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A suggestion for improving future "Top 100" efforts

As the NFL counted down the bottom 90 players on the new list of the top 100 of all time, not much buzz was generated — except when Deion Sanders acted like, well, Deion Sanders when he came in at No. 34.

The unveiling of the Top 100’s top 10 has given the effort plenty of buzz, and it prompted me to remember that I had submitted one of the 85 ballots.  (So, yes, if there’s something about the list you don’t like, blame me.)

The process was challenging.  Given a lengthy list of Hall of Famers, recently-retired eventual Hall of Famers, and men who currently play the game, the task was to supply each one with a score from one to 10.  (As to current players, there were several omissions from the list, so I wrote in several names.  This process necessarily short changes the guys who didn’t make the pre-printed list, since every voter would have to write in the same guys.)

When all 85 ballots were submitted, the total scores given to each player were added up, and the highest raw scores determined the list.  It was that simple. 

But maybe it shouldn’t have been.

It’s not easy to compare players across eras and positions, especially with so many names on the list.  It makes the process incredibly subjective, to the extreme benefit of the players who were objectively great at their positions.

Is it any surprise given the scoring process that Jerry Rice finished No. 1?  Who in his or her right mind wouldn’t have given Rice — the holder of all career receiving records — a 10?  Unlike the quarterback position, where the winning of championships means a lot more than it does for other positions and thus the argument as to the best quarterback of all time leaves plenty of room for reasonable minds to differ, Rice without question is the best receiver of all time.  Thus, with everyone in his or her right mind giving Rice a 10, Rice easily ended up being No. 1.

Ditto for Jim Brown, No. 2 on the list.  He was the Jerry Rice of his era, the most dominant running back of his time.  From the ’70s forward, as the game became more popular, more and more running backs have emerged as stars, making it harder to parse out the Paytons and the Sanders and the Emmitts. 

Prior to the AFL-NFL merger, the biggest name when it came to running backs was, without question, Jim Brown.  So Brown likely got plenty of 10s and only one or two nines, making him second on the list.

The same reasoning applies to Lawrence Taylor.  But for his off-field indiscretions, he likely would have been No. 1, since but for his misbehavior everyone would have given him a 10, too.

At the time I filled out my own ballot, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about how the various parts would eventually fit together.  Instead, I just wanted to apply the right number, from 1 to 10, to the players on the list.

So here’s what I’ll suggest, if/when this is ever done in the future.  After determining the top 100 players based on the system that was used this time around, send out another ballot with all 100 players on it, and ask the voters to rank them from top to bottom.

If it were done that way, Rice may not have been No. 1.  And the top of the list may have looked a lot different.

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