By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The month of September is almost over and fall is officially here.
In normal years, there would be wall to wall football to enjoy for sports fans in America. The high ranks should be near the stretch run heading into the playoffs.
College Football should be shaping up into conference rivalry games and the NFL season is young and full of optimism. Instead, we’re watching the COVID-19 ticker, praying for a vaccine and living in the past.
Remember the good ole days when stadiums were packed with 60,000 to 100,000 screaming maniacs dressed in the colors of their favorite team. Speaking of teams, it is time for me to rank my top 10 NFL teams of all time. From before the first NFL champions, the 1933 Chicago Bears, to the recently crowned Super Bowl LIV champs Kansas City Chiefs, I’m going to reflect on 10 of the best cohesive units in gridiron history.
Here is the list of honorable mentions: 1949 Philadelphia Eagles, 1968 Baltimore Colts, 1986 New York Giants, 2016 New England Patriots, 1976 Oakland Raiders, 1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 St. Louis Rams, 1950 Cleveland Browns, 1977 Dallas Cowboys, 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996 Green Bay Packers, 1991 Washington Redskins, 1966 Green Bay Packers, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1998 Minnesota Vikings, 1983 Los Angeles Raiders, 1973 Miami Dolphins, 2013 Seattle Seahawks, 1971 Dallas Cowboys, 1958 Baltimore Colts, 1969 Kansas City Chiefs, 1920 Akron Pros and 1960 Philadelphia Eagles.
- 1992 Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are owners of 5 Super Bowls titles. This proud and historically great franchise has a ring of honor to rival any other NFL team. “America’s Team” is loaded with iconic players, coaches and teams. But the best Dallas Cowboy outfit of all time was in 1992.
On the brink of greatness and just three years removed from a 1-15 season, the 1992 ‘Boys were poised to shock the league and create a dynasty. It all started with that great offensive line. Those men paved the way for Emmitt Smith and protected quarterback Troy Aikman. The go-to guy on the perimeter was Michael Irvin. All three of the “Triplets” are in the Hall of Fame.
Other weapons for this Super Bowl XXVII champion were Jay Novacek, Daryl Johnston, Alvin Harper, and return man Kelvin Martin.
Head Coach Jimmy Johnson’s defense was solid all season ranking fourth in the league in total yards and first in the league in fewest yards allowed.
After upsetting the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game, the Cowboys ripped a part the Buffalo Bills 52-17 for the Super Bowl title.
- 2007 New England Patriots
Only one team in NFL history has navigated the regular season to perfection. The 2007 New England Patriots were the best edition under legendary Head Coach Bill Belichick. This Patriot team is only rivaled by the 2004 and 2016 Pats.
But the overall record for the 2007 squad was 18-1. Other NFL teams have finished 18-1 but those squads walked off the Super Bowl field holding the trophy. It was New York that pulled off the… “giant” upset.
The Patriots should have 7 total Lombardi trophies in the headquarters instead of just 6. That 2007 team was the most dangerous unit surrounding quarterback Tom Brady. The Pats reloaded their offense with Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth. Motivated by the SpyGate allegations, New England ran up the score on opponents all season like it was a BCS audition.
Brady broke the NFL record for TD passes in a season with 50. Moss was on the receiving end of 23 of those, setting a record as well. But instead of being No. 1 on this list, the Patriots are ranked ninth. That’s the power of a 17-14 defeat in the Super Bowl. It took a miracle catch from David Tyree to make it happen.
- 1972 Miami Dolphins
Some football experts say the 1973 Dolphins were better than the 1972 version. I agree with that sentiment but with the previous year’s team being able to go 17-0, the 1972 Miami unit would find a way to win that game.
The 1973 Dolphins won the Super Bowl just like the 1972 squad. Quarterback Bob Griese was healthy the entire 1973 campaign. The year before, Griese and backup Earl Morrall guided the team to victories.
The 1972 schedule wasn’t as tough at the 1973 agenda with teams like the Raiders, Steelers and Cowboys in the regular season.
The 1973 Dolphins cruised through the playoffs with three easy wins, while every playoff game for the 1972 team was a nail-bitter. The undefeated team beat regular-season opponents by an average score of 27.5 to 12.2. In 1973, Miami beat better opponents 24.5 to 10.7.
OK, it looks like I should have ranked the 1973 Dolphins on this list. But here is the case for perfection. The 1972 Dolphins produced two 1,000-yard rushers in Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. And the No Name Defense is a part of NFL folklore.
- 1942 Chicago Bears
Before the 1972 Dolphins, there were the Chicago Bears 30 years earlier. Wait a minute, before the 2007 New England Patriots, there was the 1942 Bears. No team was more dominant during the regular season but didn’t win the title prior to 2007.
The 1942 Bears shut out four opponents during an 11-game regular season. The Monsters of the Midway outscored opponents 376-84. Sid Luckman was the legendary quarterback running the innovative T-formation offense.
But it was another iconic quarterback of the era that stop those Bears from being ranked in the top 5 oa all time. The Bears were three-touchdown favorites to beat the Redskins in the championship game. Washington quarterback Sammy Baugh also played safety and intercepted a Luckman pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter. The Bears later drove to the one-yard line, but a motion penalty negated the touchdown. The Redskins held the Bears at the goal line to preserve a 14-6 upset.
The legacy of those Bears is similar to the Seattle Seahawks of the early 2010s. If Chicago had won the NFL in 1943, just as they had in 1940 and 1941, the Monsters of the Midway became part of our national lexicon like baseball’s New York Yankees.
