Up For Debate: The 5 Best Football Players Ever

Posted on July 11, 2008. Filed under: Sports |

Who are the 5 best football players of all-time? There have been so many greats, the list is nearly impossible to narrow down. I took a stab at it, and after hours of compiling stats and racking my brain, I came up with this list.

5:JOHN ELWAY/Denver Broncos QB-John Elway, in my opinion is the greatest quarterback to ever play (with Favre being a close second). If God ever created a human perfect for the position, Elway was it. He had the size, the cannon arm, the speed, and the intangibles. He is second only to Favre on the all-time wins list and he has more 4th quarter comebacks than anyone. He won 2 Super Bowls and retired a champion, but I think the true sign of Elway’s greatness was how he carried the earlier Bronco teams. He lost 3 Super Bowls, but Elway himself was the Broncos offense. He won an MVP in ’87 but he was always overshadowed by Joe Montana, obviously because Montana was surrounded by Hall of Fame offensive players. Elway was not a system QB, and could have played for any team and made it a winner. He didn’t need all day to throw because he could buy more time with his legs.

4:DON HUTSON/Green Bay Packers WR, DB, K-There are many people that will argue for Jerry Rice, but I believe that Don Hutson was the most dominant receiver the game has ever seen. Rice has all of the career marks, and I do think is a very close second, but Hutson dominated his era like no one else. Rice had the advantage of playing in more of a pass friendly era. Hutsonamassed 99 career TD catches, which was a record that stood for an amazing 44 years. Twice, in ‘41 and’42, he was named the league’s MVP, and in 1941 he became the first receiver to catch more than 50 passes in a season The next season he became the first with over 1,000 receiving yards in a season. In all, Hutson caught 488 passes for 7,991 yards. He rushed for three touchdowns and returned three interceptions for touchdowns for a career total of 105. Hutson led the NFL in receptions eight times in his 11 seasons, including five consecutive times (1941-1945). He led the NFL in receiving yards seven times, including four straight times from 1941-44. He led the NFL in scoring five times (1941-45). Hutson still holds the highest career average TDspergame(0.85) for a wide receiver. He is credited with creating many of the routes receivers use today. He was also a kicker and a DB. He had 30 interceptions over the final six years of his career. In 43’ he had 8 picks in 10 games. He also kicked 172 xtra points and 7 field goals. Hutson still holds the following records: Most seasons leading league in pass receptions (8), Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receptions (5), Most seasons leading league in pass receiving yards gained (7), Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receiving yards gained (4), Most seasons leading league in pass receiving touchdowns (9), Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receiving touchdowns (5), Most seasons leading league in scoring (5), and Most consecutive seasons leading league in scoring (5).

