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Sports Then and Now



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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One Career Ends And Another Is Born: Super Bowl XLVII Storylines 0

Posted on February 05, 2013 by Andy Larmand

Ravens receiver Torrey Smith celebrates on the field of the Superdome following Super Bowl XLVII.

Ravens receiver Torrey Smith celebrates on the field of the Superdome following Super Bowl XLVII.

The good news? Super Bowl XLVII had just about everything one could have asked for in the final professional football game for 213 days. It featured a pair of brothers facing off against each other, an icon of a generation going out on top, an energizing rookie quarterback, a jaw-dropping halftime show, an intentional safety, a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and one 33-minute power outage. Not to mention a furious comeback in the second half that fell just short of making it the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

The bad news? It’s the final football game for 213 days. It was a great one though.

As always, we have a lot to get to in the last edition of the weekly NFL storylines being that this was the final game of the 2012-13 season. I’d just like to thank God for giving me the fingers to type this with. God is so great.

Joe Flacco, Super Bowl XLVII MVP, tied the all-time record with 11 touchdown passes in a single postseason in the first Super Bowl since 2002 without either Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning. Only he and Joe Montana have ever accomplished that. All five quarterbacks to ever throw eight-plus touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs have won the Super Bowl. Ray Lewis is going out on top if you haven’t heard. After 12 seasons, Lewis won his second career title. It is the longest span between titles by any player in NFL history. Baltimore has won four straight against the 49ers, outscoring them 103-50. San Francisco lost its first Super Bowl in their history and Baltimore improved to 8-1 all-time as the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. They also improved to 2-0 all-time in Super Bowls (won Super Bowl XXXV in 2000). When they won it all in 2000, they were the No. 4 seed as well and the last two Super Bowl champions have been the No. 4 seed in their respective conferences. The previous two meetings between these two teams featured a total of two touchdowns; this one had six.

Baltimore finished the regular season with a record of 10-6. In each of the last three seasons, the eventual Super Bowl champion finished the regular season with no better than 10 wins (Packers with 10 in 2010, Giants with nine last season). The NFC had won three straight Super Bowls before the Ravens win. The last AFC team to win a title before this was the Steelers in 2008. With 65 points being scored in the Super Bowl, the total from this postseason grew to 571, which broke the previous record of 530 set in 1995. No. 2 seeds had been 4-1 in their last five Super Bowl appearances before the 49ers’ loss. With Flacco winning MVP, six of the last seven Super Bowl MVP’s have been quarterbacks. Only Santonio Holmes in 2008 won the award as a non-quarterback. Baltimore became just the second team to ever win a championship after leading the league in penalty yards during the regular season (1974 Steelers). After 19.5 sacks in his first 13 games, Aldon Smith hasn’t recorded one since. In the Super Bowl, he had no sacks and made just two tackles. Six games are the longest he has ever gone without a sack.

No NFL team had ever even reached the Super Bowl after ranking 15th or worse in both total defense and total offense during the regular season. The Ravens were the first and they won it all. Flacco has no interceptions in his last 195 pass attempts. With a second-quarter interception of Colin Kaepernick, Ed Reed tied the all-time record with his ninth career postseason interception. Baltimore improved to 11-5 in road or neutral playoff games in their history, the best win percentage of any NFL franchise. The 49ers had 15 former first-round picks on their roster for the Super Bowl to the Ravens’ eight, but Baltimore beat them anyway. With his first-quarter TD catch, the fourth for him this postseason, Anquan Boldin tied the amount he had in the regular season. Kaepernick was able to set the record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single postseason with 264. He came up just two yards shy of tying the all-time record for rushing yards by a quarterback in the Super Bowl as he finished with 62, but did have the longest ever TD run by a quarterback in the big game with his 15-yarder.

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Automatic Otto Graham 1

Posted on September 02, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Otto Graham

As we begin another football season, we recognize as the September Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month an all-time great whose first sport wasn’t football, but after he found his calling excelled both as a collegiate player and as one of the greatest winners in pro football history.

Otto Graham didn’t actually come to Northwestern University to play football. He originally came to Northwestern on a basketball scholarship. It was only after Northwestern football coach Pappy Waldorf saw Graham playing freshman intramural football that he was invited to tryout for the football team.

Graham ended up playing three seasons for Northwestern and broke every existing Big Ten passing record during his career. He was a two-time All-America selection and won the Big Ten MVP Award. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Stan Jones – Weight Training Trailblazer
      October 11, 2020 | 1:48 pm
      Stan Jones

      The Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month was one of the great linemen of his era and is considered a trailblazer for using weight training and conditioning to develop his skills.

      After a standout career at the University of Maryland, Stan Jones spent nine seasons as an offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, making seven Pro Bowl appearances and earning first team All-Pro three times.

      In 1962, assistant coach George Allen suggested Jones move to defense to help solidify that unit for the Bears. He played both ways in 1962 and then in 1963 moved permanently to the defense.

      Read more »

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