ATLANTA, July 14, 2013 — The National Football League has had many outsized personalities, and “characters” are what makes the NFL the greatest sports league in world history. This list of the 17 greatest characters in NFC history offers one from each team with one at large selection.
Green Bay Packers: Brett Favre. The gunslinger gave twenty years of evidence for football fans to see forever. Until he makes the Hall of Fame, people will refuse to believe he is retired. Honorable mention: Vince Lombardi asking “What the hell is going on around here?”
Chicago Bears: Jim McMahon. The quarterback of the 1985 Super Bowl Shuffling Bears had his sunglasses and headband and once mooned a passing news helicopter.
Detroit Lions: Bobby Layne. The Lions never won it all after they traded him in the 1950s. He was a leader. As a teammate said, “When Bobby said play, you played. When Bobby said drink, you drank.”
Minnesota Vikings: John Randall. This Hall of Famer let everybody know that “This is when the big dogs come out.”
San Francisco 49ers: Merton Hanks. This ultra-corporate organization bragged about being boring. Hanks had his duck walk, which was as entertaining as this team got. Honorable mention: Eddie Debartolo was the maverick who wanted his players to win with class.
Cleveland/Los Angeles/ St. Louis Rams: Deacon Jones. Anybody disagreeing with the sack master about this choice risks getting head-slapped.
Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals: Pat Tillman. He walked away from a multi-million dollar contract to become an $18,000 a year Army Ranger in Afghanistan. He died from friendly fire, but still a hero. Honorable mention: Dennis Green for his “They are who we thought they were!” tirade.
Seattle Seahawks: Brian Bosworth. His mohawk and outsized personality lasted longer than his career. The Boz is known mostly for being flattened by Bo Jackson. Richard Sherman may top him one day.
New York Giants: Harry Carson. He invented the Gatorade dumping to get even with coach Bill Parcells. Honorable mentions: Lawrence Taylor for his “crazed dogs” remark and Bill Parcells for numerous classics, the best being, “Don’t tell me about the pain, just deliver the damn baby!”
Philadelphia Eagles: Buddy Ryan. One of the greatest defensive minds, he once threw a punch at one of his own fellow coaches. He told the media the opposing team’s cheerleaders stunk. He gave the world twins Rex and Rob Ryan, continuing the trend.
Dallas Cowboys: They had too many to count. Bill Bates gets the nod for being the greatest special teams “psychopath” in NFL history. Honorable mentions include Charles Haley, whose head teammates rubbed for good luck. Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson made the cat joke about Terry Bradshaw. Michael Irvin took a limo to the Super Bowl because “I’m a star. How else are stars supposed to travel?”
Washington Redskins: John Riggins. He fell asleep on the floor at a White House presidential event. He returned to football after briefly retiring by saying, “I’m bored. I’m broke. I’m back.”
Atlanta Falcons: Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. Fans of Deion “Prime Time” Sanders may object, but the best player is not always the best character. Sanders perfected the end zone dance, but Johnson invented it. White Shoes was the original.
New Orleans Saints: Jim Mora. While his “Playoffs?” rant was after he left New Orleans, he had plenty of great tirades while coaching the Saints.
Carolina Panthers: Steve Smith. He went to the end zone camera exclaiming, “If y’all see me, that means I just scored!” He once broke his arm catching a touchdown, and then banged his chest with his good arm. Honorable mention: Sir Purr, the only mascot to get chastised by officials for fielding a live punt. Even the opposing coach laughed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: John McKay. The most quotable coach of all time, when asked about his team’s execution in the wake of a loss said, “I’m in favor of it.” He downplayed the role of emotion in coaching because “My wife is emotional and she is a lousy football coach.” Honorable mention: Warren Sapp, the 300 pound “Dancing with the Stars” contestant who once did Beyonce’s “Pogo” dance after a touchdown. He made his name early by sparring with rival character Brett Favre.
Honorable mention: Jerry Glanville. He created the “Grits blitz” defense while coaching Atlanta and encouraged his players like Deion Sanders to run wild as characters. He left two tickets for Elvis Presley before every game.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
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