3:LAWRENCE TAYLOR/New York Giants LB-No defensive player has ever changed the game of football like LT did. As an outside linebacker/pass rusher, he reaped havoc on offenses in the ‘80’s and early 90’s. Players like Shawn Merriman should personally thank LT for basically creating his position. Taylor was bigger and faster than anyone else and blocking schemes and offenses had to adjust to him. He is single handily responsible for the evolution of the big and agile left tackle of today’s game. Freaks like Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace began to surface because of the impact LT had on a QBs blindside. (check out the book, The Blind Sideby Michael Lewis for a detailed description of this evolution. It is an amazing read) As a rookie, Taylor compiled 133 tackles and 9.5 sacks. He won the defensive MVP, which is incredible for a first year player. Taylor recorded 20.5 sacks in 1986 and became one of only three defensive players two win the NFL MVP. He was a unanimous choice. The Giants won the Super Bowl that year and Taylor got another ring in 1990. He won the defensive MVP a record 3 times. Also, on a funny side note, I think that LT is the best video game football player ever. I might have some people disagree but in the original TecmoBowl, LT was outrageous. He could get to the QB in no time and, if the QB miraculously got a pass off, he could catch up with the ball down field and intercept it. He could also block every kick that the Giants opponent attempted making him Tecmo Bowls most devastating player.
2:JIM BROWN/Cleveland Browns RB- Perhaps the most physically dominant player ever. Brown was as big as the defensive ends of the time, but he was the fastest man in football. He had an amazing college career at Syracuse and many people thought that he was robbed of the Heisman Trophy. In his last college regular season game he rushed for 197 yards, scored six touchdowns and kicked seven extra points for 43 points. Then in the Cotton Bowl, he rushed for 132 yards, scored three touchdowns and kicked three extra points. He went on to play for the Cleveland Browns. He finished with 12,312 yards rushing and 126 TD’s (both were records at the time). He also had 262 catches for 2,499 yards. He put up these numbers in only 9 seasons in which four only had 12 games and five had 14. He is the only NFL player in history to average more than 100 yards rushing per game and he has the highest per carry average for a career with 5.2 yards per carry. He won the MVP in 57, 58, and 65 and retired after the 65 season at only 29 while still in his prime. Imagine his numbers if he had played for 5 more years. He won an NFL title in ’64. On a side note, he is widely considered the greatest Lacrosse player ever.
1:SAMMY BAUGH/Washington Redskins QB,DB,P-In my opinion, he is the best and most versatile player in the history of football. He was a stand-out quarterback, defensive back, and punter. During a time when the forward pass was a novelty, Baugh made it efficient. In 1945, he completed 70.33 percent of his passes which is one of the best marks ever. He led the league in completion percentage seven times. When he retired he held 13 NFL records. Baugh still holds the NFL punting record for highest average in a career (45.1 yards) and has the best (51.4 in 1940) and third best (48.7 in 1941) season marks. He was the first player in league history to intercept four passes in a game and is the only player to lead the league in passing, punting and interceptions in the same season. That’s like rolling Brett Favre, Ray Guy and Ronnie Lott up into the same player. Baugh also led the league in punting from 1940 through 1943. In that 1943 season he led the league in passing and punting and picked off an astonishing 11 passes. In 1942, Baughand the Redskins won the East Conference with a 10-1 record. During the same season the Bears went 11-0 and outscored their opponents 376-84. In the 1942 Championship game, Baughthrew a touchdown pass and kept the Bears in their own territory with some strong punts, including an 85-yard quick kick, and Washington won 14-6. This is considered one of the biggest upsets in league history. He once intercepted 4 passes and threw 4 TD passes in the same game. He was, quite simply, always the best player on the field, and he was on the field the entire game.
The Best of the Rest:
Brett Favre

Brett Favre

JIM THORPE/ATH- Played pro football before it was called the NFL. One of the greatest athletes ever, he also played pro baseball and won multiple gold medals in track and field.

BRETT FAVRE/QB-He has all of the physical skills of Elway and is the most durable QB ever. He also was forced to carry the offensive load for most of his career. I think Elway was slightly better in the clutch so he gets the edge on my list of best ever QBs.

JERRY RICE/WR-Many consider him the greatest receiver ever, although I have him second behind Hutson. He holds every major receiving record and shined in the playoffs. He has more TDs than any other player in the history of football. Helped get two QBs into the Hall of Fame (Montana and Young).

Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus

ANTHONY MUNOZ/T- One of the best O linemen ever, he was elected an All Pro 11 straight years.

JONATHAN OGDEN/T- Might have been the best athlete in the league when he played, which is often overlooked because he was a lineman.

DICK BUTKUS/LB- He was the most dominant defensive player of his era. Even though he was never on any great teams, opposing players feared playing against him.

DEACON JONES and REGGIE WHITE/DE- I listed these two together because they were so similar. Both were big and powerful pass rushers who also could beat you with speed. Supposedly Jones would be the all-time sack leader if they kept up with that stat during his career. Imagine what White would have done if he were allowed to use the head slap.

Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders

OTTO GRAHAM/QB-Graham played in 6 seasons in the NFL and he took his team to the championship game every year. They won 3 of those championships.

BARRY SANDERS/RB-Probably the greatest college running back ever. He rushed for 2,628 yards his junior season. If touch or flag football was a profession, he would be the best ever. He could juke you in a phone booth.

JOHNNY UNITAS/QB- He was the Peyton Manning of his day, calling his own plays and audibles. Most quarterbacks of his era did the same, but none with the same success. He was the first player to pass for 40,000 yards despite shorter seasons. He threw a TD pass in an amazing 47 straight games, a record that will probably never fall.

Randy Moss

Randy Moss

BART STARR/ QB-He QBed the Packers to 5 NFL titles and won the first 2 Super Bowl MVPs. He had a 104.8 playoff rating and a 9-1 post season record.

RANDY MOSS/ WR-He might be a one trick pony at receiver, but it’s an awfully good trick. The deep threat he brings to the offensive side of he ball has been responsible for the two highest scoring offenses in NFL history.

That is my list. I’m sure there will be countless arguments over this one. Let the debating begin!

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