NFL's Greatest Franchise Rankings: Star Power

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 14, 2016

NFL's Greatest Franchise Rankings: Star Power

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    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Stars are in the NFL's blood. It goes back decades to men such as Paul Brown and Vince Lombardi. Or Jim Brown. The Purple People Eaters. Walter Payton. Eric Dickerson. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Lawrence Taylor. And Deion Sanders.

    On and on it goes. The NBA has had its great stars. Major League Baseball has had plenty. Hockey had its share. But football might have had the most of all. Jim Brown became an action hero in Hollywood, and Peyton Manning has never met a commercial he wouldn't shoot.

    Ranking teams on star power is one of the toughest parts of this series but is among the most fun.

    Previously, we ranked Success and Fans. This is the third installment in a B/R series on determining the greatest NFL franchise of all time.

    How did I achieve this ranking? The number of Hall of Famers was a partial ingredient. But there is more to a franchise than that. Another aspect is less scientific. It's a feel for how those stars elevated a franchise and, in turn, how that franchise elevated the NFL.

    Also, in some cases, the stars are not just players, but coaches and innovators such as Bill Walsh. And we limited the number of stars at the top of each team to five all-time. 

    So, are you ready to be blinded by the starlight?

32. Houston Texans

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    Texans DE J.J. Watt
    Texans DE J.J. WattMike Coppola/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: J.J. Watt, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Duane Brown

    Houston's too young a franchise to have true star power, but Watt is basically the Texan equivalent of the sun in the NFL.

    Watt is sometimes criticized for being an attention-seeker, but that’s not what he is. Watt gets it. That is one of the best things you can say about a player. He stays out of trouble, is skilled, is a future Hall of Famer and connects with the fans. We can argue what exactly connecting to fans means but to me, it's about engaging them at games and training camp, and on social media. Overall, it's about being accessible.

    Andre Johnson remains one of the most underrated receivers of his generation. One other note: Arian Foster was one of the most complete backs of his generation as well.

    Why are the Texans ranked last then? With the exception of Watt, none of those other players are stars. They truly only have one in Watt.

    Total Points: 20/100

31. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Bengals OT Anthony Munoz
    Bengals OT Anthony MunozPeter Brouillet/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Anthony Munoz, Boomer Esiason, Andy Dalton, Chad Johnson, A.J. Green

    Munoz was one of the most dominant offensive linemen of all time. But for the Bengals, after that, in terms of pure star power…well, see…what had happened was…

    The argument will be that Chad Johnson was a star. But he wasn't as much a star as he was an attention-seeker. Good player, sure, but attention-seeker is different from star. Chad Johnson was always more of a media star than a football star.

    No player will likely surpass the impact that Munoz had on the Bengals and, overall, the entire NFL. He was a once-in-a-generation player. Green, however, could give Munoz a run.

    The overall problem here in terms of stars is similar to the Texans'. There's not a lot of them.

    Total Points: 22/100

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Jaguars QB Mark Brunell
    Jaguars QB Mark BrunellAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Tom Coughlin, Fred Taylor, Tony Boselli, Mark Brunell, Maurice Jones-Drew

          

    Fred Taylor should be in the Hall of Fame and Boselli as well. Some good players have gone through the Jaguars franchise. But stars? Not really. Jones-Drew is probably the most well-known Jaguar outside of Jacksonville, as he's a television star now with the NFL Network.

    Arguably, the greatest star in franchise history is the team's former head coach Tom Coughlin. He took the Jaguars to two AFC Championship Games and then, with the New York Giants, beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady twice in the Super Bowl. Coughlin should also get into the Hall of Fame one day.

    But in terms of pure star power, when a grumpy coach is possibly your franchise's biggest star—and did his best work for another franchise—that hurts your star rankings. But their depth of strong talent here with Taylor, Boselli, Brunell and Jones-Drew gives them the nod over Houston and Cincinnati at the bottom of the rankings.

    Total Points: 23/100

29. Carolina Panthers

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    Panthers QB Cam Newton
    Panthers QB Cam NewtonKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Josh Norman, Greg Olsen, Ron Rivera

         

    Cam Newton is well-liked and very much hated. The latter is silly because all Newton has done is work hard and carry an offense. Newton is the biggest star the young Panthers franchise has ever had—and maybe ever will have. He’s one of the bright stars, period, in the NFL.

