Let the debates begin: choosing the best players of all time for every NFL franchise was a daunting task—but we had some guidelines to help us along – Special section: hometown heroes

Let the debates begin: choosing the best players of all time for every NFL franchise was a daunting task—but we had some guidelines to help us along – Special section: hometown heroes – Cover Story

By the editors of FOOTBALL DIGEST

ON ITS 75TH ANNIVERSARY, THE selected an all-time team–which, of course, prompted lots of debate.

Joe Montana, Otto Graham, or Johnny Unitas at quarterback? Jerry Rice and Don Hutson or Steve Largent at wide receiver? Mike Ditka or John Mackey at tight end?

Members of “the Fearsome Foursome” over those from “the Steel Curtain” or “the Doomsday Defense” or “the Purple People Eaters?”

You get the picture.

FOOTBALL DIGEST has decided to open up the debate a little–as in 31 times as much. We’ve chosen an all-time team for every current NFL franchise. (Sorry, Houston Texans, you’re not included since you haven’t even played a full season yet.)

This was no easy task. Teams that date back to the earliest days of pro football are bursting with candidates, so much so that selecting the squads for the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, and Detroit Lions made for loads of agonizing decisions.

And in its own way, picking the rosters for recent additions like the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Baltimore Ravens was just as tough. Since those teams are so new, there wasn’t strong representation at every position.

We attempted to stick to strict criteria, although we allowed some flexibility when certain positions on certain teams were overloaded. For instance, Bronko Nagurski makes Chicago’s all-time team as a tackle because there was no way we could bump either Walter Payton or Gale Sayers out of the backfield.

We even had to leave Hall-of-Famers off rosters of the long-established teams simply because another Hall-of-Famer was the better player at the position. On the running back-heavy Cleveland Browns, for example, Leroy Kelly didn’t make the cut because he was up against Jim Brown and Marion Motley. In general, though, players who are in Canton are on our all-lime teams.

Statistics were important for many positions, particularly the skill spots. But leadership, durability, versatility, and production in the clutch also were very highly regarded.

Of course, some positions have no stats by which to measure the player, notably on the offensive line. And sacks didn’t become an official stat until the 1980s, so many of our defensive linemen aren’t in the record book. Deacon Jones of the Los Angeles Rams, Willie Davis of the Green Bay Packers, and Doug Atkins of the Bears would be rewriting the record book if they were playing today, when sacks are an official stat.

Another question we faced statistically: How important are interceptions? After all, many of the great cornerbacks and safeties were treated like the plague by opposing offenses, so they couldn’t put up huge numbers.

One area where statistics were most significant was special teams. How else do you measure punters and kickers?

As you read though the rosters, be prepared for an occasional surprise among the many gimmes. Take some time to decide if, say, Jim Zorn deserved to be the Seattle Seahawks’ all-time quarterback instead of Dave Krieg. Or if Jevon Kearse should have been on the Titans/Oilers squad. Is Marvin Harrison, in just his seventh pro season, more deserving than Jimmy Orr at wideout for the Colts? Should every member of the Steel Curtain make up the Pittsburgh Steelers defense?

Happy reading.

We want your feedback on our choices for our all-time teams. Feel free to e-mail your comments to fb@centurysports.net.

Team Page

Arizona 32

Adam 33

Baltimore 34

Buffalo 35

Carolina 36

Chicago 37

Cincinnati 38

Cleveland 3g

Dallas 40

Denver 41

Detroit 42

Omen Bay 44

Indianapolis 45

Jacksonville 46

Kansas City 47

Miami 43

Minnesota 49

New England 50

New Orleans 51

N.Y. Giants 52

N.Y. Jets 53

Oakland 54

Philadelphia 55

Pittsburgh 56

St. Louis 58

San Diego 59

San Francisco 60

Seattle 61

Tampa Bay 62

Tennessee 63

Washington 64

ARIZONA CARDINALS ESTABLISHED: 1898

IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT THE MOST critical position on an NFL team is owner. If that’s true, then the Cardinals are doomed as long as Bill Bidwill runs things.

Bidwill became the Cardinals’ boss in 1972, although the team has been in the family since 1932. In that time, he has abandoned a city that supports football (witness the way the Rams have been welcomed in the Cardinals’ old home of St. Louis) and moved to Arizona. The NFL coveted Arizona as a potential gold mine, but Bidwill has managed to alienate much of the Valley of the Sun with his insistence that public funds be used to build him a new stadium.

Oh, another thing: The Cardinals are losers. Since they moved to Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State campus in 1988, the team has lost nearly twice as many games as it has won. The Cardinals have had only one winning season in Arizona, 1998 when they reached the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

Arizona’s All-Time Team

OFFENSES

Position Player Years

Quarterback Jim Hart 1966-83

Running back Ottis Anderson 1979-86

Running back Charley Trippi 1947-55

Tight end Jackie Smith 1963-77

Wide receiver Roy Green 1979-90

Wide receiver Sonny Randle 1959-66

Tackle Dan Dierdorf 1971-83

Tackle Ernie McMillan 1961-74

Guard Walt Kiesling 1929-33

Guard Ken Gray 1958-69

Center Bob DeMarco 1961-69

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Joe Robb 1961-67

End Freddie Joe Nunn 1985-93

Tackle Eric Swann 1991-99

Tackle Bob Rowe 1967-75

Linebacker Ken Harvey 1988-93

Linebacker Larry Stallings 1963-76

Linebacker Eric Hill 1989-97

Cornerback Pat Fischer 1961-67

Cornerback Aeneas Williams 1991-2000

Safety Tim McDonald 1987-92

Safety Larry Wilson 1960-72

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Jim Bakken 1962-78

Punter Jerry Norton 1959-61

BEST PLAYER: Charley Trippi

BEST TEAM: 1925 (NFL champions)

ATLANTA FALCONS ESTABLISHED: 1966

SO MANY GLOWING WORDS HAVE been used to describe Super Bowl teams. Dynamic (49ers, Raiders, Rams). Overpowering (Steelers, Bears). Versatile (Redskins).

Try this one for the Falcons: fluke.

The Falcons strained Minnesota in the 1998 NFC Championship Game to capture the first conference title in franchise history. But the victory was based more on Minnesota’s mistakes than on Atlanta’s prowess. Then the Falcons were blown away by the Broncos in a mismatched Super Bowl. In the three seasons that followed their appearance in the big game, the Falcons went 5-11, 4-12, and 7-9.

Qualifying for that Super Bowl was the crowning moment for this underachieving franchise, thanks to the fine play of Jamal Anderson, Chris Chandler, Bob Whitfield, Terance Mathis, Tony Martin, Jessie Tuggle, Ray Buchanan, Chuck Smith, Lester Archambeau, Eugene Robinson, and Morten Andersen.

But it was an aberration.

Atlanta’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Chris Chandler 1997-2001

Running back William Andrews 1979-83, ’86

Running back Gerald Riggs 1982-88

Tight end Jim Mitchell 1969-79

Wide receiver Andre Rison 1990-94

Wide receiver Terance Mathis 1994-2001

Tackle Mike Kenn 1978-94

Tackle Bob Whitfield 1992-2002

Guard Bill Fralic 1985-92

Guard R.C. Thielemann 1977-84

Center Jeff Van Note 1969-86

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Claude Humphrey 1968-74, ’76-78

End Chuck Smith 1992-99

Tackle Travis Hall 1995-2002

Tackle Rick Bryan 1984-92

Linebacker Tommy Nobis 1966-76

Linebacker Jessie Tuggle 1987-2000

Linebacker Greg Brezina 1968-69, ’71-79

Cornerback Bobby Butler 1981-92

Cornerback Deion Sanders 1989-93

Safety Scott Case 1984-94

Safety Tom Pridemore 1978-85

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Morten Andersen 1995-2000

Punter John James 1972-81

BEST PLAYER: Tommy Nobis

BEST TEAM: 1998 (14-2 reached Super Bowl)

BALTIMORE RAVENS ESTABLISHED: 1996

LIFE BEGAN FOR THE RAVENS IN 1996, so they don’t have the history of, say, the Cleveland Browns, whom the Ravens actually were in a different incarnation.

