- 10/30/2010, 07:42PM ET
Rudedog: Believe The Hype said 10/30, 07:42 PM
In football, linebackers are looked to anchor the defense.
Middle linebackers? They are the backbone of every defense and are looked upon to "bring the pain"
So when you start naming the best of the best, you're mentioning some of the most feared and physical men to play this sport.
Anyone mentioned as one of the best ever must be talented.
We can agree that Ray Lewis deserves to be mentioned as one of the best ever. In my opinion, he is the best person to ever suit up to play the middle linebacker position.
While it's not an official stat, This website credits Ray Lewis with 1,830 career tackles, including 38.5 sacks, 29 INTs, and 15 forced fumbles all in 201 career games.
His postseason stats are even better. He has 101 tackles in 10 games as well as 2 INTs and 3 forced fumbles.
But what he's most known for is not something you can measure, but the fear he puts in teams. He's known for making the huge hit or the big play game after game. He does exactly what you expect your captain middle linebacker to do
Ray Lewis is the greatest middle linebacker of all time
(Un) said 10/30, 09:12 PM
I disagree that Ray Lewis is the greatest middle linebacker of all-time. That title deserves to go to Dick Butkus.
We're going to run into a few issues in stat comparison. Tackles were not officially recorded in the 1960s and 1970s, when Butkus played. Additionally, the NFL did not begin recording sack statistics until 1982.
So we're left with interceptions, fumble recoveries, and a whole lot of that which can not be quantitatively measured (such as intangibles). I'll start off with the few stats we have...
First, Ray Lewis holds a few advantages in career accumulated stats
- Butkus retired after 9 seasons. Lewis is currently in his 15th season.
- Butkus played during an era of 14-game seasons.
- As of today, Lewis has played 82 more games than Butkus.
Therefore I divided games played by career totals:
Ray Lewis intercepted one pass every 6.9 games
Dick Butkus intercepted one pass every 5.4 games
Ray Lewis recovered one fumble every 11.8 games
Dick Butkus recovered one fumble every 4.4 games
Ultimately, Butkus caused more turnovers per game.
I'll get to non-stats later.
Rudedog: Believe The Hype said 10/31, 01:15 PM
such as intangibles
Which leads me perfectly into my second argument.
Now, I'll be honest, I obviously never saw Butkus play. However, I have seen Ray Lewis play. And the intangibles he brings - leadership, intensity, passion - can't be matched. Not in today's game, not in history, never.
When Lewis steps on the field, he has said that he transforms. And it all starts with one of the most famous pre-game introductions in sports...
I remember watching a video where Rex Ryan (former Ravens DC) said he would watch opposing RBs come onto the field. They would immediately scan the field, looking for Ray. He also commented on how RBs would mysteriously suffer injuries prior to playing Ray - called the Ray Lewis Flu.
That gives you a picture of the intimidation factor he brings into each game.
But he's also a great leader
So while Butkus might have a slightly better average stat production, there's no doubt in my mind Ray Lewis brings more intangibles to the table
(Un) said 10/31, 07:21 PM
"There were more people in the training room after we played the Bears than any other opponent. Everybody was bleeding, bruised, marked up. I remember looking at one of our assistant trainers, I said 'was it that tough out there?' He said 'Butkus'."
- Former NY Giant's GM, Ernie Accorsi
Most Feared of the Feared
NFL Film's ranks Butkus as the #1 Most Feared Tackler of All-Time. Ray Lewis fell in at a distant 7th. So what made Butkus more feared than Ray Lewis?
Butkus played like an animal. He was known to growl, cuss, gouge eyes, twist heads and bite opponents. He tried to make players bleed. He claimed to target smiling players and manufacture thoughts that they were laughing at him - to increase his anger, and make games personal.
Butkus was known for bone-jarring hits. When he tackled players, he tried to drive them into the ground. HOF tight-end Charlie Sanders was once hit by Butkus so hard he equated the tackle to the force of a gunshot.
Multiple former players claim that even the referees were afraid of Butkus, and afraid to say anything to him. No one strikes fear like Butkus.
Rudedog: Believe The Hype said 11/01, 11:56 AM
So what made Butkus more feared than Ray Lewis?
I can't find a date this list was done, but, honestly, we know Ray is ranked far higher than #7.
Something I didn't address in the last argument was the longevity of the two. We both agree that the middle linebacker position is possibly the most physical position in the league.
Despite that, Lewis is in his 15th year and hasn't lost a step. He's on pace for as many tackles and every other stats he's equaling or better than. It's honestly incredible how long he's played at this high level.
Butkus? Forced to retire due to injury.
I'm not holding it against Butkus for getting injured, but I am giving credit to Ray Lewis. He's stayed healthy and played at a high level his ENTIRE career. In 12 of his 14 years, he led the team in tackles, including his rookie season
Consistency deserves some recognition here.
And you began you're argument with a quote, so allow me to end mine with one...
???A linebacker's job is to knock out running backs, to knock out receivers, to chase the football.???
Ray Lewis. Tell me this isn't the most feared man in football history
(Un) said 11/01, 07:36 PM
When Jim Brown retired, everyone knew he was the greatest runningback to ever play. Walter Payton, after a longer career, eventually surpassed Brown's career production. But does that make him "greater"?
That's what we have here.
Just as Jim Brown owns the per-game production over Walter Payton, Dick Butkus owns the per-game production over Ray Lewis. Lewis simply accumulated more stats over time.
As you mentioned, Butkus saw his career cut short due to knee injuries. But he didn't go down without a fight. He played the last three seasons of his career on a bad knee due to botched surgery. Even on a bad knee he was still considered most feared linebacker in the league.
Butkus played during an era which included six other HOF linebackers (Lanier, Wilcox, Nitschke, Bell, Buoniconti, Hendricks-partially). Yet everyone who played, coached, and was otherwise familiar with the era attests that Butkus was by far the best of the lot.
Butkus was a run-stuffing linebacker in a run-oriented era. He filled the most important need of a pre-1978 offense, punishing runningbacks. He was inducted into the HOF in 1979, his first year of eligibility.
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