Orig Pub 7/13/2010.
My NFL All-Time Offense is a GREAT collection of inspirational talent and legendary success- but I must say, even compared to this, my NFL ALL-Time Defense is downright EPIC!!! The opposing team would be lucky to get even 1 play resulting in positive yardage.....seriously! What are you gonna do? Run? O.K., if you make it past "Mean Joe" and Lilly, good luck with Butkus, Lambert, and Lewis!! Pass? If your QB is LUCKY enough to not be crushed by "The Minister", the "Deacon", or "LT", he'll need to hope that his WRs somehow broke free from "Prime Time" and "Night Train." VIrtually IMPOSSIBLE! But what made these men the BEST of the best? What are some common traits they all shared? To a man, each played with passion and intensity, which often crossed(es) the line into "cruelty", and they all simply OOZE Leadership! "Defense wins championships", and nearly each one of these gentlemen was the Cornerstone for a legendary Defensive unit which carried their teams to Super Bowl Titles.
*I must say,this is where I cheat just a little bit. I’ve built a 4-4-3 Defense, which I don’t know is possible.....with a normal team! I was debating on my 2nd safety, but when glancing at the epic greatness of my D-Line and ‘Backers, I decided that with my 4 Linebackers, I can definitely cover the entire field and fill in for a Strong Safety.
*You can see my Offensive Team at NFL All-TIme, All-Pro Team- *Offense*
NFL ALL- TIME, ALL- PRO TEAM
OFFENSE: (see:- NFL ALL- Time, All- Pro Team: Offense )
DE- Deacon Jones
DE- Reggie White
DT- Mean Joe Green
DT- Bob Lilly
LB- Lawrence Taylor
LB- Dick Butkus
LB- Jack Lambert
LB- Ray Lewis
CB- Night Train Lane
CB- Deion Sanders
S- Ronnie Lott
Defensive Ends (DE)
1. Deacon Jones
Deacon Jones terrorized NFL quarterbacks from 1961-1974, and revolutionized the role of a Defensive lineman. He was a part of the “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line of the Los Angeles Rams (along with Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier, and Merlin Olsen), which is now considered one of the best lines of all time. Nicknamed the "Secretary of Defense" due to his chosen first name (David is his birth- name) Jones is widely considered one of the greatest defensive players ever. (ironically- or not- my other DE, Reggie White, was known as the “Minister of Defense”). Jones is credited with creating one of the only statistics that Football has to measure the impact of a Defensive Lineman, which he named: (Quarterback) “Sacks”. In 1967, Jones claims that he totaled 26 sacks during the 14 game season. If official, would still stand as the single-season Sack record. (Official Sack statistics were not recorded by the NFL until 1982). Then in 1968 he claims he had 24 sacks in 14 games, also more than the current NFL record. The total of these 2 seasons would have given him 50 sacks in 2 seasons! This is a feat which is (by far) unrivaled to this day. Pro Football Weekly has reported that Jones accumulated 173½ sacks over his career, which would be 3rd on the all-time sack list. He is obviously a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was selected to 8 Pro Bowls during his playing career.
*Deacon Jones, in essence, created the position of Defensive End as we now know it- a player who tries to elude the Offensive Line and get after the Quarterback rather than plow forward to stop the run. We must all thank him for this, and I will crown him with a spot on my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team.
2. Reggie White
Reginald Howard "Reggie" White (December 19, 1961 – December 26, 2004), was one of the most successful, influential, and most loved players in the history of Professional Football. He dominated Offensive linemen from 1985-2000 and was enshrined into the Football Hall of Fame 2 years after his tragic death in 2004 (at age 43), presumably from cardiac and pulmonary sarcoidosis. White was famous not only for his outstanding play on the Football field, but also for his Christian ministry as an ordained Evangelical minister. This led to his nickname, "the Minister of Defense." White stood 6’5”, weighed 300 lbs., and was probably the strongest player of his era. Combine that with remarkable agility and explosive acceleration and you have one dominant football player! White was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was chosen for the Pro Bowl 13 times, and is 2nd all-time amongst career sack leaders with 198.5 (behind Bruce Smith's 200 career sacks). He was selected to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and was named to the NFL All-Decade Teams for the 1980s and 1990s. He was part of the ’96-’97 Green Bay Packers team which was victorious in Super Bowl XXXI, over the New England Patriots. White began his playing career in the USFL for the Memphis Showboats for the 1984-85 seasons. When the USFL collapsed, he played with the Philadelphia Eagles for 8 seasons, compiling 124 sacks. White had an amazing 21 sacks in just 12 games during the 1987 season! He then joined the Green Bay Packers for 6 seasons, tallying 68.5 sacks and teaming with Brett Favre (my All-Time Quarterback) to lead the Packers to 2 Super Bowls, winning 1 time. In 1998, White was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, then promptly retired. He returned with the Carolina Panthers for the 2000 season and registered 6 sacks, forcing 1 fumble, before retiring again.