    Right behind him is Steve Smith, one of the mightiest mites the league will ever see. Overall, though, the team lacks historic star power. Newton's star, though, puts it ahead of the three teams behind it.

    Total Points: 25/100

28. Atlanta Falcons

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    Falcons QB Mike Vick
    Falcons QB Mike VickKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Deion Sanders, Mike Vick, Jamal Anderson, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan

               

    This is similar to the Panthers and is even more cogent. A lot more. Deion Sanders played four years in Atlanta and became the very definition of a star, even then.

    Sanders could have been listed under the 49ers or Cowboys. In fact, with San Francisco, he was part of the best secondary of all time.

    He’s listed here because this is where it all began for the most flamboyant player of all time.

    Vick's star power is a tricky one to decode. Before he tortured dogs, he was as big a star as there was in the NFL's history. Vick was actually a hero to many Atlanta fans, particularly African-American ones. Then came the cruelty of his dog-fighting enterprise and federal prison and, well, obviously, the star lost some of its shine.

    What still gives the Falcons a rating higher than others is Sanders.

    Total Points: 30/100

27. Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers

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    Titans RB Eddie George
    Titans RB Eddie GeorgeRobert Laberge/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars:  Warren Moon, Earl Campbell, Bruce Matthews, Eddie George, Steve McNair

        

    If Moon hadn’t been forced to play the early portion of his career in Canada, he’d have been one of the top two or three quarterbacks of all time. Eddie George is historically one of the most underrated backs of his generation.

    The star power overall for the Titans is low, but Campbell’s extreme violence on the field—and I mean that in a positive way—elevates the Titans’ star wattage.

    So do Eddie George and Steve McNair. When McNair was alive, he embraced his relationship with the fans and understood what it meant to be relatable to them. He was similar to J.J. Watt in that he was accessible. He signed numerous autographs and engaged fans after games and training camp practices. George was similar, which is one of the reasons why they were good friends.

    Total Points: 31/100

26. Arizona Cardinals

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    Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald
    Cardinals WR Larry FitzgeraldThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Larry Fitzgerald, Dan Dierdorf, Aeneas Williams, Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner

            

    Fitzgerald will waltz into the Hall of Fame one day. He's the epitome of class and talent. Sometimes, when it comes to the discussion of great offensive linemen, Dierdorf’s name gets lost. It shouldn’t. He was as good as it gets.

    Fitzgerald has managed to do something few stars can. He is a high-profile player, adored by teammates, fans and media alike, all while being humble. This is peak stardom.

    He gives Arizona a huge boost, even over the likes of Sanders, mainly because he's been with one team his entire career. Kurt Warner's story also helps put the Cardinals over teams such as the Panthers and Falcons. But it's not enough to get them a higher ranking than 26th. 

    Total Points: 33/100

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Bucs DT Warren Sapp
    Bucs DT Warren SappAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Lee Roy Selmon, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden

              

    Warren Sapp was the best interior lineman to ever play. He was a turd of a person, but, damn, he was a dominant force on the football field. Sapp never seemed to embrace his stardom, but he was one nonetheless.

    The Buccaneers have an interesting history. There was so much losing but eventually came the playoffs and a Super Bowl win. Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden were both a part of that. Dungy started the team's rise, and Gruden finished it. The Bucs get a star boost in terms of the rankings because both ex-coaches have become huge television presences, making them strong media stars connected to their franchise.

    One name missing in the top five star rankings for the Buccaneers is Doug Williams. [He played both with Tampa Bay and in Washington.] The latter is where he became a star.

    Total Points: 34/100

24. San Diego Chargers

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    Chargers QB Dan Fouts
    Chargers QB Dan FoutsRogers Photo Archive/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Junior Seau, Sid Gillman, Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Philip Rivers

        

    The Chargers haven't won a Super Bowl, but they still had a superb collection of talent. Sid Gillman should be in the Hall of Fame for being one of the true innovators in league history. Dan Fouts had some of the prettiest throws of any quarterback. Junior Seau’s true star power was that he was the friendliest player you’d ever want to meet. I interviewed him dozens of times and he was always kind, friendly and helpful. And like Larry Fitzgerald, he was an unassuming superstar.

