Readers: Best NFL offense
From the Page 2 mailbag

Earlier this week, Page 2 listed its choices for the 10 best NFL offenses of all-time. However, we knew there were other explosive units, and, as usual, we wanted your take.

We received nearly 700 letters on the topic, and here's how our readers ranked the top 10. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the best NFL offense ever to light up the board.

1. 1990 Bills (129 letters)
Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly's Bills were unstoppable ... until they reached the Super Bowl.
Wow! Of all the Page 2 Lists, this must be the most bizarre. An all-time offense list where none of the Top 5 even won a Super Bowl? Heck, three of your Top 5 offenses were so good they didn't even make the Super Bowl ... and your '83 Skins were so dominant that they put up single digits against the Raiders in the championship game. Just plain bad list-making.

Here's a thought -- giving credit to offenses that could score when it mattered, not just ones that could run up the stats against lackluster regular-season opponents. What about the revolutionary fast-break 1990 Bills, who at least almost won the Super Bowl and who continued to dominate for years to follow -- and they're not even in your "also receiving votes" category? Huh?

How about Joe Montana's 1989 'Niners -- ummm, not on your list? They scored 55 in the Super Bowl against the league's No. 1 scoring defense that season (14 ppg.). Page 2's list here is so illegitmate its ridiculous, it should be thrown out and started over. Have you guys actually been watching games or do you just research stats? Embarassing.
Rodney Reyes
San Anselmo, Calif.

I'm sorry I can't rattle of stats and famous quotes from coaches, but all I know is that the only way to stop the '91 Bills offense was to have the opposing offense (the Giants in Super Bowl XXV) on the field. The Bills ran the no-huddle to perfection. Go ask the L.A. Raiders and "Mr. Radio Shack," Howie Long, what cold weather and a nonstop fast-breaking offense can do. And if that answer doesn't fly, ask Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers what a 30-point lead looks like at the end of a playoff game ... a trip to your favorite golf course in Houston.

Yes, they never won the big one -- I was pretty upset as a student at Syracuse trying to defend my Bills -- but as time goes by I realize there's nothing like that offense.
Robert DeBereaux
Buffalo, N.Y.

What, do you have to win a title to be on this list? San Diego didn't and they're on the list. You left off probably the premiere offense of the of the late '80s/early '90s -- Buffalo's K-Gun. Yeah, they went to four Super Bowls and lost, but look at the numbers Kelly, Thurman, Andre, Lofton, Davis and company put up from 1989 to 1994. Why do you think Kelly was a first-ballot HOFer? Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed will also probably be inducted on the first ballot, as well. Give me a break. You missed the boat on that one bud.
Cedar City, Utah

2. 2000 Rams (98 letters)
Sure, the other offenses on the list were brilliant and perhaps, at times, arguably unstoppable, but no one had the mystique of the 2000 Rams -- everyone knew they couldn't stop them. Before Kurt Warner got hurt, he was going to smash every single-season record for QBs ever -- and easily, at that. After he got hurt, all of a sudden Trent Green puts up comparable stats. It was unfathomable -- teams gave up 30 and more points and were satisfied with their performances.

Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk and the Rams have been scoring in bunches since 1999.
In the playoffs that year, the Saints lead the Rams by (what I remember as) oh maybe, three touchdowns going into the fourth quarter, a seemingly insurmountable lead, and Dan Fouts and company kept saying, "You can't be sure with the Rams." Sure enough, the Rams stormed right back to within a touchdown in a matter of minutes and would have certainly won if Hakim hadn't fumbled a punt. Sure, two years later, people have them figured out, thanks to Bill Belichick, but the fact that it took that long is just a tribute to Mike Martz and the amazing talent of the Rams offense.
Neil Jay

The 2000 Rams could score on anybody. With Warner at the helm, they were unstoppable. It might not have seem like a dropoff to most people when Trent Green took over, but it was noticable if you watched closely. He just didn't have the same smoothness and accuracy that Warner had.

Enough about Green -- Warner ran the offense like no other, and Faulk was untouchable early on and in those last three games. The thing that makes these Rams better than the prior or subsequent years though, is the recklessness. With no defense there was an urgency to score all the time. The whole season can be summed up into that famous replay of Holt and Hakim running down the field talking to each other. Amazing.
St. Louis

Sure, the defense was horrible, but that doesn't matter here ... nobody could stop the Greatest Show on Turf. The '99 and '01 squads should make the list, too, but with only one vote, it's got to be the 2000 Rams. As a Rams fan, I miss those days already.
John Catsiroumpas

3. 1998 Vikings (79 letters)
Randy Moss
Randy Moss and the 1998 Vikings were the highest-scoring offense in NFL history.
The Rams of recent memory are considered the best ever, but the Vikings of '98 had everything the Rams have. The Vikings only had two main receivers (to the Rams' 400), but Moss and Carter did more then all the Rams receivers combined. And on the few occasions both Carter and Moss were covered, there was always 6-foot-6 Jake Reed. Robert Smith is the same running back as Faulk, only bigger. And Cunningham -- while every bit as smart in passing as Warner -- could run when he had to. This alone should be enough convincing, so I don't feel it's even necessary to mention that the '98 Vikings are the highest-scoring offense in NFL history ... even though I just did.
Matt Johnson
Missoula, Mont.

