Let’s admit it already. If you are still in the dark at to who the greatest NFL player is by Championships, you might as well stop speaking about sports all together. Tom Brady’s 7th Super Bowl is arguably his best performance in a Super Bowl since the last time he was in the Super Bowl which seems like ancient history but it was 2019. Brady beat the Rams and at that point had cemented himself as the greatest QUARTERBACK of all time, winning his 6th as a player.
Unfortunately, since Brady is still playing there is an opportunity for him to win an 8th and sadly it looks promising that he will. However, we do not want to inflate an already sturdy resume. Instead, we want to talk about who is behind Brady as there is 1 person who has 5 as a player and 32 that have 4 rings. Today, we will discuss 3 players who have Hall of Fame resumes themselves but still don’t match up against Brady.
Charles Haley is a relatively unknown member of the National Football League Hall of Fame. He was enshrined in 2015 due to his spectacular career which lasted 13 years. 5 of which where spent winning Super Bowls with, at the time, 2 of the NFL’s greatest franchises.
Haley came out of James Madison University in 1986. Haley was NFL ready it seemed as his combine numbers were an astonishing 4.8 second 40-yard dash. Haley was drafted late though due to scouts not having enough information on him but this would soon change as Haley had proved to become one of the best linebackers in NFL history. Like Lawrence Taylor had previously done, Haley was an outside Linebacker who knew how to put massive pressure on the quarterback. He finished his rookie season with 12 sacks which was second. Haley was officially named the starter in 1988 and made 69 tackles and 11.5 sacks that year. Haley was a tackling machine but had problems with his coaching staff.
Haley ended up in a pretty awesome situation coming out of college as he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers were already, it seemed, destined to be the team of the decade. Behind their fearless leader, Joe Montana and Wide Receiver Jerry Rice who was in his second season when Haley was drafted. The 49ers has a phenomenal defense but it gets very little recognition because on the offensive side of the ball, both Rice and Montana where the greatest quarterback-receiver combination that the NFL had ever seen. After winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1988 and 1989, Haley was traded to another team that like the 49ers was destined for greatness.
Haley was always described as a fierce competitor on the football field and his knowledge of the 3-4 defense seemed unmatched on those 49ers Super Bowl teams. However, Haley had an adjustment to make when he was traded to Dallas in 1992. The Cowboys has been a laughing stock in the 1980s while the 49ers where off winning Super Bowls the Cowboys where trying to keep their heads above water. Due to having a pretty definitive linebacking core, the decision was made by head coach Jimmy Johnson to move Haley to defensive end. Haley also had to change defenses as he was now in a 4-3 defense, not something that he was used to. His production went down dramatically in Dallas as he made 39 tackles and 6 sacks. However, on the upside, he was still an outside presence to every quarterback that played against him. With the addition of Haley, the Dallas Cowboys improved their defense from 17th to 1st in the league. Many players on what would become a Cowboys Dynasty consider Haley’s play to be the missing piece that came through.
Haley though continued to be problem. His growing displeasure with the organization and how it handled things led to their being some changes. Haley was seen smashing his helmet in the locker room during the 1993 season as the Cowboys could not sign Emmitt Smith who was holding out. That year that started the season 0-2 and became the first team to win a Super Bowl after such a disastrous start. Haley repeated with the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl in 1992 and 1993. In 1994, his former team won the Super Bowl and following that year they included a key member of that 49ers squad to the Dallas Cowboys. Primetime Deion Sanders’ talent allowed the Cowboys to return to glory in 1995 when they won the Super Bowl for the 3rd time in the decade. Following the 1996 season Haley was released by an aging Cowboys roster and spent time away from Football only to return in 1998 as a 49er. He retired in 1999 as a 5x Pro-Bowler, a member of the 100 sacks club, a member of the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame and 49ers Hall of Fame and most importantly a 5x Super Bowl champion. Haley is one of the few individuals to be enshrined at both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Arguably, the greatest San Francisco 49er of all-time. Ronnie Lott was a revolution to the NFL when he entered in 1981. Lott was an all-around defensive mastermind as he played his college ball at USC. He started in his rookie year with the 49ers and that year returned 3 interceptions for touchdowns. Lott recorded 7 Interceptions that year and recovered 2 fumbles. Lott’s playing style was unique to that of an Ed Reed or a Sean Taylor, both NFL greats. Lott, like Haley was a revolution to the position as he could provide pressure on a quarterback but also play strong man-to-man coverage on a receiver.
For this reason, it was decided following his rookie year that Lott would be switched from being a cornerback to a Safety. Lott was a luky soul as well. He was drafted onto a 49ers squad that was just beginning its dynasty as one of the NFL’s greatest. Lott was arguably the most influential player on the 49ers stern defense. In his rookie season, the 49ers won the Super Bowl and they would go on to win 3 more while he played with them. Lott is one of the few players to win 3 or more with the same team.
