Power Rankings

Every team has a GOAT. You know, the “greatest of all-time.” The best player to ever don the uniform. The first pick on every fan’s Mount Rushmore.

Whether a franchise has been around since the early years of the National Football League or was the most-recent addition via expansion, someone is atop their all-time roster. If they’ve played a game, one player has emerged as the best ever.

But that does mean that all GOATs are created equally. Far from it. Some are perennial Pro Bowl selections. Some are Hall of Fame inductees. And others are in the rarest of stratospheres, going down as one of the league’s iconic figures.

With that notion in mind, the editors at cover32 rated every team’s greatest all-time player, from No. 1 to 32, to determine which franchise has the best of the best. There’s two parts to the equation: First, selecting each team’s GOAT. Second, ranking those players.

Here’s how it shaped up:


1. Jerry Rice (San Francisco 49ers) – Rice is not only the greatest 49er of all-time, which is saying something considering the fact that Joe Montana is in that conversation, but he’s the greatest player to ever wear an NFL uniform.

2. Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns) – An argument can certainly be made that Brown was the best player in league history, given that he won eight rushing titles in nine seasons, was a nine-time Pro Bowler and earned eight first-team All-Pro honors.

3. Walter Payton (Chicago Bears) – Despite playing on some bad teams, when he was the only offensive weapon, “Sweetness” was able to amass enough yards to be the league’s all-time leading rusher at the time of his retirement.

4. Emmitt Smith (Dallas Cowboys) – Smith broke Payton’s record, to be the current holder of the all-time rushing mark. Plus, he was the driving force behind the Cowboys dynasty of the early 1990s, helping Dallas win three Super Bowls.

5. Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers) – If there’s a passing record in the NFL’s annals, it probably has Favre’s name next to it. Plus, he was a walking highlight reel, doing something on the field every week that made fans ooh and aah.

6. Lawrence Taylor (New York Giants) – LT revolutionized the outside linebacker position, turning it into a spot on the field that was reserved for elite pass rushers. Few defensive players have dominated games like Taylor did in the 1980s.

7. Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions) – Had he not walked away from the game after just 10 seasons, he’d likely hold every league rushing record. As it is, fans are simply left with memories of some of the most-electrifying runs in NFL history.

8. Jack Lambert (Pittsburgh Steelers) – The Steelers won four Super Bowls in the 1970s on the back of their famed “Steel Curtain” defense. Lambert was the heart and soul of that unit, as the linebacker personified Pittsburgh’s toughness.

9. John Elway (Denver Broncos) – Elway retired as the winningest quarterback in NFL history, a stat that embodies his career. It wasn’t always pretty, but No. 7 got the job done, including leading Denver to five Super Bowls and two titles.

10. Johnny Unitas (Indianapolis Colts) – Johnny U. ushered in the modern passing game, plus he was the quarterback during the 1958 NFL Championship Game, which has been dubbed “the greatest game ever played.”

11. Deacon Jones (St. Louis Rams) – Before Jones came along, there wasn’t a way to measure how much havoc a defensive lineman could wreak on an offense. But because he was always harassing quarterbacks, the sack became a term and stat.

12. Tom Brady (New England Patriots) – Brady has led the Patriots to five Super Bowls and three championships, helping New England become the signature franchise of the 21st century. And he’s not done yet.

13. Steve Largent (Seattle Seahawks) – When he retired, Largent held the NFL’s all-time records for receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Plus, he had caught a pass in a then-record 177 consecutive games.

14. Anthony Munoz (Cincinnati Bengals) – Munoz is perhaps the greatest left tackle to ever play the game, a designation worthy of praise. But it says a lot about the Bengals that the best player in franchise history was an offensive lineman.

15. Howie Long (Oakland Raiders) – There are perhaps players that better personify the Raiders mystique (Jack Tatum, Ted Hendricks), but none of them were a better player than Long, one of the greatest defensive linemen in NFL history.

16. Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins) – People like to knock Marino because he didn’t win a Super Bowl, which clearly is a giant omission on his résumé, but few quarterbacks in the history of the league could chuck it like No. 13.


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    • Buck Stanton

      He’s the greatest player in the history of the Colts franchise, which is why he made this list. It’s two parts: 1) Pick the best player from each team 2) Rank those players from best to worst.

