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For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

All-decade team of the 70s: Part I

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 20, 2009

After spending some time projecting the All-decade offense and All-decade defense of the '00s, I thought it might be fun to perform the same analysis for another period in NFL history. Today, we're going to look at the All-decade offensive players of the 1970s; tomorrow, we'll check out the defensive players, special teams stars, and head coaches.

Let's start with the actual All-decade offense, as selected by the voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

    First Team         Second Team
QB: Roger Staubach     Terry Bradshaw/Ken Stabler
RB: O.J. Simpson       Earl Campbell
RB: Walter Payton      Franco Harris
WR: Lynn Swann         Paul Warfield
WR: Drew Pearson       Harold Carmichael
TE: Dave Casper        Charlie Sanders
OT: Art Shell          Dan Dierdorf
OT: Rayfield Wright    Ron Yary
OG: Larry Little       John Hannah
OG: Joe DeLamielleure  Gene Upshaw
OC: Jim Langer         Mike Webster


Let's get started with the analysis; for QBs, RBs and WRs, I'll refer to the formulas derived in their respective links to compute "yards over average" for the decade of the '70s for players at those positions.

Before we get to the discussion, a couple of era notes. One, the AP Defensive Player of the Year award began in 1971; the Offensive Player version was introduced the next season. Further, the 16-game schedule was introduced for the last two seasons of the decade; this slightly affects a player's games and games started columns, but should not cause us any trouble. For QBs, RBs and WRs, I had already built in a pro-rating system for non-16 game seasons. Finally, the "games started" column is sometimes accurate, and sometimes not. Unfortunately, it's inconsistently inconsistent; I've included the column, because it serves as a good minimum (every start listed as a game started is correct, but many games started were not recorded) but many players will be short-changed in their number of games started column.

Quarterback:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	ANY/A	PLAYER
103	6	125	113	 8	1	1	0	6508	Roger Staubach
 96	4	120	120	 9	2	1	1	4958	Fran Tarkenton
 85	2	119	111	 8	0	0	1	4598	Ken Anderson
 79	4	128	122	 9	0	0	1	4211	Jim Hart
 79	4	130	 96	 7	2	1	1	3690	Ken Stabler
 62	1	 68	 62	 4	2	1	1	3680	Bert Jones
 91	6	122	116	 9	0	1	1	3258	Bob Griese
 87	3	129	119     10	3	1	0	2939	Terry Bradshaw
 53	1	 95	 85	 8	0	0	0	2818	Billy Kilmer
 76	1	104	 87	 6	0	0	0	2654	Greg Landry
 52	1	 80	 73	 6	0	1	0	2345	Dan Fouts
 57	1	 95	 79	 6	0	0	0	2329	Roman Gabriel
 34	1	 48	 39	 3	1	1	0	2088	John Brodie
 62	0	128	100	 8	0	0	0	2001	Craig Morton
 60	0	 73	 67	 5	0	0	0	1982	Steve Grogan
 54	0	 95	 95	 6	0	0	0	1974	Joe Ferguson
 59	2	112	 84	 5	0	1	0	1821	John Hadl
 37	1	 79	 40	 4	0	0	0	1802	James Harris
 49	0	 56	 56	 4	0	0	1	1592	Jim Zorn
 46	1	 71	 65	 4	0	0	1	1514	Joe Namath
 61	2	105	102	 8	0	0	0	1418	Archie Manning

Unlike the '00s, the 1970s was a decade where many quarterbacks could claim to be the best in the league at any point in time. Ten different QBs were named first-team All-Pros, and no QB has more than two combined 1st/2nd team All-Pro honors. Sixteen QBs received a first or second team All-Pro nod, but I think we can narrow the list down to eight excellent QBs of the 1970s:

  • Terry Bradshaw was the QB on four Super Bowl champions, won two SB MVPs, and also won the 1978 MVP award. He was the only QB to start all ten seasons in the decade, although he did not put up good numbers in several of those seasons. A good defense and a tough home environment can help explain subpar numbers, but Bradshaw was also the beneficiary of a bunch of talent on offense. He had some great post-season performances, and was very good in '75, '77, '78 and '79.
  • Roger Staubach had seven terrific seasons in the seventies -- only in '70, '72 and '74 did he not put up excellent numbers. The Pièce de résistance may have been his 1971 season. Sure, he won the Super Bowl MVP award, but what's more impressive to me is that he doubled the league average in adjusted net yards per attempt. While the league average QB was at 3.90 ANY/A, Staubach threw for 7.81 ANY/A, and also contributed with 343 rushing yards and two TDs.
  • Ken Anderson in 1975 may have been better than Staubach in '71; he led the league in passing yards, yards per attempt and adjusted net yards per attempt. Playing under offensive coordinator Bill Walsh, Anderson put up top ten seasons of the decade in '74 and '75. He was very good in '73, and above average in '76 and '77. Anderson has a good combination of quantity and quality, although he won no major awards nor any playoff games in the decade.
  • Bert Jones had the best season of the decade, and with all due respect to Anderson ('75), Staubach ('71) and John Brodie ('70), Jones' 76 season leaves them in the dust. Despite ranking sixth in pass attempts, Jones led the NFL in passing yards, and of course led the league in adjusted net yards per attempt. Jones was the NFL MVP, although his season ended when he faced the unbelievable '76 version of the Steel Curtain.
  • Bob Griese started for nine seasons, excluding the Dolphins' perfect season of 1972. Earl Morrall won the Comeback Player of the Year award that season, and started 11 of the Dolphins' 17 victories. But Griese was consistently good during the decade, averaging more adjusted net yards per pass than the average QB from '70 to '78. His best season was '71, a very strong but not league-leading season. Griese made six Pro Bowls, tied with Staubach for most in the decade.
  • Fran Tarkenton was great in the sixties, but didn't declined much as he aged. He had three seasons where he had added over 1,000 adjusted net yards over average ('74, '75 and '76), and three more in the 600-810 range ('70, '72 and '73). While he won the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards in '75, he may have been even better the next season. He, of course, made and lost three Super Bowls in the '70s, but that shouldn't tarnish his legacy. As good as he was in '76, he was washed up by '77; combined with a miserable '71 season in New York, that leaves him with six very good seasons and little else in the decade.
  • Ken Stabler won an MVP and OPOY award in '74, but may have been even better in '76. Those two seasons were two of the top ten seasons of the decade among QBs, but Stabler only had three other good seasons. He made four Pro Bowls, but does not have the quantity to match his quality in this competitive field.
  • Jim Hart, like Stabler, made four Pro Bowls in the '70s. He started for nine seasons and put up very good numbers for most of them. He was at his best in in the mid-70s. That shouldn't come as a big surprise to regular PFR blog readers; he had three Pro Bowl linemen in those years (more on them later).

While lots of guys could make strong arguments, and Steelers fans will certainly be angry, Staubach stands out as the clear winner. Second place is a toss up between Anderson and Tarkenton, but I'll side with Tarkenton on the basis of a longer peak and a less advanced offensive system. Bradshaw has excellent individual post-season numbers (in addition to the great team post-season success), so I wouldn't argue too much with those who want to put him ahead of Tarkenton.

First team All-Decade QB:: Roger Staubach
Second team All-Decade QB: Fran Tarkenton

Running Backs:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	VALUE	PLAYER
93	5	122	 25	10	2	5	0	3486	O.J. Simpson
64	4	 73	 67	 5	2	2	2	2720	Walter Payton
90	3	109	 84	 6	0	0	2	1912	Lydell Mitchell
80	5	 93	 78	 6	1	1	2	1803	Chuck Foreman
27	2	 31	 30	 2	4	2	0	1314	Earl Campbell
71	3	 88	 71	 5	2	2	0	1305	Larry Brown
54	2	 67	  0	 4	0	1	0	1211	Ron A. Johnson
74	5	 89	 78	 5	0	0	1	1192	Lawrence McCutcheon
82	8	111	106	 8	2	1	2	1188	Franco Harris
66	5	124	123	 9	1	2	1	 858	Larry Csonka
50	2	 87	 52	 4	0	1	0	 849	Otis Armstrong
53	2	 84	 67	 5	0	1	0	 791	Delvin Williams
56	3	 84	 73	 6	0	0	0	 764	Floyd Little
53	3	 95	  9	 7	1	1	1	 724	John Brockington
32	2	 44	 31	 2	0	0	2	 698	Wilbert Montgomery
54	0	 88	 68	 5	0	0	0	 691	Mark van Eeghen
33	0	 73	 45	 4	1	0	0	 530	Don Woods
70	1	111	105	 8	0	0	0	 511	John Riggins
63	1	110	 17	 6	0	0	0	 470	MacArthur Lane
42	1	 44	 33	 3	1	0	0	 450	Tony Dorsett
59	1	 90	 84	 7	0	0	0	 356	Sam Cunningham
61	3	 87	 40	 5	0	0	0	 393	Greg Pruitt
62	3	114	 16	 5	0	0	1	 379	Calvin Hill
43	1	 67	 57	 5	1	0	0	 301	Mike Thomas
48	0	 87	 32	 3	0	0	0	 232	Jim Kiick
48	2	 85	 39	 3	0	0	0	 205	Mercury Morris