    When we talk about great players at the tight end position, sometimes Winslow is forgotten. An athletic pass-catcher, in many ways, he was the modern prototype for the position.

    Update: I didn't forget LaDainian Tomlinson. I would just put him sixth on this list. Though, as I've said before, I could easily be wrong.

    Total Points: 36/100

23. New Orleans Saints

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    Saints QB Drew Brees (left) and HC Sean Payton
    Saints QB Drew Brees (left) and HC Sean PaytonMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Willie Roaf, Archie Manning, Drew Brees, Sean Payton, Ken Stabler

        

    The Saints could potentially be ranked higher since Drew Brees has been so prolific, and head coach Sean Payton is one of the best play-callers the NFL has ever seen.

    Roaf wasn't a star in the typical sense, but for an offensive lineman, he was a big personality. Those of us who covered the league and traveled to New Orleans always spoke to him, and he'd fill your notebook with knowledge.

    Brees will go down as one of the most accurate passers in history. He, like Payton, will one day enter the Hall of Fame.

    One last note. Few teams in history have signed as many players at the end of their careers as the Saints once did, including Earl Campbell, Ken Stabler and Hank Stram.

    Stabler played in New Orleans for three seasons, but when he signed, it was seen as a huge moment. Not just because he could still play, but because he was a big star, even in the latter stages of his career

    Total Points: 40/100

22. Baltimore Ravens

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    Ravens LB Ray Lewis
    Ravens LB Ray LewisRob Carr/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, Jamal Lewis

          

    It's only a matter of time before Lewis is inducted in the Hall of Fame. We all know how good he was. He was one of the fastest middle linebackers to ever play in the NFL. Few players ever came close to possessing his speed or his nastiness.

    Yet Lewis, in some ways, is like Mike Vick. The controversy Lewis was involved in lessens his star power to a certain degree. Outside of Baltimore, in many cases, Lewis is derided. In Baltimore, he's a hero and the franchise's greatest star.

    Ogden was one of those quiet stars who let his play do the talking. That play made him a star, not the yapping. He, like a handful of stars, was also a nice human being. Off the field, he was a giant teddy bear. On it, he was a beast.

    Jamal Lewis is one of the more underrated stars at his position. He's one of just seven rushers to gain over 2,000 yards in a single season.

    Total Points: 41/100

21. New York Jets

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    Jets QB Joe Namath
    Jets QB Joe NamathPatrick Smith/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Joe Namath, Weeb Ewbank, Curtis Martin, Bill Parcells, Keyshawn Johnson

        

    Joe Namath was one of the OGs of star power. Dude guaranteed a victory and then backed up his words. That’s true wattage.

    The Jets have been riddled with pain and losing and embarrassment, but their signing of Curtis Martin in 1998 helps them get a slightly higher ranking. Curtis Martin was one of the two best free-agent signings of all-time, the other being Reggie White to Green Bay in 1993. 

    Bill Parcells helped modernize the Jets and turned them into winners. There also needs to be a word about Keyshawn Johnson. He was easily one of the toughest receivers I ever covered. He was Michael Irvin light—he went across the middle for tough catches, was fearless, took a beating and still played on.

    Total Points: 45/100

20. Denver Broncos

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    Broncos QB John Elway
    Broncos QB John ElwayEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Pat Bowlen, Terrell Davis, Peyton Manning

          

    The Broncos get this relatively high ranking because two of their players in John Elway and Peyton Manning are so historic.

    Few players, even quarterbacks, carried their teams on their backs the way Elway did early in his career. That made him not just a star, but a sympathetic one. His place in history became even more set after he won two Super Bowls. One of the reasons he won them was Terrell Davis.

    Davis was a savior for Elway. Defenses could no longer focus solely on him. They had to worry about a running game. I've used the phrase "underrated" a few times in these rankings, but few players epitomize this word like Davis.