*Reggie White will always be remembered as not only one of the best Defensive Ends or one of the best Football players period, but also one of the Greatest Human-Beings to ever grace this Earth! Thank You Reggie! (& RIP)
Defensive Tackles (DT)
1. Mean Joe Green
Charles Edward,, known as “Mean Joe”, Greene, (born September 24, 1946) was a 10-time Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969-1981. Throughout the early 1970s he was the most feared and the most dominant defensive player in the National Football League, and is considered by many to be the greatest defensive linemen ever. Green was the cornerstone of the awesome “Steel Curtain” defense which led the Steelers to 4 Super Bowl Championships. When Green was drafted by the Steelers with the #4 pick in the 1969 NFL Draft, they were a terrible team, coming off a 1-13 season. His intense passion and desire to win rallied the veterans around him, and with the Steelers adding key pieces around him, as well as superb coaching by their new Coach (Chuck Noll), the Steelers quickly began a dramatic makeover. Joe Greene was credited as the cornerstone of the great Steelers dynasty and the most important player in team history. Mean Joe Green could be described as relentless to the point of maniacal, and utterly unstoppable. His influence cannot be measured by his “statistics”- 78.5 sacks (unofficially) and 16 fumble recoveries- as his passion, leadership and dominance on the field freed-up teammates to become star performers and created the best Team Defensive unit the NFL has ever seen. “Mean Joe” Green is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. He was named the 1969 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and the 2× AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1972, 1974).
*Mean Joe,……. I mean, Mr. Green….. is the dominating force, gameplan changing stud, and Team Personality-builder that I want in the front line of my All-Time Defense. Many of my defenders played with “an edge”, but this is the only man who earned the name “Mean Joe”. Enough said!
2. Bob Lilly
Robert Lewis Lilly, from Olney, Texas, was a dominating force for the Dallas Cowboys from 1961-1974. Lilly was the "unblockable, unstoppable, force of The Doomsday Defense" (NFL Films)for the Cowboys’,” which led them to the Super Bowl Championship in 1972. Bob Lilly was not a big man for a Defensive Tackle, at 6’5”, 260 lbs, but he more than compensated for this with tremendous pass-rushing skills and his ability to blow up plays with his quickness, agility and instincts. Affectionately known as “Mr. Cowboy”, Lilly personifies the aura of “America’s Team”. The Cowboys honored him with a Bob Lilly Day on November 23, 1975, and made Lilly the first inductee into The Ring of Honor. He has attended every induction of each Ring of Honor inductee since. Lilly’s accolades include being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, member of the “NFL 75th Anniversary Team, and chosen to the All-Decade Teams of the 1960’s and 70’s. Praise has been heaped on him by many expert panels and publications, such as The Sporting News naming him a member of the All-Century NFL Team and "the greatest defensive tackle in NFL history". Also, in 1999, he was ranked number 10 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. And finally, Sports Illustrated named him one of the “ten most revolutionary defensive players.”
*I would never claim to be smarter than such an array of experts, so Bob Lilly definitely deserving of induction to my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team. With Lilly and “Mean Joe” Green at DT’s I could probably play a 2-man Defensive Line, but instead I have Deacon Jones and Reggie White on the Ends! WOW! My defense is off to a pretty solid start!
1. Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor, or “LT”, played for the New York Giants from 1981-1993. While the lasting image of LT has been tarnished by controversy and personal problems off the field, his play of the football field was thoroughly dominating, and he is considered by many to be the greatest, or at least influential, defensive player in the history of Football. Consider this praise, offered by none other than John Madden:
“Lawrence Taylor, defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I've ever seen. He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers.”
