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03 Sep 2010

Top 100 Players: Our Ballot

by Aaron Schatz

Tonight, the NFL Network is showing the first episode in a ten-part series on the Top 100 Players in NFL History. Much like the network did with the America's Game series a few years ago, the list was chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of including both current and former NFL coaches, players and front office personnel, as well as noted NFL media members, Hall of Fame voters and league historians.

I'm very proud to say that I was included as part of the blue ribbon panel this time around. It was quite an honor and recognition of how far FO has come since we launched in 2003. With the show starting tonight, I want to share my Top 100 ballot with all the readers.

The vote did not involve actually picking 100 players in order. We each got a ballot that listed all Hall of Famers along with a list of about 40 current and recently retired players. For each player, we voted between 1 and 10, giving the top players 10 and players who shouldn't be on the list 1.

With a list of so many good players, it was really impossible to narrow it down to just 100. I finally decided to limit myself to 120 players. I gave those players a rating between 2 and 10, and every other player got a 1. Even with that limit, I had to made some really hard choices. The last two players I cut from my list were Walter Jones and Ozzie Newsome, and if you believe I should have had them higher, well, I'm not going to argue with you.

Part of my problem came from "write-ins." The ballot left space for us to add players who were not on the list otherwise, and I thought there were some rather egregious omissions. The most important missing name was Junior Seau, who made 12 Pro Bowls and was first-team All-Pro six times. I have no idea how he was left off the list. I ended up adding four other write-ins along with Seau: Champ Bailey, Drew Brees, Antonio Gates, and Willie Roaf. I also considered Nnamdi Asomugha, Rodney Harrison, Troy Polamalu, and Richard Seymour, but in the end they didn't make the cut. If any of these players don't make the NFL Network's Top 100, you can blame whoever forgot to add them to the official ballot, although I'm sure guys like Seau and Brees garnered at least a few other write-ins.

One problem with a list like this is that all our advanced play-by-play data isn't going to help much with players before 1993. In the end, there are only two players who I really put on the list solely due to DVOA. Tight ends have been more important in the last 20 years than ever before, and Antonio Gates has four of the top ten seasons in that span, so it would be hard to leave him out. The other player was Michael Irvin. Considering that Irvin had more DYAR than Jerry Rice in two of Rice's best years, I figured I at least had to make sure he was one of my 120 players, even if he wasn't that high.

Without DVOA to use for players from before 1993, I ended up making a table with four different stats: Pro Bowls, First Team All-Pros, P-F-R's career Approximate Value, and number of years as a starter.

I also considered the rankings from when Sporting News did a Top 100 NFL Players of All-Time list a couple years ago. You'll find that here. I used that primarily to help with earlier, pre-merger players. (I'll fully admit to having very little knowledge about guys who played before 1950.)

Finally, I took my final list and ran it past both Mike Tanier and Bill Barnwell for their opinions.

Here is the result, my ballot for the NFL Network's Top 100 Greatest Players series. Players from the single-platoon era are listed with their offensive positions.


10: Sammy Baugh, Tom Brady, Otto Graham, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana
9: John Elway, Dan Marino
8: Sid Luckman, Johnny Unitas
7: Brett Favre
6: Steve Young
4: Drew Brees
3: Bobby Layne, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach
2: Dan Fouts, Fran Tarkenton

By the way, Terry Bradshaw was 44th on that Sporting News list mentioned earlier, and he was the only player from the Top 50 of that list who I left off my list of 120 players.

Running Backs

10: Jim Brown
9: Walter Payton, Barry Sanders
8: Marshall Faulk, Marion Motley
7: Eric Dickerson, Bronko Nagurski, Emmitt Smith
6: Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson, Steve Van Buren
5: LaDainian Tomlinson
4: Red Grange, Jim Thorpe
3: Lenny Moore, Gale Sayers
2: Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas

Tony Dorsett was the hardest player to leave off here.

Wide Receivers

10: Don Hutson, Jerry Rice
7: Raymond Berry
6: Randy Moss
5: Marvin Harrison
4: Terrell Owens
3: Elroy Hirsch
2: Lance Alworth, Michael Irvin, Steve Largent

Tight Ends

6: Tony Gonzalez
4: Antonio Gates
3: John Mackey
2: Kellen Winslow

A very modern group, but it was really hard to stick guys like Mike Ditka and Charlie Sanders ahead of all the great linemen and defensive players.

Offensive Tackles

10: Anthony Munoz
7: Forrest Gregg, Jim Parker
4: Orlando Pace, Jon Ogden, Art Shell, Ron Yary
3: Lou Creekmur, Willie Roaf
2: Ron Mix

As I said above, I probably should have added Walter Jones. I guess I could have gone with 121 players.

Interior Offensive Line

7: John Hannah
6: Mel Hein, Jim Otto
5: Larry Allen
4: Gene Upshaw
3: Danny Fortmann, Bruce Matthews, Jim Ringo, Mike Webster
2: Dermontti Dawson, Randall McDaniel

Hmmm. I don't think I noticed that I had one offensive lineman three points ahead of any other offensive linemen. Oh well.

Defensive Tackles

10: Alan Page
9: Joe Greene, Bob Lilly
8: Merlin Olsen
6: Randy White
4: Leo Nomellini, Warren Sapp
3: Buck Buchanan, Henry Jordan

Merlin Olsen started for 15 NFL seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 14 of them, which is pretty remarkable.

Defensive Ends

10: Reggie White
9: Gino Marchetti
8: Deacon Jones
7: Bruce Smith
5: Carl Eller, Andy Robustelli, Michael Strahan
4: Willie Davis
3: Jack Youngblood


10: Lawrence Taylor
9: Dick Butkus, Ray Lewis
8: Jack Lambert, Joe Schmidt, Mike Singletary, Junior Seau
7: Chuck Bednarik, Bill George, Jack Ham
6: Derrick Brooks
5: Willie Lanier, Ray Nitschke
3: Bobby Bell, Sam Huff
2: Ted Hendricks

Surprise: Derrick Brooks made more Pro Bowls than any of the five linebackers I have listed below him, and more All-Pro First Teams than any of them except Bell.

Defensive Backs

9: Deion Sanders
8: Night Train Lane
7: Ronnie Lott, Rod Woodson
6: Herb Adderley, Mel Blount
5: Emlen Tunnell, Willie Wood
4: Willie Brown, Ed Reed
3: Champ Bailey, Jack Christiansen
2: Darrell Green, Ken Houston, Larry Wilson

Special Teams

I think that kickers and punters have a place in the Hall of Fame, but no kicking specialists are worthy of being on a list of the 100 players in NFL history.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 03 Sep 2010

300 comments, Last at 03 Sep 2011, 4:50pm by Elsa25BRADSHAW


by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:25am

Champ Bailey ahead of Darrell Green? Also, I think Peyton Manning is so far ahead of any other quarterback to play football that he would have been my only 10 at the position.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:00am

Brady at 10, the same score as Montana, Baugh and Graham? That's one man-crush you've got there, I'd have given him a 2 or a 3. (I thought that the irrational debate had subsided because everyone has realised that Manning is the superior quarterback. Am I just assuming that?)

I reckon Emmitt Smith is too high and Sayers is too low.

In terms of production, I'm not sure how easy it is to say Randy Moss is better than Terrell Owens.

Allen over Upshaw? Not sure how you can make that case stick. How on earth is Dermontti Dawson not in the Hall of Fame?

I think that when his career fades into the distance Strahan will start to look less like a top ten end all time (I don't think he's close now but he played for a big club and does a lot of adverts). Seymour might be the worst player on this list, he was a brilliant player for about 3 1/2 years, he hasn't been that guy for a while. I can think of quite a few better players than those two. Doug Atkins? Jared Allen is probably better than those two.

Sapp seems to be a sap to stats compilers at DT, I always thought that Bryant Young was the better player. A comparable pass rusher and far more accomplished run defender. I don't know if I'd push for BY on the list (probably would as a niners fan) but I wouldn't have Sapp on it.

You seem to be very light on 4-3 outside linebackers. If you strip away the hype is Ray-Ray really better than Lambert or Singletary?

If there's a name missing at DB then where is Jimmy Johnson? Dr Z used to say he was one of the best three he'd ever seen. Was Sanders the best corner ever? I know his publicist thinks so but even in his own time Rod Woodson might have been better.

On the whole, it's a pretty good list, which is probably quite tough to put together out of a very large number of players.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:07am

This is the problem with everyone's argument when it comes to Brady vs Manning.

On on the one hand, every fan and pundit agrees that Montana is one of the greatest QBs of all time. That's obviously based off his playoff success. But look at this regular season numbers. He didn't put up numbers like someone like Dan Marino did.

So when Tom Brady has one of the highest playoff winning percentages of all time, won 3 rings, and took at team to an undefeated season, that suddenly doesn't matter cause Manning put up MVP regular seasons. Even though Manning has a 500 record in the playoffs and his teams have been bounced in their first round games (whether it be a bye or not) 6 times. Despite winning 1 super bowl, the Colts were arguably the biggest underachiever in the playoffs the last decade.

So you can't have it both ways.

Either being the greatest ever is decided by your playoff performances and Super Bowl rings, in combination with the regular season as a factor, obviously, or not.

You can't say Montana is great cause of the rings, but Brady isn't.

Be consistent, that's my problem. People attribute different factors of success to different QBs to rationalize their own biases.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:18am

And not to mention, Brady does have the greatest single season performance of any QB of all-time in 2007 with the 50 TDS and undefeated season.

One more thought...

I think Manning is the more skilled QB than Brady, but that doesn't make him "greater" on a list like this.

Being the greatest of all time doesn't mean you were more skilled than everyone else. It means you achieved greatness (duh) on a level other players didn't.

I'm sorry, Manning hasn't done that. People forget even in Manning's Super Bowl year, he didn't actually play that well for the first 2 and a half games of the playoffs.

He had a 70 QB rating, which was his 3rd worst playoff performance ever. He threw 3 interceptions in round 1 against the Chiefs. In Round 2, he threw 2 picks, no TDS and only 150 yards in a close win against the Ravens. And in the AFC championship, he played terrible in the 1st half, throwing a pick six. Obviously, he led the great 2nd half comeback. Even in the Super Bowl, he only threw 1 TD, 1 pick and for 247 yards.

Point being, look at the playoff numbers, not impressive.

The perception of Manning in the playoffs is alot different than the reality.

So define success whatever way you want, but don't get butt hurt when people actually think Brady is one of the greatest. Cause the only justification for Manning over Brady is regular season numbers and the perception in the media and from fans.

by Bobman :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:08pm

Bobby W, time to re-start that old thread.

You said: "Being the greatest of all time doesn't mean you were more skilled than everyone else. It means you achieved greatness (duh) on a level other players didn't."

Agreed. You argue that Manning did not, which I think is wrong.

Manning's SB run in the playoffs was poor statistically, no question about that. They owe that trophy to their D and O balance as much as anything.

But you also said "The perception of Manning in the playoffs is alot different than the reality."

I am not sure what your perception is, but the general one is that he's a choker. However, did you know that his passer rating and Brady's in the post season are virtually identical? That in the Colts' high-profile playoff losses to the Steelers, Chargers, and Chargers from the 05-08 seasons, he had HIGHER ratings than the winning QBs in those games? So while the losses might tarnish his rep, they were not exactly on account of him. In other playoff losses, one OT loss
involved the D allowing a 200+ yd rushing performance (that ever happen in new England? no...) and the winning score in another was a late-game 68-yard romp by Eddie George (Manning's 1st playoff game in which he was decidedly average, but did not "lose" the game). That's five losses that contribute mightily to his rep and his .500 average, but were not lost by him.

Please don't go on about Brady's 2007 season: He played a different game than Manning ever did and he played at least six more quarters to get those numbers. Manning sat out the final quarter (in some cases a quarter-plus) of 3-4 games and all but three plays of the finale. How can you compare countig stats whenone guy plays nearly two more games than the other. By that logic, Jamal Lewis's 2,006 yard season was way better than anything Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, etc every produced. And it just ain't so.

Here's a good example of Brady's 2009 that is often overlooked: Against two teams, the Jags and Titans, he had (rough numbers) 10 TDs, 0 INTs, and a rating over 130. Against the rest of the league, he was decidedly mediocre. I know he was recovering from injury and don't mean to say he's mediocre, but when you just take a handful of stats without context, you lose the true meaning.

"Brady wins post-season and Manning doesn't" is one of those simplistic arguments that does not hold water.

Okay, FO staff, I'm prepared for this to be deleted. But HE started it....

by BSR (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 1:58am

A couple of quick comments:

Did you count all the playing time comparing Brady's 50td season to Mannings 49td season? I thought it was a lot closer then you would think since Brady had the opportunity to sit down for quite a few fourth quarters.

As for Brady's 2009 season, can we do the same for Mannings playoff season? Lets take away those wild card round games where he is playing teams like Denver. I think you would find a similar context.

The reality is that Brady has had a better DVOA then Manning since 2007 and 2009 and may have in 2008 as well if he wasn't out the whole season with injury.

by Andrew Potter :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:25am

The reality is that both are truly outstanding quarterbacks, the best of their generation. Trying to decide whose outstanding is more outstanding, or whose best is the bestest, is little more than argument for argument's sake.

This is especially true when it's almost always being debated by people who have an irrational preference for one over the other and will choose whatever conditions (statistics or otherwise) they feel will justify their preference. If Brady played for the Colts and Manning played for the Patriots, most of the same people would be using the exact polar opposite arguments for their positions. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that - irrational love for one team above all others is one of the foundations of professional sports - but let's not pretend we're actually going to get anywhere by arguing whose best is better.

by troycapitated p... :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 6:30pm

Just to nitpick 1 point. Peyton's QB rating (90.9) for the game against the Steelers was not higher than Ben's (95.3), though it would not shock me if FO stats favor Peyton, given the defences involved.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:08pm

Quick, what's Brady's yards/attempt in the playoffs? What's Manning's? What's Drew Brees's? What's Jake Delhomme's? Matt Hasselbeck? Kurt Warner? Brett Favre?

Would it surprise you to find out that Brady is the worst of that list? Would it surprise you further to find out that it's not even close?

by Nate Dunlevy (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:11pm

Manning has a top 10 all time QB rating in the playoffs. Higher than Brady's.

Perception and reality?

by Basilicus :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:25pm

A. They're both really good QBs, the two best in the league right now and for the past several years.

B. Arguing historic greatness when it gets to that unfathomable, overwhelming level requires grasping at straws. The debate is far, far past the point of diminishing returns and any conclusions drawn will be immediately suspect in nature, their acceptance fleeting at best.

C. Therefore, any decisions as to greatness between two players at that historic level do not depend on stats or playoff wins, but really just come down to personal preference.

D. In conclusion, Brady's way better.

by Entropy :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 1:26pm

Manning's really good, Brady's just good. You state it as a fact that Brady is the second best in the league right now, but I'd have him at 6 behind Manning, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rivers, and Palmer. 10 is a major stretch. 1 or not-on-the-list would be reasonable.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 1:57pm

Roethlisberger? Bit of a stretch I'd have thought. Rivers too, he's good but I don't think it's fair to say he's that good just yet.

Palmer though? Seriously? When's the last time you watched Carson Palmer play? I wouldn't even have him in the top 10 at the position. I'd have Peyton Manning, Brees, Brady, Rivers, Rodgers, horned-helmet-wearer-who-must-not-be-named, Eli Manning, McNabb, Romo, Flacco, Ryan, and Schaub all ahead of Palmer at the moment. I rank Palmer in the same band of quarterbacks as Garrard, Orton, Cutler, and Henne - middle of the league, solid contributors, neither terrible nor awful. Palmer used to be brilliant, but he simply hasn't been the same player since his knee injury.

by billsfan :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 6:24pm

R'berger has two Super Bowls (*before Brady had two*) and a higher playoff YPA. Every justification you use for Brady's greatness also elevates Ben.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 2:52am

I haven't used any justification for Brady's greatness, so if your reply's actually to me that's a bit of a silly statement. I will, however, point out in response to your statement that Brady has three (not two) Super Bowl wins and playoff YPA is hardly the only other justification people use for saying Brady's great.

I do, however, look forward to seeing Roethlisberger break the single-season passing touchdown record (surely he has to in order for "Every justification you use for Brady's greatness [to] also elevate Ben."). I like the Steelers generally so that is something I would genuinely enjoy.

by billsfan :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 10:54pm

My bad... I lose track of who said what, sometimes before they say it, when we get into Brady/Manning territory.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 8:29am

No worries. You're far from the only one. That's a big part of what makes the entire discussion so entertaining/intolerable (depending on your perspective).

by Jim G (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:40am

By that same logic, shouldn't Bradshaw be on the list?

Montana won with a team that most people remember for having a prolific offense while Bradshaw won with a team known for having a prolific defense. I think Brady is more Bradshaw than Montana. Defensive coach, best corner in the game, best front 3 in football, excellent special teams, ball control offense in 2 of the 3 super bowl years. Heck, the first super bowl is probably the Jets blueprint this year. On top of that, Montana won big games with touchdowns and Brady won big games with field goals.

Brady should not be placed on that top level. A low 9(maybe) or a high 8 seems reasonable, but I would put a 6 or 7 before I put 10. It is just too high a plateau to reach when half of your career was spent being a game manager.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:52am

Montana's stats, both in the playoffs and in the regular season, absolutely steamroll Tom Brady's.

Montana has an adjusted yards/attempt career average of 7.4. That includes his twilight years with the Chiefs.

Since the end of his career, the passing game in the NFL has taken gigantic leaps, first in around 1995, and then in 2004. The passing game in the NFL is stronger than it has ever been.

Brady's adjusted yards/attempt career average is 7.3.

But what about the playoffs, where Brady becomes superhuman and stuff? Montana's figure is 7.8, which was absolutely incredible for his era. As a playoff QB, Montana might never be topped.

Brady? 6.27. That is not a typo. Brady has been an average QB in the postseason. His three championships came on the backs of Richard Seymour, Ty Law, and Tedy Bruschi.

Montana isn't the best QB of the modern era because of the rings. He is the best because he dominated the game offensively in a way that nobody else could, with the possible exceptions of Dan Marino or Peyton Manning.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:10pm

Where was I comparing Montana to Brady? I didn't say Brady was better than Montana.

If you wanna compare Brady to Manning, go ahead, cause that's what I was doing.

