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Archive for the ‘NFL 100’


NFL at 100: Top 100 Players of All-Time – 25-1 1

Posted on February 02, 2020 by Dean Hybl

As part of our celebration of the NFL at 100, Sports Then and Now is finishing our list of the top 100 players in NFL history with picks 25-1.

One of the cool parts of the NFL celebrating 100 years is remembering the great moments and players that have helped shape the history of the game.

The NFL Network has been sharing their selections for the top moments, game-changers, teams and characters. They also picked their All-Time top 100 team, though they did not rank the players 1-100.

In a sport that has seen great change and evolution over 100 years, creating any comprehensive all-time list is going to be subjective and open to interpretation.

That is likely even more pronounced when trying to choose the top 100 players of the NFL’s first 100 years.

Some will certainly rely heavily on statistics as a guide, but my opinion is that while individual season statistics and the number of seasons leading the league in a statistical category can help identify greatness, career and all-time statistics are not as helpful and can be misleading when trying to pick an all-time team.

Whether it is related to the number of games played each season, move from playing both ways to position specialization or rule changes that impact offensive production, there has been enough change over the history of the game that I believe reduce the importance of career statistics.

 That is why for the Sports Then and Now list of the Top 100 Players in NFL history we chose to give greater emphasis to other factors. The things we looked at when choosing our top 100 included All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, number of times leading their league in statistical categories, how they compared to other players from within their era and peak performance. Team success was given greater weight in ordering quarterbacks, but played only a minor role in selecting players from other positions.

The result is a Sports Then and Now Top 100 list that includes many of the players selected by NFL Network, but does have quite a few differences. For our list, we made sure not to forget those players from the 1920s-1950s whose career statistics are well below players from future decades, but who were clearly all-time greats.

The distribution of players by era for the ST&N Top 100 is very interesting: 1920s-1930s: 8; 1940s-1950s: 13; 1960s: 24; 1970s: 15; 1980s: 12; 1990s: 12; 2000s: 8; 2010s: 7. However, 14 of our top 20 played a majority of their career after 1980.

You can read our players 100-76, 75-51 and 50-26 in previous articles.

25. Bulldog Turner – Chicago Bears – 4 Pro Bowls; 7 time 1st Team All-Pro: A two-way star for the Chicago Bears, Clyde “Bulldog” Turner helped lead the Bears to four NFL Championships. As a rookie in 1940, he played center on offense and had an interception return for a touchdown as the Bears defeated the Washington Redskins 73-0.  Playing primarily center on offense and linebacker on defense, he was an eight-time first team All-Pro.

24. Mike Webster – Pittsburgh Steelers – 9 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st Team All-Pro: Considered by many to be the greatest offensive center in NFL history, Mike Webster helped lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles. He played in 245 career games, including 150 consecutive starts from 1976-86.

Merlin Olsen

23. Merlin Olsen – Los Angeles Rams – 14 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st Team All-Pro: One of five players in NFL history to have been selected to 14 Pro Bowls, Merlin Olsen teamed with Deacon Jones to anchor the Los Angeles Rams Fearsome Foursome defensive line during the 1960s. As a defensive tackle, Olsen was a stalwart against the run. A durable player, Olsen missed only two games in his 15 year career. He was the NFL rookie of the year in 1962 while earning the first of 14 straight trips to the Pro Bowl.

22. Chuck Bednarik – Philadelphia Eagles – 8 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st Team All-Pro: One of the last of the two-way players, Chuck Bednarik earned All-Pro honors as an offensive center and defensive linebacker during his career. Nicknamed “Concrete Charlie”, Bednarik was known for his ferocious hits. In the 1960 Championship Game he tackled Green Bay running back Jim Taylor at the 9-yard line on the final play of the game to ensure a 17-13 Philadelphia victory.

21. Bronko Nagurski – Chicago Bears – 0 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st Team All-Pro: At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Nagurski was one of the largest running backs in the NFL in the 1930s and larger than many linemen of the era. He threw a touchdown pass to Red Grange to help the Chicago Bears defeat the Portsmouth Spartans 9-0 in the first-ever NFL Playoff Game. Nagurski was a first or second team All-Pro in each of his first seven NFL seasons. He retired following the 1937 season, but returned to the team in 1943 and played tackle and fullback to help the Bears win the NFL Championship.