By 2000, though, the Ravens had established a defense for the ages, one that could rival “the Monsters of the Midway,” “the Fearsome Foursome,” or any other great unit. That defense–led by coordinator Marvin Lewis, linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, defensive backs Rod Woodson and Chris McAlister, and defensive tackles Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams–carried a pedestrian offense to the NFL title.

It set the league record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season and yielded a total of just 23 points in four postseason games, against the Broncos, Titans, Raiders, and Giants. What’s more, the Giants’ seven points in the Super Bowl came on a kickoff return.

Not bad for a team that has been around for such a short time.

Baltimore’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde 1996-97

Running back Jamal Lewis 2000-2002

Runnung back Priest Holmes 1997-2000

Tight end Shannon Sharpe 2000-01

Wide receiver Jermaine Lewis 1996-2001

Wide receiver Michael Jackson 1996-98

Tackle Jon Ogden 1996-2002

Tackle Harry Swayne 1999-2000

Guard Jeff Blackshear 1996-99

Guard Wally Williams 1996-98

Center Jeff Mitchell 1997-2001

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Rob Burnett 1996-2001

End Michael McCrary 1997-2002

Tackle Sam Adams 2000-01

Tackle Tony Siragusa 1997-2001

Linebacker Ray Lewis 1996-2002

Linebacker Jamie Sharper 1997-2001

Linebacker Peter Boulware 1997-2002

Cornerback Chris McAlister 1999-2002

Cornerback Duane Starks 1998-2001

Safety Rod Woodson 1998-2001

Safety Kim Herring 1997-2000

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Matt Stover 1996-2002

Punter Kyle Richardson 1998-2000

BEST PLAYER: Ray Lewis

BEST TEAM: 2000 (Super Bowl champs)

BUFFALO BILLS ESTABLISHED: 1960

OK, SO THEY NEVER WON THE Super Bowl. The folks who played for Buffalo and live in western New York are reminded of that fact far too often.

But even losers can be winners. Consider that no other team has come close to equaling the Bills’ four consecutive trips to the big game. During that span (1990-93), the Bills were 49-15. They won three AFC East titles and made the Super Bowl in the 1992 season as a wild card. In AFC playoff games, the Bills outscored opponents 295-145. They also staged the greatest comeback in postseason history, rallying from a 35-3 hole to beat the Oilers, 41-38, in overtime.

In coach Marv Levy and quarterback Jim Kelly, the Bills already have two Hall-of-Famers from that era, and defensive end Bruce Smith, running back Thurman Thomas, and wide receiver Andre Reed eventually should join them in Canton.

Imagine what could have been for Buffalo if Scott Norwood’s last-second field goal attempt had split the uprights in Super Bowl 25.

Buffalo’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Jim Kelly 1986-96

Running back O.J. Simpson 1969-77

Running back Thurman Thomas 1988-99

Tight end Pete Metzelaars 1985-94

Wide receiver Andre Reed 1985-99

Wide receiver Elbert Dubenion 1960-68

Tackle Joe Devlin 1976-82,’84-89

Tackle Stew Barber 1961-69

Guard Reggie McKenzie 1972-82

Guard Billy Shaw 1961-69

Center Kent Hull 1986-96

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Bruce Smith 1985-99

End Ron McDole 1963-70

Tackle Fred Smerlas 1979-89

Tackle Tom Sestak 1962-68

Linebacker Mike Stratton 1962-72

Linebacker Darryl Talley 1983-94

Linebacker Cornelius Bennett 1987-95

Cornerback Robert James 1969-74

Cornerback Butch Byrd 1964-70

Safety Henry Jones 1991-2000

Safety George Saimes 1963-69

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Steve Christie 1992-2000

Punter Paul Maguire 1964-70

BEST PLAYER: O.J. Simpson

BEST TEAM: 1990 (best of AFC winners)

CAROLINA PANTHERS ESTABLISHED: 1995

THE EARLY SUCCESS OF THE Panthers–including a trip to the NFC title game in 1996, just their second year of existence–has been clouded by their recent travails.

Former wide receiver Rae Carruth was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to serve almost 19 years in jail. Former running back Fred Lane was shot and killed by his wife in his Charlotte home. She is awaiting trial on murder charges and separate charges of bank robbery. Kerry Collins, the first draft choice in team history, was accused by teammates of making racist remarks and even asked to be benched.

On the field, the Panthers set a record for futility in 2001 by losing their final 15 games after winning the opener at Minnesota. Not even George Seifert, who coached San Francisco to two Super Bowl titles; could turn the team around. Things are starting to look up, though, under first-year coach John Fox.

Carolina’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Steve Beuerlein 1996-2000

Running back Anthony Johnson 1995-99

Running back Tim Biakabutuka 1996-2001

Tight end Wesley Walls 1996-2002

Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad 1996-2002

Wide receiver Mark Carrier 1995-98

Tackle Blake Brockermeyer 1995-98

Tackle Chris Terry 1999-2002

Guard Matt Campbell 1995-2000

Guard Greg Skrepenak 1996-97

Center Frank Garcia 1995-2000

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Kevin Greene 1996, ’98-99

End Jason Peter 1998-2001

Tackle Greg Kragen 1995-97

Tackle Tim Morabito 1997-2000

Linebacker Sam Mills 1995-97

Linebacker Lamar Lathon 1995-98

Linebacker Micheal Barrow 1997-99

Cornerback Eric Davis 1996-2000

Cornerback Doug Evans 1998-2001

Safety Mike Minter 1997-2002

Safety Chad Cota 1995-97

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker John Kasay 1995-2002

Punter Ken Walter 1997-2000

BEST PLAYER: Wesley Walls

BEST TEAM: 1996 (reached NFC title game)

CHICAGO BEARS ESTABLISHED: 1920

WHAT STANDS OUT THE MOST in the Bears’ storied history?

The running backs? Certainly Walter Payton and Gale Sayers are among the best ever at that position.

The power players? Bronko Nagurski, Mike Ditka, and Doug Atkins definitely fit that mold.

As great as those players were, we all know what the answer is: The middle linebacker position best exemplifies “the Monsters of the Midway.”

Dick Butkus may have been the most ferocious player in NFL history. At the very least, he was the most feared middle linebacker to ever step onto the field. Offends built entire game plans around avoiding Butkus.

Mike Singletary’s spirited play also personified Chicago’s blue-collar football attitude. Remember the eyes, which practically bulged out of their sockets before the snap? Remember the manic sideline-to-sideline pursuits?

And now there is third-year player Brian Urlacher, whom some already are calling the best linebacker in football.

Chicago’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Sid Luckman 1939-50

Running back Walter Payton 1975-87

Running back Gale Sayers 1965-71

Tight end Mike Ditka 1961-66

Wide receiver Johnny Morris 1958-67

Wide receiver Ken Kavanaugh 1940-41, ’45-50

Tackle Bronko Nagurski 1930-37, ’43

Tackle Joe Stydahar 1936-42, ’45-46

Guard Danny Fortmann 1936-43

Guard Stan Jones 1954-65

Center Clyde Turner 1940-52

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Doug Atkins 1955-66

End Dan Hampton 1979-90

Tackle Wally Chambers 1973-77

Tackle George Musso 1933-44

Linebacker Dick Butkus 1965-73

Linebacker Mike Singletary 1981-92

Linebacker Bill George 1952-65

Cornerback Bennie McRae 1962-70

Cornerback Red Grange 1925, ’29-34

Safety George McAfee 1940-41, ’45-50

Safety Richie Petitbon 1959-68

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Kevin Butler 1985-95

Punter Bobby Joe Green 1962-73

BEST PLAYER: Dick Butkus

BEST TEAM: 1985 (one-year wonders)

CINCINNATI BENGALS ESTABLISHED: 1968

DON’T LAUGH: THERE HAVE been some glory days for the Bengals, otherwise known as the Bungles for the past dozen seasons.

In the 1980s, Cincinnati reached the Super Bowl twice, losing both times to the 49ers in close games. The Bengals had strong quarterbacking (Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason), receiving (Cris Collinsworth, Eddie Brown, Dan Ross), and running (Ickey Woods). In Anthony Munoz and Max Montoya, they had a tandem of blockers any team would envy. The defense also did its job, meaning that it was good enough to not screw things up for the potent offense.

