Pro Football Weekly recently celebrated its golden anniversary by creating a special contest to build our "Team for the Ages," the best imaginable 50-man roster from the NFL's modern era. Next, we produced a special collector's edition magazine, in which all 50 players are profiled by many of our most esteemed PFW alumnus over the past half-century.
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Imagine playing on your high school freshman football team in the ‘60s, when the old AFL and NFL agreed to merge, beginning the modern era of the sport, and finding out your dad is leaving his job running a successful magazine publishing company to launch a newsmagazine devoted exclusively to professional football, the nation’s first.
Now think how you’d feel leaving the University of Michigan a decade later to join your dad at Pro Football Weekly, only to have him pass away suddenly and unexpectedly two years after that, and in your mid-twenties realizing you’re the publisher of America’s largest pro football publication.
Think about spending the next forty years living out your dad’s dream, following, covering and in some cases befriending some of the greatest players in history.
I have been blessed in all those ways, and with the completion of the 2018 NFL draft, we wrapped up the 50th anniversary of Pro Football Weekly.
A golden anniversary needs to be celebrated, and one that’s matched the growth of the NFL from Major League Baseball’s poor stepchild to the biggest and most successful sports entertainment business in the world, needs to be celebrated as well, but how?
Our thought was to build the greatest team of the NFL’s modern era through the analysis, wisdom and experience of some of the era’s greatest football writers, players and coaches, and we came up with an interesting wrinkle in assembling our panel.
Over the past 50 years, the pages of Pro Football Weekly have been graced by almost every one of the greatest football writers in America, and we invited a select group of them to join our panel.
We’ve also had some of the game’s greatest players, top coaches and front office minds either write for PFW or work on our syndicated TV and/or radio shows, and a number of them were on the panel as well.
You can meet the entire panel on page 6.
It was also critical to us to include any and all of you who’ve read PFW over the past 50-plus years, so we invited fans of America’s favorite sport to participate, and then awarded great prizes to quite a few of you.
On March 19 of 2018, Pro Football Weekly unveiled its “Team For The Ages” contest to honor the greatest team of the modern era of professional football at www.profootballweekly.com/teamfortheages.
Over the next 60 days, tens of thousands of fans from around the world joined us at the contest site and began the extremely entertaining — and surprisingly difficult — process of picking their own “Team For The Ages.”
Of course, we had to come up with some criteria to define our “Team For The Ages.” We believed a completely objective process was important, so we went back and checked every player who’s been named a Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America All Pro and discovered there were 723 honorees. But that felt just a bit unwieldy and to be honest, at least a few were, in fact, one-year wonders.
So we sorted how many players had been PFW/PFWA All Pros at least twice, and were surprised to discover exactly 300 of them.
We had our list of nominees for our "Team For The Ages."
It troubled us a bit to learn — and demonstrated just how incredibly special our 300 nominees are — that a number of Hall of Fame players, including John Elway, Jim Kelly, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Ozzie Newsome and Harry Carson, to name a few — wouldn’t even be nominated because, in spite of their great careers, each was an All Pro just once.
We know that seems impossible, but when you think about it, as great as Elway and Kelly were, for example, playing in the same era as Montana, Fouts, Marino, Young, Aikman, Moon and Favre made it awfully tough when there is only one All-Pro quarterback each season.
It’s not hard to see how a number of great players had to be left off the ballot.
To get a little more in-depth look at the 300 incredible players who were our finalists, beyond what you’ll find on pages 10 and 11, the contest site is still live, even though the team has been selected.
If you go to it you will find a pull-down screen for each position group with the nominees, a listing of each one’s significant accomplishments and a short bio.
Just to read all the bios is more than worth the visit!
Of course, we also had to set certain parameters so all teams would be equal, and the rules explain how you built your team just like an NFL roster with three quarterbacks, four running backs, five wideouts, etc. until you formed a complete offense, defense and special teams with one head coach.
For a little extra juice, there were great prizes, and one lucky fan will be making an all-expenses-paid trip for two to the 53rd title game, played next February at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Once we had selected the 50 greatest players of the NFL’s modern era, the next question was how we would honor them while also reliving some of the greatest moments of PFW’s past 50 years. The plans for this magazine were born.
Spread over the next 123 pages, you will find some of the finest sportswriting in America.
We’ll introduce you to the 50 greatest players of the NFL’s modern era in position groups, with an introduction to the players at each position written by our current Pro Football Weekly staff, and then you’ll find an article on each player reprinted from the pages of PFW.
With so many special players, some of the features written over the last half-century did run a bit long and had to be edited just a bit to make everybody and every story fit. But we did everything we could to preserve as much of the special writing by our incredible list of alumni as best we could.
Now before you take off on a special trip through the past 50 years of NFL history, where you will meet 50 of the greatest players of all time and enjoy some of the era’s best writing, there are a few people you may not meet on these pages who deserve very special thank yous.
The inspiration for everything that has ever graced the pages of PFW has come from our very own Hall of Fame roster of editors in order beginning with the late Bob Drazkowski, Neil Warner, my brother Dan Arkush, Rick Korch, Ron Pollack, Keith Schleiden and currently, my son Arthur Arkush.
Bob Peters has been our production manager and art director for every newspaper, magazine and book we’ve published since 1986, and this is some of his finest work.
For the past two-plus years now, PFW has been owned by Shaw Media, and this entire project has been the brainchild of our CEO, John Rung, and along with V.P. Tom Shaw, they have been the driving force behind it.
There are no words to express my gratitude to each and every one of them.
Of course there is my dad, Arthur S. Arkush, the founder and creator of Pro Football Weekly, who has made everything we’ve done here over the past 50 years possible, and whom we honor on these pages along with our 50 greatest players of the NFL's modern era.
Most of all there is each of you, Pro Football Weekly's readers. Whether you’ve been with us for 50, 35, 20 or just a few years, we cannot thank you enough, but this magazine is our big attempt.
We hope you enjoy it.