Reading comprehension...

"Montana isn't the best QB of the modern era because of the rings. He is the best because he dominated the game offensively in a way that nobody else could."

If you think Montana would be considered the greatest ever without the rings, then you're disillusion.

And LOL at you thinking Bruschi and Seymour were the deciding factors in the super bowl wins. Ty Law, I'll give you. Keep reaching.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:16pm

I am disillusion? I take delight in the idea of being an abstract concept (and one that means something very different than what you think it means.) The word you're looking for is "delusional."

What you wrote was that "You can't say Montana is great cause of the rings, but Brady isn't."

And I said that yes, I can, because Montana was the best playoff quarterback ever, while Brady put up mediocre statistics and forced his amazing defense to eke out close wins.

by jimbohead :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:11pm

nothing like brady v. manning to bring out the trolls....

by TomC :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:31pm

I just wanted to point out the fact that Brady's name comes before Manning's in Aaron's list, which clearly demonstrates the disgusting pro-Patriots bias of 1) Aaron, 2) this entire website, and 3) the Roman alphabet.

by Dales :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:41pm


by Bobman :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 3:39am

Never trust the Romans, man. Sure they come to your neighborhood and improve the roads and sewers, but soon they are enslaving your people and putting Brady ahead of Manning. It's just wrong man. Go with the Visigoths, instead. While it's odd for them to put Lyle Alzado, Jack Lambert, and Karl Mecklenburg ALL ahead of Brady and Manning at QB, their alphabet correctly puts "Arrgh!" "ahead of "Grrrrrr!"

by t.d. :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 8:39am


by CathyW :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 4:05pm

One of the many, many reasons I love this site is that you can have references to Brady, Manning, and the ancient Romans all going on in the same thread. It's a geek girl's paradise!!!

by Vague (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 10:40pm

Does it make it more or less of a geek paradise if I point out that they are not Roman but in fact Phoenician letters?

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 1:09am

All right ... all right ... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order ... what have the Romans done for us?

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 5:26pm

Brought peace!

by bsr (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:20am

Funny that Mannings single championship comes on the back of Bob Sanders.

The rest of your points are equally flawed. Montana played in an innovative offense that the rest of the league had to catch up to. Montana played in a non-free agency era. Montana played in a much warmer climate and most of Brady's playoff games were in cold and snow. I mean really, damn him for not throwing for higher YPA in that Oakland Snow Bowl.

Seriously it is a shame you are missing out on watching one of the greatest quarterbacks of our generation (along with Manning) just because he isn't "your guy".

by Scott Kacsmar (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:02pm

I think you're taking a very simplistic approach to the numbers. Montana's regular season numbers are superior to Marino's when it comes to efficiency, and having several high-efficiency seasons. Marino's numbers were off the charts his first 5 seasons, but he didn't really continue that the rest of his career.

by BengalFaninIN :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 11:01pm

I would disagree that "every fan and pundit" agrees that Montana is one of the very best ever. I certainly don't, for the same reasons I think Brady is overrated. Fouts Tarkenton and Anderson are horribly underrated for the same reasons. I think Marino actually has finally gotten the credit he deserves. Manning has, both by sheer weight of his greatness and the one ring somewhat become accepted for the great player he really is. (In my opinion he's a solid 10 on this list. I would give Marino and Elway 10 points as well.)
Certainly fans form a list of their favorites and then rationalize backwards to find reasons that "prove" the greatness of those players, it's the fun part of these debates, although when you try and have a serious conversation about these things it rapidly becomes annoying sometimes.

Also shouldn't Singletary be on that linebacker list? He was always truly amazing to me, the anchor of a defense that was for a while utterly dominant. Maybe I'm wrong.

Can we really all name 100 players who were better than Cornelius Bennet? I'll admit to substantial ignorance of everything before about 1983.. Other than what I've learned from the record books and NFL films...

by NWebster :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:00am

I always considered Green a little overrated. Both by the eyeball test and the data. He certainly played a long time and his exceptional base physical skills along with his ability to maintain them contributed to that - and that should be recognized.

But, he had 4 seasons in which he was recognized as All-Pro in 20 seasons.

Of those here are the details - and i think this is important:
1986: All-Pro NEA
- However Hanford Dixon was all-pro NEA, TSN, AP, PFW, PFWA - unanimous
- LeRoy Irvin AP, PFWA and TSN
- Raymond Clayborn PFW
So all in all i'd consider Dixon and Irvin the All-Pro's

1987: All-Pro NEA
- Hanford Dixon was all-pro AP, NEA, PFWA, PFW, TSN
- Frank Minnifield was all-pro PFWA, PFW, TSN
- Barry Wilburn all-pro AP
It was a strike shortened season and again Dixon and Minnifield were the lead candidates with Dixon being unanimous

1990: All-Pro PFW
- Rod Woodson was all-pro AP, NEA, PFWA, PFW, TSN - unanimous
- Albert Lewis was all-pro AP, NEA, PFWA, TSN
Again, Green clearly not the first team guy by mostaccounts

1991: Unanimous All-pro
- His best season by far, a young Deion Sanders took over after this

Essentially i see him as a one time all-pro and never the bestplayer at his position at any point in his career. The late 80's were Hanford Dixon's era, the early 90's Rod Woodson and Deion owned essentially the entire decade of the 90's.

by MCS :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:03am

The other player was Michael Irvin... even if he wasn't that high.

Are you sure he wasn't high?

by Bobman :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:10pm


by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:50pm

Oh, he was definitely high, just not THAT high.

by spenczar :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:18am

Oh sure, he was high, but he wasn't Jerry Jones high.

by Artie, the strongest man in the universe (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:13am

It may be sacrilege to some fans, but Bobby Layne and Bart Starr should be left off. Good call on Bradshaw.

If Brady is a 10, then Marino should be one as well, Super Bowl wins be damned.

Ridiculous list of RBs. The DB list is also quite sick. Ed Reed and Darrell Green should probably be flip-flopped, but whatever.

Not enough love for the great o-linemen. No Jackie Slater, Jim Langer, or Dan Dierdorf?

by JasonK :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:12pm

Also Rosie Brown. 9 Pro Bowls, 6-time first-team All Pro.

by MCS :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:19am

All in all a good list. I don't know enough to say otherwise.

I probbaly would have ranked Brady lower

I probably would have ranked Starr higher, but that could just be my Green and Gold Glasses.

I originally thought that Sayers was ranked too high, but upon further review, I think he may be a little low.

I wonder where Derrick Thomas is.

by Dean :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:39pm

Derrick Thomas does not deserve to be on this list.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:33pm

Without a doubt. Thomas' inclusion on this sorts of lists is nothing short of a joke. NFL Network actually showed his 7 sack game versus the Seahawks a couple months ago and I couldn't believe how unimpressive he was even in that game. Just a bunch of bad blocking from the Seahawks and Thomas completely ignoring the running game. And that game is what his legacy boils down to: a bunch of sacks against a mediocre (4-5) opponent with absolutely no run support. Plus, the Seahawks won the game and Dave Krieg threw for over 300 yards. It was the very essence of meaningless stat compiling.

Also, the man had only 2 All-Pros, which is a joke compared to the LB's on this list. He only broke 12 sacks in a season 4 times in his career. And he only had more than 60 tackles 6 times and never broke 80. 60 tackles and never broke 80 for an LB! It's a goddamned joke.

by Darthholmes (not verified) :: Mon, 10/18/2010 - 12:28am

By that same measure he is in the Hall of Fame.

by MarkDuper85 :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:22am

Dan Marino and Walter Payton are 10s. To state otherwise is silly.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:29am

I'm a big Marion fan, but let's be fair, his playoff performances were not outstanding over his career. Yes, he never had a good running game or even a decent defense...and the Bills always crushed the Fins dreams in the playoffs...but his playoff numbers speak for themselves.

He only won more than 1 game in a playoff year once, that was in the 84 Super Bowl year. Every other year was either one and done or one win and a loss.

Goes back to my previous statement. By stats and regular season numbers, Marino is obviously a 10. But is that the deciding factor here or on this list?

Need to be consistent.

Can't say Marino is a 10 even though his failures in the playoffs, and Brady is a 2 just because he didn't put up regular season numbers like Marino.

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:41am

You most definitely can say "Marino is a 10 even though his failures in the playoffs, and Brady is a 2 just because he didn't put up regular season numbers like Marino". How is that inconsistent, if you don't weigh playoff numbers very heavily?

In my opinion, you're weighing playoff performance and number of rings way too heavily. Brady has three rings because of a combination of his ability, the excellent defenses built by the Patriots, and some favorable situations in Super Bowls.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:01pm

The Pats defense only won their first super bowl against the Rams.

The whole perception that the Pats only won with defense and Brady was some game manager is a myth.

Pats defense gave up almost 400 yards and 29 points against the Panthers. Meanwhile, Brady threw for 354 yards, 3 TDS, and a then record 32 completions.

Pats defense against Philly gave up 357 yards passing to McNabb.

And is anyone really going to make the argument that the 07 Pats defense was any good? Their pass defense with Hobbs as the No. 2 corner was terrible.

Brady sure was a game manager in 07 with 50 TDS, right, right?

by Dave Bernreuther :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:43pm

I'll agree with this.

I don't have all the 03 Pats game tape or anything, but it seems to me that Brady really made the leap at some point in the second half of 2003 during their long win streak.

In the 11/03 RCA Dome game (Where McGinest faked the injury) he was completing every pass when they didn't really ask him to do much, but when he actually had to start slinging it around and making his own decisions later in the game, it went to sh-t. He was a capable and accurate QB that might fit that dreaded "game manager" label for sure. He certainly wasn't a game changer or team carrier.

I don't know what changed, or when, exactly, it happened, because by that Super Bowl, that was very obviously no longer the case. And obviously it hasn't been since then.

In 11/2003 one QB on the field was very clearly superior to the other (and yet obviously inferior to his 08-09 self, even in an MVP season), which was when these debates were really full of ridiculousness. It's a hell of a lot closer now. Brady has come a LONG way. I think he's fully earned that 10 rating and the superstar rep that he was handed perhaps a bit earlier than he deserved it.

by Anonymous Jones :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:33pm

Please go to the irrational thread. Also, please start by discussing how great Culpepper was with Moss too.

by dbostedo :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:14pm

"Need to be consistent.

Can't say Marino is a 10 even though his failures in the playoffs, and Brady is a 2 just because he didn't put up regular season numbers like Marino."

Actually, that would be perfectly consistent. It would say that you're valuing regular season performance much more than post season performance. Not inconsistent at all.

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:38am

Maybe it's my Bears homerism, but I thought Payton, and probably Butkus, should have been 10s. Of course, I think Nagurski and Singletary are ranked a little too highly (though they obviously should stay on the list).

I also think you have too many 10s at QB, though I understand wanting to force QBs to be ranked as high as possible on the final list. I'd probably switch Brady and Marino, and Elway and Unitas. Maybe even bump Elway down to a 7. Staubach and Starr seem too low, as well.

All that being said, this is pretty damn good list, Aaron. I don't envy the difficulty in putting it together.

And of course, congratulations on being chosen for this.

by Marko :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:08pm

Agreed that Payton and Butkus should be 10s. There shouldn't even be a question with Payton, although I can see the argument for Butkus being "only" a 9.

I think Brady is too high at 10 and Favre is too low at 7. Favre should be a 9, while I think Brady should be an 8.

How can the list include Strahan and Youngblood, but omit Dan Hampton? Hampton should be a 5 or a 6.

I also thought the WR rankings left much to be desired. TO should not be ranked at all. The WR list seems far too biased in favor of present or just retired players.

by Jimmy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:38pm

Agreed on Danimal.

by Go Pats (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:58pm

Farve should be a 9??? How so? The guy has thrown more horrible INT's than anyone alive. If it were not for Reggie White and Desmond Howard, he would have no rings. I am sorry but for a QB to be the leader in career INT's - no thanks. He should be no higher than a 4. He has been lucky he has not really been hurt over his career but please, he is not even in the top 10 all time sorry

by Marko :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:42pm

How much of Favre's career have you seen? By the way, I'm in no way a Favre homer. I'm a die-hard Bears fan, so I've rooted against him for almost his entire career. He routinely destroyed the Bears while playing for their biggest rival, and he is now ending his career playing for the Bears' second-biggest rival. I've seen enough of him to know he is more than just someone who threw a lot of INTs. If you think he isn't even one of the top 10 all-time QBs, then I don't know what to tell you.

by Sisyphus :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 8:37pm

I have to agree about Walter Payton. If this list is for the top 100 football players in the NFL and Payton should be number 1 on that list and everyone else can argue about the next 99. He had all of the skills as the best running back in the game, he may have not been as dominate as Brown or as dynamic as Sanders but in terms of effectiveness the difference on an every play basis is nominal. What he has going for him as an all around football player is that he had top level skills in all aspects of the game. Though he doesn't have enough kick-off returns to qualify his average was 31.7, he was an excellent receiver, and a tremendous blocker. That kind of well-rounded play was unusual at the time and is a lost art in today's NFL. There are probably some players of the early era of the game that are getting short changed here. (I am thinking guys like Thorpe and Grange who were all-around players and exceptional athletes of their time.)

Running backs have an advantage in this type of list as the position gives an opportunity to demonstrate a broader range of football skills. (It is hard to imagine Manning or Brady blocking and in terms of their relative value to their teams they shouldn't be.) Still if the question is to determine the best football player based on demonstrated skills I will take Walter Payton every day of the week, and certainly twice on Sundays.

by BigCheese :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 3:54pm

No odubt about it. Payton was a terrific runner, outstanding reciever, devastating blocker, competent passer, pretty good tackler (as he sadly had ample opportunity to demonstrate) and even a competent kicker IIRC. The only knock on his game would be his propensity to fumble, but that was far more common back then than it is now.

Jom Brown may be the better pure runner, but Walter Payton is the best FOOTBALL PLAYER who ever played the game. Him not being at 10 is outrageous.

- Alvaro

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 1:12am

Payton was supposedly the best punter on the team, but they didn't want to risk injury using him in that capacity.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 1:33am

I rest my case.

In my ind there are only two people in teh conversation of who should be #1 on the Top 100 players in NFL history: Jerry Rice because of his utter dominance and longevity and Walter Payton because of his dominance at his position and excellence at nearly all facets of the game.

And I personally would give it to Sweetness. You can even use the fact that the NFL Man of the Year award bears his name for a reason as a tie-breaker.

- Alvaro

by taxistan :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 8:05pm

Marion Motley

by Yaguar :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:41am

I don't think Elway is a 9. Can anyone explain to me why it's just taken for granted that he's better than players like Brees and Favre?

He has the worst sack rate ever for a guy playing behind multiple Hall-of-Fame linemen.

by Bobman :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:15pm

At the risk of sounding like a cheap carnival medium (and alienating my Colts brethren and sistren) Elway had "it." There could be a 3-INT game where a dwarf was sitting on his shoulder pads hittimg him in the head with a hammer and if they were within one score late, I'd be saying "watch this SOB pull it off."

I suspect his sack rate has more to do with his mobility--you know how mobile QBs tend to rack up more sacks because they try to make stuff happen with their feet but get caught behind the line part of the time.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:24pm

The mobile dudes usually have high yards per attempt figures (see guys like Romo, Rodgers, etc) but Elway never did. Elway sits at about 7.1, while Romo and Rodgers are way up in the 8 range.

DVOA takes into account sack rate, which brings those guys (and Elway) down a lot. DVOA usually had Elway around 9th or 10th in a typical year. That's certainly valuable, but it's not exactly Johnny Unitas-level. I suspect if we had DVOA for Unitas or Graham, they would lead the league year after year.

Elway's best seasons for FO stats are 1993 (1st in DYAR, 7th in DVOA) and 1998 (4th in DYAR, 3rd in DVOA).

Sure, he's good. But I think guys like Johnny U steamroll him, and guys like Favre and Marino and Brees, Brady, and Manning are pretty clearly a bit better.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:46pm

It's all about context.

Elway had a pretty poor supporting cast most of his career, and Dan Reeves ran an outdated offense that didn't suit the players he did have.

The only QB in modern times I can think of who looked legitimately great with a poor offensive supporting cast is Brett Favre. I think people tend to underrate him these days because of his media shenanigans. As this is a Bear's fan who wants nothing more than to see Favre end his career throwing a pick which ends his team's season.

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:26pm

You're right about Elway, tuluse, but when did Favre look great with a poor offensive cast around him? Hell, when did Favre ever have a poor offensive cast around him?

I think you're severely underrating the teams Green Bay surrounded Favre with; they didn't have a lot of stars or all-time greats, but they were solid at just about every position.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:36pm

Yeah, but not many other QBs put up MVP numbers with just solid players around them.

What other team would Antonio Freeman make a probowl for?

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:07pm

I'd argue that Drew Brees's cast this past year was made up of "merely" solid players, with the possible exception of Jhari Evans (and he's a guard, which is arguably the least important offensive position).

Antonio Freeman is probably on the same level as Marques Colston, for example.

You're right that Favre's average supporting cast hasn't been as good as Manning's, Brady's, Young's, Montana's, or most recent QBs'. But I don't think it was significantly worse than Marino's or Elway's, or even someone like Warren Moon's (though he obviously wasn't as good).

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:20pm

You maybe right. I think Marino usually had better receivers than Favre, but a worse running attack, so maybe it balances out. My main point however, was that he put up significantly better stats than Elway with similar talent around him.

Edit: also with the Saints this year they had the running back with the best DVOA in the league, and I would say Henderson and Meachem are a lot better than Beebe and Brooks.

by Dales :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:07pm

If Elway ever had a wide receiver as good as Antonio Freeman, I can't remember him. No less Donald Driver.

And Sterling Sharpe, had he not had his career cut short, would have been eventually known as a great, IMO.

by ammek :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 5:21am

Rod Smith & Ed McCaffrey were at least as good as Freeman & Driver.

Favre may wind up playing 20 years without the benefit of a single hall-of-famer on offense alongside him. (If anyone is elected, it will probably be one of Faneca, Hutchinson and Peterson — ie, from the very end of his career.) While the Packers mostly surrounded him with capable players, the likes of Dorsey Levens, Bubba Franks, Frank Winters and William Henderson would never have made the ProBowl on an offense led by, say, Anthony Dilweg.