In both Super Bowls, the Bengals had the Niners on the ropes. Cincinnati fell behind 2041 in Super Bowl 16 but mounted a comeback before losing a 26-21 nail-biter. And the Bengals were within 34 seconds of defeating San Francisco in Super Bowl 23 before Joe Montana engineered a game-whining, 92-yard drive.

These days, the Bengals can only dream of reaching such heights.

Cincinnati’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Ken Anderson 1971-86

Running back Corey Dillon 1997-2002

Running back James Brooks 1984-91

Tight end Bob Trumpy 1968-77

Wide receiver Cris Collinsworth 1981-88

Wide receiver Isaac Curtis 1973-84

Tackle Anthony Munoz 1980-92

Tackle Joe Walter 1985-97

Guard Max Montoya 1979-89

Guard Dave Lapham 1974-83

Center Bob Johnson 1968-79

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Eddie Edwards 1977-88

End Ross Browner 1978-86

Tackle Tim Krumrie 1983-94

Tackle Mike Reid 1970-74

Linebacker Jim LeClair 1972-83

Linebacker Reggie Williams 1976-89

Linebacker Al Beauchamp 1968-75

Cornerback Ken Riley 1969-83

Cornerback Lemar Parrish 1970-77

Safety David Fulcher 1986-92

Safety Tommy Casanova 1972-77

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Jim Breech 1980-92

Punter Lee Johnson 1988-98

BEST PLAYER: Anthony Munoz

BEST TEAM: 1988 (narrowly lost S.B. to 49er)

CLEVELAND BROWNS ESTABLISHED: 1946

THE BROWNS HAVE A STORIED tradition, especially when it comes to their backfield. How deep is it back there? The presence of Jim Brown and Marion Motley on our all-time team means Leroy Kelly, a Hall-of Famer, is left out.

Brown was the best of them all–on Cleveland and in the NFL as a whole–possessing unstoppable power and deceptive speed. Motley, meanwhile. was the quintessential fullback as a rusher and a blocker.

Yet Kelly was a better pure athlete than both of those players, if not quite as great an in-game performer. Still, Kelly was superb, twice leading the league in rushing. From 1966 through ’68, years when only a handful of players rushed for l,000 yards, Kelly had 1,141, 1,205; and 1,239 yards, respectively.

On almost any other franchise, Kelly would be considered one of the top two running backs of all time. But as you can see, the competition is mighty stiff on the Browns.

Cleveland’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Otto Graham 1946-55

Running back Jim Brown 1957-65

Running back Marion Motley 1946-53

Tight end Ozzie Newsome 1978-90

Wide receiver Dante Lavelli 1946-56

Wide receiver Paul Warfield 1964-69, ’76-77

Tackle Mike McCormack 1954-62

Tackle Lou Groza 1946-59, ’61-67

Guard Dick Schafrath 1959-71

Guard Gene Hickerson 1958-60, ’62-73

Center Frank Gatski 1946-56

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Len Ford 1950-57

End Paul Wiggin 1957-67

Tackle Bill Willis 1946-53

Tackle Jerry Sherk 1970-81

Linebacker Jim Houston 1960-72

Linebacker Chip Banks 1982-86

Linebacker Clay Matthews 1978-93

Cornerback Frank Minnifield 1984-92

Cornerback Hanford Dixon 1981-89

Safety Thom Darden 1972-74, ’76-81

Safety Warren Lahr 1948-59

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Lou Groza 1946-59 ’61-67

Punter Don Cockroft 1968-80

BEST PLAYER: Jim Brown

BEST TEAM: 1950 (champs in first NFL season)

DALLAS COWBOYS ESTABLISHED: 1960

HERE IS THE ULTIMATE MEASURE of how brilliant (and what a survivor) Tom Laundry was: He was the only head coach the Cowboys had from their inception in 1960 to 1989; since then, the team has run through four of them.

When new owner Jerry Jones let him go in ’89. the stone-faced Laundry had a record of 270-178-6. He guided the Cowboys to five Super Bowls, winning two of them.

Laundry’s conservative demeanor belied the kind of football he encouraged. The Cowboys were so colorful they became America’s Team. Through Landry’s tenure, they had eye-popping performers such as Bob Hayes, Lance Alworth, Bob Lilly, Roger Staubach, Mel Renfro, and Randy White.

When Jimmy Johnson replaced Landry, he had huge shoes to fill–and he did so magnificently. Still, Johnson was able to hang on for only five seasons … or 24 fewer than Landry did.

Dalla’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Roger Staubach 1969-79

Running back Emmitt Smith 1990-2002

Running back Tony Dorsett 1977-87

Tight end Jay Novacek 1990-96

Wide receiver Michael Irvin 1988-99

Wide receiver Drew Pearson 1973-83

Tackle Rayfield Wright 1967-79

Tackle Ralph Neely 1965-77

Guard Larry Allen 1994-2002

Guard John Niland 1966-74

Center Mark Stepnoski 1989-94, ’99-01

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Ed Jones 1974-78, ’80-89

End Harvey Martin 1973-83

Tackle Randy White 1975-88

Tackle Bob Lilly 1961-74

Linebacker Chuck Howley 1961-73

Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan 1963-76

Linebacker Ken Norton 1988-93

Cornerback Deion Sanders 1995-99

Cornerback Mel Renfro 1964-77

Safety Darren Woodson 1992-2002

Safety Cliff Harris 1970-79

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Rafael Septien 1978-86

Punter Danny White 1976-88

BEST PLAYER: Emmitt Smith

BEST TEAM: 1977 (coasted to NFL crown)

DENVER BRONCOS ESTABLISHED: 1960

CONSIDERING THEIR DRAMATIC victories in Super Bowls 32 and 33–wins that perfectly capped John Elway’s magnificent career–it is easy to forget that the Broncos once were considered the most unsuccessful of all Super Bowl teams.

In their four appearances prior to upsetting Green Bay in Super Bowl 32 and then routing Atlanta the following season, the Broncos were Super Bowl flops.

The “Orange Crush defense of 1977, which led Denver to a 12-2 record and its first playoff berth ever, was crushed by Dallas, 27-10, in Super Bowl 12. Nearly a decade later, the 1986 Broncos used “the Drive” at Cleveland to capture the AFC crown, but the Giants stepped on them, 39-20, in Super Bowl 21. Denver was back the next year, only to fall, 42-10, to Washington. And if you think that was bad, the Broncos were beaten, 55-10, by San Francisco in Super Bowl 24, the biggest rout in the game’s history.

Ultimately, though, Denver did away with its Super Bowl curse.

Denver’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback John Elway 1983-98

Running back Floyd Little 1967-75

Running back Terrell Davis 1995-2001

Tight end Shannon Sharpe 1990-99, ’02

Wide receiver Rod Smith 1995-2002

Wide receiver Lionel Taylor 1960-66

Tackle Gary Zimmerman 1993-97

Tackle Ken Lanier 1981-92, ’94

Guard Tom Glassic 1976-83

Guard Mark Schlereth 1995-2000

Center Tom Nalen 1994-2002

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Paul Smith 1968-78

End Rich Jackson 1967-72

Tackle Rubin Carter 1975-86

Tackle Greg Kragen 1985-93

Linebacker Tom Jackson 1973-86

Linebacker Karl Mecklenburg 1983-94

Linebacker Randy Gradishar 1974-83

Cornerback Bill Thompson 1969-81

Cornerback Louis Wright 1975-86

Safety Steve Atwater 1989-98

Safety Dennis Smith 1981-94

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Jason Elam 1993-2002

Punter Tom Rouen 1993-2002

BEST PLAYER: John Elway

BEST TEAM: 1998 (second straight S.B. win)

DETROIT LIONS ESTABLISHED: 1930

BARRY, WHY DID YOU LEAVE US so soon?

Just as Barry Sanders was moving within striking distance of Walter Payton’s career rushing record, the enigmatic running back retired. Sanders rushed for 15,269 yards, many of which came on spectacular jukes and cutbacks, in 10 seasons. He was 1,457 yards shy of Payton’s mark when he left the game in ’98.

Oddly, Jim Brown, considered by many to be the greatest running back ever, also retired prematurely. But unlike Brown, as welt as Payton, Sanders departed without ever winning an NFL championship.

Sanders came out of Oklahoma State in 1989 with a reputation as a breakaway runner who had dominated so-so competition. Critics wondered whether he also could dominate the pro game.

