Special to Page 2
On Sunday, the Tennessee Titans retired Warren Moon's number. 'Twas an interesting decision by Titans owner Bud Adams -- whose relationship with the quarterback wasn't always peachy keen -- considering the franchise traded Moon 13 years ago, before the team moved from Houston to Tennessee . But according to The Associated Press, Adams cites trading Moon as the biggest mistake he has made in the 46 years he has owned the franchise.
But should the Titans have honored a man few would still associate with the franchise? There are compelling arguments on either side, none of which seems more significant than another.
However, that Moon didn't receive this honor until after he'd been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame led Page 2 to wonder how many other legends of the NFL still haven't seen their numbers hoisted to the rafters. After doing some research, we found countless Hall of Famers in a range of sports who do not have their jerseys retired officially or unofficially.
Below is a look at one player on each NFL team who should be immortalized by his franchise. To be eligible, a player must have left the team at least five years ago. Save for one exception, unofficial jersey retirements -- when a team simply stops issuing a player's number, rather than doing so and making a big fuss about it -- are treated as official.
Since the team, according to the record books, appeared out of thin air in 1996, they haven't had time to rack up a litany of stars. Down the line, look out for Ray Lewis and Chris McAlister.
BUFFALO: No. 32, O.J. Simpson
Simpson's number is unofficially retired, as are Thurman Thomas' and Bruce Smith's. But since O.J. left the Bills 17 years before you know, there's no good reason his number's not retired but Jim Kelly's is. There are two things to remember about The Juice. First, he ran for 2,000 yards in a 14-game season, a feat unlikely to be duplicated in this pass-happy era. And second -- if he weren't worthy of having his jersey retired officially, he wouldn't be on anyone's mind long enough to become the pariah he rightfully is.
CINCINNATI: No. 30, Ickey Woods
Boomer Esiason, Ken Anderson and Anthony Munoz's numbers are unofficially retired. And although we believe Munoz, the best offensive lineman of his generation, should receive an official honor, priority must go to Woods. The Ickey Shuffle was cool and all, but great respect is owed to a man who earned a living while going by "Ickey."
CLEVELAND: No. 82, Ozzie Newsome
The Wizard is a member of the Cleveland Browns Legends program, which honors great players in Browns history. But he should have his jersey retired like Jim Brown, Otto Graham and others. Now that tight ends are relied upon more and more in the passing game, Newsome's stats don't seem quite as impressive. But his streak of 150 consecutive games -- a streak that spanned 11 seasons -- with a reception is still second to Jerry Rice's 189. And even though he worked for Art Modell, he used his 1999 Hall of Fame induction as a platform to serve the NFL impassioned notice that the Dawg Pound was coming back to the NFL.
DENVER: No. 30, Terrell Davis
Denver has honored a slew of players in its Ring of Honor, but Davis deserves recognition on par with John Elway, whose number has been retired. Elway would have been the King of Denver without T.D., but he also would be considered Tarkenton West.
HOUSTON: No. 1, Warren Moon
Moon might have played for the Oilers, but he was Houston's quarterback. So the Texans should honor Moon, like the Rams honored old St. Louis Cardinals Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Slater and others when the team moved to St. Louis. Moon was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he never was appreciated properly by the city of Houston. The Texans owe Moon nothing, but the city that called for him to be replaced by Cody Friggin' Carlson after four bad games in '93 -- and the fans who would give him reminders of racism in America from the stands -- owe him this much and more.
INDIANAPOLIS: No. 88, John Mackey
If a player has ever been called the best player at his position, then the team he made his bones with should do him this honor. Plus, if you catch ESPN Classic at the right time, you'll see Mackey do things that make the piggyback ride Mark Bavaro gave Ronnie Lott in '86 pale in comparison. Voted the tight end on the NFL's 50th Anniversary Team, Mackey was an incredible talent, well ahead of his time.
Though Jimmy Smith should be a lock.
KANSAS CITY: No. 58, Derrick Thomas
Ask Dave Krieg about D.T., who brought him to the turf seven times in 1990. Lurid details of Thomas' personal life were brought to light after his death in 2000. But those things do no obscure his dedication to charitable causes and his incredible career as an edge rusher.
MIAMI: No. 85 Mark Duper/No. 83 Mark Clayton
Just split the difference and retire No. 84. Neither Clayton nor Duper will ever be in the Hall of Fame, but Dan Marino didn't throw 5,000 yards without a lot of help. As great as Marino was, it's impossible to think of him without thinking of Duper and Clayton.
NEW ENGLAND: No. 84, Darryl Stingley
The Pats do a good job remembering their past heroes, so there are no glaring omissions on their list of retired jerseys. In that case, we remember a man who suffered one of football's worst fates but still had the spirit to title his autobiography "Happy to Be Alive."
NEW YORK JETS: None
Before going through the Jets' annals, we had no idea how unremarkable the Jets have been. Joe Namath, Joe Klecko and Don Maynard are the only Jets worthy of this honor. And they've already been taken care of.
OAKLAND: Al Davis
He appears to have gone even farther out of his gourd than he ever has been, but don't forget that he's one of football's greatest minds. If he has always meddled, then he has had his hands on three Super Bowl trophies. And most importantly, he is the Raiders. Instead of an eyepatch, the dude on the side of the Raiders' helmets should have granny glasses. With a chain, of course.
PITTSBURGH: No. 95, Greg Lloyd
Pittsburgh retires jerseys unofficially, and most of the big names from the Steel Curtain will not have their numbers issued again. Not on that list is Lloyd, perhaps the most intimidating post-Lambert linebacker in the history of a franchise whose hallmark is intimidating linebackers.
