Also, I have made the offensive line positions specific to the positions the men on this team played, because the demands associated with those positions, especially according to the players’ eras, are uniquely different.
Why not start the all-time team off with a player the passing game advocates like to regard as the greatest player of all time? Rice’s numbers are unequaled. He dominated the action and he was at his best in the big games.
He would’ve been a star in any era. Can even Rice claim to have better hands than Hutson? He caught everything, including passes that were thrown for other receivers.
Tight end hybrids are all the rage these days, and that’s mostly because there aren’t many pure-blood tight ends in the Mackey mold. He was the quintessential combination of in-line blocker and deep-seam receiver, and after he caught the ball, the show was just beginning. You didn’t have to create mismatches for Mackey. Every time he broke the huddle, he was in one and it was the other guy that was at the disadvantage.
He defines the position in the modern era. Good pass-rushers would disappear for an entire game. Their names wouldn’t even appear on the stats sheet for making a tackle, let alone a sack. All other left tackles are Munoz wannabes.
Hannah was an All-Pro for 10 consecutive seasons. He moved with the grace of a linebacker. Despite having played in college as a drive-blocker in the “Wishbone,” Hannah became the best pulling guard of his time.
When he began his career, offensive linemen couldn’t use their hands to block. Five years into his career, when he was already regarded as the best center in the game, the rules were changed to allow linemen to use their hands and Webster took his game to an even higher level. He’s also the guy that gets the credit for tight-fitting jerseys.
Everybody figured it was Jim Brown, but then Brown retired and was replaced by Leroy Kelly and the thousand-yard seasons continued. That’s when people began noticing Hickerson.
Coach Lombardi said Gregg was the best; that’s good enough for me. Gregg played at a time when right tackle was the premium of the two tackle positions. The right tackle was an offense’s chief drive-blocker and Gregg was the Packers’.
Campbell was a devastating combination of speed and power. He was a player that owned the respect of the league’s star defensive players. His talents were abused by overuse.
Brown is the one player in the history of the game on which everyone will agree that he would’ve dominated in any era. Campbell was a blend of speed and power; Brown was a blend of speed, power and grace. Had he not retired early, he would’ve likely pushed his rushing stats to ridiculous levels.
I presented my case for Unitas in my recent all-time quarterback rankings. When I think of the quarterback position, I envision Unitas dropping back to pass.
White totaled 198 sacks, nearly all from the left side of the line, including a remarkable 21 sacks in 1987. White is the definitive every-downs defensive end. He stopped the run, he rushed the passer and his career is a testimonial to his durability.
Smith is the quintessential blind-side pass-rusher, as evidenced by his NFL-record 200 career sacks.
In the prime of his career, he was unblockable. He dominated the 1974 postseason by anchoring a “Steel Curtain” defense that held the Vikings to 17 yards rushing and terrorized Fran Tarkenton in Super Bowl IX.
Lilly is the symbol of the shed-the-block-and-make-the-tackle football of his era. Lilly is the first draft pick in Dallas Cowboys history and the cornerstone for the team’s success under Tom Landry.
His legend grows with time. Some players reach a level of esteem that they only need be mentioned by their first name. Butkus has the perfect last name; it’s symbolic of the ferociousness with which he played the game. He was feared by all.
Taylor changed the game. It’s just that simple. He ushered in the sack era. It’s almost as though he invented the sack.
Lewis talks the talk and walks the walks. His bombast sets him apart from other players, but he has one thing in common with all great players: In the prime of his career, he was dominant. Even now, he plays a pretty good game.
Barney invented bump-and-run coverage.
Blount forced the league to change the rules to ban bump-and-run coverage.
Lott was a fierce hitter and competitor, but a lot of fans forget that he was a shut-down corner before moving to safety.
Wilson helped define the safety position in the modern era. He once intercepted a pass with casts on both arms protecting broken wrists. Jerry Kramer referred to Wilson as the finest player in the NFL.
Nobody kicked it higher and farther. He literally won games for the Raiders with his punting.
Vinatieri is the greatest clutch kicker in the history of the game, and that’s how kickers should be measured.
Had today’s advances in knee surgery been available when Sayers played, his career almost certainly would not have been shortened. The next time you think the game back then was played at a slow pace, find some highlights of “The Kansas Comet.”
Lombardi saved the franchise, defined the game and helped drive the merger of the two leagues. He was the dominant figure at the pivot point in pro football history.