by JIPanick :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 9:49pm

Which is why I told you to keep an eye on the value to career length ratio, rather than the list of names. Brady's career is already longer than Staubach's or Young's anyway.

I never said any of the above weren't great QBs. I simply stated that Elway was not one of the six most efficient post-1960 quarterbacks, Montana was not one of the six with the best career value, and Brady was not top 6 by either measure.

I also asserted that Staubach, Young and Ken Anderson were more efficient than Elway or Brady.

Which part of that do you think is erroneous?

by RickD :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:45pm

Having watched all of these QBs, I have to conclude that efficiency alone is not of that much value. Of the group you list, it's clear in my mind that Elway accomplished the most. Steve Young had some of the greatest seasons in NFL history, but his career as a whole is hampered by the years he sat on the bench, or in Tampa Bay. I would rate Staubach and Brady as roughly equal.
Ken Anderson profits from the fact that he played in the first West Coast offense. If you inflate his valiue by comparing him to his peers, and thereby say that he was superior to subsequent West Coast QBs, you are mis-using the tool of historical comparison.

Of course, the entire exercise that NFL networks is engaged in is rather silly. It makes no sense whatsoever to try to rate the "Top 100 players" and claim that the order you produce has any real meaning, other than popularity. Why is Ray Lewis a "better player" than Tom Brady? There's no real answer to that question. But at least they played in the same era. How do you compare Joe Montana and Dick Butkus?

by underthebus :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 3:35am

Just wanted to note that the PFR stats don't even count Young's rushing stats.

by JIPanick :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 3:47pm

Or Staubach's.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 4:44pm

And again, DYAR is a poor way to measure the individual value of a RB, especially one like Sanders. DYAR devalues long plays severely. When you use the stat it makes it seem like any scrub could rush for 1500+ yards for the Lions - it is curious that no one has come close since Barry left. DYAR also implied that it was somewhat difficult to run for the Broncos - and every fantasy football player knows that wasn't the case. Gary, Anderson, Droughns, Portis all did very well for those Broncos.

Even PFR doesn't use DYAR when evaluating Sanders. They ranked Jim Brown ahead of Sanders (which I don't agree with) and rank Payton as his equal. Every other back is below him - including Smith who is a DYAR monster.

It is possible for the top 10 list to look like:

1) Brown
2) Payton
3) Nagurski
4) Sanders
5) Sayers
6) Smith
7) Thorpe
8) Simpson
9) Grange
10) Dickerson

I didn't realize that they polled every dead sportswriter in the country to make this list - must have been tallied in Chicago.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 12:56pm

S. Largent anf k. Houston nowhre tobe found. Not right

by D :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:22pm

I don't mind the QB position being a bit numerically overrepresented because of the relative importance of the position, but the fact that 68 of the players were offense is really dumb. Bill George and Seau got hosed.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:38pm

Ratio not 68/32. It 63/37 if go by platers best position. Like bednarik. He played. center and linbacker but beytter at linrbacker si when other peopke did count for this bednarik get counted as defensive guy..

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:22pm

I watched a few of the early ones. Sam Huff's inclusion seems dubious. Especially at the exclusion of Bill George.

The highlight reel for Huff was pathetic, it looked like he was just standing there letting running backs run into him.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:37pm

Yeah, Huff = Urlacher 10 years from now. He's one of those guys that everyone talks about being great as though it is a given... but he was never one of the truly dominate, amazing players of his generation. And then the highlights are weirdly unimpressive for what everyone is saying about him...

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:50pm

That's a terrible comparison because Urlacher has been probably the most athletic player at his position ever. He was able to do things no other linebacker could. Like covering receivers 1 on 1.

You can think Urlacher is overrated if you want to but it would be because he makes amazingly athletic plays that cloud people's minds. He's like the anti-Huff.

by JB (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 7:32pm

To bad with all that athleticism he never learned how to play with leverage, take on blocks, or to not over run so many plays.

If we are going to point out how "athletic" he was/is then lets equally point out how average/below average he has been in the run game and playing near the LOS.

by Sidewards :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:25pm

I thought Huff was looked at as Ray Lewis before Ray Lewis, a linebacker that absolutely never was in the wrong place or called the wrong setup.

Also: Dominant, not dominate.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:11pm

I really didn't mean their style of play, I just meant that everyone always works from the foregone conclusion that they are "one of the greats" and I can't for the life of me see why. In the case of Urlacher, it probably is the athleticism, but for Huff it was more that he played a big part in a bunch of important games for one of the signature teams for the league. (And, to a certain extent, he epitomized the broke-nosed Tough Guy-ness that is so important to the NFL's image...)

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 7:55pm

Huff was not as good as Chris Hanburger, a guy who is somehow still not in the HOF.

by TayloreatsBrady (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:37pm

John Hannah > Dan Marino?!??!?!

You can't even use the stupid "he never won a ring" argument for that one.

by otros :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:00pm

Just a question taking advantage of your post. Lets take the best guard on NFL's history. Ahead of what QB (Top 5, top 10, 20?) do you put him? How about tackles and center? and the rest of the "trenches" positions (defense)?

by Dean :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:37pm

Best guard?

Hog Hannah.


by TayloreatsBrady (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 4:51pm

In my book, Marino is above Brady, Elway and Favre. Below only Montana. On par with Johnny U.

I would argue that a top-5 QB eclipses any interior-lineman, that's for sure. Top 10 QB would too.

by spenczar :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:20pm

While anybody would agree that they'd rather have the #10 QB of all time than the #1 guard, that's not what this list is looking at. It's not "Who would you want most on your team," but rather "who was the greatest?"

I don't think its hard to believe at all that the best guard of all time could be a "greater" player than the #10 QB.

by TayloreatsBrady (not verified) :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 8:33pm

No...I'm not basing my opinion on "who would I want on my team". I think an interior lineman's skills and abilities, even the GOAT, isn't even close to a top 10 QB when it comes to "greatness".

by RickD :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 2:03pm

Your user name suggest bias might be playing a role in your judgment. :)

by jmaron :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 1:39pm

Aaron - as a Vikings fan I'm really curious as to how you would rank Eller among the DE's of all time?