In short, Taylor changed the very way the game of football is played. His explosive speed and power is credited with having changed the position of linebacker from a "read and react" type of position to a more attacking, aggressive position. His dominance from his outside linebacker position forced other coaches to rethink their offensive schemes to attempt to control his impact. For ages, a blitzing linebacker was almost always “picked up” by a running back. However, Running Backs were routinely annihilated by Taylor. The tactic employed by the genius of Bill Walsh, which became the design of the entire league, was to assign an offensive guard to block Taylor. However, this left a hole in the offensive protection that a middle linebacker could exploit. Later, Walsh and other coaches began attempting to employ offensive tackles to block Taylor. Taylor, being the dominant player that he was, made adjustments to his game to remain dominant, but it soon became commonplace in the NFL for offensive linemen to pick up blitzing linebackers- such as Taylor. Taylor (perhaps growing bored with regular QB sacks) also introduced the technique of chopping the ball out of the quarterback's hands rather than tackling him. LT’s speed, agility, and violent blows made him the most feared player of his time, and quarterbacks were always distracted by his presence on the field. LT was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, a 2-time Super Bowl champion, 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.
*The man may be as frightening off the field, as he was on, but my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team doesn’t make societal judgments. Therefore, Lawrence Taylor will be my starting Outside Linebacker for my All-Time Team.
2. Dick Butkus
Richard Marvin "Dick" Butkus, from Chicago, Illinois, was a star Linebacker in college for the University of Illinois and created a legacy in the NFL, playing for the Chicago Bears from 1965-1973. His career was cut short by injuries to his knees (about which he is still bitter at the Bears for not allowing him to have surgeries.). Despite his injuries Butkus is widely considered the best, most ferocious and most violent linebacker of his era- even appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1970 with the caption "The Most Feared Man in the Game." As a sample of Butkus’ dominance, in his rookie season Butkus led the Bears in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries- which he repeated regularly throughout his career. He had the speed to cover sideline-to-sideline, the strength to manhandle the running game, and an angry desire to punish the enemy at every opportunity. He was named to the Pro Bowl 8 times, Defensive Player of the Year 2 times, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, and the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. Dick Butkus was selected the 70th greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, the 9th best player in league history by The Sporting News, and 5th best by the Associated Press. The National Football League named him to their all time team in 2000, and elected him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
*Dick Butkus was driven by a consuming desire to be the best, and is quoted as saying: “I want to be recognized as the best- no doubt about it. When they say all-pro middle linebacker, I want them to mean Butkus!” His career was shortened, but it was long enough to make him a legend. If asked who my Middle Linebacker is, on my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team, I would say “Butkus!”t
3. Jack Lambert
Jack Lambert was a snarling, vicious, and seemingly omni-present middle linebacker for the Pittsburg Steelers for 11 seasons (1974-84). He played with a maniacal intensity and in each violent collision with an opponent he took a sick pleasure in the punishment inflicted. He created a fear in his opponents that ‘Count Dracula with Cleats’ was lurking nearby. Not only was his play intimidating, but his snarling appearance as well. See, Lambert's four front upper teeth were missing (from an elbow during a basketball game). Although he had a removable partial denture, he left it out during games, and pictures of Lambert's toothless snarl became the image of the great Steelers’ defense. Lambert patrolled the 2nd level of defense for the Steelers, should an intruder make it past my All-Time DT Mean Joe Green and his line-mates. During an amazing 1976 season, the Steelers began 1-4, the legend has it that Lambert threatened his teammates with physical harm if they didn’t step it up. In the remaining 9 games the Steelers allowed only 2 touchdowns and 28 total points. He was named Defensive Player of the Year. Lambert was a 4 time Super Bowl champion, 9 time All Pro, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. Jack Lambert is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
*I have no “soft” linebackers on my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team, and Lambert is definitely no exception. One can never have too many maniacal, angry athletes flying around, punishing ballcarriers. So I’ll add Jack Lambert to my All-Time Team, to add some Teeth to my Defense:)
4. Ray Lewis
Ray Anthony Lewis has played for the Baltimore Ravens since 1996 and is still one of the most dominant defenders in the NFL in the year 2010. His blend of contagious passion, freakish athleticism, and cruel intention makes him the most successful and feared defensive presence in the modern era of pro football. And Ray Lewis is more than a great football player. He is a persona, created at “The U” (University of Miami), consisting of a bold, brash swagger- which he is more than able to back up. Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, a 2nd year franchise without an identity, in 1996, he made an immediate impact and his ‘fire within’ has molded the Ravens into a winning team. A tough team. A team which takes pride in dominating and intimidating its opponent, rather than out-running them. In 2001, driven by a dominating Ray Lewis-led Defense, the Ravens won the Super Bowl crown. Lewis was the 1st linebacker (on a winning team) to win Super Bowl MVP honors. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times, and twice been named Defensive Player of the Year. The list of his career accolades has begun with his being named to the 2000’s All-Decade Team, and will undoubtedly grow exponentially as his playing days wind down. While certainly unique in his own right, Ray Lewis bears resemblance of a hard-ass version of Deion Sanders (my All-Time CB), trapped in the body of a frighteningly fast, 250 lb. sledgehammer. While difficult to measure greatness from one era to the next, based on Dominance alone, Ray Lewis is one of the greatest linebackers in the history of professional football.
