The greatest player to grace the gridiron is…

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By Andrew Tolentino | Football Editor

This is one of, if not the most loaded of all loaded questions in all of sports.

Who is the greatest football player of all time? Is it Joe Montana? Or maybe Jim Brown? Could it actually be Tom Brady? Thankfully, we have another question to settle the contemporary debate.

Who is the greatest legend in the making?

In preparation for our upcoming issue of Beckett Football, we’re asking collectors to weigh in with their picks for the No. 1 player of all time and the No. 1 active (non-retired) gridiron great. Comment here with your choices for the best all-time legend and the best legend in the making.

Be sure to leave your name and where you’re from (city, state), as we’ll be printing some of your picks in the coming issue and perhaps in a top-secret-oops-I-just-let-the-cat-out-of-the-bag special 50 greatest football players publication.


Richard Dunne

John Elway no doubt!

Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink
Richard Dunne

John Elway no doubt! Kittery, ME

Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

Not a huge football fan, but here’s my thoughts:

Best All-Time Legend: Dan Marino
Best Legend-in-the-making: Peyton Manning

I like Tom Brady, I do, but if you ask me, Peyton’s career stats (not awards or rings) are better for me than Tom’s. Tom’s team has the money, has the coach, etc. Peyton seems to work with less and get it done. Here’s to hoping he comes back in great shape.

Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink
Jeremy Robinson

Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice Who can argue against those!

Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink
Chuck Dupree

Jerry Rice

Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

Jerry Rice

He has all facets: the rings, the records, he was hands down the best at his position and he was a true game changer. Teams had to change their plans simple to deal with number 80.

Waynesboro Virginia

Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

Don Hutson

Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink
Bryon Pratt

Best Ever: Walter Payton
Best Current: Ray Lewis and Peyton Manning Tied
Best in the making: Ben Roethlisberger

Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

Red Grange

Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

RB- Barry Sanders
WR- Jerry Rice
QB- Peyton Manning

But if I had to choose…. It would be Peyton. Just like XStream said, we are talking about a QB that has to do everything by himself. Brady and Montana are both system QB’s under the greatest coaches of all-time. Jerry Rice never took a vacation until he retired from football. When the season was over he would immediately start his offseason training. As far as Barry Sanders, he was stuck on the worse team for his entire career and retired early because of it. If we were to put Emmitt Smith on the Lions and Barry Sanders on the Cowboys would we even bring up Emmitt’s name in the running back conversation?

Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

Retired: Lawrence Taylor – HOF’er, 9 time NFL All Pro and made the All Decade Team not to mention 3 Defensive Player of the year awards.

Active: Cam Newton – yes, he is a rookie, but to come out like he has and provide the artillery that he comes with.. AMAZING PLAYER!

– Bobby Taylor- Bolivia, NC

Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink
David Johnson

Joe Montana & Jerry Rice are tied at #1 all time
Tom Brady is tops for current players, thought Peyton Manning is a close 2nd.
David Johnson
Ocala, FL

Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

Jim Brown is the greatest football player of all time. He had a one of a kind combination of speed, grace and power. When it was third and short, everyone knew Jim was getting the ball and it didn’t matter. He could actually carry a pile of defenders on his back for five yards. I have always been a Colts fan. I can remember having nightmares just before the Colts played Jim Brown’s Browns.

Today, it has to be Peyton Manning. For all other teams, including Brady’s Pats, the biggest stars go down and their teams can still win. Looking at the Manningless Colts, tells you just how much he means to the team.

Charlie DiPietro, Owner
Sports Cards Plus
San Antonio, Texas

Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

Winning is everything and being the team leader earns the accolades!

otto graham for Retired Player with Johnny Unitas a Very very Close 2nd!

ben Rothlesberger for active player he is than brady and will surpass his Ring total!

Honorable mention to Peyton Manning who is proving his worth by setting on sidelines this year! In 40+ years of watching football i have never seen a QB do the things he does at the line and for statistics!

Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
Chris H

All time: Jerry Rice
Current: Tom Brady
Future(if looking for that): Aaron Rodgers

Northfield, NJ

Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink
Matt U

Barry Sanders has my vote. He played for a horrible team and yet somehow excelled every year of his career. If he wouldn’t have retired, he would probably still have the all time record for yards.

Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
Nick H

Walter Payton – All Time
Payton Manning – Current

Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink
steve miller

Best ever: Joe Montana & his 4 Super Bowl rings

Best in the Making: Aaron Rodgers!

Steve Miller
Goshen, IN

Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
Ned Puddleman, ATL, Ga

John Elway.

Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

Past: Joe Montana
Present: Tom Brady
Future: Matt Ryan

Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

Best QB…tons of debate, best RB….tons of debate! Best WR, JERRY RICE…no debate. He has to be the greatest! Matt, Omaha

Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
Luis Lopez

Best ever player – Emmitt Smith
All-time NFL leading rusher, NFL MVP, Superbowl MVP, 3 Superbowl rings in 4 years, 1st in rushing touchdowns, played injured and was all heart! Never quit on his team! Simply the Greatest!
Current – Peyton Manning
Will be the greatest QB when his career is over.

Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink
Terry Kwentus

Best retired would be Walter Payton. He could run through you or around you. The best active player would have to be Peyton Manning. No one player means more to his team than Peyton.

Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
Trey Hickman

All time: Jim Brown. He was a true behemoth among boys and, had he not gotten bitten by the acting bug and ditched ball-toting for Tinseltown, would have set rushing records that likely would never be broken.

In the making: Peyton Manning. He is like a world-class surgeon under center and, by way of his physical tools, intelligence and unbridled work ethic, has mastered the quarterback position like no other signal-caller in history.