I was just a child when he played - but watching some old film recently (Dallas vs Minn - Hail Mary game, old Super Bowls). He looked quite a dominant player to me.

by Eddo :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:22pm

Honestly, this seems like a pretty good top 20. I'd say the weakest three are Favre, Lott, and Nagurski. And even then, the only players, in my mind, who should clearly be above any of those three are Marino and Elway ahead of Favre.

The more I think about it, Favre being ahead of Marino and Elway is ridiculous. Brady should probably rate ahead of Favre, as well.

My biggest problem with this list is the placement of quarterbacks. Terry Bradshaw at #50? In my world, he'd be off the list entirely. Ditto Troy Aikman. And yet both are placed ahead of Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton (who is inexplicably ranked #91, behind Kurt Warner)!

by Shattenjager :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:27pm

Fran Tarkenton always gets shortchanged in historical discussions/lists.

I agree about Aikman as well.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:41pm

And it's so frustrating how Tarkenton gets shafted. If he won even 1 Superbowl, every would say he was better than Marino or Elway.

by Shattenjager :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:49pm

We can see exactly how he would have been treated. John Elway through 1996 was Fran Tarkenton.

If John retires at that point, he isn't on the list at all. Two Super Bowls later (though I'm not sure the second one affected things), he's able to make the top 25.

Note: I'm not going to discuss where Elway actually belongs, because I will freely admit that I'm not rational about John Elway.

by otros :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:05pm

The funny thing is that Warner will prolly get shortchanged historically too.

Do you really believe that all the Elway talk is just about the 2 rings? I really believe pre 97 Elway makes the list. Sure not 25, but the rings have to count for something right? (While I know rings are a measure of team success, and this list is personal excellency, I really think being a champion matter in how history evaluates players. And rightly so.)

by Shattenjager :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:42pm

As a Broncos fan, yes, I do think it's about the rings. I heard "The Buck-toothed Boy's gotta go" on a daily basis from about 1990 through 1996. They even drafted a replacement for him in 1992, when he was about to turn 32. He was much less highly thought of before 1997.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:05pm

Yeah, it's hard to remember, but in the early 90's, Elway was lumped in with Jim Kelley as being over-rated and he was frequently just sorta disregarded. It's like Dan Marino took the slot for "QB who never won a Superbowl, but still deserves our respect" and anyone else without a ring was a choker or a failure or whatever.

The Tarkenton comparison is perfect in that way. Also, those guys didn't always have exactly what you would call "great teams" around them...

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:15pm

Tarkenton was flat out horrible in the playoffs.

Out of 11 postseason games

He had only 1 game with a great than 60% completion percentage and 6 below 50%
He had only 2 games with more TDs than picks but 6 with more picks than TDs
He had no game over 250 yards passing but 5 with under 150 yards passing

I don't particularly like QB rating as a stat but he only had a 58.6 rating in the playoffs but a 80.4 rating in the regular season.

by RickD :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 2:07pm

In the middle of his career, when he should have been in his prime, Kurt Warner was benched in favor of Eli Manning.

I'm in favor of recognizing Warner's incredible achievements - the two best Super Bowls in history, a decade apart, for different teams. But no other elite QB disappeared in the middle of his career in the same way Warner did. Was it 3 years ago that people were seriously talking about whether he should be Matt Leinart's backup? I don't remember the timing exactly, but could you imagine anybody ever talking that way about Elway or Marino?

by Southern Philly :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 2:41pm

Yes. Warner got benched for Manning when he was 33. When Elway was 32, the Broncos drafted Tommy Maddox in the first round. So clearly at about the same age there was a conversation in Denver about sitting down Elway.

by sn0mm1s :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:42pm

Warner was benched because Eli was supposed to be the Giants QB of the future. It had absolutely nothing to do with talent. The Giants felt that the top pick in the draft should play - not ride the bench. Same with Leinart. Warner was great when he was healthy and on the field.

by Spoon :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 10:48am

That's an apologist's excuse. The Giants could never have had Warner on their roster if he hadn't already been released by the Rams for poor play. I suppose if you wanted then you could argue that the Rams just wanted to develop Marc Bulger, but three makes a trend. At what point do you start to lay this trend at the feet of Kurt Warner? Do you think a Hall of Fame quarterback has to sign on as a back-up in the prime of his career? Would the Patriots or Colts or Saints ever dream of sitting Brady or Manning or Brees right now in favor of a highly-touted rookie?

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 10:37am

If Brady or Manning or Brees had a chronic, debilitating injury to the thumb on his throwing hand, then yes.

Also, Warner never signed on as a backup. Both with the Giants and the Cards, he signed on as a starter.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 8:03pm

In addition to the points made in the last couple of posts, Warner was clearly better than Eli that year. If the Giants were trying to win the most games, they would have kept Warner as the starter. Instead, they decided to try and develop their rookie.

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:35pm

I think you're underrating Favre. If nothing else his longevity has to count for something.

I'm pretty sure he is significantly better than Brady.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:40pm

Also, it will be clearer after Favre retires and all the commentary starts focusing on his BEST years, that the man was unreal in his prime. Brady probably has 1 season that rivals Favre's best 5 in terms of sheer quarterbacking brilliance and "holy shit, did he just do that?!" moments.

by Arkaein :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 6:14pm

Agreed. I can't stand the guy now, but winning 3 straight MVPs (first two perfectly legit, the third probably should not have been shared with Sanders but was still a very good season), with the huge number of 30 TD seasons, and owning every major cumulative passing record by a country mile says a lot.

Manning has clearly surpassed Favre in terms of sustained excellence (as opposed to very goodness) over a long time, but guys like Warner and Brady have not had more than about half as many very good seasons as Favre has put together.

by Nathan :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 5:11am

It's hard to say. In a market like Green Bay in which staying competitive is a huge achievement in respect to the viability of the franchise, Favre is a better quarterback than Brady, considering the sheer length of his career as an elite QB. In the shorter term, in a more "normal" situation, I find it hard to envision a scenario in which I would pick Favre over Brady on a year to year basis. Sure, Favre will always give you a punchers chance, if you will. But if it came down to it, with the SB on the line and down a score? I'm going to go with Brady. If I'm the owner of the Packers and I have to choose between Favre and Brady, knowing the scope of their careers, I'll pick Favre for the long term. But if I want to win this year? I'll take Brady 10x out of 10.

by RickD :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 2:17pm

Favre hasn't been significantly better than Brady for several years.

