Football 101: No. 22, Barry Sanders and No. 21, Emmitt Smith
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You know that expression about hills you’re willing to die on. I have only a few sports opinion hills that I’m willing to die on. Obviously, by now, you know about my opinion that the intentional walk is a plague upon the earth and should be treated as such. I’ll happily die on that hill.
I believe that there should be a wing in the Baseball Hall of Fame that features every single player who was truly great, even if their greatness lasted only a short period of time. Call it the Dwight Gooden wing. Or the Eric Davis wing.
I believe that if told to build an NBA team that had to win the title that year or else, and I had one choice of any player who ever lived in their absolute prime … I’d take LeBron James.
And I believe that if winning the Super Bowl is the only goal, I’ll take Emmitt Smith over Barry Sanders every single time.
Whenever I express this opinion, it comes off to people as a knock on Sanders … and I wish it didn’t. I love Barry Sanders. I believe him to be the most exciting player in NFL history. I’d say four or five times a year, I’ll just go to YouTube and watch Barry Sanders’ Top 50 Most Ridiculous Plays of All Time and feel better about the world.
But … I’d still take Emmitt Smith if I were trying to win the Super Bowl.
And that’s why I put Emmitt Smith one slot ahead of Barry Sanders on the list.
Now, you will scream. I hear you screaming. I totally get it. But I am on this hill for a reason — two, actually.
Emmitt Smith’s greatness is wildly under-appreciated.
Barry Sanders’ greatness is ultra-specific and more difficult to quantify, I think, than most people seem to think.