Greatest NFL teams of all time
Page 2 staff

Football season is nearly upon us, so Page 2 thought it would be a good time to stir up the debate about which team is the greatest of all time.

William Perry
William "The Refrigerator" Perry shuffles into the end zone in Super Bowl XX.
We've compiled our list below, but we want to hear what you think. Check out our list, then see how our readers ranked their choices for the greatest NFL team of all time. And be sure to vote in the poll to crown the greatest NFL team in history.

1. 1985 Bears
It was, undeniably, cocky for the Bears to record the "Super Bowl Shuffle" video before the playoffs even started, but, to paraphrase an old saying, it ain't cocky if you can back it up.

The 1985 Bears were QBed by the punky, and effective, Jim McMahon. The running attack? Sweetness and, at times, the Fridge. Defense? Impenetrable. The Bears finished the regular season with a 15-1 record, scoring 456 points while allowing only 198.

And they blew through the playoffs, shutting out the Giants 21-0 and then the Rams 24-0 for the NFC title. After the Bears demolished the Pats 46-10 in the Super Bowl, Patriots guard Ron Wooten said, "Before the end, it kind of felt like we were the team that the Globetrotters play all the time."

2. 1972 Dolphins
The Dolphins want recognition as the greatest team of all time simply because they went through the regular season and the playoffs undefeated, ending up with a 17-0 record. We don't deny this is a great accomplishment -- a singular one, in fact. But this is, ultimately, a thin argument.

Consider, for example, that the Dolphins played one of the easiest schedules in modern NFL history -- the opposition had a combined winning percentage under .400. Unlike the 1985 Bears, the Dolphins didn't stroll through the playoffs. They beat the Steelers in the AFC title game by only four points, 21-17, and were underdogs going into the Super Bowl against the Redskins, who they defeated 14-7. Undefeated underdogs? That means you're not beaten, but you are beatable. We salute the greatness of head coach Don Shula, QB Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, Jim Kiick, Garo Yepremian, et al. But the Bears would have beaten them in a head-to-head matchup.

Paul Hornung
Paul Hornung helped power Green Bay's potent offense.
3. 1962 Packers
What a team: Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Max McGee and Boyd Dowler, a great offensive line, the power sweep, and a defense that held opponents to less than 11 points per game.

The preseason foreshadowed what would come -- the Pack got through the six-game exhibition schedule without a loss. Then they got going for real, winning their first four regular season games by the lopsided combined total of 109-14. The Packers added six more wins before losing their 11th game to the Lions. That's 16 straight. In their Nov. 11 contest against Philly, they racked up 628 yards on offense, while holding the Eagles to only 54. That's humiliation.

In the NFL championship game against the Giants, linebacker Ray Nitschke almost single-handedly shut down Y.A. Tittle's offense, and Green Bay triumphed 16-7.

Mark Rypien
Mark Rypien threw for 292 yards and 2 TDs to earn MVP honors in Super Bowl XXVI.
4. 1991 Redskins
As ESPN contributor Eddie Epstein has noted, you can look at two stats to get a pretty good idea of just how great a team is: yards gained per pass attempt, and yards allowed per pass attempt. The 1991 'Skins topped the NFL in each category, with Mark Rypien averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, while his colleagues on Washington's defense allowed only 6 yards per attempt.

Rypien's targets? Art Monk, who caught 71 passes for 1,049 yards, and Gary Clark, who averaged almost 20 yards per catch, gaining 1,340 yards on 70 receptions. Washington was also good on the ground, with Earnest Byner and Ricky Ervins combining for 1,708 yards.

The 'Skins outscored their opponents 485-224, and they had a tough schedule. After going 14-2, they romped through the NFC playoffs, beating the Falcons 24-7 and demolishing the Lions 41-10 on their way to the Super Bowl. In the Big Game, the 'Skins beat the cursed early-1990s Bills 37-24.