Favre back in the 90s played for several years at roughly the same level that Brady has played since 2007. But the down side of Favre is particularly egregious. He has ended his team's playoff run with an absurdly back pick how many times? Twice in the last three years. Brady has never killed his team in the same way. (Yes, there was the Champ Bailey pick, but that was it.)

Brady's playoff success is, in my opinion, underrated by people who favor Favre or Peyton Manning. Interceptions are very bad to throw in vital situations and young Peyton and old Favre have both been notorious for throwing them. Brady has managed to avoid having that kind of period in his career.

Clearly, right now Brady is the better QB. And he talks like he wants to achieve the kind of longevity Favre has had. Thanks to Bernard Pollard's illegal hit, he'll never threaten any kind of consecutive game streak, but I've always thought that kind of streak counted more for luck than anything else. (In Cal Ripken's case, I thought his career suffered due to his insistence on playing through injury.)

by Led :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 3:55pm

"the same level that Brady has played since 2007"

That's only two actual seasons, plus the first five games of this year, all with Randy Moss on the field. Brady had his worst DYAR of the season in his first game without Moss and the team's offensive DOVA dropped from 42 to 35. I do give them credit for gutting out the win, however. We'll see how this turns out. Brady was never a dominant player before Moss. He was a very good QB from 2004-2006 but not one of the best in the league. (For comparison, an elderly Randall Cunningham, Jeff George and Daunte Culpepper (twice) have all had top 5 DVOA seasons passing to Moss. Brady's obviously better than them, but it shows what kind of an effect a motivated Randy Moss has on an offense.)

"He has ended his team's playoff run with an absurdly back pick how many times? Twice in the last three years. Brady has never killed his team in the same way. (Yes, there was the Champ Bailey pick, but that was it.)"

It happened against the Colts in 2006. It should've happened against the Chargers, but the knucklehead failed to take a knee and Troy Brown stripped him. Brady also famously was stripped on the last drive against the Raiders in 2001. And he threw 3 picks with a fumble against Baltimore last year. Seriously, if the tuck rule call goes the other way and the Chargers DB falls to the ground, how different does Brady's career look? I'm not trying to trash the guy. Even great or just very good QBs throw interceptions or have bad games, even in the playoffs. Brady was just fortunate to have his happen after his reputation as Clutchy McClutchster was already established. In my opinion he's a very, very good player who has also benefitted from an inordinate amount of good fortune in his career. If he puts up a couple more truly great seasons without Moss, I'll be happy to revise my opinion.

by tuluse :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:26pm

I was talking about his career as a whole, not directly comparing Favre right now to Brady right now.

by t.d. :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 7:37pm


by Shattenjager :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 2:32pm

It's not an awful top 20 by any means, but neither John Elway nor Alan Page makes it?

I know they still made it fairly high (Elway #23 and Page #43), but they would make my top 3, let alone 20.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:01pm

Look long and hard at Elway's stats, and tell me what it is that I'm supposed to be seeing.

Alan Page, you're absolutely right on. I wouldn't bat an eye if he was in the top 10. 43 is way too low.

by otros :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:06pm

Wrong crowd I know, but maybe you shouldn't be looking at stats, instead some old footage?

by Shattenjager :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:30pm

Look long and hard at Elway's offensive teammates: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/TEZXM
You know it's a murderer's row when Ken Lanier is number two in approximate value. Just for the sake of comparison, here are some other QBs in the same manner:
Bradshaw: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/z1qyd
Young: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/xiKvh
Aikman: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/DwxvW
Marino: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/Y1m9s
Peyton Manning: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/UQviY
Fouts: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/KhPsi
Ken Anderson: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/CyJ73

And I'm not rational about Elway anyway, as I admit freely.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:40pm

Approximate value for receivers is derived from receiving stats. So part of the reason that Elways' receivers' stats were relatively poor is that Elway's stats were relatively poor compared to people like, say, Manning.

Is there any doubt that Peyton will get another 4500 yards and 33 TDs, despite the fact that he's losing two receivers to injury per week?

by JIPanick :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:48pm

Still, his wideouts were considerably weaker than most other great QBs until late in his career.

I think the strongest argument in favor of Elway being better than his statistics is that not only was that the opinion of observers his whole career, but when he did finally get help comparable to that of some of the others at the end of his career he did put up numbers to match what what anyone short of Staubach and Young had done in the 36-38 age bracket.

by Shattenjager :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 12:09am

I said "teammates" not "receivers."

by BigCheese :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 11:37pm

Hang on a second there. Your top three players in the history of the NFL are John Elway, Alan Page and... who?

I REALLY want to know.

I'm guessing Josh Reed...

- Alvaro

by Shattenjager :: Sun, 10/24/2010 - 1:55am

John Elway and Alan Page are that ridiculous, that Josh Reed belongs in the same sentence?

I realize that, especially on a stats-oriented website, Elway is put in the same category as Bradshaw and Aikman and so not highly thought of, but Alan Page was absolutely without question a truly dominant player.

by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:10pm

QB's who should not be in the top 100 if this is about the "best players":

1. Terry Bradshaw
2. Troy Aikman

QB's massively overrated by their ranking:

1. Favre (assuming he's in the top 20)
2. Elway

It's hard to argue with Brady after 2007, although he Troy Aikman for the first half of his career.

RB's off the list:
Gale Sayers
Earl Campbell

Overrated RB's:
Emitt Smith
Tony Dorsett (can't quite convince myself to leave him out!)

WR's off the list:
Michael Irvin

OL that should be on the list:
Willie Roaf, Orlando Pace, Walter Jones, certainly at least 3-4 others from the pre-1990 era (but I'm no expert on that).

Bruce Smith being out of the top 20 is absurd. And if you have that many quarterbacks, where in the name of sweet baby Jesus is Dan Fouts? KEN ANDERSON is not on the list.

Is Randy Moss really the second best WR in NFL history?