    • Look the colts did not leave the records and uniforms in baltimore so it is a combined records Johnny U invented the modern passing game 3 championships won although I think Peyton will go down as the best QB of all time

    • Buck Stanton

      He wasn’t considered the greatest Colt of all-time, losing out to Johnny Unitas. Thus, he didn’t make the list at all. It’s one player from each team.

    • Buck Stanton

      Is Reggie White the greatest Packer of all-time? Not even close. He was, however, in the conversation for the Eagles. But he bailed and went to Green Bay, while McNabb led them to five NFC title games and a Super Bowl. Easy pick. McNabb was a better all-time Eagle.

  1. vincent, jean McElroy

    This list sucks, If you believe that Joe Greene or Reggie White are not top 10 you need to quit smoking crack!

    • Buck Stanton

      Again, you’re failing to understand the list. It’s ranking the greatest players from each team, with each team only getting one rep. Thus, Joe Greene lost out to Jack Lambert and didn’t make the list at all, while Reggie White was beaten out by Donovan McNabb (Eagles) and Brett Favre (Packers). See the rationale above.

  2. Scott Bea

    Give me Primetime for the Falcons…people forget that’s where he became great. Otherwise a good list (ehemm Vincent….you obviously didn’t get it)

  3. Niners Fan

    Jim Brown is so overrated–there were only 12 teams in the league when he played and the competition and the depth of talent in the league was nothing like it is today. He would be a benchwarmer in today’s NFL

    • Niners fan you are way off base! Jim Brown overated? Come on man, the man was way ahead of his time and set the NFL rushing career record with over 12000 + yards in a 9 year career before he retired! He set the barrier for all NFL running backs. A benchwarmer too! That man played in an era where late hits “were not” personnal fouls! The talent level in that era was not diluted like today!

    • Uh, guess you never seen Jim Brown play football Niners Fan because only someone who never seen him play would make such a foolish statement.

  4. Jim Brown is a Raven. The franchised kind of moved from Cleveland to Baltimore. The “new” Browns are only about 20 years old.

    • Ralph Gizzip

      No, when Modell (hwaaak, ptooey!) moved his franchise to Baltimore he took none of the history. That was all part and parcel of the lawsuit settlement between the NFL and the City of Cleveland. The league agreed that the city would get the next franchise and all the records, history, and colors would remain. Essentially the Browns were on a 3 year hiatus until new ownership and a new stadium were in place.

      Having said that, most of the seasons Jim Brown played in were 12 game seasons. Emmett Smith and Walter Peyton and even Barry Sanders played 16 game seasons. I would also take exception to Dan Marino as the greatest Dolphin. I would have chosen Bob Griese. At least he didn’t choke in the playoffs.

      • If they are going to demean the memory of Johnny U by calling him an “Indianapolis Colt” and the call Earl Campbell a “tenessee Titan” because those teams moved to that location, then you best dang site call jim Brown a “Baltimore Raven”.

  5. if losing 4 of 5 NFC championships and puking in a Superbowl makes you the greatest Eagle ever, I feel pretty bad for everyone else who ever played for Philly.

    • Most of the Better Birds to play the game were before the merger – Steve VanBuren, Tommy McDonald and the Best Bird by far Chuck Bednarik of course and That’s How the Philly Fans see it.

  6. Drew Brees should be the Saints choice for GOAT. He’s played there long enough , won a championship, and is much better than Eli’s dad.

    • I was thinking the same thing. no way emmitt is ahead of Barry Sanders. Barry did everything on a bad or mediocre team at best. emmitt had the best OL ever. Honestly put anyone on that team at that time an they put up emmitt numbers. could you imagine barry on that team?

      • Spencer Engel

        Completely agree with you guys. Sanders is way too low on this list. He would’ve run for 2,000 yards in 3 or 4 seasons if he’d been on the Cowboys instead of Smith.

  7. From a die hard Steeler Fan who loves Lambert….. I think they looked over the man that started it all in Pittsburgh – Joe Green!

  8. Your rankings are fun but way off base on Green Bay. Don’t think Favre is even number 1 QB in Green Bay — there’s a guy named Starr who won like four (or more) NFL titles and even won a pair of Super Bowls. He had a fairly decent career I think. And secondly even if Favre is No. 1 at Green Bay — no way is he ranked ahead of Lawrence Taylor on the overall list. Favre was great but may be the most overrated great player in NFL history.

  9. Bart Starr put Brent to shame. He is not only the greatest
    Packer, but one of the greatest quarterbacks ever! Not bad for a 13th round draft choice!

