Alan Page, former defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, is one of football’s all-time greats. He was a 9-time pro bowler, 2-time defensive player of the year, and the first ever defensive player to win MVP. He has a legacy that, even without a championship ring, can’t be taken away or tarnished. His spot in the game’s history is secure.
He would never play in today’s NFL, though.
A 6’4’’, 245 pound defensive tackle? He would have been too small to play defensive tackle in college these days.
In the ‘70s and ‘60s, offensive tackles were around 260 pounds; tackles are undersized if they’re 290 now. The size of the players in the game has risen exponentially in the past twenty years – blame the steroids we give to cows. And the steroids we give to pigs, orange juice, corn, chickens, and chicken McNuggets.
By all accounts, the speed of today’s game is in another stratosphere, also. Imagine Larry Csnoka or Franco Harris running away from Mario Williams or Haloti Ngata, let alone Karlos Dansby or Troy Polamalu.
That doesn’t take away or diminish previous periods in the game or previous players; they were the best of the best at the time. But the game has changed and the players are not the same. So yes, many of the game’s greats would not make it in today’s football through no fault of their own. Things change.
However, there were several players from the past who could play today, who would still dominate in today’s game.
Let’s first set the parameters for exactly what “today’s NFL” means, though. When looking at NFL films, books, history, one comes away with the idea that the NFL is BLT and ALT: Before Lawrence Taylor and After Lawrence Taylor.
The game changed with LT, he was the keystone for the size and speed of the modern player. Since LT began his career in 1981, any player that played in the ‘80s is disqualified from this list. Apologies to Mean Joe Greene, Earl Campbell, and others who are no doubt crying into a bowl of soup after being left off this subjective list due to arbitrary requirements by some guy.
Got to make the cut-off somewhere, however. That’s the cut-off for this list; only players who never played in the 1980s will be discussed. On with the list that is wholly unscientific and will unfortunately neglect plenty of deserving names.