I actually think we're already getting to the point that we can say Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in NFL history (not necessarily the best player - I think Jerry Rice is pretty convincing on that point, and if he wasn't, there's Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White, both of whom revolutionized their positions - but there is just nobody who has been as consistently great at his job for so long.

And for nonstatistical people who like "winning", he has a super bowl ring, and his team has a record of 35-10 in games decided by 8 points or less while he is playing quarterback. For comparison, Tom Brady is 20-11... and represents a statistical outlier even so.

by Tim Wilson :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 4:08pm

A few things:

-No, the list is not arguing that Randy Moss is the 2nd best WR of all time. Alworth, Hutson, and Rice are all ahead of him, for starters, and there may be more, I did not do a close examination.

-Not sure if you have an anti-Cowboys bias, but you ding Emmitt, Aikman, Irvin, and Dorsett in your post. So that's a bit suspicious. That said, Aikman probably doesn't belong on the list. I'm okay with that. Irvin, however, unquestionably does.

Check out this post from Pro Football Reference:

Irvin compares very favorably to Jerry Rice in both of their primes and is clearly one of the all-time greats at the position.

-Emmitt Smith belongs where he is. I personally think he should be higher, but saying that he should be LOWER is nuts. Longevity and durability count. If you're a team owner or GM, would you rather have Emmitt Smith's career or Gale Sayers'? Emmitt's or Earl Campbell's? To me the answer is Emmitt every time (although I like Sayers and understand that he was a singular player). Emmitt was the best combination of blocking, running, and receiving of his generation (better than Sanders if measuring across all 3 categories, although Sanders was obviously a uniquely superb runner), and Emmitt's career numbers (not just the yards total, but his DVOA numbers and his staggering 1990-2000 "prime") make him unquestionably a top 30 all time NFL player.

by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:02pm

Upon reflection:

1. You're absolutely right about Emmitt Smith. In my mind, my rationale for disparaging Aikman was that he was on the great Cowboys teams that ran so well, and didn't really produce much (a prototype of the Trent Dilfer Super Bowl). So I can't knock Emmitt too, and a second look at Emmitt's numbers is convincing. I had underrated how good he was at his peak. Mea Culpa.

2. I'm not sold on Irvin, but I'm not prepared to defend it on grounds other than "He's not Jerry Rice," and of course no one is.

3. My Randy Moss point was more along the lines of "Is Randy Moss even the best WR of his generation?" I could see arguments for Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, and maybe even Isaac Bruce.

by spenczar :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 6:53pm

Re: 3.
Isaac Bruce?? He wasn't even the best receiver on his own team, apart from three seasons (95-97) out of a 15-year career..

by D :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 8:56pm

Issac Bruce was better than Torry Holt in 1999 and perhaps 2000 depending on your metric of choice. It wasn't until 2001 or so that Holt really over took Bruce for the number 1 position.

by tuluse :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:07am

Aikman might not have been the greatest QB ever, and might be overrated by a significant margin, but comparing him to Trent Dilfer is an insult to occupation of profession quarterback.

by Nathan :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 8:33am

I'm of the opinion that people don't give Aikman nearly enough credit. He did what was asked of him and it resulted in wins and rings. Comparing him to an anomaly like Dilfer is an insult.

Aikman and Bradshaw.... stats are fun and all but at the end of the day there's something to the fact that rings are rings. We can make fun of Herm for saying it's why you play the game but it doesn't make it untrue. Look at what happens every week at halftime... momentum may not fit into our neat mathematical constructs but anyone who's watched a lof of football will tell you it's a real thing. You know when you have it and when you don't. I'll take 22 guys who have gotten there and delivered any day.

by billsfan :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 10:13am

It's supposed to be. How many "reductio ad Dilfer" arguments were there in the pre-2006 irrational Manning/Brady threads?

(I also like the Eagles)

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 3:31pm

Take a look at this list before you judge Aikman and Bradshaw so harshly.


Neither were great regular season quarterbacks, but they excelled in the post season. It's not that small of a sample either. To be fair to Bradshaw, he was elite late in his career in the regular season, beyond terrible early.

by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:03pm

They were mediocre quarterbacks put in a position to succeed. They were every bit as good as Drew Bledsoe, who I do not see on the list.

by Jerry :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 6:00pm

They were both drafted by 1-win teams and immediately inserted into the lineup as rookies. Both were able to survive the early beating and grow along with their teams. (Don't forget that Bradshaw was calling his own plays.)

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 7:57pm

When the number of playoff attempts is dropped to 200, your boy Bledsoe appears on the list:


He's easy to find, since he is second from the bottom. So, yeah, they were every bit as good as Bledsoe, and then far more, at least in the playoffs.

by Ajit (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 4:47pm

Aaron, why do you think they chose to leave off marvin harrison from the list all together? Its not like his accomplishments were hard to realize...ie-he played a position in which statistics are often used to define his position-and his statistics are fairly monumental across the board. A bit surprised he was left of.

by Bobman :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 12:07am

Yeah, what he said.

It is a little puzzling, especially since Harrison did it the old-fashioned way--good speed, meticulous routes, great hands and body control, and a ton of work with his QB. It looks like Manning is getting all the credit for 88's career and that's really unfair.

When he broke an all-time record, it wasn't by one TD (like Manning, Brady, Holmes, Tomlinson, Alexander?) and it wasn't a freakish out of character season like Brady's 2007--Harrison 143 receptions in a season when he was sometimes triple-covered blew away the previous record by 14%, but he had a handful of seasons over the century mark. How many OTHER seasons did the other record breakers above rush for 18+ TDs or pass for 40 or even 30?

Until his big knee injury in his 12th (?) season, he was compiling stats at a rate that was very close to Rice, the undisputed GOAT. You do that for three seasons, meh. You do that for 8-9, people notice. 12 years? That shold merit inclusion. 15 years? Top-25 inclusion.

If he was a 6-5 freak who ran sloppy routes and pulled down a lot of poorly thrown jump balls but compiled similar stats, I could see people dismissing him. But Harrison was a top-3 WR for close to a decade. Plus all those compiled stats, wich work in Favre's favor....

