How Different Will NFL 100th Anniversary Team Be From 75th?
The Pro Football Hall of Fame
The NFL will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019. With it there will be the inevitable selection of an anniversary team. How much will the 100th anniversary team differ from the 75th one chosen in 1994?
The league may let fans vote as MLB did for their 20th century team in 1999, but the de facto squad will probably be selected by senior media members and the pro football hall of fame. This is a good thing, because by narrowing the voting to a select group of experts there will be a better chance of past greats being represented.
The 75th anniversary all-star team consists of 48 men. If the committee decides in 2019 to stick with an all-time team and not select a top 100, they will only consider the best players in the history of the game. This means that some decisions will have to be made as to what players since 1994 deserve to make the next team and who from the past gets cut.
One would think that there have been many great players over the last two decades which deserve to be considered for the 100th anniversary team. However, if things continue the way that they are going there are only a handful of men who have played since 1994 that would be considered slam dunk all-timers in 2019. Why this is the case no one can really tell as players today are considered to be bigger, faster and stronger. The only answer may be liberal player substitution and the lack of team continuity caused by free agency which took effect in the 1990's.
Whatever, the reason those selecting the 100th anniversary team will have their hands full. There will be many arguments as to who deserves recognition. However, there is one thing that we can be sure of. The men you are about to see will be on the ballot and probably the team when the dust settles.
Tom Brady, Quarterback
Brady will be in the best of all-time discussion. He has the numbers and rings to validate his career. Brady will not only be compared to his contemporary Peyton Manning forever, but judged against 75th anniversary selections Joe Montana, Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham and John Unitas for 100th anniversary honors. Either the committee expands to six quarterbacks or someone from the 75th anniversary team is gone, because Brady will be selected.
Peyton Manning, Quarterback
The man considered by many to be the best quarterback of all-time should hold almost every record when he retires. Of the four quarterbacks who made the 75th anniversary team, Manning is considered better than Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh. Many would put him on a par with John Unitas. The argument will whether he was as good as Joe Montana. No matter where he is ranked, Manning will be on the team.
Emmitt Smith, Halfback
The NFL's all-time leading rusher may still hold the record in 2019. With the emphasis in the passing game who will get a chance to catch him? Smith will not take the place of 75th anniversary members Jim Brown, Walter Payton or Bronko Nagurski at running back, but he will be on the team. If anyone is replaced it will be among Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Steve Van Buren and Marion Motley.
Barry Sanders, Halfback
The second leading rusher in NFL history behind Emmitt Smith has to make the 100th anniversary team. Like Smith, Sanders will not replace 75th anniversary members Jim Brown, Walter Payton, or Bronko Nagurski, but could be chosen over Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Steve Van Buren and Marion Motley. One thing that we know is he will be chosen.
Tony Gonzalez, Tight End
Gonzalez is considered the best tight end of the last 20 years if not all-time. He has the records to prove it. The question will be what is the committee looking for in a tight end? If it is catching the ball Gonzalez will rank higher than 75th anniversary tight ends Mike Ditka and Kellen Winslow. If it is blocking Ditka and Shannon Sharpe will get the edge. The committee may decide to put 50th anniversary tight end John Mackey on the team. Whatever they decide, Gonzalez will make the team.
Shannon Sharpe, Tight End
Sharpe held all of the records that Gonzalez broke and was a better blocker. It will be interesting to see how the voters view him in six years. Sharpe has another advantage over the other tight ends in that he played on three Super Bowl winning teams and was instrumental in each one's success.
Jonathan Ogden, Offensive Tackle
Maybe the best and most athletic offensive tackle to ever play the game. He will join Jim Parker, Anthony Munoz and Forrest Gregg on the 100th anniversary team. If anyone gets bumped it will be Roosevelt Brown, but he should not. Ogden should join Brown and the others on the 100th anniversary team just as he will in the hall of fame come this August.
Larry Allen, Offensive Guard
Put him side by side with Jonathan Ogden and don't worry for the next 10 years. Allen was one of the most physical offensive linemen of all-time. He was the Jim Parker of his era a massive man with agility that just made defensive linemen disappear. It is a good thing that he was considered a nice guy or Allen may have killed someone. John Hannah, Gene Upshaw and Parker will have to make room at the table for this mountain of a man.
Ray Lewis, Inside Linebacker
The middle linebacker lineage goes like this. Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, Willie Lanier, Jack Lambert, Ray Lewis. There have been other great ones such as Joe Schmidt and Mike Singletary, but those five stand out. The first four are all members of the 75th anniversary team and Lewis will be joining them in 2019.
Deion Sanders, Cornerback
He covered receivers like a glove and took away half of the field. Sanders may have been the best athlete to ever play cornerback. The only argument against him being the best of all-time is his unwillingness to hit people like 75th anniversary corners Dick 'Night Train' Lane, Mel Blount and Rod Woodson used to. This will not stop Sanders from joining or replacing a couple of them on the 100th anniversary team.
Ed Reed, Safety
Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Deion Sanders all played defense together with the Baltimore Ravens in 2004 and 2005. Offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden was their teammates. One would think that with four potential members of the 100th anniversary team together, the Ravens would have won a Super Bowl. The fact that they did not takes nothing away from Reed's impact on the field as no one made more big plays from the safety position. He finally got his ring in 2012 when the Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. There is no doubt that Ronnie Lott, Ken Houston and Larry Wilson will welcome Reed with open arms.