OP/ED: NFL’s Top 100…Or Is it?

NFL Films and the NFL Network recently put together a list of the Top 100 greatest players in the history of the National Football League. For two months the NFL Network aired the list which was compiled by a panel assembled by the NFL Network and comprised of current and former NFL coaches, players, executives, and members of the media.

For two months the NFL Network aired the list in a ten part series where they broke down each player on their list, where they took a teammate, friend or even an adversary.

The beauty of lists like these is they bring great fun debate no matter what, even if you agree with who number one is, you still might have a problem with where someone like Deacon Jones or Deion Sanders was ranked too low or you thought they overrated Brett Favre, or how someone like Don Hutson who played in the thirties gets a fair shake considering its been over 80 years since he played a snap in the NFL and anyone who played with or covered Hutson is probably long gone by now.

I think this was a great idea to put together especially with NFL Films behind it, as anything the Sabol family touches is gold and this is no exception. As Howie Long said during his Hall of Fame speech, “Baseball is America’s pastime but Football is America’s passion” and this proves with a show like this, I’m sure that if a list came out for other sports there would be an audience for it but with the major popularity that the NFL now has a list like this is something that becomes important to public and will spark great debate on who the number one person of all time in the NFL should be.

Now for the list itself, like any list of rankings there is always going to be a debate and this list is no exception. Like any list you start from the top and as much as I respect Jerry Rice, and maybe I’m just gripping at straws here but Jim Brown should be the number one guy on this list. Not saying Rice hasn’t had an great career but when you look at the career expectancy of a wide receiver compared to a running back, anyone who in a nine-year span is able to re-write the record books like Jim Brown did should be number one, especially since he is still the only running back in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game.

Sweetness himself, Walter Payton should have been higher; being in the top five is still a great accomplishment but there wasn’t a better rounded player in the entire NFL than Walter Payton. I know Joe Montana won four Super Bowls and “Joe Cool” made every big plays but it doesn’t hurt when you have arguably the most talented team every single year, while Payton played on many Chicago Bears teams that were average talent wise and it took the great effort and skill of Payton to win many football games during his career. As I said with Rice and Brown early I’m probably making this a bigger deal then possible and also being a Chicago Bears fans I’m sure makes me see things a little different.

Two of the original greats of the NFL I thought should have been a little higher then where they were ranked. Both Deacon Jones (15) and Sammy Baugh (14) should be in the top ten of this list in my eyes. If it wasn’t for Deacon Jones, players like Bruce Smith and Reggie White wouldn’t be as important to the league. Sacks weren’t kept as a statistic when Jones played in the league and many reports have that Jones would have totaled over 180 sacks and that’s only by estimate and that was only in 14 seasons which would be a 13 sack per season average which would be the highest in NFL history.

As for Sammy Baugh, for as much as people feel Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the game of football from the linebacker position, Sammy Baugh revolutionized the game of football by adding the downfield pass. “Slingin” Sammy Baugh as he was nicknamed for was one of the charter members in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1963, thanks in large part to bringing to the NFL the forward pass, which has now become a big part of the NFL and is arguably one of the most exciting plays in all of sports.

One last thing that drove me nuts is where was Warren Sapp on this list? The man is one of the best defensive tackles in the history of the game and the Cover 2 defense which is still used in the NFL to this day is centered around if you have a good enough defensive tackle just like Sapp used to be. Derrick Brooks was a great linebacker, but if you’re going to grab anyone from those great Buccaneer defensives the guy should be Sapp not Brooks.

For a list like this you have the guys who should be higher there is also the people who got overhyped and should be lower on the list or not even on the list at all. When it comes to overrated one person who comes to mind recently has been Brett Favre. Don’t get me wrong, his has a lot of positive records but also a lot of negative come to find and if it wasn’t for Desmond Howard, Favre would have as many Super Bowl rings as Dan Marino.

Favre should without a doubt be in the top 100 of players in NFL history but to put him in the top 20 is a joke. You’re telling me that Favre is better than Tom Brady, Dan Marino, John Elway, Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman? I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s true one bit. Dan Marino did more with less than Favre had and Elway, Bradshaw and Aikman all have more Super Bowl rings then Favre. In a big spot for all of Favre’s great moments he has just as many negative ones and for him to be a top 20 player in the entire history of the NFL is a joke.

Another person who I think should have been left off the list all together is Joe Namath. So one guarantee makes you in the top 100 of the best players to ever play the sport. In his entire career Namath completed only 50 percent of his passes, when other quarterbacks like Marino, Manning & Montana have all completed over 60 percent of their passes. Also, Namath threw more interceptions than touchdowns in his career something that every other quarterback on this list did the opposite throughout their careers. Now Namath’s guarantee was a very important part of the NFL, and maybe without it the league isn’t as great as it currently is, but when it comes to being one of the top 100 players in the history of the sport he doesn’t belong on the same list as some of the other greats.

– Tom Fehn