Maybe he's getting the Eddie Murray "unfriendly to the media" payback treatment.

by Benny (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 5:31pm

I've generally liked the NFL top 100 Series.... up until last night. You really mean to tell me that Dan Marino is sandwiched between Bob Lily and john Hannah?!?! Is that a joke? Dan Marino at # 25 is really a gross injustice to the legacy he left, especially being "bested" by Elway and Brady. The NFL Network should know that football is the ultimate team sport, in which for 17 years Marino was basically a one man show with ZERO RUNNING GAME. In 17 years, his only year with a 1,000 yard rusher was the immortal Karim Abdul Jabbar. While it's interesting that A-Rod was a Marino fan, I would have preferred a peer of his doing the presentation, like a Bruce Smith type of guy (he once compared Marino to the Joe Dimaggio of pro football). Marino is a top 10 player in history.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 6:41pm

You don't need a running game to win - but for most of the SB era (until very recently) you needed a top 10 scoring. Marino, for most of his prime, didn't have that. I think many are underestimating Brady though. His 1st two SBs he won with negligible offensive talent.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 7:24pm

Marino was incredible, but he's got a really interesting and maybe not-so-flattering career shape. He has one season that is, in my mind, by far the greatest season ever played by any football player.

Beyond that? Well, he remained the league's best player for about two more years. And then, by about the time he was 27, he wound down towards "above-average" level and pretty much stayed there the rest of his career. He made the pro bowl in only 9 of 17 seasons. Peyton Manning, who was often compared to him, especially before Manning won a Superbowl, has made the pro bowl in 10 of 12 seasons. Manning has the MVP-level early-career play, but he kept going. Marino tapered off.

I can imagine it's disheartening for a QB to throw for 4700 yards and 44 TDs and go 8-8 (seriously, WTF Dolphins?) but Marino probably could have picked up multiple Superbowls if he had stayed that good. Instead, he kind of tapered off quietly over the course of a decade and a half.

Essentially, he did a reverse-Elway. The really impressive seasons are at the beginning of his career instead of the end.

by JIPanick :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 7:46pm

You can debate the order the quarterbacks are in, but being between the best DT ever and possibly the best guard ever is manifestly *not* an insult.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 7:20pm

How come shula had no problem coahcing run game beforoe Marino? Guy even took d. woodley to super bwol as starting quaretrback. then team drafts marino a nd shula cant find a run game anymore. Maybe Marino have somehting to do with it? Maybe marino so goofd at p[assing that make Shula overlook RBs or not devote enough time to finsing better ones. Maybe Shula didnt; think he needed gerat ones anymore. Remember used to coach T. Matte, Csonak, Morris, Kiick, Willaims, Nottingham, malone, Franklin and some others all before Marino. Then Mairno get there and Miami runnign game medicore or crap moist years after that

so it make you ask--- Did D,. Shula get dumb after tema draft Marino or did pay less attention to RBs after gett Marino becuausse thought could get by without top nothch RB corpse from that poiint?

by John (not verified) :: Fri, 10/22/2010 - 8:40pm

Every good team needs a top notch RB corpse stuffed in somebody's locker. Reminds everyone what they're playing for: immortality and premature brain death.

by Led :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:11pm

This is a good question. Or, at least, it's a question I've asked myself so I think it's good.

by Misfit74 :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 12:57am

Ogden over Walter Jones? I'm not sure I agree with that. It's tough for me to distinguish Ogden, Jones, or Orlando Pace but I believe Walter Jones should be well within the top-100.

by tuluse :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:06am

Their peaks are similar, but Pace actually had a much shorter career than the other 2.

by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 8:25am

woudl rnak them
1. ogden
2. joens
3. pace

so think panel made right move getitng ogden on and other two not on list

by dmb :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:18pm

I agree with your second two sentences, though I find it odd that you disagree with Odgen over Jones and then follow that with a statement about you have a hard time evaluating their relative values.

I know it "shouldn't" really count in evaluations like these, but I've always given Jones extra kudos because of the simple fact that he played for 12 years in such a violent league without once taking serious painkillers. It's a little unbelievable that somebody unable to take anything more than Tylenol could play more than a few games in today's NFL ... and to do it for a dozen years at nearly the highest level possible? That's simply remarkable.

by Jerry :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:13pm

Do you know that Ogden, or Pace, or Munoz, or anyone else for that matter, did take stronger medicine? I don't mean this as a shot at Jones, but it's all anecdotal.

by dmb :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:56pm

No, I don't, but I would be astonished if they didn't. And yes, Jones' inability to take painkillers is anecdotal, but it's not like he's likely to have been slipping in pills or shots away from the cameras. It's because of a kidney condition, not a personal preference. And I'm being quite literal when I say he can only take Tylenol; he can't even take anti-inflammatories.

I agree that there's no way to know for sure how unique it is to play in the NFL and not take any sort of serious pain or anti-inflammatory medication. But I think it's probably highly unusual to stay in the league for a dozen years without doing it once; the following comes from a 1996 SI article about Brett Favre's addiction to painkillers (I bet you can guess who wrote it!):

"Like many pro football players Favre would -- almost without thinking -- take a numbing injection or a painkilling pill to get through a game. It's tough to determine just how widespread this practice is, because painkillers aren't detected in annual NFL drug screenings. But in the wake of Favre's revelation, Robert Huizenga, a former team doctor for the Oakland Raiders and a past president of the NFL Physicians Society, said, 'This is not an isolated incident. We want people to play hurt, and when someone doesn't play hurt, he's no longer our hero. We need a system where a physician, without fear of losing his job, can say to an athlete, 'The injury is not healed. You cannot play.''

"As he walked out of the Chicago Bears' training complex last Thursday carrying a small box of club-prescribed anti-inflammatory pills for a bulging disk in his back, linebacker Bryan Cox said that he thought half of the players in the NFL needed painkillers or anti-inflammatories to make it through a season. Phil Simms, who quarterbacked the New York Giants for 14 seasons before retiring in 1993, estimated that each NFL team would need a roster of 250 players to make it through a season if games were played with only healthy, nonmedicated players."


by QCIC (not verified) :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:33am

Brady and Seymour really don't even belong in a discussion of the top 100 players. I am not sure Brady would be in my top 20 QBs if you are adjusting for era, much less top 100 players...

