The Top Player in the History of Every Team in the NFL
Now that his career as a Philadelphia Eagle is officially over, maybe it is now time to ask: Was Donovan McNabb the greatest Philadelphia Eagle of all time?
Obviously, it all depends on who you ask: some in Philly would have you believe that title belongs to Jon Runyan, Brian Dawkins, Keith Jackson, Mike Quick, or even Ron Jaworski.
Meanwhile, for others the answer is clear: McNabb may not have won a Super Bowl, but never in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise—a history than goes back to the Great Depression—has the team experienced the level of success it experienced with McNabb.
Count me in the latter group.
Here is the complete list of the greatest players in the history of every team in the NFL.
You can read my baseball list here.
San Francisco 49ers: Jerry Rice
Certainly plenty of players to choose from, but Rice is hands down the greatest 49er of all time.
What I don't understand is why he doesn't get more pub for greatest NFL player of all time.
This guy was the Michael Jordan of football.
Seattle Seahawks: Steve Largent
I'd like to say Jacob Green, Dave Brown, or Cortez Kennedy. I'd like to say Shaun Alexander.
But when Steve Largent retired, he was the all time leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns by a receiver.
St. Louis Rams: Orlando Pace
One of the greatest left tackles of all time, Pace was one of the unsung heroes of the Greatest Show on Turf. Isaac Bruce makes a quality No. 2 Ram of all time.
Arizona Cardinals: Ottis Anderson
This will probably be Larry Fitzgerald after another year or two, but for now it is Anderson, a power-rusher who ran for 1,000 or more yards five thankless times in the waning days of the Cardinals' time in St. Louis.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
The history of the Saints, like the history of New Orleans itself, is divided in two: pre-Katrina, and post-Katrina.
We love the pre-Katrina Saints heroes of old, like Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Pat Swilling, Vaughan Johnson, Bobby Hebert, and Archie Manning, but let's be real.
It's Drew Brees.
Atlanta Falcons: Jessie Tuggle
Sadly, this could have been Michael Vick. Instead, it is the Falcons all time leader in tackles Jessie Tuggle. Tuggle had so many tackles only Scott Case and Keith Brooking even have half as many as he did in Falcons history.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derrick Brooks
Who's my favorite player? Mr. Derrick Brooks!
When you have a linebacker who is among your leading tacklers, interceptors, and scorers in a single season, you know he is special. The year the Bucs won the Super Bowl, he had five interceptions, four touchdowns, and 88 tackles.
Carolina Panthers: Julius Peppers
The Panthers' career leader in sacks and forced fumbles, Julius Peppers is the dominant defensive player in Panthers history, which is short enough to not give him a lot of competition.
Minnesota Vikings: Fran Tarkenton
Tarkenton played 13 of his 18 seasons for the Vikings, with a five year sabbatical with the New York Giants in the middle. Fran never gets brought up in greatest quarterbacks of all time conversations, and I think that is wrong.
Green Bay Packers: Don Hutson
Due respect to Brett Favre, but Don Hutson played football like someone who has found a time machine in 1996 and traveled back to the Great Depression to become a football star.
Chicago Bears: Walter Payton
So many great choices with the Bears—Payton, Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus, Richard Dent, Brian Urlacher, Sid Luckman, Gale Sayers, Gary Fencik.
I give it to Payton, just the consummate professional and one of the greatest players in NFL history.
Detroit Lions: Barry Sanders
Not a lot of great choices here. Who is there after Sanders? Jerry Ball? Herman Moore? Robert Porcher?
Dallas Cowboys: Emmitt Smith
Like the Bears, the Dallas Cowboys are just flush with great players. This could go to Larry Allen, Michael Irvin, Tony Hill, Tony Dorsett, Jim Jeffcoat, Mel Renfro.
I secretly suspect that I think it should be Roger Staubach, but I'll stick with the all time rushing leader.
Philadelphia Eagles: Reggie White
I know, I led you to believe that this was going to be McNabb.
He may actually be the greatest offensive player in Eagles history, but the story of the Eagles has been a story of defense.
