The NFL 100 is complete and the players have been named. The coaches have been chosen and so has the best team ever but who are the best of the best?
Who makes up the all-time greatest team ever? As part of the celebration marking the 100 year anniversary of the NFL, the all-time great roster, the NFL 100, was released highlighting the best players to ever lace up a pair of cleats in the league as well as the best coaches.
What would the all-time best line-up be from those players the league has named to its all-time roster. You can check out the NFL’s all-time roster as well.
Starting with the head coach who would have to get and keep everyone to play as a team. Choosing from the likes of Bill Belichick, Don Shula, Jarvis Landry, Joe Gibbs, Vince Lombardi, and George Halas to name a few is quite a task. For this team however, my choice would be Don Shula.
The NFL’s all-time winningest coach guided the Colts to seven straight winning seasons as well as only having two seasons in his 26-year tenure with the Dolphins below .500. Guided the Dolphins to two Super Bowl titles as well as being the only coach to lead a team to an undefeated season when the 1972 Dolphins finished 17-0 and the first of his two Super Bowl titles.
On the offensive side of the ball, choosing just one quarterback from the group was the toughest decision. How does someone choose one from a list that includes Tom Brady, Dan Marino, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Joe Montana? Not to mention the historical ones that I was not fortunate enough to see play like Unitas and Staubach and Otto Graham?
For this team, the quarterback to start would be Peyton Manning. Set an NFL record with 14 seasons of 4,000+ yards passing. The elder Manning is the only starting quarterback to win the Super Bowl with two different franchises. He retired with the record for passing touchdowns (539) which was a mark that stood until this season. Manning also set the single-season marks for passing yards (5,477) as well as passing touchdowns (55) in a single season.
Protecting any quarterback is the offensive line. At center and anchoring, the protection efforts is JIm Otto, the 10-time all-pro never missed a game in 15 seasons (210 games). His play was characterized by pride, dedication, and intelligence and his leadership helped guide the Raiders offensive line as he finished tied for second among lineman with12 Pro Bowl selections.
At offensive guard, we have Larry Allen and Gene Upshaw. Both Super Bowl winners as well as multiple all-pro selections, Allen played all along the offensive line with the exception of center and Upshaw was the first entrant to the NFL Hall of Fame to exclusively play guard. Upshaw continued to lead as after his playing career he led the NFL Players Association.
At the offensive tackle positions, Art Shell and Anthony Munoz would be the bookends to finish off my starting offensive lines. Both Munoz and Shell showed exceptional athleticism and leadership in a blue-collar approach to protecting the edges of the offensive lines of their respective teams. Shell displayed a great deal of athleticism in his career with the silver and black and Munoz scored four times from seven receptions in his career.
The tight end for this team is Tony Gonzalez, the all-time leader among tight ends with 1,325 receptions (3rd among all players), 15,127 yards (6th among all players). Second among tight ends with 111 touchdowns. His 14 pro bowl selections are tops among tight ends as well as tied for first all-time.
For the wide receivers, another tough choice, however, the selections of Jerry Rice and Randy Moss would be my top two selections. Rice is one of three players in the history of the NFL with five touchdown receptions in a single game. His 14 career seasons with 1000+ yards receiving as well as his 76 games of 100+ yards are also both records. Moss, who won the Rookie of the Year award in 1998 when he scored a league-best 17 touchdowns and had 10 of them from plays of 40 yards or more. He set a record with 23 touchdown receptions in 2007. Throughout his career, he always seemed to have the ability to run away from defenders and score any time he touched the ball.
Choosing the running back position was probably the second most challenging behind the quarterback. With the likes of Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Gayle Sayers, Barry Sanders choosing was extremely difficult. For this team, Payton and Smith are the choices. In this duo, not only are they both Super Bowl Champions, you have the top two all-time leading rushers. Payton was named NFL MVP in 1977 and finished his career with 110 touchdowns. Smith was also named NFL MVP in 1993 the same year he was named Super Bowl MVP for Super Bowl XXVIII.
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Defensively, the choices were plentiful as well. Starting with the defensive line, the starting tackles (depending on formation) would be Joe Greene and Alan Page. Key members of two of the most storied defenses in the history of the NFL, both displayed dominance in attacking opposing offenses. Both played with and displayed high levels of speed, quickness, and strength. Page is one of only two defensive players to ever be named NFL MVP.
Completing the line, at the defensive end positions, would be Reggie White and Bruce Smith. The top two sack masters seem the most dominating duo to have on the team. White retired as the NFL’s all-time sack leader with 198 including 3 in the Packers Super Bowl XXXI win versus the Patriots. In Smith, not only was he a dominating force on a Bills Defense that went to four straight Super Bowls, he also surpassed White’s total sack number with 200. Between the two, they had 25 seasons with at least 10 sacks.
At linebacker, Ray Lewis, Dick Butkus, Lawrence Taylor, and Jack Ham would be starting. Butkus established himself as a dominant force on the gridiron and quickly became the standard that other middle linebackers were compared to. His skill at creating turnovers 22 interceptions and 27 fumble recoveries was matched only by his physicality were reasons he became one of the most intimidating forces on defense. Lewis was a key player in the Ravens Super Bowl wins and is the only player in NFL history with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career.
At outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the way offenses had to prepare. Along with Page in 1971, Taylor is the only other defensive player to win the NFL MVP award (1986). Finishing his career with 132.5 sacks, he played with an intensity that was only matched by his speed and strength. Jack Ham would start as the other outside linebacker. As a member of the Steelers dominating defenses for the Steelers and a key part of the 4 Super Bowl titles. With his speed, intelligence, and ability to correctly anticipate plays from opposing offenses, he quickly won the starting job in Pittsburgh as a rookie.
Starting in the defensive backfield are Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson with Ed Reed and Ronnie Lott. At corner with Sanders and Woodson, a combined 123 interceptions. Sanders is one of only two players in the history of the NFL to score a touchdown six different ways (interception, fumble, punt, kickoff, rushing, and receiving). Lott was one of the most dominating players to roam the backfield and was a key player in the Super Bowl wins for the 49ers. His play led to him being regarded as one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. Reed always seemed to be involved in making the play for the Ravens defense.
Special teams are Adam Vinatieri at kicker and Ray Guy as punter. Return specialist is Devin Hester. It seemed like the easy choice to have Vinatieri be the choice at kicker as he is the only player to have 1000+ points for two different teams. Also, he kicked the game-winning field goal in two Super Bowls for the Patriots. He also holds records for career points as well as field goals made. Ray Guy only had his punts blocked three times in 1,049 he also averaged 42.4 yards per punt.
Having Devin Hester as the return specialist makes the most sense as he is the only player to return the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl for a touchdown. His 19 total touchdown returns is also a record. His electric play on returns always made him a threat to score on any return.