After the NFC Championship playoff game between the Seahawks and 49ers this past Sunday, we all saw the interview with Richard Sherman that sparked conversation and opinions throughout the week. It was the discussion in every media outlet and talk show whether it was Mike and Mike in the Morning or Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. From Forbes Magazine to Kathy Lee and Hoda it certainly made noise outside just the realm of sports. And whether you were pro or against the candid cry down that perked up Erin Andrews, it got us to thinking....
What would the most feared NFL defense of all-time look like? And we're not talking about necessarily the greatest, because there are plenty of legends out there that made a name for themselves, but how would the greatest defense of all-time match up with the most feared? Would talent and skill out-duel the more intimidating, dreadful, trash-talking alliance? How would Joe Montana sleep at night? We've assembled the most terrifying, unnerving defense ever created to let you decide.
CB Dick "Night Train" Lane, Detroit Lions
One of the few players that literally hurt you every time he hit you. His signature move was to pretty much take your head off and was considered to be the main reason behind the NFL doing away with the clothesline tackle. He was consistently removing players from games and his moniker 'Night Train' (although coined because he was afraid to fly so he'd take the night train the day before each game and meet up with his team in the next city) fit him well as his closing speed matched with his gruesome tackling style made receivers think twice about going over the middle.
FUN FACT: He still holds the all-time record for most interceptions in a season with 14...in his rookie season.
FS Jack "The Assassin" Tatum, Oakland Raiders
Considered the most violent and vigorous defender of his time, Tatum was a guy that running backs and wide receivers would shutter with expectations of him crashing into them every time they were on the field. The late Jack Tatum was known as a gentleman off the field, but thoroughly enjoyed the combat of the gridiron. Nicknamed the "Assassin", Tatum is most significantly known for his hit on Darryl Stingley in a preseason game that would leave him paralyzed. This was an accident that deeply moved Tatum throughout his life, but was unfortunately a direct result of his playing style.
FUN FACT: Routinely questioned the NFL about the safety of the game and hated the 'cheap shot.'
SS Ronnie Lott, San Francisco 49ers
Ronnie, who spent most of his career on those championship 49ers teams initially came out of the University of Southern California as a cornerback. As hard as he hit he became a real force on the dominant Niners' defense as a strong safety. He was quite possibly the best all-around defensive back to ever play the game because of his versatility to play all positions in the defensive backfield. Ronnie Lott is a 10 time Pro-Bowler, 8 time All-Pro, 4 time Superbowl winner, a member of the 1980's All-Decade Team and a member of NFL's illustrious 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
FUN FACT: Mangled his left pinky in a gruesome collision that left parts of his finger somewhere on the turf against their rival the Dallas Cowboys. Ended up cutting off the tip that very off-season. You can'y make this stuff up.
CB Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
Sherman is the very reason in what prompted this post so we have to put him in here. Quickly making a name for himself in just his third season, Sherman has become a defensive human highlight that cannot be missed on the field. He also, has a mouth to back it up. Sherman has had his fair share of controversy in his short career, repeatedly taunting Tom Brady, telling Skip Bayless he was "better at life" than the ESPN First Take analyst, constant Twitter battles with other perceived top corners in the game Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden, and of course his recent interview with Erin Andrews after the NFC Championship game where he belittled Michael Crabtree in a verbal assault. Despite his critics, Sherman has made himself one of the most feared DBs in the league as head of the 'Legion of Boom' in Seattle.
FUN FACT: Boasted a 4.2 GPA more than good enough to get him into Stanford and is currently working on his Masters.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Steve Atwater, Chuck Cecil, Ken Houston, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson
MLB Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steelers
Recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as "the premier linebacker of his era," Lambert was the starting middle linebacker for four Super Bowl-winning teams in an 11 year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was an icon in the Steel City as an undersized linebacker. It was said he would do two sets of curls, two sets of bench presses, light a cigarette and be on with his day. In on every tackle, Jack had a unique instinct for the game and played for respect. Respect is what he got as he backed it up as one of the hardest hitters of his time.
FUN FACT: A well known image of Lambert was that of a toothless monster ravaging the NFL. But in reality, he was a quiet, extremely private man... a bird watcher and avid fisherman.
ILB Chuck Bednarik, Philadelphia Eagles
Known as one of the most devastating tacklers in the history of football and the last two-way player in the NFL. A Slovak American from the Lehigh Valley region of Pennslyvania, he is perhaps best remembered for a tackle on the Giants star running back Frank Gifford, that knocked him out of professional football for a year and a half, and shortened Gifford's playing career. Bednarik was no "Lovin' Dan." His plaque in the Pro Football Hall of Fame says he was a "rugged, durable, bulldozing blocker" and a "bone-jarring tackler."
FUN FACT: His legend lives on as the award for "best defensive collegiate player" given out annually is named after him.
ILB Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens
There's been plenty of talented linebackers over the past decade, but when you think about the most feared, Ray Lewis is the first name that comes up. Throughout his career, Lewis built a reputation as a leader and intimidating force at middle linebacker. He led his team in tackles in 12 of his 14 seasons. The Ravens did not allow a single 100-yard rusher in 51 consecutive games from the 1998 through 2001 seasons. In addition to his run defense, Lewis has also gained a reputation as a complete defender. Since the murder allegations, Lewis's image has recovered, and today he is considered one of the most dominant linebackers in the history of the NFL.
FUN FACT: Ray Lewis got his first career sack against the Colts in 1996. The QB for the Colts that season was Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the 49ers whom Lewis and the Ravens defeated in Super Bowl XLVII.
MLB Bill Romanowski, Denver Broncos
With a name like Romanowski, you're already feared, and Bill was not a guy that minded it. Whether it was jawing with his teammates (see Larry Centers) or spitting in the face of his opponent (see JJ Stokes), Romo is still to this day considered one of the dirtiest players the game has ever seen. He once cracked the finger of Patriots RB Dave Meggett, "I heard it and felt it ... and then heard the scream at the bottom of the pile." Regardless of his dirty ways Romanowski played in 243 consecutive games, a standing record among linebackers.
FUN FACT: The only LB to start in 5 Super Bowls (XXIII, XXII, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXVII)
HONORABLE MENTIONS: James Harrison, Hardy Brown, Ray Nitschke, Derrick Thomas, Mike 'Mad Dog' Curtis
DE Deacon Jones, Los Angeles Rams
One of the best nicknames in all of sports, "Secretary of Defense" was given to this sack master who lit up the gridiron throughout the 60s and early 70s. Deacon is considered the "Greatest Defensive End of Modern Football" and the Los Angeles Times named him the "Most Valuable Ram of All-Time". Jones was the head monster of the Rams front line that was nicknamed the 'Fearsome Foursome' and frustrated QBs throughout his career. He unofficially holds the all-time single season sack record with 26 in 1967 and 24 in 1968.
FUN FACT: The word 'sack' used unanimously throughout football today was coined by Deacon Jones
DT 'Mean' Joe Greene, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steel Curtain is widely considered one of the greatest defenses of all-time in its hey-day and big Mean Joe Greene is the main culprit. He got his nickname when the Pittsburgh fan base mistakenly assumed that the North Texas team nickname of "Mean Green" was Joe Greene's nickname. Mean he was as Greene became so good that teams double-teamed, and even triple-teamed, him throughout his entire career. In addition to his skills, other teams saw Greene as a threat because of his massive size.
FUN FACT: Greene is also well known for his appearance in the "Hey Kid, Catch!" Coca-Cola commercial in 1979, widely considered to be one of the best television commercials of all time.
DT Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
Chosen by the Lions out of the University of Nebraska as the second overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Suh has quickly established his dominance along with his bludgeon ways. Suh has been criticized in the media and by other players for his aggressive style of play. In a poll of fellow players conducted by the Sporting News, Suh was named "the dirtiest player" in the NFL. Regardless of all that, Suh has made the Pro Bowl 3 out of 4 seasons and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011.
FUN FACT: Suh has been fined a total of $216,875 by the league for four violations in the first four years his career. That'll get you on this list.
DE Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants
To say Taylor played with reckless abandon as one of the most feared linebackers in NFL history doesn't tell the entire story. Taylor may have appeared reckless but he was a deep thinking tactician. His knack for timing a blitz or running down a running back by cutting his angle were legendary traits. Taylor is known most for devastating hit on Redskins quarterback Joe Theisman. On the play Theisman's leg was snapped, essentially ending the Super Bowl quarterback's NFL career. Lawrence has had his fair share of off the field controversy, but is quite possibly the most electric defensive player to play the game.
FUN FACT: In 1995, Taylor main-evented Wrestlemania XI defeating Bam Bam Bigelow where he dislocated his own shoulder during the match.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jack Youngblood, Rich "Tombstone" Jackson, Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Warren Sapp
LB Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears
When you think of the Chicago Bears, there's plenty of good names and history to scroll through. However, the name that continually tops that list is the one and only Dick Butkus. While players age in this game, many live off of their reputations, but Butkus had a motor that Duracell would appreciate. Butkus had a refuse to quit attitude, tirelessly wearing out the opposition. Offensive players knew that when this guy arrived at the point of catch they were about to be blown up. Because of his relentless passion, durability, and the overall fear just the name 'BUTKUS' brought to the table, he tops our list as the most feared defender of all-time. His name belongs among tall tale legends like Bunyan, Brasky, and Chuck Norris.
FUN FACT: "When I went out on the field to warm up, I would manufacture things to make me mad," Butkus said. "If someone on the other team was laughing, I'd pretend he was laughing at me."
Shout out to @AaronHadleyDana for his artwork shown on the cover of this article. Be sure to follow him and check out some of his other work. If you enjoyed this post, help us to share it below. We apologize if any nightmares ensue.