From White to Jerome Brown to Seth Joyner to Clyde Simmons to Hugh Douglas to Brian Dawkins to Andre Waters to Jeremiah Trotter, the best Eagles have always been defenders.
Washington Redskins: Darrell Green
Darrell Green was lightening fast the moment he reported to the Redskins in 1983, and he was reportedly even faster when he retired 20 years later as the 'Skins all time leader in tackles and interceptions.
New York Giants: Lawrence Taylor
Football players wear the number 56 to honor him the way basketball players wear the number 23 to honor Michael Jordan.
That's sayin' something.
San Diego Chargers: Junior Seau
How awesome is it to have a defensive player whose last name is pronounced "Say Ow?"
Truth be told, I don't know who to give this to, between Seau, Dan Fouts, and LaDainian Tomlinson. I suspect that Fouts and Tomlinson were products of their system, while Seau was a truly unique and historical talent.
Oakland Raiders: Tim Brown
Tim Brown is to Jerry Rice as Tim Raines is to Rickey Henderson.
Denver Broncos: John Elway
Kansas City Chiefs: Derrick Thomas
He was taken from us too soon. When he died at the age of 32, he had already established himself as one of the greatest outside linebackers of all time.
Indianapolis Colts: Johnny Unitas
I'll tell you what: Peyton Manning is probably better than Unitas, and will probably end his career as the greatest quarterback of all time, at least statistically.
So, let's make him earn it. Let's not be in a hurry to bestow things on him just yet.
Let's wait 'til he gets there.
In the mean time, go read up on Johnny Unitas. He was awesome.
Tennessee Titans: Bruce Matthews
I know, I know: Warren Moon, Eddie George, Steve McNair, Ernest Givens.
I'll take Matthews, who in 19 seasons missed only one start on the offensive line in Houston and Tennessee on some pretty prolific offenses.
Houston Texans: Andre Johnson
Obviously, not much to work with here. But Johnson is awesome. He and Matt Shaub will be jockeying for the title of greatest Texan of all time for years to come.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Fred Taylor
Taylor, Keenan McCardell, Jimmy Smith, and Mark Brunell all had very underrated careers in Jacksonville. The same can be said for Tony Brackens and Mike Peterson.
But Fred Taylor has almost three times as many rushing yards as the next guy on the Jags career list, and is fourth on the receiving list.
Cincinnati Bengals: Anthony Munoz
One of the great left tackles of all time, Munoz was an 11 time Pro Bowler and a nine time NFL First-Team All Pro. He played a key role in both Bengals Super Bowl appearances.
Cleveland Browns: Jim Brown
The Wilt Chamberlain, Babe Ruth, and Wayne Gretsky of the NFL, the one player in history who performed on a different plane from everyone else.
Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis may be the first player in NFL history to break the Chicago Bears monopoly on absurdly good/intensely scary middle linebackers.
Lewis is one of a handful of players, along with Andre Waters, Ronnie Lott, Joey Browner, John Lynch, Sean Taylor, and Rodney Harrison, who would make me actually worried about the players on the other team.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mel Blount
It was very difficult for me to not put Troy Polamalu here. But Mel Blount is one of the most dominant corners of all time, and really redefined the position.
In reality, have Blount at corner wasn't fair. At 6'2" and 200 pounds, the guy should have been a wide receiver.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Ugh. Can we just move on?
Buffalo Bills: Bruce Smith
The greatest all time Buffalo Bill could easily be Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, or even O.J. Simpson. I'll go with the all time sacks leader.
New York Jets: Pat Leahy
The New York Jets are rife with flawed heroes. Joe Namath delivered the greatest moment in franchise history but was not a good quarterback overall. Curtis Martin quietly compiled one of the great running back careers of all time, but he did it so quietly we tend to not even recognize it.
Enter Pat Leahy, who served as the Jets place-kicker from 1974 to 1991.
Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino
In reality, Dan Marino did us all a favor by losing Super Bowl XIX to the San Francisco 49ers. If he had won even one Super Bowl, the greatest quarterback of all time would not be up for discussion.