Another factor is coaching. Elway gets the "Dan Reeves exemption", but Favre surely deserves the same for the years he played under Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman and Eric Mangini (and Brad Childress?). Marino, Montana and Brady were elite players who played for elite coaches.

by Andrew Potter :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 6:37am

Not even Sterling Sharpe?

I realise that WR is over-represented and there's a LOT of good WRs from the past couple of decades who might qualify, but leading the league in either receptions or receiving touchdowns in four out of six seasons (1989-1994, both in 1992) and being a five-time all-pro (1989,90,92-94) despite only playing seven seasons has to count for something surely?

Having said that, I suppose if he was getting in he'd be in by now. The HoF isn't something I follow closely, so I don't know if he's even been considered.

by Shattenjager :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 12:04pm

Rod Smith wasn't on the team until 1995 and had a total of 22 catches in his first two years. He started with Elway for a whopping 2 years.

Ed McCaffrey also joined in 1995, though he became a full-time starter in 1996, so he started with Elway for 3 years.

The entire list of Elway's Hall of Fame teammates (and there is zero possibility of any others joining them): Gary Zimmerman for five years (though he really was no longer an elite player in 1997), who was at the end of Elway's career as well.

1993 (with Zimmerman): 602 passes, 117 ANY/A+, 1200 DYAR (1), 20.1% DVOA (7)
1994 (with Zimmerman): 550 passes, 105 ANY/A+, 557 DYAR (18), -0.7% DVOA (23)
1995 (with Zimmerman): 570 passes, 118 ANY/A+, 1109 DYAR (8), 19.7% DVOA (11)
1996 (with McCaffrey & Zimmerman): 498 passes, 114 ANY/A+, 694 DYAR (7), 10.6% DVOA (9)
1997 (with McCaffrey, Smith, & Zimmerman): 550 passes, 116 ANY/A+, 739 DYAR (7), 10.2% (10)
1998 (with McCaffrey & Smith): 379 passes, 123 ANY/A+, 1139 DYAR (4), 37.3% DVOA (3)
Total: 115 ANY/A+ (3), 5438 DYAR, 15.2% DVOA

Antonio Freeman started with Favre for six years, Sterling Sharpe did for three years, Donald Driver did for six years, and pre-injury Robert Brooks (even though he had one good season after his injury, I don't think anyone would argue he was even close to the player he had been) did for two years.

1992 (with Sharpe): 471 attempts, 106 ANY/A+
1993 (with Sharpe): 561 passes, 90 ANY/A+, -70 DYAR (29), -13.1% DVOA (27)
1994 (with Sharpe and Brooks): 613 passes, 111 ANY/A+, 1045 DYAR (4), 15.7% DVOA (9)
1995 (with Brooks): 602 passes, 130 ANY/A+, 1572 DYAR (3), 29.2% DVOA (4)
1996 (with Freeman): 588 passes, 121 ANY/A+, 967 DYAR (1), 14.7% DVOA (4)
1997 (with Freeman): 552 passes, 120 ANY/A+, 936 DYAR (4), 14.5% DVOA (9)
1998 (with Freeman): 597 passes, 110 ANY/A+, 735 DYAR (10), 10.9% DVOA (16)
1999 (with Freeman): 643 passes, 100 ANY/A+, 520 DYAR (9), 1.9% DVOA (17)
2000 (with Freeman): 627 passes, 102 ANY/A+, 622 DYAR (9), 4.6% DVOA (12)
2001 (with Freeman): 553 passes, 125 ANY/A+, 833 DYAR (5), 12.1% DVOA (5)
2002 (with Driver): 591 passes, 107 ANY/A+, 600 DYAR (14), 4.2% DVOA (18)
2003 (with Driver): 496 passes, 107 ANY/A+, 551 DYAR (10), 6.1% DVOA (12)
2004 (with Driver): 555 passes, 119 ANY/A+, 1344 DYAR (5), 26.1% DVOA (8)
2005 (with Driver): 642 passes, 88 ANY/A+, 590 DYAR (10), 3.2% DVOA (19)
2006 (with Driver): 637 passes, 97 ANY/A+, 408 DYAR (14), -1.2% DVOA (19)
2007 (with Driver): 556 passes, 121 ANY/A+, 1437 DYAR (3), 28.0% DVOA (5)
Total: 109 ANY/A+ (14), 12 090 DYAR, 8.3% DVOA

As to the coaching situation, Elway threw 74.3% of his career attempts under Dan Reeves (59.9%) or Wade Phillips (14.4%) (the rest being under Mike Shanahan), while Favre threw 50.1% of his career passes under Rhodes, Sherman, Jerry Glanville, Maginini, or Childress (the rest being Holmgren (38.2%) and Mike McCarthy (11.7%)). Hardly the same.
Also, it's important to note that the reason to bring up Dan Reeves's presence with Elway is not that Reeves was a bad coach. It's that he was an offensive coach who ran an offense that depressed Elway's passing numbers and did not play to his strengths. It's not that he deserves extra points for having played under a bad coach, it's that the bad coach is a mitigating factor in his relatively unimpressive numbers (compared to Marino, Young, Montana, etc.).
Ray Rhodes was a defensive coach, so I'm not sure how much he even affected the offense, he only coached Favre for one year, and his numbers were down under him but not much. Mike Sherman was an offensive coach and Favre's numbers under him were much the same as they had been under Holmgren. Mangini is fair (even though he is a defensive coach), but that's only one year. We're really going to say that Favre's numbers last year were depressed by Childress?

by Dales :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 1:48pm

Rod Smith had two seasons as a starter with Elway-- Elway's last fifteenth and sixteenth seasons in the NFL.

McCaffery? Seriously? He had only one kinda decent season with Elway. His career was a string of average/below-average years with three good ones. Freeman's best three years were better than McCaffery's best three, and Freeman's next 5 best seasons are significantly better than Easy Ed's. The GB receiver that makes a better comp for McCaffery in overall quality is, imo, Robert Brooks. Either way, if McCaffery is supposed to be an example of the superior quality of receiver that Elway had to work with in comparison to Favre, I don't think it makes the case.

Until Elway was in his 30s, his receivers were guys like Steve Watson, Butch Johnson, Vance Johnson, Mark Jackson, Ricky Natteil. That is a particularly uninspiring bunch.

by SteveGarvin :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:32am

"As this is a Bear's fan who wants nothing more than to see Favre end his career throwing a pick which ends his team's season."

He keeps doing that but then he rises from the dead like a Ghoul and plays another year.

by Dales :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:53pm

If Elway ever had even league-average starting receivers, I am forgetting them.

There may be no such thing as being 'clutch'.

Except for Elway.

I know you can't prove it with stats. But the dude was awesome, and I am not a Broncos fan. I think he was better than Favre, better than Brady, better than Brees, better than any QB in the league right now will be over the course of their careers, other than Peyton.

I wish I had seen Otto Graham (my memory goes back to the early 70s), but to me the top 4 QBs I have seen are Manning, Montana, Elway, and Marino.

by Tracy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:42pm

To be fair, only 1 player who ever blocked for John Elway is in the Hall-of-Fame, and he only protected Elway for 5 seasons. Tom Nalen may also find his way to the hall-of-fame one day, but he was a rookie in 1994, and didn't become a full-time starter until 1995. And yes, Elway's sack rate was substantially lower during the seasons that he had both Zimmerman and Nalen blocking for him.

by Owl Tamale (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:21pm

Which 'multiple Hall of Fame linemen' played for the Broncos? They only have three players in the HOF at all, which is a joke in itself, and Zimmerman is the only lineman-and he only played for Denver for a few years at the end of his career.
Elway was a great player on a, for years, mediocre team. Look at his leading rushers before TD showed up...it's a rogue's gallery of mediocrity. The defense was always decent, never dominant. His offensive line was always average, until Alex Gibbs showed up and taught them how to legally chop block..and Elways was in his mid-30's by then. I'm not saying Elway is 'underrated' or 'undervalued' or whatever, but this particular criticism is beyond idiotic.

by BengalFaninIN :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 11:13pm

Because he was a far far superior athlete? The best "running QB" of his generation, had all the late game heroics and playoff mojo fans of lists like this are so fond of and could probably have been a decent running back or slot receiver if he hadn't had a rocket launcher arm?

He didn't have those wheels when they won the two super bowls, because he was old, but as that dive over the top in the first one showed he was still pretty athletic for 36? and in his prime he was usually the biggest most athletic bronco in the backfield.

by billsfan :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 10:49pm

Steve Young was the best "Running QB" of Elway's generation. Assuming you exclude guys like Randall Cunningham...

When they won their Super Bowls, the biggest, most athletic Bronco in the backfield was Terrell Davis.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Shattenjager :: Wed, 09/08/2010 - 1:01am

He did say Elway was the biggest, most athletic Bronco in the backfield in his prime, which was earlier than the Super Bowls.

by Go Pats (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:59am

sorry but no way in hell is Favre better than Young. Young should be higher than 6 and was at least equal to Marino in th eregular season and won a ring.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:59am

I'm a big fan of the RB rankings. I think few writers put Faulk as high as he deserves. The dude was the most efficient receiver ever, period. In his first year with Warner, they had an 85% completion rate, and 10.0 yards per attempt. That's absurd.

But the thing is, that wasn't even unheard-of for Faulk. With a rookie Peyton Manning, he pulled off 82%, and 8.65 yards per attempt.

The best possession receivers of our time aren't even close to those sorts of numbers.

I think OJ Simpson kind of got hosed, though. He's really not too different from Barry.

by Holdie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:06pm

I was surprised to see Simpson with a 6. He's an 8. Infamy and fading memory have taken a toll on his football reputation.

by Phoenix138 :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:30pm

Yeah, OJ just can't catch a break.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:05pm

10: Sammy Baugh, Tom Brady, Otto Graham, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana
9: John Elway, Dan Marino
8: Sid Luckman, Johnny Unitas
7: Brett Favre
6: Steve Young
4: Drew Brees
3: Bobby Layne, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach
2: Dan Fouts, Fran Tarkenton

If this were my list, and this is just subjective and in no way based on anything other than gut feeling, I'd bump Brady and Elway to 8, Unitas to 9, Brees to 5, and Staubach to 4.

The problem with rating quarterbacks in the modern era is that it always ends up in a Manning/Brady argument. Tom Brady won three championships on the back of his defense and running game and Adam Vinatieri's right leg. Peyton Manning puts up eye popping numbers in the regular season but is pedestrian in the playoffs, and has played with superior offensive talent.

There is, unfortunately, no easy way to settle the argument now. Since they're both still playing, ultimately we have to wait for them to retire to sort it out.

That being said, they're both better than Favre or Brees, and its not close.

by dbostedo :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:16pm

"...ultimately we have to wait for them to retire to sort it out."

I don't think that's going to make a difference.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:32pm

Why don't you think Brees is close?

I suppose it depends on how much you want to punish him for, well, "taking a while to get really good." Brees only hit "good quarterback" in 2004, but then he suddenly hit "candidate for greatest ever" type performance in 2005 or so.

Brees's performance over the last 4 years is really, really close to perfect. If someone called him the best QB in the league right now, I would have absolutely no complaints about that.

He sucked for 3 years, while Brady just didn't play for 1 year, and Manning sucked for maybe 2/3 of his rookie year. That's a legitimate knock. But that's not really enough for me to say he isn't close to the other two.

by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:57pm

Guys, if you are talking about Brees, well, Big Ben is way more appealing candidate as a player for being enlisted as a write in...and do not even bother to say that the first SB was won thanks to the D and the running game...re-watch the playoffs and see how great he played...

by Richard :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:25am

Roethlisberger is not even close to being the caliber of player that Brees is.

by BigCheese :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 4:53pm

You are correct. Big Ben won his first Superbowl on the back of hiD, running game AND officiating.

Are you seriously trying to argue he was a positive factor in that SB? That was the worst performance by a SB-winning QB ever. And it's not even close. And that's a lost that includes Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson...

- Alvaro

by Andrew Potter :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 5:04pm

That's not what he said. He's talking about Ben's overall playoff performance, which that year was outstanding. He played poorly in the Super Bowl, but his outstanding performances in the previous games are one of the major reasons (if not the major reason) they were in Detroit in the first place.

by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:24am

I think Brees deserves a little slack for his fist three years in San Diego. He basically didn't play his rookie year and then he had a very solid campaign in 2002 that was right around league average (-1.4% DVOA). Schottenheimer didn't really let him rip the ball around the same way that he's allowed to in New Orleans, and Brees is very much a rhythm passer. And the offense was completely focused around LT, with a pedestrian O-line that was much better at run blocking than pass blocking.

I think it's very telling that Brees' breakout season (2004) coincided with a complete revamp of the Charger's o-line (drafting Nick Hardwick and Shane Olivea, signing Mike Goff, and trading for Roman Oben). Oh yeah, and having Gates become a starter helped a little too.

Brees has only had one bad year, in 2003, for a team that ended up picking first in the draft. My most vivid memories of that year are of Brees constantly having to check down to LT because he never had any time to throw the ball. That was the year LT amassed 100 receptions.

I really wish the Chargers had kept Brees and used their 2004 pick in another fashion. I love Rivers, but man they could have put together a kick ass team if they had used that pick well. Many fans were arguing that Brees only needed a decent WR and that the team should draft Fitzgerald. I'm pretty sure a Brees/LT/Fitzgerald/Gates offense would have managed to win a championship, at least in 2006.

And then Manning still wouldn't have a championship.

by Eli (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:06pm

Congrats again on getting the nod to contribute a ballot. Hopefully the other selectors use the same care and attention that you did, but somehow I doubt it (as evidenced by Spike Lee hyping Joe Willie Namath in the commercials).

by t.d. :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:24pm

Pro Football Reference makes a compelling argument that all of the revisionism about Namath not being a great quarterback is garbage

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:29pm

They do, but I still wouldn't put Namath ahead of anyone Aaron did include. He was great, but not that great.

by NJBammer :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:17pm

Not enough of a student of the history of the game to comment on most of this, but it does make me smile to see Reggie White considered to be the greatest DE of all time.

by Yaguar :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:37pm

That one's easy. He might have even been a better pass rusher than LT, and he was obviously great against the run.

by Nate Dunlevy (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:17pm

11 Running backs rate a 6 or high. Just 4 WRs do?

I think something is out of balance there. I have no problem with the order of your WRs, but I think you have them ranked too low in general.

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:43pm

Actually, I liked the decision to have Hutson and Rice head-and-shoulders-and-torso ahead of any other receivers. Any other receivers' career really pales in comparison to what they accomplished.

by Nate Dunlevy (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:55pm

That's fine, but to say there are 11 RBs better than the 5th best WR of all time...that seems like a stretch to me. It seems like the position is underrepresented. I would have bumped tier 2 from 7 to 8, and moved everyone else up a notch, to start with at least.

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:11pm

I'm not saying this is the "right" way to see things, but...

One way of thinking about a player's "greatness" is to consider how close he came to reaching the fullest potential of his position -- that is, dominating a game to the greatest extent possible, given where he was deployed. Since there's no great way to come up with a satisfactory picture of a hypothetical "as dominant as possible" for each position, the next-best way to judge would be to measure every player against the production of the best player (or in this case, two) at that position. That is, the greatest player at each position serves as a proxy for "what can be accomplished."

In this view, the tier of receivers below Hutson and Rice probably should be at 7, or maybe even lower. And the "under-representation" of receivers might be fully appropriate. If, say, there are more runners that have had 85% of the career of Jim Brown than there are receivers who had 85% of the career of Rice or Hutson, then the list should have more backs than receivers.

Again, this isn't necessarily the criterion I would use for making a list like this, but I think it would be a fairly reasonable one.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:36pm

I see your point, but that's not how the exercise was constructed. A 5 is a 5 regardless of whether it goes to a RB, QB, or WR. I just don't buy that there were 11 RBs better than all but four WRs in history. The exercise isn't to determine the best at each position, but rather the 100 best regardless of position. You can' use a position specific metric to do that.

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:32pm

Please give me a specific list of credentials for a few positions that you think a merits a "5" without using any position-specific metrics. I'm pretty curious to see how you'll judge QBs without using attempts, completions, yardage, passing TDs, etc., or any stats derived from those categories. And if you choose to primarily use team metrics like wins and championships, is that your primary way to measure linebackers, too? My guess is that you do use position-specific metrics to figure out who you think are the best players, but you just don't think of it in those terms. And if you don't use "position-specific" metrics, then what are you using? I can't think of any metrics that measure individual performance that aren't at least somewhat position-specific. (Even something like "tackles," which is something that any defensive player accumulates, has different meanings for different positions.)

And what is so strange about the notion that performance at the very far right-end of the distribution might look substantially different for different positions?

by Nate Dunlevy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:31pm

Again, fair point, but isn't the point of the exercise to TRY and develop some way to compare players across positions?

Just answer the simple question: Do you think there were 11 RBs better than all but the four best WRs? Are you ok with a top 100 player list that has more total running backs in the top 60 than there are WRs in total?

Because of the way Schatz scored RBs and WRs, that's what would happen. These ballots are going to be added up and the list presumably made from the totals.

I think there are too few wideouts on Schatz list (or too many running backs). I think his list would produce a disproportionate amount of RBs in the top 60, and I think that's a weakness.

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:51pm

Sure, that's the point, but I think doing so by comparing "within-position" is a legitimate way of trying to accomplish that. After all, we compare players across eras by evaluating their performance relative to their within-era peers, right?

I don't know if there were "11 RBs better than all but the four best WRs." Depending on the methodology and selections, I would probably be fine with a list that had more backs in the top 60 than total WRs.

Basically, you're putting a premium on getting certain results, rather than on the process to generate results. I don't see why that should be the case; if anything, "regardless of position" should mean that there will be some disparities between positions. Deciding that there ought to be about as many receivers on the list as there are running backs is the exact opposite of constructing the list "regardless of position."

Finally, if you're really concerned about positional totals, then I would find it much more concerning that the number of "skill position" players more than doubles the number of offensive linemen, despite their near-equal on-field representation. Of course, it's likely that the list Aaron was given was like that...

by Nate Dunlevy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:59pm

"I don't know if there were "11 RBs better than all but the four best WRs." Depending on the methodology and selections, I would probably be fine with a list that had more backs in the top 60 than total WRs."

Fair enough. We disagree then. Given the importance of passing to winning, I think running backs have been overvalued.