    Peyton Manning is recognized here for his four seasons in Denver, and his star power is obvious. Yet he's more of a Colt than a Bronco and will be mentioned as such.

    Total Points: 48/100

19. Indianapolis Colts

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    Colts QB Peyton Manning (left) and HC Tony Dungy
    Colts QB Peyton Manning (left) and HC Tony DungyStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Peyton Manning, John Unitas, Marvin Harrison, Tony Dungy, Bill Polian

    The Colts could be ranked higher because of Manning’s greatness on the field and commercialism off it. It’s possible Manning is the most famous quarterback of all time. Even more than one of the best to ever do it in John Unitas.

    It’s rare to have a soft-spoken man in such a loud, chest-thumping sports world as a star, but Tony Dungy’s quietness and attention to coaching detail made him one of the brightest coaching stars ever.

    One of the strangest stars of all time is Marvin Harrison. He was controversial, but for a star, he was also remarkably quiet. "Hi Marvin, Mike Freeman...can I speak with you for a moment?" I once asked him.

    "No."

    That's my sole Marvin Harrison story.

    Yet he still became a star because he teamed with Manning to become a star QB-WR duo.

    Polian constructed the Peyton Manning-led Colts teams. He built the 90s Buffalo Bills as well, where he will also be mentioned.

    Total Points: 50/100

18. Los Angeles Rams

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    Rams RB Marshall Faulk
    Rams RB Marshall FaulkTOM MIHALEK/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Eric Dickerson, Jack Youngblood, Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Todd Gurley

    Marshall Faulk could have gone here or to the Colts. I put him with the Rams because I think that is where he was the most effective. He's a star in his own right, but add Eric Dickerson to that mix—a powerful stallion whose combination of shiftiness and power will never be duplicated—and the Rams get a high number.

    What made Warner a star was how he not only helped transform the Rams into Super Bowl contenders, but he did the same in Arizona. Warner not only became a high-profile player, but his story of going from someone who was once literally stacking shelves at a grocery store to the highest stage in the land at the Super Bowl was inspiring.

    It seems premature to call Gurley a star, but he is, and one of the reasons why is fantasy football. Yes, fantasy football is now part of the evaluation when considering stars.

    Total Points: 53/100

17. Buffalo Bills

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    Bills GM Bill Polian
    Bills GM Bill PolianMichael Adamucci/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: O.J. Simpson, Bill Polian, Bruce Smith, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas

        

    The name "O.J. Simpson" means something entirely different now. And understandably so.

    But strictly in terms of football, he was as electric as it gets. Jim Brown is the best back in history. Dickerson is second. Simpson is third. He led a Bills team that had no other discernible offensive threats and made it relevant.

    Bill Polian built Super Bowl teams in Buffalo and Indianapolis. I'm not sure there's ever been a better talent evaluator, maybe in any sport, maybe in history. Kelly became a hero on the field and, the way he bravely faced a cancer diagnosis, became one off it as well.

    Thurman Thomas was the most well-rounded running back in NFL history.  

    Total Points: 55/100

16. Cleveland Browns

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    Browns RB Jim Brown
    Browns RB Jim BrownMike Lawrie/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Otto Graham, Ozzie Newsome, Lou Groza

           

    The Browns have the best runner of all time and maybe the best coach of all time. That’s not terrible at all.

    Another prototype player at his position was tight end Ozzie Newsome—a fast, strong player with great hands. Of course, he'd go on to become the architect of the Ravens' Super Bowl teams. Newsome is in the Hall of Fame as a player, but he could easily go in the Hall of Fame as a front office executive, too.

    It will sound odd to call Ernie Accorsi a star, but throughout the NFL, he's seen as one. In fact, he's viewed as one of the best general managers to ever do it. The Cleveland teams he built were solid and lost in the playoffs because of the extraordinary play of John Elway and a historic fumble by Earnest Byner. Accorsi would go on to help build the framework of the Giants 2008 and 2012 Super Bowl teams during his tenure as New York Giants GM from 1998-2007.

