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The Best NFL Player By Jersey Number: Taking A Look At Sports Illustrated's List

Sports Illustrated has assembled a gallery of what they believe to be the best NFL player to wear each given jersey number. Though I take a couple of exceptions, I applaud the list as a whole, in part because it offers yet another excuse to explore SI's massive, terrific photo archive. Here are some notable inclusions:

No. 00, Jim Otto: The AFL actually broke their own regulations and allowed Otto to wear "00" because it was a play on his name (aught-oh). Try to imagine the modern-day NFL allowing this.

No. 1, Warren Moon: Number one on the field, but he'll always be number, I don't know, twelve in our hearts!

No. 9, Sonny Jurgenson: Noting this for the culturally insensitive magazine cover.

No. 15, Bart Starr: The cover says "HOT WAR IN THE WEST" because Bart Starr played prior to the Louisiana Purchase.

No. 25, Fred Biletnikoff: After the Apocalypse, this is the guy who will attack your traveling party and steal your stores of water and fast food sauce packets.

No. 31, Jim Taylor: Jim Taylor carries the ball. Source: the cover of Sports Illustrated.

No. 44, John Riggins: The cover reads, "John Riggins Tramples Dallas." Unfortunately, it looks as though Riggins is trampling his teammate. We've already found the most 1977 Redskins photo. This cover might be the most 1983.

No. 51, Dick Butkus: Here, Mr. Butkus looks like someone simultaneously kicked him in the shins and explained to him what the Internet is.

No. 56, Lawrence Taylor: He's... he's making the Dreamworks face!

No. 58, Jack Lambert: I get it, but I'm still really, really disappointed that Derrick Thomas doesn't get the nod here.

No. 66, Ray Nitschke: I navigated to this photo and immediately burst out laughing. He looks sort of like that generic plastic toy soldier who's pointing. There should be a guy behind him crouching and talking on a WWII-era radio pack.

No. 69, Tim Krumrie: Personal note: my first-ever football memory is Krumrie's leg getting shattered into gravel during Super Bowl XXIII. My parents had to assure me that he was not dead.

No. 71, Alex Karras: This photo rules. I think Karras is hurdling over a baseball player.

No. 83, Ted Hendricks: HELLO FRAN LET'S BE FRIENDS

No. 85, Jack Youngblood: Man, Fran Tarkenton is in a lot of these photos, isn't he? In this photo, he is being hassled by a listless Gene Wilder.

No. 90, Neil Smith: This is an excuse to share a piece written by Peter King after the 1995 Chiefs lost a playoff game to the Colts:

The Chiefs had just suffered a stunning 10-7 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and Allen could not handle it. Neither could cornerback Mark Collins. Tears staining his cheeks, he walked to the equipment room and smashed his forehead into the door. Once, twice, at least 10 times. "This can't happen!" he screamed again and again. Defensive end Neil Smith threw his helmet against a wall, and it split in two.


And finally, No. 98, Julian Peterson: This might be my favorite photo of the entire bunch; unfortunately it didn't make a Sports Illustrated cover, probably because it was pre-empted by YANKEES VS. RED SOX BASEBALL'S GREATEST RIVALRY RETURNS WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE or some such. It's worth noting that this Niners uniform is one of the greatest you will ever see in any sport.