I generally like Aaron's list though, because he throws Faulk some well deserved love.

by tally :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:04pm

The importance of passing to winning is decidedly a modern trend and RBs (and their lines) have been more important in the past than WRs.

by dmb :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:23am

If that's how you'd make your list, that's fine, but you stated that you think the list should be "the best 100 regardless of position." I don't think having quotas for certain positions constitutes a list of players chosen "regardless of position."

I do, however, strongly agree with you about Faulk.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 11:56am

No one's talking about quotas. I'm just saying I don't believe there were 11 Running Backs who were better at football than the fifth best receiver. I think all the WRs are graded too low, and I'd raise them all at least a point. That still ensures separation from Rice/Huston, and balances the scales with the RBs at least a little.

by taxistan :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 8:27pm

I know this is a pro football site, but can anyone here answer who played the other end position when Hutson was at Alabama. I am not an Alabama fan!

by dmb :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 10:18pm

Bear Bryant!

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:09pm

I was surprised by so few receivers too.

No James Lofton or Cris Carter?

by theodocious (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:22pm

just a thought i noticed maybe fran tarkenton should be higher then a 2 when he finished his career he had the record for most passing yards and rushing yards for a Qb that has to stand for something right?

by Tammer Raouf (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:43pm

Was no one else surprised by Kellen Winslow's inclusion here? I'm not looking at DVOA data, so maybe I'm missing something, but I never thought of him as that impressive. Someone correct me, please.

by Dean :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:48pm

If you never thought of him as that impressive, you were wrong. He's pre DVOA so you'll have to look at conventional stats. But when you do, don't forget the blocked FG in the '81 double OT game.

by Marko :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:56pm

OK, I'll bite. I think Kellen Winslow absolutely deserves to be there. You do realize that this is the Kellen Winslow who played for the Chargers, not his son who hasn't really lived up to the hype? Winslow should be ranked much higher here.

In fact, out of all the positions, I disagree most with the TE rankings. Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates are the two best TEs ever? Really? I think not. They both are ranked way too high. Ditka, Mackey, Winslow and Ozzie Newsome should be the top 4 in some order.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:36pm

Ranking TE's is tough because the position has changed so much, especially in the last decade. It's essence went from being tackles who could catch to be WR's who could maybe sometimes block. It's just too hard to judge Gates against Ditka because the position changed so much. I'm not sure what the resolution is...

by Marko :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:17pm

I completely agree that ranking TEs is tough because the postion has changed so much. I tend to favor the pioneers in the transformation (Ditka and Mackey) and those who took it to another level (Winslow and Newsome) over players such as Gates and Gonzalez, who are good players but don't stand out to me in comparison to their peers. Maybe that's penalizing them because there are so many good receiving tight ends now.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 11:28pm

You could argue back and forth about a lot of these guys, but the thing to remember is that most TEs, even the great ones, had relatively short peaks and short careers. Tony Gonzalez has had a ridiculously long and productive career. Sure, other players might have pioneered the position but it is virtually impossible to argue that any TE was "greater" over the course of his entire career than Gonzo.

by Owl Tamale (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:30pm

When Winslow came in with the Chargers, he was a force of nature, and completely unlike any other player at his position at that time. In Coryell's offense, he was essentially a third wide receiver, and seemed uncoverable ( at least it seemed that was as a young Broncos fan in 1980 ).
His playoff game against Miami was one of the great performances many had ever seen at that time.
Sadly, his genes didn't translate to his son, unless Kellen Sr. was fond of popping wheelies on his motorbike, too.

by ChicagoRaider :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:44pm

I guess I have a problem with Barry Sanders being there with Walter Payton. Walter Payton was the whole package, while Barry Sanders was freakish, but not full-spectrum. But I live in Chicago now and may be biased the the local views, but I think not.

by Dean :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:49pm

There are 3 backs, then everyone else. Those 3 are Brown, Payton, and Sanders. If it were any other back, I'd say your concern was legit. But Barry Sanders really was that good. The only back in my lifetime who compares to Payton (with the caveat that I think Bo Jackson would have if he'd stayed healthy).

by Jimmy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:46pm

Brady shouldn't have a 10. You can keep his 07 season, they never beat a decent defense which actually had its best players playing in it and as far as I am concerned all the Pats Superbowls have an asterisk next to them (plenty of folks may not agree with me but it is genuinely how I feel about it). Saying he is better as good as Montana and Brady and better than Marino seems strange (and a little bit homeriffic).

I am also not sure what exactly Messrs Payton and Butkus would have to do to get '10's because they did just about everything else. Or is Payton getting penalised for not scoring in a Superbowl?

Where's Doug Atkins? He was 6'8" how could you have missed him? Probably at least twice the player Strahan was.

Sanders ahead of Woodson and Lott seems odd. I would say Woodson was the best I have seen as a guy who predominantly played corner and Lott was as good as it gets at safety.

Tough lists to do though. Congrats on the invite.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:49pm

Recipe for not being taken seriously:

and as far as I am concerned all the Pats Superbowls have an asterisk next to them

Anyone else stop reading after that?

by Tracy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:53pm


by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:31pm


by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:44pm

OK, I'm putting a stop to this right now. I deleted a comment from "Jimmy" and I'm putting you all on notice. This is not going to descend into more arguments about "Spygate." Knock it off.

by Dean :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 12:47pm

Steve Van Buren should be a 7, if not an 8.
Emmitt Smith should be a 2.
I would have included Ozzy Newsome at TE as well.
Hog Hannah is at least an 8.
Dwight Stevenson should be on the list and rated around a 5 or so. You probably meant to type his name and somehow included Larry Allen by mistake.
I agree that Seau was a glaring omission, but I think an 8 is a bit generous for him.
A CB who can’t/won’t tackle shouldn’t be a 9.

by t.d. :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:31pm

Emmitt Smith is punished for his longevity. He was better than Barry Sanders in their first six seasons, people just overrate the guy who retired in his prime

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:45pm

He wasn't better - he just got a lot more carries. If you compare their first 10 seasons Sanders gains more yards on significantly less carries. The only stat where Smith is superior to Sanders is TDs. At that is about the most overrated stat there is when judging RBs since it is based almost entirely on playcalling. If you want your RB to break NFL records it isn't that difficult - just ask Vermeil, Holmgren, and Schottenheimer. Hell, last season Tomlinson scored double digit TDs because Turner was giving him pity carries.

by t.d. :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:01pm

I wasn't comparing their ten best seasons, I was comparing their peaks, and Emmitt's was just as high (actually higher, given that he was the most important player on a three-time champion)

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:29pm

Even the first 6. Emmitt needed 240+ carries to gain 280 yards more than Sanders. Sanders never had really a peak or decline. If you take their best 6 consecutive years Sanders gains 300 more yards on 200 less carries.

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:31pm

If Aaron and co. manage to continue to acquire play-by-play data at a steady rate, then we'll have some more info (DVOA and DYAR) with which to judge their careers. Here's what they had from 1993-1998; I chose this period because it's as far back as we have FO metrics, and I didn't feel like rewarding Smith for accumulation after Sanders's retirement, nor punish him in the "per-play" metrics for those later years. It's worth mentioning that using 1998 as a cutoff meant that one elite year (1999) and one slightly-above-average year (2000) of Smith's were not included.

So when Sanders and Smith were playing simultaneously, here are their advanced metrics.

Sanders, 1993-1998:
Rush DYAR: 1164
Rush DYAR/carry: 0.62
DVOA/carry*: 7.1%
Receiving DYAR: 102
DYAR/pass: 0.32

Smith, 1993-1998:
Rush DYAR: 1481
Rush DYAR/carry: 0.77
DVOA/carry*: 8.8%
Receiving DYAR: 136
DYAR/pass: 0.40

Since this encompasses a significant-but-far-from-encompassing portion of their careers, I see this as an "update" as we "progress" retrospectively through their advanced stats.

* Since I don't have DVOA for individual players across seasons, I created a weighted average of each players' DVOA. (It's each season's DVOA multiplied by that season's number of carries, summed across all seasons, and divided by the "total" number of carries.)

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:38pm

A few notes:

*Sanders and Smith each had below-average (negative-DVOA) seasons during this time period. Sanders' came in 1993 and 1998; Smith's, in 1996 and 1997. It's worth noting that Smith's down seasons came after two years of very high use; Smith had 368 and 375 carries in 1994 and 1995, respectively.

*Interestingly, both backs' receiving DYAR has so far mirrored their rushing DVOA; each back had negative receiving DYAR in the same seasons he had a negative rushing DVOA, while seasons with positive rushing DVOA uniformly had positive receiving DYAR.

*Smith had about a season's-worth more work (317 carries) on the ground during this time period, and was the target of 18 more passes.

Add subjective contextual analysis (support from passing game, offensive line, etc.) at your pleasure. FO and P-F-R have both had pretty good posts doing so, so I suggest looking those up, too.

by t.d. :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 1:56am

Emmitt got hurt in the first game of the 1996 season, and he was never quite the same player again. (up until that time, one of his signature plays was a head first leap into the end zone, but this time he landed wrong, and they had to cart him off of the field on a stretcher)

by dmb :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:36am

Well, Smith was 4th in DYAR (5th in DVOA) in 1998, and 3rd in DYAR (9th in DVOA) in 1999. His yards per carry for each season from 1997 through 2000 was between 4.1 and 4.2, which was lower than his pre-1996 average, but also far more consistent (he had seasons of 3.9 and 4.0 yards per carry prior to 1996). So it seems like there is some support for this, but it doesn't seem like the effects were drastic beyond 1996 and possibly 1997, particularly when you consider that Smith was 29 years old in 1998, and was likely starting to experience a little age-related decline by then. However, 1996 and 1997 really do stick out as a sore thumbs in both conventional and FO metrics, so it seems very plausible that the injury significantly affected his production in what could have been peak years.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 9:23pm

And DYAR and DVOA are poor way of measuring individual players. As I posted in another thread:

FO system severely penalizes players that make big plays and ALY and DYAR conflict with one another.

RB A starts on his 20 and rushes for 3 consecutive 10 yard runs resulting in 1st downs. The team stalls on the 50 yard line and punts. The end result is a total of 6.45 success points for that RB.

RB B starts on his 20 and takes the handoff for 79 yards and is tackled at the 1. This is worth 5.7 success points for the RB.

Now, when judging a *team's* performance and predicting future outcomes, RB A may be in a better situation since ripping off 3 consecutive 10 yard runs probably means RB A is decent and his line is decent. RB B's run is more of an outlier that doesn't correlate well with his team winning (not that he didn't contribute more than RB A) due to the inability to predict long plays. However, the play itself *should* describe how good the player actually is - ideally with a different metric like "individual success points". It does not. With success points RB A > RB B.


Barry's best season depending on how you judge is either 1994 or 1997.

In 1994, he rushed 1883 yards and 266 DYAR which in FO terms means a *replacement level* RB would be expected to rush for around 1617 yards on those same 331 carries. Do you really think a replacement level RB would have a 1600+ yard season for the Lions?

In 1997, he rushed for 2053 yards with 390 DYAR. Again, in FO terms the replacement level RB would be expected to rush for 1663 yards on those same 335 carries.

Both of those seasons would be top 50 all time. Using DYAR doesn't even pass the eyeball test when measuring individual performance.

If you factor in ALY the issue is even worse. FO hasn't gone back to 1994 but in 1997 Detroit's ALY is 4.16 YPC. Barry's YPC was 6.13 - Barry averaged nearly 2 more yards than his OL was giving him. Now let's compare him to Terrell Davis that season (who was #1 in DYAR while Barry was #2).

Davis rushed for 1743 yards with 478 DYAR. Which means FO estimates a replacement RB with those same 369 carries would only rush for 1265 yards. This seems a little low since Droughns, Gary, Anderson, and Portis all would shatter 1265 yards with 369 carries (granted Portis is far from a replacement level RB but the other 3 are pretty much the exact definition of one). Combine that with the fact that Denver's ALY was 4.90 while Davis' YPC was 4.72 the comparison is even more ridiculous. ALY shows that Davis wasn't even getting what his OL was giving him.

I can do this all day with RBs. Guys like Barry Sanders and recently Chris Johnson get severely penalized for being good enough to break long runs while guys that get more or less what their OL gives them but not much more are heavily favored. FO says RBs would have a hard time rushing in Denver compared to Davis - history showed otherwise and that any replacement level back should be breaking 1500+ yards for the Lions - again history showed otherwise.

Hell, Barry's last season he was supposedly *worse* than replacement. He was replaced the next season and the entire *team* didn't break 1500 yards rushing much less a single player.

by dmb :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 5:54pm

You bring up several issues here...

*First, I certainly agree that FO's individual metrics are far from perfect indicators of individual performance. However, conventional stats for the two players are widely available, and as discussed below, I do think that FO's stats provide additional info that's useful. Personally, I wouldn't conclude much of anything about the relative value of the two players based on FO metrics alone, but I also think that relying too heavily on yards per carry is also very flawed, particularly with a player like Sanders, whose output could vary particularly wildly.

*Hypothetical running backs A and B: It's true that DVOA might reduce the value of long plays for individual players too much. But I think that the exact yardage of very long plays is probably random for individual players, not just teams. (For example, does it make sense to deem a 60-yard touchdown as significantly more valuable than a 30-yard score, considering that the latter could very well have been a 60-yard run had the play not started on the 30 yard line?) But more to the point, despite DVOA and DYAR's very real flaws for evaluating individual players, they do make several contextual adjustments that conventional stats don't. Down, distance, and game situation are variables that seriously affect whether the outcome of a play is successful, and using metrics that take this into account seems like a wise way to supplement those that don't. (I probably should've also included success rates for both Smith and Sanders, but I don't really want to spend the time on it now...)


by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 12:03am

Relying just on YPC is flawed but YPC (with a certain number of carries) I value far more than DYAR. DYAR doesn't *want* you to run for long runs. As far as success rate, that stat is a little biased as well - since if your team is winning late it is easier to have a successful run and if you are losing late it is more difficult (at least that is how it used to be - FO isn't very good at keeping their definitions current on all their pages). When someone has a 50% success rate vs. 45% success rate that means in the FO world in a 20 carry game the 50% guy had one more successful carry.

Also, the logic behind the 30 yard TD run likely being a 60 yard TD run if the play started 30 yards back is flawed. If this sort of thing was true then we could say there is really no difference between an 80 yard run and a 30 yard run. However, I would hazard to guess that there are far more 30-40 yard TD runs each season than there are 70-80 yard TD runs despite the fact many drives start at their own 20 yard line and RBs get more carries there than in their opponents 30-40 yard line.

by dmb :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 12:00pm

Whether yards/carry, by itself, is more useful than DVOA and DYAR, by themselves, is irrelevant. The point is that taking a look at both yards/carry AND FO metrics is much more useful than only looking at one of those. (And your argument against success rate is strange... if you're worried about metrics being influenced substantially by game situation, then I would think that you'd want to include DVOA/DYAR in your evaluation. And season-long success rates vary from player to player by much more than 5 percentage points...)

As for long runs, I wasn't arguing that all 30-yard TD runs could just as easily be 60-yard TD runs. Quite frankly, that would be stupid. But the distance of long runs can be cut off "artificially" by field position, not to mention the unlikelihood that a 80-yard run required substantially more skill than, say, a 60-yard one. Basically, there's no perfect way to quantify the exact value of longer runs; FO errs in one direction, while yards/carry err in another. That's why, again, it seems prudent to look at both.

(And I haven't even mentioned that adjusting for the quality of opponent would be a worthwhile endeavor...)

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 10:05am

In 1997, he rushed for 2053 yards with 390 DYAR. Again, in FO terms the replacement level RB would be expected to rush for 1663 yards on those same 335 carries.

You're logic is flawed here because a replacement wouldn't end up in the same situations as Barry. So if Barry ran for 6 yards on 1st and 10 to make it 2nd and 4, you would expect the replacement to only gain 4.8 yards making it 2nd and 5.2.

So if you did a real replacement back the 2nd run from that replacement is not from the same situation that Barry actually had. Running backs are not expected to get the same gains from 2nd and 4 as they are from 2nd and 5.2 it's a different situation.

However if the Lions with the replacement back were magically given 1.2 more yards so the replacement back could start from the same place Barry did and they were then given all those lost yards on every rush then the replacement back would do what you say because only then would they be in the exact same situations. But since the real replacement back couldn't create the situations Barry created because they aren't as good you can't do what you are doing with the numbers.

As for the issues with the long runs. I understand the FO logic. If you manage to get past all the defenders after the first 15 yards and there is only 15 more yards of open field was that run really that much worse than if you get past all the defenders after 15 yards and there happens to be another 50 yards of open field? You should get more for the 2nd situation sure because defenders have more time to catch you and you have to be that much faster to make sure they don't but I think that is the logic FO is using.

That being said I've seen some of your arguments on this before and I think that there are some valid points on you side that even factoring in the clock and such that the longer runs for 50 yards can certainly be more valuable to producing a win than five 10 yard runs with 10 zero yard runs. But I haven't actually looked at if 1 rush for 50 yards is worth more or less than 20 rushes for 50 yards and 5 first downs since that would be the more fair way to compare backs that got the 50 yards all by themselves you would need those 0 yard runs on 1st and 2nd. Or in a team context is the 2 passes for 0 yards then a 10 yard run five times in a row going to be better or worse than the one 50 yard run? I would think the 50 yard run should be better than those combos if it's not then the values should be tweaked.

I do think there are some issues with the numbers but I also think you are willfully misstating some things about the stats to try and drive home your point.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 11:15am

I am not willfully misstating anything. It doesn't matter that the replacement RB wouldn't put himself in the same situations as Barry. What I am describing with the numbers is *exactly* what FO is describing with the numbers. The *only* thing FO can say in rebuttal is "the numbers aren't as exact as that" - but that doesn't mean that what I am stating is incorrect. DYAR says that a replacement level RB would rush for around 1600+ yards with the Lions in both of Barry's best seasons despite Barry dramatically outperforming his Oline. There hasn't been a RB for Lions to rush for over 1200 yards since Barry retired despite the fact that every season of Sanders' that FO has compiled stated that a replacement level back would rush for 1200+ yards for the Lions. I don't know how confident FO is in their DYAR stats but I don't think they are that valuable *when judging individual players*.

by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 11:43am

No it doesn't.