O.J. is the obvious choice for RB of the decade. He played in every season in the decade, and lead all RBs in RB dominance (Value), AV, Pro Bowls, first team All-Pros and combined All-Pros. He won an MVP and an OPOY award in 1973, but was arguably better in 1975. Earl Campbell won two Offensive Player of the Year awards ('78 and '79), along with a Rookie of the Year in '78 and an MVP in 1979. Larry Brown and Walter Payton each had a dominant season where they won an MVP and an OPOY award ('72 for Brown, '77 for Payton).

AV says Colts great Lydell Mitchell should be our other first team RB, but Payton has him edged out in running back dominance and has two additional first-team All-Pro selections. Simpson's '75, Payton's '77 and Simpson's '73 were the top three RB seasons of the decade, and the two are worthy choices for our All-decade running back spots.

Campbell played just two seasons in the decade, but both were top-20 RB seasons of the decade. AV would say he has no chance, but his 2 OPOY awards and 1 MVP match what Marshall Faulk did to make my '00 roster.

Franco Harris and Larry Csonka won SB MVP awards, and were terrific full backs for most of the decade. Lydell Mitchell doesn't have great All-Pro numbers, but that's less important for a position like running back where we have a bunch of good stats. Mitchell has three top-20 seasons in the decade ('75-'77), and was sixth in the league in '74 in yards from scrimmage. It will bother Steelers' fans to no end to leave Franco Harris off the All-decade roster, and they'll be right; he was an integral part of maybe the greatest dynasty in football history. He was a leader, a terrific playoff performer, and a dependable weapon for those great teams. But he didn't put up the big numbers, and had some fumbling issues. Only once in the decade did he rank in the top five in yards from scrimmage, and he only finished in the top five in total touchdowns two times.

Meanwhile, Chuck Foreman finished in the top five in yards from scrimmage in four straight seasons ('74 to '77) and finished in the top two in total touchdowns in '74, '75 and '76. Only Simpson's ridiculous 23 scores stopped Foreman from leading the league in scoring three straight seasons, as Foreman's 22 touchdowns in '75 is still the best ever by a runner up in total touchdowns.

(Once again, the voters do not separate out from the fullback position from the running back spot; if you're forced to take a fullback, Harris is the obvious choice.)

First team All-Decade RBs:: O.J. Simpson and Walter Payton
Second team All-Decade RBs: Lydell Mitchell and Chuck Foreman

Wide Receivers :

When you think of wide receivers and NFL history, you don't think of the 1970s. You're about to see why:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	VALUE	PLAYER
79	4	144	141	10	0	1	1	4120	Harold Jackson
67	4	112	 71	 6	0	3	0	3542	Cliff Branch
66	3	126	 97	 9	0	2	0	3320	Gene A. Washington
67	4	124	 96	 8	1	1	0	3077	Fred Biletnikoff
60	3	124	112	 7	0	0	2	3050	Harold Carmichael
64	3	101	  6	 6	0	3	0	2942	Drew Pearson
65	4	110	 56	 8	0	0	1	2912	John Gilliam
64	5	 86	 68	 6	0	2	1	2885	Paul Warfield
63	2	138	  0	 8	0	0	1	2878	Ken Burrough
59	1	 82	 73	 6	0	1	0	2708	Nat Moore
51	4	 84	 73	 7	0	0	1	2599	Charley Taylor
50	3	 80	 65	 5	1	1	2	2499	Lynn Swann
58	4	112	 27	 7	0	1	0	2489	Mel Gray
51	4	 96	  0	 7	0	0	3	2339	Isaac Curtis
43	3	 82	 76	 5	0	0	0	2250	Gary Garrison
40	2	 66	  0	 5	0	1	0	2208	Otis Taylor
55	0	129	 67	 8	0	0	0	2168	Reggie Rucker
42	2	 59	 58	 4	0	0	2	2141	Steve Largent
42	0	116	 27	 6	0	0	0	2116	Bob Chandler
57	2	128	107	 9	0	0	0	2064	Charlie Joiner
43	1	 78	 60	 3	0	1	0	1900	John Stallworth
43	2	100	 57	 7	0	0	0	1688	Ahmad Rashad
47	1	107	 64	 6	0	0	0	1607	Ron Jessie
52	1	140	107	 9	0	0	0	1602	Haven Moses
36	1	 73	  0	 5	0	0	0	1591	J.D. Hill

All four of the actual All-decade WRs finished in my top twelve, but none of my top four WRs made the cut. There are no obvious choices at wide receiver, so let's go down the list.

