The Best 32: A Look at the Best Player from Each NFL Team Over Time
As the 2019 NFL season inches closer to its end with the Super Bowl deciding a new league champion, this year’s Lombardi Trophy presentation won’t involve one of the greatest quarterbacks in history hoisting the hardware for the second year in a row.
Tom Brady’s Patriots lost in the wild card round so the discussions about his future have begun. Brady is easily in the top 10 greatest QBs of all time and many put him in the top five if not at the very top as the best. But is Brady the greatest New England Patriot of all time?
Whichever team you root for if you had to name one player in that team’s history that is the best athlete to don the colors of your team could you do it? In determining one player from each of the current 32 teams that make up the National Football League as that franchise’s greatest player ever what would be the determining factors?
Naturally, statistics might be the first thing that comes to mind. Super Bowl appearances, playoff games, being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, all those should probably weigh in when selecting one single player from every team as being the greatest player in the history of that club. However, for offensive linemen, there are NO stats to look at.
What I believe should be the criteria in determining who is the best athlete for each of the 32 teams in the NFL is how great an ATHLETE the man was or is. Then consider stats. Super Bowls, in my opinion, should not matter. After all, it takes a team effort to get there and players like Dan Marino, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever never won a Super Bowl. Neither did Jim Kelly, although he made it multiple times.
So with that said, ahead are my choices for the greatest player in history for each of the 32 NFL teams, listed alphabetically and chosen based more on the athleticism of the man rather than what was accomplished on the field.
The Cards were also the St. Louis Cardinals for a long time and called Chicago their home in the early days. Their all-time leader in passing is Jim Hart. Ottis Anderson ruled the ground game with nearly 8,000 rushing yards. But future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald who holds most of the receiving marks for the Cardinals stands heads and shoulders above any other player who ever put on an Arizona/Phoenix/St. Louis/Chicago Cardinals jersey.
The Atlanta Falcons are not one of those long-tenured teams in the NFL joining the league in 1966. But they are known for some excellent linemen and defensive players like Jeff Van Note, Bill Fralic, Keith Brooking, Claude Humphrey, and Jessie Tuggle. Offensively, Matty Ryan is running away statistically as Atlanta’s best pass ever, and former player Gerald Riggs became Atlanta’s best running back ever statistically. Based on athleticism, the decision on choosing the best Falcon ever is easy...Michael Vick. Vick’s single-season rushing record for quarterbacks was just broken this season by Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson but during his heyday, Vick was the most dangerous weapon in the NFL. A combination of athletic ability, speed, a strong arm, and moves that left defenders with twisted ankles made Vick a lethal part of the Falcon’s offense. The decision here was quite easy.
If you think Ravens you quickly remember Ray Lewis or Ed Reed as two players that stood out during their playing days. With two Super Bowl victories, Baltimore has been known for some outstanding defenses since 1996. Ray Lewis was the absolute leader of some very tenacious and hard-hitting units with Reed the man in the secondary. So many players stood out on some of the past Baltimore defensive teams including Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and C.J. Mosley. It might be too soon to name Lamar Jackson as the best athlete to ever play for the Baltimore Ravens, but it’s likely by the time he finishes his career he will be the best all-around player to ever play in Baltimore as a Raven. Jamal Lewis leads the franchise in rushing statistics and Joe Flacco the same for passing. But choosing one player that was the best athlete to play for the Baltimore Ravens probably comes down to Ray Lewis or Ed Reed in most conversations on the topic. Ray Lewis probably gets the nod for his vicious style of play, his dances, his leadership and enthusiasm, and like Reed, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 1990, the Bills were led by quarterback Jim Kelly on offense and he and his teammates made it to the Super Bowl four straight seasons only to lose all four title games. But there have been some great players to wear the colors of the Buffalo Bills and they include Bruce Smith on defense, Thurman Thomas on offense, Kelly, Andre Reed snagging passes from Kelly and others, and of course the “Juice.” O.J. Simpson. Forget Simpson’s personal life or any opinion you have of it, we are talking athletics here and without question, no matter what the opinion is of O.J. as to his innocence or guilt of his murder charge and then subsequent lengthy jail sentence for robbery, he is arguably the greatest athlete to play for the Buffalo Bills.
The Panthers began to play in 1995 but have done well making the playoffs eight times and getting to the Super Bowl twice but losing both. Along the way, they have done a great job building winning teams with players like Luke Kuechly, Sam Mills, Julius Peppers, Cam Newton, and Steve Smith. The Panthers retired Mills’ jersey number of 51, and on offense, Jonathan Stewart set the records for rushing. DeAngelo Williams is not far behind. But for 12 seasons, Steve Smith was the team’s most dangerous weapon and therefore gets the nod here as the team’s greatest player ever.