It says a replacement level back with the same carries, in the exact same situations, would be expected to rush for around 1600 yards. The fact is, a replacement level back wouldn't get in those same situations in the first place by virtue of being replacement level. Barry's outperforming of the replacement level gives him both more and better chances to be successful, thus generating improved DYAR in a virtuous cycle. That's a fact you choose to ignore, but is actually key to the entire example.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 12:34pm

Sigh, I will say again that doesn't matter. Look, when Barry breaks off a 50+ yard run FO says a replacement level back would break off one nearly as long. FO metrics don't care what happened the prior carry. Each carry is an independent measurement. Also, since Barry was supposedly a below average RB his last year in the league, your argument would mean that the replacement level back would rush for quite a bit more than Barry.

by Shattenjager :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:37pm

I hate to insert myself into the middle of a discussion here, but this needs to be said:

Average and replacement are not the same thing.
Since Sanders was below replacement in 1998 (-17 DYAR), the argument would mean that a replacement level back would rush for more than 17 yards more than Sanders.

Also, here's everyone who carried the ball for the Lions in 1998: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/w9k3E

Sanders averaged 4.35 YPC. Everyone else combined averaged 4.73 YPC. If we take out the QBs, the non-Sanders ball carriers averaged 4.59 YPC.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:46pm

Mistype. But you point out exactly what I am saying. A replacement RB would be expected to rush for over 1500 yards with a rookie Charlie Batch QBing the squad. That would mean that you expect a "good" RB to probably break 1600 yards with that Lions squad.

by dmb :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 12:20pm

1200 yards is an awfully convenient arbitrary cutoff point, since there was a season with 1100. But more importantly, it's pretty disingenuous to make that argument when only one Lions back has had more than 300 carries during that time. (Sanders had more than 300 carries in 7 of those seasons.) The next-highest single-season carry total by a Lions' back since Sanders' retirement is 241 ... lower than the number of carries Sanders had in any season.

Also, you brought up earlier that Sanders' successors should have been more successful if FO metrics were accurate, but I don't think that's the case at all. Those backs had excruciatingly bad FO metrics. So arguing that their conventional metrics don't make them look like replacement-level is nonsensical, since by FO standards, they weren't replacement-level. (Literally every Lions' back had negative rushing DYAR in 1999! The "leading" carrier that year, Greg Hill, had a DVOA of -23.6% and -88 DYAR.)

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 12:53pm

Even if you sum up team rushing stats only 3 times has the entire *team* rushed for more yards than Barry's average season since retirement.

You are using circular logic though. You are saying a player is below replacement level because FO's metrics states they are below replacement level and then saying that validates the metrics. You are using the metric that I am saying is flawed and saying the flawed metric is a good measurement.

I contend Barry is *much* better than a replacement level back and much better than what the FO metrics would lead you to believe. When you actually put other RBs in the Lions offense they perform horribly. It isn't that they are all worse than a replacement level RBs - they are replacement level RBs put in a horrible offense. Using Sanders' metrics you would think they would be cranking outstanding seasons when in fact they don't even come close - not even as an entire team.

by dmb :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:38pm

Here are the Lions' total team rushes (including kneel-downs) since Sanders' retirement: 356, 448, 351, 358, 376, 407, 404, 304, 324, 352, 409. More seasons than not, the team total was equivalent or lower to a very high-use season for a single player.

And you're completely misunderstanding my argument. You stated, without evidence, that Sanders' successors were replacement-level players, but their conventional stats were below what one would expect of a replacement-level back. I was pointing out that FO metrics also indicate that his successors were below-replacement, so there's no evidence to support your assertion that we're comparing Sanders to replacement-level players; both conventional and FO stats suggest that comparing Sanders to his successors is to compare him to sub-replacement performance. Of course he's going to look far better!

Furthermore, implying that FO metrics peg Sanders as a replacement-level player, or close to it, is a gross mischaracterization. In the six seasons compiled, Sanders' FO metrics put him at or below replacement level only once -- 1998. They suggest that over the course of those six seasons, Barry was so valuable that he contributed a full season's worth of extra production -- more than 1100 yards -- above replacement level. I doubt that anyone other than Smith had more cumulative DYAR over that time period; in fact, I doubt anyone else comes even close.

I do think you're right that the Lions' offensive line in 1998 pretty clearly makes Sanders' numbers look much worse than his actual performance. But you've done nothing to show how his successors were even replacement level. You're right that they were getting put behind horrible blocking, but I would argue that a rushing "attack" as awful as the Lions' in 1999 is indicative of below-replacement backs running behind a bottom-of-the-barrel line.

Finally, nobody is suggesting that Sanders was anywhere close to replacement level. Again, asserting that his numbers suggested that you'd get "outstanding" seasons when replacing him is just crazy. Even if you interpret Sanders' numbers in the least charitable way possible (which nobody is doing) -- looking exclusively at his worst season, and assigning responsibility for the low numbers to him only -- you would expect his replacements to be mediocre. However, any reasonable person would look at the arc of his career and the context of 1998, and expect a severe drop-off between Sanders and his "replacements."

Basically, you're doing a great job of debating straw-men arguments. Nobody (not even FO authors) claim that DVOA and DYAR completely separate a back from the performance of his line or system. Nobody (not even just the FO metrics alone) sees Sanders as anything close to replacement-level. All I've argued is that there's no good reason to throw the FO metrics out and look at yards/carry alone when the FO metrics adjust for sooooooo many factors that yards/carry don't. I'm not even arguing that the FO metrics are better than conventional stats, just that they supply additional information that's useful if a player is evaluated in context.

For what it's worth, I think Sanders is the most entertaining player I've ever had the privilege to watch (admittedly, I'm only 23), and think he was one of the most incredible and unique players I will ever see. He was an elite player for many years -- something very, very few players accomplish -- and the way he maintained that production was with a style not quite seen before or since. I'm also Redskins fan. Even though Emmitt Smith was one of the very few Cowboys players from the '90s that I don't completely loathe, I would nevertheless like nothing more than to see conclusive evidence that Sanders was superior to Smith in every facet of the game. But regardless of how Sanders compared to Smith, it's hard to deny Sanders' one-of-a-kind contributions to football history.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 3:28pm

I understand your argument - we are just not clicking on definition of a "replacement" player. I am saying Sanders' literal replacements - which you would probably expect to play at somewhere around replacement level come nowhere close to doing that. Even James Stewart - who hovered around replacement level with the Jags and always had positive DYAR performed horribly for the Lions.

I would be willing to bet that Terrell Davis in his 4 prime seasons comes out ahead of Sanders as well as Smith. And I am not putting up strawmen arguments. I am using the FO definitions. How else would you critique a FO metric without putting the metric in context of what it is saying?

Saying Barry Sanders rushed for 2053 yards with 390 DYAR doesn't mean much. But when I state that what that is saying is that a replacement level RB would be expected to rush for 1600+ yards given the same carries in the same situation all of a sudden I am putting up strawmen? That is *exactly* what DYAR is defined to be. I am just putting the stat in the context of the NFL and the Lions. You can decide whether or not that seems like a likely outcome.

The career of Marshall Faulk also illustrates the weirdness of DYAR and DVOA. With the Colts, Faulk was below replacement level rushing every year. He essentially played like Reggie Bush but with more carries. Why? He was the guy. Inconsistent QBs, poor Ds, poor OL, etc. etc. didn't help him out. He did play with a young Harrison and rookie Manning but Faulk was pretty much the offense. At the time I remember thinking that Faulk just wasn't a good runner (even though I thought he would be great with how he performed at San Diego St.).

Then he gets traded to the Rams and all of a sudden he is a DVOA/DYAR monster putting up some of the best seasons the NFL has ever seen. Did Faulk just all of sudden learn how to run? No - he got offensive support. It is much easier to perform when you have all pro/borderline HOFers at QB, WR1, WR2, and LT. Sanders was essentially like Faulk with the Colts - but he put up some of the best seasons in NFL history with really only 1 good passing year from his QBs. Put Faulk on the Lions and he probably is the same player he was on the Colts - I don't think we could really imagine what would happen if Sanders got to play with the Cowboys, 49ers, or Broncos.

I do think FO realizes this. Aaron wouldn't put Barry as a 9 (although I loathe Brown as a 10) when his own stats pretty much say Faulk, Terrell Davis, Smith, Holmes, LT, Alexander, Larry Johnson, Stephen Davis, etc. etc. all had better rushing seasons than Barry's 1994 and 1997 seasons. I am more pointing out flaws/weirdness to readers who think DYAR is a good measurement of individual players.

by dmb :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 4:44pm

Literally nobody argues that DVOA or DYAR completely separates the performance of a back from that of his teammates. Heck, if you look up FO's explanation of DVOA and DYAR, they say something along the lines of, "it really means that this player, playing behind this line and with these teammates under this coach running this offense, was so many yards above replacement." When you're arguing against a position that nobody has taken, it's a strawman. (And do you think that yards per carry aren't influenced by those things?!?)

You're also not using FO definitions. When you say "we're not clicking on the definition of a 'replacement player,'" what you mean is "I'm not using the accepted definition of a 'replacement player.'" It's not literally the player who replaces another. It's a generic level of performance. You haven't given any evidence for how Greg Hill, the Lions' primary back in 1999, comes anywhere close to matching that performance-based definition.

You are absolutely correct in your interpretation of what DYAR "says," with the exception of your definition of replacement. And I agree that DYAR could very well be understating Sanders' performance in 1997, particularly given your point about long runs. But Sanders' 1997 is a particularly odd example to use for advocating the use of YPC and not DVOA or DYAR.

Take a look at the other players who carried the ball on that 1997 team. There are a couple QBs, and WRs, which should probably be ignored, since those rushes are a bit different than a standard handoff. There are also two fullbacks on the list, who are somewhat likely to have an artificially depressed YPC due to usage patterns (receiving a disproportionate number of carries in short-yardage situations). There is one halfback on the list other than Sanders who received any notable number of carries, Ron Rivers. If you use his yards per carry (5.72) to extrapolate his performance to Sanders' 335 carries, you get more than 1900 yards. Do you think Rivers was that good? I sure don't. In light of that, I'm unsure why you feel that YPC highlights the disparity between Sanders and his teammates/successors in a way that DVOA/DYAR does not.

As for Faulk ... once again, it's the same story: nobody is arguing that FO metrics control for his teammates, coaches, etc. Coincidentally, neither do yards per carry, nor any other metric that anyone has been able to devise. (Faulk's yards per carry also skyrocketed when he left the Colts'. Anybody's metrics would have looked much better from making that change.) But taking DVOA, DYAR, and success rate gives you additional info with which to evaluate the player in context of the strength of the defenses he faced, game situation, etc.

by dmb :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 4:53pm

Really, here's how I would summarize my position:

No single metric is a perfect indicator of individual performance, and in football, no metrics exist that are successful at completely separating individual performance from the effects of teammates and scheme. I don't think anybody is arguing that FO stats do that, so continually trying to "disprove" this notion is a strawman arguement.

However, FO metrics control for more context than do traditional stats, so using them to "color" interpretations of individual performance are useful because they take those extra factors (notably strength of opponent and game situation) into account. Even so, no single metric will give you the most accurate evaluation of a players' performance. Rather, using a combination of FO metrics and conventional stats, along with qualitative information (context about the team, scheme, etc.) is going to be far more fruitful than sticking with a single conventional stat, or even just a combination of conventional stats and qualitative info.

If you disagree, that's fine, but I don't think this discussion is really going anywhere.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 10:44pm

I think FO metrics are definitely useful. I don't think that single metric is the ultimate measurement but I think DYAR is a particularly bad measurement for judging individuals - and it is what all the lists are sorted by. Looked at closely DYAR has some weird results and conclusions.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 10:36pm

My position is DYAR and DVOA devalue long plays. Ergo players that are good at breaking long plays like Barry Sanders and Chris Johnson are devalued. My position is that ALY and DYAR seem to be in direct conflict with one another. Due to this my position is that DYAR and DVOA are not good metrics at all for judging individual players. (YPC - ALY) * carries would probably provide me with a list that passes the eyeball test better than DYAR.

I understand the FO replacement player. My point is that you would expect the literal replacement players to produce like FO's hypothetical replacement player - at least a few of them. Especially when you have a sample size of 5+ RBs with some that are supposedly good enough to win a starting job on a team. That is what the FO hypothetical RB was supposed to model in the first place. None of them came close. You say that is because they didn't play at FO's replacement level - I say that they more than likely did play at replacement level and that is how a replacement level back would really perform for the Lions. As you stated, DYAR and DVOA don't account for teams and situations. How is it valid at all to assume that this hypothetical replacement player would produce as expected for the Lions?

Ron Rivers - sample size. We don't need to debate that any more than debating that Darren Sproles is much better than LT due to their YPC when they played together. Also, over his career Sanders averaged more raw yardarge per carry than his teammates than any player in NFL history (with over 1500 carries). As a percentage increase I believe he is only behind Tiki Barber and OJ. So yes, I do think that as a whole YPC vs. your teammates and YPC vs. the NFL are better measurements than DYAR (as a percentage Jim Brown is #1 and Sanders is #2, I don't remember the raw yardage it is either the same or flipped). And before you claim his usage pattern was different I will point out that no other back in NFL history took a higher percentage of his team's RB/WR carries than Sanders. If anything, Barry was one of the least substituted backs in history.

by Jerry :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 4:12pm

For what it's worth, I think Sanders is the most entertaining player I've ever had the privilege to watch (admittedly, I'm only 23)...

I have a few decades on you, and Sanders is, at least, the most entertaining running back I've seen.

by BengalFaninIN :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 11:21pm

Well, I'm 43 and he was the most entertaining back I've ever seen. Not the best, but the most fun to watch. (He was quite good, not far from being the best etc.)

by Dales :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:15pm

Context is important. Dallas had a great offensive line, a great quarterback, a great receiver, and very good complementary skill position players.

Barry Sanders was a Detroit Lion (I snark, because I love).

Emmitt was a great, great back. Tough sonofagun. Deserves to be thought of that high.

But just like I argued with Elway above, the accolades that Sanders gets are deserved accolades. He really was that good, at least to my eyes.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:01pm

Maybe it's because I've become an old fart, but Drew Brees seems a long way from being the 12th best qb of all time, and to put him ahead of Tarkenton seems really off base.

Brees has played in the most passer friendly era in league history, with mostly decent to good teammates, and has thrown 1.84 tds for every int, over 4164 attempts in 8 years as a starter. Tarkenton spent about half his career in the most passer-unfriendly era, and about 2/3 of his career, and his physical prime, with mostly bad teammates. He had 1.29 tds for every int, over 6467 attempts in 18 years as a starter. Brees has 4 Pro Bowls and one 1st team All-Pro. Tarkenton made 9 Pro Bowls and one 1st team All-Pro.

I don't dislike Brees, but I suspect that not enough era adjustment, and perhaps other contextual adjustments, have been done, in coming to the conclusion that Brees has been a better NFL qb than Fran Tarkenton. The same likely applies to Staubach as well. Even people familiar with the era changes, like Aaron, may not be appreciating how mucht more difficult it was to pass in the '70s. Staubach, of course, always had excellent teammates, better than what Brees enjoyed, but most people simply don't appreciate the fact that Tarkenton was 2/3 into his long career, and past his physical prime, by the time he had above-average talent around him.

by Scott Kacsmar (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:27pm

Have to agree about Brees. I think if he continues doing what he's doing then he could be top 12 all time, but it's just not there yet. The guy was not good until 2004.

I just hope Troy Aikman doesn't make the list. I'd take Brees over him right now if Brees retired today.

by BigCheese :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 5:02pm

That was my sincere hope as well, but after seeing hte first eppisode where it's greatly implied he is in I could think of only three things:

1) Aikman being on the list is just plain wrong.

2) Aikman being ahead of Irvin makes me fear what the top of the list will be.

3) Aikman being ahead of Tarkenton is an outrage and something no one who understands football should ever even contemplate.

- Alvaro

by Tracy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:34pm

I think that the problem with Brees' inclusion is that it projects his last 4 years to the next 4-6 years. But I can't find a single other active player on the entire list whom one could reasonably say hasn't already earned a spot in the Hall-of-Fame. And yet there's Drew Brees, rated the 12th best quarterback of all time, with a total career value that is about equal to Jim Kelly.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:38pm

Yeah, Brees is weird. I think you could argue he's the best QB in the NFL in 2010, but he hasn't come close to proving himself to be one of the all-time greats. Yes, he's great, but come on. If he gets injured tomorrow and never plays another snap, he's Terrell Davis 2.0 - some people will argue he deserves the Hall of Fame, but it will be highly in dispute...

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:56pm

I too would put Tarkenton well ahead of Brees, but it's odd to suggest that the list does not have enough era adjustment, then cite Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections as a significant reason for putting Tarkenton ahead of Brees. Tarkenton's first 5 Pro Bowls signified that he was considered one of the best 4-6 starting quarterbacks in a league with 14-16 teams. Brees's Pro Bowl selections put him as a top 6-7 QB out of 32 teams.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:37pm

3/16 is closer to 4/16 than 4 is to 9.

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:00pm

That's irrelevant. My point was that you were suggesting that Aaron failed to sufficiently account for era-related context, but then you made the same mistake by using Pro Bowls as a main point for comparison.

If you randomly removed 14-18 non-Brees teams and stuck them in a separate league, then chose the best 4-6 quarterbacks in the NFL, Brees would probably be on that list every year from 2004 until the present. That would still leave him short of Tarkenton's number of Pro Bowls, but "six and counting" is much closer than "four." Again, I'm not saying that Brees should be above Tarkenton -- in fact, I don't think he should be -- but it does seem like you were falling prey to your own criticism.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:17pm

It was Aaron who suggested that Pro Bowls be used for a main point of comparison. Yes, if eras are to be adjusted for, then one should note that being thought of as as one of 6 Pro Bowlers in a 32 team league is harder than being one of 4 in a 16 team league. Even adjusting for that, Tarkenton comes out ahead in the criteria suggested by Aaron.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:26pm

To be clear, and to end the matter, I concede I should have written that some of Tarkenton's Pro Bowls came in a 16 team league.

by BigCheese :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 5:12pm

In all fairness, today we have something like 12 pro-bowlers out of 32 teams, which is actually easier to do than 4 in 16. I mean, last year Vince Young and David Garrard were pro-bowlers. Out of a total 11 pro-bowl QBs for the 2009 season.