Tarkenton is too low. Steve Young is too low.

Moss should be behind Rice maybe, no one else. That he could have been even better doesn't mean much to me, he was still easily the best.

Most importantly anyone who doesn't think Manning is clearly #1 GOAT doesn't watch enough football. No one has ever been better. I have no idea how anyone could even put him in the same sentence as Brady.

by dmb :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:25pm

Below I've copied and pasted a comment about Don Hutson that I wrote when Aaron initially posted his ballot for this series. I hope it changes your mind about Moss as the #2 receiver of all time. At the very least, maybe next time you'll at least think to mention Hutson.

*Hutson retired with 99 TD receptions; the next highest career total at the time was 37 -- barely more than a third of Hutson's total. His 99 receiving scores stood as the league record for 44 years, despite playing in an era where seasons had 10-12 games per season. And when Steve Largent finally managed to break the record, he didn’t set the bar much higher: he retired with 100 career scores. Long after the enormous liberalization of the passing game, Hutson is still 8th all-time in this category. (And Hutson’s career record of 0.85 TD catches per game still stands.)

*His record-setting career totals for catches and yards were also more than double that of his nearest “competition”; Hutson had 488 catches for 7991 yards, compared to the second-place total of 190 receptions for 3309 yards.

*Hutson’s records for leading the league in major receiving categories may not be broken for a long, long time. Hutson led the league in receptions eight times; next-closest is Lionel Taylor leading the AFL five times. If you stick to the NFL, nobody else has done it more than thrice. Hutson’s seven seasons of leading the league in receiving yards also stands as the highest total, besting Rice by one. Rice’s six seasons of leading the league in receiving TDs is also second to Hutson, who had eight such seasons.

*Hutson also had a peak season that was just absurd. In 1942, an 11-game season, Hutson caught 74 balls for 1211 yards and 17 TDs. The “composite” second-place receiving line for that year was 27 catches, 571 yards, and 8 TDs. (That is, different receivers were second-place in those categories, but if you combine the second-place number in each category, that’s what you’d get.) Hutson’s production in 1942 would be very good for a WR1 playing a 16-game season NOW. (Keep in mind that it was more than 30 years before defensive backs were barred from knocking receivers around the field at their leisure.) If you extrapolate his 1942 stats to 16 games, you get a line of 108 catches for 1761 yards and 25 TDs.

*Hutson is credited with being the first player to run specific, precise routes; Hutson’s z-outs, buttonhooks, hitch-and-gos (among others) remain staples of the game decades later.

*Other accolades: Hutson was a two-time league MVP and a member of the Hall of Fame’s charter class.

Look, cross-era comparisons are fraught with difficulties. There are plenty of factors from Hutson’s era that "artificially" enhance his accomplishments: fewer teams, lower level of competition, offenses that were loathe to pass and therefore depressed his contemporaries’ accomplishments, etc. But at the same time, Hutson was playing two ways (he also had 30 career picks as a safety), only had 10-12 games per season to rack up those totals, played waaaaaaaaaay before DBs were outlawed from knocking down receivers anytime and anywhere, and had to forge his own path as a player who could dominate a football game by catching forward passes. It’s tough to see how Hutson could have been more dominant at his position given the era he was in, so I see little reason to give him anything less than a “10.” Even if you don’t view his credentials with the awe that I do, calling it “disgusting” to rate him a 10 in terms of worthiness of being deemed a top-100 player of all time is probably meaningless hyperbole.

(Credit should go to the NFL HoF website, the NFL Record and Fact Book, ESPN, and Cold Hard Football Facts for supplying this info…)

by QCIC (not verified) :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 3:52pm

I just don't find that a worthwhile comparison. Its like comparing apples and oranges. I can sort of understand the late 60s, and 70s guys, but 40s? I just don't see it as something I (or 99% of people) can usefully comment on.

by Jerry :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:16pm

This entire project involves comparisons of dissimilar fruit.

by billsfan :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 6:48pm

But I think we can all agree that, in general, apples are disproportionately better than oranges.

(I also like the Eagles)

by dmb :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 6:53pm

Definitely. I've only bothered to learn about apples, so I'm going to argue for the inclusion of my favorite apples, which would necessitate the exclusion of oranges.

by jebmak :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 7:39pm


by dmb :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:40pm

I'm a little confused. You claim that Moss should be the #2 receiver (at lowest) on this list, which is of players from all eras. You also claim Manning should be #1. Both of these statements make implicit claims about all of those players' predecessors, not just the ones you remember or know something about. If you don't think making those comparisons are "worthwhile," then don't make those claims.

Secondly, I was comparing Hutson to players from his own era to give you an idea of how dominant he was in that era -- the only method we really have to do cross-era comparisons. If you want to say that even that approach can't yield anything meaningful, that's fine, but then I hope you don't hold any opinions on Red Grange, Sammy Baugh, Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, or Fran Tarkenton; none of them were contemporaries of Rice or Manning, either.

Finally, if you're just still having a hard time putting Hutson's accomplishments into context, one way to think about him is as an innovator. Before Hutson, there simply was no such thing as a receiver who could take over a game. Imagine that in today's NFL, an offensive guard emerged who was so dominant that his team's offense could suddenly tailor its gameplan in a completely new way so that it focused on utilizing that guards' abilities, and the team became an offensive powerhouse because that player's completely new (and to this point, almost literally inconceivable) way of taking over a football game. That's what Hutson did -- but for receivers. For all the athletic talents that Randy Moss has, those talents would be nearly irrelevant to the game of football if not for the developments that Hutson's play spurred. People talk in reverential tones about how Lawrence Taylor was so good that he literally changed how the game is played. Hutson did the very same thing -- only much more radically.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 6:18pm

I think it is perfectly sensible to say.

A) I am interested in a list of top 100 players.
B) I have strong somewhat justified opinions about how that list should shake out.
C) I have little to no justified opinion about the ranking of players who played before say 1965.
D) I doubt many other people have much justified opinion about them either.

I wasn't saying you weren't one of those people.