One of the oldest teams in the NFL are the Chicago Bears and they have retired 14 jersey numbers from players throughout their history. The Bears have won nine league championships dating back to when they were members of the old American Professional Football Association (APFA) as the Chicago Staleys. Their nine titles include that historic Super Bowl XX victory over the New England Patriots that featured what many consider the greatest single-season defensive unit in the history of the league. Of those 14 retired numbers, the men are some of the greatest players ever, anywhere. These guys are household names...Bronko Nagurski, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Sid Luckman, Red Grange, and of course Dick Butkus. Other great players donned a Bears uniform. Men like Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Brian Urlacher, Dan Hampton, among others. While Red Grange was more of a superstar in college playing for the University of Illinois, his achievements in the NFL did not match what Walter Payton accomplished. “Sweetness” as he was known died tragically, but while he was an active player and beyond, Walter Payton was so well respected on the field and off. A true gentleman, Payton was also a superior athlete who made a hill climb for training very famous. For his athletic prowess, his humanity, and his feats on the field, this is an easy choice to make Walter Payton the greatest player in Chicago Bears’ history.
When it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals, their reputation and legacy is not a shining one. Known to some as the “Bungals,” this team that began in the AFL in 1968 before being merged into the NFL two seasons later has a history of arrests, untimely deaths, and losing seasons. Despite all that, the Bengals have made it to the Super Bowl twice albeit they lost. In 804 games played throughout their history, they have won 359 of those with four ties. That’s a winning percentage of just .450 that includes seasons of winning just two games (in 2019), and three games five times. Nine seasons saw just four victories for the year, and of the 52 seasons in the league, over half have resulted in a sub-par .500 season (29 in all). This past season when Cincinnati finished with two wins, they nearly did not win a single game. But just as it is with every team, there have been standout players. Throughout this column, as each team is presented, there will be very few non-statistical players selected as a team’s best player in history. However, in the case of the Cincinnati Bengals, it would be hard to argue against Anthony Munoz being named the greatest Bengal in history. Munoz is in the Hall of Fame and might be the best offensive lineman to ever play the game.
On the heels of the Cincinnati Bengals comes another Ohio team but one with a much better history. As we all know, the Browns lost their team to Baltimore in 1995 but then were granted a new franchise in 1999. Since then it’s been misery. Since that ‘99 season, there has been just one playoff appearance and it was a first-round KO in 2002 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, their arch-nemesis. Since their return to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have played in 336 games and have won just 101 of those. That’s an embarrassing .300 winning percentage that includes a winless season of 0-16 just a few years ago. If you go back in history, the Cleveland Browns had some great teams, clubs that won NFL titles. The Browns have had a slew of great players and have retired five jersey numbers (Otto Graham-14, Jim Brown-32, Ernie Davis-45, Don Fleming-46, Lou Groza-76). There have been other great players like Leroy Kelly, Joe Thomas, and Ozzie Newsome but when it comes down to a pure athlete, there have been very few like Jim Brown. Brown ended his career abruptly as the league’s all-time rushing king but he could have played a few more years. He got out before his skills eroded but when Jim Brown ran with the ball it was like a freight train coming down the tracks. Get in his way and you would take a beating. Brown was a beast and he is the finest athlete to ever play for the Cleveland Browns.
Interestingly enough “America’s Team” the Dallas Cowboys have not retired any jersey numbers but they have a whole lot of great players who wore the uniform of the Cowboys. Having played in Dallas are the likes of Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Jason Witten, Michael Irvin, Drew Pearson, Tony Hill, “Bullet” Bob Hayes, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Robert Newhouse, and Calvin Hill. Those players aforementioned are among the statistical leaders for the Cowboys all time. They represent the best of the best for “America’s Team.” Dorsett would be my choice as the best player ever for the Dallas Cowboys based simply on the dynamic runner he was. Shifty with great moves, I can still remember Tony D. playing for my hometown Pittsburgh Panthers and rushing for over 300 yards against a good Notre Dame team. Dorsett is also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A Bronco “lifer” is John Elway who spent his entire playing career in Denver then became a team executive. Elway is also one of the greatest quarterbacks in history. Giving a run for his money as one of the best in Denver would be Rod Smith, Von Miller, Tom Jackson, Champ Bailey, Steve Atwater, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis, Floyd Little, and Steve Foley. With the Denver Broncos, I’ll go defensive and make my pick as best Bronco ever as Champ Bailey who during his era was the finest shut down corner in the league.