2009 David Garrard was a pro-bowler. Let that one sink in for a minute.

Not trying to disminish Brees or anything, but we do need to take into account just how many people bow out of the pro-bowl now letting the alternates in.

- Alvaro

by dmb :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 5:50pm

The seasons in which Tarkenton played in a 16 team league all featured 6 Pro Bowl selections at QB, not 4, but that's splitting hairs...

Last year things got a lot wackier because the new scheduling meant that in addition to "injured" players skipping the game, all players on each Super Bowl team must be replaced as well. Since Super Bowl teams are usually pretty good, that will probably mean a substantial increase in the number of replacements.

However, Brees's selections haven't really been effected by replacement selections. 2009 was the first Pro Bowl that Brees was selected for that had more than 6 or 7 QBs, and for our purposes, even 2009's inflated QB total is irrelevant because he was one of the 6 "original" QB selections. In fact, he contributed to the avalanche of selections; by helping his team to the Super Bowl, he made himself ineligible to play, requiring the selection of an additional quarterback.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 1:28am

Playing at a probowl is not the same thing as being voted to a probowl.

In the context generally being used at least in this thread is about being voted to a probowl.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 2:22am

"If you randomly removed 14-18 non-Brees teams and stuck them in a separate league, then chose the best 4-6 quarterbacks in the NFL, Brees would probably be on that list every year from 2004 until the present."

Why? It's not as though you'd just be randomly removing 14-18 QB's as well, you'd be removing the 14-18 worst starters (at least from the opportunity to start, they'd still be backups). So I don't see how that leads to more Pro Bowls for Brees...

by dmb :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 12:11pm

That's a fair point, but there was another legitimate pro league (the AFL) at this time, so it's a bit like removing 8-10 teams (and their starting-caliber QBs).

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:39pm

Also, if half of Brees' Pro Bowls had come while playing for the Lions, it would be more akin to Tarkenton's accomplishment.

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:01pm

You bet. Again, I was just saying that you should consider differences in era if you're arguing that Aaron's list doesn't.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:57pm

TD-INT ratio is a horribly flawed stat, that as far as I can tell doesn't actually measure anything useful beyond just interceptions thrown.

I would be much more interested in seeing int%, and just ignoring TDs altogether.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:56pm

Yeah, I'm not totally sold on the metric, either. Era-adjusted, defensive teammate- adjusted (I think always having to play rapid catch-up drives up ints) int percentage would be interesting to look at.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 4:15pm

I don't know about that. QBs with better than 2:1 TD:INT ratios in the playoffs are very successful. I think it is a measure of how well they moved the ball and how well they protected the ball - which in playoff football is much more important than just YPA and completion %.

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:22pm

Interceptions are important, but what if a QB throws to the one yard line, and the running back pounds it in for every TD? Does that make the QB worse?

Basically I feel half the equation is important, but TDs are pretty useless for measuring how good a QB is.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:21pm

Well, the thing is that doesn't happen as much as you would think. TDs by themselves aren't a great measure just as INTs aren't. I think the ratio between the two are pretty telling of overall performance. Manning has a stellar TD:INT ratio in the regular season and his record reflects that. He has an OK TD:INT ratio in the playoffs and his record reflects that as well.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:22pm

That's too easy an answer.

Brady (for example) has a playoff TD/Int rate of 28:15. His teams are 14-4 in the playoffs.

Manning has a playoff TD/INT rate of 28:19. His teams are 9-9. He also has a higher overall rating and much better YPA in playoff games.

I'm not sure that one stat really explains as much as you think it does.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 8:49pm

Until his last playoff game he had a better than 2:1 ratio and made 4 SBs. It isn't the end all be all of stats but I can promise you that while the TD:INT is better than 2:1 that the QB will be having much more success in the playoffs.

by Nate Dunlevy :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:06pm

I'm sorry, but is your argument basically that one game skewed Brady's TD/INT ratio? That's what happens in the playoffs. That's why it's folly to make too much out of playoff stats. Manning had one really bad game in New England to end the '03 season. I'll throw Brady's stinker against Baltimore out if you'll throw that one out. Only, that's not how it works, is it?

The stats don't support your conclusion.

by BadAxe (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 4:22pm

This was my chief complaint, too. I don’t think I’d put Brees ahead of Staubach, Fouts or Tarkenton quite yet, but maybe in a couple more years.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:12pm

The only reason to put Butkus below Taylor is because Butkus only had 8 productive seasons, but under that logic, it makes one wonder again how Brees is ranked as high as he is.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:40pm

Yeah, putting Butkus OR Ray Lewis definitively below Taylor is a little strange - I'm not sure how that call was made, but it seems off. I think because non-Ravnes fans are sick of him, people forget how good Lewis has been and for how unbelievably long he's been great.

by Sander :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:46pm

I think LT is one of the top 5 players ever. Ray Lewis and Butkus aren't.
And for one very simple reason: LT changed the way this game was played in a very fundamental way. Ray Lewis and Butkus are/were absolutely great players on an incredible level, but I don't think their impact on the game has been as big as LT's impact on the game. For that reason alone I think LT should be ranked ahead of those two.

by jonnyblazin :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 12:39am

Butkus has been immortalized by NFL films, but I'm just curious how effective a player he was. He never led an elite defense, just has a great reputation based on his hits.

Ray Lewis, in contrast, has played at an extremely high level on great defenses for the past 11 years. FO's stats show that defense fluctuates wildly year to year, yet somehow the Ravens have fielded an elite defense for over a decade. You have to give Newsome and Lewis credit for this - I think Ray Lewis is the one defensive player whose leadership off and on the field is unique in NFL history. People give credit to Manning and Brady for instilling great work ethic (esp. with film study) to their teammates and making intelligent on-field adjustments - they should do the same for Lewis.

Also, there are only a few players in league history who have won DPOY multiple times:
LT, Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Mike Singletary, Joe Greene, and Ray Lewis. Quite an elite list.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 1:05am

Uh, no. There are still head coaches and ccordinators alive who had to scheme for Butkus. Go ask them whether his reputation was built on NFL Films. He was a tremendously dominant player who never played with even an average qb, and played in the same division as the late dynasty Packers, and early dynasty Vikings. He had a few good defensive teammates, but overall the talent around him, outside of Sayers for a few seasons, was bad. Put Ray Lewis on the Oakland Raiders, starting in about 2004, and that is what Butkus' situation was like.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 1:19am

This is where people lose track of what is the dog, and what is the tail. Lawrence Taylor was a great, great, player, but what paved his way, and what changed the game, was the 1978 rule change, which greatly increased the value of a speed rusher on the edge. If he had been 10 years older, he still would have a great player, but nowhere near as valuable. I give Butkus some credit, becaise the era which was most in line with his talents, the '70s, mostly took place after Butkus was done, and certainly after his prime.

Ultimately, trying to argue that either of these magnificent players was better than the other is foolish. We don't know, and have no real way of splitting this hair.

by Sander :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 7:08am

I can see your point, but it doesn't change my opinion: I see this as a list of the 100 players who achieved the most greatness on the field, and I think the impact they had on the game is a great measure of that greatness. Sure, Butkus then had the bad fortune to be born too soon and LT came along at just the right moment.

LT was an absolutely dominant player, who also had the good fortune to be born at the right moment in time for his skills to shine greatest. But I think that's something that goes for all the players at the top of a list like this. If Jerry Rice was born in 1920 his career looks entirely different. If Joe Montana is born in 1920, he probably never throws a professional pass. You need that good fortune to reach greatness.

If this were a measure of skill, I may agree with you - but I don't think a measure of skill is that easily done across eras. I'd much rather see the impact they had on the game as a whole, and in that regard there are very few players that had as big an impact as LT did.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 10:12am

Now you are saying something slightly different. Earlier, you stated that Taylor changed the way the game was played on a fundamental level. This isn't quite right. What changed the way the game was played on a fundamental level was the rules changes. I understand why these lists are produced, and they are fun, but we really fool ourselves if we think this task has any precision, and assigning "10" to one great player, and "9" to another really obscures more than it illuminates. How the hell do you even begin to adjust for the fact that Taylor was surrounded by good to great teammates, while Butkus' teammates were mostly below average? Are we to say Taylor was better in some measure because his teammates were better?

At best, measuring individual player performance, in the most team-oriented of sports, through the prism of past decades, is an endeavor of very rough guesses.

by 49erllama (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 11:48am

By virtue of my age, my football consciousness dates only back to the early 80s. With reference to LT, could you please fill me in on what was the rule change of '78 that made edge rushers more important?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 1:44pm

In what may be the most significant rule change since the development of the forward pass, after 1977 defensive backs and linebackers could not jam and physically disrupt receivers anywhere on the field, prior to the ball leaving the qb's hands. By the late 60s, and until the rule change, the art of mugging, hitting, and knocking down receivers, anywhere on the field, had been perfected to the point that running a precise passing attack was extremely problematic. This is why the rushing game dominated NFL offenses in the '70s, like no other decade before or after. Guys like Mel Blount made the Hall of Fame in good part due to their ability to just knock receivers on their ass, sometimes 15 or 20 yards or more downfield.

Starting in 1978, that all changed, and the era of the modern precision passing attack began, in concert with other rule changes which made the lives of offensive linemen easier. These changes were also huge. In 1977, the head slap, a favorite technique of Hall or Famers like Deacon Jones and Carl Eller, was outlawed. In 1978, offensive linemen were allowed to now extend their arms while pass blocking, and keep their hands open, making it much easier to control pass rushers.

The game was now entirely different. Precision route running, with precise timing involving the qb, was now possible. Offensive linemen could now do things that previously resulted in penalties, and big defensive ends could no longer knock an offensive tackle silly with a blow to the head, without incurring a fifteen yard penalty. A pass rusher from the edge, who could avold the extended arms and open hands of an offensive tackle through sheer speed, and disrupt the timing of qbs, and recievers who were now running downfield unmolested, was now much more valuable. These rule changes were tailor-made to make Lawrence Taylor's skills pre-eminent.

by sn0mm1s :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 1:56pm

I don't think all those changes helped Taylor. If Taylor could head slap and offensive linemen couldn't extend their arms Taylor would've been more dominant than he was at pass rushing.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:09pm

You miss the point. Those changes helped Taylor, relative to other types of pass rushers, and relative to the importance of being a run-stopper.

by sn0mm1s :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:29pm

No, I understand what you were getting at but I don't think that those changes helped him. Assuming what you say is true you would expect RB YPC to increase because:
1) Olinemen have different rules.
2) Defenses have to play the pass more.
3) You need to sacrifice some of your run stopping ability for pass stopping ability.

The numbers don't support that. Rushing average between the 1970's and 1980's remain relatively unchanged - in fact I think it was a little harder to run in the 1980s. The 1990s were much harder to rush in (and probably the toughest decade historically). I once did a comparison of RBs to see who ran against the toughest NFL (judged by YPC). I took the years that the RB played and removed his stats from the pool but left in other RBs and WR's rushing stats in. The guy that ran against the toughest NFL (I think I put my minimum career carries at 1400) was Barry Sanders.

The rules obviously affected the passing game but I don't think that the rule change made Taylor less of a liability than if he played 10-15 years prior.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 8:48am

The 1970s were the most rushing dominant decade in NFL history, and it isn't particularly close.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:17pm

To add on, as a point of reference, if the head slap had still been legal, and offensive linemen not allowed to extend and grab, the realitve value of, say, Howie Long, would have been closer to the value of Lawrence Taylor. Long played helmet to helmet with offensive tackles, thus making the grabbing of tackles, and the lack of head slap, more important, compared to a stand-up outside linebacker who played some distance form the offensive tackle, and relied more on speed.

If Reggie White had been allowed the head slap, he might have ended up with 300 sacks.

by sn0mm1s :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:31pm

The head slap would benefit any pass rusher. Taylor made the outside LB position a pass rushing position.

by Jerry :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 4:30pm

Clearly, the head slap is less valuable when a rusher is sprinting around a blocker than when the rusher and blocker are slugging it out.

by sn0mm1s :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 4:46pm

Even sprinting around the end the LB usually has contact with with a T or TE. It isn't like they are running untouched to the QB every play like it is a windsprint.

by Jerry :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:11am

In this case, the defender's trying to minimize the contact (and the deflection to his path), not to deliver a blow.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 8:51am

If it is your assertion that Lawrence Taylor would have been aided as much by the head slap as a Reggie White, Howie Long, Bruce Smith, etc.,, we will have to agree to disagree.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 11:17am

No, what I am saying is that the head slap rule ban wouldn't *help* Taylor. There are plenty of times in his career where a legal head slap would benefit him.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 1:11pm

Well, of course. My entire point, however, is that the rules changes of '77-'78 helped improve Taylor's ranking, relative to the rank of other players who had pass rush and run defense responsibilities on the edge. Banning the head slap made Taylor's rank, relative to other players with his responsibilities, improve.

by Jerry :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 4:07pm

Allowing contact beyond 5 yards downfield would have helped Deion Sanders, but not nearly as much as it would a corner who relished hitting instead of avoiding it.

by BengalFaninIN :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 11:31pm

My linebacker list would read like this.
LT 10 Ray Ray 10
Derrick Thomas 9
Butkus 8 or 9?

Uhm.. I don't know who else, I'm not an expert on overall history especially when we get deep into the past
I think Jr. Seau Derrick Thomas, Mike Singletary and Karl Mecklenburg should get in there somewhere. (Mecklenburg maybe not as an LB? He played all of the front 7 spots at some times I believe.)

For those who were up thread denigrating Derrick Thomas... After LT and Ray Lewis he was simply the best LB I've ever seen, he was THE best pass rusher after LT and not far behind LT in that aspect, although he seemed to lack a certain ferocity and viciousness that LT and Ray Lewis have, also he died tragically young, which all set him back just a bit in terms of accomplishment.

As a lifelong Bengals fan I think I can say I hate the Ravens as much as anyone, and am the opposite of a Ravens homer, and Ray Lewis is almost underrated as a linebacker these days. (In terms of career level of achievement, he might finally start to show his age this year. if so I'll miss him, all but two games a year.)

by BigCheese :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 1:29am

Putting DT ahead of Butkus (or Singletary, George, Seau, Brooks, Ham, Lambert, and several others, but specially Butkus) is like putting Devin Hester ahead of Andre Johnson, Tim Borwn, Chris Carter and Hines Ward (and yes, I'm intentionally not setting the bar that high). He was a one-trick pony with a high but short pick in one aspect of the game. He's more akin to DeMarcus Ware than any of the other LBs listed.

- Alvaro

by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:13pm

Who are the top 100 players of the DVOA era (1993 to present)?

Might be a fun project for a rainy day...

by chemical burn :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:47pm

I would say Ed Reed being on there but not Dawkins is objectively wrong. Reed is injured this year already and if he begins his decline now, he'll have a tough time matching Dawkin's 8 All-Pros (especially considering Polamalu and Sanders are always lurking to take his spot - not to mention Dawkins, who made the Pro Bowl last year and could easily have another worthy season in him.) Maybe if this list is projecting for the future, but as of today, Dawkins has had the better career..

by jonnyblazin :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 12:55am

Ed Reed has actually already met Dawkins' All-Pro total, which is 4, not 8. Dawkins was a great all around safety to be sure, but Reed is a much more dangerous safety to throw at because of his ball skills and return skills. He'll likely end up challenging the top spot for career INT return yardage if he is able to play a couple more years. Reed achieved the status that CBs occasionally do (Nnamdi 08, Champ Bailey, Deion) where QBs just don't bother throwing in their direction.

Also, Reed has a DPOY. Any other Free Safeties ever won this award?

by Shattenjager :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 12:17pm

Dick Anderson in 1973 is listed as a free safety on PFR, though his position varies over the years, so I'm not sure that's fair to count.

But he's the only other possibility.

by dmstorm22 :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 12:27pm

Reed won it when he played SS. People forget that Reed used to be the Ravens SS, and played it at a level close to what Polamalu plays it now. Reed was a great hitter and in-the-box tackler back then.

by Thok :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:44pm

I'm disappointed by the logic for only rating 120 players. The ballot structure was designed to give you as little or as much influence on players as you want. Pick some way to measure players, follow that, and give as many people non-1 scores as the system deems appropriate. It could be 133, it could be 78, but don't pick 120 in an ad hoc way just because it's a number that sounds nice.

by JIPanick :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 1:51pm

Normally I love y'alls articles but this list is, frankly, ugly.

Either your criteria is how good a guy was or how valuable he was, and either way AT LEAST one of Tarkenton or Staubach got utterly, totally, and completely robbed. Montana and Brady are way too high...how is Montana ahead of Young, exactly? DREW BREES ahead of Staubach and Tarkenton? He's barely better than Philip Rivers! I don't know the other positions as well as QB, but given you have even less info to work with I don't imagine things improve much. At any rate, by the time your QB list is actually less accurate than the conventional wisdom you've already killed any chance of having a good overall list.

Sanders ahead of Emmitt, or Campbell, or Simpson, or Tomlinson is nonsensical (heck, Sanders over Terrell Davis is nonsensical by the "best" measure, and he ain't even on the list!).

However, I will give you credit for a decent WR list and your placement of Marshall Faulk.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:01pm

Sanders should be ahead of everybody - including Jim Brown. Brown dominated his era like no other but his era was weak compared to the modern game. I feel the same way about Hutson - more dominant than Rice during his era but I would never place him among the elites. I can't take seriously any era where NFL Champions were beat by college all star teams.

by Dales :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:20pm

On the "how is Montana ahead of Young" comment, let me just throw out this thought.

Bill Walsh, who was a legendary coach and evaluator of talent, had both on his team and started Montana.

Then, after Montana had his back broken and had aged, and had been traded to the Chiefs, a team with significantly inferior offensive talent, the NFL scheduling gods squared them off in the regular season.

One game sample size, yeah. But Montana schooled him, and afterwards a dejected Young graciously said something along the lines of "I guess the master had one more lesson".

