Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who is the best NFL player you've ever seen?

Who is the best NFL player you've ever seen? I ask this question because every national radio show I listen to this week is debating whether or not Larry Fitzgerald is now the best receiver in the NFL. I say yes, but it got me thinking about who would be the best NFL player I have ever seen. I'm relatively young, so my history doesn't go back to guys like Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Roger Staubach, etc., but I have seen Joe Montana, John Elway, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor, and Ronnie Lott. But none of those guys would get my vote because Barry Sanders is the best football player I have ever seen. As icing on the cake, he was also the best player I ever used on Tecmo Super Bowl too (with apologies to Bo Jackson and QB-Eagles, who both contend for that crown). If anyone reading this has seen Jim Brown, please post who you think is better and why, because I can't imagine a better back than Barry.

I used to look forward to Thanksgiving day just so I could watch Barry Sanders play football. The Lions weren't on television too often (especially since the market I live in plays mostly the Broncos and 49ers) and I always expected something amazing. Barry had a way of making people look stupid that I've never seen anyone else come close to, other than maybe Reggie Bush in college. Barry never rushed for under 1,100 yards in a season and averaged over 1,500 yards per season. His lowest season total (1,115) came when he missed the last 5 games with an injury.

He had 14 straight games of 100+ yards in 1997, an NFL record. He fumbled only 41 times in his career - only once per 83 touches (for a reference point, Jim Brown fumbled once every 43 touches). Barry played on a crappy team and he was the only weapon; he didn't have an Aikman or Irvin to distract the defense. And he still did stuff like this:

The quality isn't great, but you get the point. If you want more check this one out (notice the crazy juke on 51 in the second one). He could stop on a dime, break ankles, and spin at full speed. He had defenders looking foolish and leaving their straps on the field on a regular basis. I'm not saying Barry Sanders is the best football player of all time, but he is the best I've ever seen. What's your take?


Boyd said...

For me, it's gotta be Jerry Rice. Dude was unstoppable for like a million years. He's not as flashy as Sanders, who I think is the best RB of all time, but he's just the best all-around football player.

Che said...

As I was reading your set up of best player, I was thinking who I would pick. Boyd, Jerry Rice was the first player that popped into my mind - just a relentless record of excellence. And as a Viking fan (which didn't fail to underwhelm this year - I think I called this and every season in my comment under the legendary Tecmo post) I've seen Randy Moss do things I didn't think were humanly possible; but greatest ever cannot be determined in a handful of plays, and he is largely wasted talent. By the time I got to you pick, your intro was as lengthy as my comments, we were totally on the same page. Barry Sanders amazed week after week, year after year, and his teams never got better or offered a secondary threat. He went into every game knowing that defenses were only looking to stop him, and he still made them look silly. I can't help but wonder how his career might have been different if there had been a competent soul in the Lions braintrust to build a team around the greatest football player I have ever seen.

Phil said...

For me it was Dion Sanders. teams had to change there whole offense because of him and he still would kill them. And Che how can you say Randy Moss only made a handfull of plays when he could possibly end up #2 in all time reciving yards. I've never understood why people hate on him so hard when all he does is produce.

Che said...

I can't argue that his talents are legendary, just throw the ball up and he'll inevitably come down with it, and have yielded thousands of yards. However, anyone who shows a tendency to quit on there team (just ask Raider Nation) can never be considered as greatest ever seen. You would never put Vince Carter or T-Mac in the argument for greatest basketball player, regardless of their talents and stats. Plus, I can never forgive Moss for driving Chris, All He Does is Catch Touchdowns, Carter from the league.

Stay sweet -