*Ray Lewis is a Bad man! So Bad that he’s Good….. really, really Good! So Good- and Bad- that I wouldn’t DARE to leave him off of my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team!
1. Deion Sanders
PRIME TIME!!! Somewhere, hidden behind the Lamborghini’s, gold chains, do-rags, and high-steppin’, lies the best cornerback in the history of professional football, and one of the best professional athletes the world has ever seen. All of the brashness and swagger that defines the image and career of “Neon Deion” was created as a type of self-promoting marketing ploy which Deion and his childhood friend Richard Fain conceived on the basketball courts in Fort Myers, Florida, which he then grew to epic measures as a cult icon at Florida State University. Of course, not just anyone with a good marketing idea and self confidence could pull this off. Deion Sanders was a once in a generation athlete (at least) who possessed the physical gifts and athletic prowess that made his utter dominance seem effortless. Deion Sanders’ unofficial (official statistics not recorded until 2000) 4.19 40-yard dash time is considered to be the fastest 40-yard dash ever recorded at the NFL Combine! “Prime Time” was an athlete so far ahead of his time, that he didn’t need to always use the best technique or follow the “rules” of sound Cornerback play. His man was never really open, because Deion’s closing speed allowed him to recover...... IF he was somehow beaten on a play.
Deion Sanders truly created the role of “Shutdown Corner(back)”. While he wasn’t very interested in tackling, there is a reason why he had “only” 53 Interceptions in his career: the other team simply wouldn’t throw the ball anywhere near him! Basically, he took away half of the field for the other Quarterback, while Shutting Down the wide receiver he was assigned to. Deion was also one of the best kick returners in the history of pro football. And each time he possessed the ball, he was looking to high-step his way into the endzone- which he did an NFL record 19 times via Returns- Defensively or on Kicks. Oh.... also, Deion often lined up at the Wide Receiver position- not just token appearances but rather as part of the gameplan. With the Cowboys in 1996, star receiver Michael Irvin was suspended by the league, and Deion filled in as the starting WR for 5 games. He was the first 2-way starter in the NFL since Chuck Bednarik (my ALL-Time Center) back in the early 60’s. Remarkably, “Prime Time” is the only player in NFL history to score a touchdown 6 different ways (regular and post season): kickoff return, punt return, interception return, fumble recovery, receiving, and rushing!!! On top of being one of the All-Time Greats in pro football history, “Prime Time” somehow found more time, and put together a pretty decent Major League Baseball career with the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, the San Francisco Giants, and the Toronto Blue Jays. Sanders led the league with 14 triples in 1992, and stole 56 bases in 1997. He played in 1992 World Series with the Braves- the only man in history to play in both the World Series and Super Bowl.
