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Pro football is now ranked as the most popular sport in America, but surprisingly, of the four major sports leagues, the NFL as we know it is the newest. It has only been around in its current form since the mid-1960's, but in that relatively short period of time it has had its share of great stories and teams. In the short time that the NFL has been around, there has not yet been a team to that can make the claim to have been far and away the best ever. There have been a few dynasties, but the question of which was the best remains. The first of these dynasties was the team that won the first two Super Bowls, the Green Bay Packers of the 1960's. The on field leader was probably quarterback Bart Starr, but there was no doubt that the team belonged to legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His influence is felt today perhaps more than any other personality of the early NFL era.
In the next decade came the Pittsburgh Steelers, quarterbacked by Terry Bradshaw. The Steelers won four Super Bowls and had several epic match-ups against the Dallas Cowboys. Bradshaw had plenty of help on offense, with Lynn Swann and Franco Harris there to provide support. Harris was involved in the "Immaculate Reception", perhaps the most famous single play in NFL history, that knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs and broke the hearts of many of their fans.
Throughout the 1980's and early 1990's, the San Fransisco 49ers were unquestionably the cream of the NFL crop. Under quarterbacks Joe Montana and later Steve Young, the Niners won five titles and had the longest run of excellence in the history of the league. Montana and Young are undoubtedly two of the best quarterbacks in the history of the league, and Jerry Rice is probably the reason why. Rice has set more receiving records than anyone else, and may be the best ever at that position. Montana and Young would have been great without Rice, but he is certainly the reason they could be as great as they were.
In the later 1990's, the Cowboys returned to prominence with three championship seasons. The "Big Three" (quarterback Troy Aikman, running back and Emmit Smit and receiver Michael Irvin) made Dallas' offense the best in the NFL, and along with a great defensive line, dominated the league. The argument can be made that, because of the quality of teams they beat on the road to the Super Bowls, like the 49ers and Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys were the best football dynasty ever. But the 49ers were so good for so long, the title of best dynasty in NFL history has to go to them.