  • Harold Jackson: Played in every game in the decade. Tops all WRs in AV and yards over average. His two combined All-Pro honors are just one back of the decade-leaders. Was born in the right year ('46) to be in his prime during this decade, although he had his career high in receiving yards at age 23 in 1969. According to my ranking system, he was the top WR in the NFL in '72 for the Eagles and then again in '73 for the Rams. Despite Los Angeles throwing just 271 passes in '73, Jackson led the league with 13 receiving touchdowns.
  • Cliff Branch: Only played for six seasons, but was dominant during the decade. Along with Jackson, he was the only other receiver in the '70s to lead the league in adjusted receiving yards over average in two seasons. His '74 performance (60-1092-13 on 335 team attempts) was tops in the decade (+1146 adjusted yards over average), and he was one of just three receivers (Gene A. Washington and Otis Taylor) to break +1000 yards over average in any season in the decade. Branch was the only one to do so twice, recording +1012 yards over average in 1976. His three first-team All-Pros lead all wide receivers.
  • Gene A. Washington: Washington had a huge 1970 season, helping John Brodie win the first MVP award after the merger. Six times during the '70s he would finish among the top 20 WRs, including three top ten rankings. He played for nine seasons in the decade, and has solid Pro Bowl/All-Pro numbers.
  • Fred Biletnikoff: Was a dominant WR in the late '60s and early '70s, and had some very solid but not great years after that. Biletnikoff also has a SB MVP, although he is the only WR to win that award with fewer than 100 yards in the game. He was an indispensable member of those Raiders teams, and he played (and played well) for most of the decade.
  • Harold Carmichael: The six-foot-eight, converted tight end didn't make his name until 1973, when he unexpectedly led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards. Carmichael played on some pass-happy Eagles teams under head coach Mike McCormack, but also put up good numbers in Dick Vermiel's more balanced attack. He would rank among the top 15 WRs in five seasons during the decade.
  • Drew Pearson: As Bob Hayes' career wound down, Pearson became the dominant wide receiver for America's team. He had five top-ten finishes in the decade (but only one top-five), and was named first-team All-Pro three times. He struggled to reach the end zone generally (12 TDs in those three All-Pro seasons) but consistently ranked among the leaders in receiving yards. The '70s was a decade of famous touchdown catches, and Pearson will always be remembered for his big score.
  • Paul Warfield was one of the star receivers of the '60s, and continued his dominant play well into the '70s. He was the #1 WR on the '72 Dolphins, but from '70 to '74 Miami never threw 300 passes in a season. As a result, Warfield's raw numbers are not great, but he does have five top fifteen finishes (in the '70s) in my ranking system, including a #2 rank in 1971. A tremendously gifted athlete, Warfield could have put up mind-numbing numbers if he had played on some of today's offenses. Instead, he worked to become a terrific blocker, and helped Miami appear in three Super Bowls.
  • Lynn Swann: Remembered for his acrobatics and his playoff performances, Swann was still a very good regular season performer. Despite starting in the '70s for just five seasons, he ranked among the top five WRs in three different seasons ('75, '77 and '78). Swann was one of the biggest reasons Pittsburgh moved from a dominant rushing team in the mid-'70s to a more balanced (and sometimes passing) offense by the end of the decade.

So who are the four most deserving members? Jackson (yards over average, AV) and Branch (1st team All-Pros, yards over average) stand out as the most dominant receivers. They're solid, if not spectacular, picks for the first team. Washington is next in Value, and also has the two first team All-Pros; combined with the 126 games, he is a respectable choice for 2nd-team All-decade. The fourth spot? Biletnikoff, Carmichael, Swann and Pearson can all make good cases. Biletnikoff, Carmichael and Pearson are very close in yards over average; Swann trails them due to quantity, but not quality, of games played. Biletnikoff and Swann have the SB MVPs; Pearson has the three 1st-team All-Pro honors, and Carmichael has a great all around resume. We left Bradshaw and Harris off our roster, and Swann had 285 yards and the two scores that provided the ultimate margin of victory in Pittsburgh's two Super Bowls wins over Dallas. That's as good as tiebreaker as any. Swann's top three seasons compare well to the other guys, so I'm fine with letting his great playoff performances compensate for his shorter period of dominance in the decade.

