Jerry Rice Tops Jim Brown as the NFL Network's Greatest Player of All-Time

By Jason Lisk

It’s hard to argue with the top ten players on the list, but for sake of argument, I will anyway. Consider these the devil advocate positions on the final 10 players unveiled last night.

#10  Dick Butkus.

Cons:  Despite all the hype about Butkus, the defensive teams he played on weren’t all that good.  He once played on a team that went 1-13.  Should one of the ten best players of all-time be on a team that could only win one game?

Pros:  Yes, his teammates really were that bad, and his status in the game is near-unanimous.

#9 Don Hutson

Cons:  His teams threw more than others, but the bigger issue for me is when he peaked, and the clear explanation for it.  Don’t get me wrong, Hutson was a star.  But his best statistical seasons came from 1941 to 1945 at age 29 and older.  Many football players (and potential football players from college) went to serve in the war, and the league was watered down talent wise.  Don’t we think Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne would put up astronomical numbers if half the defensive backs were removed and replaced with guys not good enough to play in the league now?

Pros:  He led the league in touchdowns four straight years before the war, and wasn’t exactly chopped liver at any point in his career.

#8 Peyton Manning

Cons:  He doesn’t have the multiple rings that other quarterbacks ranked highly on the list had.  He is in lots of commercials.

Pros:  He is a force of nature who carries teams regardless of the receivers or offensive line turnover, and his teams have won 12 games a season since forever.  No other quarterback has been as consistently good for as long.  Oh, and he’s actually funny in many of those commercials.

#7 Reggie White

Cons: He didn’t know how to make his own watch.

Pros:  He played in the USFL and then came and dominated the NFL at any position along the line you wanted him to play.

#6  Johnny Unitas

Cons: He stuck around too long, had some bad postseason performances late, and was a bit goofy looking.

Pros: He was the best quarterback for a decade, and perfected the two minute drill.

#5 Walter Payton

Cons: He couldn’t play both running back and quarterback during his career.

Pros: He tried though, throwing several td passes.  No running back had more monster games in losing efforts with no passing game than early Walter.

#4 Joe Montana

Cons: How do you separate out the player from the teammates and coaching system?  He had it pretty good.  He also had some bad playoff games in the NFC games, particularly against the guy ranked just ahead of him.

Pros: Joe Cool was simply the best quarterback ever in the Super Bowl, and also has “the Catch”.  He was a relentless, efficient machine running that offense, and he did it before Jerry Rice arrived.

#3 Lawrence Taylor

Cons: He was a drug user who frequently free lanced.

Pros: He was a drug user who frequently free lanced and destroyed opposing quarterbacks, running backs and receivers.  Simply the most dominant defensive force ever.

#2 Jim Brown

Cons:  He played with great linemen throughout his career.  he played against really easy schedules for his career (the Eastern Division was far inferior to the West, and schedules were imbalanced like AFC and NFC today).  Other backs on the team also had great success and averaged 5 yards per carry. His replacement, Leroy Kelly, had 3,585 yards and 42 rushing touchdowns in the first three years after Brown retired.  Oh, and his presenter was Burt Reynolds.

Pros:  He led the league in rushing just about every year, led in carries, never left the game.  He was the focus of the defense.   He was a physical freak and a transcendent athlete who dominated the league.  In 1963, he averaged an incredible 133 rushing yards a game.  He was in The Dirty Dozen.

#1 Jerry Rice

Cons:  Well, let’s see, he was on Dancing With The Stars.  He touched the ball less than a quarterback or running back, which I’m sure is what you will hear from anyone opposing his selection.

Pros: Just about everything.  Chase Stuart did a great writeup on Rice before the Hall of Fame selections.  For touching the ball less than a running back, he surpassed everyone of them in yards from scrimmage.  He holds the touchdown record.  He holds just about every record.  You can divide his career in two parts and produce two Hall of Fame careers.  If you look at just his games with guys named Grbac, Moroski, Bono, Cavanaugh and Kemp at quarterback, and prorate it to a single season, you get 1451 yards and 16 td’s, or as Chase puts it, “the career best season for nearly every WR who has ever played the game. And, of course, only 25% of those games came during what we would typically call a “wide receiver’s prime.”

[photo via Getty]