NFC North: Franchise players
|Jeff Hanisch/US PRESSWIRE|
|He may be a Jet right now, but Brett Favre was voted the greatest player in Green Bay history.|
Readers' pick: Brett Favre, QB
Ha! The words "Brett" and "Favre" return to the NFC North blog! Victory!
Without a doubt, Favre is the most popular player in Packers history. His personality, gunslinger mentality, durability and his Super Bowl championship endeared him to generations of Packers fans.
But Packers history is well fortified with champions. Quarterback Bart Starr, who finished a distant second behind Favre in the voting, won five NFL titles and two Super Bowl championships. Running back Paul Hornung, who finished sixth in the voting, led the NFL in scoring for three years.
The biggest inconsistency in the Packers voting is defensive end Reggie White finishing third behind Favre and Starr -- and in front of linebacker Ray Nitschke, wide receiver Don Hutson, Hornung and others. White had a Hall of Fame career, but he spent only six years with the Packers. As good as White was, it seems difficult from this vantage point to put him ahead of some players who contributed to the golden years of Packers history.
|Steve Woltmann/NFL Photos/Getty Images|
|One of the greatest in history, Barry Sanders was voted the greatest Detroit Lion of all time.|
Readers' pick: Barry Sanders, RB
Can't argue with overwhelmingly selecting the player who might have had the single-best running skills of any back in NFL history. Barry Sanders finished with nearly 95 percent of the vote.
Sanders had moves that left even the best tacklers grabbing air. He could change directions quicker than anyone, and sometimes you wondered how his ankle withstood all of the stops and starts.
Sanders amassed at least 1,000 yards in all 10 of his NFL seasons. His 1997 performance was one of the all-time best: At least 100 yards in 14 consecutive games and a total of 2,053 yards on the season.
Of course, it says something about the history of Lions football that the player with the next-highest votes, quarterback Bobby Layne, ended his Detroit career 40 years ago. Layne, in fact, remains the Lions' all-time leading passer (15.710 yard) and also owns the franchise record for most career touchdown passes (118).
That no one has surpassed Layne's records during the past four decades tells you all you need to know about Lions history.
|JRonald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images|
|Walter Payton is a sentimental -- and worthy -- choice for greatest Chicago Bear.|
Readers' pick: Walter Payton, RB
It's hard to argue with Sweetness as the Bears' best player -- for sentimental and other reasons. Payton, who died in 1999 -- 12 years after his retirement -- won with more than 80 percent of the vote.
When he retired, Payton was the NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards and combined net yards. He once owned the league's record for most yards in a single game (275) as well. Everyone remembers Payton's smooth running style, but he was as durable as they come as well; he missed one game during his rookie season and then played 186 consecutive games.
I found it interesting, but appropriate, that Dick Butkus (7.9 percent) beat out Mike Singletary (2.4). In this type of exercise, often a disproportionate number of votes can go to the most recent player. Singletary was one of the best players of his era and came 20 years after Butkus, but Butkus has to rank as one of the NFL's all-time best linebackers.
It's good to see that Butkus' legendary toughness and transcendent personality has carried his popularity to another generation of fans.
|Darryl Norenberg/Getty Images|
|Fran Tarkenton led the Vikings to three Super Bowls.|
Readers' pick: Fran Tarkenton, QB
Tarkenton beat out Cris Carter as the Vikings' franchise player by less than one percent in what is a really interesting debate.
Ultimately, it becomes a question of team versus individual success. Tarkenton was the starting quarterback on three Super Bowl teams (1973, 1974 and 1976) while Carter never made the big game.
But you could make a strong argument that Carter is one of the top five receivers in NFL history, at least based on production. He ranks second all-time in touchdown receptions (130) and overall receptions (1,101).
Would you call Fran Tarkenton one of the top five quarterbacks in NFL history? That's a little harder. At retirement, Tarkenton was the league's all-time leader in most categories. Some of those statistics came while playing for the New York Giants. Regardless, all of his records have since been eclipsed.
Someone will probably eclipse Carter's records as well. But as of now, they stand pretty high.