First team All-Decade WRs: Harold Jackson and Cliff Branch
Second team All-Decade WRs: Gene A. Washington and Lynn Swann

Tight End:


AV PB G GS SEA awards AP1 AP2 PLAYER
69 4 140 78 9 0 0 0 Raymond Chester
68 3 137 0 8 0 0 0 Rich Caster
68 0 140 31 9 0 0 1 Bob Tucker
67 4 113 98 7 0 2 2 Riley Odoms
60 5 100 39 7 0 2 0 Charlie Sanders
52 2 100 0 8 0 0 0 Bob Trumpy
49 3 102 65 6 0 0 0 Billy Joe DuPree
49 1 141 0 10 0 0 0 Jim R. Mitchell
48 0 114 67 5 0 0 0 Larry Brown
48 4 86 55 4 0 4 0 Dave Casper
47 0 131 119 9 0 0 0 Bob Klein
47 1 112 21 6 0 0 0 Jackie Smith
44 0 99 74 6 0 0 0 Jerry Smith
42 3 101 56 4 0 1 2 Charle Young
40 3 95 42 3 0 1 0 Ted Kwalick

Tight end is a very interesting position because Casper received 20 of 25 votes, making him the third highest vote getter at any position, despite only starting for four seasons. That's why AV has him pretty far down on the list. It's your classic quality over quantity argument, and as Jason wrote before, Casper was the dominant tight end of the late seventies. But since he only played well towards the end of the decade, that leaves this position open for debate.

For starters, we should remember that even Doug thinks AV is not great at comparing one tight end to another. So let's dig a bit deeper.

Raymond Chester made a Pro Bowl for the Raiders in the first and last years of the decade, but spent some time in Baltimore in between. Chester and Casper made the Pro Bowl in '79, the only time since the merger that two tight ends from the same team made the Pro Bowl. With nine seasons as a starter and four Pro Bowls, he has a solid resume. He's a quantity over quality guy, though, as he only topped 600 receiving yards in a season (712 in '79) one time and has no All-Pro honors.

The Jets' Rich Caster had three huge seasons -- in '72, '74 and '75, Caster averaged over 57.0 receiving yards per game; only three other tight ends hit that mark in the decade, and none of them did so more than once. Caster made the Pro Bowl in all three of those seasons, and had a couple other decent seasons in the decade. His '73 season was a down year by his standards only because of injury to Joe Namath; in the four full games Namath played, Casper was his usual self, averaging 59.5 receiving yards and scoring two touchdowns. Caster led all tight ends with ten 100+ receiving yard games in the decade (Jackie Smith was second with seven), and dominated the AFC until Casper took over. He was also one of the many stars in one of our earlier podcasts, when he caught six passes for 204 yards and three scores in a game against the Colts. While Rich Caster was the dominant receiving tight end of the '70s, including Casper, he was such a one-dimensional player that he doesn't make the cut. He bounced around between wide receiver and tight end, and was never a strong blocker. As a result, he never received any All-Pro honors, and was basically a receiver in tight end's clothes.

Riley Odoms had some very big years but not terrific ones, at least as a receiver. His four combined All-Pro selections tie him with Casper for most by any tight end in the decade. Odoms was a consistently good pass catcher throughout the '70s, and reports indicate that he was a solid blocker, as well.

We don't have a lot to go on when talking about blocking tight ends, but Dave Casper was an offensive tackle at Notre Dame and has a reputation for being a terrific blocking tight end. Outside of the Steelers' Larry Brown -- who moved to right tackle during the '70s and was the starter for the '79 Super Bowl Champs -- he may have been the best blocker on the list. And we can't talk about Casper without mentioning The Ghost to the Post or The Holy Roller, two of the classic memories from the '70s that I discussed with Jon Rand.

Charlie Sanders is a recent HOF inductee, and was a first-team All-Pro in '70 and '71. But he was more of a receiver than blocker, and his receiving numbers aren't as impressive as Caster's. Bob Tucker also has good receiving numbers, and had the most receiving yards in the '70s of any tight end. But with no Pro Bowls and just a 2nd-team All-Pro selection, he can't build a strong case.