  10. So Marino over Griese for the Dolphins??!
    …I’m thinking this list was thrown together just to piss me off.

  11. I agree with Marcus Allen, But Dan Dierdorf for the Cardinals the guy was a cheap shot artist along with Conrad Dobler how about Fritzgerald or Warner

  12. Steeler Historian

    Jack Lambert wasn’t even our best linebacker Jack Ham was. Mean Joe Green is the Steelers greatest player to date.

  13. If Marino gets a minus for no SB victories then Archie Manning should not be ahead of Drew Brees.


    r u crazy brett farve is not even the 5 th best PACKER ;give me a brake 5th all time ;he couldn’t carry anyones jockstrap on this list

  15. Jerry Rice over Joe Montana for SF??? I don’t think so…. If a person says name the most famous Charger, Hands down, THEY WILL PICK Dan Fouts…. Campbell NEVER played for the Titans, I know it’s the organization thing, but if you’re going to play that game Jim Brown should be a Baltimore Raven – GET MY POINT… P. Manning IS THE COLTS… when he was hurt, the team wasn’t nothing until they brought Luck in, Manning played there longer, and for many more decades to come when you think of Manning you’ll think of him as a Colt – UNTIL AFTER THIS YEAR….This is the year of the Horse, can’t wait to see Den VS Sea in Seattle…. probably be opening game, and it sure would be nice to see Denver do to Seattle what they did to the Ravens on the second go round.

  16. With all due respect to Jerry Rice, who well may be the greatest NFL player of all time, Joe Montana is the greatest 49er of all time. Joe won numerous playoffs and Super Bowls prior to Rice. Rice however, won only one Super Bowl after Montana. Now you can try to spin this anyway you want but facts are facts. I rest my case.

  17. Jim Brown was the greatest player who ever put on a uniform in the NFL. While Rice was a great player, he was a wide receiver who rarely got hit hard. Brown averaged more than 5 yards per carry for his entire career. There is nobody else even close to that mark.

  18. Derrick Thomas over Tony Gonzalez??? Really?? Derrick was a great player but Tony G. has to be the best Chief EVER!!!!!

  19. ask Deacon, ask Howie and especially ask Dierdorf who was the greatest D-lineman of their era and they will tell you about Alan Page. Still only eclipsed by Mean-Joe and Reggie….

  20. This is a crazy list. I love the passion created by these articles. I also think Joe Montana is not only the best Niner he is also the greatest to play the game, so cool under pressure. I saw Barry Sanders on TV recently and I think if he played behind Emmets O-line he could still rush for 2000 yds.

  21. Archie Manning was a great player and a true sportsman. But, come on now, Drew Brees is easily the greatest player in Saints history. 5000 yards year after year, tons of TDs, freakish accuracy, leadership skills, focus, dedication, and a little thing called a super bowl win.

  22. Some of these are right but you missed quite a few by a mile. Tony Bocelli for the Jags? What about Fred Taylor or Jimmy Smith? Archie Manning for the Saints? He was great but what about Drew Brees? Lee Roy Selmon for the Bucs? What about Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp or John Lynch? Deacon Jones is hard to argue with, but HOFer Marshall Faulk would be too, or Kurt Warner. Bengals Boomer Esiason. Howie Long is a good choice, but so is Marcus Allen or Ken Stabler. Last, but not least, Joe Namath is a HOF QB for some reason, but Curtis Martin is most definitely a HOF runningback and Jet. I’m a Panthers fan BTW.

  23. There are many more that others have stated that I thought were just as obvious(Manning-colts, Fitzgerald-cards, And a score of players that should be listed ahead of Emmitt Smith), but the point is you really didn’t take much time on this or do much research. Sorry, but it does not look that way at least.

  24. Earl Campbell was a Houston Oiler, so I would think you need to pick a player that only applies to the Titans team as it began in 1997.

