Monday, October 7, 2013

How Do I Rank the BestCoolest Offensive Football Players?

On Friday, I ran through the BestCoolest defensive players of my NFL-watching life. Today, we're gonna have even more fun with the guys on the offensive side of the ball.

A quick review of the rules:
--I have to be old enough to remember watching the player in his prime. That means anyone who peaked before 1992 is pretty much disqualified from these lists. Sorry, Bo.
--BestCoolest simply means "most fun to watch." Flair counts as much as skill.
--We'll select 11 offensive and 11 defensive players, but not exactly a full team. Again, it's the most fun-to-watch players. For instance, you won't see too many linemen on the offensive list, because I don't derive much fun from watching sumo wrestling in pads.

Gosh, it was hard to trim this list to 11. Buckle up, because this is gonna be a long one. As Kramer says:

The BestCoolest Offensive Players of My Lifetime

11. Michael Vick
I saw Vick's Falcons narrowly edge the G-Men at Giants Stadium during Eli Manning's rookie year. It was the first time I had been there in person as a player single-handedly dominated a game. Vick ran for 105 yars and threw for two touchdowns, but it was the ease with which he did it that stood out. Many people have lamented "what might have been" with Vick, and it's because he had such incredible athletic gifts. He won't go down as a great player, but he was certainly one of the BestCoolest ever.

10. John Elway
I'm too young to remember some of Elway's prime, but the two Super Bowl wins later in his career were incredible to watch. Who can forget the 37-year-old's Helicopter play in Super Bowl XXXII?

Here's what teammate John Mobley said about the play after the game:
"That's the play that inspired us. It got everybody on the team going. My adrenaline went off the charts. We're saying, 'This guy is almost 40 years old and he is laying his life and body on the line.' Who wouldn't be inspired after that play?"

9. Peyton Manning
Off the field, Peyton is more corny than cool, but on the field he's one of the BestCoolest. One of the most dramatic things in the NFL is when Manning identifies a defender who's about to blitz. He usually looks the guy in the eye then points at him, as if to say, "Don't even think about it, f---face." Next, he screams something -- usually audible through the TV -- like "Watch the MIKE!" The snap comes a second later, and Manning procedes to hit his hot receiver on the opposite side of the field from the blitzing defender. Another first down for Manning's offense.

8. Marshall Faulk
I had to include a member of the mid-1990s Rams, because the Greatest Show on Turf is the BestCoolest offensive team I've ever seen. Faulk was great with the Colts and he seemed to improve with age after moving to St. Louis. He's the best pass-catching back I've ever watched.

7. Steve Young
Young was a precursor to Vick, and he eased the pain of 49ers fans after the departure of Joe Montana. His BYU connection hurts his coolness factor and keeps him from cracking the top 5 here.

6. LaDainian Tomlinson
He ran for 1,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons, and he was the best player in the league for a few years in the mid-2000s. He was a threat to catch the ball and could even throw it a bit. He was the BestCoolest L.T. of my generation.*

*Just edging out Lieutenant L.T. Smash.

5. Randy Moss
His 2007 season with Tom Brady (more on Brady later) was a ridiculous display of QB-receiver cohesiveness. If you had both guys on your fantasy team that year, you almost surely went 16-0.

4. Jerry Rice
Rice wasn't quite as explosive as Moss or T.O., but his precise route-running and dogged consistency put him above any other wide receiver I've ever seen. His widely-agreed-upon title as the G.O.A.T. show that most football fans feel the same way. Rice played in all of his team's games in 18 of his 20 seasons, breaking almost every major receiving record. He's absolutely the BestCoolest to ever play his position.

3. Brett Favre
His career ended in a pathetic way, featuring dong pics and a fling with the hated Vikings. Still, Favre played with unbridled joy and effort. He often accidentally broke receivers' fingers in practice because he threw it so hard, and he was even more into it on Sundays. Favre always managed to put on a show.

2. Adrian Peterson
Peterson is poised to take it to the house All Day every Sunday. The Vikings sneaked into the playoffs last year even though they would have been horrible without his historic season. This year, he's been a bit more mortal and they're 1-3. The Purple Jesus still has 421 yards through four games.

1. Barry Sanders
I'd like to say that we'll never see another Barry Sanders, but that would be a complete falsehood.

Still, Barry Junior needs to juke about 6,384 more defenders before he'll even be in the same ballpark as his dad.

It was always awesome to play as the Lions in Madden, but it was also frustrating since the graphics weren't good enough to replicate Barry's ridiculous moves. He's the BestCoolest player I've ever seen.

Honorable Mention: Notable Players Left off the List

Tom Brady
Because I hate him. Also, because of this:

The ponytail will get you thrown off the BestCoolest list every time.
Terrell Owens
He was probably the most creative touchdown dancer ever, but his career couldn't quite measure up to those of Rice and Moss.

Emmitt Smith
Smith was one of the best running backs ever, but he did most of his damage on punishing runs between the tackles. I couldn't put him on the list, because he usually wasn't even the BestCoolest player on his own team. (That would be Michael Irvin.)

Tony Gonzalez
Like Faulk's Rams, the Chiefs from Gonzalez's prime played in tons of games where the "Over" couldn't have been high enough. Gonzalez catches every ball that's near him, but his lack of yards after the catch hurt him on this list.

Jimmy Graham
This guy is a beast. If I do another one of these lists in about 10 years, I have a feeling Graham will make it.

Jerome Bettis
Yes, it's incredibly fun to watch a 250-pound bulldozer of a man knock defenders on their asses. The Bus benefits here from his connection to Notre Dame, but it wasn't enough to garner a spot on the list of 11.

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