It is coming…..it is coming……it is almost here!!!! The NFL is starting up once again and I cannot be happier. So the Spew is engaging in a week-long celebration of all things football.
Side Note: It is very hard to rank the greatest football players ever. There are so many positions on the field but we typically just focus on the ones who get the ball. So I measure this stuff on long term impact on the game, vary selections by position, have some diversity in eras, and all players are retired.
10. Sammy Baugh
‘Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, the first great quarterback in the NFL. Even though there is no way he would survive in today’s game, we still have to pay homage to the old fellas. Sammy Baugh practically invented the passing game as well as the mechanics of who to throw the ball. Of course back then the football was the size of a fat baby. Also Sammy Baugh has a record that no one will ever break; he led the league in interceptions….on offense and defense!! Yes my friend, he also was a ball-hawking safety. That alone forces me to put him in the top 10 list.
9. Deion Sanders
Neon Deion….I know you don’t like him. But he definitely changed the game. Heck, he invented a label; ‘shutdown corner’. Not only was he the greatest player in the secondary ever, he redefined the position. He would change gameplans, shut down entire sides of the field, and aided two different franchises to Super Bowls at a position that is supposed to be low impact. Oh yeah, he also returned punts and kickoffs. Deion had his fingerprints on every game he ever played.
8. Peyton Manning
Back in the 70’s, players like Terry Bradshaw did call his own plays, but there were like four plays he had. It was basically Tecmo Bowl. So Peyton was not the first player to call his own plays, but he is the first player to create his own offense and coordinate it like a coach. In this day and age, it is required for all QBs to coordinate an offense similar to Peyton. Only a handful of players actually changed the game for the future and not just in the present. Peyton did that. I bet all young QBs hate the fact they now have to spend 20 hours a day in the film room.
7. Joe Greene
‘Mean’ Joe Greene, so great that his old college actually re-named their team mascot after him (North Texas Mean Green). That is pretty cool. You know what else is cool? Mean Joe kicking everyone’s ass at the line of scrimmage. He was the anchor of the Steel Curtain, probably the greatest defense in history that ended up winning 4 Super Bowls. Joe even had his own iconic Pepsi ad…you remember, the one where he throws his sweaty towel to the kid trying to suffocate him after the kid threw a glass bottle of Pepsi at him? Wow, that Joe Greene….he was Meeeeeaaaaan.
6. Joe Montana
The ultimate system quarterback….ZING!!!! Yes, I now Joe Cool has four Super Bowl rings. I know he is widely considered the greatest quarterback ever. But is he the greatest in my eyes? Eh. He has probably had the most success in the Super Bowl era (sans Tom Brady), but he had a lot of help. He had an innovative passing system that was brand new to the NFL (thank you Bill Walsh), he had great receivers even before Jerry Rice, and had a great and overlooked defense backing him. Joe Montana is great. Heck, he is #6 on my all-time list. He is just not any higher.
5. Lawrence Taylor
Another game changer and innovator. He is the original pass rusher. At a time when offenses were starting to open up via Air Coryell, The Marks Bros with Marino, and West Coast stuff, Taylor was the answer to an NFL starting to become pass happy. Yes he would overrun every run play and had all sorts of off-field issues, but he like Deion Sanders would change gameplans. You would have to shift all protection to his side, which would free up all the other players opposite Taylor’s side. every team in the modern day NFL is required to have at least one edge rusher but no one has found another LT.
4. Jerry Rice
Easily the greatest at his position ever. In fact it is not even close. Jerry Rice to wide outs is akin to Wayne Gretzky to all other NHL players. From precise route running to deceptive speed to having a great QB throwing to him to an unparalleled work ethic, Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver ever. But he is only a receiver; the most dependent position in all of football. Yes he had a huge impact on every game, but without a good scheme and a great QB, a wide out is pretty much as useful as a third nipple. But of course Jerry has to be on this list, he was that great.
3. Dick Butkus
The man who epitomizes the brutal ballet that is the NFL best is Dick Butkus. A man named ‘Dick’ or ‘Butkus’ has to be tough to survive childhood. Butkus was the first famous hard hitter and evoked fear into the opposition. I mean real fear. He was physically bigger than everyone, he was faster than everyone, and he was crazier than anyone. That is a bad combination for all concerned. Even to this day, all interior linebackers are still measured by this man; this nasty, rugged, pulverizing man. He is what football is all about.
2. John Elway
The greatest quarterback ever….at least physically. He was athletic, he was smart, he had moxie, and boy did he have a cannon! One player cannot win a game in football; it is unlike any other sport in that sense. But Elway almost did. He was surrounded by 0 Hall of Famers in his AFC playoff runs in the 80’s. ZERO!! No great receivers, no great running game, no linemen that were Pro Bowlers, and a coach in Dan Reeves that called conservative plays and would only let go on the playsheet under 2 minutes. Yet despite this, Elway dragged that sack of sorry saps to 3 Super Bowls. Yes they lost all three, two very badly. But he got them there.
Yes, we know the rest of the story: two Super Bowl wins, a Super Bowl MVP in his last game, sold a ton of cars, owned an AFL title team, and now an elite GM. Is he the greatest QB ever? There is debate; not the best numbers and not the best success every year. But no one has done more for a single city in terms of football ever.
1. Jim Brown
The ultimate football player. Jim Brown ran faster, hit defensive players harder than they hit him, was a better athlete than anyone on the field, and was the toughest to boot. Although only playing 9 seasons, he broke the all-time running record, the only player to ever average 5+ yards per carry, and actually won a title for Cleveland (we all know how rare that is). He is who all running backs, and football players in general, look up to.
But his physical play didn’t stop when he retired. Although being a strong advocate of civil rights and a leader in the community, he was also a serial woman abuser. Yes, Jim Brown is a very controversial figure. Some love him. Some think he is a criminal. But all know he was a great football player. To me, sports is not about political activism or what the athletes are like off the field; those are just bonuses if the players on stage are fun. Ultimately, I want production. I want wins. I want Jim Brown on my team.
Anyway, how can this guy hurt a fly?