  25. Inherently, this list is going to create massive debates amongst both rational and irrational football fans. I’ll try my best to stay on the rational side and say that the list really isn’t that bad, even though the list seems to entail mostly players from the recent modern era, but there are some glaring omissions that require correcting. Here are a few of my beefs:
    6. Archie Manning for the Saints??? C’mon, man! Outstanding collegiate QB and a formidable one in the NFL, but far and away not the best player in the history of “Who Dat” nation! One can easily argue that the still-active Drew Brees is the finest player in Saints history, but since the list seems to draw on retired players, then I’d go with HOF linebacker Rickey Jackson as the greatest player in Saints history…and yes, he’d remain at #30.
    5. Donovan McNabb for the Eagles??? Again, c’mon, man! I guess Reggie White doesn’t count because his Super Bowl came with the Packers, huh? I can think of a half dozen Eagles that were better than McNabb, but you’ve gotta put Reggie White here, and then move him up the rankings a bit.
    4. There’s something about Howie Long being defined as the best Raider that really doesn’t settle well with me. This implies that Long is better than Tatum, Hendricks, Biletnikoff, Stabler, Shell, and so many other players from the “glory years”, and then Marcus Allen from the present. Yes, Long is a Super Bowl champion and a Hall of Famer, but I think you’ve got to go backwards here and go with the iron man, George Blanda, as he put the Oakland Raiders on the map in dual roles.
    3. Great choice for Deacon Jones of the Rams, but a very strong case can be made for Eric Dickerson here since Deacon Jones was but one of the Fearsome Foursome working together while Dickerson was just in outer space on his own as a tailback.
    2. Not a beef but rather kudos for going with Jack Lambert over the much overused Mean Joe Greene for the Steelers. Lambert WAS the heart and soul of the defense, while Greene was the glitz and glory.
    1. Emmitt Smith??? Really! I don’t care if he broke Payton’s record. Heck, I could break Payton’s record if I had the kind of front line like he did in Dallas! You are saying that Smith was better than Aikman, Irvin, his entire front line (which he glaringly didn’t have in Arizona), and all of the Cowboys greats from the Landry era?!?!? I’d put Manning, McNabb, Long, and Jones back on the list before putting Smith on there! Records and Super Bowls put Emmitt on this list, but I’d rather stick the field general of those three championships on this list – Troy Aikman – then lower him down near Elway. I really liked Emmitt Smith, and he was a horse, but he was just PART of a great package!
    No other major complaints. Well done, otherwise!

    • You’re trying to be too old school. If Marcus Allen is from the present then so is Eric Dickerson. Rickey Jackson was great, but Drew Brees is a top 3 QB in the league and has been for years. He is the most successful Saint in the franchises history at the most important position. QB > LB

  26. Jack Lambert over Joe Greene? LaDanian Tomlinson over Dan Fouts? You’ve got to be kidding. And Joe Montana should be ahead of Rice. People forget that Montana won two rings before Jerry Rice came into the league. Ask Jerry Rice and he’ll tell you Joe Montana is the answer.

  27. Okay, Jerry Rice was a great player… the greatest receiver ever. Jim Brown had the luck of being bigger than lineman at the time. Payton’s the greatest running back ever, Sanders was better than Smith. And Elway as low as #9 is a joke. Favre couldn’t do what Elway did, Elway could make all the throws, and do things that would make fans “ooh and ahhh” more than Favre. Seriously! Elway should be in the top 5 on this list… to me, only behind Rice and Walter Payton, even if I think Elway’s the GOAT. How funny that over 15 years after Elway retired, NFL teams are still looking for the next QB that could do what Elway did. I still have never seen a QB that could roll out and throw across his body, and hit the receiver on target on the other side of the field with a pass going 60-70 yards through the air.

  28. This list sucks! I should be writing articles and getting paid for it. I don’t think i could do much worse than this junk.

  29. Its amazing how ignorant some of you fools are. If a team moves but leaves the history and colors behind, then the HISTORY is left behind. The Browns GOAT is Jim Brown. The Ravens GOAT is Ray Lewis. FACTS. Unfortunately, Peyton went to an ownership who decides to take the history with them, and therefore Johnny U. beats him out. Doesnt diminish what Peyton did, so don’t let your jealousy, inadequacies, and hatred color your ill informed opinions too much. See the Raiders, Rams, Raiders, Titans, Redskins, Chargers, Cardinals, Chiefs…..

  30. Ole Unca Bob

    The greatest player ever for the New Orleans Saints was #26, Deuce McAllister. If you needed ten yards, five yards or one yard on the goal line, Deuce always came through, sometimes carrying 5-6 men on his back. When there was short yardage to be gained, the crowd went wild shouting, “Deuce, Deuce, Deuce!” I treasure my Saints’ helmet signed by Deuce McAlister. Of course, Drew Brees is the greatest thing to ever happen to the Saints. He is head and shoulders above all the other team QB’s.

  31. Dave Harris

    The greatest Oakland Raider ever without question was Jim Otto, Mr. Raider. Howie was good but Mr. Raider was the king.