Labriola On

Labriola on best-ever team, fines

Ready or not, here it comes:

• I get that it's a television show. That's it's not a research project. That there's no real way to determine objectively the greatest team in NFL history. That comparing human beings from the 1930s to human beings from the 1970s to human beings from the 1990s to the human beings of today would somehow have to take into consideration things such as the evolution of the human body, and the advances in nutrition and medical science, none of which is possible.

• I get all of that.

• I also admit to having watched the four parts of the NFL 100 series ranking the best 100 teams in league history, and I can admit to enjoying it. For the most part, anyway. But as with any such endeavor, the list is going to spur some debate/conversation/disagreement, which I'm sure is one of the goals NFL Network was hoping to achieve with all of these lists that were done in conjunction with the celebration of the NFL's 100th season in the first place.

• Being that you're reading this on Steelers.com, the assumption might be the disagreements I'm going to voice have to do with some perceived snub of one of the Steelers' six Super Bowl winning teams. I could go there, but that's really not going to be the point here today.

• I will point this out, however. The league has done previous lists ranking the best teams in history, and one of those lists put the 1978 Steelers at No. 1, and another of those lists had the 1989 San Francisco 49ers at No. 1, but this list put the 1972 Miami Dolphins at No. 1. What changed to move the Dolphins up and the Steelers and 49ers back is beyond me, because it's not as though any of those teams have played more games since these lists started.

• There is one point to be made about the ranking of the Steelers before I move on, however, and it's something I've been championing for a long time. I firmly believe the 1975 Steelers team is the best one in franchise history. Consistently in the rankings of such things, the 1978 edition always is perceived as the best, but my choice would be the 1975 team and the basis of that is the degree of difficulty it faced in getting through the regular season and then the playoffs to defend the Super Bowl title it won in 1974.

• Looking at the 1975 NFL standings, the Steelers were the champions of the AFC Central Division with a 12-2 record. The Steelers were a perfect 6-0 in games against division foes, and those games were not against cupcakes. Second in the AFC Central that season were the Cincinnati Bengals, an 11-3 team with two losses to the Steelers; and third in the division were the 10-4 Houston Oilers with two of their four losses coming to the Steelers.

• In the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Steelers faced the 10-4 Baltimore Colts, the highest scoring team in the NFL that season. They held the Colts to 10 first downs and 154 yards of total offense, while their offense rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns while easily covering the 10.5-point spread in a 28-10 physical butt-kicking.

• Next up were the Oakland Raiders – 11-3 in the regular season and 12-3 after beating the Bengals in the Divisional Round – in the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year. The Raiders had the No. 3 scoring offense in the NFL, but on a bitterly cold day in Pittsburgh, the Steelers defense had two sacks and five takeaways in a 16-10 victory.

• Then came Super Bowl X, where the Steelers faced the Dallas Cowboys, who trounced the Los Angeles Rams – 12-2 in the regular season with the NFL's stingiest defense – by a 37-7 margin. Dallas had the No. 3 scoring offense in the NFC in 1975, but the Steelers sacked Roger Staubach seven times and intercepted him three times while not turning the ball over or being penalized even once in a 21-17 victory.

• The 1975 Steelers played 14 regular season games vs. the 16 played by the 1978 Steelers, and here are some comparative statistics: The 1975 team had one fewer sack (43-44) and the same number of interceptions (27) as the 1978 team; even though the 1978 team is remembered as being an offensive powerhouse, the 1975 team scored more points (373-356) and the same number of touchdowns (46). In 1975, Terry Bradshaw had a higher completion percentage (57.7) than he did in 1978 (56.3) and a higher passer rating in 1975 (88.2) than he had in 1978 (84.8), and his touchdown-to-interception ratio in 1975 was 18-to-9 and in 1978 it was 28-to-20.

• Anyway, my pick for the best team in NFL history would be the 1962 Green Bay Packers, the 13-1 Packers whose only loss came to the 11-3 Lions on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. The Packers beat the Baltimore twice, with the Colts roster including five Hall of Fame players and a Hall of Fame coach; they beat Chicago twice (49-0, and 38-7) with the Bears roster including four Hall of Fame players and a Hall of Fame coach.

• Then in the NFL Championship Game, the Packers won their second title in a row by defeating the New York Giants, 16-7, in Yankee Stadium, a Giants team that included five Hall of Fame players. As for the 1962 Packers, their roster contained 12 Hall of Fame players and a Hall of Fame coach named Vince Lombardi.

• Because I'm not picking a Steelers team to avoid any hint of bias – and if I did pick one it would be the 1975 edition that included nine Hall of Fame players and a Hall of Fame coach – the 1962 Packers would be my choice as the NFL's best team of all time. And both the 1962 Packers and the 1975 Steelers would be ranked ahead of the 1972 Miami Dolphins on my list.

FINES AREN'T FINE WHEN THEY VIOLATE THE CBA
• Fans love it, the idea of a strict disciplinarian making what they see as pampered professional athletes do what they are told or suffer the consequences. But while that might make a fan feel better when a player on his favorite team is fined a big buck for being late or missing treatment or acting in a way they deem inappropriate during a game, etc., it's often against the rules for a team to do that.

• What Tom Coughlin did in his return to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and what happened to the team and then to him as a result is proof.

• Coughlin's old school my-way-or-the-highway approach had him issue a fine of $99,000 to Leonard Fournette for sitting on the bench during a game in which he had been made inactive; issue fines totaling $700,000 to Dante Fowler for missing offseason on site rehabilitation sessions; levying a fine of $25,000 to Dawuane Smoot for over-sleeping and missing a breakfast meeting in London; and these heavy-handed ways led to the deterioration of the relationship with Jalen Ramsey to the point where the player forced a trade to the Los Angeles Rams.

• Grievances were filed with the NFLPA, and after getting Fowler all of his fine money returned, the union issued a warning to its members that read: "In the last two years, more than 25 percent of the grievances filed by players in the entire league have been filed against the Jaguars. You as players may want to consider this when you have a chance to select your next club."

• The Jaguars went from an appearance in the 2017 AFC Championship Game to a 5-9 record this season with two games to go, and Coughlin was fired earlier this week.

• So before ripping the Steelers and Coach Mike Tomlin for not doing to players what you as fans believe should/needs to be done, understand that the Collective Bargaining Agreement often prohibits it. And just as it's true that the players ratified a CBA that gives the NFL Commissioner broad and absolute powers in many areas, the owners ratified the same CBA that prohibits and/or limits teams from disciplining its own players in many areas.

• Those are the rules. You may not like them, but you have to abide by them.

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