Sunday, October 31, 2010

Top Green Bay Packers of Cheesehead Sports Nut’s Lifetime

A 10-part series on the NFL Network called "The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players" just revealed their top NFL player of all-time...wide receiver Jerry Rice. I am sure that people are going to argue that certain guys should have been ranked higher while others should have been ranked lower. Either way, a blue ribbon panel of 85 voters by NFL Films put the list together. I love that it is called "blue ribbon panel". As opposed to what? An unqualified panel? A mediocre panel? Anyhow, the Green Bay Packer representatives on the list of “The Top 100: NFL’s Great Players” are:
#7 - Reggie White
#9 - Don Hutson
#20 - Brett Favre
#47 - Ray Nitschke
#51 - Bart Starr
#54 - Forrest Gregg
#64 - Herb Adderley
#86 - Willie Davis

The Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, and Chicago Bears were the franchises with the most players on the lists with 8 players each. The Steelers, Raiders, and Colts were well represented on the list as well with 7 players each. That means that 45 players played for 6 teams, which shows why the aforementioned teams have been so successful.

I appreciated the history lesson that NFL Films gave me since I did not get to see most of the players on the list play. I was born in 1981, which means the 1985 Chicago Bears are a faint memory of my early childhood. Even better, it also means that the lean Packer years in the 70's and 80's were before my prime football watching. That also means that the only Packer representatives in the Top 100 that I saw play was Reggie White and Brett Favre. As a result, I decided to put together two lists of 8 players, the best 8 Packers of my lifetime and the 8 current Packers (not on the first list) with a chance to go down as all-time Packer greats.

Top 8 Green Bay Packers of Cheesehead Sports Nut's Lifetime:
#8 - Marco Rivera (G) and Mike Wahle (G): one of the biggest mistakes current Packers general manager Ted Thompson made was getting rid of Rivera and Wahle without having any adequate replacements.

#7 - Donald Driver (WR): has the most receiving yards in Packers history. With all due respect to Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, and Antonio Freeman...Donald Driver is better than all three. Sharpe was probably more talented while Brooks and Freeman did not produce for long enough. It just goes to show you why Driver is on the list ahead of all those guys.

#6 - Ahman Green (RB): the shelf life is short for power running backs like Ahman Green. That said, Green is still the current record holder of most rushing yards in Packer history. What I liked the most about Green and what probably shortened his career was that he always fell forward for the extra yard.

#5 - Charles Woodson (CB): hands down the second best free agent signing in franchise history behind Reggie White. After winning the NFL defensive player of the year award in 2009, Woodson has regressed a little in 2010. A testament to Woodson’s skills is how well he will play as a hybrid cornerback/safety for the rest of his career in Green Bay.

#4 - Chad Clifton (LT): might feel a little high, but a big part of the Packers success over the last decade is thanks to having a consistent left tackle. Although Clifton does not have a ton of accolades on his resume, he has been a good left tackle for the last decade and is a big reason why the Packers have had a consistently healthy quarterback for the last decade.

#3 - LeRoy Butler (S): the ultimate team player. Butler made personal concessions to help the Packers field the most competitive team possible. When Nick Collins took #36, I thought it was a travesty because I thought the Packers should have retired Butler's number. That is the least the Packers could do as a thank you to the inventor of the Lambeau Leap right?

#2 - Reggie White (DE): the Minister of Defense helped bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Lombardi Avenue. It can't be understated how big of a free agent signing Reggie White was, and a big reason why Reggie signed with the Packers was the guy rated #1 on this list.

#1 - Brett Favre (QB): I am on record as saying I will go to Brett Favre's jersey retirement game and clap loudly for him. What has transpired since he "retired" three years ago has tarnished his legacy in the short-term. Over the long-term, Packer fans will look back at all the great memories Favre provided. Yes, Favre had some backbreaking interceptions in some big games (think of his last pass as a Packer) but Favre made the Packers relevant again after the franchise struggled for decades.

Top 8 Up-and-Coming Current Green Bay Packers:
There were a couple of current Packers that just missed the cut for "Up-and-Coming" Current Green Bay Packers for various reasons. Despite not having breakaway speed, Ryan Grant is the perfect running back for the zone-blocking scheme. Grant missed the list because of the aforementioned short shelf life for NFL running backs. Other guys on the current roster that I seriously considered was Nick Barnett (MLB), Ryan Pickett (DE), and Cullen Jenkins (DE) but much like Grant, they are a little on the old side to make the up-and-coming list.

#8 - Tramon Williams (CB): after struggling with penalties in 2009, Williams has become a premier cover cornerback in 2010. I know Charles Woodson is still a cornerback, but Williams has been the best cornerback on the Packers roster in 2010.

#7 - B.J. Raji (DT): now healthy, Raji has made quite a jump from year 1 to year 2, which helped justify being selected #9 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Raji is the ideal player for the 3-4 defense because he can play any position along the defensive line.

#6 - Josh Sitton (G): probably the most underrated player on the current Packers roster. I know it seems aggressive to say, but Sitton has a chance to be one of the best offensive linemen in Packers history.

#5 - Jermichael Finley (TE): is too tall for defensive backs to cover him and too fast for linebackers to cover him, which makes Finley a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. Going into the 2010 season, despite having a ton of explosive weapons on offense, the Packers geared their offense around Finley. Unfortunately, for the second season in a row, Finley suffered a serious injury. Last year Finley only missed a few weeks, but this year a knee injury early in the year forced the Packers to put Finley on injured reserve.

#4 - Greg Jennings (WR): with all the back-and-forth about whether the Packers should have traded for Randy Moss a few years, the biggest beneficiary of the Packers failing to obtain Moss was Jennings. If Moss comes to the Packers, there is no way that Jennings is on this list and he might not even be playing in Green Bay right now. Instead, the Packers have an electric wide receiver that much like his wide receiving partner Donald Driver, might not be the biggest guy on the field, but boy are they effective.

#3 - Nick Collins (S): has a nose for making big plays and is quickly becoming one of the best all-around safeties in the NFL. Former Packer safety Darren Sharper made big plays but also gave up big plays and didn't like to tackle. That is not the case with Collins, who tackles well and does not guess in order to make those big plays.

#2 - Clay Matthews (OLB): it is hard to keep the Claymaker out of the top spot considering he has the most sacks in the NFL since he entered the league in 2009. Furthermore, Claymaker is making a push for the Packers to have consecutive NFL defensive players of the year. The sky is the limit for the future All-Pro.

#1 - Aaron Rodgers (QB): look who is #1 on both my lists…the quarterbacks always get all the glory. After putting up big stats in his first two NFL seasons, Rodgers is finding ways to win games without having to put up big stats. The biggest knock against Rodgers is that he hasn't done it in the close games or the playoffs. Rodgers career record and statistics are very similar to Favre's numbers at the same point in each of their respective careers. If Rodgers can continue to grow and starts to win big games, he will move out Favre's shadow and start casting his own.