    Total Points: 56/100

15. Detroit Lions

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    Lions RB Barry Sanders
    Lions RB Barry SandersJEFF KOWALSKY/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Bobby Layne, Joe Schmidt, Lem Barney

         

    This is how good Barry Sanders was. The Lions have Hall of Famers and greats, but Sanders was so special he eclipses many players in NFL history—not just Lions players. His presence alone gives the Lions a high ranking.

    Sanders is one of the star power GOATs, and Calvin Johnson isn't far behind. The NFL has rarely seen a player with his size and his speed play wide receiver.

    We need to talk a bit about Lem Barney. He made seven Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He spent most of his career playing in the 1970s. That decade was the nastiest in football. It was far more physical than it is now, and Barney dominated it.

    Total Points: 57/100

14. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Eagles QB Donovan McNabb
    Eagles QB Donovan McNabbRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Donovan McNabb, Ron Jaworski, Chuck Bednarik, Terrell Owens, Dick Vermeil

           

    First, I put Reggie White with the Packers—and not his original team, the Eagles—because I feel White’s true star impact happened both when he became a free agent and went to the Super Bowl as a Packer. So, there’s that.

    Terrell Owens was despised as a player by some in the league, but to me, he was the third-best receiver of all time behind Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Owens epitomized stardom—whether you liked him or not.

    Dick Vermeil became a symbol for the burned-out head football coach. But what's often lost about him was he was one of the great turnaround coaches of all time. He transformed the Eagles, the Chiefs and the Rams. I put Vermeil with the Eagles because I think that's where he did his best work.

    Total Points: 58/100 

13. Miami Dolphins

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    Dolphins HC Don Shula (far right)
    Dolphins HC Don Shula (far right)Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Don Shula, Dan Marino, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jason Taylor 

          

    They're the only undefeated team in modern NFL history in the regular season and playoffs. No one has matched it. It’s likely no one will for decades, if ever.

    Dan Marino had the best pure arm perhaps of any quarterback (he and Warren Moon), but Don Shula is the greatest Miami star of all. If there were a Mt. Rushmore of not just coaches, but stardom, he'd be on it, which is interesting because he's so grounded and naturally not star-like. He'd become one of the standards for all coaches in NFL history.

    One of the things about NFL stars is despite that stardom, many have blue-collar values. Jason Taylor was one of those people. Taylor played through some brutal injuries and kept going. The word "warrior" is overused in football, and often wrongly used, but Taylor was exactly that.

    Total Points: 60/100

12. Minnesota Vikings

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    Vikings WR Cris Carter
    Vikings WR Cris CarterCRAIG LASSIG/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Fran Tarkenton, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Alan Page, Adrian Peterson

    The amount of star power this franchise has had over the years sometimes gets forgotten because the team lost four Super Bowls. But the Vikings were stacked.

    I’ve said this before, and I catch hell for it, but Cris Carter is the most underrated football player of all time. He did everything. I covered much of his career, and I consider Carter, Charles Woodson and Jerry Rice the best pure football players I ever saw.

    Randy Moss exemplified the star wide receiver. He was a diva, pouty, smart and electric. I could argue he was a better wide receiver than Rice with his unbelievable athleticism. I said I could argue it. I didn't say I'd win the argument. 

    Fran Tarkenton also carries a great deal of star power as one of the first running backs in the modern era.

    Total Points: 60/100

11. New England Patriots

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    Patriots QB Tom Brady
    Patriots QB Tom BradyJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, John Hannah, Tedy Bruschi

    No two people transformed their franchise like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick did.

    We all know what they’ve done together, but it remains a stunning accomplishment. (Cue the “but they cheat!” crowd.) Brady, right now, is the best quarterback I've seen.  That alone pushes the Patriots’ ranking into the top 11 despite the lack of historical star power. Belichick is the best coach of all time in my opinion, again justifying the top 11 ranking.

    Randy Moss isn't mentioned here (though of course he could be), because like other players who did great things for multiple franchises, I think his best play actually came in Minnesota. I know, I know. The Patriots set records for offense with Moss, but that was like a track meet. Moss was an acrobat in Minny.

    I believe Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end of all time. And I'm not even sure it's close.