Only three players really stand out -- Casper, Odoms and Caster. Of the three, one was excellent at blocking at receiving, one was good at both, and was great at one and bad at the other. I'll side with the AP selections on this one.

First team All-Decade TE: Dave Casper
Second team All-Decade TE: Riley Odoms

Offensive Tackles:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
110.1	7	144	144	10	0	6	1	Ron Yary
 94.8	7	139	125	10	0	2	2	Art Shell
 90.6	7	106	106	 8	0	1	3	George Kunz
 83.7	6	128	 30	 8	0	3	2	Rayfield Wright
 78.3	5	144	143	10	0	0	1	Russ Washington
 70.0	5	112	 28	 7	0	3	2	Dan Dierdorf
 66.7	1	114	100	 7	0	0	1	Rocky Freitas
 65.9	2	120	108	 8	0	0	0	Norm Evans
 65.4	4	139	127	 9	0	1	0	Bob Kuechenberg
 64.8	3	 94	 93	 6	0	2	0	Leon Gray
 63.4	0	141	125	 9	0	0	0	Jon Kolb
 62.2	0	137	136	10	0	0	0	Mike Current
 59.6	0	139	 87	 8	0	0	0	John Williams

Ron Yary was the star tackle of the decade, starting every game in every season, and leading all tackles in AV, Pro Bowls, first team All-Pro nominations and total AP honors. The other tackle spot could be given to any number of guys. Shell, Kunz, Wright and Dierdorf all received four or more total AP nominations and five or more Pro Bowl berths. Shell has the highest AV of that group, mostly because he played in more games than the other three. He's also the only left tackle of the group, but in the '70s, that position had not yet been elevated to elite status. Washington is the only other tackle with an AV over 70, and while he has five Pro Bowls and played in every game during the decade, he has only one 2nd-team All-Pro honor and zero first-team nods. Washington was also a right tackle, and was fortunate enough to be born in 1946 to earn consideration for this team; anecdotally, he does not appear to be on the same level as the players above.

From '73 to '77, Kunz was named first team All-NFL or All-Conference by at least one major news service each season. And he did this while playing for both the Colts and the Falcons. Shell was named to at least one first team by at least one group in six straight seasons, '73 to '78. Dierdorf's success was shorter lived ('75 to '78 with at least one first team nod) but he did earn three first team All-Pros in a row. Wright's success was in the beginning of the decade, making the Pro Bowl annually from '71 to '76, getting some first team nomination from '71 to '75, and getting his three first team All-Pros in '71, '72 and '73.

Shell played with three other HOFs on those Raiders offensive lines, which probably cuts both ways. While it brings into question how much he benefitted from playing with those guys, it also likely hurt his AV. This one is too close to call with any conviction. I'll give the nod to Kunz; Bert Jones' and Lydell Mitchell's careers soared once Kunz joined Baltimore in 1975; admittedly, Jones and Mitchell were just entering their primes, but their play reached an elite level and Kunz deserves credit for that. He has largely been overlooked for playing on some bad teams, while Shell has already earned significant praise, at least with regards to Shell the player.

Deciding between Dierdorf and Wright for the final spot is equally difficult. Wright has two AV seasons of 16 and 17, while Dierdorf peaks at 13 (likely because he played with two other studs on the line). For example, in '73, the Cowboys ranked 2nd in scoring and Wright was the only linemen to gain any AP honors. In '71 Dallas was first in scoring, with Wright and John Niland being named to the AP's first team. Sadly, there just isn't much to go on when deciding between Dierdorf and Wright, but Wright has the edge in peak and decade-long AV.

