Ranking Each NFL Division By All-Time First Teams

Some of the Most Interesting All-Time Teams Ever Assembled

Aaron Rodgers by Mike Morbeck / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

1st – NFC North All-Time First Team:

Packers, Bears, Vikings, Lions

QB: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
QB: Brett Favre (GB)
RB: Walter Payton (CHI)
RB: Barry Sanders (DET)
RB: Gale Sayers (CHI)
WR: Randy Moss (MIN)
WR: Don Hutson (GB)
WR: Calvin Johnson (DET)
TE: Mike Ditka (CHI)
LT: Joe Stydahar (CHI)
LG: Randall McDaniel (MIN)
C: Jim Ringo (GB)
RG: Jerry Kramer (GB)
RT: Forrest Gregg (GB)

DE: Reggie White (GB) – Also on NFC East Team
DT: Alan Page (MIN)
DT: John Randle (MIN)
DE: Carl Eller (MIN)
OLB: Bill George (CHI)
ILB: Dick Butkus (CHI)
ILB: Joe Schmidt (DET)
OLB: Dave Robinson (GB)
CB: Lem Barney (DET)
S: Paul Krause (MIN)
S: Willie Wood (GB)
CB: Charles Woodson (GB) – Also on AFC West Team

K: Jason Hanson (DET)
P: Yale Lary (DET)
KR/PR: Devin Hester (CHI)

Coaches: Vince Lombardi (GB); George “Papa Bear” Halas (CHI)

Honorable Mentions: QB Bart Starr (GB), FB Jim Taylor (GB), WR Sterling Sharpe (GB), DE Willie Davis (GB), LB Ray Nitschke (GB), CB Herb Adderley (GB), QB Arnie Herber (GB), DT Henry Jordan (GB), S LeRoy Butler (GB), K Ryan Longwell (GB, MIN), QB Fran Tarkenton (MIN), RB Adrian Peterson (MIN), WR Cris Carer (MIN), RT Ron Yary (MIN), LG Chris Hutchinson (MIN), RB Red Grange (CHI), C Bulldog Turner (CHI), DT Dan Hampton (CHI), DE Richard Dent (CHI), LB Mike Singletary (CHI), LB Brian Urlacher (CHI), P Bobby Joe Green (CHI), CB Dick “Night Train” Lane (DET), TE Charlie Sanders (DET), RG Dick Stanfel (DET), KR Mel Grey (DET).


QB: 10/10

The Packers carry this position with four Hall of Fame quarterbacks (yes, four). Then add in Fran Tarkenton and Sid Luckman. Now that’s all-time depth. Oh and well we’re at it I suppose we should mention Bobby Layne.

RB: 10/10

Barry Sanders and Walter Payton. Two of what we consider the top three running backs in NFL history. Adrian Peterson, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung and Red Grange didn’t even make First Team all-time.

WR: 9/10

Don Hutson and Randy Moss. Again, two of what we consider the top three wide receivers in NFL history. Then consider Calvin Johnson, Cris Carter, Sterling Sharpe… man.

TE: 5/10

The weakest position for the NFC North all-time. Yes, Mike Ditka is in the Hall of Fame and Charlie Sanders was good, but overall a weak position group.

OL: 8/10

Some of the biggest names in NFL offensive line history. In our view, the lack of a Detroit Lion contributing to this position group may be the only thing keeping it from getting a perfect score.

DL: 10/10

You have the “Purple People Eaters” and then you add Reggie White. Anything else need to be said? Well you could add that Chicago’s Dent and Hampton aren’t on the First Team. Either is Green Bay’s Willie Davis or Minnesota’s Doleman. What about Henry Jordan (GB) and Alex Karras (DET)? Stunning.

LB: 9/10

The Chicago Bears bolster this position group, of course, but the Lions and Packers add some huge names to the team, too. When Ray Nitschke isn’t on the first team, you know it’s an insanely deep collection.

DB: 9/10

Again, Herb Adderley and Dick “Night Train” Lane are not on the First Team (we went with Woodson for his versatility). But that shows the insane depth at the position.

ST: 7/10

Devin Hester is an all-time great returner and really Gale Sayers could have been in the spot, too. Overall though, the special teams group isn’t overtly elite all-time.

Coaches: 10/10

No brainer here. Perhaps the two most important coaches in NFL history: Lombardi and Halas. If an NFC team wants to win the Super Bowl they have to win both trophies bearing the names of these coaches. That says it all.

Honorable Mentions:

Look at the amount of Hall of Fame players not on the First Team. It’s insane.

Total Score: 87 Points

So what does this tell us?

It tells us that the NFC North is absolutely stacked all-time in talented players. Many players in this divisions history are in the “GOAT” argument for their position. And yes, the NFC North is the oldest division in the NFL, but as you can see, most of the players on their all-time First Team are from the Super Bowl Era (which most teams, and well, divisions, have been around for, too).

Let’s look back at the “honorable mentions” for a moment. These guys aren’t on their division’s all-time team: Dick “Night Train” Lane, Adrian Peterson, Fran Tarkenton, Cris Carter, Mike Singletary, Red Grange, Bart Starr, Herb Adderley, Ray Nitschke and Jim Taylor. Those are some of the most legendary names in NFL history.

That, in our eyes, proves our ranking correct. It’s not the list of guys on the First Team that proves how amazing a division has historically been, it’s the list of the guys that didn’t make the team.

Will this ranking of divisions change over the next 100 years of NFL history? Of course it will! That’s what makes analyzing and contextualizing NFL history so freakin’ interesting. It’s a fluid thing; it can and will change over time. The “best” division now might be the third, fourth or fifth best division all-time in another 50 or 100 years. Who knows?

One very interesting observation is the divisions go in order from worst to best completely in-sync with one another geographically. The South divisions in each conference come first. Then come the East divisions, West divisions and finally come the two North divisions which reign supreme.

We have no real explanation as to why it worked out exactly like this.

One theory would be that the North divisions hold some of the oldest and most successful franchises in NFL history. Plus, the two South divisions hold many of the newest teams in the league. This definitely plays a part in the way this shook out, but it doesn’t explain everything.

So ultimately what this says if these eight teams were in a single elimination playoff, we know which roster would likely win. Our scoring was as objective as possible, but still, of course some subjectivity is present. Such is life. In our thought experiment and from our rankings, we’d have the NFC North’s all-time team defeating the AFC North in the final game of this hypothetical tournament.

Do you think we got it right? Does the NFC North have the best all-time First Team of in NFL history? Do any other divisions have a claim?

Either way you see it, we firmly stand by our results.

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