Trey Hickman
West Blocton, Alabama

Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink
Mark W.

Man you can go all different ways with this. I personally think you would have to go decade and or position.
Personally, the best I ever saw play the game was none other than Barry Sanders. He was the Detroit Lions. He had nothing certainly no offensive line. And the guy I think is the future of the NFL Aaron Rodgers, god I hate him but he has got talent.
Now for the real question best defense ever !!!! Ha! Back in the day watching Jack Tatum as a kid on tv.. Good god look at the video. Players refused to go over the middle because he would take your head off. He played with a cast on his arm every week.
All this coming from a Dallas Cowboy’s fan….. Player to watch RB DeMarco Murray
-Mark from Clark,NJ

Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
Cory Clarkson

greatest player of all time is johnny unitas. when he retired, he owned the record book. put up unbelievable numbers in an era that was dominated by defense. throwing for over 40,000 yards in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s is like throwing for 80,000 yards in today’s offensive driven nfl. nobody had a bigger impact on the game than johnny u. 47 consecutive games with a td pass…are you kidding me? this record will never be broken. a model of consistency

greatest player in the making is aaron rodgers. this guy is just getting started. this is only his 4th year as a starting qb, although he’s playing like a 10 year vet. he already has 1 championship and is sure to win plenty more. he’s already thrown 107 touchdown passes to only 35 interceptions. as of today, he’s the only quarterback in nfl history to have a career passer rating over 100. he’s at 101.9 and steve young is second all time with a rating of 96.8

Delphos, OH

Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:00 am | Permalink
Mike Roseberry

A lot of worthy players have been mentioned, but I hadn’t seen Johnny Unitas mentioned until I got down to the very bottom…thanks, Cory Clarkson…plus, Johnny U. played in an era where the QBs called their own plays…I also like Walter Payton…you didn’t hit him to bring him down, he HIT YOU…receivers…Jerry Rice…defense…Ray Nitschie (sorry for the bad spelling), LT and Alan Page come to mind…as well as Rod Woodson…I don’t think you can ever come up with one player as the best of all time…

Posted November 4, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

Patrick willis , yes hes young but he is the best player to ever step on a football field next id say barry sanders or rice/young/montana/lott but we cant forget Gale sayers
with that said ill ghave to still pick patrick willis he truely is the best player ever to step on a field of any sort


Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

More than likely Joe Mantana

Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

I mean Joe Montana

Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

Best all time player is Joe Montana. Best in the making? It has to be Tom Brady. Best retired? Of course, Walter Payton.

Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

Walter Payton hands down.

Posted November 5, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

All time greatest is a tough one but my pick goes to Barry Sanders.
No. 1 active player is without a doubt Peyton Manning.

Posted November 5, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

Ever: Jim Brown or Gale Sayers
Current: Peyton Manning
In the Making: A.P.

Posted November 5, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

Barry Sanders is the best player of all time. No player did what he could with an average to below average team. The Detroit Lions were lucky to of made the playoffs so many times in the 90’s, and Barry Sanders was the main reason they got there.

Posted November 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
Shawn Arter

The player of all time has to be Walter Payton. He was the best on the field but also gave a lot back to the community. Barry Sanders is a close second.

I would have to say Peyton Manning is the best in the making. Easy to argue. The colts are winless without him on the field.

Shawn Arter
San Angelo, TX

Posted November 6, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

All great names but … the point of playing the game is not to throw the most TD’s, rush for the most yards, sack the most QB’s or even get the most MVP’s.. You play to win and no one won better than OTTO GRAHAM. in a 10 year career he led his team to the playoffs every single season winning 10 straight division titles and 7 championships. That stat alone put him on top of the pile. Who else went 10 years + and walked away with a career .851 winning %

“If a quarterback is judged by how many times he leads his team to a title game, how could Otto Graham not be considered the greatest player of all time.” – Paul Brown

Posted November 6, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink
Mark Fiscus

Saying who is the best truly depends on the judging criteria. Football is a tough game and it takes a tough man to survive. If the criteria is based on toughness, longevity, winning and stats then it would be:

Quarterback-Brett Favre
Running back-Walter Payton
Receiver-Jerry Rice

If the criteria is integrity, making those around you better, winning and stats then it would be:

Quarterback-Peyton Manning
Running back-Walter Payton
Receiver-Jerry Rice

If the criteria is simply winning then it would be:

Quarterback(tie)-Tom Brady, Joe Montana. Terry Bradshaw
Running back-Emmitt Smith
Receiver(tie)-Michael Irvin, Jerry Rice

We can’t judge on hypothetical circumstances. Jim Brown retired too soon, so most of the records evaded him. Barry Sanders was a quitter. Quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit. Elway was a baby for refusing to be drafted by the Colts.

Since Jerry Rice is always unanimous in these conversations, that would make him the greatest of all time.

Peyton Manning has all of the essentials to make him the best active player.

Mark Fiscus
Nashville, TN

Posted November 6, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

best player : Jim brown

Posted November 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
chris perez

i don’t think peyton manning or tom brady qualify for “greatest in the making” considering both of those guys are already established and will be first ballot hall of famers

as for a guy who’s been in the nfl for less than 5 years, clay mathews

the greatest of all time is johnny unitas

Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

Greatest ever – Jim Brown
In the making – Aaron Rodgers

Dave Masci
Houston, Tx

Posted November 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

Best football player ever? Ringold High Schools very own Joe Montana
Best current legend? Peyton Manning.

Kenny Cooks
Anchorage, AK

Posted November 11, 2011 at 3:21 am | Permalink

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