Picking football’s Mount Rushmore

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

March 27th, 2020

It’s difficult enough to come to a consensus on the greatest player at a particular position in football history. Agreeing upon the “Mount Rushmore” of the sport is an even more challenging undertaking.

Nonetheless, there are a handful of players who undoubtedly influenced the game and molded the way it is played today.

As we await the start of the NFL's 101st season, let's look back and name BetAmerica’s Mount Rushmore of football.

Jim Brown

Many of his records have been broken, but Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown set the standard for excellence at running back.

The former Syracuse Orangeman joined the Browns as the sixth overall pick in the 1957 NFL Draft and posted a single-game record for rushing yards (237) in his ninth outing as a pro.

The Hall of Famer earned a Pro Bowl invite in each season of his nine-year career and collected three NFL MVPs, tied for the second most by a player.

Brown tallied 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns on 2,359 carries, and he is the only player in NFL history to average more than 100 rushing yards per game. He also led the league in rushing yardage a record eight times, and his 5.2 yards per carry is the second-best average among running backs.

The Super Bowl didn’t exist until after Brown retired, but he earned an NFL championship with the Browns in 1964. In 2002 The Sporting News named the iconic back the greatest professional football player of all time.

Lawrence Taylor

The two-time Super Bowl champion played linebacker for the New York Giants from 1981-1993 and earned AP Defensive Player of the Year three times, the most by any player. He’s also the only player to receive the accolade as a rookie.  

“L.T.” joined the Giants as the second overall draft pick in 1981 and immediately made an impact in New York. He was named to the Pro Bowl in his first 10 seasons and recorded double-digit sacks from 1984-1990, including a career-high 20 1/2 in 1986, which earned him the NFL MVP.

Taylor is one of just two defensive players to collect an MVP, and no one on that side of the ball has done so since.

The defensive stalwart finished his career with 1,089 tackles, 56 forced fumbles, nine interceptions, and 132 1/2 sacks (not counting the 9.5 he racked up in 1981, since the sack didn’t become an official NFL stat until 1982).

The Giants made the postseason six times during his tenure and won Super Bowl XXI and XXV.

Tom Brady

The former Michigan quarterback flew under the radar in the 2000 draft and ended up with the New England Patriots as the 199th overall pick. In his second season as a pro, he stepped in for the injured Drew Bledsoe and earned the permanent starting spot. From that point forward, the Patriots never saw a losing season with Brady in charge of the offense and went on to accomplish unparalleled success.

Bill Belichick and Brady formed the most dominant head coach-quarterback duo in NFL history. The two own more regular-season and postseason victories than any other pair and appeared in nine Super Bowls, with six wins.

Along with Brady’s record number of titles, he has accepted four Super Bowl MVPs — the most by any player — and three NFL MVPs (2007, 2010, and 2017).

He is one of only two QBs to win the Super Bowl in their first season as a starter, and he is the oldest starting quarterback to hoist the Lombardi Trophy (41).

Brady led New England to more division titles (17) than any other quarterback in history, is first in playoff wins and appearances by an NFL player, and is tied for most Pro Bowl selections (14).

The G.O.A.T. is also second in regular-season passing yards and touchdown passes (behind the Saints' Drew Brees in both categories).

Brady just signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and will chase after more history under head coach Bruce Arians.

Jerry Rice

It’s difficult to place any other receiver ahead of Jerry Rice. The former San Francisco 49er set NFL records for receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), receiving touchdowns (197), and all-purpose yards (23,546) over his 20-year career.

The preeminent wideout played alongside another great — quarterback Joe Montana — with whom he won back-to-back Super Bowl titles. In 1989, Rice earned Super Bowl MVP, when he came up with three clutch passes from Montana on the game-winning drive, while down 16-13 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He also won Super Bowl XXIX with Steve Young and hauled in a game-high 10 catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns, all while he played with a separated shoulder.

Rice was named to the Pro Bowl 13 times and briefly played with the Raiders and Seahawks before he retired. He missed just 17 regular-season games as a pro and played a total of 303 games, the most by a wide receiver.