Ex-stars concede nothing

In a room full of NFL Hall of Famers, good luck finding someone ready to crown the New England Patriots the greatest team of all time.

Michael Irvin certainly wasn’t ready to concede New England was any better than his Dallas teams, and he wouldn’t count out the current Cowboys should they meet the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Same with Paul Hornung and his Packers, as well as this year’s Green Bay squad, which also has a shot to make it to Glendale, Ariz., for the title game.

Irvin and Hornung were among 18 former NFL standouts who took part in a charity event Wednesday morning at the Venetian, where a Guinness World Record was set for the most professional athletes signing autographs at the same time.

The Patriots have been setting their own records during a 16-0 regular season.

Should New England finish the job and go 19-0, it still might not be enough to convince some of these ex-greats that this year’s Patriots are the best ever.

“I’ve seen some more dominant teams, like the Bears, I thought, back in ’85, because of the way they played defense,” said Warren Moon, a quarterback for four teams, most notably the Houston Oilers. “A couple of Cowboy teams were very, very good. And some of those 49er teams (five titles in the 1980s and 1990s) were unstoppable offensively. I’ve seen some teams as good as them, but for the last four or five years, they’re probably as good as I’ve seen in the NFL.”

Hornung played halfback for the great Packers teams in the 1960s. Green Bay won five NFL championships or Super Bowls in that decade.

“(The Patriots) deserve to be talked about,” Hornung said. “They’re a great football team. I don’t think they’ll have 12 guys off that team in the Hall of Fame. We did. Pittsburgh could’ve beaten them, too.”

The Steelers won four Super Bowls in the 1970s and placed nine players in the Hall.

Irvin, a big-play wide receiver, said his Cowboys teams of the 1990s that also featured Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith and won three Super Bowls would have given New England a tough game.

“I would’ve tried those ’72 Dolphins, too, and wouldn’t mind (playing) a couple of those Steeler teams that everybody keeps thinking about (as) so great,” Irvin said.

He also likes the chances of the current group of Cowboys, quarterbacked by Tony Romo.

New England won at Dallas 48-27 on Oct. 14. The Cowboys, though, led 24-21 in the third quarter, and Irvin said he saw how Dallas positively responded to that game, which gives him hope for a February upset.

“The Cowboys had an opportunity to beat them in that earlier game,” Irvin said. “They didn’t think at first that they belonged on the field with New England. Then they went up in the third quarter, and I saw a different Cowboys team: ‘Oh, we are one of the best teams in this league.’ ”

The Patriots came back to put up 27 more points, though.

“Once you go up on the Patriots, the pedigree of a champion, it will raise their game,” Irvin said. ”And you have to match that raise.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2914.

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