He could–and he did. Sanders departed the NFL with four rushing titles, including a 2,053-yard performance in 1997. He proved he also was durable, but he’ll be best remembered for his stunning elusiveness.

Detroit’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Bobby Layne 1950-58

Running back Barry Sanders 1989-98

Running back Doak Walker 1950-55

Tight end Charlle Sanders 1968-77

Wide receiver Herman Moore 1991-2001

Wide receiver Gail Cogdill 1960-68

Tackle Lou Creekmur 1950-59

Tackle Lomas Brown 1985-95

Guard John Gordy 1957, ’59-67

Guard Bob Kowalkowski 1966-76

Center Alex Wojceichowicz 1938-46

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Robert Porcher 1992-2002

End Darris McCord 1955-67

Tackle Alex Karras 1958-62, ’64-70

Tackle Roger Brown 1960-66

Linebacker Wayne Walker 1958-72

Linebacker Chris Spielman 1988-95

Linebacker Joe Schmidt 1953-65

Cornerback Lem Barney 1967-77

Cornerback Dick Lane 1960-65

Safety Yale Lary 1952-53, ’56-64

Safety Jack Christiansen 1951-58

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Eddie Murray 1980-91

Punter Yale Lary 1952-53, ’56-64

BEST PLAYER: Barry Sanders

BEST TEAM: 1953 (champions of NFL.)

GREEN BAY PACKERS ESTABLISHED: 1921

WILLIE WOOD. LEROY BUTLER. Bobby Dillon. Emlen Tunnell. Darren Sharper.

The Packers always have felt safe at safety.

Few teams have been blessed with the kind of talent at that position that Green Bay has had through the years. From the early days (when Dillon was a star) to the legendary Lombardi seasons (when Wood was a perennial All-Pro), safety has been a strong point for the Pack.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be playing in November and December in Green Bay, where the winter weather puts passing attacks in a deep freeze. But Wood. Butler, and Sharper also gained fame for their ability to stop the run.

Sharper may be the best all-around player at the position today, capable of playing lining up at free or strong safety. Yet he doesn’t get a sniff of our all-time team because Wood is a Hall-of-Famer and the recently retired Butler likely will be.

Green Bay’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Brett Favre 1992-2002

Running back Paul Hornung 1957-62, ’64-66

Running back Jim Taylor 1958-66

Tight end Ron Kramer 1957, ’59-64

Wide receiver Don Hutson 1935-45

Wide receiver Boyd Dowler 1959-69

Tackle Forrest Gregg 1956 ’58-70

Tackle Cal Hubbard 1929-33, ’35

Guard Fuzzy Thurston 1959-67

Guard Mike Michalske 1929-35, ’37

Center Jim Ringo 1953-63

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Reggie White 1993-98

End Willie Davis 1960-69

Tackle Henry Jordan 1959-69

Tackle Cal Hubbard 1929-33, ’35

Linebacker Ray Nitschke 1958-72

Linebacker Dave Robinson 1963-72

Linebacker Bill Forester 1953-63

Cornerback Herb Adderley 1961-69

Cornerback Don Hutson 1935-45

Safety Willie Wood 1960-71

Safety LeRoy Butler 1990-2001

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Chris Jacke 1989-96

Punter Craig Hentrich 1994-97

BEST PLAYER: Don Hutson

BEST TEAM: 1962 (went 13-1 in title romp)

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS ESTABLISHED: 1953

FORTY-FOUR YEARS LATER, THEY still call it “the Greatest Game Ever Played.” At the very least, it put the NFL on the map.

On December 28, 1958, the star-studded Baltimore Colts took on the equally star-studded Giants at Yankee Stadium for the NFL championship as a national television audience reed in. On the field that day for the Colts were John Unitas, Lenny Moore, Raymond Berry, Jim Parker, Alan Ameche, Gino Marchetti, and Art Donovan–some of the greatest NFL players of all time.

Nevertheless, the Giants were in top form that day and were leading 17-14 before Unitas spearheaded a long drive that was capped by Steve Myhra’s game-tying, 20-yard field goal in the dying seconds of regulation. The Colts stopped the Giants on their first possession of overtime–then Unitas guided Baltimore 80 yards, a drive that was capped by Ameche’s game-winning, one-yard touchdown run.

The rest is history.

Indianapolis’ All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback John Unitas 1956-72

Running back Lenny Moore 1956-67

Running back Tom Matte 1961-72

Tight end John Mackey 1963-71

Wide receiver Marvin Harrison 1996-2002

Wide receiver Raymond Berry 1955-67

Tackle Jim Parker 1957-67

Tackle Bob Vogel 1963-72

Guard Art Spinney 1953-60

Guard Alex Sandusky 1954-66

Center Dick Szymanski 1955, ’57-68

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Gino Marchetti 1953-64, ’66

End Ordell Braase 1957-68

Tackle Art Donovan 1953-61

Tackle Fred Miller 1963-72

Linebacker Mike Curtis 1965-75

Linebacker Ted Hendricks 1969-73

Linebacker Stan White 1972-79

Cornerback Eugene Daniel 1984-96

Cornerback Bobby Boyd 1960-68

Safety Jerry Logan 1963-72

Safety Bert Rechichar 1953-59

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Lou Michaels 1964-69

Punter Rohn Stark 1982-94

BEST PLAYER: John Unitas

BEST TEAM: 1958 (always will be remembered)

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS ESTABLISHED: 1995

THE JAGUARS FINALLY STARTED to look like an expansion team … in their sixth year of existence. From years two through five, they were superb.

New franchises simply don’t have runs like the Jaguars did: They went 9-7 in their second season in ’96, then 11-5, then 11-5, and then 14-2. They reached the AFC Championship Game in 1996 and again in ’99, a year when they had the best regular-season record in football.

No franchise has been more damaged by the salary cap, however, and now the Jaguars are dealing with the aftermath of all the money they spent on their top players from 1996 through ’99. Since the turn of the century, they have been also-rans, going 7-9 and 6-10. Offensive tackle Tony Boselli, wide receiver Keenan McCardell, defensive tackles Gary Walker and Seth Payne, cornerback Aaron Beasley, and linebacker Kevin Hardy all are gone because of severe budget limitations.

Amazingly, though, the Jaguars have been playing pretty good football this season despite all those personnel losses. Credit coach Tom Coughlin for that.

Jacksonville’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Mark Brunell 1995-2002

Running back Fred Taylor 1998-2002

Running back James Stewart 1995-99

Tight end Pete Mitchell 1995-98

Wide receiver Keenan McCardell 1996-2001

Wide receiver Jimmy Smith 1995-2002

Tackle Tony Boselli 1995-2001

Tackle Leon Searcy 1996-2000

Guard Rich Tylski 1996-99

Guard Ben Coleman 1995-99

Center Dave Widell 1995-97

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Joel Smeenge 1995-2000

End Tony Brackens 1996-2002

Tackle Gary Walker 1999-2001

Tackle Renaldo Wynn 1997-2001

Linebacker Kevin Hardy 1996-2001

Linebacker Bryan Schwartz 1995-99

Linebacker Eddie Robinson 1996-97

Cornerback Aaron Beasley 1996-2001

Cornerback Fernando Bryant 1999-2002

Safety Donovin Darius 1998-2002

Safety Chris Hudson 1995-98

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Mike Hollis 1995-2001

Punter Bryan Barker 1995-2000

BEST PLAYER: Tony Boselli

BEST TEAM: 1999 (14-2, best record in NFL)

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS ESTABLISHED: 1960

IN THE HIGH-FLYING DAYS OF THE AFL the Chiefs stood out as something different. While many teams were throwing the ball all over the field and gambling for turnovers, Kansas City beat up the opposition. Cleanly.

Even hi the years after the Chiefs joined the NFL, they were known for their physical style. Only recently, under current coach Dick Vermeil, have they really attempted to build with speed and daring.

So, of course, names like Jim Tyrer and Ed Budde stand out on the offensive line. Christian Okoye, nicknamed the “Nigerian Nightmare” because of how ruggedly he ran, exemplifies the kind of clout K.C. has preferred in the backfield.

