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Best NFL Players By Jersey Number: Readers get their say


Hundreds weighed in on our selections for the best NFL players by jersey number. Many of you complained about the omission of Dan Fouts at No. 14 (yep, we probably missed there), Donovan McNabb over Paul Hornung at No. 5 (hey, you might be right) and Tom Brady over Terry Bradshaw at No. 12 (We'll stand by our pick). Here's a sampling of reader feedback from email, Twitter and FanNation:

• I know there are a ton of Steelers on there, but Deacon Jones ahead of Joe Greene?-Shawn, Pittsburgh• Otto Graham twice? Number 14 should have gone to Don Hutson. In the "three yards and a cloud of dust" era, this guy hauled in 99 career touchdowns. Hutson revolutionized the position, and many Packer fans would choose him as the greatest player in team history. He wasn't even SI's runner-up! -Jeff Grotenhuis, Slinger , WI

• I like Mongo [Alex Karras] as much as the next guy, but only three All-Pro selections, an embarrassingly paltry four Pro Bowl selections, could only smell the playoffs once, and much less starting in a Super Bowl? His number isn't retired, much less considered by everyone as an Hall of Fame first ballot lock? He also got kicked out for gambling on NFL games? Who at SI decided it would be funny to burn Walter Jones like this? --Roger, Redmond, Wa.

• You really need to explain how Bills and NFL all-time sack leader Bruce Smith is not at least the runner-up for number 78. No dis to Anthony Munoz and I understand that some numbers had far greater competition, but it just seems almost unfathomable that Bruce isn't No. 1. Bottom line is, Bruce is arguably the best player at his position all-time.-Keith Jackett, West Hartford, Ct.

• Great list. One complaint: 1980 NFL MVP Brian Sipe doesn't even get honorable mention for jersey No. 17?-Sean, Akron

• It's an interesting update from the same feature Street & Smith's Pro Football did in 1993 (I was the Editor for 20 years): Deion Sanders over Jim Thorpe, Troy Aikman over Larry Wilson, Brett Favre over Ernie Nevers, Payton Manning over Roman Gabriel. I'd still take Paul Hornung over Donovan McNabb, though. The feature did generate a lot of discussion at the time.-Jerry Kavanagh, Pearl River, NY

Tom Brady over Terry Bradshaw and the reason is a tougher era! Maybe some day but not because of a tougher era. Bradshaw was in one of the toughest divisions ever to compete in, with Houston, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Bradshaw called all of his own plays even back then, he played hurt a lot and was hit a lot more even with the one the best offensive lines. I don't think Brady would be as tough or as successful if he was playing at that time. Brett Favre would have been tough enough. You should reconsider because your reasoning is wrong.-- Gino, Pittsburgh

• By the way. no number is easier than 32. Although many excellent players wore it, the greatest player, and probably greatest athlete, of all time wore it and was correctly chosen -- Jim Brown. It's the no-brainer of no brainers. Here are some of my quibbles with the list, which was pretty well done. I'd put LaDainian Tomlinson at No. 21 over Deion Sanders who didn't like to tackle much. I'd put Bill Willis over Terrell Davis at No. 30. Davis's career was too short. Willis played both ways and his team won every year, not to mention that he was a racial pioneer. I'd give 60 to Chuck Bednarik. Otto Graham already has 14 and while he was unbelievable, spread the wealth.

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If you give Don Hutson number 14, which makes sense because he was great and well ahead of his era, then keep Otto Graham at 60. But if you don't then look at this: Bednarik was All Pro at two positions, playing them both at the same time, center and middle linebacker, and is certainly deserving. I'd give Bob Lilly at least a tie with Merlin Olsen. Olsen had more great linemen around him. At his peak, Lilly was a one-man wrecking crew. Marion Motley over Lou Groza for 76. Both were great, but Motley played a skill position and was also a ferocious linebacker. Definitely Dick Night Train Lane over the also great Tim Brown at 81. Lane intercepted a bundle of passes - I think he still has the single season record for most picks and he played 12 game seasons -- and was the toughest defensive back of all time, even tougher than Jack Tatum, and hit so hard, they changed rules for him. Dave Casper over Dwight Clark for 87. Clark was good, not great, but he made a famous catch. Casper was a great tight end, which overcomes one famous catch. Finally, it's close, but I'd go with Gino Marchetti over Alan Page at number 88. A great all around defensive end is more valuable than a similar defensive tackle. --Alex Axelrod, New York

• No Rocky Bleier mention for No. 20? I know he wasn't the league's greatest halfback, but he was a hero nonetheless. -- Jimbo Jackson, West Mifflin, Pa.

