Great Linebackers Playing Together II

One of the many great pairs of Bears linebackers.

Four years ago, I wrote version 1 of this article. With Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis retiring, I thought it would be fun to revisit the topic.

This post is NOT a look at the greatest linebacker groups ever. Instead, this post seeks to identify teams that had a bunch of great linebackers playing together while those players were in their primes.

The first thing we need to do is rate the linebackers. I used PFR’s Approximate Value system, which assigns a value to measure the approximate contribution of each player in each season since 1950. I then analyzed each player’s single-season AV score to come up with a base rating for each linebacker.1 It’s always difficult figuring out how to grade a player’s career, as you need to balance career length with peak production. I decided to average the best five years (they need not be consecutive) for every linebacker since 1950 to come up with a “peak AV rating” for each linebacker. Then I adjusted each linebacker’s peak AV rating for each season of his career depending solely on his age. That age adjusted score is the rating I’m giving each linebacker for each season of play, not his actual AV grade.2

How do you adjust for age? I selected the top 100 linebackers in NFL history (according to peak AV) and measured what percentage of their peak AV they produced at each age. After smoothing out the numbers a bit, you get the following age adjustments. For example, a linebacker peaks at age 27, and produces at 81% of his peak level at age 24.

AgeWeight
214%
2233%
2361%
2481%
2591%
2699%
27100%
2899%
2997%
3084%
3176%
3266%
3353%
3437%
3523%
3613%
379%
382%
391%
401%

Lewis has the highest five-year peak of any linebacker with a peak AV of 20.2. Urlacher isn’t far behind at 17.6. Here is how many “estimated” points of AV they are assigned in each year of their career in this system:

AgeWtLewisUrlacher
214%0.80.7
2233%6.75.8
2361%12.310.7
2481%16.414.3
2591%18.416
2699%2017.4
27100%20.217.6
2899%2017.4
2997%19.617.1
3084%1714.8
3176%15.413.4
3266%13.311.6
3353%10.79.3
3437%7.56.5
3523%4.64
3613%2.62.3
379%1.81.6
382%0.40.4
391%0.20.2
401%0.20.2

Obviously these numbers are nothing more than rough estimates. But overall, I think they work just fine for these purposes. Now that we have the age-adjusted peak AV score for each linebacker, we can create a list of the best linebacker groups playing together by simply averaging the age-adjusted peak AV scores for the starting linebackers on each team.

The table below shows the 200 highest rated sets of 4-3 linebackers since 1960. It is sorted simply by the average of the three age-adjusted peak AV scores of each of the starting linebackers. The top combination comes from the 2001 Ravens. Baltimore’s best linebacker was Lewis, who was 26 and has an “estimated AV” that year of 20.0. The second best linebacker was Peter Boulware, who was 27 and receives an age-adjusted AV of 10.4. Jamie Sharper, also 27, was the third best linebacker, and gets an “estimated AV” of 9.6.

One note: I decided not to re-list linebacker trios that would otherwise appear multiple times on the list. Any time a linebacker trio appeared more often than once, I only listed the best one (which would, of course, be based solely on the ages of the three players) in the table below. So that’s why the 2000 Ravens aren’t on there, because the 2001 version was a year older (and presumably closer to their peak). A similar fate sacked the ’85 Bears, replaced by the more physically mature ’86 version.