    Total Points: 65/100

10. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Chief HC Andy Reid
    Chief HC Andy ReidGeorge Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Len Dawson, Lamar Hunt, Hank Stram, Tony Gonzalez, Derrick Thomas

    This one of the few franchises where the owners and coaches are bigger stars than the players. Lamar Hunt was one of the key ownership figures in sports history. Hank Stram won three AFL championships and a Super Bowl. Tony Gonzalez was another one of those incredibly athletic tight ends who made the successful conversion from basketball to football.

    Derrick Thomas may not be as big a name now, but when he played in the 1990s, he was called the AFC's Lawrence Taylor. He was smart and thoughtful. I once spent 90 minutes on the telephone with him, and we talked politics almost the entire time. He was as big a star in his time as there was.

    Total Points: 68/100

9. Seattle Seahawks

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    Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
    Seahawks QB Russell WilsonElsa/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Steve Largent, Walter Jones, Richard Sherman

    The Seahawks are a controversial pick to be ranked so high, but their recent success is stuffed with all kinds of star power. The Legion of Boom…the young quarterback star…Beast Mode. It’s all there.

    Marshawn Lynch, the aforementioned Beast Mode, became such a phenomenon that even his desire not to talk to the media during the Super Bowl became a big story. In his retirement, he's making a living doing commercials.

    Russell Wilson is a star, but he's also polarizing because of his style of play and, well, his at times totally insincere statements. Somehow, however, that polarization has made him popular. People love to watch because they love him. Some people love to watch him because they can't stand him.

    The same could be said about Richard Sherman. He's become one of the true stars from his generation of players.

    Total Points: 73/100

8. New York Giants

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    Giants DE Michael Strahan
    Giants DE Michael StrahanSlaven Vlasic/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Frank Gifford, Bill Parcells, Odell Beckham Jr.

    The Giants are one of the few franchises with stars among ownership, the front office and in the locker room. Lawrence Taylor might be the best defensive player of all time. The Mara family ranks among the greatest owners, and former general managers George Young and Ernie Accorsi produced Super Bowl teams. But few people remind the Giants of the Giants more than Bill Parcells. He changed the culture of the team and would become one of the most recognizable coaching names in NFL history.

    In terms of pure star power, few players in history represented that more than Strahan. He was a beast on the field, a Hall of Fame football player and a television star.

    Frank Gifford became a massive figure in broadcasting, but Strahan surpassed even him. There's an outside chance, as amazing as it seems, that Odell Beckham Jr. can become bigger than Strahan.

    Total Points: 75/100

7. Oakland Raiders

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    Raiders owner Al Davis and head coach John Madden
    Raiders owner Al Davis and head coach John MaddenKirby Lee/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Al Davis, Ken Stabler, Howie Long, Marcus Allen, John Madden 

    If there were a Mount Rushmore for the NFL, owner Al Davis would be on it for me. He remains one of the biggest stars of all time…in any sport.

    Key thing about the Raiders: Gene Upshaw and Art Shell formed the best guard-tackle combo in history. Upshaw, when he played and after as head of the union, was one of the best quotes the sport has ever seen. Everyone loved him. But in terms of pure star power, not in the top five.

    Marcus Allen was as big a star when he played as he was. His star formed at USC and never dulled.

    Madden isn't just a Hall of Fame coach; his name would change the video game industry.

    Few Raiders embodied true star power more than Ken Stabler. He lived life greatly and refused to let the conservative NFL dictate how he was going to live. He was a great player on the field and a dynamic personality off it.

    Total Points: 78/100

6. Washington

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    Washington HC Joe Gibbs
    Washington HC Joe GibbsLarry French/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Doug Williams, Darrell Green, Joe Gibbs, John Riggins, Joe Theismann

    As head coach, Joe Gibbs went to three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. Darrell Green was one of the top two or three cover corners of all time. John Riggins was a beast of a running back in the late '70s and early '80s.

    On and on it goes. Tons of stars. Not a lot lately, true, but over the decades, this franchise has been stacked with talent.

    One of the players who would become an eternal star is Doug Williams. He was the first black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl. In Washington, D.C., especially, he is a cult hero. 

