Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Deacon Jones
Emmitt Smith leads all running backs in total rushing yards, Barry Sanders was the most prolific running back ever, Brett Favre holds almost every passing record now, Peyton Manning is poised to break all of Favre’s records, and Deacon Jones coined the term sack. All these men were legendary football players and have been or will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But the list below, is comprised of the ten best players that ever played the game of football regardless of position.
Larry Allen – Larry Allen was a mountain of a man in a league full of strong men. He stood 6’3 and weighed 324 lbs., but he was as agile as a man half his size and twice as strong as many of the men that faced. Defenders hated to see Larry Allen coming. On top of the list of the countless physical gifts that he regularly utilized was his size, strength, speed, and most importantly, his mean streak. Allen loved hitting people and he loved protecting his quarterback. It was a point of pride for him. Throughout most of his years in the league, he relinquished the fewest total sacks in the season, and he was the most valuable member of every offensive line on which he ever played.
Steve Young – Steve Young was noted for being both a brilliant mind and an amazing athlete. In fact, after his Hall of Fame football career, he now serves as an attorney and owns his own consulting firm. Young had the undesirable charge of replacing a Hall of Fame quarterback on a team that was expected to win a Super Bowl. Steve Young was expected to lead Joe Montana’s team to a Super Bowl. He delivered. He replaced the man who many consider to be the best quarterback ever and won a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award, 2 Regular season MVP’s, and six passing titles. He broke passing and rushing records for quarterbacks and finished his career as the most efficient passer ever. And, he is still currently third on the list of efficiency.
Dan Marino – Dan Marino left the game of football holding every significant record that applies to the quarterback position. He owned the records for most passing yards in a season, most career passing yards, most passing touchdowns in a single season, most career passing TD’s, and a host of other ones. He was the most prolific passer that ever played in the NFL. His records stood for decades, and are just now being broken because football has begun to cater to passers. Now, quarterbacks can not be touched on the field and receivers can not be hit. But, Dan Marino played in an era where contact was part of the game and no players were protected. Plus, he did not have receivers that could create plays on their own. He was the Miami offense, and the one year that he had a decent defense, he went to the Super Bowl.
Walter Payton – Da Bears with Walter Payton running the ball, put up one of the best of the best seasons that has ever been played in the National Football League. Payton was the prototype for NFL running backs. He was big, fast, strong, agile, and skilled. Payton knew when to use a stiff arm and when to be elusive. He knew when to spin and when to shift. He pressed the hole on most carries, but showed patience behind blocks in the open field. Walter Payton used every move that a running back can make appropriately to give the Chicago Bears one of the most potent running attacks that has ever been in the league.
Reggie White – Reggie White is the best defensive lineman to ever play the game of football. He was as intense, physically gifted, and disruptive as any defensive player that ever played. He could not be left in solo coverage on the line. Placing one man in front of Reggie White was like giving him a sack. In fact, facing double and triple teams he broke the single season sacks record with twenty sacks when offensive holding was not called against offensive lineman.
Deion Sanders – Deion Sanders is one of the best pure athletes that the NFL has ever fielded. Sanders excelled in four sports in high school, played three in college, and was a professional athlete in both baseball and football. He was so quick in closing the space between himself and the receivers that he defended that he often stopped quarterbacks from throwing to his side of the field. Neon Deion was so fast that he could leave his man-to-man coverage and intercept passes thrown to other receivers in his vicinity.
Jim Brown – Jim Brown left football as the leader in every statistical category that applied to running backs. He was a power back who could outrun everyone on the field and make them miss in the hole. Brown had the three essentials of any great back, power, speed, and vision, and he used them on every play. Jim Brown brought the Cleveland Browns their sole championship title and retired soon after.
Joe Montana – To many people, Joe Montana could be considered the best player in football history. He was a winner. He won five Super Bowls and is responsible for some of the lasting images in NFL lore. Montana is the man who passed “The Catch” to Taylor in the corner of the end zone. He is the man who made “The Throw” to further his legend. Montana was the quarterback who always made a game-winning drive to lead his team to victory. The only reason that he is not higher on the list is because there are two pure athletes who made an even bigger impact on the game.
Lawrence Taylor – Lawrence Taylor could easily have been the number one best football player that ever lived. He was a freak physically. At 6’4″ and between 225 and 250lbs. Taylor ran a sub 4.4 40 yard dash. 4.4 is a good time for wide receivers, the fastest players on the field, but LT played linebacker. And, he was the most devastating outside linebacker that ever lived. General managers are still looking for the next Lawrence Taylor today. Lawrence Taylor played with a nasty streak. He loved to hit and would punish quarterbacks from their blind side. After LT’s stint in the NFL, offensive tackles became the highest paid players in the NFL, and the also became freakishly athletic to combat guys like Taylor. GM’s could not find a lot of pass rushers that got to the ball like LT, but they could find linemen who played better against the few pass rushers that did exist.
Jerry Rice – Who owns the record for most yards from scrimmage? Jerry Rice. Who has scored the most touchdowns regardless of position? Jerry Rice. Who has the most receptions, receiving yards, and receiving scores in NFL history? You guessed it, Jerry Rice. Attempting to list all of his accomplishments in this article would be futile. Rice’s accomplishments are an article by themselves. He is deservedly the most decorated player in NFL history. Jerry Rice was always open. If he had three defenders draped on him, Joe Montana or Steve Young only needed to throw the football into the air near Rice, and he came away with it. Rice was smart and quick in traffic, he had break away speed, and he was powerful against bump-and-run coverage. Jerry Rice is the best player that ever played in the NFL.