First team All-Decade OTs: Ron Yary and George Kunz
Second team All-Decade OTs: Art Shell and Rayfield Wright

Guards:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
95.2	4	142	140	10	0	5	2	Larry Little
89.7	6	144	144	10	0	3	4	Gene Upshaw
71.3	8	128	126	 9	0	0	3	Tom Mack
64.3	3	 98	 98	 7	0	3	1	John Hannah
63.4	5	102	102	 7	0	3	2	Joe DeLamielleure
60.1	4	139	125	 9	0	0	1	Ed White
56.1	0	143	141	10	0	0	0	Randy Rasmussen
56.0	4	 83	 13	 6	0	2	0	John Niland
53.2	0	116	116	 8	0	1	2	Reggie McKenzie
51.7	2	125	123	 9	0	0	0	Woody Peoples
50.4	3	 99	 61	 7	0	0	1	Conrad Dobler
50.3	0	141	 44	10	0	0	0	Doug Van Horn
49.1	2	133	 48	 9	0	1	0	Bob Young

Unlike at the tackle position, picking our first-teamers is easy. Shell's teammate, Gene Upshaw, and Miami standout Larry Little, picked up 14 of the 20 All-Pro honors handed out to guards during the '70s. Both played in all ten seasons, in over 140 games, and combined for ten Pro Bowls. Only Rams great Tom Mack beats them in Pro Bowls, and if this was the All-decade team from 1968-1977, he'd have a good case. As it stands, Upshaw and Little are clear choices.

Mack is a fine addition to the second team, and we could have a good debate about who our fourth guard should be. The real team took DeLamielleure on the first team and Hannah for its second; both have good cases. Hannah suffers from the same problem Nnamdi Asomugha had -- he was born in a year ending with a 1, putting him in a tough spot to make any All-decade team; in reality, he made both the '70s and '80s teams, despite his career success coming from '76 to '85. DeLamielleure was the star of the Electric Line, and while his work in 1980 doesn't count, the fact that Brian Sipe won an MVP out of nowhere his first year in Cleveland probably speaks to how good DeLamielleure really was. We can put Hannah on our All-'80s team. Check out DeLamielleure's Wikipedia page for a breakdown on his head-to-head matchups with Joe Greene if you need further convincing.

First team All-Decade Gs: Larry Little and Gene Upshaw
Second team All-Decade Gs: Tom Mack and Joe DeLamielleure

Center:


AV PB G GS SEA awards AP1 AP2 PLAYER
80.9 6 129 109 8 0 4 2 Jim Langer
58.4 2 112 112 8 0 0 2 Len Hauss
57.1 4 110 57 8 0 1 1 Tom Banks
55.4 2 140 140 10 0 0 1 Jeff Van Note
55.3 4 143 29 10 0 0 0 Jack Rudnay
52.7 4 120 68 5 0 2 1 Forrest Blue
51.7 0 128 128 9 0 0 0 Mick Tingelhoff
50.0 0 126 0 8 0 0 0 Bob Johnson
50.0 3 95 27 7 0 0 0 Ed Flanagan
48.4 0 123 28 7 0 0 0 John Fitzgerald
47.4 0 132 110 8 0 0 0 Bill Lenkaitis
45.5 0 127 101 7 0 0 0 Ken Mendenhall
44.6 2 88 62 4 0 2 0 Mike Webster
44.3 0 132 102 9 0 0 0 Carl Mauck
42.4 4 144 73 5 0 0 0 Rich Saul
42.0 3 70 70 5 0 1 1 Jim Otto

Like Ron Yary at tackle, Jim Langer was the standout center of the decade. He's got 25% more AV than any other center, and his four first-team All-Pro nominations and two second-team All-Pro honors at least double all other centers.

The second team All-decade center? Jim Otto and Mike Webster are HOF centers who played in the decade, but Otto was washed up by the middle of the decade while Webster didn't get started until halfway through. Otto made the Pro Bowl in '70, '71 and '72 while Webster made it in '77, '78 and '79. For pure dominance, Webster might be the best choice, but he only started for four seasons.

Tom Banks joined Dobler and Dierdorf on those great Cardinals lines; Van Note teamed with Kunz on those bad Falcons teams. Tingelhoff and Hauss were stars of the '60s who played well into the '70s. Rudnay started each season of the decade for Kansas City, but he didn't receive much recognition beyond his two Pro Bowls. Blue was great early in the decade for the 49ers, but he only was a starter for five years.

Besides Langer, no center really stands out. In those cases, I'd prefer to take quality over quantity. Considering we've got almost nothing to measure quality but AP honors and Pro Bowls, Blue seems to be the best pick. I want to pick Webster because he was the superior player, but that's because of his great work in the '80s. If we want to stay objective, Blue is the best pick. Blue's resume was boosted when he picked up three first-team All-conference awards in '74, a year in which he was not selected by the Associated Press.

First team All-Decade C: Jim Langer
Second team All-Decade C: Forrest Blue

Be sure to check back in tomorrow to see the All-decade defense of the '70s, and comment on whatever you like below.

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