Plug this team into a video game, and it would have a significant advantage. This is a team which features members of Canton as back up contributors, more than any of the previous teams we’ve encountered thus far. What do we expect from this squad if they were to see them on an actual field? Well it would be an exciting offense with one of the best offensive lines in the history of the game. It would feature a defense who can get after the quarterback, cover receivers, and lay a whopping on anyone coming across the middle. The final four teams are pretty evenly matched with only a few discernible differences. If played in a simulation, the final four teams would definitely leave some visible scars on each other.
That being said, I present to you the fourth ranked team on this journey, the AFC West All-Time team:
Head Coach: John Madden
QB: John Elway, Dan Fouts
RB: Marcus Allen, Ladanian Tomlinson
FB: Mack Lee Hill
TE: Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzales
WR: Fred Biletnikoff, Tim Brown
OL: Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Jim Otto, Will Shields, Ron Mix
DL: Howie Long, Gary Johnson, Tom Keating, Neil Smith
LB: Junior Seau, Willie Lanier, Derrick Thomas
CB: Willie Brown, Emmitt Thomas
S: Jack Tatum, Steve Atwater
K: George Blanda
P: Ray Guy
KR: Dante Hall
PR: Rick Upchurch
Yes, this is perhaps a controversial decision to place them in fourth position. However, let us be fair and look at this logically: John Madden, while owning the highest win percentage of any head coach in NFL history, does not have quite the track record of the three remaining coaches and frankly did not have a long enough resume. It can also be said that perhaps it was less Madden and more of the team composed as Tom Flores was also successful for the Silver and Black. The quarterbacks here should be a no-brainer. They are two of the most productive quarterbacks in NFL history and simply put, John Elway is definitely in the top 3 all time at the QB position.
Marcus Allen and Ladanian Tomlinson were game breakers who are unmatched. LT, were it not for some unfortunate injuries, would have threatened to break Emmitt Smith’s touchdown record. Allen is perhaps the greatest running back to ever play in the AFC West, splitting time with the Raiders and then Chiefs. Trust me, at one point there was a thought of placing Bo Jackson on this team. Imagine if health hadn’t been an issue for the two sport star, the things he could have done. Like with many of the previous teams, the wide receiver position leaves us wanting a bit more. Brown was a burner during his time with the Raiders while Biletnikoff had a knack for making near impossible catches. Besides, someone who could moonlight as a ballet dancer needs to be on an all-time list.
Perhaps the greatest strength of this team is the monster offensive line. If this isn’t the best collection of lineman, I’d struggle to find another batch which can outplay this one. Shell, Upshaw, Otto, Shields, and Mix would make any quarterback feel untouchable as well as open holes in the run game big enough for the Titanic to run through.
The defense is a collection of fierce tacklers, sticky covermen, and all around scary human beings. Imagine dropping back to pass with Howie Long coming from one end and Derrick Thomas from the other. Thomas, if it were not for his tragic and untimely death, would have gone down as one of the top 3 pass rushers in NFL history. Seau and Lanier provide a scary presence all over the field and can catch any runner in the open field. A secondary feature heavy hitters such as Steve Atwater and Jack Tatum would keep any receiver from making their way across the middle.
The special teams rounds out this squad with perhaps two of the greatest kickers ever to have played professional football and two returners considered one of the best of their respective eras.
In the end it is the usual deficiency at the wide receiver position which we’ve seen throughout the already unveiled teams which holds this team back. It is perhaps compounded by a great, but not elite defense which will undoubtedly be seen from our final three teams as well as a head coach which is definitely at a disadvantage when compared to the final three head coaches we will see.
There are definitely arguments to be made for the inclusion of other players at various positions. If you feel that someone was overlooked, or even if someone doesn’t deserve to be on this squad, leave a comment below and state your case. Game on!