In our minds, the greatest NFL player of all time is Barry Sanders, and we will explain why, both down below and in a new short series starting next week and last a month. We have noted the ridiculousness of giving this title to Tom Brady, even if just discussing quarterbacks, in some modern-hype machine method that always happens when the entertainment media tries to drum up more web-site hits, etc.
It happened with Kobe Bryant, too, and we clearly explained the ridiculousness of those claims. Yet the noise generated by “journalists” and “fans” in debates of these nature are just that … noise.
Sabermetric analysis of statistical performance is huge when thinking through questions like these, but it’s not everything. Common sense plays a role, too, in addition to just realistic context and critical thinking—which is why we end up with Sanders at the top of our all-time list of the best NFL players ever.
Yes, we think Aaron Rodgers and Joe Montana are among the best QBs ever, and in a short list of players at other positions we think have arguments for being the GOAT, we come up with guys like Peyton Manning, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Don Hutson, and Calvin Johnson—with Larry Fitzgerald getting closer every season.
No, we don’t think Emmitt Smith belongs in this discussion, despite being the all-time rushing leader, because, again, context matters (see below). It’s the same reason why we’d actually eliminate Rice from the GOAT discussion as well, despite his record-book presence among receivers in history: an ounce of critical thinking goes a long way.
What we will do for the next few Fridays is produce a detailed breakdown of how we ended up with Sanders at the top of our NFL GOAT list. We will start with an overall assessment of QBs, RBs, and WRs, from which our candidates come from in this discussion.
Yes, that eliminates a lot of defensive players and linemen, but it’s too difficult to quantify their contributions due to a lack of statistical data available prior the the 1980s. Maybe Lawrence Taylor makes this discussion, for example, however. We will have a separate column discussing defensive players, too.
By early May, you won’t have a doubt in your mind, either, about why Sanders is the GOAT in the NFL. We promise.