There was a fascinating question (and answer) to soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Bill Parcells on a conference call.
In conference call, Bill Parcells said he would pick Lawrence Taylor if he could start a franchise with one player, past or present.
— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) July 17, 2013
It's a fun debate that strays a bit from the typical "best player ever" argument. I'd pick Jerry Rice as the greatest NFL player of all time. But I'm not sure I'd start a franchise with him.
Parcells is obviously biased. Taylor helped him win two Super Bowls and get to the hall of fame. However, it's not a bad answer.
Who would you start a franchise with? Let's brainstorm some candidates:
Lawrence Taylor: Ask Parcells, you can't go wrong here. He revolutionized a position and the way teams think of rushing the quarterback. He was an absolute terror. You probably have to consider his off-field baggage, however. We're starting a franchise here.
Reggie White: He's the best two-way end of all time. His most unheralded performance was a wild-card playoff game against Detroit at the end of the 1994 season. The Packers used him inside at tackle a lot to take advantage of a matchup. Behind White's destruction of the Lions' line, Green Bay held the great Barry Sanders had minus-one yard on 13 carries in a win. White was unbelievable against the run, and just happens to be No. 2 on the all-time sacks list.
Joe Greene: You could do a lot worse than the most dominating defensive tackle of all time in the middle of your new defense. Worked for the Steelers, who started a dynasty by drafting him first overall in 1969.
Dick Butkus: The only argument against Butkus is the modern theory that middle linebacker isn't as important as other positions.
Ronnie Lott/Rod Woodson: Both of these guys are among the best defensive backs ever, and their ability to be great at cornerback or safety works in their favor. You'd have your important shutdown corner or your playmaking safety all rolled into one player.
Jim Brown: You shouldn't pick running backs high in the draft, but Brown might be an exception. Led the league in rushing eight of his nine seasons, scored 126 total touchdowns in 118 games, and never missed a game. You'd know what you're getting with him.
Anthony Munoz: Teams have figured out how important it is to have a dominant left tackle. You could start a franchise around the brilliant Munoz and never worry about a crucial position.
Jerry Rice: I'll argue that he is the greatest player ever, so it's not wrong to pick him to start a franchise with. The only drawback is that it's hard to build a franchise around a receiver. There's a reason Irving Fryar and Keyshawn Johnson are the only receivers to be drafted first overall since the merger.
John Elway: And now we get to the quarterbacks. Elway was a physical marvel who dragged a few mediocre Broncos teams to the Super Bowl. When he finally got the right coach and some help around him, he won two titles. If you're grading players simply on ability and not comparing careers (and his career was certainly great), it's hard to pass on Elway first overall.
Joe Montana: A four-time Super Bowl winner and a playoff resume as good as any quarterback in NFL history puts him on the list. Whether you'd pick Montana might depend on whether you think he was the reason for the 49ers' success or Bill Walsh was the mastermind behind that dynasty (if this argument was about the best coach to start a franchise, I'd take Walsh slightly over Vince Lombardi).
Tom Brady/Peyton Manning: The greatest modern-day individual NFL rivalry and argument. Manning didn't have the franchise around him (coaching staff and players) Brady did, but Manning's playoff accomplishments rank far below what Brady has done. You could argue about these guys for days.
Johnny Unitas: He was an "elite quarterback" way before it was cool for every pundit to argue whether a quarterback is elite.
If I'm on the clock to start a franchise, I take a quarterback because it's the most important position. And I take Manning slightly over Elway. Elway had the greatest combination of physical tools and production of any quarterback in NFL history and showed he can elevate an entire franchise, but Manning's value as a quarterback is unique. If more proof was needed, he transformed the Broncos' organization in one offseason. If quarterbacks are excluded I'd take White, an all-around marvel.
The list of candidates above isn't entirely complete (Sammy Baugh? Chuck Bednarik? Barry Sanders? Deacon Jones? Ray Lewis? Bruce Smith? Don Hutson?). So if you're on the clock starting a franchise and can choose anyone past or present , who's your pick?
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