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NFL at 100: Top 100 Players of All-Time – 50-26 1

Posted on February 01, 2020 by Dean Hybl

There have been many great players in the 100 year history of the NFL, but who are the greatest of the great? As part of our celebration of the NFL at 100, we have been sharing our picks for the top 100 players in NFL history.

We are breaking the selections into four groups of 25. You can read our players 100-76 and 75-51 in previous articles. This article is looking at players 50-26. We will be posting our top 25 picks in a subsequent post.

Below is a look at our picks 50-26 (the team listed is the one they were most associated with during their career).

Willie Lanier

50. Willie Lanier – Kansas City Chiefs – 8 Pro Bowls; 3 time 1st Team All-Pro: Much like was the case on offense with the quarterback position, for many years there was a perception that African American players couldn’t handle the defensive equivalent leadership position of middle linebacker. That inaccuracy was crushed in the 1960s when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Willie Lanier from Morgan State. After playing outside linebacker as a rookie in 1967, Lanier became the starting middle linebacker during his second season and immediately earned first team All-Pro honors. In 1969 the Chiefs were number one in the AFL in rushing defense, passing defense and scoring defense and reached Super Bowl IV. Lanier had an interception in the game as Kansas City held the Minnesota Vikings to only seven points in a 23-7 victory. Dominant against both the run and pass, Lanier completed his 11 year career with 27 pass interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries.

49. Emlen Tunnell – New York Giants – 9 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st Team All-Pro: Though not drafted out of college, Tunnell made an immediate impact at defensive back for the New York Giants. He intercepted seven passes as a rookie and 10 during his second season. A key component of the dominant Giants’ defense of the 1950s, Tunnell intercepted at least six passes in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Giants win the NFL Championship in 1956 and then after moving to Green Bay in 1959, helped the Packers win the Championship in 1961.  Tunnell finished his career with 79 interceptions for 1,282 yards and four interceptions. At the time of his retirement, Tunnell was the NFL’s career leader in interceptions and still ranks second all-time. He was the first African American member of the New York Giants and first African American inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

48. Dutch Clark – Detroit Lions – 0 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st Team All-Pro: A member of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dutch Clark was a six-time NFL All-Pro and a three-time NFL scoring champion. He rushed for 2,772 yards and passed for 1,501 yards during his career. He also served as a kicker and finished with 369 career points. He scored on a 40-yard touchdown run to help the Detroit Lions win the NFL Championship in 1935.

47. Junior Seau – San Diego Chargers – 12 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st Team All-Pro: One of the dominant defenders of his era, Junior Seau played 20 years in the NFL and was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection. He recorded more than 1,800 career tackles, 56.5 sacks, 18 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries. Seau helped the Chargers reach Super Bowl XXIX and was also a member of the New England Patriots team that was 16-0 in 2017 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

46. Roger Staubach – Dallas Cowboys – 6 Pro Bowls; 0 time 1st Team All-Pro: Known as “Captain America” during his decade as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to four Super Bowl appearances (won two) and six NFC Championship Games during his career. Famous for his late-game comebacks, Staubach had a career record of 96-35 (74%) as a starter. An elusive runner, he gained 2,264 yards with 20 rushing touchdowns during his career. At the time of his retirement, Staubach was the NFL’s career leader in passer rating.

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NFL at 100: Top 100 Players of All-Time – 75-51 2

Posted on January 01, 2020 by Dean Hybl

One of the cool parts of the NFL celebrating 100 years in 2019 is remembering the great moments and players that have helped shape the history of the game.

The NFL Network and others have developed their own All-Time teams or top 100 player lists.

Not to be out-done, we have also chosen Sports Then and Now’s top 100 players in NFL history.

We are breaking the selections into four groups of 25. You can read our players 100-76 here. We will be featuring the top 50 in two subsequent posts.

In a sport that has seen great change and evolution over 100 years, creating any comprehensive all-time list is going to be subjective and open to interpretation. You can read more about the criteria we used to select our top 100 players.

