Talk of Fame Network
Our readers have spoken – Lawrence Taylor is the most feared linebacker ever to play the game.
But not by much.
We asked our readers in the last Talk of Fame Network poll to pick the linebacker who instilled the most fear in offenses. We gave them four options representing four different decades — Dick Butkus from the 1960s, Jack Lambert the 1970s, Taylor the 1980s and Ray Lewis the 2000s.
Taylor won by the slimmest of margins over Butkus, garnering 39.7 percent of the vote compared to 38.7 for Butkus. Just three total votes separated the two Hall of Famers. Lewis and Lambert were distant finishers.
Your three hosts of the Talk of Fame Network — Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge — disagreed with the result. All cast ballots for Butkus.
“There’s never been a better name for a linebacker,” Borges said. “Butkus even sounds like a collision. He was a playmaker and the most feared linebacker of all time despite getting no where near the help LT had with the Giants. He would have played every down in today’s game, just as he did in his day, and he’d have terrorized offenses.”
All four linebackers were selected to NFL all-decade teams. Butkus and Lambert were chosen to two all-decade teams apiece, however, and Taylor and Lewis only one. But Taylor is the only linebacker in NFL history named the league’s MVP and Lewis was a Super Bowl MVP.
“Butkus was a big player (6-3, 245) in an era of small players,” Gosselin said. “The centers and guards back then weighed in the 250-260-pound range. Butkus threw around blockers, runners, quarterbacks and receivers. He probably threw around his own teammates in the pre-game. He was nasty. He punished you for daring to play the game against him.”
Taylor became the NFL’s prototypical edge rusher as sacks were becoming an official statistic in the 1980s. He had seven consecutive double-digit sack seasons from 1984-90, including 20 ½ in 1986 to power the Giants to their first Lombardi Trophy. He added 10 ½ sacks in 1990 in New York’s second Super Bowl season.
*Photo courtesy of the New York Giants