My issues with the NFL All-Time Team

By: Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor

In celebration of the NFL’s 100th season, the league unveiled the NFL 100 All-Time Team. It was chosen by a panel of former players and coaches as well as other league contributors and members of the media. The team is supposed to be the 100 greatest players of all time with ten coaches, but some of the decisions were questionable. Many fans have had issues with omissions and inclusions on the list, and I am in agreeance that this list does not live up to its purpose.

Acknowledge history or greatness?

One of my biggest issues with the selections is a clear advantage given to older players. Only four of the 39 defensive players are known for their achievements since 2000. The three players are former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed, San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks. Six others played their final years in the 21st century, but this doesn’t seem like enough. 

With the rule changes that resulted from previous decades, it’s harder than ever to play defense and some of the greatest have managed to do so. Immediately, Houston Texans defensive end J.J, Watt comes to mind. He’s the second player with three Defensive Player of the Year awards and was easily the most dominant pass rusher of the 2010s. I get the NFL is more of an offensive league than ever, but I find it very hard to believe that 75% of the greatest defenders are all from before the 21st century.

T-Oh-no? Really?

On offense it gets even worse, Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens was a huge omission. He was not a first ballot Hall of Famer since the media gets to decide and has had a long history of despising Owens. It doesn’t make sense how the third all-time leading receiver didn’t make the list. If the list is strictly the best players of all time, how is Elroy Hirsch the better player? The former Los Angeles Rams receiver had two All-Pro selections and three Pro Bowls. Owens had five All-Pro and six Pro Bowls and led the league in touchdowns three times. Hirsch did it once and only had one dominant season.

Going off stats alone isn’t fair since the league was just starting to use the forward pass. However, looking at where he compared to his peers and I don’t think you can say he dominated more than Owens did. Owens had five straight years with over 1,000 yards and was easily one of the most ungradable receivers of all time. My question to the voters is why is Hirsch on the team over Owens? Is it because he was the greater player or the more influential player that led to more passing? There’s a big difference between being influential and being great, so I would like to get a better understanding of what they consider great.

Speaking of passing, what about the quarterbacks?

The list was voted on in 2018, but even then, the voters missed a clear choice. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is the all-time passing leader and just broke the all-time touchdown record. When they voted, he was statically a top-five quarterback all time. Brees didn’t make the list, but former Washington Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh did.

Baugh is considered to be one of the first great quarterbacks, but was he a quarterback or a football player? He primarily played in the 1940s when most players played multiple positions. He played on defense and punted while also playing quarterback. My question for the voters is the same I asked of Hirsch. Is Baugh on the team because he was a better quarterback than Brees, or because he was more influential? Baugh had 12 seasons with ten or more interceptions and led the league in picks three times.

Brees led the league in passing seven times and only once led the NFL in interceptions. If we’re picking the better quarterback, is Baugh still better despite not dominating the NFL like Brees did? I’m not considering the fact that Baugh led the league twice with under 3,000 yards and Brees did it four times with over 5,000 yards. The game was different for Baugh and I get it. But was Baugh really the better quarterback despite not having dominance and consistency that Brees did? 

I have to throw a flag on this team, 100-year penalty

To me, it seems the panel was more focused on including as many eras of the NFL as possible rather than solely picking the 100 greatest players. If the goal was to recognize the best players from each era, they did a good job since the team includes players from the early days of the NFL as well as current ones. But this team is supposed to be the 100 greatest players. I find it hard to believe that so many of the early-age players were better football players than modern-day ones. They were the trailblazers who set the stage for what we know today, but does that make them better than modern athletes?

Deciding the 100 greatest players in NFL history is hard to do since the game has evolved so much over time. Football today is completely different from football in 1919. But this doesn’t mean the greatest players of all time are almost completely from before 2000. Today’s athletes are bigger, faster, stronger, and take better care of their bodies. We have the science and medicine to rehab injuries better than ever and know the dangers of CTE. Football has come a long way since it’s roots 100 years ago, but unfortunately, this list failed to meet its intended objective. 

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