Top 20 career leaders

History Published on : 1/1/2009



Five years after the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened its doors for the first time, the museum created an exhibit that featured the Top 20 career leaders in four major statistical categories – passing, receiving, rushing and scoring.

Nearly five decades later, the Top 20 continues to attract visitors’ interest but not inside the Hall. That’s because today the Top 20 lives on the Hall’s website Since 1996, the lists of career statistical leaders have been a staple to the site’s programming. Each Monday and Tuesday throughout the NFL season, the career leaders are updated and posted on

Initially, the Hall’s Top 20 differed from other lists in that the statistics of the All-America Football Conference (1946-49) were included in the numbers. The NFL does not recognize AAFC stats and the inclusion of those statistics have become somewhat insignificant.  At the end of the 2008 season, only two players are affected by not including the stats from that defunct league. Hall of Fame teammates Otto Graham (passing) and Lou “The Toe” Groza (scoring) would rank in the Top 20 if their AAFC stats were included with those numbers compiled during their days in the NFL.

Now comes time to reflect on how today’s players rank among the all-time greats. As you peruse the current all-time stats leaders in 15 different categories, you’ll find a nice blend of active NFL players along with members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Special thanks go out to our friends at Elias Sports Bureau who’ve compiled these lists for us.

A few highlights of the rankings as they stand heading into the 2009 NFL season include:

Patriots coach Bill Belichick now ranks No. 19 all-time in coaching wins and has joined an exclusive club that includes such legends as George Halas, Tom Landry and Don Shula.

Check out the career leaders in combined net yards and you’ll find that Warrick Dunn and Edgerrin James rank ahead of Hall of Famer Jim Brown.

The Top 20 career leaders in interceptions list is dominated by Hall of Famers including recently elected Rod Woodson at No. 3. There are no active players who’ve cracked the Top 20 in this category.

Two thrilling return men – Ellis Hobbs and Josh Cribbs – rate along with Hall of Famers Gale Sayers and Ollie Matson in the career leaders in kickoff return average.

The Top 20 passers of all-time include 15 active quarterbacks. Meanwhile Brett Favre added to his career records for attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes during the ’08 season.

Roscoe Parrish of the Buffalo Bills jumped ahead of Hall of Famer George McAfee and now owns the highest career punt return average in NFL history.

Wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce rose to the No. 2 spots in career receptions and receiving yards respectively in 2008.

The Cardinals’ Edgerrin James cracked the 12,000-yard rushing yardage plateau in ’08. Along the way, he ran past two Hall of Fame runners – Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris – on the Top 20 rushing chart.

Jason Hanson, who established the career record for 50-yard field goals this year, climbed to No. 7 in the career scoring leaders. Meanwhile, LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Owens finished the year tied for 4th all-time in career touchdowns with 141 apiece.

Top 20 (at the Start of 2009 NFL Season)

 Coaching Victories

 Combined Net Yards


 Kickoff Returns: Average

 Passing: Ratings | Yards | TDs | Completions | Attempts

 Punt Returns: Average

 Receiving: Receptions | Yards

 Rushing: Yards

 Scoring: Points | Touchdowns

 Top 20 lists at the start of the past three seasons: 2008 | 2007 | 2006