Anyway you seem very invested in this. Did you actually see Hutson play? I find it odd all the very strong opinions have on very circumstantial evidence when we have wildly better evidence about modern players. I try to adjust my confidence threshold to the evidence I have available.

by dmb :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 6:51pm

You ignored my first point, which Jerry echoed: any opinion about an ALL-TIME list implies an opinion about players from every era. When you put Moss at #2 because you're unaware of pre-merger players, you make the implicit underlying assumption that pre-merger players are worse. Even though you claim to have "no opinion" about these players, by omitting them on a list that is supposed to consider all players, you're making the claim that they're worse, whether you mean to or not.

If you amend (A) to "I am interested in a list of top 100 post-merger players," then your position makes sense. However, this is not such a list. It makes no sense to call your opinions about "how the list should shake out" as "justified" if you don't have any knowledge of half the players who could merit inclusion on it. It's like making an all-SEC list comprised entirely of players from UF, UGA, LSU, and Auburn because those are the only teams I know much about, then claiming it's a valid list because I have a knowledgeable opinion of UF, UGA, LSU, and Auburn. (That's a pure hypothetical; I don't know anything about the SEC or any of those teams....)

Adjusting one's confidence in his opinions to the amount of evidence is certainly a smart approach (and well put), but the strength of that evidence should count, too. Unfortunately, I did not see Hutson play. I also never had the fortune to watch Wilt Chamberlain play, and yet I think nearly every reasonable basketball fan -- young or old -- agrees that Chamberlain belongs on the very shortest lists of the most dominant basketball players in history. I'm not knowledgeable enough to have a strong opinion on whether, say, Tom Gola had a better career than Clyde Lovellete. Similarly, I'm probably not going to weigh in much on a debate about Don Looney or Gaynell Tinsley. But just as I'd interject if somebody valued Dwight Howard more than Wilt Chamberlain on a list of all-time Centers, I'm going to object when somebody suggests that Moss had a significantly better career than Hutson.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 10/24/2010 - 1:12am

Well, as I have posted before, my cutoff line for the modern NFL is around 1975.

Prior eras weren't really professional (players had to hold down other jobs) and the best athletes often went to baseball.

Prior eras weren't integrated. The Redskins didn't even have a black player on the team until 1962. Many teams would only carry an even number of black players so that the white players didn't have to room with black players.

PEDs weren't common knowledge until the mid 1970s.

College all star teams - up until the early 1960's used to beat NFL Champions. The 1962 Packers - with 10 HOFers (many on this top 100 list) got beat by college seniors. How competitive could the NFL be if that was the case? The college team from From 1934 until 1963 won about 1/3 of the games.

I think guys like Don Hutson and Jim Brown played, on average, against significantly weaker competition. I have no doubt Hutson and Brown would be great in today's NFL - but I don't think Brown would be leading the league in rushing 8 out of 9 seasons or that Hutson would have 4000 yards receiving to beat the sum total of yardage of the 2nd place WRs. Just as I don't think that Chamberlain would score 100 pts or that Babe Ruth would outhomer entire teams.

As long as "greatest" doesn't mean the same thing as "best" these lists are OK. Hutson might be greater than Moss - but he isn't better. I feel the same way about Brown when compared to Payton and Sanders.

by dmb :: Sun, 10/24/2010 - 10:52am

I should choose my words a bit more carefully; wherever I wrote "better," I meant "better career." I assume that everyone has enough common sense to know that this isn't a debate about who would accomplish more in today's NFL. For lists like these, I think nearly everyone accepts that the relevant question is how dominant a player was at his position, given the era he was in.

It's certainly true that there are a lot of factors of Hutson's era that facilitated his feats, but don't forget that there were some characteristics that made things tougher, too. Hutson played more than three decades before the major liberalization of passing rules. He had to play both ways, without the benefit of modern training. And he had to be a pioneer to succeed; before him, there simply wasn't any precedent for being a player who could make a consistently huge impact on games by catching forward passes. There's not really any good way to judge how much these factors negate the advantages you mention, which is why, in your words, it only makes sense to be talking about "greatest."

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 10/24/2010 - 1:18pm

Hutson played 60 minuets per game. Greta safetyman. 23 interceps over a 4 year period a t one poitn in carere.
good quality placekicker too.

First play fro,m scrimmage in career? 83 yard touchdown catch.

led league in catches 8 times in 11 years.

NFL MVP 1941, 1942

by jebmak :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:14pm


by tuluse :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:30pm

I'm willing to admit Hutson was #2, but can anyone think of a 3rd receiver who should be above Moss?

by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 5:40pm

P. Warfield= Moss before Moss. Warfuield also hahd great character and big winner. a bunch of 72 dolphisn say Warfield key to team. had to be double teamed all time and becuause of this run game got even better. helpd browns and dolphins win league champisonhips.

by Shattenjager :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 8:17pm

I looked at this before and thought Warfield might be an answer. Glad to hear someone who knows more than I do says so.

by dmb :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 5:50pm

I think you could make a case for Raymond Berry, but I don't think you could find a consensus for anyone else going before Moss. Personally, my "top-10 WRs of all-time" list goes approximately like this:

1) Hutson and Rice
10) Moss, Berry, Harrison, Alworth, Largent, Owens, Carter, and Other (Biletnikoff or Warfield), not necessarily in that order

by Ajit (not verified) :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 2:10am

I think people are being very harsh to brady...but with that said...the question is...without his rings, is he better than some of the qbs hes ahead of? Think about it, what makes brady ahead of steve young, marino, or elway? The trouble with superbowl wins are they give the casual fan and lazy sportswriter the evidence to mix up correlation and causation. They see three sb wins and no playoff losses and say, "well its obvious how we explain this...hes the best qb ever." And the best part? People like bill simmons can attach whatever psychological mumbo jumbo they want to explain his success...hes clutch, ice water in his vains, j special "it" quality, bonafide winner compared to manning the choker...etc etc. Of course, fast forward several years later and his 500 playoff record and no additional rings are largely ignored...as is the fact that his passer rating in the playoffs is actually below peyton manning's.

by Ajit (not verified) :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 2:29am