As for the defense, the names of Buck Buchanan, Jerry Mays, Willie Lanier, Deron Cherry, and Johnny Robinson evoke images of bruising hits. They all could run right through a ball carrier or bury a quarterback.

Kansas City’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Len Dawson 1962-75

Running back Ed Podolak 1969-77

Running back Christian Okoye 1987-92

Tight end Tony Gonzalez 1997-2002

Wide receiver Otis Taylor 1965-75

Wide receiver Chris Burford 1960-67

Tackle Jim Tyrer 1961-73

Tackle John Alt 1984-96

Guard Ed Budde 1963-76

Guard Will Shields 1993-2002

Center Jack Rudnay 1970-82

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Art Still 1978-87

End Neil Smith 1988-96

Tackle Buck Buchanan 1963-75

Tackle Jerry Mays 1961-70

Linebacker Willie Lanier 1967-77

Linebacker Derrick Thomas 1989-99

Linebacker Bobby Bell 1963-74

Cornerback Emmitt Thomas 1966-78

Cornerback Albert Lewis 1983-93

Safety Johnny Robinson 1960-71

Safety Deron Cherry 1981-91

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Nick Lowery 1980-93

Punter Jerrel Wilson 1963-77

BEST PLAYER: Derrick Thomas

BEST TEAM: 1969 (captured Super Bowl title)

MIAMI DOLPHINS ESTABLISHED: 1966

WHEN DOLPHINS FANS CHOSE their Silver Anniversary Team in 1994, the quarterback was Bob Griese. Had that squad been put together in 1984, when Marino was in his second pro season, we’d understand.

But Marino was already well into the greatest passing career in NFL history by ’94. He would retire following the 1999 season with 4,967 completions on 8,358 attempts for 61,361 yards, 420 touchdowns, and an 86.4 passer rating. Marino ranks at the top of the NFL in nearly every important passing category, and his 147 victories are just one fewer than all-time leader John Elway.

Griese did guide Miami to its only two Super Bowl victories, in the perfect 1972 season and again in ’73. But his numbers pale in comparison to those of Marino, who must be considered the best quarterback in Dolphins history.

Miami’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Dan Marino 1983-99

Running back Larry Csonka 1968-74, ’79

Running back Mercury Morris 1969-75

Tight end Jim Mandich 1970-77

Wide receiver Paul Warfield 1970-74

Wide receiver Mark Clayton 1983-92

Tackle Richmond Webb 1990-2000

Tackle Norm Evans 1966-75

Guard Larry Little 1969-80

Guard Bob Kuechenberg 1970-84

Center Dwight Stephenson 1980-87

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Jason Taylor 1997-2002

End Bill Stanfill 1969-76

Tackle Manny Fernandez 1968-75

Tackle Vern Den Herder 1971-81

Linebacker Zach Thomas 1996-2002

Linebacker Nick Buoniconti 1969-76

Linebacker John Offerdahl 1986-93

Cornerback Tim Foley 1970-80

Cornerback Sam Madison 1997-2002

Safety Dick Anderson 1968-77

Safety Louis Oliver 1989-93, ’95-96

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Olindo Mare 1997-2002

Punter Reggie Roby 1983-92

BEST PLAYER: Dan Marino

BEST TEAM: 1972 (undefeated champions)

MINNESOTA VIKINGS ESTABLISHED: 1961

THERE MAY NOT BE A MORE, UH, colorful nickname in all of sports than “the Purple People Eaters.”

Three members from that feared defensive front made our all-time team. Add in two linebackers and two defensive backs, and it’s clear how dominant that group was.

In their heyday in the ’70s, the Purple People Eaters didn’t need to utilize the harsh winter elements of Metropolitan Stadium to assert their supremacy. Carl Eller and Alan Page did it by pressuring quarterbacks and shutting down the run. Roy Winston and Wally Hilgenberg also excelled on run defense, while Bobby Bryant and Paul Krause Were supreme ballhawks and excellent tacklers.

That players from that defense also were among the most intelligent in football. They flawlessly stuck to coach Burl Grant’s schemes.

Don’t disparage the Purple People Eaters because they never won a Super Bowl. Instead, they should be lauded for their brilliance and the tenacity they brought to the field.

Minnesota’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Fran Tarkenton 1961-66, ’72-78

Running back Chuck Foreman 1973-79

Running back Bill Brown 1962-74

Tight end Steve Jordan 1982-94

Wide receiver Cris Carter 1990-2001

Wide receiver Randy Moss 1998-2002

Tackle Ron Yary 1968-81

Tackle Gary Zimmerman 1986-92

Guard Ed White 1969-77

Guard Randall McDaniel 1988-99

Center Mick Tingelhoff 1962-78

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Carl Eller 1964-78

End Jim Marshall 1961-79

Tackle Alan Page 1967-78

Tackle John Randle 1990-2000

Linebacker Matt Blair 1974-85

Linebacker Wally Hilgenberg 1968-79

Linebacker Roy Winston 1962-76

Cornerback Bobby Bryant 1967-80

Cornerback Carl Lee 1983-93

Safety Paul Krause 1968-79

Safety Joey Browner 1983-91

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Fred Cox 1963-77

Punter Greg Coleman 1978-87

BEST PLAYER: Ron Yary

BEST TEAM: 1973 (rolled to NFC crown)

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ESTABLISHED: 1960

FOR FOUR DECADES, THE PATRIOTS emulated their New England brethren, baseball’s Boston Red Sox. In the rare years when those two teams had a shot at glory; they’d somehow fall short, often in the most heartbreaking manner possible.

The Patriots reached the Super Bowl two times, only to be matched up against powerhouses, the 1985 Bears (perhaps the best team of the past 25 years) and the 1996 Packers (with Brett Favre at his peak).

So when the Pats made it to the big game again last season, they were considered mere intruders, The Rains, with their state-of-thwart offense, were almost universally predicted to win the NFL championship in a yawner.

But the third time proved to be a charm for the Patriots. It took a last-second field goal to win it, but New England outplayed St. Louis from start to finish. No longer are the Patriots compared to the near-miss Red Sox. The Pats are winners.

New England’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Steve Grogan 1975-90

Running back Jim Nance 1965-71

Running back Sam Cunningham 1973-79, ’81-82

Tight end Russ Francis 1975-80, ’87-88

Wide receiver Stanley Morgan 1977-89

Wide receiver Gino Cappelletti 1960-70

Tackle Tom Neville 1965-77

Tackle Bruce Armstrong 1987-2000

Guard John Hannah 1973-85

Guard Sam Adams 1972-80

Center Jon Morris 1964-74

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Julius Adams 1971-85, ’87

End Bob Dee 1960-67

Tackle Houston Antwine 1961-71

Tackle Jim Lee Hunt 1960-71

Linebacker Steve Nelson 1974-87

Linebacker Nick Buoniconti 1962-68

Linebacker Andre Tippett 1982-88, ’90-93

Cornerback Raymond Clayborn 1977-89

Cornerback Mike Haynes 1976-82

Safety Fred Marion 1982-91

Safety Lawyer Milloy 1996-2002

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Gino Cappelletti 1960-70

Punter Rich Camarillo 1981-87

BEST PLAYER: John Hannah

BEST TEAM: 2001 (shocked NFL in title run)

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS ESTABLISHED: 1967

A MEASURE OF HOW POORLY the Saints have fared since entering the NFL in 1967 is that their most memorable moments rarely have had anything to do with winning–or even the field of play, for that matter.

Their best player, Archie Manning, never got a sniff of a playoff game.

In 1999, the Saints traded an entire year’s draft to move up for one player, tutoring back Ricky Williams, who lasted only three seasons in the, Big Easy and once donned a wedding dress on a magazine cover.

They hired Mike Ditka, who was out of football entirely, but never asked him if he really was interested in returning to coaching. He wasn’t.

Another coach, Jim Mom, basically fired himself with a profanity-laced tirade after a loss in 1996.

Just last season, the Saints blew a game against the Jets because offensive tackle Kyle Turley hurled a helmet in anger.

Oh yeah, they’ve won just one playoff game.