Deion Sanders played in the National Football League for the Atlanta Falcons (1989-1993), San Francisco 49ers (1994), Dallas Cowboys (1995-1999), Washington Redskins (2000), Baltimore Ravens (2004-2005). In his 14 year NFL career, “Prime Time” was a 2-time Super Bowl Champion, 1994 Defensive Player of the Year, and an 8-time Pro Bowl selection. He was voted into the 1990’s All-Decade Team and will surely be a 1st ballot Hall of Famer when eligible. Sanders was #8 in the list of the 100 Greatest College Football Players of All-Time, by College Football News, for his exploits at Florida State. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Sanders#37 in their Top 100 Football Players of the Century. And, ESPN named Sanders #74 in its list of the 100 Great Athletes of the Century released in 1999 (an injustice!). As a primarily Defensive player, Deion had a career total of 7,838 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns
*It would be conceivable to include Deion Sanders on my All-Time Team simply based on his athletic prowess, his 2-Sport success, and his excellence on Offense, Defense, AND Special Teams. But this is a legitimate, elite Team- position by position- and I’m looking to take away half of the field for the offenses. And add some Flash. And Style. And find THE very best Cornerback in history of pro football. And that’s why I’m choosing “Prime Time” for my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team!
2. Dick “Night Train” Lane
Richard "Dick" Lane, nicknamed "Night Train", was a Cornerback for Los Angeles Rams (1952-1953), the Chicago Cardinals (1954-1959), and the Detroit Lions (1960-1965). “Night Train” was a nickname given by his teammates, based on his affinity of a hit song by Buddy Morrow. Lane, an Army veteran, disliked it initially, but it became acceptable with the print of some catchy newspaper headlines. Lane was a big man who possessed great speed, exceptional agility, quick reflexes, and a consuming drive to excel (an inherent trait of each member of my All-Time Team), “Night Train” switched from Defensive End to Cornerback and made an astounding impact as a rookie in 1952, intercepting 14 passes (a record to this day) in only a 12-game season (despite the NFL changing to 14 and now 16 game schedules, and passing more often). On top of his spectacular ball-skills, Lane was also a devastating tackler. Cornerback has evolved into a speed and agility position these days, a finesse position- and there’s nothing wrong with that- but Lane was a skilled corner and a fierce man who hit like a linebacker, some hits clean, some dirty. Yes, “Night Train” loved to hit opponents, and he even patented the “Night Train Necktie-” tackling an opponent by the head or neck (legal back then). In order that there be live athletes to play the games, the sport of football was compelled to banish the “clothesline” tackle- because of “Night Train.” In 1999, Lane was ranked #19 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. “Night Train” was named to 7 Pro Bowls, intercepting 68 passes for 1,207 yards and five touchdowns during his Hall of Fame career. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the 1950’s All-Decade Team.
* I’m rather proud of my knowledge about sports generally, but I’ll admit that I knew nothing about Dick “Night Train” Lane until I did some research for this article. And I like this guy! Here was a player from the 50’s who appears both physically gifted and skilled enough to play today, with all the advancements of sports’ science and the way the game is played. But that notwithstanding, the “Night Train” was an elite football player back then and he is now a welcome addition to my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team..
1. Ronnie Lott
Ronald Mandel "Ronnie" Lott was an All-Pro Cornerback and Safety, patrolling the secondaries for the San Francisco 49ers (1981-1990), Los Angeles Raiders (1991-1992), New York Jets (1993-1994), and Kansas City Chiefs (1995). Lott is best known for his years as the bone-crushing Free-Safety who was the defensive catalyst of the 4 time Superbowl winning San Francisco 49ers’ dynasty. Everything that Montana and Rice meant to offense, Lott was to the defense. With an uncanny ability to diagnose what the opponent would do, he was always around the ball. Known as an explosive hitter, Lott was also very efficient with his tackling. Performing somewhat in the shadow of the 49ers flashy scoring machine, Lott was an incredibly tough man- a Warrior even. For example: as a result of a particularly violent tackle the tip of his pinkie finger was badly crushed - so he CUT part of it OFF and returned to the game!!!! Ronnie Lott was selected for the Pro Bowl 10 times, Intercepted 63 passes, and made over 1,000 tackles during his 14-year career. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL All Decade Teams of the 80’s and 90’s, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
*The old Steelers’ dynasty was surely dominant, but for my money, the San Francisco 49ers’ Championship teams of the 1980’s were the best in the history of Pro Football. They had a quarterback (Montana) who was the greatest clutch player ever; a wide receiver (Rice) who was easily the greatest at his position; and they had a defense anchored by the best Safety in the history of the sport- Ronnie Lott. How could anyone other than Ronnie Lott line up as the lone Safety worthy of inclusion onto my NFL All-Time, All-Pro Team.