Football 101: No. 1, Jerry Rice
Happy Monday! Well, the football season has drawn to a close, and with it, the Football 101. Here’s the complete archive. Thanks for reading, and thanks for subscribing!
And if you want to track the complete countdown, Brilliant Reader Ed B put together this awesome spreadsheet.
Of course, I would love for you to subscribe if you haven’t already! I promise you we have lots of other great stuff coming here on JoeBlogs.
So we end with the same question that we began with: What does it even mean to be the greatest professional football player ever? The answer, I think, after this two-year, 101-essay journey, is simple: There is no answer. Football is too diverse, too team-oriented, too coach-driven, too injury-laden, too mercurial a game to yield to a single answer for greatest ever.
Let’s face it: You can imagine a world where the greatest football player might have been Greg Cook. Bill Walsh once called him the most talented quarterback he ever coached.
You can imagine a world where Luke Kuechly might have been the greatest football player ever.
You can imagine a world where Archie Manning might have been the greatest ever … or Billy Sims … certainly Bo Jackson … maybe Sterling Sharpe … maybe Andrew Luck … Steve Emtman … Michael Vick … Antonio Brown … Ryan Shazier …
And on the other side, a bad break or two wrecking any of the greatest careers.
Can we really say that Jim Brown was a greater football player than Lawrence Taylor? Of course not. They played entirely different positions. Can we say that Sammy Baugh was a greater quarterback than Aaron Rodgers? Of course not. They played in entirely different eras with entirely different versions of football. Can we say that Anthony Munoz blocked better than Jim Parker and John Hannah and Larry Allen and Forrest Gregg and Jonathan Ogden? Of course not. They were all great in their own ways and in their own times.
So what’s the point of all this?
Well, I think the point is simply to remember. That’s why I love countdown lists like these. They allow me (and hopefully you as well) to remember, to learn, to reconsider the greatest players who ever lived. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I worked hard on the order. I stand behind it. I talked to a whole bunch of football experts for their opinions, read a whole bunch of other opinions, did a whole bunch of research, and this is my list, from Patrick Mahomes at 101 (he’s probably moved up the charts over the span of laying out the list) all the way to No. 1, today’s player, Jerry Rice.
Why Rice? I can give you a dozen reasons, but I will give you only one.