When you think Detroit Lions you probably get the name Barry Sanders on your mind immediately. Sanders retired prematurely and assuredly would have become the NFL’s all-time rushing leader keeping Emmitt Smith off the top of the mountain. But Sanders retired with plenty of gas left in the tank rushing for 1,491 yards in his final season of 1998. So do these numbers make Sanders the greatest Lion ever? It’s a hard call because Detroit has seen players like Bobby Layne, Dutch Clark, Doak Walker, Lem Barney, Dick LeBeau, Calvin Johnson, Dick “Night Train” Lane, and Billy Sims all playing in the “Motor City.” For Bobby Lane, he was a courageous no-fear quarterback who also loved the social life. That became his reputation and while it does not impact his abilities as a player, it’s worth mentioning. When it comes down to just judging talent, it takes little argument to peg the great Barry Sanders as the best Lion to ever play in Detroit.
Green Bay Packers
Here you have one of the greatest franchises in football, a team owned by its city, one of the most respected clubs in the NFL. Having a storied history that includes the head coach for which the Super Bowl trophy is named after, the Vince Lombardi-led teams of the 1960s were some of the most dominant teams in history. Lombardi was the Bill Belichick of his day although, in my opinion, those Packers were superior in talent to what the Patriots have placed on the field during their winning reign of six Super Bowl trophies. From 1960 to 1967 alone, the Packers were in six NFL title games including the very first two Super Bowls. Of those six they won all but one, losing the 1960 NFL title game to the Philadelphia Eagles 17-13. Since then they’ve won two more Super Bowls and played in another loss in 1997. You can’t count the playoff appearances by the Packers on both hands. The list of players that can be considered great is endless. There have been six jerseys retired (Tony Canadeo, Brett Favre, Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Reggie White). Aside from those six, there is still Fuzzy Thurston, Willie Davis, Willie Wood, Herb Adderly, LeRoy Butler, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Max McGee, Forrest Gregg, and Jerry Kramer. Picking one Green Bay Packer player who represents the best overall talent in their history could be one of many choices. Still playing is Aaron Rodgers and in my opinion, is the best quarterback they have ever fielded and his skills I believe are superior to any of the aforementioned above.
The Texans are the babies of the NFL, the last team to enter as a new franchise and that came in 2002. Since that time they have made the postseason six times. In 17 short years, they’ve had several big-time players. The names Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson, and J.J. Watt immediately come to mind. The best athlete ever would have to come from that small group and therefore, J.J. Watt gets the nod.
Before the Colts called home Indianapolis, Baltimore, Maryland was their home. That means including the rich history of the Baltimore Colts that put on display some of the NFL’s best players ever. Johnny “U.” That would be Unitas. A quarterback shunned by the Pittsburgh Steelers instead played for the Colts and became one of the league’s best-ever QBs. Defensively, Bubba Smith terrorized opponents. Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson manned the backfield as runners during their respective eras. Marvin Harrison is one of the NFL’s best receivers ever and certainly one of the most consistent. Then there is Peyton Manning, in some minds the greatest quarterback we have ever seen. But as an athlete, while he was a fantastic signal-caller with brains hardly ever seen on a field, I can’t put Manning above Marvin Harrison who incredibly caught 1,102 passes of 1,781 thrown in his direction. That’s grabbing a ball thrown to him 62% of the time. In 12 seasons, Harrison caught 128 touchdowns and his total receptions accounted for 14,580 yards. So for the Colts, it’s Marvin Harrison best.
Another relatively young franchise is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Born into the NFL in 1995, the Jags have twice been one win away from a Super Bowl (2017 & 1999). In between there have been some very lean years but not without having some standout players. Tony Boselli has been inching closer to an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and many believe Fred Taylor belongs there. During his playing days, Jimmy Smith was one of the game’s best wide receivers. Keenan McCardell teamed up with Smith to make a dangerous duo. But for this article’s purposes, Fred Taylor, the team’s all-time leading rusher is probably the best player in Jacksonville Jaguar history.