Lott’s career was took a potential turn in 1985 after a gruesome tackle of Timmy Newsome of the Dallas Cowboys. On the tackle, Lott’s left pinky finger was crushed and a surgery might have cost him his NFL career. Lott made an executive decision to amputate the finger so that he could keep playing at the high level that he had done prior. In 1986, he had 10 interceptions leading the league and he only needed 9 fingers to do it. Lott was one of 4 individuals who where on all four 49ers Super Bowl squads. Winning their last one in 1990 the 49ers released Lott who had been a key part of the team for the 9 seasons that he played there. Lott was picked up by the Raiders in 1991 where he played alongside former USC teammate Marcus Allen. He spent two years with the Raiders before being released and signed by the Jets in 1993. In 1991, Lott lead the league in interceptions for the second time in his career.
Charles Haley (5 Rings, 3 Cowboys, 2 with 49ers)
Lott finally transitioned to the Chiefs in 1995 and the 49ers later that same year where he would retire due to several injuries that plagued the later part of his career. Lott was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2000 as he was enshrined with teammates Howie Long and Joe Montana as well as former 49er great Dave Wilcox. Lott finished his career with 1,146 tackles, 10 Pro-Bowls, a membership on both the 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams and his number 42 retired by the 49ers. Lott’s career after football has included many philanthropy operations including the IMPACT Foundation. He currently works for GSV Capital as a member of the Board of Directors.
Jack Lambert (4 Rings, All with Steelers)
Probably the most feared man on this list is Jack Lambert. He played on arguably the greatest dynasty in the Super Bowl Era with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lambert is a legend in his own right aside from being in the Hall of Fame. He was once seen stating on National Television that quarterbacks should wear dresses and it seemed that he meant it. He is the ultimate story of undersized and never meant to make it far enough to the NFL. Lambert studied at Kent State where he played Linebacker alongside future National Championship coach Nick Saban. Lambert studied to be a veterinarian while at Kent State as it was thought that despite his talent he would not last in the National Football League. Many teams passed on him in the 1974 draft but coach Chuck Noll and the Pittsburgh Steelers saw something that no one else saw. Lambert had heart and he terrified anyone that ever played against him. Lambert was a game changer as he could be a terrifying presence to a quarterback or he could play back in pass coverage. This type of defense became known as the “Tampa Two” which the 1990s and 2000s Buccaneers popularized. Prior to Lambert’s arrival, the model linebacker was a larger presence like Dick Butkus or Ray Nitschke. They were strong run-stoppers and did not need to ever have to worry about pass protection.
Lambert did not immediately start his rookie season but a stroke of luck happened when Henry Davis, the starting middle linebacker was hurt. Lambert was put in and never looked back. His talent that year earned him a Rookie of Year for a Defensive player. That year, the Steelers were also Super Bowl Champions. Lambert’s talent was his ability to scare his opponents. Lambert was missing his front four teeth due to an injury in high school. He had a removable denture put in and on gameday he never wore it. This made him look tougher but it also gave the impression that this was not the guy to mess with. Lambert assumed the defensive captain role in 1976 after defensive presence “Mean Joe” Greene was sidelined with a back injury. Lambert was so intense that he averaged 146 tackles per season through his time in it. Lambert also made his way to
9 straight Pro Bowls. He was arguably the greatest linebacker of the 1970s and while playing the way that he did, he won 4 Super Bowls in the process behind the “Steel Curtain” Pittsburgh’s mighty defense and Franco’s Italian Army, the Steelers incredible offense which featured Running Back Franco Harris, Quarterback Terry Bradshaw and Wide Receiver Lynn Swann.
In 1984, Lambert decided to retire after recurring injuries due to his intense style of play. He also got married following his retirement. He finished his legendary career with 1,479 tackles, in 146 games, 23.5 sacks, and 28 interceptions. Lambert’s post playing career was spent in hiding fort he longest as he was an introvert who enjoyed hunting and fishing went not terrifying quarterbacks on Sundays. A good story about Lambert is that on the day he retired he told the equipment manager to not give his number 58 to anyone who ever wore a Steelers uniform. The manager supposedly lent the number to someone and Lambert fought him outside of the team facility. Lambert was inducted to Canton, Ohio in 1990 and is a member of the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team and a member of both the 1970s and 1980s all-decade teams.
Ronnie Lott (4 Rings, All with 49ers)
Not Even Close
These three men where all glories in their own right during their playing careers. Each man brought something unique to the game of Football, but in the one category that seems to matter to Tom Brady they are not even close. It also does not help that Brady might be playing a tad longer than we expected based on recent comments. It is understood that Brady is the greatest Quarterback of all-time but there are others who were just as good at their position. Whenever Brady is enshrined in the Hall of Fame, he will be amongst those that he was mesmerized by as a young kind growing up in Santa Clara, CA. It seems to be a universal thought that Brady is someone that no one else in NFL History will compare to in their career but there is only one way to look at the NFL now. In order to be enshrined in Canton, can you tell the story of the NFL without Tom Brady? The answer is of course not. So when that day officially comes, then we will see where these three gentleman fall behind the greatest football player ever.