    Total Points: 80/100

5. San Francisco 49ers

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    49ers WR Jerry Rice
    49ers WR Jerry RiceSteve Jennings/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Bill Walsh, Steve Young, Terrell Owens

    The Bill Walsh 49ers changed football, and they did it with both strategy and firepower. They had the best receiver of all time in Jerry Rice. One of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in Joe Montana and one of the best coaches in NFL history in Bill Walsh. Not bad. Not bad at all.

    During Montana's playing days, he and Barry Sanders were the two most reluctant superstars I covered. They hated dealing with the media. Here's a true story: Montana agreed to speak with me Monday one day in the early 1990s. Monday came, and he said, no, Tuesday. Tuesday came, and he said Wednesday. Then Wednesday came. Then Thursday. He canceled again Friday.

    I saw him heading to his car and followed him. He got in the car and attempted to shut the door, but I stuck my foot in it. The door slammed on my foot. Montana apologized and invited me into his car, and we spoke for more than an hour. When he wanted, he could be a spectacular interview.

    Total Points: 83/100

4. Dallas Cowboys

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    Cowboys HC Tom Landry and QB Roger Staubach
    Cowboys HC Tom Landry and QB Roger StaubachTony Tomsic/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman

    They were called America’s Team, and while few people outside of Dallas still believe that applies, what the Cowboys built was staggering, and they did it with an overwhelming number of great players. They were stars. They even had a star on their football field. 

    Roger Staubach is perhaps the greatest Cowboy, but the Jimmy Johnson-coached version of the team produced three stars in Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith.

    One important thing here. Remember, we're limiting this to top five stars. I don't put Tom Landry in top five because I think others eclipse him in terms of star power. Not coaching power. Not fedora power. Star power. The same could be said for Johnson who should already be in the Hall of Fame. 

    Jerry Jones might be the biggest notable absence in the top five list. I still think the other selections are bigger stars.

    Total Points: 85/100

3. Green Bay Packers

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    Packers QB Brett Favre
    Packers QB Brett FavreJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Reggie White, Aaron Rodgers

    The name on the Super Bowl trophy is Lombardi. That just about says it all.

    When looking at the Packers’ greats, one thing leaps out: the quarterbacks—from Bart Starr to Brett Favre to the team’s next Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers.

    It's rare for a defensive lineman to become one of the great stars of all time, but that's what Reggie White was. He became the first true NFL free agent, leaving Philadelphia for Green Bay, and he would enhance his legacy with the Packers.

    Total Points: 90/100

2. Chicago Bears

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    Bears RB Walter Payton
    Bears RB Walter PaytonOwen C. Shaw/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Walter Payton, Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, Gale Sayers and Jay Cutler. Just kidding on Cutler. The fifth is Dick Butkus.

    The Bears could easily be No. 1. They have a ton of star players across the entire era of the NFL. Not only did this organization produce a battalion of stars, but it also produced a star system: the 46 defense, the best defense of all time. Only a small number of franchises developed such systems—the West Coast offense, the Cover 2and the 46 is one of the best.

    Many people believe Walter Payton is the best runner ever. What's certain is that he became one of the top stars the league has ever seen. And also one of the most endearing. The combination of excellence and affection for Payton off the field made him maybe the GOAT of star power.

    Total Points: 95/100

1.Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Steelers RB Franco Harris
    Steelers RB Franco HarrisGeorge Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Top Five Stars: Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Joe Greene, Chuck Noll, Ben Roethlisberger

    With a staggering number of stars, the Steelers impacted the NFL and its culture unlike few franchises across all of sports. Five franchises in the NFL have had a massive impact on the sport—the Steelers, Bears, Packers, Giants and Cowboys—and the Steelers probably top that list.

    The Steelers' star power is long-lasting and reaches out to numerous points in the football universe and outside of it. They have a legion in the Hall of Fame. Many of their players are deeply embedded in the football culture. It's not that player from other teams are not; it's just that Pittsburgh has a lot of them.

    Terry Bradshaw, many decades after his playing days, is on television constantly. Franco Harris' immaculateness is seen by many not named Oakland Raiders as the greatest moment in NFL history. Mean Joe Greene made one of the most iconic commercials ever.

    The Steelers are easily No. 1 on this list.

    Total Points: 100/100