New Orleans’ All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Archie Manning 1971-75, ’77-82

Running back George Rogers 1981-84

Running back Ricky Williams 1999-2001

Tight end Henry Childs 1974-80

Wide receiver Dan Abramowicz 1967-73

Wide receiver Eric Martin 1985-93

Tackle William Roaf 1993-2001

Tackle Stan Brock 1980-92

Guard Jake Kupp 1967-75

Guard Brad Edelman 1982-89

Center John Hill 1975-84

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Frank Warren 1981-89, ’91-94

End Joe Johnson 1994-98, ’00-01

Tackle La’Roi Glover 1997-2001

Tackle Wayne Martin 1989-99

Linebacker Pat Swilling 1986-92

Linebacker Sam Mills 1986-94

Linebacker Rickey Jackson 1981-93

Cornerback Eric Allen 1995-97

Cornerback Dave Waymer 1980-89

Safety Tommy Myers 1972-81

Safety Sammy Knight 1997-2002

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Morten Andersen 1982-94

Punter Tommy Barnhardt 1987, ’89-94, ’99

BEST PLAYER: Archie Manning

BEST TEAM: 1991 (11-5, won NFC West)

NEW YORK GIANTS ESTABLISHED: 1925

THE DAYS WHEN NEW YORK FANS screamed about Giants ownership not caring if the team won are gone.

Those critics disappeared when Bill Parcells turned around the franchise in the mid-1980s and led it to two Super Bowl titles by the end of the decade. And when complaints resurfaced in the 1990s, Jim Fassel guided the Giants to the NFC championship in 2000.

Few NFL teams have developed assistants into winning head coaches the way the Giants have. Parcells is a notable example, and so is Fassel.

But there are more. Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry were Giants assistants. In fact, those two legends were on the same staff from 19-54 to ’58, winning an NFL title in 1956 under Jim Lee Howell.

Bill Belichick also won rings as an assistant in New York, then went on to capture the Super Bowl last year as New England’s head coach. In addition, Marty Schottenheimer and Tom Coughlin learned the ropes as assistants for the Giants.

That’s quite a roster.

The N.Y. Giants’ All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Charlie Conerly 1948-61

Running back Tuffy Leemans 1936-43

Running back Ken Strong 1933-35, ’39, ’44-47

Tight end Mark Bavaro 1985-90

Wide receiver Red Badgro 1930-35

Wide receiver Frank Gifford 1952-60, ’62-64

Tackle Roosevelt Brown 1953-65

Tackle Jack Stroud 1953-64

Guard Jon Baker 1949-52

Guard Darrell Dess 1959-64, ’66-69

Center Mel Hein 1931-45

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Michael Strahan 1993-2002

End Andy Robustelli 1956-64

Tackle Rosey Grier 1955-56, ’58-62

Tackle Dick Modzelewski 1956-63

Linebacker Lawrence Taylor 1981-93

Linebacker Sam Huff 1956-63

Linebacker Harry Carson 1976-88

Cornerback Dick Lynch 1959-66

Cornerback Carl Lockhart 1965-75

Safety Jimmy Patton 1955-66

Safety Emlen Tunnell 1948-58

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Pete Gogolak 1966-74

Punter Don Chandler 1956-64

BEST PLAYER: Lawrence Taylor

BEST TEAM: 1938 (earned NFL crown)

NEW YORK JETS: ESTABLISHED: 1960

THROUGHOUT THE JETS HISTORY, one position has stood out: wide receiver.

From Don Maynard and George Sauer in the AFL glory clays to Wesley Walker and Al Toon to Rob Moore, Wayne Chrebet, and Keyshawn Johnson, the Jets always have had excellent targets. Throw in a strong group of tight ends through the years–including Pete Lammons, Richard Caster, Jerome Barkum, and Mickey Shuler–and Jets quarterbacks have been surrounded by plenty of pass-catching talent.

The franchise also often has had good receivers out of the backfield. Work your way back from Curtis Martin and Richie Anderson today to Johnny Johnson. Johnny Hector, Freeman McNeil, Bruce Harper, Clark Gaines, Scott Dierking, Emerson Boozer, and Bill Mathis.

Of that collection of targets, only Maynard is in the Hall of Fame. But as a whole, catching passes has been the forte of the Jets.

The N.Y. Jets’ All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Joe Namath 1965-76

Running back Emerson Boozer 1966-75

Running back Curtis Martin 1998-2002

Tight end Mickey Shuler 1978-89

Wide receiver Don Maynard 1960-72

Wide receiver Wesley Walker 1977-89

Tackle Winston Hill 1963-76

Tackle Marvin Powell 1977-85

Guard Dave Herman 1964-73

Guard Randy Rasmussen 1967-81

Center Kevin Mawae 1998-2002

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Mark Gastineau 1979-88

End Gerry Philbin 1964-72

Tackle John Elliott 1967-73

Tackle Joe Klecko 1977-87

Linebacker Larry Grantham 1960-72

Linebacker Mo Lewis 1991-2002

Linebacker Kyle Clifton 1984-96

Cornerback Aaron Glenn 1994-2001

Cornerback James Hasty 1988-94

Safety Bill Baird 1963-69

Safety Dainard Paulson 1961-66

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Pat Leahy 1974-91

Punter Curley Johnson 1961-69

BEST PLAYER: Don Maynard

BEST TEAM: 1968 (first AFL Super Bowl winner)

OAKLAND RAIDERS ESTABLISHED: 1960

THROUGH THE YEARS, THERE has been one constant for the Raiders: owner Al Davis, who instilled the motto TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE into his team.

Davis has been the Raiders’ driving force since they became a pro football power in the mid-1960s. One of the sport’s few rebel owners, Davis has become known for moving rite franchise from Oakland to Los Angeles and back to Oakland again, as well as for his disruptive legal skirmishes with file NFL.

Davis, a former coach, also has insisted that his teams play an entertaining brand of football, which has created some of the most outrageous and dedicated fans in any sport.

The Raiders have dropped the bombs-away mentality Davis favored in the early years with Daryle Lamonica, Ken Stabler, and Jim Plunkett, a style that produced three titles. But their new West Coast-oriented attack has brought the franchise back to prominence.

Credit Davis for keeping his team viable for so long.

Oakland’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Ken Stabler 1970-79

Running back Marcus Allen 1982-92

Running back Pete Banaszak 1966-78

Tight end Dave Casper 1974-80, ’84

Wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff 1965-78

Wide receiver Tim Brown 1988-2002

Tackle Art Shell 1968-82

Tackle Harry Schuh 1965-70

Guard Gene Upshaw 1967-81

Guard Steve Wisniewski 1989-2001

Center Jim Otto 1960-74

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Howie Long 1981-93

End Ben Davidson 1964-71

Tackle Tom Keating 1966-72

Tackle Chester McGlockton 1992-97

Linebacker Ted Hendricks 1975-83

Linebacker Phil Villapiano 1971-79

Linebacker Dan Conners 1964-74

Cornerback Willie Brown 1967-78

Cornerback Terry McDaniel 1988-97

Safety Dave Grayson 1965-70

Safety Jack Tatum 1971-79

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker George Blanda 1967-75

Punter Ray Guy 1973-86

BEST PLAYER: Willie Brown

BEST TEAM: 1976 (lost once en route to title)

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES ESTABLISHED: 1933

TWO PLAYS DEFINE THE OVER-powering defensive units the Eagles generally have fielded over the years.

The original Broad Street Bully might have been Hall-of-Famer Chuck Bednarik, one of the toughest characters in the history of the NFL. He makes our all-time team for Philly as both a center and a linebacker. In late November 1960, Bednarik leveled Giants star Frank Gifford, knocking him cold. The hit, immortalized in photos of Bednarik standing over the fallen Gifford, forced the running back to sit out one season. The Eagles went on to win the NFL championship.

Eighteen years later came “the Fumble.” The Giants were running out the clock, but instead of kneeling, quarterback Joe Pisarcik handed off to Larry Csonka. The ball hit Csonka’s hip and fell to the ground, and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards grabbed it and sped off to the endzone for the winning touchdown.