This is the second of four posts announcing the ST&N Top 100. This one includes players 75-51 (the team listed is the one they were most associated with during their career).

Shannon Sharpe

75. Shannon Sharpe – Denver Broncos – 8 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st Team All-Pro: The most dominant tight end of his era, Sharpe was a key weapon for John Elway during the 1990s. He caught 80 or more passes three times and also had three 1,000 yard seasons. He helped the Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 and then caught 67 passes to help the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl following the 2000 season.

74. Ernie Nevers – Chicago Cardinals –5 time 1st Team All-Pro: A four-sport college star at Stanford, Nevers played five seasons in the NFL (1926-27 with the Duluth Eskimos and 1929-31 with the Chicago Cardinals) and was a first team All-Pro as a fullback each season. In 1929 he established an NFL record that still stands when he scored all 40 points (six touchdowns and four extra points) in a 40-6 win over the Chicago Bears. He was an inaugural inductee of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

73. Paul Warfield – Miami Dolphins – 8 Pro Bowls; 2 time 1st team All-Pro: One of the greatest deep-threat receivers in NFL history, Warfield averaged 20.1 yards per reception for his career. With 85 career touchdown catches out of 427 career receptions, he averaged a touchdown for every five receptions throughout his career. He helped the Cleveland Browns win the NFL Championship during his rookie season and then proved to be a key addition for the Miami Dolphins as they went to three straight Super Bowls and won consecutive titles in 1972 and 1973.

72. Randall McDaniel – Minnesota Vikings – 12 Pro Bowls; 7 time 1st team All-Pro: One of the top offensive linemen of the 1990s, McDaniel was a first-team All-Pro guard seven times and second-team twice between 1990 and 1998.

71. Randy Moss – Minnesota Vikings – 6 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st team All-Pro: Few players have created the immediate buzz that Moss did as a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. He caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and a league-high 17 touchdowns as the Vikings went 15-1. He eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards 10 times during his career and had nine seasons with 10 or more touchdown receptions. In 2007 with the New England Patriots, he established an NFL record with 23 receiving touchdowns to help the Patriots finish 16-0 during the regular season.

70. Steve Largent – Seattle Seahawks – 7 Pro Bowls; 1 time 1st team All-Pro: The first Superstar of the Seattle Seahawks franchise, Largent was one of the most prolific receivers of his era.  He had 70 or more catches six times in his career and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards eight times, including twice leading the league. He had double digit touchdown receptions three times and was the first player in NFL history with 100 touchdown receptions. At the time of his retirement he was the NFL career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

69. Jonathan Ogden – Baltimore Ravens – 11 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st team All-Pro: A dominant left tackle, Ogden was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the final 11 seasons of his career. He was called for only 15 holding penalties in 12 seasons.

68. Ray Nitschke – Green Bay Packers – 1 Pro Bowl; 2 time 1st team All-Pro: A key member of the Green Bay Packers five championship teams in the 1960s, Nitschke was a two-time first team All-Pro and three time second team All-Pro at middle linebacker. He had 25 interceptions and recovered 23 fumbles during his career.

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NFL at 100: Top 100 Players of All-Time – 100-76 4

Posted on November 16, 2019 by Dean Hybl

One of the cool parts of the NFL celebrating 100 years in 2019 is remembering the great moments and players that have helped shape the history of the game.

The NFL Network has been sharing their selections for the top moments, game-changers, teams and characters. Soon they will be unveiling their list of the top 100 players in NFL history.

In a sport that has seen great change and evolution over 100 years, creating any comprehensive all-time list is going to be subjective and open to interpretation.

That is likely even more pronounced when trying to choose the top 100 players of the NFL’s first 100 years.

Some will certainly rely heavily on statistics as a guide, but my opinion is that while individual season statistics and the number of seasons leading the league in a statistical category can help identify greatness, career and all-time statistics are not as helpful and can be misleading when trying to pick an all-time team.

Whether it is related to the number of games played each season, move from playing both ways to position specialization or rule changes that impact offensive production, there has been enough change over the history of the game that I believe reduce the importance of career statistics.