Kansas City Chiefs
For the first time in 50 years, the Kansas City Chiefs reached the Super Bowl. This year will be their third appearance having lost to the Packers in 1966 and then won the NFL title in 1969. There have been some great players in Kansas City, 10 of which have had their jersey numbers retired (Jan Stenerud, Len Dawson, Emmitt Thomas, Abner Haynes, Stone Johnson, Mack Lee Hill, Derrick Thomas, Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan). Perhaps Patrick Mahomes may be considered the greatest one day, but it’s too early to place him on that plateau. Instead, among all the great players, one man extended himself to be probably the greatest at his position in history and that would be Tony Gonzalez, a former basketball player as well who is arguably the best tight end the NFL has ever seen. No one in Chiefs’ history is even close to the total yard receiving Gonzalez accumulated.
Los Angeles Chargers
An interesting fact about the L.A. Chargers is that their first year in pro football in the old AFL was as the Chargers but playing in Los Angeles. The following year the team moved it’s operations to San Diego where they remained until 2018. The ‘Bolts have been to one Super Bowl and lost. There are just several names that come to mind when talking greatest Charger ever and the first would be the late Junior Seau. Then there’s LaDainian Tomlinson the team’s all-time rushing leader. Philip Rivers leads in just about every passing category and one of his primary weapons has been another great player and like Tony Gonzalez, not just a former hoops player but a tight end this one named Antonio Gates. Based on athletic abilities, Tomlinson gets the nod here.
Los Angeles Rams
Teams come and teams go, especially from city to city. Take for example the Rams. They began as the Cleveland Rams in 1937. In 1946 they moved west to Los Angeles for that season and then remained there for the next 49 years until St. Louis became home in 1995. Then for 2016, it was back to L.A. where they now reside. As it is with many teams in the NFL there are too many great players in Rams history to name on one hand. Bob Waterfield was an all-time great in the NFL. Marshall Faulk played for this team as well. Eric Dickerson was an amazing running back. The gritty Jack Youngblood was playing in a Super Bowl with a broken leg. Jackie Slater was one of the best offensive lineman all-time. Isaac Bruce was a threat to the outside. Orlando Pace is right up there with Slater. Tory Holt and Bruce equaled a dual-threat. On defense Deacon Jones was a nightmare for opponents. Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch was one of the league’s best receivers in the 1950s. For overall talent, this one is close between Faulk, Dickerson, and Deacon Jones and for the simple reason he created havoc on opposing offenses, Deacon Jones is my pick for best Ram ever.
Still, the only team to finish a season without a loss and win the league title are the Miami Dolphins. That 1972 team had some formidable players like Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, Paul Warfield, Bob Griese, Bob Kuechenberg, Nick Buoniconti and Mercury Morris.With all those great players which one stands out the most? Let us not forget Dan Marino, the man with all the passing stats for the Dolphins. Marino had two primary weapons both named Mark. That would be Duper and Clayton. Like Larry Brown before him, Csonka was such a force it would be a tough choice between the runner and the passer Dan Marino was but for this argument, I’ll say Csonka was best.
Since joining the NFL in 1961, the Minnesota Vikings have had much success in the win column. Having been to the Super Bowl four times despite losing all four, the Vikes have had very few down years. The men who took to the field for Minnesota have been household names. There’s Fran Tarkenton, Jim Marshall, Chris Carter, Alan Page, Mick Tinglehoff, Carl Eller, John Randle, and of course Adrian Peterson who was still going strong in 2019. But greatest Viking ever? No doubt that one Randy Moss was a very special player, perhaps one of the most dangerous receivers in NFL history and with Peterson and Carter trailing him closely, it’s Moss who stands high above all other Vikings.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady is the New England Patriots...right? There have been other players throughout their history however not named Brady. Brady is considered to be the best at his position in league history by some, but I’ve always argued while he is great, was he more a product of Bill Belichick’s system, probably the greatest head coach in history? There was a player for the Patriots in the 1960s who the younger generation may have never heard of. That was Gino Cappelletti. He gets my nod as best because he did more than just kick field goals. Cappelletti also caught 292 passes on offense in his 153 game career that spanned the years from 1960-1969. His receptions netted him 4,589 yards and 42 touchdowns. Meanwhile, he also was successful in 176 of 333 field goal attempts. On the other side of the ball-playing defense, Cappelletti finished her career with four interceptions and four forced fumbles. The multiple skills ice the selection of Gino Cappelletti as the best Patriot ever.
New Orleans Saints
In the last three seasons, the New Orleans Saints have been one of the NFC’s best teams. However, they can’t get back to the Super Bowl. Drew Brees has been the mainstay at quarterback since the 2006 season and along the way, he is smashing many of the all-time passing records. Is he the greatest Saints player ever? I would so no. That’s because players like Rickey Jackson and Sam Mills also suited up in New Orleans. For Jackson, he may be one of the most underrated linebackers of his time. He finished his 12-year career with 115 sacks, 27 forced fumbles, and seven interceptions making him the best all-around player in New Orleans Saints history.
