Most Valuable, Most Feared


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.

LT

 

*Photo courtesy of the New York Giants

 

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9 Comments

  1. Dave Bonga
    July 23, 2014
    Reply

    Agree with you three that Butkus was the “most feared”, but think Taylor was the “best” linebacker.

    • Rick Gosselin
      July 23, 2014
      Reply

      Willie Lanier, Mike Singletary, Jack Ham, Joe Schmidt and Ted Hendricks all probably belong on any such balloting of the best linebacker of all-time as well.

      • Nick
        August 5, 2014
        Reply

        I lean Schmidt from the 50’s but George is close. Different kinds of players as an converted 52 MG versus a converted 52 LLB. Schmidt’s speed in his early years jumps out, but George seemed most stout at the point of attack – he has that awesome move where he holds a RB up and then strips the ball out with his free hand, don’t think anyone could do that today if they tried.

        • Rick Gosselin
          August 5, 2014
          Reply

          Agreed. MLBs of that era took on more blockers. Today the schemes try to protect the MLB to allow him to chase the play.

  2. Ed
    July 23, 2014
    Reply

    Tough I never saw Butkus play, but it is hard to imagine anyone impacting a game more than LT.

    • Rick Gosselin
      July 23, 2014
      Reply

      Butkus was a one-man wrecking crew. 22 INTs, 27 FR in just nine seasons. Went to Pro Bowl each of his first eight seasons before a knee injury in his ninth year ended both his Pro Bowl run and his career. A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, an all-decade pick for both the 1960s and 1970s and a member of the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. This was a special, special player.

    • July 23, 2014
      Reply

      I understand but having seen them both I can tell you people were paralyzed with the fear Butkus was going to dislodge their head from their shoulders. Both impactful players who changed games. It’s the kind of debate that can go on forever, which is what makes it fun. I know this Ed, if you tell me I’m “stuck” with the No. 2 guy, in this case Butkus, I’d be fine with that.

  3. July 23, 2014
    Reply

    One of the reasons I voted for Jack Lambert was because of his infectious smile. I would have loved to seen Butkus play though. The NFL Football Film Footage of his exploding collisions with players was incredible.

  4. nliu
    July 23, 2014
    Reply

    can you guys get a short clip of Butkus? Would love to see.

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