• Great choices on your list of jersey numbers but no mention of Carl Eller at No. 81? --Bob, Minneapolis

• Realizing this photo gallery is wholly subjective I still find it offensive - as a lifetime fan of the Atlanta Falcons - that Claude Humphrey, the Falcons all-time sack leader who was five times All Pro and named to six Pro Bowls during his career, was not only not named the best player to have worn number 87, but wasn't even deemed "worthy of consideration." Dude's been a hall of fame finalist four separate timesFOUR SEPARATE TI. Perhaps you would consider revising your gallery? Many thanks.--Michael Oldham

• At number 8, Steve Young beats Troy Aikman in every category except Super Bowl wins, and you don't even mention that it was even a difficult pick. How can you pick Aikman over Young? At No. 8, it's a given that Young is the best alltime -- more touchdowns, fewer interceptions, more yards, higher passer rating, more NFL seasons, more games, higher completion percentage and WAY more rushing yards (not to mention Young could out-scramble Aikman with one leg tied behind his back!). When it comes to picking the best No. 8 of all time, you REALLY blew it. You made the easy "hype" pick instead of making the correct "substance" pick. Oh well, at least you got No. 16 right.--Ralph Bruno, Boston, MA

• Gene Hickerson wore number 66, is in the Hall of Fame and was an integral part of the historically successful running game of the Cleveland Browns. I understand Ray Nitschke may have gotten the nod, but you guys didn't even mentioned one of the greatest guards of all time, and a Hall of Famer to boot. Complaint aside it was a great article and I enjoyed it thoroughly.--John Casson, Clinton Twp, Michigan

• During the '70s the Steelers faced challenges from the Dolphins and Raiders, and to a lesser degree, the Oilers and Chargers for dominance in the AFC. The NFC featured the Cowboys, Vikings, and Rams, all of whom were excellent for extended periods of time and loaded with players who, by the way, either made your list or were contenders for the list. In fact, the Steelers beat the Cowboys twice to win Super Bowls, and the Cowboys would have been considered the No, 2 team of the 70s, with two Super Bowl wins and five total Super Bowl appearances. Tom Brady is a great quarterback for his era, but don't even think that his era is tougher overall than Bradshaw's. That's just shoddy research. And, sorry, but while Deacon Jones is an excellent player, there's no NFL universe that exists in which he's better than Mean Joe Greene. Those were easily your worst calls in an otherwise decent list.--Richard Clagg, Ray, Ohio

• I'm no Redskins fan but your choice of No. 27 Eddie George over Hall of Famer and 10 time Pro Bowler Ken Houston is glaringly bad. The greatest safety of the 70s. I'm guessing. Go back and look at what he did. All-Pro, All-League or All-Conference for 11 straight years! Your whole list seems to favor offensive players a little but this one is brutal!--Terry, Rochester

• For you to say that the best player to wear number 5 is Donovan McNabb is a complete insult to Paul Hornung. Hornung dominated the game, and was without a doubt the best offensive threat of his time. McNabb has never been considered the best quarterback in the NFL at any point in his career; he's always been eclipsed by players like Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. Hornung was not only the best offensive threat in all of football during his storied career, but he dominated multiple positions. He is probably one of the most athletic athletes of all time, in the same company as the great Bo Jackson (who unfortunately shares the same number as Walter Payton and Earl Campbell). Hornung was dominant carrying the ball, passing the ball, catching the ball, and kicking the ball. In only 12 games in 1960 he scored 176 points, a record at the time. McNabb is not only injury prone, but he's not much of a threat on the ground, only through the air. Hornung still holds four scoring records (most games with 30+ points, most games with 25+ points, most games with 13+ points in a season, and oldest player to score 5 touchdowns in one game). McNabb holds three trivial records (least-intercepted quarterback per pass of all time, most consecutive pass completions, and first quarterback to throw more than 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions in a season). Let's face it; should Hornung's career have lasted more than 9 seasons and been a little more recent in most people's memories, he'd be the best player to ever wear numero cinco.--Nathan Giebel, Kenosha, WI.

• I don't understand how Dan Fouts isn't at least considered among the number 14s. After all, he is in the Hall of Fame. Steve Grogan? C'mon now. I wouldn't argue him to be put ahead of Otto Graham or Y.A. Title, but the fact Grogan and Ken Anderson were mentioned and not Fouts makes me think you guys simply forgot about him.--Joe, Temecula, Ca.