Saturday, November 30, 2019

Only One Nitpick with the NFL 100 All-Time Team Linebackers

By John Turney
Sure there are people who are disappointed that one linebacker or another got beat out for the All-Time team but in our view, there were no surprises like there was 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. 


  1. I am stunned that Rickey Jackson was not on the list. He is 4th in PFR's Approximate Value rankings for linebackers.

  2. Good call, Sir Percy...Jackson in my mind was as good, if not better than Taylor.

    1. I admire Rickey Jackson but he is NOT in Lawrence Taylor's class. It's blasphemy to assert this.

  3. Jackson played for very long time and had great durability. It has more to do with how great the other guys are than Jackson not measuring up.

  4. Not really...though Taylor does have better per game number averages than Jackson, it's not by much. Taylor mostly played on the weakside, while Jackson played the strong side. Both players improved their teams, but while Taylor was being shown alot on TV, being in the powerful NFC East, nobody saw much of the Saints until Jim Mora joined the team and got them more offensive help to go with their defence. Unlike Taylor, Jackson also played well at DE and I believe was better in pass coverage.

    1. You mention that Rickey Jackson played well at DE, yes? While he was with the 49ers. Lawrence Taylor would line up as a DE in a 3-4 front with his hand in the dirt....Belichick had Taylor do this several times and more often than not Taylor would fight through the double teams and sack the QB.

      I guess you would put Rickey Jackson on the Mount Rushmore of OLBs.

      Well.....Lawrence Taylor is THE mountain.

  5. I agree. It's just that Taylor was so overwhelmingly great as a pass rusher that he kind of exceed Jacksons better all around game.

    1. Alen, Bailey, I'm sorry.....but I disagree with your comment. Rickey Jackson did NOT have a better all-around game than Lawrence Taylor.

      Maybe you need to revisit history:

    2. Taylor was overwhelming great at EVERYTHING.

      Ask Bill Parcells, ask Bil Belichick, ask Joe Gibbs.....let them tell you how Taylor won games for the Giants and cost Gibbs games while he coached the Redskins.

  6. Without Ray Nitschke on the team, the team is NOT legitimate.

  7. Can’t believe Mike Singletary got left MLB of the 1980s & leader of the 1985 Bears! 7x 1st team All-Pro, 2x DPOY