By John Turney
These are the seven defensive end chosen for the All-Time Team.
Doug Atkins, Bill Hewitt, Deacon Jones, Gino Marchetti, Lee Roy Selmon, Bruce Smith, Reggie White.
It is clear, we think, who the top five are—Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Deacon Jones, Gino Marchetti, and JJ Watt.
Our prediction is that Willie Davis and Howie Long will be the sixth and seventh defensive ends chosen. Strahan could edge on of these two, however. We've already opined in April why we thing Jack Youngblood won't make it. Selmon has to be hard to leave off.
That leaves these great players off the team.
Lee Roy Selmon
When fans and even writers evaluate any player's career they focus on the positives, the All-Pros, the stats, the rings, the intangibles, longevity, the testimonials and that is the "hype". And it's great.
However, what about the other side? The negatives? Do we dare talk about them? If we don't then how can we separate players one from another in a career evaluation, i.e. 'is he worthy of All-Pro, Hal of Fame, or the NFL 100 team?
Of course, the best of the best will have far fewer "negatives" than the average, good, and vry good player but that does not mean to do not exist.
And an exercise, we'll list the negatives of the above players and perhaps a few more who were likely close to making the finalists list. And we will catch all kinds of hell for it.
Not on the list:
Claude Humphrey—Known as a rusher, played on some poor run-stopping teams. It was not all his fault but he was part of the unit and has to bear some responsibility. In 1978 he didn't like playing in the Falcons 3-4 defense and perhaps other issues, so he quit the team only to come back with the Eagles in 1979. Puts a bit of a stain on a career. His last couple years he was a non-starter, a designated rusher and was effective.
Gene Brito—Durability issues and like Len Ford played offense early in his career and had limited snaps on defense in those seasons. He also went to Canada for a season (1954) and that is not exactly "resume building" in terms of being an NFL 100 All-Time team candidate. An illness also shortened the backend of this career.
LC Greenwood—Again, some durability issues. Excellent defensive end when healthy. took a few years to start, but was an effective rotational player in 1969-70. At the end of his career could not handle the 3-4 in 1982 training camp so he hung them up. It was not his type of defense so that made sense, however, his contemporary Jack Youngblood made the transition in 1983 and played well in it for two seasons. Greenwood's effectiveness waned in 1980-81 anyway so had they stayed with the 4-3 he still may have not made the team in 1982.
Richard Dent—Didn't start as a rookie but exploded in years two and three. Then injuries, contract disputes, disputes with the coaching staff who didn't think he was a dedicated weight lifter, not trying to get better and stronger. He also had some injuries issues. Ended his career as a designated rusher which is fine, but it's not really part of a "best of the best" resume. Maybe now it is acceptable, but then there was a 16/16/60 (16 games, 16 starts, 60 minutes) axiom and that didn't describe the end of Dent's career.
Again we are not "ripping" these guys (to use a Paul Zimmerman term) we just pointing out that when looking at a player's career in its entirety the negatives, failures, and flaws need to be at considered along with all the hype and positives. It's the only fair and logical way to separate the best of the best (or even the good from the average for that matter).
In any case, it will be fun when the final names are revealed tonight. We will stick with our predictions but also fully admit that perhaps Strahan will edge out Davis or Long. Or Hewitt. Or Selmon will make it.
We will see in a few hours.