There is a reason Young openly celebrated getting the monkey off his back. It is hard to follow the best QB of all-time-to-date when you are in the discussion yourself.

by dairvon :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:12pm

How can Unitas get only an 8?! He was a 3 time NFL player of the year and was a 3 time NFL champ despite the fact that his prime coincided with the Lombardi dynasty. He could easily have won another title or two. His team missed the playoffs in '67 with a 11-1-2 record and lost a one game playoff in OT to the eventual champion Packers in '65, a game that Unitas and his back-up missed with injury. His record for TD passes in consecutive games still stands despite the fact that the rules have been changed to make it so much easier to pass. In 2004 the Sporting News listed him as the greatest QB of all-time and you only give him an 8? I'd love to know what your thinking is.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:45pm

Yes, I also find it problematic to assert that there were 7 better quarterbacks than Johnny Unitas.

by billsfan :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 6:32pm

It really puts the "irrational" in the Brady/Manning debate. Maybe we can just make all the QBs 10s.

His 1958 championship game, I think, tops anything Brady's done in the playoffs. 80-yard TD-scoring drive in overtime. Not a field goal after an out-of-bounds kickoff; not giving the ball back to a guy who's too tired to run a 2-minute drill.

He has an unreal, and likely unbreakable, 47-game TD-pass streak. Closest is 36 (Favre).

Four-time league leader in TD passes (tied with Favre).

Those four seasons were also consecutive!

Three-time MVP. Behind Manning, tied with Favre, ahead of Montana/Young/Warner (2) and Marino/Brady/Elway (1).

(I just now realized that Kurt Warner may have been overlooked here. Also, for the debate we're not having, it makes sense that the player named most valuable the most times is probably the best ever, right?)

Then there's that whole thing about "inventing the modern passing game."

You take a walk through Inner Harbor in the fall, and they're still selling Unitas Colts jerseys in the shops. It's been almost 30 years since the team moved; longer since he retired.

(I also like the Eagles)

by RugbyRussTri :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:33pm

If you're going to put Warren Sapp in the list then Cortez Kennedy should be in there too.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:46pm

didnt redad posts yet or wole Schatz essay but looked at players.

Jimmy Johnson
doug atkins

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:52pm

also forgot P. warfield

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 2:53pm

5 equally great QB's at top, but one at every other position? That screams of an unwillingness to make a hard call. Would it have been that difficult to put Graham alone
At 10?

(I also like the Eagles)

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:15pm

Considering Baugh's accomplishments not only as a quarterback, but also as a defensive back and a punter, it's hard to argue against him being a 10. As Aaron noted at the beginning of the article, players who lined up on both sides of the ball were listed at their offensive position.

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:27pm

If you like Championships (I don't. If you look in places like p-f-r and wikipedia, there's no convenient list of QB championships, which is a freakin' team stat. If Tom Brady had Scott Norwood, we're not having this conversation. Is Lonnie Paxton automatically the best long-snapper of all time? Damn that was a long parenthetical note!), Graham has 8. More than Brady and Montana combined. If you like stats, look at his YPA. That's not a typo, he has 9.0 yards per attempt.

The point is, there are old-timers who, especially considering their era, were far ahead of contemporary QBs. If you just want cheap pageviews, then by all means fan the Manning-Brady flames. Those clowns are missing the point, anyway. Manning wins on sheer durability. He never took a season off to wear tiny hats, carry man purses, and play with his lap-dog, and he has the "haircut you can set your watch to," which is what *really* determines QB quality.

(I also like the Eagles)

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:28pm

And you are, of course, splitting hairs at this point. Unless we need to have an irrational Graham-Baugh debate thread.

(I also like the Eagles)

by dmb :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:46pm

Hahaha, I'm not arguing that Baugh was better than Graham, though a special thread for them could be amusing. I thought you were asserting that QB should've been like every other position, with one player at 10, and that player should be Graham. I was pointing out that there's pretty good reason for at least two of those players to receive a "10," without getting into arguments about the others.

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:30pm

I interpreted that as Aaron weighing the QB position more heavily, so that QBs appear more towards the top of the overall list.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:09pm

A shell and Mike Haynes also misisng from lsit. Haynes defeintely better than Christiansen, C Baailey, and D, Green

by dairvon :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:43pm

I agree, Haynes was better than those guys. He should be on this list.

by Booond (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 4:21pm

Mike Haynes? The man was great for two teams. Surprised he didn't make it.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:51pm

Continuing with my Tarkenton obsession, looking at the list of all the players, not too many if any, were held back as long, by being surrounded by mostly untalented teammates. Butkus? To some degree, but he did have good defensive teammates in many years, and Sayers on offense. Sayers? Yes, his offensive teammates were bad, for his short career. Fouts had a tough go of it for about five or six years. Tarkenton broke in with an expansion team, which is unusual in itself for a Hall of Famer, especially at qb, and just when the talent was taking a decided turn to the better, he gets shipped to a Giants team on a steep downslope. He did amazing work with that group of scrubs (Dr. Z stated that the finest game he ever saw a qb play was Tarkenton nearly beating a championship caliber Cowboys team single-handedly), and by the time he got traded back to the Vikings, filled with talent, he had lost arm strength and foot speed.

I am very doubtful that the NFL has seen 15 better qbs.

by Jarvis (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 3:54pm

It's hard to remember, given the way the passing game has completely changed in the last 10 years, but Elway was often a one-man team. Weak o-line, no RB, mediocre WR, (when Shannon Sharpe came along he got a HOF target), Dan Reeves/Wade Phillips... Compare the Broncos' talent level to the Bills ca. 1989-92: no Thurman Thomas, no Andre Reed, no Bruce Smith, no Cornelius Bennett, etc. etc.

Elway always had the ability to take over the game. I think Peyton can do it now (without the rushing ability but with better passing)... and honestly that's the only other QB I've seen who could just take over a game.

My two cents on the Manning-Brady debate: the Pats won each of their Super Bowls by 3 points. Let's say they get unlucky and lose those 3 games by 3 points instead -- is Brady even in the debate? Let's say your team can have either Manning or Brady for the upcoming season: how many would pick Brady? I know I wouldn't.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 4:06pm

Brady hands down. I could say the same about Manning and his SB run. No QB in history was able to throw twice as many picks as TDs and still win a SB. People say that Roethlisberger was carried to his SB - when really it was only 1 game. Manning's entire SB run was subpar.

by Spoon :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 4:29pm

Manning's entire SB run was subpar.

Except for that AFC Championship game where, you know, he scored more points than Brady...

Everyone wants to knock Manning's Super Bowl run. I even hear Bill Simmons knocking it because Manning's opponent was Rex Grossman and the Bears. Well, knock the run all you want, just remember that there's a head-to-head victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots in the middle of it.

Manning played terrific for years, but the criticism was that his team didn't win in the playoffs. Then the Colts won the Super Bowl, and now the knock becomes that Manning didn't play terrific? Well, which is it? Do you value winning or performance? Manning's proven that he can do both.

Sure he's had games where he's played poorly and the Colts won. He's also had games where he played great yet the Colts still lost. Seems the haters are always going to find a way to "move the goalposts" when judging Manning's career.

by sn0mm1s :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 4:49pm

Well, I value both. We aren't comparing Manning to an average QB. We are comparing him to Brady. Who has had much more playoff success and has also set some NFL records himself and has a better head to head record in the playoffs. I take Manning over anyone in the league except Brady and possibly Drew Brees - who has never had a poor playoff game (granted the sample size is small).

by t.d. :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 5:33pm

Brady is 2-1 against (Peyton)Manning in the playoffs (2-2, of course, against all qbs named Manning). Hardly a decisive margin

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 9:45pm

For crying out loud, people, please stop. There are 118 other players listed up there. Enough with the Brady and Manning. I didn't give you enough to talk about?

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:00pm

lots of pepeole cant remember anything more than 10 yeras old. so maybe that happened here. but most peoplel here not dumb, so who knows. but anyway so that maybe expalin why they want to iration about Maning and Brady insteda of argue who was better DT- stautner or Randy White?

by M :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:18pm

Aaron - Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Raiderjoe - Thank you for existing.

by tally :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:10pm

What, you thought rating both Manning and Brady as 10s would head off this irrational discussion? You know you really wanted to rate Manning higher.

(Anyways, they're both 9s.) *ducks*

by Entropy :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 3:17am

I would have put Jim Thorpe higher up, but it's pretty likely I'm being colored by his all-around athletic greatness (really, I can't think of an example I'd list above him on a "Top Athletes of All-Time" list).

I also think Biletnikof should be above a few of those listed.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 4:25pm

Munchak better than Dawson

tought to amke list

understand it not easy, but think Munchak desreve to be there insteda of Dawson

by D :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 4:40pm

Aaron, I was wondering how you approached modern players? Did you rank them strictly based on how they have performed up to this point or was it more where they will likely end up once their careers' are over?

by Joseph :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:17pm

As a note--I got the impression from Aaron's intro, that, a long-retired player who DIDN'T make the Hall yet won't be considered unless a write-in player. IMO, Aaron's just too young to be able to do that well compared to, say, John Clayton. Junior Seau, however, is a different story.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:26pm

who you have in minf? Bobby dillon, jack butler, Mac Speedie, alw istert?

by Scrapper (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 6:58pm

What is the argument exactly for Marino being a 9 and Favre being a 7? Hasn't Favre essentially broken all of Marino's passing records AND he has the Super Bowl championship that Marino never got. Maybe Marino should be a 9 but I agree with those suggest that Favre is not receiving enough credit for his longevity, durability, productivity and overall body of work.

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:40pm

I'd imagine that QBs lost points for Retirements-Over-Average, a rarely-used advanced stat.

(I also like the Eagles)

by billsfan :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 7:40pm

I'd imagine that QBs lost points for Retirements-Over-Average, a rarely-used advanced stat.

(I also like the Eagles)

by alexbond :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:22pm

Farve's SB was due in no small part to a great defensive line and Desmond Howard. Farve is undoubtedly a fantastic QB, which is why he's high on the list, but I think you have to take the good with the bad with Farve and there are plenty of game-icing INTs in there along with the miracle TDs.

by Cale (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 10:07pm

I think Cortez Kennedy should definitely be on the list. I would consider him Warren Sapp's equal, same number of all-pro appearances and defensive player of the year awards.

by BGNoMore (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:43pm


An impossible task, but I give you credit for taking it seriously, including the identification of the write-ins (how are Champ Bailey and Willie Roaf not even in the discussion?)

This is a terribly subjective process, so it is easy to say "you got it wrong on so-and-so". I'll give you a little of that, but first some acknowledgment of some rankings I really appreciate.


1)Leaving off Terry Bradshaw. There has long been a tendency to confuse the QB of the best team with the best QB (a phenomenon which also attached a ubiquitous "greatest ever" to Joe Montana; even Aaron seems afflicted on that one). Bradshaw has basked in the aura of a dominant team, but he was not a great quarterback. He was good, but should not be in the same discussion with the other names on this list.

2)Thank you for recognizing the beast that was Marion Motley.

3)The running back list is ridiculously esteemed, and Jim Brown sits atop, all by himself. This is as it should be.

4)Thanks for recognizing Alan Page. Those younger than me -- which describes a huge chunk of the population -- might not appreciate just how dominant he was. Part of your challenge was dealing with positional value. Should any DT get the same grade as a great QB? If his name is Alan Page, yes.

5)There is some discussion of Derrick Thomas above. Thank you for omitting him. I regard him as one of the five worst HOF inductees to date. For those who didn't watch him play, turn to the Broncos section of this year's almanac, find/replace Dumervil with Thomas, and you have an equally accurate article.

6)Obviously, there are numerous other rankings with which I would generally agree. Really, in the absence of being ripped for a particular choice, you should consider it a near unanimous endorsement.

Then, there is the other side of the coin:


1)Barry Sanders is the most spectacular RB I've ever seen, but hardly among the best. He routinely refused to run through gaping holes, too often willing to eschew 5 yards in the hope of 30, but realizing a lot -5s in process. I understand that your metrics indicated that the booms did a lot to offset the busts. The problem is that your metrics don't fully account for the opportunity cost of refusing to gain 5 yards. Still, he was the most fun to watch of anybody (although Gale Sayers is a really close second).

2)The TEs are a complete mess. First, leaving off Ditka is indefensible. Mike Ditka was, in the context of his era, a much more revolutionary player than Gonzalez/Gates (AKA GonZates). He was a legitimate receiving threat, and often down field behind the linebackers. He was also every bit the blocking force his era demanded of him. As noted, the dramatic change in TE roles in recent years, make the generational comparisons that much more difficult. Still, your ascension of GonZates smacks of DVOA love, DVOA being a pass-catching measure only. Shannon Sharpe, in context, was every bit the dominant pass-catcher as GonZates and, actually, blocked. Really well. GonZates rarely bothers to even make a show of blocking. Sorry, GonZates does not rank with Ditka, Mackey, Sharpe, or Newsome.

3)How in the world is Deacon Jones not a 10? If Deacon Jones is an 8, Bo Derek was a 3. Are you daft? I applauded you for putting Jim Brown and Alan Page on positional pedestals. If you told me I could only give a 10 to one guy, it would be Deacon Jones.

4)Junior Seau is an 8? The same as Deacon-freaking-Jones? Again, (see Thomas, Derrick) this a guy OCs game-planned to run right at because, for all his athleticism, he was a really undisciplined player who left his gap on any misdirection.

Aaron, I hope you find the above fair, and I appreciate your approach to a completely unanswerable question.

by sn0mm1s :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 1:52am

The numbers don't support your view of Sanders. He averaged 20 carries a game. 17 were for 6.3 YPC and 3 were for -2.5. He can't have a lot of 5 yard losses with that average. He also didn't have many gaping holes. You don't get a lot of gaping holes playing most of your career without a TE or FB. In fact, I remember watching a show where it was explained that he was assigned a man to beat on running plays. How many teams assign the ball carrier a player to beat to make a run? My guess would be only the Lions. Lastly, the FO metrics like DYAR and DVOA devalue a player like Sanders not the reverse.

by Marco (not verified) :: Fri, 09/03/2010 - 11:54pm

My two cents..

I think before you can come up with such a list you have to first reach an agreement on how the players will be graded and ranked. There is too much subjectivity in most cases without first establish guidelines and criteria that everyone can agree to. Do players have to play for a specific period of time to be considered? If not then how do you compare a player who played 6 years with a player who played 14? Do you compare the first 6 years of each player? Do you simply rank the player based on their impact on the team, or do they have to impact the entire league? How do you grade this? Was Barry Sanders better because he ran faster and gained more yards, or Earl Campbell because it took 3 to 5 defenders to bring him down each run from scrimmage? What about the players who only played before the league merger (before the Superbowl)? They wouldn't have the same chance at higher statics as players who played after. Neither would players who played when there were fewer games per season. How do you handle this? For example, do you only compare statics from the equal number of games per season when comparing a 70's player with one from 20xx?

by Ajit (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 5:57am

THis isn't to blast AARon on his list or continue the irrational debate or anything, but I am curious at how much stock AARon, and really FO, puts into their own numbers versus media wide perceptions. I use the manning brady example because it best illustrates a pt. IF people browse through the last 9 seasons of qb play, manning is either 1 or 2 EVERY YEAR. There are no other players that even comes close to duplicating that. The fact that he's far and alone the only person to do so raises the question of why he isn't higher in the eyes of FO since it is their statistics he's outperforming Brady in. Given this, I would have to conclude that Brady is placed alongside manning by other determining factors, which i guess include Superbowl wins. Again, I'm not criticizing Aaron at all. I actually feel brady is being massively underrated right now in favor of newer, flashier qbs.

On a side note, people who keep throwing the old, "all he does is win," comment for brady, consider this. in 01, brady wins the superbowl with his offense scoring just 13 pts. Against the ravens this year he gets toasted badly. Do we just conclude blindly that brady in 01 was better than brady in 09 simply because of wins? People really need to understand that wins are influenced by a ton of factors, not just qb play. JUst ask trent dilfer.

by Dean :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 10:03am

So you don't want to continue the stupid, pointless arguement, yet you feel compelled to continue the stupid, pointless argument?

Let it go!

Aaron - is it time to recussitate the irrational debate thread?

by foolio (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 6:10am

cal hubbard, yale lary, norm van brocklin, clyde turner........go learn about them schatz. ed reed and drew brees...........rofl

by foolio (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 6:17am

Merlin Olsen started for 15 NFL seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 14 of them, which is pretty remarkable..............man, no flies on you, amazing the things that these outsider guys know, this olsen guy must have been ok even apart from being on little house on the prairie eh? and no ditka!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:05pm

Also, to further illustrate the impossibility of identifying the top 100 or 120 NFL players, note that Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski are not on Aaron's list. I really think divinding the NFL's history into three eras, pre-WWII, 1946-1977, and 1978-present, would be a more fruitful way to approach these questions. Select 50 from each era.

by sn0mm1s :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 2:47pm

This I completely agree with. I don't think you can really compare the players who played 1975 - present with those that played prior. Excluding the rule changes the game just wasn't as competitive.

As a point of reference. The 1962 Packers, with 10 HOFers (many of them on Aaron's list), got beat by a college all star team. This was the last NFL Champion to lose to college all stars in the annual Chicago Charities All Star Game. The thing is, this really wasn't a fluke occurrence, college all stars won about 1/3 of the games played against NFL Champions up until that point. The NFL of the 1960's and prior was a 1/2 step above college level play.

By the mid to late 1970s the league was fully integrated (the Redskins didn't even have a black player on their team until Mitchell was traded in to them in early 1960s). The game truly was professional (players in the early 1970s still held down other jobs in the offseason). PEDs had hit the scene and were used.

It really is unfortunate, because I don't think that the modern players gets the respect they deserve. Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Don Hutson etc. etc. were great for their era - but I don't think they would be nearly as dominant in today's game no matter what their modern training regimen consisted of. Brown was bigger than many lineman - he isn't going to pack on 100 lbs because he eats and works out more efficiently.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 9:12am

Well, of course. The hundred meter sprinter, miler, and champion weight lifter of today would crush their counterparts of 1950 as well. Making millions of dollars, instead of a few thousand, makes sophisticated traning regimens possible, and a wealthier society in general just allows people to grow up bigger and stronger.

I think trying to compare across eras does a disservice to all involved. The thing you can try to measure is how dominant that player was, compared to other players who played in similar circumstances. Once you get beyond that, you are just making wild guesses, and fooling yourself into thinking that you know what you are talking about. The games of 1935, 1960, and 1990 are so dissimilar that comparing players from those eras isn't much better than saying,"Albert Pujols is better than Kobe Bryant".