O and Tarkenton absolutely got jobbed on this list. My god, what more could the man have done for his team? Other than the most delusional steeler fan, does anyone think the steelers would win less superbowls with Fran over Bradshaw? Selection committees are supposed to be beyond such biases.

by erniecohen :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 9:39am

How in the world can you rank players without a standard for what you are measuring? Peak value or total career value? Ability or success? Regular season or postseason also? Superiority at his position or VAR?

by chemical burn :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 1:22pm

high motor. grittinesss. nastiness. lunch-pail-y-ness. will of a champion-i-ness. these are all legitimate measures of a man's greatness.

by jebmak :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 4:15pm

Don't forget skintone light-y-ness.

by JIPanick :: Sat, 10/23/2010 - 3:52pm

Madden's Swagger rating.

by Smeghead (not verified) :: Sun, 10/24/2010 - 5:57pm

Irvin > Largent??? That seems like a pretty hard case to make. They played in adjacent eras where Irvin had the more favorable passing environment and the better team and QB, but Largent still had the better overall body of work. Surely nobody argues that rings are the defining measure of a WR.

It's interesting that -- if you're right about the top 20 -- there are no DTs on this list who have taken a snap within the past 20 years ... and also no OTs, despite the present-day sexiness of the position. Ogden, Pace, and Jones had 27 pro bowls and 15 first-team all pro slots among them. Is it that they had ~coterminous careers, and they look like the three-headed knight from Monty Python?

... obviously it's a preposterous donative to NYC to have Broadway Joe on this ballot at all. You have to wonder if he was goosed into the 100th position at the counting stage. Was it a Diebold ballot, by any chance?

by CoachDave :: Sun, 10/24/2010 - 6:12pm

I was extremely excited by this series until 4 minutes into the first episode when I saw the 100th ranked player: Joe Namath. Uh...wut?

Then I very quickly realized it was going to another "media obsession circle jerk" that the NFL Network is famous for.

And now to see Brady over Marino, Bradshaw at 50, Warfield at 71?...what an abortion.

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 10/24/2010 - 7:38pm

yesh wrfield at 71 very bad. shoudl have been top 40. Didnt play for Raiders but have to admit guy amazing receiver

by Mike Elseroad (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:53am

Where's Drew Brees, Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen and Thurman Thomas? Seau and Marvin Harrison should be on there as well.

I've seen all episodes so far, but what has got my blood boiling is that Gale Sayers was ranked ahead of Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson and OJ Simpson.

Sayers may have been a treat to watch play, but he only played 64 games in his career. He possibly couldn't have beens so spectacular that was "better" than the NFL's All-Time leading rusher, 2 2000 yard rushers and a back (OJ) who by almost any adavanced measure (i.e. Football Outsiders, Pro Football Refernce.com and What-If-Sprts.com) had the greatest season ever by a rb.

Stuff like that makes me wonder if the NFL will ever catch up to baseball when it comes to objective analysis.

by tuluse :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:49am

OJ will be eternally underrated as a player because he killed his wife. Dems the breaks.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 10:42am

You could complain (legitimately) about a lot of things on this list, but the one thing you really can't say with a straight face is that there aren't enough QBs.

by t.d. :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 2:02am

I disagree. Quarterbacks are disproportionally the most important players on the field, by a huge margin. Swap out Brady for Jay Fiedler (a decent, but average, quarterback), and the Pats probably don't have any rings.

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 10:41am

"Stuff like that makes me wonder if the NFL will ever catch up to baseball when it comes to objective analysis."

Baseball has guys in the HOF who weren't even valuable players. Guys still win the CY Young award based on Wins. Hitters win the MVP based on stats that really don't mean anything (BA, RBI, etc)

by Eddo :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:30pm

"Baseball has guys in the HOF who weren't even valuable players."
Name one. Even totally undeserving guys like Jim Rice were good, valuable players. They just aren't valuable enough to be enshrined, objectively.

"Guys still win the CY Young award based on Wins. Hitters win the MVP based on stats that really don't mean anything (BA, RBI, etc)"
Not so much any more, though (especially if Felix wins the AL Cy this year). I think it's fairly clear baseball is miles ahead of football when it comes to objective analysis.

by tuluse :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:40pm

Of course baseball is miles easier to analyze individual performance compared to football.

by Mike Elseroad (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 11:57pm

That's basically true. But when a player (i.e Gale Sayers) is rated above others (i.e. Emmitt Smith, OJ Simpson, Eric Dickerson) in a so-called "Greatest Ever" list that was prepared by alleged NFL experts, who obviously used subjective opinions rather than actual production, I have a problem with that.

These "experts" are supposed to edeucate the fans. When they rank Sayers above the 3 guys I mentioned, they are doing fans, casual and har core alike, a disservice.

by Eddo :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 9:06am

No argument here :)


As for Sayers, as much as it pains me to say it(*), the other commenters are correct in that he really doesn't belong ahead of Smith, Simpson, and Dickerson. Sayers was an incredible talent, deserves to be on this list for sure, but just didn't accumulate enough value due to a short career to be placed where he was. For the same reason Ken Griffey, Jr.(**), doesn't belong in a top-25 list of all-time baseball players (though his career is long enough, he just didn't do enough because of injuries).

(*) My dad only recently admitted that Payton had a better career than Sayers; that's the household I grew up in.

(**) My favorite baseball player growing up.

by Nathan :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 3:31am

I haven't seen the program since I don't get NFL network but Jurgensen doesn't make the list at all??? I'm too young to have seen him play live but in the NFL Films segments I've seen he really impressed me as a pure passer. Threw SUCH a beautiful ball. I've searched around youtube for highlights and he doesn't seem to have much of a presence but in the few NFL Films segments he appears in I saw him make some jaw dropping throws. Funny delivery but a gorgeous ball, reminded me of Rivers. Enough to make me ask my old man about him.

by max :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 7:44am

How is Larry Wilson not one of the top 100 players? I think he is an oversight. He belongs in the top 50.


by doktarr :: Sat, 10/30/2010 - 5:12pm

top 10, in some order:

Jim Brown
Dick Butkus
Don Hutson
Peyton Manning
Joe Montana
Walter Payton
Jerry Rice
Lawrence Taylor
Johnny Unitas
Reggie White