 That is why for the Sports Then and Now list of the Top 100 Players in NFL history we chose to give greater emphasis to other factors. The things we looked at when choosing our top 100 included All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, number of times leading their league in statistical categories, how they compared to other players from within their era and peak performance. Team success was given greater weight in ordering quarterbacks, but played only a minor role in selecting players from other positions.

The result is a Sports Then and Now Top 100 list that I fully expect to look very different than the list that will be unveiled on the NFL Network beginning on November 22nd. For our list, we made sure not to forget those players from the 1920s-1950s whose career statistics are well below players from future decades, but who were clearly all-time greats.

The distribution of players by era for the ST&N Top 100 is very interesting: 1920s-1930s: 8; 1940s-1950s: 13; 1960s: 24; 1970s: 15; 1980s: 12; 1990s: 12; 2000s: 8; 2010s: 7. However, 14 of our top 20 played a majority of their career after 1980.

This is the first of four posts over the next couple weeks announcing the ST&N Top 100. This one includes players 100-76.

100. Larry Wilson – St. Louis Cardinals – 8 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st Team All-Pro: The creator of the safety blitz, Wilson was a hard-nosed player who was one of the top defensive players of the 1960s. He registered 52 career interceptions and scored seven defensive touchdowns during his career.

99. J.J. Watt – Houston Texans – 5 Pro Bowls, 5 time 1st Team All-Pro: When healthy, J.J. Watt has clearly distinguished himself as an all-time great. He has earned first-team All-Pro in each of the five seasons in which he has been healthy throughout the year and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times in his first four years. Unfortunately, a recent injury that has ended his 2019 season marks the third time in the last four years that he has played in eight or fewer games.

98. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings (primary team) – 7 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st team All-Pro: A three-time NFL rushing champion, Adrian Peterson was the most dominant running back in the NFL during his 10 seasons in Minnesota. After suffering a major knee injury in 2011, the next season he rushed for 2,097 yards, which is the second highest single season total in NFL history.

97. Derrick Brooks – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 11 Pro Bowls; 5 time 1st team All-Pro: Often over-shadowed by more flamboyant teammates, Derrick Brooks was the steady leader of a Tampa Bay defense that was among the best in the league for nearly a decade. In their Super Bowl winning season in 2002, Brooks was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year as he returned three interceptions for touchdowns during the regular season and had another score in the Super Bowl.

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NFL 2019: Who Will Triumph in the NFL’s 100th Season? 0

Posted on September 02, 2019 by Dean Hybl

As the National Football League prepares for its 100th season, the top NFL betting sites are making predictions for which team will lift the Lombardi Trophy at the end of Super Bowl LIV.

At 42-years old, Tom Brady is still one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.

Given that they have appeared in each of the last three Super Bowls (winning two), you can never go wrong putting your money on the New England Patriots.

Conventional wisdom tells us that at some point the amazing reign of the Patriots will end, but every time it looks like the magic run is over, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick pull another rabbit out of the hat. In a league where parody and volatility from year-to-year is the norm, New England has posted double digits victories for 16 straight years and won 10 straight division titles.

Even though Brady is 41-years old and will be without one of his favorite targets in recently retiree Rob Gronkowski, there is little reason to doubt that the Patriots offense will again be among the best in the NFL. Last year they scored the fourth most points in the league and ranked in the top 10 in both passing and rushing yards.

Solid defense is typically a key to the success of the Patriots. Last year they were seventh in the league in points allowed, but ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed. In a conference that boasts some great quarterbacks, the Patriots have to improve their pass defense this season.

Most prognosticators are jumping on the band wagon of the team guided by one of those young quarterbacks, the Kansas City Chiefs. Pat Mahomes nearly led the Chiefs past the Patriots in the AFC title game last season and appear to be positioned to make another run in 2019.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Early Wynn: 300 Game Winner
      August 1, 2020 | 8:37 pm
      Early Wynn

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month pitched in four decades, was a veteran of World War II and is one of only two pitchers to finish with exactly 300 career victories.

      Hall of Famer Early Wynn began his career as a 19-year old in 1939 by pitching three games for the Washington Senators. After spending the 1940 season in the minors, he went 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in a brief stint in the majors in 1941.

      Read more »

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