Who was the greatest MLB of all-time?


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(Jack Lambert photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

Talk of Fame Network

The talent pool at middle linebacker may be as deep as any position in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Jack Lambert, Mike Singletary … with Ray Lewis and possibly Brian Urlacher on the way. That’s the subject of our Talk of Fame Network poll this week – who was the greatest middle linebacker of all-time? And don’t forget the likes of Chuck Bednarik, Willie Lanier and Joe Schmidt when you start pondering your selection.

So deep is the talent pool at middle linebacker that the likes of Nick Buoniconti, Harry Carson, Bill George, Sam Huff and Les Richter didn’t even make the cut. Here are your options:

Chuck Bednarik. The last of the two-way players, Bednarik played center and middle linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949-62 and was an all-decade selection at center in the 1950s. He played both ways in the 1960 NFL championship game against the Green Bay Packers – the last NFL player to go both ways in a title game. Nicknamed “Concrete Charlie,” Bednarik also played on Philadelphia’s 1949 championship team and went to eight Pro Bowls.

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(Chuck Bednarik photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

Dick Butkus. Selected to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team and also a two-time first-team NFL all-decade selection for the 1960s and 1970s. The third overall pick of the 1965 draft by the Chicago Bears, Butkus went to eight Pro Bowls in his nine NFL seasons in a career cut short by multiple knee injuries. Still, Butkus retired after the 1973 season with 27 fumble recoveries, which was then an NFL record. He also intercepted 22 passes, giving him 49 career takeaways, second all-time behind NFL middle linebackers.

Butkus, Dick

(Dick Butkus photo courtesy of the Chicago Bears)

Jack Lambert. Selected to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team and also a two-time second-team NFL all-decade selection for the 1970s and 1980s. Lambert was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1976 when the Steelers posted five shutouts. He was one of four Hall of Famers off the Steel Curtain defense that powered Pittsburgh to four Super Bowls in the 1970s. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Lambert intercepted 28 career passes and recovered 17 fumbles.

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(Jack Lambert photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

Willie Lanier Selected to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. Pro football’s first African-American middle linebacker. Lanier was a Pro Bowl performer on the last team that led the league across the board in defense, allowing the fewest yards, rushing yards, passing yards and points – the 1969 Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs. Lanier went to eight Pro Bowls in his 11 seasons and intercepted 27 career passes.

Willie Lanier

(Willie Lanier photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)

Ray Lewis. A first-team NFL all-decade selection for the 2000s. Lewis went to 13 Pro Bowls, an NFL record for his position, and also collected 51 takeaways, another NFL position record. A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2003), Lewis intercepted 31 passes and recovered 20 fumbles in his 17-year career. He won two NFL championships with the Baltimore Ravens and was named game MVP in the 2001 Super Bowl.

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(Ray Lewis photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

Ray Nitschke. Selected to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team and the 50th anniversary team and also a first-team NFL all-decade selection for the 1960s. Nitschke was a third-round draft pick by the Packers in 1958 who didn’t become a full-time starter until 1962. He was the MVP of the 1962 NFL title game and also the defensive heart and fire of a Green Bay team that would win the final four championships of the Vince Lombardi era. Although Nitschke was a three-time first-team All-Pro in voting by the media, he only went to one Pro Bowl in voting by the players.

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(Ray Nitschke photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)

Joe Schmidt. Selected to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team and also a first-team NFL all-decade selection for the 1950s. Among the first of the true middle linebackers as NFL teams took the middle guard in the old 5-2 alignment and stood him up behind the line. Schmidt went to 10 Pro Bowls in succession from 1954-63 and also was a 10-time first-team All-Pro. He was voted the NFL’s Lineman of the Year in 1957 and the league’s Defensive MVP in both 1960 and 1963. He won two championships in his career with the Detroit Lions.

SchmidtPose

(Joe Schmidt photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Mike Singletary. The first-team NFL all-decade selection for the 1980s. Singletary was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 when the Bears allowed the fewest yards and points in the league and won their only Super Bowl. He also was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1988. Singletary lasted into the second round of the 1981 draft because of his lack of size (only 5-11), but was claimed there by the Bears on the 38th overall pick. He would go on to play in 10 Pro Bowls and became an eight-time first-team All-Pro.

Singletary,Mike

(Mike Singletary photo courtesy of Chicago Bears)

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7 Comments

  1. Rich Quodomine
    November 9, 2016
    Reply

    I love Singletary, if I had to choose, but I went with someone before my time on my Dad’s words about any MLB: “He sure isn’t Ray Nitschke.” Dad was a Giants fan before he moved to WNY and became a Bills fan. He didn’t like the Packers any, but I’ve never heard him revere players more than Unitas and Nitschke. Dad’s 78 and a very keen observer of football – he played LB in HS Football in an era when you took dance to improve your coordination, not lift weights. ANd it’s LB that he understands better than any other position. So, there’s a bit of nostalgia there, for sure. But I’ll defer to him this once.

  2. bachslunch
    November 9, 2016
    Reply

    Unless Pro Football Reference is wrong, Chuck normally played as an OLB (specifically on the left side) on defense, not a MLB. He shouldn’t be on this list as a result. Would recommend having Bill George on this list instead

  3. bachslunch
    November 9, 2016
    Reply

    Sorry, meant “Chuck Bednarik” above. Autocorrect deleted the last name for some reason.

  4. Mike Avolio
    November 9, 2016
    Reply

    Butkus, Nitchkze , Lambert, Lanier, Mike Curtis, are my top five…

    • OLSEN
      October 25, 2017
      Reply

      Mike Curtis ? Really ? He couldn’t carry Butkus’s jock strap. Although he offered to.

  5. OLSEN
    October 25, 2017
    Reply

    Butkus was the MAN, period. End of discussion. Lambert came close,with his intensity ,but he had a cast of mates that were all stars of their own.
    #51 had some “good buddy’s” to go against their opponents. But it was he alone that wreaked total devastation on the entire league. Please, don’t just take my opinion,google his videos. And ENJOY them. I have shared them with my kids, and now showing my grandson who plays Pop Warner. Please pay attention that he never led with his head. He was just “busted” his opponents with BEAR force.

  6. OLSEN
    October 25, 2017
    Reply

    Butkus was the MAN, period. End of discussion. Lambert came close,with his intensity ,but he had a cast of mates that were all stars of their own.
    #51 had some “good buddy’s” to go against their opponents. But it was he alone that wreaked total devastation on the entire league. Please, don’t just take my opinion,google his videos. And ENJOY them. I have shared them with my kids, and now showing my grandson who plays Pop Warner. Please pay attention that he never led with his head. He just “busted” his opponents with BEAR force.

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