|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.
1. 1985 Bears
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
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.
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.
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
6. 1989 49ers
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
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
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
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
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: