Currently, this is the weakest division in the NFL. Actually, looking back over my 25 years of watching football, it seems to be a division that is dominated by one team and everyone else is either awful or average. But it has produced 2 of the Top 10, maybe Top 5 players of all-time. Renaming the division will come down to those two players, but let’s give some other people and appendages their proper recognition:
- Deacon Jones. I never saw him play, but watching him talk about the game makes me want to play it, and at the same time he makes me question my manhood. The man is famous for the “head slap”. That alone would be enough for me out of life. He played before sack stats were kept, but he is believed to be in the top three all-time and even coined the phrase “sack”. He alleges that in ’67 and ’68 he had 26 and 24 sacks respectively in 14 game seasons, which would blow Michael Strahan’s Favre’d-up, bogus record out of the ocean. He also played on a defensive line with Merlin Olsen, another great, Lamar Lundy, and Rosey Grier, that was named the Fearsome Foursome. Grier, by the way, is one of the men who tackled Sirhan Sirhan after he shot Robert Kennedy. There was a lot happening on that defensive line.
- Sorry Cardinals and Seahawks, there isn’t a lot of praise for you here. Larry Fitzgerald will probably go down as the greatest Cardinal ever, and Walter Jones as the Seahawks’. He just retired, though so he gets held out of this discussion.
- Praise also goes to Ronnie Lott’s pinky and Torry Holt’s mangled fingers.
- I didn’t forget that Ronnie Lott is probably the best safety to ever play. I just figured it should get it’s own bullet and it didn’t fit in with the finger theme I had going on in the previous bullet.
- Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson both need to get mentioned here. Oddly they both played for Rams and Colts which helps me to dismiss them, but both dominated. Dickerson still holds the single season rushing record with 2,105 yards. Faulk is the only player in NFL history to have 12,000 rushing yards and 6,000 receiving yards in his career, and is the only player to have over 70 rushing TD’s and over 30 receiving TD’s. Having reaped the fantasy rewards of a number of those yards and touchdowns, I give the edge to Faulk.
None of these guys will be getting the division named after them, though. I have to do one more thing before we get to the two horse race. I have to get Steve Young out of here. You can compare Joe Montana to Steve Young all you want. In fact, here’s a lengthy article that does it all by the numbers. But the fact is that this argument took place when they were both playing and Montana always won. Young was great, sure, and he gets a special place in my heart because he’s a fellow lefty (the first lefty QB in the Hall of Fame) and for this run, but he’s also a Mormon and a lawyer sooo….
In the battle of Montana vs. Young, it comes down to instinct. Sometimes you don’t know why you make a decision, you just feel it and know that it’s right. That’s the case with Montana. Maybe it’s from being a Marino fan and having to watch Montana win all those Super Bowls. Every time anyone would talk about the best quarterbacks in the league back then, it seemed to come down to Marino and Montana and Montana always won, because, well Montana always won. I had a similar issue with being a Mario Lemieux fan dealing Wayne Gretzky, but at least Mario one a few cups. This has probably given me a second place complex that I’m not aware of, so maybe all of this blogging is good for my psyche. Anyway, Montana.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Frankly, I’m a little Jerry Rice’d out after watching way too much Hall of Fame coverage this weekend, but it clearly comes down to Rice and Montana. First, let’s answer this: Is Jerry Rice the greatest receiver of all time? I say yes. On his Twitter account, Peter King says it’s Don Hutson, and that you should Google him, so I did. Actually, I wikipedia’d him. My age is a factor in this one, but it seems as if the man invented the wide receiver position, all while playing safety and kicking for the Packers. His numbers are impressive, but Jerry Rice’s aren’t? I’m not going to break them down or even link to them, they’re insane. There isn’t a receiver in the league that can touch them. Randy Moss may have come close if he hadn’t gone to Oakland, but that’s it. Rice, of course, took Oakland to a Super Bowl when his prime was behind him, Moss essentially took 2 years of his prime off while he was there. Rice wasn’t a yappy, prima donna either, which gets him at least a slow clap from this blog.
In my research for this, I’ve come across the question, did Jerry Rice make Joe Montana and Steve Young Hall of Famers, or did playing with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks make Jerry Rice a Hall of Famer? I think it’s an irrelevant, hypothetical question, won’t know, can’t know. Maybe they were all just great and happened to be lucky enough to play together. Maybe it had everything to do with Bill Walsh. If Mark Clayton is on the 49ers instead of Jerry Rice does he put up Jerry Rice’s numbers? Won’t know, can’t know. If Dan Marino plays for the 49ers with Jerry Rice, does Marino with three rings and help Jerry Rice put up ungodly numbers? Won’t know, can’t know…but I think yes.
Regardless, this comes down to Rice and Montana. In the ultimate hypothetical NFL question of who is the greatest player ever, both of them would be talked about at length. Both are certainly in the Top 5, which tells you how special those 49er teams were to have two legends on the field at the same time. So what or who, rather, will help me make this decision? Johnny Unitas. You see, if you ask someone who the greatest quarterback ever is, they have to stop and think and may come up with more names than Montana or Unitas. Ask someone who the greatest receiver ever is and, with all due respect to Peter King’s Twitter account, it’s Jerry Rice.
Verdict = NFC West – Rice Division