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 North.
1) Walter Payton, RB (1975-1987)
2) Gale Sayers, RB (1965-1971)
3) Dick Butkus, LB (1965-1973)
4) Mike Singletary, LB (1981-1992)
5) Devin Hester, RS/WR (2006-2013)
6) Brian Urlacher, LB (2000-2012)
7) Red Grange, RB (1925, 1929-1934)
8) Bronko Nagurski, RB (1930-1937, 1943)
9) Bill George, LB (1952-1965)
10) Richard Dent, DE (1983-1993, 1995)
11) Sid Luckman, QB (1939-1950)
Coach: George Halas (1920-1929, 1933-1942, 1946-1955, 1958-1967)
Here is what Chicago does better than anybody else: deep-dish pizza, keeping ketchup off hot dogs and creating Hall of Fame running backs and linebackers. There is no shortage of Bears Hall of Famers at the positions, much in the same way that your Hollywood Starbucks has no shortage of budding producers looking to get their screenplay greenlit.
This list is dominated by running backs, which makes sense. Walter Payton is the greatest player in NFL history, a fact of no dispute. And then you have Gale Sayers, Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski. Matt Forte doesn't even make the list, but he'd be the best running back in history for a lot of franchises. Well, Green Bay, for sure.
I made sure to include Devin Hester, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer. He's the greatest returner I've ever seen. Though I'm sure the Deion Sanders marks will put up some resistance.
1) Barry Sanders, RB (1989-1998)
2) Bobby Layne, QB (1950-1958)
3) Calvin Johnson, WR (2007-2015)
4) Dick "Night Train" Lane, CB (1960-1965)
5) Doak Walker, RB/K/P (1950-1955)
6) Billy Sims, RB (1980-1984)
7) Herman Moore, WR (1991-2001)
8) Matthew Stafford, QB (2009-present)
9) Lem Barney, CB (1967-1977)
10) Joe Schmidt, LB (1953-1965)
11) Dick LeBeau, DB (1959-1972)
Coach: Buddy Parker (1951-1956)
The Lions were one of the "it" teams of the 1950s, winning three NFL championships and appearing in another. They were led by quarterback Bobby Layne. A notorious party boy who was as revered for his exploits on the field as off, he led the Lions through those championship years, but he was traded after he missed the Lions' championship run in 1957 because he broke his leg in three places during a pile-up. Layne was no doubt angered by the decision and said the Lions wouldn't win again for 50 years after he was traded. But that doesn't explain the last decade.
Barry Sanders is no doubt one of the best ever, but I wanted to give a little love in this space to Billy Sims. He was the original No. 20 for the Lions and set the NFL on fire with 13 rushing touchdowns as a rookie in 1980. In fact, Sanders (who wore No. 21 at Oklahoma State) was given his number in homage to Sims.
In a similar circumstance, Calvin Johnson is a Hall of Fame receiver. First-ballot, if you ask me. But Herman Moore is not given enough credit for how great he was back in the day. Moore twice led the NFL in receptions, including a record-setting 123 in the 1995 season. And you're like, "Hey, that's pretty cool." But think about this -- he set that mark with Scott Mitchell as his quarterback.
Green Bay Packers
1) Aaron Rodgers, QB (2005-present)
2) Brett Favre, QB (1992-2007)
3) Bart Starr, QB (1956-1971)
4) Don Hutson, WR (1935-1945)
5) Reggie White, DE (1993-1998)
6) Paul Hornung, RB (1957-1966)
7) Willie Wood, S (1960-1971)
8) Ray Nitschke, LB (1958-1972)
9) Jim Taylor, FB (1958-1966)
10) Forrest Gregg, OT (1956-1970)
11) Herb Adderley, CB (1961-1969)
Coach: Vince Lombardi (1959-1967)
The Packers have a complete embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position. I mean, I could have been completely justified to put Arnie Herber on this list, but I feel like having three quarterbacks is enough. They churn out beloved quarterbacks like Marvel Studios produces heralded motion pictures. And like Marvel movies, I often don't care for Green Bay's quarterbacks. The thing is, though, the Packers have had two HOF quarterbacks for what, nearly 30 years since Favre took over in 1990s? And yet, just two Super Bowl titles. That seems low to me.
And it pains me to say this as a Bears fan, but Don Hutson does not get enough love for his great career. Can we stop with the arguments about whether he could have competed in the modern NFL or whatnot? This guy dominated his competition like few to have ever played the game. You know how you look up somebody's stats on Pro Football Reference and their numbers are bolded when they led the league in a category? Nearly every number is bolded in Hutson's bio. It's crazy.
1) Adrian Peterson, RB (2007-2016)
2) Randy Moss, WR (1998-2004, 2010)
3) Paul Krause, S (1968-1979)
4) Cris Carter, WR (1990-2001)
5) Fran Tarkenton, QB (1961-1966, 1972-1978)
6) Alan Page, DT (1967-1978)
7) John Randle, DT (1990-2000)
8) Chris Doleman, DE (1985-1993, 1999)
9) Carl Eller, DE (1964-1978)
10) Randall McDaniel, OG (1988-1999)
11) Mick Tingelhoff, C (1962-1978)
Coach: Bud Grant (1967-1983, 1985)
The Vikings: Four trips to the Super Bowl; zero Super Bowl wins. That has to sting. I mean, at least the Lions have all of those championships from the 1950s to hang their hat on. The Vikings? Nothing. But plenty of great players. I had a harder time with them than I thought, because there is no shortage of good options. Just like there was no shortage of patrons at Matt's, waiting to try the Juicy Lucy during Super Bowl week.
Adrian Peterson, no doubt, was at the top of the list (I don't mean for these to be in order). But I was kind of struck by how many great receivers the Vikings have had in their history. Randy Moss might be the greatest of all-time. Cris Carter was also exceptional. Ahmad Rashad was initially on my list, but I had to cut him. Too many great Vikings defenders.
Speaking of the defenders, Paul Krause was automatic. I met him at the Hall of Fame a few years back, and I'm not sure we walked away as friends. But Krause was legit. He is joined by Alan Page and Carl Eller, two more members from the era of the Purple People Eaters. And there have still been great defenders after the Eaters, including Chris Doleman and John Randle.