- 2004 New England Patriots
Most teams win because of talent on the field. Although led by Tom Brady, this New England team had masterminds on the sideline. Led by Belichick, the Pats were guided Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels and more.
OK, those Pats had some on-the-field talent as well with Corey Dillon running the ball to help balance Brady’s 28 TD passes. Despite Richard Seymour being the only All-Pro on defense, the unit featured Tedy Bruschi, Asante Samuel, Vince Wilfork, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and some youth.
Other X-factors for those Patriots were Troy Brown moonlighting as a slot cornerback and Mike Vrabel as a goal-line tight end. The Patriots outlasted a talented Philadelphia Eagles team to win XXXIX and capture the franchise’s third title in four years.
- 1989 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice and Joe Montana.
OK, I’ll pick the microphone back up. Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott, John Taylor and Charles Haley…
You want me to continue. Fine, they won the Super Bowl that year 55-10 over John Elway and the Denver Broncos.
This team also featured Steve Young in a relief role and other weapons like Tom Rathman and Brent Jones.
Iconic coach Bill Walsh retired the previous season after winning Super Bowl XXIII. The keys to the Mercedes was handed to George Seifert. Seifert and the coaching staff just polished off the car and didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. This was the 49er unit that ran the West Coast offense so smoothly, all other NFL started to mix it into their offenses.
The 1989 49ers averaged 27.6 points per game and allowed just 15.8. They outscored their playoff competition by a margin of 126-26. They were one of the most balanced teams in NFL history, as well as one of the deepest.
- 1985 Chicago Bears
Several publications would have this team ranked either No. 1 or No. 2. Despite the Super Bowl Shuffle music video, list of iconic characters, having Sweetness Walter Payton and an 18-1 record, the ’85 Bears were too one-sided to get pass my top three.
The Bill Walsh 49ers were the NFL team of the 1980s. But the 1985 Bears were the 1980s.
Buddy Ryan’s defensive unit ran the 46 defense to devastating perfection that season. Their 46 Defense terrorized opposing quarterbacks for 64 sacks and 34 interceptions.
Head Coach Mike Ditka managed his offensive unit well-enough balancing Payton and young quarterback Him McMahon. And larger-than-life figure William “The Refrigerator” Perry made the transition from defense to power running back on occasion.
But the driving force of the Super Bowl XX champions was the defense. The 1985 Bears’ playoff run saw them keep the Giants and Rams scoreless.
Then in the Super Bowl down in New Orleans, the Patriots were smothered 46-10.
- 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
This franchise was the first to win six Super Bowls. A large part of that success came during a six-year stretch winning 4 titles. The third championship might have featured the Steelers’ best overall team. The 1978 season is memorable in the history of the NFL because of many rule changes. Most of them were placed into the book because of those Steelers. The Steelers made the necessary adjustments and still dominated the league to obtain a 14-2 record. Oh yeah, the league just expanded the regular season to 16 games.
The Steel Curtain Defense was still strong as ever with “Mean Joe” Green, Mel Blount, Jack Ham and the crew. But now the Steelers had just as deadly an offense to match the greatness of the defense.
The seasoned play of receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth balanced the running of Franco Harris. Terry Bradshaw made fewer mistakes and dared his team to some victories.
By the end of the season, Pittsburgh was triumph over the rival Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII in a thrilling contest.
- 1962 Green Bay Packers
Prior to the Super Bowl Era, the Green Bay Packers were forming a dynasty. That success helped the boys from Wisconsin capture the first two championships against the AFL. But let’s go back to four years prior to Super Bowl I. The 1962 Packers started the season by winning four games by a combined score of 109-14.
The Packers forced 50 turnovers in 14 regular-season games. The Power Sweep helped the Packers rush for 175.7 yards per game.
To further illustrate their dominance, Green Bay won by the score of 49-0 twice. In one of those contests, they out gained the Eagles, 628-54.
Head Coach Vince Lombardi had a special team with stars like Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Jim Ringo, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderly and more. The defending champs Packers won the title again with just one blemish for 1962. The only loss came at the hands of the Lions on Thanksgiving. The Pack defended their title against the Giants with a 16-7 victory in Yankee Stadium.
- 1984 San Francisco 49ers
The first NFL team to ever go 18-1 in a season was the 1984 San Francisco 49ers. With a 248-point differential, they did it before the ’85 Bears. The only defeat that season came courtesy of the Steelers.
But that off week was rare for Head Coach Bill Walsh and his 49ers. Walsh’s West Coach offense was finely tuned with weapons like Russ Francis, Earl Cooper, Freddie Solomon and Wendell Tyler. Quarterback Joe Montana was the maestro leading the 49ers to regular season wins by the scores of 51-7, 41-7, 35-3 and 33-0.
Oh yeah, the 49ers had a couple of other options in Dwight Clark and Roger Craig. Clark caught just 52 passes. Craig in his second season was the perfect weapon in Walsh’s attack and scheme.
Quietly, the defense was solid too. Just ask Dan Marino and the Dolphins. The 49ers crushed the powerful Miami offense in Super Bowl XIX. Defensive Coordinator George Seifert fielded one of the best secondaries in history with Ronnie Lott, Dwight Hicks, Eric Wright and Carlton Williamson. Opposing quarterbacks threw 25 interceptions against just 14 touchdowns while trying to keep up with Montana.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to email@example.com.