By John Turney
on the defensive end list.
Here is who did and did not make it—
MLB/ILB: Dick Butkus*, Jack Lambert, Willie Lanier, Ray Lewis, Joe Schmidt, Junior Seau
OLB: Chuck Bednarik, Bobby Bell, Derrick Brooks, Jack Ham, Ted Hendricks, Lawrence Taylor*
LB Finalists that did not make it: Finalists that did not make it: Harry Carson, Bill George, Kevin Greene, Clarke Hinkle, Sam Huff, Luke Kuechly, Von Miller, Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson, Mike Singletary, Derrick Thomas, Brian Urlacher, Dave Wilcox
*Denotes unanimous selection.
We've read on Twitter and elsewhere that Derrick Thomas or Mike Singletary deserved it, and they do, but there were only seven slots at each linebacker position (inside and outside).
One thing the Blue Ribbon Committee charged with the selections got right is listing Chuck Bednarik with the outside backers. Many think he was a middle linebacker. Well, he was both. He played middle backer later in his career but the vast majority he was really in a unique defense that played him over a tackle (the Eagle defense) rather than over the center like Joe Schmidt, Bill George, Sam Huff, and others.
The one thing they got wrong was listing Junior Seau with the inside linebackers. He wasn't, at least for the majority of his career. He was a weakside linebacker in a 4-3. Bill Arnsparger, the Chargers defensive coordinator (and later Dave Adolph and Joe Pascale) liked to play the "under" in the 4-3 and that put one outside linebacker over the tight end and the other stacked over the weakside next to the middle linebacker.
There were a lot of middle linebackers in the Seau era in San Diego—Gary Plummer, Dennis Gibson, Kurt Gouveia, etc.
In his first two seasons, Seau was, indeed an inside linebacker, though, just not the majority of his career. It was a hybrid 3-4 where Leslie O'Neal was converted to outside linebacker but he'd usually rush the passer and then on sure passing downs he had his hand in the dirt. Actually, we saw him with his hand in the dirt plenty in base defense as well.
He was, for many years, listed as an ILBer by the Chargers media relations staff. We don't know why but it led to him being an All-Pro at middle or inside linebacker. For some reason, the writers of the day just went along with the misnomer rather than vote him All-Pro at outside linebacker.
But Seau's position was akin to say Derrick Brooks' than Ray Lewis'.
That is no way does it mean he's not worthy of his spot. He 100% is. We just think it's a bit of a "code cheat" to list him as an inside linebacker but then again Seau was a "cheat code" in nickel situations—he'd freelance all over the place—as a joker rushers (pick a hole) on the edge, mugging the line as a linebacker. He was remarkable.