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Sports Then and Now



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.

Read the rest of this entry →

Who Would Have Thought? Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters Get It Right 2

Posted on February 05, 2011 by Dean Hybl

After being eligible for nine years, Richard Dent finally was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For the last two years I have been a very vocal critic of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. I have articulated in numerous articles that I think for much of the last decade they have been inconsistent in their selections often picking small classes when there were plenty of deserving candidates and then when they do select players for the Hall of Fame often choosing borderline candidates when more deserving people were waiting in the wings.

We will see in the coming years if it is a seed change or a one-time blind squirrel kind of thing, but I must give the voters credit for doing a tremendous job in selecting the Hall of Fame class of 2011.

In an article I wrote last night, I outlined the six people I thought deserved to be inducted in 2011. Shockingly, all six were inducted with veteran’s committee choice Les Richter making the seventh member of the class.

With the exception of Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe, the class of 2011 doesn’t include any players on the short list for best ever at their position, but all seven were solid NFL veterans who are deserving selections for the Hall of Fame.

While there are still a number of tremendous candidates who have been waiting for far too long like Jerry Kramer, Ray Guy, Roger Craig, Chuck Howley and Cliff Branch, at least the class of 2011 doesn’t include some of the head scratching choices of recent years. Read the rest of this entry →

What Blunder Will The Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters Make This Time? 2

Posted on February 04, 2011 by Dean Hybl

"Prime Time" should be an easy pick for the Hall of Fame voters.

Predicting which team will win the Super Bowl on Sunday is an iffy proposition, but one sure bet this weekend is that the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee will do something surprising when making their picks for the 2011 Hall of Fame Class.

There are many wonderful things about the NFL, but the selection process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not one of them.

Over the last two years I have written several articles outlining how I think the voters have missed the boat in many of their choices, or non-choices, and now have created a back-log of qualified candidates who are not in the Hall of Fame and probably will not gain entry for years to come, if ever.

You can read my list from last summer of the 25 players I think are most deserving of Hall of Fame selection. This list does not include first-year eligible players, but seven of the 17 Hall of Fame finalists for this year are included on my top 25.

When the committee meets tomorrow, if they do nothing else I hope they select at least six members to the 2011 Hall of Fame class and I’m okay if they make it seven.

Last year marked the first time since 2001 that the Hall of Fame voters selected the maximum number of seven inductees. Part of the reason for the glut of deserving players is that the voters selected only four players in both 2004 and 2005. Considering that 13 players and coaches who have entered the Hall of Fame in subsequent years were eligible during those years, it doesn’t make any sense to me why those classes were so small. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Bob Cousy: The Houdini of the Hardwood
      January 31, 2020 | 4:05 pm
      Bob Cousy

      As we reach the halfway point of the NBA season, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month the first in a long line of superstars to play for the Boston Celtics.

      Before there was Bill Russell and Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics were powered by a 6-foot-1 inch guard from Holy Cross. Bob Cousy was the on-the-court leader for the Celtics in the era during which they emerged as a basketball power.

      Read more »

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