SAN DIEGO: No. 80, Kellen Winslow
Winslow is a member of the Chargers' Hall of Fame -- the franchise has retired only the jerseys of Lance Alworth and Dan Fouts. That's cool, but it's not right to leave Winslow in the same company as Stan Humphries. The most famous game in franchise history, the 1981 AFC Divisional Playoff against Miami, is still referred to as "The Kellen Winslow Game." Winslow is in the Hall of Fame. What else does he have to do?
Check back in a few years to see whether Eddie George and Steve McNair have received their just due.
ARIZONA: No. 35, Aeneas Williams
Very few players have been as good as Williams was while playing on teams as terrible as the Cardinals in the '90s. Since no one can give him those years back, the least the Cardinals could do is give him this honor for being the greatest Arizona Cardinal. Even if that isn't saying much.
ATLANTA: No. 21, Deion Sanders
Even though he besmirched himself and his family by sporting a messy, drippy Jheri curl, Deion was the most dominant player in team history. He didn't stick around as long as guys like Jessie Tuggle, and the Falcons have given Deion's number to DeAngelo Hall. But the reason Hall, probably the best corner in the league, earned that number is the reason it should be retired -- it takes a bad man to follow Prime Time. They didn't give No. 21 to Ray Buchanan, did they?
Honoring Sam Mills was a great move -- a move that honored a great player and showed the Panthers' desire to establish their history. But other than Mills, no player has stood out. Let's talk again in about 20 years, when Julius Peppers might be waiting on a call from Canton.
CHICAGO: No. 50, Mike Singletary
There's a good chance Singletary might get his due before too long. Dick Butkus didn't have his jersey retired until 1994. But it's entirely possible Singletary's being punished for being associated with the "Super Bowl Shuffle," which was as terrible as it was cute. Singletary gets our nod for being the heart and soul of the scariest defense ever, the '85 unit that fueled the Bears' only league championship in the past 40 years.
DALLAS: Jerry Jones
All the great Cowboys, and then some, are included in the Ring of Honor, and there aren't any startling omissions. We'd put Jones here because, well, he'll probably do it for himself, anyway. No need to fight it.
DETROIT: No. 81, Dick "Night Train" Lane
Page 2 isn't too keen on praising gratuitous violence, but the "Night Train Necktie" was no joke. Too bad corners who literally try to take someone's head off have gone the way of the dodo bird.
GREEN BAY: No. 4, Brett Favre
If for no other reason than to get that kid wearing his number now off the field. Maybe he'll get better as he gets experience, but his rookie mistakes are doing the Packers no good. But where did they find a rookie with a graying beard?
MINNESOTA: No. 81, Carl Eller
This spot will be Randy Moss' in a few years. For now, respect is due to this Hall of Famer. Those who don't understand why it took Eller so long to get to Canton must be befuddled trying to figure out why he hasn't had his jersey retired. Jim Marshall and Alan Page weren't the only Purple People Eaters.
NEW ORLEANS: No. 8, Archie Manning
For all the punishment Manning took, this is the least the Saints could do. The licks he took behind that porous offensive line would be deemed appropriate punishment for vandalism in Singapore.
NEW YORK GIANTS: No. 53, Harry Carson
Another franchise that does a good job of honoring its stars. This goes to Carson, assuming he isn't already tired of waiting.
PHILADELPHIA: No. 0, QB Eagles
The star of Philly's team on Tecmo Super Bowl, QB Eagles was the most unstoppable video game quarterback before the Madden '04 version of Michael Vick.
ST. LOUIS: No. 75, Deacon Jones
Deacon claims he has something close to 6,000 sacks, a total inflated by rules that allowed him to literally smack linemen upside the head. But his name is as synonymous with rushing the quarterback as Lawrence Taylor's and Reggie White's. Bonus points for always looking like someone's angry uncle, even when he was in his 20s.
SAN FRANCISCO: No. 82, John Taylor
Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig are certainly more deserving, but there's an ulterior motive here. A retirement celebration would give the world an opportunity to find out what Taylor, a fantastic complement to Rice, looks like. Although I watched his whole career, I wouldn't be able to pick him out of a lineup. Chances are, neither would you.
SEATTLE: No. 32, Ricky Watters
Here's the thing -- Watters has Hall of Fame numbers, but he never stayed anywhere long enough to be associated with one franchise. Since the Seahawks have retired only one jersey (Steve Largent's), they should be first up to honor Watters.
TAMPA BAY: No. 12, Doug Williams
Williams is a part of NFL history because of his performance in Super Bowl XXII, but that was not his most amazing feat. With a hideous, citrus jersey on his chest and Captain Morgan on his helmet, Williams got the Buccaneers, once the most alarmingly abysmal franchise in the league, to the NFC Championship Game. He also once threw a touchdown while sitting on the turf and sporting that atrocious getup. Those feats alone should be enough to have the stadium named after him.
WASHINGTON: No. 66, Joe Jacoby
It's interesting that, even though most people associate Washington's three Super Bowls with The Hogs, no offensive lineman's number is officially or unofficially retired. We're going with Jacoby because our friends from the D.C. metro area continually praise his acting in a commercial for an electronics store in the '80s, an ad one Web site calls "the 'Casablanca' of local D.C. area commercials." Renaissance men like him are to be praised.
Bomani Jones is a frequent contributor to Page 2. Tell him how you feel at firstname.lastname@example.org.