New York Giants
Here’s another long-time football franchise with a very rich history. An even dozen retired numbers (Ray Flaherty, Tuffy Leemans, Mel Hein, Phil Simms, Y.A. Tittle, Ward Cuff, Frank Gifford, Al Blozis, Joe Morrison, Charlie Conerly, Ken Strong, Sam Huff, and of course Lawrence Taylor). WOW. Great players in a Giants’ history that date back to 1925. Based on athletic ability and impact on the game, L.T. has to get the nod. Lawrence Taylor was downright scary on defense and who can forget the night he broke Joe Theismann’s leg, one of the worst injuries ever to take place on the gridiron and also be caught on camera. While Taylor is the best, it’s worth mention some truly great players and they would be Frank Gifford, Mel Hein, Y.A. Tittle (who made famous a photograph of himself after a game with the Pittsburgh Steelers where Tittle was on his knees bleeding), Mel Hein, and Tiki Barber among many more. But it was L.T. that was just a dominant force, unlike any seen before or since.
New York Jets
“Broadway” Joe Namath. Some great stats, a guaranteed Super Bowl victory the only NFL title won by the Jets, but NOT the greatest player ever for the Jets. Rising above what Namath accomplished were the feats of Curtis Martin, Don Maynard, and Joe Klecko. Maynard was one of the best receivers of his day and Martin a consistently great runner. Both players still are at the top of the list in stats for their respective positions. For me, Maynard made much more of an impact and therefore is my choice as the best Jet ever.
The Oakland Raiders have not been around as long as the New York Giants but they have put some great talent on the field. The Raiders are also one of if not the most controversial team in the league and over the years have moved the franchise around as the Davis family became disgruntled with where they were playing home games. Now Oakland is on the move again heading to Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1982 the Raiders moved to Los Angeles only to move back to Oakland in 1995. Still, the Silver and Black have sported some great players. Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Tim Brown, Willie Brown, Art Shell, Fred Biletnikoff, Howie Long, Cliff Branch, Todd Christensen, Marcus Allen, Dave Casper, Daryle Lamonica, Jim Plunkett, the late Lyle Alzado and of course, Ken “The Snake” Stabler. For this pick, it’s Marcus Allen all day. A beautiful runner with elusive moves, who can forget how Allen performed in Super Bowl XVIII when he thrashed the Washington Redskins’ defense to the tune of 191 yards including a 74-yard touchdown romp.
In picking these 32 players, there has been a mix of offense and defensive players thus far. Reaching the Philadelphia Eagles, again there’s another influx of worthy players. Think Philly think Reggie White. White was the Lawrence Taylor version on the defensive line. White was virtually unstoppable. But there are other players to consider. Harold Carmichael for instance. Randall Cunningham was a great athlete in his own right. Troy Vincent was a true shut down corner. Going back in history, Steve Van Buren was the best back of his day. With Chuck Bednarik who played from 1949 to 1962, he did something we may never see again. That is playing both offense and defense and in by doing so, Bednarik was one of the toughest SOBs football may have ever seen. A center of offense and linebacker on defense, Bednarik is remembered by many as the man who ended Frank Gifford’s 1960 season by hitting him so hard in a move that would probably get him thrown from the game, suspended and fined today. Bednark leveled Gifford to the degree he suffered a major concussion that kept him out of football the rest of 1960 and the entire campaign in 1962. Because he played on both sides of the ball Chuck Bednarik gets the nod as the greatest Eagle ever.
We’ve reached my favorite team and anyone that knows the Pittsburgh Steelers knows there are 20 former players/coaches/contributors now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and if Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca make it in this summer it will be 22. Four Super Bowl titles in six years in the 1970s and two more since that time with so many great players. How does one choose? For me as a diehard Black and Gold fan, I’m basing this one on athletic ability and therefore it’s a tie between Kordell Stewart and Hines Ward. For “Slash” as Stewart was known, until he won the starting quarterback role, he played receiver, running back, and even punted the ball. Thus the name Slash. I put Hines Ward there with Kordell Stewart because he was a quarterback at the University of Georgia but the Steelers made Ward a full-time receiver. He excelled at the position. When he was called up to serve as a running back, Ward did it 57 times coming up with 428 yards an impressive per-carry mark of 7.5. But what puts Hines Ward at the top of this list for me is his on-field tenacity. Perhaps the greatest blocking wide receiver ever, Ward will be remembered for blasting Ed Reed and Keith Rivers of the Cincinnati Bengals of whom he broke his jaw. Ward probably could have been like Chuck Bednarik and played defense as well.
