When we wrote our first By the Numbers post a year ago, it was intended to become a regular feature until we hit all 100 numbers (0-99…sorry, we’re not differentiating between 0 and 00). One thing I wanted to hold true to, though, was a random selection of the numbers. I don’t even totally know why—I just did.
Unfortunately, unlike our first selection, which had several players all viable choices as the best #81 of all time, research into our second number consistently came back with one player—the best #25 in NFL history appears to clearly have been Fred Biletnikhoff.
With 589 career receptions, 8,974 receiving yards, 76 touchdowns, a Super Bowl MVP (XI), six Pro Bowls (two of them AFL only), two first-team All-Pro selections, and Hall of Fame induction in 1988, he seems a cut clear choice.
Given the anti-climactic nature of the selection, we sat on it…for a year.
Other names that came up on the list:
Tommy McDonald – Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns – With 495 career receptions, 8,410 yards, 84 touchdowns and six Pro Bowls, his numbers aren’t far off from Biletnikoff. Of course, the last four years of his career he wore #29 (Rams), #8 (Falcons) and #29 (Browns).
Bruiser Kinard – Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees – Kinard was an offensive tackle from 1938-1944, when they were allowed to wear numbers in the 20’s…and started his career at a whopping 195 pounds. Elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, he was a 5-time Pro Bowler and 4-time first-team All-Pro.
LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles – The list of #25’s is thin enough that McCoy is one of three active players to make the list…he has one Pro Bowl and one first-team All-Pro selection to his name so far—it wouldn’t be impossible for him to someday stake a claim to being better than Biletnikoff, but he will have to significantly improve on his injury plagued 840 yards rushing from 2012. He wore #29 in his first season with the Eagles.
Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs – The other active running back on the list, Charles has two Pro Bowl appearances to go with his single first-team All-Pro appearance, and had a career year in 2012 (1,509 yards rushing, 5 TD) coming off ACL surgery in 2011—which would have been much more impressive had Adrian Peterson not lapped him by almost five full football fields.
Richard Sherman – Seattle Seahawks – Sherman has only been in the league for only two seasons, but has one first-team All-Pro selection along with being named a Pro-Bowl alternate this year (yeah, we’re not sure how that works either). And if you ask him, he’ll probably think he belongs at the top of this list.