5. 1999 Rams
Was there anything more exciting during the 1999 season than watching the Rams' grocery-clerk led offense? The Rams scored 526 points during their 13-3 regular season, an average of almost 33 points per game. Kurt Warner threw 41 TD passes on his way to a 109.2 QB rating, and Marshall Faulk ran for 1,381 yards (an average of 5.5 yards per carry) and caught 87 passes for another thousand yards?

Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner led a Rams offesne that averaged nearly 33 points a game in 1999.
The defense wasn't too shabby, either, allowing only 15 points per game, fourth in the NFL. In the playoffs, the Rams proved they could win high-scoring ballgames (they beat the Vikings 49-37 in the divisional playoff), low-scoring ballgames (they beat the Bucs 11-6 for the NFC title), and a rare the-hell-with-the-dip Super Bowl over the Titans 23-16.

6. 1989 49ers
Joe Montana completed more than 70 percent of his passes and threw for an average of 9½ yards for every attempted pass. That's partially because he had two great targets: wide receiver Jerry Rice, who snagged 82 passes for 1,483 yards, and wide receiver John Taylor, who caught 60 passes for 1,077 yards.

The Niners were also effective on the ground (Roger Craig rushed for 1,000-plus yards), and their pass defense was one of the best in the league. Just how good was this team? Before they faced the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV, Terry Bradshaw made his famous prediction: "There is no way the 49ers can lose. It could be 55-3 by halftime." He wasn't far off the mark. The 49ers led by 27-3 at the half, and went on to win 55-10.

7. 1979 Steelers
It's hard to decide which was the best of the four Steelers teams that won Super Bowls in the 1970s, but we'll take the '79 edition, when Pittsburgh's offense was most potent and the defense was still going strong.

The Steelers were the NFL's best offensive team in 1979: Terry Bradshaw threw for 3,724 yards and 26 TDs, Franco Harris averaged 4.4 yards per carry on his way to 1,186 yards on the ground, and Rocky Bleier and Sidney Thornton combined for 1,019 yards. And Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were formidable threats at WR. The Steelers went 12-4 during the regular season and beat the Rams 31-19 in the Super Bowl.

8. 1994 49ers
In 1994, Steve Young answered the critics who said he couldn't quite fill the shoes of Joe Montana. That season, Young led what may have been the greatest offense in NFL history, completing 70.3 percent of his passes for 3,969 yards and 35 TDs.

His main target, was, of course, Jerry Rice, who caught 112 passes for a league-leading 1,499 yards and 13 TDs, Ricky Watters caught 66 passes coming out of the backfield and TE Brent Jones caught 49 passes and scored nine TDs. The 49ers finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. In three playoff games, the 49ers scored 131 points -- an average of 43.7 a game, and romped to a 49-26 Super Bowl win over the Chargers. Oh, and the defense wasn't too shabby either -- it was ranked sixth in the NFL in 1994.

9. 1996 Packers
Green Bay had it all in 1996 -- the best offense and the best defense in the NFL. Brett Favre, who was named NFL MVP in 1996, completed almost 60 percent of his passes for 3,899 yards and 39 TDs. And he was ably backed up by Jim McMahon, who completed 75 percent of his four passes.

After their 13-3 regular season, the Pack didn't have too much trouble on the way to their Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in New Orleans -- Green Bay scored 100 points in three playoff games and their average margin of victory was 17-plus points.

10. 1971 Cowboys
The 1971 Cowboys boasted a fast, multifaceted offense that scored 40-plus points five times during the 14-game regular season.

With Roger Staubach (who racked up a 104.8 QB rating) sharing duties with Craig Morton for part of the season, the 'Boys could come at defenses from all angles. Duane Thomas gained almost 800 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Walt Garrison caught 40 passes coming out of the backfield. Calvin Hill played only eight games, but gained 468 yards on the ground. And wide receiver Bob Hayes averaged an incredible 26.9 yards per reception.

In the playoffs, the defense took over, holding the 49ers to a single field goal in the NFC championship game and the Dolphins to one field goal in the Super Bowl.

Also receiving votes:

  • 1955 Browns
  • 1974 Steelers
  • 1973 Dolphins


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