Okay, truth in advertising, I wasn't born in 1980. But that was the first meaningful game I remember watching...Steelers vs. Rams in Super Bowl XIV. I was 5, I remember telling my babysitter (of course, my hip parents were at a rocking Super Bowl party) that some day I would play in the Super Bowl and she told me to remember to say "Hi" to her and I promised I would.
In a side story, the TV was probably all of 28 inches, you had to move a dial left and right to get another channel, but that was okay, there were only 5 channels.
But I digress.
As I was watching Ray Lewis play last Saturday, I thought "only other LB I've ever seen as good as him was LT". Then I saw Ed Reed make a stick tackle and thought "only S I've ever seen hit like that was Ronnie Lott". And then and there, I grabbed a pad of paper and decided to write down who I thought the best players by position were in my lifetime. No research, no Pro Bowl counts, no external influences. Bias's inherent, I saw certain players more than others, I remember certain plays that cemented players in my personal Hall of Fame, and no second teams.
Here we go!
QB: Peyton Manning - Indianapolis Colts
Honorable Mention (in order): Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, John Elway
Peyton is a surgeon. Nobody prepares harder, nobody scans a defense better, no other players is his equal. Put him on any other team of the other HMs and he'd have won the title by more points. And he did win one.
HB: Earl Campbell - Houston Oilers
HM (not in order): Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton
Earl in his prime, which was only a couple of years really, was unstoppable. Personal bias figures in, but Payton and Emmitt were more steady as she goes guys, Eric is close, Barry was electric. If I lived in Detroit I'd probably put in Barry.
FB: Moose Johnston - Dallas Cowboys
HM: Tom Rathman
Moose was the complete package.
WR: Jerry Rice - San Francisco 49ers, Marvin Harrison - Indianapolis Colts
HM: Sterling Sharpe, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Michael Irvin, Isaac Bruce
Jerry, no explanation needed. Marvin was always underrated. The rest of the guys were mroe hype. Sharpe would have been my #3 receiver.
TE: Tony Gonzales - Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs
HM: Kevin Winslow Sr., Ozzie Newsome, Shannon Sharpe
Tony might be in the Top 10 all around athletes to ever play the game.
OT: Tony Munoz - Cincinnati Bengals, Jonathan Ogden - Baltimore Ravens
HM: Larry Allen, Willie Roaf, Randall McDaniel, Orlando Pace
Munoz is slowly ascending to best OL of all time. Ogden was unbeatable. The rest were pretty darn good.
OG: Bruce Matthews - Houston Oilers, John Hannah - New England Patriots
HM: Mike Munchak
I really stopped after those two. Hannah weighed all of 265, I could go on a non-diet and match him. He must have done it with technique.
C: Mike Webster - Pittsburgh Steelers
HM Jeff Saturday
Sad his life took a tragic turn, but he was one of a kind.
DT: Howie Long - Oakland Raiders, LA Raiders
HM: Ray Childress, Randy White, Ed Jones, Joe Klecko
I'm going with a 3-4 here, Howie was unblockable, his son is already getting close.
DE: Mark Gastineau - New York Jets, Bruce Smith - Buffalo Bills
HM: Reggie White, Lyle Alzado
Reggie was solid over many years, but I just never felt like he'd take over a game like Bruce or Mark.
LB: Ray Lewis - Baltimore Ravens, Lawrence Taylor - New York Giants, Derrick Thomas - Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Singletary - Chicago Bears
HM: Brian Urlacher, Karl Mecklenberg, Jack Lambert
No arguing the top 4, Mecklenberg was close, he really was solid. Lambert might get the nod if I was born a little earlier.
S: Ronnie Lott- San Francisco 49ers, Ed Reed - Baltimore Ravens
HM: Troy Polamalu
You can stop at those three and you're done. Razor thin between Troy and Ed, went with Ed.
CB: Deion Sanders - Atlanta Falcons, Lester Hayes - Oakland Raiders
HM: Everson Walls
Darrell Revis is already right there, but I have to see more before bumping one of the top 2.
K: Sebastian Janikowski - Oakland Raiders
HM: Adam Vinatieri
Janikowski has the best, most accurate leg I've seen, he just doesn't play on winners. I don't remember enought about Stenerud.
P: Reggie Roby - Miami Dolphins
HM: Ray Guy
Roby and the wrist watch.
KR: Devin Hester - Chicago Bears
HM: Dante Hall
Both are almost unstoppable, Devin just a little more scary
PR: Eric Metcalf - Cleveland Browns
Best of the era
Coach: Bill Belichek - New England Patriots
HM: Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Tom Landry, Bill Parcells
Belichek has done more will less for years. It's an attitude that got them over the top. Walsh close, but he had a lot of talent.
Announcers: Pat Summerall (PBP), John Madden (Color)
HM: Howard Cosell, Al Michaels, Dick Enberg, Don Criqui, Frank Gifford
I won't get into my worst (cough Theismann cough) but Pat and John were the best. Al Michaels close.