The 1970s’ Pittsburgh Steelers have the rings, and the Buddy Ryan Chicago Bears of the 1980s have the stats. But that doesn’t qualify either as the greatest pass rush front in NFL history.
According to last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, that honor belongs to the Fearsome Foursome of the Los Angeles Rams of the 1960s. That group that featured end Deacon Jones and tackle Merlin Olsen received a whopping 64.4 percent of the vote to easily outdistance Ryan’s Bears the at 16.1 percent.
Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain was next at 8.5 percent, followed by Ryan’s Philadelphia Eagles of the 1970s at 6.4 percent and the Purple People Eaters of the 1970s Minnesota Vikings at 4.6 percent.
All those pass rush fronts had Hall of Famers, and all had all-decade selections. The trio of Talk of Fame Network hosts were divided in their votes, with Ron Borges and Clark Judge giving the nod to the Fearsome Foursome and Rick Gosselin the Purple People Eaters.
“The 1976 Steel Curtain was the best I’ve seen,” Judge said. “But the pressure that the Rams generated from that defensive line was so … well, fearsome … with two Hall of Famers and a possible third that its reputation thrives decades after its demise.”
Added Borges: “Purple People Eaters and (New York) Sack Exchange all good, but nothing can beat the Fearsome Foursome.”
The NFL didn’t count sacks in the 1960s when the Fearsome Foursome of Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy and first Rosey Grier, then Roger Brown, were creating havoc up front for offenses.
All you need to know is that Jones and Olsen are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Brown has received consideration as a senior candidate. Olsen and Jones both were named first-team all-decade for the 1960s, and both were named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team.
Unofficially, Jones ranks third all-time in sacks with 173 ½, sitting behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White.
The NFL still wasn’t counting sacks in the 1970s, but it was the defensive front of ends Carl Eller and Jim Marshall and tackles Alan Page and first Gary Larsen, then Doug Sutherland, that powered the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances that decade.
Eller and Page have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Marshall has been a finalist. Eller was a first-team all-decade selection in the 1970s and Page a second-teamer. Page became the first defensive player ever named NFL MVP in 1971 and remains one of only two defenders ever to win the award along with Lawrence Taylor.
Unofficially, Page collected 148 career sacks; Eller 133 1/2 and Marshall 128.
“If the Vikings had won just one of those four Super Bowls, there’d be a whole lot more Vikings in Canton than there are now,” Gosselin said.