Philadelphia’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Ron Jaworski 1977-86

Running back Wilbert Montgomery 1977-84

Running back Steve Van Buren 1944-51

Tight end Pete Retzlaff 1956-66

Wide receiver Pete Pihos 1947-55

Wide receiver Harold Carmichael 1971-83

Tackle Stan Walters 1975-83

Tackle Jerry Sisemore 1973-84

Guard Bucko Kilroy 1943-55

Guard Wade Key 1970-80

Center Chuck Bednarik 1949-62

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Reggie White 1985-92

End Bill Hewitt 1936-39, ’43

Tackle Jerome Brown 1987-91

Tackle Charlie Johnson 1977-81

Linebacker Chuck Bednarik 1949-62

Linebacker Maxie Baughan 1960-65

Linebacker Bill Bergey 1974-80

Cornerback Eric Allen 1988-94

Cornerback Herman Edwards 1977-85

Safety Bill Bradley 1969-76

Safety Tom Brookshier 1953, ’56-61

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Bobby Walston 1951-62

Punter Joe Muha 1946-50

BEST PLAYER: Chuck Bednarik

BEST TEAM: 1960 (NFL champions)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS ESTABLISHED: 1933

“THE STEEL CURTAIN.” THAT NICK-name is among the most recognizable in all of sports. And among the most meaningful.

It conjures visions of “Mean Joe” Greene tearing apart ball carriers. Dwight White. and LC. Greenwood piling up the sacks long before there was such an official stat. Donnie Shell closing in for fearsome tackles. Mel Blount pouncing for interceptions. And linebackers Jack Ham (guile and maneuverability) and Jack Lambert (power and meanness) shaking off blockers as if they were mosquitoes.

Many claim the Steelers defense of the 1970s, when the team captured four Super Bowl championships, was the best in NFL history. We won’t quibble. That defense, after all, defined an entire franchise.

The team has continued that tradition of stinginess and intimidation. While no subsequent Pittsburgh defense has reached the heights that the unit in the ’70s did, recent versions have been quite impressive.

Pittsburgh’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Terry Bradshaw 1970-83

Running back Franco Harris 1972-83

Running back Jerome Bettis 1996-2002

Tight end Larry Brown 1971-84

Wide receiver Lynn Swann 1974-82

Wide receiver John Stallworth 1974-87

Tackle Frank Varrichione 1955-60

Tackle Tunch Ilkin 1980-92

Guard Mike Sandusky 1957-65

Guard Gerry Mullins 1971-79

Center Mike Webster 1974-88

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End L.C. Greenwood 1969-81

End Bill McPeak 1949-57

Tackle “Mean Joe” Greene 1969-81

Tackle Ernie Stautner 1950-63

Linebacker Jack Ham 1971-82

Linebacker Jack Lambert 1974-84

Linebacker Andy Russell 1963, ’66-76

Cornerback Rod Woodson 1987-96

Cornerback Mel Blount 1970-83

Safety Donnie Shell 1974-87

Safety Jack Butler 1951-59

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Gary Anderson 1982-94

Punter Bobby Walden 1968-77

BEST PLAYER: “Mean Joe” Greene

BEST TEAM: 1978 (dynasty at full peak)

ST. LOUIS RAMS ESTABLISHED: 1937

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO THINK of high-powered offense when it comes to the Rams–a vision personified by the likes of Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt–look look back 40 years or so. In those days, the Rams were all about defense.

The original “Fearsome Foursome,” headlined by David “Deacon” Jones and Merlin Olsen, had the ability to literally make opponents shudder. Had sacks been an official statistic when Jones was starring for the Rams in Los Angeles, he would have retired with numbers that even Reggie White couldn’t have approached. Olsen was the epitome of the run-stuffing, pass–disrupting tackle, traits now seen in Warren Sapp of the Buccaneers and La’Roi Glover of the Cowboys.

With all due respect to Warner and company, the “Fearsome Foursome” was without question the most intimidating unit this franchise ever has produced.

St. Louis’ All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Norm Van Brocklin 1949-57

Running back Eric Dickerson 1983-87

Running back Marshall Faulk 1999-2002

Tight end Billy Truax 1964-70

Wide receiver Tom Fears 1948-56

Wide receiver Elroy Hirsch 1949-57

Tackle Jackie Slater 1976-95

Tackle Kent Hill 1979-86

Guard Tom Mack 1966-78

Guard Duane Putnam 1952-59, ’62

Center Rich Saul 1970-81

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End David “Deacon” Jones 1961-71

End Jack Youngblood 1971-84

Tackle Merlin Olsen 1962-76

Tackle Larry Brooks 1972-82

Linebacker Jack Reynolds 1970-80

Linebacker Les Richter 1954-62

Linebacker Isiah Robertson 1971-78

Cornerback LeRoy Irvin 1980-89

Cornerback Ed Meador 1959-70

Safety Nolan Cromwell 1977-87

Safety Bob Waterfield 1945-52

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Mike Lansford 1982-90

Punter Dale Hatcher 1985-89, ’91

BEST PLAYER: David “Deacon” Jones

BEST TEAM: 1951 (captured NFL title)

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS ESTABLISHED: 1960

NO WONDER LONGTIME CHARGERS fans have fallen in love with LaDainian Tomlinson. It has been years, after all, since they have seen a running back capable of such dominance.

The top running backs in Chargers history played in San Diego so long ago that it takes a strong memory to remember their names: Keith Lincoln and Paul Lowe.

In the early years, when the Chargers played in the AFL and had an outstanding offense under coach Sid Gillman–in the days before Air Coryell, even–the versatile Lincoln and Lowe were stars. Lincoln could do everything; as a receiver out of the backfield, he was capable of turning short passes into long gains. Lowe often would burst through the line untouched on quick-openers and was one of the early breakaway threats in the AFL. Lincoln and Lowe were so good they have kept the likes of Chuck Muncie off of our all-time team.

San Diego’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Dan Fouts 1973-87

Running back Keith Lincoln 1961-66, ’68

Running back Paul Lowe 1960-68

Tight end Kellen Winslow 1979-87

Wide receiver Lance Alworth 1962-70

Wide receiver Charlie Joiner 1976-86

Tackle Ron Mix 1960-59

Tackle Russ Washington 1968-82

Guard Doug Wilkerson 1971-84

Guard Walt Sweeney 1963-73

Center Don Macek 1976-89

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Fred Dean 1975-81

End Leslie O’Neal 1986, ’88-95

Tackle Ernie Ladd 1961-65

Tackle Gary Johnson 1975-84

Linebacker Billy Ray Smith 1983-92

Linebacker Junior Seau 1990-2002

Linebacker Woodrow Lowe 1976-86

Cornerback Gill Byrd 1983-92

Cornerback Speedy Duncan 1964-70

Safety Rodney Harrison 1994-2002

Safety Kenny Graham 1964-69

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Roll Benirschke 1977-86

Punter Darren Bennett 1995-2002

BEST PLAYER: Kellen Winslow

BEST TEAM: 1963 (won AFL title)

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS ESTABLISHED: 1946

UNTIL BILL WALSH TOOK OVER as head coach in 1979, the 49ers had had their Share of good teams but no champions. That all changed under Walsh, who won three NFL rifles before stepping away from the sideline following the 1988 season. But Walsh’s legacy has more to do with Ns revolutionary West Coast offense than all of that Super Bowl hardware.

Walsh’s disciples have spread the scheme throughout the league, with the Packers and Broncos using versions of it to win championships of their own. Look around the NFL today and Walsh’s influence is obvious: The Seahawks, Jets, Bengals, Raiders, Texans, Lions, Eagles, and Panthers are among the teams to use elements of his offense.

The 49ers have had plenty of superstars in the past couple of decades–Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Roger Craig, Steve Young–but above all, the franchise will be remembered for the quick-drop, precision-passing attack that helped make those players great.

San Francisco’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Joe Montana 1979-92

Running back Hugh McElhenny 1952-60

Running back Joe Perry 1948-60, ’63

Tight end Ted Kwalick 1969-74

Wide receiver Jerry Rice 1985-2000

Wide receiver Terrell Owens 1996-2002

Tackle Bob St. Clair 1953-64

Tackle Leo Nomellini 1950-63

Guard Howard Mudd 1964-69

Guard Randy Cross 1976-88

Center Forrest Blue 1968-74

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Charles Haley 1986-91, ’98-99

End Cedrick Hardman 1970-79

Tackle Leo Nomellini 1950-63

Tackle Charlie Krueger 1959-73

Linebacker Dave Wilcox 1964-74

Linebacker Matt Hazeltine 1955-68

Linebacker Hardy Brown 1951-56

Cornerback Jimmy Johnson 1961-76

Cornerback Ronnie Lott 1981-90

Safety Tim McDonald 1993-99

Safety Merton Hanks 1991-98

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Tommy Davis 1959-69

Punter Frankie Albert 1946-52

BEST PLAYER: Jerry Rice

BEST TEAM: 1989 (capped brilliant run in ’80s)

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS ESTABLISHED: 1976

HE WASN’T THE FASTEST WIDE receiver on the field. He wasn’t all that physical. He didn’t exactly have the type of college background that excites pro football scouts.