RankTeamYearAvg. AVLinebacker 1Linebacker 2Linebacker 3
1BAL200113.3Ray Lewis (26): 20Peter Boulware (27): 10.4Jamie Sharper (27): 9.6
2GNB196113.1Ray Nitschke (25): 14.2Bill Forester (29): 13.2Dan Currie (26): 11.9
3PIT197713.1Jack Ham (29): 16.9Jack Lambert (25): 15.8Loren Toews (26): 6.5
4CHI198612.9Mike Singletary (28): 16.8Wilber Marshall (24): 12.3Otis Wilson (29): 9.7
5KAN197112.9Willie Lanier (26): 15.6Jim Lynch (26): 11.7Bobby Bell (31): 11.4
6CHI200612.7Brian Urlacher (28): 17.4Lance Briggs (26): 14.1Hunter Hillenmeyer (26): 6.7
7RAM197612.7Isiah Robertson (27): 17Jack Reynolds (29): 11.1Jim Youngblood (26): 10.1
8BAL197312.3Ted Hendricks (26): 16Mike Curtis (30): 12.1Stan White (24): 8.9
9PIT197912.3Jack Lambert (27): 17.4Jack Ham (31): 13.2Dirt Winston (24): 6.3
10PIT198012.2Jack Lambert (28): 17.2Jack Ham (32): 11.5Robin Cole (25): 8
11BAL197212.2Ted Hendricks (25): 14.7Mike Curtis (29): 14Ray May (27): 7.8
12MIN196912.1Wally Hilgenberg (27): 12.8Roy Winston (29): 12.2Lonnie Warwick (27): 11.4
13GNB196712.1Dave Robinson (26): 13.5Ray Nitschke (31): 11.9Lee Roy Caffey (26): 11.1
14BAL200612.1Ray Lewis (31): 15.4Adalius Thomas (29): 10.7Bart Scott (26): 10.3
15CHI196011.9Bill George (31): 13.4Joe Fortunato (30): 12.3Larry Morris (27): 10.2
16RAM197511.9Isiah Robertson (26): 16.8Jack Reynolds (28): 11.3Ken Geddes (29): 7.6
17CHI197011.9Dick Butkus (28): 15Lee Roy Caffey (29): 10.9Doug Buffone (26): 9.7
18GNB197411.8Ted Hendricks (27): 16.2Fred Carr (28): 10.9Jim Carter (26): 8.3
19RAM196711.8Maxie Baughan (29): 14.4Myron Pottios (28): 11.5Jack Pardee (31): 9.4
20CHI198411.6Mike Singletary (26): 16.8Otis Wilson (27): 10Al Harris (28): 8.1
21DAL196611.5Chuck Howley (30): 13.3Lee Roy Jordan (25): 11.8Dave Edwards (27): 9.4
22PIT197611.4Jack Ham (28): 17.2Jack Lambert (24): 14.1Andy Russell (35): 2.9
23DET196011.1Joe Schmidt (28): 15.4Wayne H. Walker (24): 9.6Carl Brettschneider (29): 8.1
24CHI200810.8Brian Urlacher (30): 14.8Lance Briggs (28): 14.1Nick Roach (23): 3.7
25KAN196610.7Bobby Bell (26): 14.9E.J. Holub (28): 9.4Sherrill Headrick (29): 7.8
26TAM199910.7Derrick Brooks (26): 18.2Shelton Quarles (28): 8.7Hardy Nickerson (34): 5
27TAM200010.6Derrick Brooks (27): 18.4Shelton Quarles (29): 8.5Jamie Duncan (25): 4.9
28MIN197810.6Jeff Siemon (28): 12.1Matt Blair (28): 11.3Fred McNeill (26): 8.3
29CHI196810.5Dick Butkus (26): 15Jim Purnell (27): 8.6Doug Buffone (24): 7.9
30DAL196510.5Chuck Howley (29): 15.3Dave Edwards (26): 9.3Jerry Tubbs (30): 6.7
31DAL196410.4Chuck Howley (28): 15.6Lee Roy Jordan (23): 7.9Jerry Tubbs (29): 7.8
32CHI200310.4Brian Urlacher (25): 16Lance Briggs (23): 8.7Warrick Holdman (28): 6.5
33DEN197610.3Randy Gradishar (24): 12Tom Jackson (25): 11.6Joe Rizzo (26): 7.1
34CIN197110.2Bill Bergey (26): 14.1Al Beauchamp (27): 9.4Ken Avery (27): 7.2
35NYG197810.1Harry Carson (25): 11.6Brad Van Pelt (27): 9.8Brian Kelley (27): 9
36CHI198210.1Mike Singletary (24): 13.8Otis Wilson (25): 9.1Gary Campbell (30): 7.6
37MIA199910.1Zach Thomas (26): 16Derrick Rodgers (28): 7.3Robert Jones (30): 6.9
38TAM200210Derrick Brooks (29): 17.8Shelton Quarles (31): 6.7Alshermond Singleton (27): 5.6
