I picked one defensive tackle, the Eagles' Reggie White, on a close call over the Bears' Steve McMichael, and one noseguard, the Raiders' Bill Pickel. White was a one-man wrecking crew inside. Just ask opposing guards about him. Pickel gets the pick over many other sturdy performers (Cleveland's Bob Golic, Cincinnati's Tim Krumrie, San Francisco's Michael Carter, the Jets' Klecko and a rising star, Detroit's Eric Williams) because whenever the Raiders don't have the ball, Pickel is on the field—he moves to tackle in the Raiders' four-man rush.
Lawrence Taylor of the Giants is the best of the blitz-style outside linebackers. He's fully back to where he once was. Wilber Marshall of Chicago, a complete player—blitz and cover—gets the nod over the Giants' Carl Banks at the other outside spot. Banks and the Sea-hawks' Bruce Scholtz are the best at holding up the tight end. Seattle's Greg Gaines is terrific at pure coverage.
On the inside we picked one 4-3 linebacker, Chicago's Mike Singletary, a perennial who's in a class by himself, and one 3-4 man, Denver's Karl Mecklenburg, another repeater, whose style is constant hustle and constant involvement with everything happening near the line of scrimmage. Many pluses for Miami rookie John Offerdahl, who stood tall amid the defensive turmoil all about him, and for the Jets' Kyle Clifton.
Cleveland had the best pair of corner-backs, Hanford Dixon and Frank Minefield. Minnifield was the rougher of the two, a Mel Blount type. Dixon was the pure cover guy, and he's my pick. The other is Washington's Darrell Green, whose exceptional speed and recovery ability gives him the edge on Leroy Irvin of the Rams.
Leonard Smith is a strong safety repeater from '85. He played as if the Cardinals were on their way to the playoffs instead of back to the drawing board. Joey Browner of the Vikings is my runner-up. Free safety came down to a battle between the Chiefs' Deron Cherry and the Patriots' Fred Marion, with Cherry getting the nod based on his ball awareness and experience.
Morten Andersen, a finalist last year, is my kicker. The numbers tell the tale: He missed only four kicks for the Saints, and three of them were from outside the 50-yard line. He was the leading percentage kicker. The Jets' Pat Leahy, who came within one kick of the alltime consecutive field goal record of 23, is the runner-up.
My punter is the Giants' Sean Landeta, based on net average and hang time when it counted. The Colts' Rohn Stark had a fine year, but he kicked nine times in domed stadiums, without having to contend with the weather. The Skins' Steve Cox scored well on gross average, but I saw him put too many into the end zone from 40 yards out.
I've created a new position especially for San Diego's Gary Anderson, because I just couldn't leave him off the team. I call it the "Ain't," (ain't the running back, ain't the wideout). Anderson probably made more spectacular plays than anyone.
Player of the Year: Jerry Rice. Where would the 49ers have been without him? That was the criterion used for picking the Raiders' Marcus Allen last year, and it still holds. In the eight games Montana missed, Rice caught nine touchdown passes, five of them for 34 yards or more.
My Coach of the Year is Bill Parcells of the Giants. Jerry Burns, who lifted the Vikings from mediocrity to playoff contention, could have been a sentimental choice, but historically there have been too many sentimental choices winning such titles, with the result that people like Chuck Noll and Tom Landry never got their full due. Parcells, whose training camp was in turmoil, led the Giants to their first division championship in 23 years.