Athletic’s pursuit of the best players in football history – the Athletic



How do you determine the best of the best?

It’s a question we’ve been debating here at Athletic for the past few months as we strive to build the NFL 100. It’s our attempt to crown the top 100 players in NFL history, since its inception. in 1920 until now.

We were inspired by the efforts of our friend Joe Posnanski last year to create a similar project, the Baseball 100. Posnanski said of his huge project: “It’s a crazy thing to do.

Well, that was a crazy thing to do in the football world as well. There’s a reason they don’t rank players in the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, right? It is too hard. Once you earn this gold jacket, you are part of the club. There is no hierarchical order. In addition, football has changed dramatically since 1920. Comparisons between players from different eras are not exactly fair. And unlike baseball, we can’t easily compare players across positions. The job demands of a center fielder in the 1940s for Joe DiMaggio are largely the same today when Mike Trout is in the job. The demands of a defensive back in the 1940s? Well, on the one hand, he’s probably played both offense and defense, but the position now bears little resemblance to the roles Jalen Ramsey and Tyrann Mathieu play.

So it was excruciating at times as we looked to separate the greatest players who ever stepped on the grill. We were looking for flaws in resumes that frankly don’t have any.

Still, we got there and our NFL 100 list starts today. Your NFL 100 will surely be different from ours. Your ranking on how players should line up will also undoubtedly be different from ours. It’s good.



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