SI Vault
 
Football's Greatest, From One to 10
Steve Rushin
October 22, 2012
MONTANA OR MANNING? SANDERS, PAYTON AND BROWN, BUT IN WHAT ORDER? A NEW SI BOOK TAKES ON THE GREAT GRIDIRON DEBATES, AND HERE FANS WEIGH IN WITH THEIR PICKS WHILE THE EXPERTS TACKLE A FEW MORE
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October 22, 2012

Football's Greatest, From One To 10

MONTANA OR MANNING? SANDERS, PAYTON AND BROWN, BUT IN WHAT ORDER? A NEW SI BOOK TAKES ON THE GREAT GRIDIRON DEBATES, AND HERE FANS WEIGH IN WITH THEIR PICKS WHILE THE EXPERTS TACKLE A FEW MORE

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The most enduring Top 10 ever written wasn't written at all, but chiseled onto stone tablets and conveyed down Mount Sinai by Moses, who introduced to the world not just a set of Biblical precepts but also a new format for starting arguments: the list of 10 things.

The Ten Commandments aren't a ranking. But they do raise many questions for the modern football fan, not the least of which is, "Who were the 10 best guys named Moses in NFL history?"

It's a trick question. There have been only 10 men named Moses in the history of the National Football League. In descending order from least-great Moses to most-great Moses—for these lists are always better when counted down from 10 to one, giving them the drama of a rocket launch—they are: (10) Quentin Moses, (9) J.J. Moses, (8) Moses Ford, (7) Don Moses, (6) Kelvin Moses, (5) Moses Gray, (4) Moses Denson, (3) Moses Moreno, (2) ...

But wait. This is the part of the beauty pageant at which the host always pauses. Will it be former wide receiver Haven Moses, who played 14 seasons for the Bills and the Broncos and made the Pro Bowl in 1973?

Or will it be the insuperably named Moses Regular Jr.? He played in only one season, for the 1996 Giants, but his name is so good that statistics matter not here. Moses Regular sounds like a robe size at the Mount Sinai Men's Wearhouse. Moses Regular Jr. is the best name, in or out of football, since Moses Regular Sr. It is entirely possible that Moses Regular is the finest NFL Moses without ever having been an NFL Regular. He appeared in only three games, on special teams.

This is the difficulty with best-ever. It's a shifting and subjective standard. The Best-Ever Miami Dolphins of 1972--73 yielded, immediately, to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won the Super Bowl in four of the next six seasons. Two years later the San Francisco 49ers of Montana and Walsh began wiping the Steelers' name off the Best-Ever chalkboard, and by the time those Niners clapped the erasers, and the cloud of dust had settled, out stepped the New England Patriots of Brady and Belichick, winners of three Super Bowls in four years in the first decade of the new millennium.

Among the best of the best, it is not enough to be the greatest for one season. These athletes want to be the greatest for all seasons. There is no popular acronym for the Greatest of One Decade (GOOD?). There is for the Greatest of All Time (GOAT).

In an effort to separate the GOODs from the GOATs, SI put together a panel of seven pigskin pundits, the end result of which is Football's Greatest, a large-format collection (out this week) that sits at the T-junction joining football, lists of 10 and our abiding desire to know who's No. 1.

What follows is a little taste (sample size: 10) of what appears in the book—five of our Top 10 lists turned over to the people, 87,000 of whom voted online. Those lists and the others here—five bonus lists that don't appear in the book, determined by our original panel—will no doubt provide material for a list of your own: Our Top 10 omissions and mistakes.

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