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 11:30am

It is more than this though. I have no doubt that someone like Bob Hayes would be a world class sprinter no matter what his birthdate was. It isn't just the measurables - it is the competition in general. It is true that the field shrinks as players get bigger, stronger, and faster but it is the competition that matters most. Dan Reeves (who led the NFL in TD's one year) said he wouldn't even make an NFL team in today's game. NFL Champions with multiple HOFer shouldn't get beat by college all stars that have been playing together for only a few weeks prior to the game - yet it wasn't a rare occurrence. In today's game, this would be like Tim Tebow and CJ Spiller beating a Pro bowl squad that has been playing together all year. I won't say that the feat would be at the same level as the Miracle on Ice - but it would be pretty close.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 1:23pm

Yes, as training and nutrition improve the disparity between athletes in, say, the 99th percentile and the 90th percentile grows wider. I don't know what that has to do with providing a disservice to the modern athlete. Again, my only pont is that pretending that one can compare athletes who competed under wildly different circumstances, with anything approaching precision, is foolish or disingenuous.

by sn0mm1s :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 1:57pm

Well, usually the disservice is in statements like:

Don Hutson is better than Randy Moss.
Jim Brown is better than Barry Sanders.
Dick Butkus is better than Ray Lewis.

I didn't watch the show that Aaron made these picks for - but I can almost promise you that #1 and #2 are going to be Jerry Rice and Jim Brown. One is deserved - one is not.

Now, if people said things like Hutson was more dominant in his era than Moss then I would agree - but I doubt Hutson would even start in today's game. Similarly, Brown was the most dominant back ever for his era - but I am pretty sure he wouldn't be nearly as dominant in today's game - that isn't foolish or disingenous. I don't think Jim Taylor could rush for nearly 1500 yards averaging over 5 YPC either - but he did just that in his (and Jim Brown's) era. However, many people when rating players do think those players would be just as dominant.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 9:02pm

Again, no sane person is arguing that the athlete of fifty years ago could compete with the athlete of today. No, Mark Spitz could not beat Michael Phelps. It's not even an interesting question. What is interesting to me is which players, under what particular circumstances, were the best.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 11:25pm

Take a look at Dara Torres. It's not as big of a gap in time, but at the age of 41 she was able to keep up with the current crop of younger swimmers and she credits pretty much all of that to better training and nutrition than she had back in the 80's when she was also an Olympian. Considering that a swimming record surviving even 3 years is amazing you can consider her to have swam in 2 or 3 different generations of the sport (the suit changes from 1984 to 2008 alone would literally shave about 1s per 50 off most elite swimmers times). She knows she would have been faster in the 80's if she could have had the training she got in the 2000's it's interesting to hear her talk about the differences. Things like video capture and body chemistry monitoring to improve technique and conditioning didn't exist in the sport 20 years ago, but giving those to an elite level athlete even when they are ancient (women older than 25 are old in swimming, men it's 28 or so she was 41) can make them competitive again.

Swimming is one of the few sports where you can do some translations across the eras a little more simply.

The debate on if you could go back in time, grab even a teenaged Mark Spitz and train him like Phelps and see who won, is not clear cut. Of course Spitz's best times ever wouldn't even be good enough to get him to the Olympic Trials meet now a days, let alone on the team now, but I could imagine a 20 something Spitz beating a 20 something Phelps if they had the same training. :) Trying to do that with Football is much much harder due to rule changes and how those affected different player skill-sets, team effects etc. Swimming there have been very few rule changes (there have been some, dolphin kicks allowed on turns in freestyle and backstroke, etc but they are all things that are not hard to retrain someone too and the direct improvement is pretty easy to just say, this person given that would be 1 to 1.2s faster).

Um yes I swam in college 15+ years ago so I did find it humorous that you picked the one example that actually does have some interesting discussion with swimming geeks. :) But even though most think that Spitz given Phelps like training might be able to beat him in a few events, wouldn't be able to dominate the current competition like Phelps has (assuming Phelps wasn't around). Phelps is the GOAT in men's swimming even if you could hold all else equal, he's just got a freak of nature body. But swim geeks do find it interesting. :)

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 1:09am

When I am given to wild speculation, I think about Bronko Nagurski, born in 1908, who played in the NFL at 6'2", 235 pounds, and who still holds the reciord for largest recorded ring size for a NFL Championship ring, 19 1/2. Is it crazy to think that a guy like that, given modern nutrition at birth, and modern traning techniques, might have been 3 or 4 inches taller, and fifty or sixty pounds heavier, and significantly faster to boot? With hands that size, might we have seen a cross between Tony Gonzalez and Anthony Munoz? Or Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White?

Then again, maybe I just like the fact that one of the greatest football players was a guy named Bronko Nagurski.

by Marko :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 4:38am

I don't know if you are differentiating between NFL Championship rings and Super Bowl Championship rings, but assuming that you are not (since the Super Bowl Champion is the NFL Champion), then Bronko Nagurski doesn't hold the reoord for largest ring size for an NFL Championship ring. That honor, not surprisingly, belongs to William Perry, who had a ring size of 25 for his Super Bowl Championship ring for the 1985 Bears. Since Nagurski and The Refrigerator both won their rings with the Bears, that means Nagurski doesn't even hold the Bears' team record for largest championship ring size.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 1:18pm

What, are you saying Wikipedia is not a completely reliable source of information!!??

by BengalFaninIN :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 11:40pm

Because they are made in a different way using different equipment? Last time I checked humans were still made using the original tooling.

There a lot more of us today, giving the possibility of creating a more exceptional specimen, and training regimens are superior today. But we've also tweaked the rules, timing tracks and stats so that modern athletes can break all these records. Given a time machine or perfect simulation I don't accept that as a class the best of today would easily outclass the best of all time universally.

I'm old enough to have seen Wilt Chamberlain play some, he would utterly dominate the NBA today. Think a cross between Shaq and Hakeem, only better. Jim Brown would be the best running back in the league today. Sure he wouldn't be AS good as he was back in the day possibly. But he'd be awesome. Now I don't think you can say this for whole teams, because at the margins players today are vastly superior to the marginal players of the 30's-70's simply because of the money and incentives involved. The vastly superior medical care is a factor to.. How many modern players had great careers which involved missing some time due to what would have been a career ending injury in the past?

by sn0mm1s :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 2:38am

No, because the competition is that much better. Jim Brown was successful for two reasons.
1) He was a modern day all pro caliber player in an era where the vast majority of his peers were not.
2) He was given a modern era RB's workload when the vast majority of his peers were not.

Do you think Jim Taylor (who beat Jim Brown for a rushing title) would perform as well in today's game? He wasn't a marginal player - he is a HOFer.

In 1962, he rushed for 1474 yards 19 TDs at a 5.4 YPC clip in a 14 game season. There isn't a white RB even starting in the NFL right now. There hasn't been a white RB to break 1000 yards in 25 years - even though the seasons are 16 games much less lead the league in rushing, average 100 YPG, or average 5.4 YPC. In the modern game I doubt Taylor even cracks the starting lineup as the featured runner. That same 1962 Packers teams - with 10 HOFers - got beat by a college all star team.

I agree that Brown would be better than he was with modern day training, nutrition and medical care - but he wouldn't necessarily be better than Dickerson or Campbell. He wouldn't lead the league in rushing 8 of 9 seasons - not at 20 carries a game (which is his career average). He wouldn't be within 10-15 lbs of the majority of OL and DL in the game - unless you think modern training is going to pack on 50-60 lbs on his 6'2'' frame and maintain his speed.

Also, I am not even sure if you want a big tall back for the modern game. If you look at the top 10 rushers whose careers began before 1975 (which is where I put the fuzzy cutoff line between the modern game and the not so modern game) the average height is 73.5 inches and weight is 222.6 lbs. The top 10 rushers beginning their careers 1975 or later have an average height of 70.7 inches and 213.3 lbs.

by billsfan :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 9:13am

It really is unfortunate, because I don't think that the modern players gets the respect they deserve. Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Don Hutson etc. etc. were great for their era - but I don't think they would be nearly as dominant in today's game no matter what their modern training regimen consisted of. Brown was bigger than many lineman - he isn't going to pack on 100 lbs because he eats and works out more efficiently.

And contemporary players lauded for their "durability" didn't spend the offseason working in steel mills.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Eddo :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 3:03pm

Uh, Bronko Nagurski is rated a "7" by Aaron - on the same level as Eric Dickerson and Emmitt Smith.

by sn0mm1s :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 3:05pm

I know, which is my point exactly. Dickerson and Smith would run circles around Nagurski yet, due to the fact he played in a different and decidedly weaker era, he is regarded as being as good as both of them.

by Aaron Schatz :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 6:01pm

Both Nagurski and Bednarik *are* on the list. Bednarik is listed at linebacker -- although he played both ways, he played in a later era so he was listed at linebacker on the ballot rather than offensive line.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 8:57am

Sorry; don't know I missed that.

by Carlos :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 3:05pm

Disagree w/ the QB rankings. I'll skip Baugh and Graham since they were well before my time. But easily the three greatest QBs I ever saw were Steve Young, Peyton and Marino. Don't be fooled by what an arse Young is as commentator -- he was a phenomenal QB. Hard to see leaving Bradshaw off the list, especially in favor of Brees (!) and Fouts. Too much bias for current players on your list. Except for Peyton (sort of) they don't even call their own plays.

by Shattenjager :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 4:55pm

I do have a question.

Since it is called the Top 100 Players in NFL History, are you supposed to include AFL and AAFC accomplishments?

by Alexander :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 9:07pm

I'm somewhat disgusted by a few things:
#1. Ranking another player at '10' with Jerry Rice under wide receivers. I could make an argument that no other player on any list would be a 10 besides Rice because he is the only player at any position that there is no argument he was the greatest ever.
#2. Too many quarterbacks at 10. Its clear you didn't want to name anyone GOAT, so don't, move them to 9 where they belong. Don't be a QB fanboy like all the other voters.
#3. If any receiver is even close to Jerry Rice on the GOAT chart it is Randy Moss. Listing him at anything lower than 9 is pretty absurd.

by dmb :: Sat, 09/04/2010 - 10:45pm

Really? Having Don Hutson as a 10 "disgusts" you? Here's some food for thought:

*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 Aaron Schatz :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 1:21pm

I've basically stayed out of this discussion -- there's no need to defend my picks, I know I missed a couple of guys, it was hard to fit so many good players in -- and it is fun to be criticized for having too many modern guys and not enough modern guys in the same conversation.

However, I want to thank DMB for making a pretty sweet case for Don Hutson. Like Otto Graham, I don't think people today realize just how revolutionary Hutson was, and how many of the things he originated are an every-week part of NFL football today.

by billsfan :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 5:59pm

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.

I always thought it was Berry who revolutionized the passing game in that manner. Would either of you happen to have some good links to set me straight?

(I also like the Eagles)

by dmb :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 6:31pm

"Hutson invented modern pass receiving. He created Z-outs, buttonhooks, hook-and-gos, and a whole catalog of moves and fakes." -- Pro Football Hall of Fame

"The man credited with inventing pass routes caught 99 touchdown passes in 116 games for the Green Bay Packers from 1935 to 1945..." -- Mike Sando, ESPN

"There's a very good argument to be made for the guy who could be said to have invented the pass pattern: Don Hutson, who tore up defenses for Green Bay from 1935 to 1945." -- Mike Carlson, Cold Hard Football Facts

As mentioned above (though, regrettably, not linked), those three sources provided a lot of the info for my post. I also consulted the 2009 NFL Record and Fact Book (hard copy). The three routes I named were identical to those named by the HoF because they were the only three named explicitly by any of my sources, though all seemed to imply that he was responsible for at least several more.

I also failed to mention previously that the I consulted P-F-R for a few of the points up there.

by Mr. Stogie (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:03am

I've never been a fan of Barry Sanders. No doubt he was a great running back with all the moves but in the end he was nothing but a quitter. He got tired of losing in Detroit and when the Lions wouldn't trade him, he retired. Walter Payton played on bad Bear teams for years and never threatened to quit or push for a trade. For that reason alone, I would drop Sanders on this list to about a 3 or 4.

by SteveGarvin :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 2:41am

Mike Haynes should be on the DB list. He was a shut-down corner for many years with two teams. Disappointed to see him left off.

by Fion :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 9:30am

I think you need to take another look at Bart Starr - by any metric, he has to be in the discussion of the best quarterback to ever play the game.

He won five championships, with a 9-1 postseason record, and a career postseason rating of 104.8, which is to this day an all time best (along with his 1.41% postseason interception rate).

He led the league in passer rating five times, and was named the MVP of the first two Super Bowls. His career YPA is 7.85, still the eighth-best mark in history. He surpassed 8.2 YPA in six different seasons - something Peyton Manning has only done twice.

He is one of the all-time best quarterbacks nomatter how you look at it - he has more championships than anybody else, he dominated the league in all relevant metrics while he played by a huge margin, his efficiency statistics match up favorably to any modern quarterback (including some records that stand to this day), and as for intangibles, he was Lombardi's general on the field. He took responsibility on the very last play and called a quarterback sneak in the defining play of the NFL's defining game.

He should rate higher than a "3".

by ammek :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 10:00am

There are plenty of metrics by which Starr is not in the discussion. In a 15-year career, there was only one season when he finished in the top five in the NFL in pass attempts, completions, or passing yards (1961 — and that was in a 14-team league). He only finished in the top half of the league in pass attempts twice, in 1957 and 1961. In Vince Lombardi's final season, 1967, prior to the Ice Bowl, Starr's TD:int ratio was 9:17, for a passer rating of 64.4.

Although he was a generally efficient passer who played well in the postseason, Starr simply wasn't as important to the Packers as, say, Montana was to San Francisco or Brady to New England.

by Fion :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 4:56am

Well, he certainly didn't put up huge volume numbers, that's true. However, I don't agree that those are especially relevant - I certainly wouldn't use that stat to say that Jay Cutler (4th last year in passing attempts) or Kyle Orton (6th) had a better season than Roethlisberger (14th), Rivers (18th) or McNabb (22nd).

In per-attempt stats, Starr led the league in (lowest) interception percentage three times and finished outside of the top three only twice, fifth both times. He led the league in completion percentage another three times, finishing outside of the top four only in his final season.

I think the idea of "as important to the team as..." is flawed and certainly an invitation to interpret selective statistics subjectively. Starr's career as a starter coincides pretty much with Lombardi's tenure as head coach of the Packers - so it's hard to judge Starr's merits outside of that system. However, he was most definitely the right quarterback for Lombardi, and the team of the decade.

by BigCheese :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 3:47pm

I'm sorry, but Starr doesn't even sniff the discussion for greatest of all time.

First of all, QBs don't win championships, TEAMS win championships. And even if they did, regarding your assertion that he has more championchips than anyone else, one Mr. Otto Graham would beg to differ.

Starr was good, no doubt about it. But he's not even in the same discussion ans Montana, Unitas, Graham, Manning, or even Marino, Brady or Young.

- Alvaro

by Fion :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 4:38am

You're right of course about Otto Graham - I was just thinking of NFL titles. Otto Graham did, in fact, get a "10" rating - as he should.

Baugh: 1693/2995 (56.5%), 21886 yards (7.3 YPA), 187 TD (6.2 TD%), 203 INT (6.8 INT%), 72.2 rating
Graham: 1464/2626 (55.8%), 23584 yards (9.0 YPA), 174 TD (6.6 TD%), 135 INT (5.1 INT%), 86.6 rating
Starr: 1808/3149 (57.4%), 24718 yards (7.8 YPA), 152 TD (4.8 TD%), 138 INT (4.4 INT%), 80.5 rating
Montana: 3409/5391 (63.2%), 40551 yards (7.5 YPA), 273 TD (5.1 TD%), 139 INT (2.6 INT%), 92.3 rating
Manning: 4232/6531 (64.8%), 50128 yards (7.7 YPA), 366 TD (5.6 TD%), 181 INT (2.8 INT %), 95.2 rating
Brady: 2672/4218 (63.3%), 30844 yards (7.3 YPA), 225 TD (5.3 TD%), 99 INT (2.3 INT%), 93.3 rating

I think the most enlightening thing about those stats next to each other is the fact that, over time, quarterbacks have dramatically reduced the amount of interceptions they throw, and, thereby, improved their quarterback rating. But we probably already knew that.

Starr certainly didn't throw a lot of touchdown passes - on the other hand, he was careful with the ball. I don't see how his low TD% (which isn't that far below Montana's) keeps him out of the discussion, since certainly noone would argue that Baugh's 6.8 INT% or Brady's 7.3 YPA disqualifies them. On the basis of statistics, I do not see how he is qualifiably worse than the entirety of the others.

On the basis of championships, "clutch performance" or "intangibles", I don't see how he can be kept OUT of the discussion.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 09/07/2010 - 8:24am

On the basis of championships, "clutch performance" or "intangibles", I don't see how he can be kept OUT of the discussion.

The problem there is you're effectively asking the head honcho of a statistics website to rate a player based on a team achievement and two statistically unmeasurable attributes, when presumably the reason he's been chosen in the first place is because of what his statistical analysis has contributed to understanding of the game.

Other contributors to the programme may agree with you on Starr, because they'll probably look at more of the intangibles than Aaron does. That's perfectly fine, and surely one of the reasons why a broad panel has been chosen to submit ballots. Aaron's work is based on analysis of what is tangible and measurable though, so I think it's fair to say that wherever possible those criteria are rightly what he should use to evaluate his selections for the ballot.

by Aaron Schatz :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 1:22pm

For those who have asked, I should note that I rated current players based on the idea that the rest of their careers would reflect average aging curves for their positions. So, for example, if Drew Brees' career so far doesn't seem worthy of inclusion, you should understand that I considered him based on the general history of how quarterbacks in their 30s decline, but starting with his current level of performance.

A quick note about Dwight Stephenson: As great as he was, he only played eight seasons. That is a really, really short career for an offensive lineman.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/05/2010 - 8:55pm

Now ya' tell us! My Tarkenton obsession is thriving all by itself, thank you very much!!

by putnamp :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 2:57am

Okay, no Walter Jones, fine. But you left Walter Jones out while putting Ogden and Pace in at 4s? What the hell?

by SteveG (not verified) :: Mon, 09/06/2010 - 11:30am

Two more suggestions for names:

Mike Haynes
Don Maynard

by Snap Wilson (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2011 - 8:39pm

Chiming in very late, but was I the only one to notice that there were only 119 players listed? Maybe Walter Jones is our 120th.

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