Tackles—Jon Kolb of Pittsburgh and Marvin Powell of the Jets. Stan Walters of the Eagles and Bob Kuechenberg followed close behind. It's incredible that Kolb has never made a Pro Bowl because for a decade he has stuffed the best defensive ends. Powell was a tough choice. I mean, how can you pick a guy who says his idol is William F. Buckley?
Guards—Bob Young of the Cardinals and Herbert Scott of the Cowboys. Bob Pratt of the Colts was a close third. For years Young was a pillar on an offensive line on which Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler got all the ink. Last year, his 13th, they finally gave Young a Pro Bowl spot. Scott is the only Cowboy offensive lineman who goes after people. Basically, Dallas has a finesse unit—misdirection, influence-blocking, etc. Scott's had only one holding penalty in two seasons.
Center—Mike Webster of the Steelers is the clear stickout. He can handle the tough nose guards.
Tight End—Keith Krepfle of the Eagles, and to the countless people who told us he can't go deep, we offer his 18.5 yards-per-catch average, best of any tight end. Russ Francis played hurt a lot. Dave Casper got off slowly. Insiders love Jimmie Giles of the Bucs, the Saints' Henry Childs and Ozzie Newsome of the Browns. Krepfle is one of the toughest third-down receivers in football.
Quarterback—Brian Sipe of the Browns, and now the fun starts. Granted, Fouts had a terrific year, and Terry Bradshaw is one hellacious competitor who has played with more injuries than Evel Knievel. On the NFL rating chart, Sipe doesn't rank in the top 10, but the chart doesn't record the wind whipping off Lake Erie; it doesn't tell you how many games a guy has saved with his arm, or what he's got to work with. Sipe went in undermanned; he didn't have the great receivers Fouts did; and he faced more teams in the NFL's top half defensively (seven) than Fouts did (four).
Running Backs—Earl Campbell of the Oilers was automatic. In an agonizing decision, we gave the second spot to the Cards' sensational rookie, Ottis Anderson, over Walter Payton. Payton played hurt most of the time, and the Bears had no passing attack to take the heat off. Pay-ton had an amazing year, but the people who had to prepare for both of them said Anderson presented more problems.
Ends—Lee Roy Selmon of the Bucs is the best. Plays the run, plays the pass. Art Still of the Chiefs also gives it the two-way shot, and he pursues across the field. Jack Youngblood and the Lions' Bubba Baker are pass-rush specialists, and if I had to pick one man to rush the passer on a crucial third-and-eight I'd take Harvey Martin. But you've still got to play the run, too.
Tackles—In the three games Randy White was hurt, the Cowboys gave up 31, 34 and 30 points. You start every game plan by assigning two men to handle White. The Chargers' gigantic Wilbur Young moved inside for the injured Louie Kelcher and found a home. He became a freewheeling, offense-shattering tackle in the best Leo Nomellini tradition.
Outside Linebackers—Jack Ham of the Steelers and Greg Buttle of the Jets. You tend to lose track of Ham in games because few people bother to test him anymore. Buttle, playing with very little help, has become a dominating force. An over-achiever.