Good joke. The '98 Vikings not only had the most points scored, but, with a horrible defense, had the highest point differential. There is no way a team could go 15-1 with that defense unless their offense was just disgusting. I'm no Vikings fan, but I do realize greatness. My team is the Cowboys so I have seen some "decent" units -- still nothing like the one the Vikes had when they came in and tore up the league in '98.
Jordon Voss
Annapolis, Md.

What!! How can the 1998 Vikings be ranked behind St. Louis and Washington? This was the best offensive unit in football history. They tore through defenses like a guy through a box of Kleenex in allergy season. The best argument I can make is how they played Tampa Bay, arguably the best defense of the year. Minnesota drubbed them in the opener then lost in the second game still having put 24 on the board. Nuff said. With even a mediocre defense the Vikes would have gone undefeated wire to wire.
Joe Scallop

4. 1998 Broncos (76 letters)
John Elway
John Elway and the 1998 Broncos had a well-stocked arsenal.
How can you list the 1998 Vikings and not include the '98 Broncos? If you recall, the Vikings didn't even make it to the Super Bowl while the Broncos dominiated it. Sure, the Vikings put up more points, but that's because they were primarily a passing offense so they took less time off the clock on their drives. The Broncos fed the ball to Terrell Davis for 2,000-plus yards and still put up 30 points a game. Look at this lineup: best QB in history -- John Elway, best TE in history -- Shannon Sharpe, 2,000 yard rusher -- Terrell Davis, an amazing offensive line that dominated every game -- Rod Smith, Ed McCaffery, Howard Griffith ... this offense had it all! They put up points at will, get them on the list.
Wayne, Maine

Unlike the Vikings of this same year, they won the Super Bowl, repeating their feat from the previous year. This offense rarley sputtered. In most games, Denver had a 14- to 21-point lead before the opposition even scored. The combination of Davis' rushing and Elway's passing created a leathal attack that shredded defenses around the league. It was a "pick your poison" when you lined up against Denver's offense. Either try to stop Davis and let Elway kill you with Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and Eddie MacCaffery, or stop the air attack and let Davis leave cleat marks on your front seven. ... But, if you want the clincher -- the one thing that made this offense head and shoulders above Minnesota's is Jason Elam. When Denver needed a money kick, Elam was there. 63 yards? No sweat! Game on the line? More like game over! Greatest offense in the history of the NFL!
Chris Schmitz
Boulder. Colo.

5. 1989 49ers (61 letters)
I was shocked to see this team not on your list. Montana might be the greatest QB ever (although I'd have to go with Unitas), and he was having his best season. Rice, unquestionably the best receiver ever, was also at his best. John Taylor had more than 1,000 yards receiving. Roger Craig, one of the best all-around running backs ever, also in his prime. These Niners might not have been the best offense of all-time, but they're in the Top 5.
Sunil Joshi
College Station, Texas

Joe Montana
Joe Montana's Niners demolished Denver 55-10 in the 1990 Super Bowl.
I just don't see how the Niners are only listed once in this list of the best offenses of all-time. The 1989 and 1987 Niners, neither of them get mentioned? How can you not include any one of the arsenals under Joe Cool's direction? What a joke. A Montana-led offense is the best offense -- and none of his teams make the Top 10??? What about 1989 -- the top offense in the league that year -- a season when they repeated as Super Bowl champs and demolished the Broncos in the most lopsided Bowl victory EVER? Jerry Rice had 17 TD receptions and nearly 1,500 yds receiving ... As Johnny Mac would say "You can't be serious!!"

6. 1992 Cowboys (54 letters)
How could you possibly leave out the Triplets? They were the first true team that could throw and run. You ask why, well try this out ... A Hall of Fame QB (Troy Aikman), a Hall of Fame tight end (Jay Novacek), Potential Hall of Fame linemen (Nate Newton, Mark Stepnoski, Larry Allen, Kevin Gogan). That's arguably the greatest offensive line of all-time, they made 300 pounds the "in" thing in the NFL. Remeber how in the '80s the Fridge was so talked about because it wasn't cool to be that big? Those guys were told to lose weight or get cut. This O-line changed that for the entire league.

