November 18 , 2010

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LONGSHOTS: Brown or Rice - who's NFL's #1 of all time?
By Dave Long dlong@hippopress.com

Anyone else see NFL.com’s newly announced list of the Top 100 Players in history? While these type of things have a way of sending me around the bend, I do still love them. And this one is probably the best I’ve ever seen, because they based it on a player’s dominance in his era to balance off changes in football brought on by physical and intellectual evolution.

I can quibble with just a few things — like Mike Ditka at 59. He was ferocious his first five years and had the greatest run I’ve ever seen. But he shared time with Billy Truax his last five in Dallas. So 59 seems high and Tony Gonzalez should be ahead of him on any tight end list. At 11 Ronnie Lott seems a bit too high too, and how in the name of Chuck Bednarik can Troy Polamalu be missing from this list altogether? If actives like Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Tom Brady are on this list he should be too. He’s a lot better than Deion Sanders — who’s way too low at 34. So put Troy there and move the vastly overrated Deion to where he belongs in the 90s. And then there’s Favre at 19, Brady at 20 and John Elway at 23, where I’d flip Elway and Favre and leave Brady at 20 — though after Sunday night’s reminder of just how good he is it wouldn’t be all that hard to convince me he’s ahead of Elway.

I’ve got the same guys in my Top 10 as them, just rearranged a bit. My only real issue is Jerry Rice at the very top. I like Jerry, but, sorry, if you’re not the greatest player in the history of your own franchise, how can you be number one overall? So here’s my take on that and the rest of the Top 10:

10. Don Hutson: The greatest of the early players. They have him at nine. I go 10 mainly ’cause I can go only by his stats since I never saw him play. He was an end with 105 TDs when they didn’t pass. Next best in his era was 77. Plus — he’s soooo big, Bear Bryant was simply called “the other” end at Alabama. You’ve got to be big to do that to Bear in ’bama.

9. Reggie White: He’s helped a bit because sacks, which he lead the league in only twice, weren’t an official stat until 1982. Plus I thought he got a little more credit than deserved when the Packers beat the Pats in the Super Bowl as two of his sacks came after it was decided. But he’s second overall and was a thoroughly dominant player. They had him at 7.

8. Jerry Rice: I know 207 touchdowns is the biggest stat. So I am a bit conflicted as he was a truly great player. But football is about help from teammates and he had Montana, Young, Taylor, Terrell Owens, a line led by Randy Cross and a genius coach. But the main reason he’s here is there’s a reason Bill Belichick never picked a wide receiver in the first round and Bill Parcells quit because Terry Glenn was forced on him. In terms of importance, wide out is down the list behind QB, dominant defender, big rusher and running back.

7. Peyton Manning: If he doesn’t throw that interception vs. New Orleans he probably flip-flops with Johnny U. But he did and doing that at the wrong time is the lone chink in his armor. On the other side, he’s so amazing Bill Belichick was right going for it on fourth and two at his own 30 to keep it away from him — which is like intentionally walking someone with the bases loaded. He’ll hold every good passing record when he’s done, and for good measure, he’s never missed a game. Patriot Nation won’t like this, but he’s leading you know who at the moment.

6. Johnny Unitas: Part of me says Otto Graham, who was in 10 straight title games. But Johnny U retired with the most TD passes, pioneered the two-minute drill, won three titles and played for five. So, Pats fans take solace — at least Tom Brady is the best QB in his franchise’s history, while Manning is not.

5. Lawrence Taylor: While I don’t care for his above-the-rules arrogance that now has him in serious trouble with the law, he was a phenomenal player who gave 100 percent on every play. He changed the position to be a speed rusher and spearheaded a great defense that was crucial in winning two Super Bowls under The Tuna. NFL.com had him third.

4. Dick Butkus: I admit to a huge bias for guys from my youth — but ninth? I’m going with Butkus over Taylor because he had Carl Banks, Harry Carson, Gary Reasons, Pepper Johnson and George Martin to take the heat off in NY. Ditto for play-alike Ray Lewis with Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and others. Butkus was basically by himself and people were still terrified of the Bears. Simply put: he was unbelievably scary.

3. Walter Payton: Did you know he retired as the all-time rusher (a more important stat than catches) without playing with even one Pro Bowl lineman until his second to last year? And the list of starting QBs he played with includes Gary Huff, Bob Avelini and Mike Phipps? Plus he’s the best blocking great runner I’ve ever seen. A five for NFL.com

2. Joe Montana: He, not Jerry, is the greatest 49er. Joe was more valuable than Rice when they played together and there wasn’t a person then who didn’t believe it. He won twice before Rice arrived and twice more after as his numbers rose dramatically in the playoffs. NFL.com had him at fourth — they missed by two.

1. Jimmy Brown: He won the rushing title eight times in his nine seasons. Ditto for being 1st team All-Pro. Rice’s 10 took 21 years to get. And while he had 81 more TDs, they came in 303 games for a .67 per game average. For Brown it was 126 in 118 games — better than one per game. And thanks to 12- and 14-game seasons he missed 26 games. That gives him another 30. And it’s 45 or so more if you factor in the two back system of the day cost him 100-125 carries a year or 900 carries over nine years — which is 38 percent of his 2,359 lifetime. So that brings him 201 in NINE years to Rice’s 207 in 21 pass-happy years. So while Jerry’s TDs are great they are helped by his longevity. Then throw in his most incredible stat: that as a running back he never missed a single game as he averaged 5.2 per carry in his career. So for me he’s the best ever.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Saturday Morning Sports with Dave Long from 11 a.m. to noon Saturdays on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM in Manchester and 900-AM in Nashua.


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8/26/2010 The Shot Heard round the World goes silent
8/19/2010 Injuries or missed opportunities the story of Sox 2010 season?
8/12/2010 I don't wanna tell you I told you so, but I told you so
8/5/2010 Mailbag focuses on Pats, Sox and MLS all-star game
7/29/2010 Counting the way of managing a pitchers workload
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7/8/2010 Observations at baseballs midway point
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6/10/2010 Mood swings wildly in NBA finals
6/3/2010 LEssons learned from days gone by this week
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5/20/2010 The C’s saw something most didn’t prior to current playoff run
5/13/2010 Anniversaries remind Reed and Russell were two of a kind
5/6/2010 Sox have holes in early going
4/29/2010 Whirlwind weekend leads to whirlwind thoughts4/22/2010 NFL draft winds blow through Foxboro this week
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4/8/2010 The Nation makes a pitch for having best staff in baseball
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3/25/2010 Dancing withthe stars in the NCAA tournament
3/18/2010 Mixed bag on Nomar's Red Sox retirement
3/11/2010 Are Sox spinning on the new move to defense
3/4/2010 Mail bags talks of Pats, Celts and the Olympics
2/25/2010 Tigers tail between his legs amid vast public attention
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2/11/2010 This and that as the curtain comes down on football
2/4/2010 Peyton's place in historical pecking order on the line Sunday
1/28/2010 The all-decade choices — Part II
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11/12/2009 the mid-year report for the NFL
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10/29/2009 Run for the title looks in store for Celtics
10/22/2009 Mt. Rushmore of Patriots moments
10/15/2009 Changes I'd like to see happen
10/8/2009 Predictable ending to 2009 baseball prediction game
10/1/2009 Bay watch on for Sox MVP
9/24/2009 Pitch count police trigger another dreamlike episode
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8/27/2009 Random thoughts and big refrigerator magnets
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7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
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6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
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11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
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10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
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9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
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8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
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6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
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5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
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4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
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3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
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2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
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12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
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8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
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10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat