With the 2018 World Cup upon us, Jeremy Bergman and Adam Rank are divvying up the NFL and selecting the top 11 -- or in, yes, FOOTBALL parlance, all-time XI -- players from each of the 32 teams' history. Today, Rank presents the top XI for each team in the NFC East.
1) Troy Aikman, QB (1989-2000)
2) Roger Staubach, QB (1969-1979)
3) Larry Allen, OG (1994-2005)
4) Tony Dorsett, RB (1977-1987)
5) Bob Lilly, DT (1961-1974)
6) Emmitt Smith, RB (1990-2002)
7) Randy White, DT (1975-1988)
8) Michael Irvin, WR (1988-1999)
9) Bob Hayes, WR (1965-1974)
10) Mel Renfro, CB (1964-1977)
11) Rayfield Wright, OT (1967-1979)
Coach: Tom Landry (1960-1988)
It's really hard to be underrated as a Hall of Famer, but it fits for Troy Aikman. It's like vanilla ice cream. Only the uncultured believe it has no taste. But those of us who know what we're talking about can appreciate it. (Mostly because chocolate and strawberry are overrated.) Aikman is almost considered an afterthought among great quarterbacks, but I would contend he was the best quarterback of the 1990s. Three Super Bowls. (Would have been more if Deion Sanders hadn't done a mercenary mission in San Francisco. Oh, and Barry Switzer.) He had as incredible a postseason run as you'll find for a QB, compiling a passer rating of 100 or better in nine of his first 11 playoff starts. The Cowboys' offense was skewed toward the run. And he traded gaudy stats for championships. He's the best. Don't @ me.
I feel strongly about Larry Allen, too. A second-round pick from Sonoma State, he was one of the best ever. I still think of him gallantly standing out there on one leg (he had an ankle injury) in the 1994 NFC Championship Game as the 49ers were taking turns going past him. I was like, "Enjoy it, because you'll never dominate this guy like that again."
I don't want you to take the ranking of Emmitt Smith at No. 6 as a statement that he was overrated, but it's the internet, so of course you will. I just want to give some credit to Tony Dorsett, who really was one of the best running backs of all time. But in his era, he was going up against Walter Payton, the best football player in history, so it's easy to understand why he was overlooked.
I'm glad Bob Hayes got into the Hall of Fame. He deserved it. I'm not sure Drew Pearson is ever going to get that honor, but he was really good, too.
New York Giants
1) Lawrence Taylor, OLB (1981-1993)
2) Frank Gifford, RB/WR (1952-1964)
3) Mel Hein, C (1931-1945)
4) Roosevelt Brown, OT (1953-1965)
5) Sam Huff, LB (1956-1963)
6) Emlen Tunnell, DB (1948-1958)
7) Harry Carson, LB (1976-1988)
8) Michael Strahan, DE (1993-2007)
9) Tuffy Leemans, FB (1936-1943)
10) Andy Robustelli, DE (1956-1964)
11) Eli Manning, QB (2004-present)
Coach: Bill Parcells (1983-1990)
The Giants seem like a pretty easy team to rank here. Lawrence Taylor is in the conversation for best football player of all time. He changed the way defense is played. It's weird to think of him as one of Bill Belichick's players, but Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the Giants from 1985-1990, when the team won two Super Bowls with LT. And Frank Gifford never gets enough love for as good as he was, mostly because we all remember him as an announcer. Although I'm sure there is one person already in the mentions below talking about how he used to watch him play at old Yankee Stadium.
My biggest dilemma was where to put Eli Manning on this list. He clearly belongs. I don't think anybody is going to dispute the fact that he's going to the Hall of Fame. That's just the way these things work. You win two Super Bowls as a starting QB and you're in. (Unless your name is Jim Plunkett.) I could make a case for him being higher in the rankings. I really could. But I'm comfortable where I have him. My big question: How long will it take for Odell Beckham to make this list? And sorry about Tiki Barber. He's No. 12 on my list.
I know a lot of you have never heard of Emlen Tunnell and that's cool. But the dude played in the 1950s and still had 79 interceptions. Nobody threw the ball back then, so how is that even possible? I feel like it would be akin to somebody having like 600 career interceptions in the modern NFL. I might be exaggerating a bit.
1) Chuck Bednarik, C/LB (1949-1962)
2) Randall Cunningham, QB (1985-1995)
3) Brian Dawkins, S (1996-2008)
4) Reggie White, DE (1985-1992)
5) Steve Van Buren, RB (1944-1951)
6) Tommy McDonald, WR (1957-1963)
7) Al Wistert, OT (1944-1951)
8) Pete Pihos, WR (1947-1955)
9) Pete Retzlaff, WR (1956-1966)
10) Jerome Brown, DT (1987-1991)
11) Donovan McNabb, QB (1999-2009)
Coach: Doug Pederson (2016-present)
I was hanging out with one of my Eagles friends a few years back at a Super Bowl party and we saw this dude in a No. 60 jersey. And I nudged my friend, "Is that a Concrete Charlie jersey?" And he was all, "Who?" and we never spoke again. But Bednarik, the last 60-minute man in the NFL, played both ways on the Eagles 1960 championship team. Seriously, it was huge. Like the Philly Special of his day.
Now, I usually won't put non-Hall of Famers super high on these lists. I'm making an exception for Randall Cunningham. I think he's the most amazing player I've ever seen. And, if he played on the grass at the Linc instead of the turf at the Vet, maybe his career wouldn't have flamed out in Philly. But this dude was unbelievable. I'd even say the Eagles win two Super Bowls in the 1990s if he doesn't get hurt.
Tommy McDonald is one of my favorite players I've never seen play. I met him at the Hall of Fame a few times -- sick humble brag -- and I love him. I watched some of his old highlights and he was pretty damn special.
1) Sammy Baugh, QB (1937-1952)
2) Darrell Green, CB (1983-2002)
3) Sean Taylor, S (2004-07)
4) Chris Hanburger, LB (1965-1978)
5) Charley Taylor, WR (1964-1977)
6) Art Monk, WR (1980-1993)
7) Sonny Jurgensen, QB (1964-1974)
8) John Riggins, RB (1976-1985)
9) Russ Grimm, OG (1981-1991)
10) Joe Jacoby, OT (1981-1993)
11) Ken Houston, S (1973-1980)
Coach: Joe Gibbs (1981-1992, 2004-07)
I always try to refrain from going too quarterback-heavy with these lists. It's like when somebody asks you what your favorite movie is and you reply, "Empire," because it is. But it also just seems too easy. So I'm really trying to be a little more even here. But I have to make Sammy Baugh the top pick here. He's another one of those dudes who has so many bold stats (to denote league leader) in his Pro Football Reference profile. He's a six-time passing leader. Two-time champion. It's kind of easy.
I'm putting Sean Taylor at the No. 3 spot. I'm not going to get into the debate about whether Taylor should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because that's pointless. But he really was one of the best players in Redskins history. I know his life was tragically cut short. But when I think of players and how well they performed on the field, he was clearly a difference maker, even though his time was limited. This isn't a knock on Art Monk. But Monk was consistent over a long period of time and people kind of make those players better than they are. It's like old punk bands. Bad Religion has been around forever, so people just buy into them being great. They were good, no doubt. But not the greatest. Taylor certainly was.