Plus, they had potential Hall of Fame wide receiver Micheal Irvin and of course, statistically, the greatest running back of all-time, Emmitt Smith. I know you impartial guys at ESPN probably don't think that they are the greatest of all-time, and I'm not trying to convince you that they are -- BUT -- I believe that they at least deserve spot on your list. I believe scoring 52 points, winning the Super Bowl and winning two more in the next three years deserves a mention ... don't you? Also, let me ask you this. Out of all those other offenses, how many of those teams won more than one Super Bowl? How many even won one? How many even went to one? Things that make you go hmmmmmm!
Brad Hudson
Wisconsinrapids, Wis.

Pick a year from 1992 to 1995. They may not be the best in terms of number of points, but they always put the game away early. In the second half, they ran down the clock with long drives. They made the defense look great by holding the ball for 35 minutes a game leaving them well rested for the next three and out of the opponent.

7. 1983 Redskins (33 letters)
That offense was so powerful, yet so predictable ... Grimm & Jacoby would break huddle, walk up to the line of scrimmage and say to the defenders, "Riggo is coming this way and there is nothing you can do about it." They were right. No doubt.
Pete Monaghan
Columbia, Md.

Of all the offenses listed, they're the most balanced. I remember them very well. John Riggins ramming through the line. He'd move the chains in every third-and-1 situation. Joe Washington was an earlier version of Marshall Faulk -- he even played WR at times. Too bad his career was shortened by injuries.

For their air attack, Joe Theismann threw only seven interceptions all year against 27 TDs (until the final game ... he threw four, but they beat the Giants 31-22 anyway). Speedy Charlie Brown was their deep threat with Art Monk being the savvy possession guy. So close to going 16-0. Their two losses were both by one point. Mark Moseley missed field goals in those games that would have been the difference. If not for that fiasco at the Super Bowl, they'd been considered one of the finest NFL teams ever.
Ben Moore
New York

8. 1984 Dolphins (29 letters)
The Miami Dolphins in 1984 were the best offense in history and the reason goes beyond Marino's 5,084 yards and 48 touchdown passes ... It goes beyond their outrageous points-per-game statistics, too. The reason is simple -- Every other team in your Top 10 had great running backs and put up great running numbers. The Dolphins had no patience (or personnel) for that. You KNEW they had to pass, and you couldn't stop them. The 2000 Rams were incredibly pass happy, but Faulk kept your defense honest and off balance. With the Dolphins it was a pass every play, and it worked. They even lit up one of the greatest defenses in NFL history, something those other offenses can't say.
Jon Fazzone
Shanghai, China

No way should the '00 Rams or '98 Vikings be listed above the '84 Dolphins. That is short-sighted and foolish on your part. The '84 Dolphins played in a more competitive league and in a better division. The Rams and Falcons had plenty of creampuffs on their schedules, and both played in domes where it is easier to put up marquee offensive numbers. The Dolphins meanwhile put up comparable numbers in muggy Miami. Get your heads checked please.
Paul Swydan

9. 1981 Chargers (18 letters)
Has to be the "Air Coryell" days of San Diego. This team won games simply by having the ball last. You never had to worry about the fact that they invented the "bend but don't break defense." Anytime Dan "The Bearded Bomber" Fouts dropped back and looked deep you knew a TD was coming. Jefferson, Winslow and Joiner could all go deep, and Chuck Muncie racked up the rushing yards because teams played five and six DBs on first and second down. Look at the classic Chargers-Dolphins playoff game. I was 11 years old, but I knew that our defense couldn't hold water, let alone the Dolphins. San Diego jumpped to a 21-0 lead and even when Miami stormed back to even the game, I knew our offense would keep us in the game. Awesome firepower.
Mark Z.

Most people are probably going to pick the Rams, but the Rams are a fake. In 2001, they played 12 games on turf in the weakest division in football. The Chargers played in the AFC West, traditionally the toughest division in football. Plus, the Chargers are tougher than the Rams. Just think of Kellen Winslow. With the Rams, all you have to do is hit them in the mouth and they get scared. I don't know why it took teams so long to figure that out. If the Chargers had the "schedule" that the Rams had in 2000, they would have gone undefeated ... mark my word.
Matt Spychala

10. 1995 Lions (16 letters)
A team often often overlooked because, well -- it was the Lions -- is Detroit '95. Scott Mitchell threw 32 TDs against 12 INTs (hard to believe), Barry Sanders had 1,500 yards and 12 total TDs, Herman Moore caught an NFL record 123 passes with 14 TDs, AND he and Brett Periman were the first combo in NFL history to hook up for more than 100 catches each. Over 4,500 total yards, 49 TDs and 436 points ... oh yeah ... and then the usual playoff collapse (although it's hard to blame the O here when the D allowed 58 points to Philly). Still, it was an incredible offense.
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Also receiving votes

  • 1979 Steelers
  • 1994 49ers
  • 1962 Packers
  • 1991 Oilers
  • 1988 Bengals


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