Yet Steve Largent is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is the only player to spend the majority of his career in Seattle who has been inducted into the shrine in Canton. When Largent retired in 1989, he ranked first in league history in most receiving categories, including catches (819), yards (13,089), and touchdowns (100).

So what made him so good? For one, he ran superb routes. He also had great hands. And he was consistent, as evidenced by the fact that tie went 177 straight games with at least one catch.

Largent has gone on to a career in politics, but Seahawks fans always will remember him as the best player in the history of the franchise.

Seattle’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Dave Krieg 1980-91

Running back Curt Warner 1983-89

Running back Ricky Watters 1998-2001

Tight end Mike Tice 1981-88, ’90-91

Wide receiver Steve Largent 1976-89

Wide receiver Brian Blades 1988-98

Tackle Walter Jones 1997-2002

Tackle Steve August 1977-84

Guard Edwin Bailey 1981-91

Guard Bryan Millard 1984-91

Center Blair Bush 1983-88

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Jacob Green 1980-91

End Michael Sinclair 1991-2001

Tackle Cortez Kennedy 1990-2000

Tackle Jeff Bryant 1982-93

Linebacker Bruce Scholtz 1982-88

Linebacker Rufus Porter 1988-94

Linebacker Keith Butler 1978-87

Cornerback Shawn Springs 1997-2002

Cornerback Dave Brown 1976-86

Safety Eugene Robinson 1985-95

Safety Kenny Easley 1981-87

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Norm Johnson 1982-90

Punter Rick Tuten 1991-97

BEST PLAYER: Steve Largent

BEST TEAM: 1983 (made it to AFC title game)

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS ESTABLISHED: 1976

ALTHOUGH WE ARE HONORING the best each NFL franchise has had to offer through the years, we’d be remiss if we ignored the worst when it comes to the Buccaneers.

No modern-era NFL team has lost every game in a season … except one. In their inaugural year in 1976, the Buts were downright pitiful, going 0-14 and getting outscored 412-125.

The Buccaneers weren’t much better the following year; they lost their first 12 games before winning their final two. What’s more, their 103 points scored were 31 fewer than any other team.

How bleak were those times? The most entertaining member of the organization wasn’t a player–instead, he was coach John McKay. His comments about his rag-tag assemblage of players were priceless. Once, when asked after a game about the execution of his team, McKay pondered the question for a moment, then answered: “I’m all for it.”

Tampa Bay’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Doug Williams 1978-82

Running back James Wider 1981-89

Running back Mike Alstott 1996-2002

Tight end Jimmie Giles 1978-86

Wide receiver Mark Carrier 1987-92

Wide receiver Keyshaw Johnson 2000-02

Tackle Paul Gruber 1988-99

Tackle Charley Hannah 1977-82

Guard Randall McDaniel 2000-01

Guard Ray Snell 1980-83

Center Tony Mayberry 1990-99

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Lee Roy Selmon 1976-85

End Marcus Jones 1996-2002

Tackle Warren Sapp 1995-2002

Tackle Dave Logan 1979-86

Linebacker Hardy Nickerson 1993-99

Linebacker Derrick Brooks 1995-2002

Linebacker Broderick Thomas 1989-93

Cornerback Mike Washington 1976-84

Cornerback Donnie Abraham 1996-200l

Safety John Lynch 1993-2002

Safety Cedric Brown 1976-84

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Michael Husted 1993-98

Punter Tom Blanchard 1979-81

BEST PLAYER: Lee Roy Selmon

BEST TEAM: 1999 (almost won NFC title game)

TENNESSEE TITANS ESTABLISHED: 1960

TALK ABOUT NOMADIC TEAMS.

The Titans/Oilers have had more homes than an Army brat.

The Houston Oilers, an AFL original, won the first two championships in that League at Jeppesen Stadium, which was run by the Houston School Board. From 1965 through ’67, the Oilers played at Rice University’s stadium. It was a temporary stop before the team headed to the Astrodome, the first domed stadium in the NFL

Decades after moving into the Astrodome, team owner Bud Adams couldn’t get Houston to build him a new palace. Nashville would, so he moved. But he didn’t wind up in his new stadium until after the team had played in Memphis in 1997 (at the Liberty Bowl, where it barely drew) and then Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville in 1998 (a second-rate college facility).

In 1999, the franchise finally received its lavish digs, as well as a different name (the Titans). Maybe those Titans-will stay put for a while.

Tennessee’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Warren Moon 1984-93

Running back Earl Campbell 1978-84

Running back Eddie George 1996-2002

Tight end Frank Wycheck 1995-2002

Wide receiver Charlie Hennigan 1960-66

Wide receiver Ken Burrough 1971-81

Tackle Glen Ray Hines 1966-70

Tackle Walter Suggs 1962-71

Guard Bob Talamini 1960-67

Guard Mike Munchak 1982-93

Center Bruce Matthews 1983-2001

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Elvin Bethea 1968-83

End William Fuller 1986-93

Tackle Curley Culp 1974-80

Tackle Ray Childress 1985-95

Linebacker Robert Brazile 1975-84

Linebacker George Webster 1967-72

Linebacker Gregg Bingham 1973-84

Cornerback Zeka Moore 1967-77

Cornerback Chris Dishman 1988-96

Safety Jim Norton 1960-68

Safety Ken Houston 1967-72

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker George Blanda 1960-66

Punter Jim Norton 1960-68

BEST PLAYER: Earl Campbell

BEST TEAM: 1961 (second straight AFL title)

WASHINGTON REDSKINS ESTABLISHED: 1932

IF YOU THINK THE REDSKINS weren’t much fun before Steve Spurrier arrived, you’re mistaken, Consider:

* With Hall-of-Famer Sammy Baugh at the controls, the Redskins could pitch, catch, and run with the best of them. They made a habit of scoring more than 200 points per season in the days when few teams approached that number.

* “The Over The Hill Gang,” coached by George Alien, was known for making big plays on all three units, particularly special teams. Washington’s rivalry with the Cowboys peaked with Allen in the 1970s.

* Joe Gibbs’ teams in the ’80s also had plenty of firepower, headlined by an entertaining group of wideouts called “the Fun Bunch.” In addition, the Skins had the colorful John Riggins at running back in Gibbs’ early years, as well as an Offensive line whose precision was mesmerizing.

The bottom line? A franchise that has featured players such as Charley Taylor, Art Monk, Sam Huff, Darrell Green, and Ken Houston can be termed anything but stodgy and boring.

Washington’s All-Time Team

OFFENSE

Position Player Years

Quarterback Sammy Baugh 1937-52

Running back John Riggins 1976-79, ’81-85

Running back Stephen Davis 1996-2002

Tight end Jerry Smith 1965-77

Wide receiver Charley Taylor 1964-77

Wide receiver Art Monk 1980-93

Tackle Joe Jacoby 1981-93

Tackle Turk Edwards 1932-40

Guard Vince Promuto 1960-70

Guard Russ Grimm 1981-91

Center Len Hauss 1964-77

DEFENSE

Position Player Years

End Charles Mann 1983-93

End Bill Brundige 1970-77

Tackle Diron Talbert 1971-80

Tackle Paul Lipscomb 1950-54

Linebracker Sam Huff 1964-67, ’69

Linebracker Chris Hanburger 1965-78

Linebracker Monte Coleman 1979-94

Cornerback Darrell Green 1983-2002

Cornerback Pat Fischer 1968-77

Safety Ken Houston 1973-80

Safety Brig Owens 1966-77

SPECIAL TEAMS

Position Player Years

Kicker Mark Moseley 1974-86

Punter Sammy Baugh 1937-52

BEST PLAYER: Sammy Baugh

BEST TEAM: 1942 (lost once en route to crown)

COPYRIGHT 2002 Century Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group