San Francisco 49ers
If the 49ers defeat the Kansas Chiefs in this year’s Super Bowl, they will tie the Patriots and Steelers from most ever with six. The Niners can say they had the greatest receiver of all time playing for them and his name is Jerry Rice. But with Joe Montana, they also have one of the finest quarterbacks ever. The list of greats goes on with Dwight Clark, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig, and Randy Cross. Let’s not forget Terrell Owens and Gene Washington as receivers. Frank Gore is a more recent great that played in San Francisco. But with Jerry Rice, he is head and shoulders above any other receiver to ever play so he is the best San Francisco has had to offer.
The Seahawks are the only team in the league to retire the number “12” and not for a player who took the field as a ‘Hawk but in honor of the “Twelfth Man” or the fans. Then you have players who have had their jerseys retired and they are Kenny Easley, Walter Jones, Steve Largent, and Kortez Kennedy. With Jones and Kennedy, you have two of the greatest ever at their respective positions but unfortunately for offensive lineman like Jones, there are no stats to back up their accomplishments. Athletically speaking, the selection here is on Russell Wilson as the current starting quarterback is an accomplished baseball player who chose his other sport to make a career in.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No team had a worse start to their entrance into the NFL than did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1976, the first year in the league for Tampa, they played 14 games and lost them all. 0-14 and the next season it didn’t get much better winning just two of 14. To make matters worse, it wasn’t until the 13th game of the 1977 season that Tampa finally won a game beating the New Orleans Saints then closed out the season with a triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals. Since that time, Tampa has reached and won a Super Bowl and been the playoffs multiple times. They’ve had some great players mostly on defense. Lee Roy Selmon was probably the best. But Derrick Brooks was a special player. Tiki Barber’s twin Ronde stood out on defense. Warren Sapp like him or not was a force up front on defense. John Lynch was one of the hardest-hitting secondary players of his era and now he’s a GM in the Super Bowl for San Francisco. Hardy Nickerson shared time with the Steelers and Bucs but was a fine linebacker. Offensively, James Wilder was a hard running back. As an extremely popular player in Tampa and for what he represented on the field, Tampa’s all-time best player is Lee Roy Selmon.
The Titans were once Oilers. In Houston that is. Until Bud Adams moved the team home was in Texas. For the old Oilers fans, frustration was the word in the 1970s as the team could never get past the Pittsburgh Steelers to reach the Super Bowl. They did have great players throughout history. Warren Moon, Steve McNair, Eddie George, Earl Campbell, Mike Munchak, Elvin Bethea, and Bruce Matthews. Moon, a Hall of Famer also played in the Canadian Football League but the choice here is with Campbell who was like the “Jim Brown” of his time. In other words, Campbell used to run over defenders and punish them with his big body. However, on December 3, 1978, while playing the Pittsburgh Steelers a rarity occurred. Spinning off attempted tackles, Campbell ran right into the incoming path of Donnie Shell who hit the Oilers back so hard he broke his rib.
The “Hoggettes” were a famous group of men who donned dresses, wigs, and pig noses to honor their stout offensive line of the 1970s. Those men were referred to as the “Hogs” and they were the best offensive line in the business. Center Jeff Bostic, left guard Russ Grimm, right guard Mark May, left tackle Joe Jacoby, right tackle George Starke, guard Fred Dean were the Hogs. Great players each and every one of them. As one of the league’s oldest teams, there have been many great players and men who ended up with a yellow jacket in Canton. Joe Theismann, Darrell Green, Charley Taylor, Sammy Baugh, Art Monk, Dave Butz, Sonny Jurgenson, Joe Jacoby, John Riggins, and Clinton Portis are just a few. Best player ever? Darrell Green was not just one of the fastest secondary men ever but in his playing time, the best cornerback in the game. That’s the final team and final choice for the best player ever.
Would you agree with the choices above as the favorite player for the team you cheer for? Comments are welcome and if you enjoyed this article, don’t go anywhere because I’m going to tackle Major League Baseball next and name one player from all 30 teams with an additional article on the NBA soon after.
Place your vote!
Of the 32 players named in the article, who is your choice as best player in NFL history?