39CIN197310Bill Bergey (28): 14.1Al Beauchamp (29): 9.1Ron Pritchard (26): 6.9
40SFO197110Dave Wilcox (29): 12.2Frank Nunley (26): 9.1Skip Vanderbundt (25): 8.7
41PIT197210Jack Ham (24): 14.1Andy Russell (31): 9.6Henry Davis (30): 6.2
42RAM19779.9Isiah Robertson (28): 16.8Jim Youngblood (27): 10.2Bob Brudzinski (22): 2.8
43CHI20109.9Lance Briggs (30): 11.9Brian Urlacher (32): 11.6Pisa Tinoisamoa (29): 6.2
44WAS19709.9Chris Hanburger (29): 15.5Marlin McKeever (30): 8.6Harold McLinton (23): 5.5
45NYG19609.7Sam Huff (26): 15.4Harland Svare (30): 7.1Cliff Livingston (30): 6.7
46TAM19979.7Derrick Brooks (24): 14.9Hardy Nickerson (32): 9Rufus Porter (32): 5.3
47NYG19619.7Sam Huff (27): 15.6Tom Scott (31): 7.4Cliff Livingston (31): 6.1
48DAL19629.6Chuck Howley (26): 15.6Jerry Tubbs (27): 8Mike Dowdle (25): 5.3
49BAL19689.6Mike Curtis (25): 13.1Dennis Gaubatz (28): 10.1Don Shinnick (33): 5.5
50OAK19699.6Dan Conners (28): 12.9Gus Otto (26): 8.9Bill Laskey (26): 6.9
51CHI19719.6Dick Butkus (29): 14.7Doug Buffone (27): 9.8Ross Brupbacher (23): 4.1
52TAM19969.6Derrick Brooks (23): 11.2Hardy Nickerson (31): 10.3Lonnie Marts (28): 7.1
53OAK19759.5Phil Villapiano (26): 12.3Gerald Irons (28): 9.7Monte Johnson (24): 6.6
54PHI19939.5Seth Joyner (29): 12.2William Thomas (25): 8.7Byron Evans (29): 7.6
55WAS19739.5Chris Hanburger (32): 10.6Dave Robinson (32): 9Harold McLinton (26): 8.9
56OAK19739.4Phil Villapiano (24): 10Gerald Irons (26): 9.7Dan Conners (32): 8.6
57NYJ20019.4James Farrior (26): 12.5Marvin Jones (29): 8Mo Lewis (32): 7.8
58ATL19729.4Greg Brezina (26): 10.1Tommy Nobis (29): 9.3Don Hansen (28): 8.7
59MIN19689.4Roy Winston (28): 12.5Lonnie Warwick (26): 11.3John Kirby (26): 4.4
60MIN19769.4Jeff Siemon (26): 12.1Matt Blair (26): 11.3Wally Hilgenberg (34): 4.7
61GNB19729.3Fred Carr (26): 10.9Dave Robinson (31): 10.3Jim Carter (24): 6.8
62PHI19749.3Bill Bergey (29): 13.8Steve Zabel (26): 7.5John Bunting (24): 6.6
63BAL19709.3Mike Curtis (27): 14.4Ted Hendricks (23): 9.9Bob Grant (24): 3.6
64ARI19949.2Seth Joyner (30): 10.6Wilber Marshall (32): 10Eric Hill (28): 7.1
65KAN19969.2Derrick Thomas (29): 14Tracy Simien (29): 7.8Anthony Davis (27): 6
66BUF20039.2London Fletcher (28): 11.1Takeo Spikes (27): 10.8Jeff Posey (28): 5.7
67DAL19619.2Chuck Howley (25): 14.4Jerry Tubbs (26): 7.9Gene Babb (27): 5.3
68STL19609.1Dale Meinert (27): 9.8Bill Koman (26): 9.3John Tracey (27): 8.3
69KAN19949.1Derrick Thomas (27): 14.4Tracy Simien (27): 8George Jamison (32): 5
70WAS20039.1Jeremiah Trotter (26): 12.1LaVar Arrington (25): 8.6Jessie Armstead (33): 6.8
71WAS19669.1Chris Hanburger (25): 14.6Sam Huff (32): 10.3John Reger (35): 2.4
72CLE19609.1Walt Michaels (31): 9.4Galen Fiss (29): 9.3Vince Costello (28): 8.5
73PHI19769.1Bill Bergey (31): 10.8Frank LeMaster (24): 8.3John Bunting (26): 8.1
74KAN19679Bobby Bell (27): 15Sherrill Headrick (30): 6.8Willie Lanier (22): 5.2
75DET19669Wally Hilgenberg (24): 10.4Mike Lucci (27): 10.2Ernie Clark (29): 6.4
76BAL20059Adalius Thomas (28): 10.9Bart Scott (25): 9.5Tommy Polley (27): 6.6
77MIN19808.9Matt Blair (30): 9.6Scott Studwell (26): 8.9Fred McNeill (28): 8.3
78KAN19998.9Donnie Edwards (26): 11.3Derrick Thomas (32): 9.5Marvcus Patton (32): 5.9
79WAS19678.9Chris Hanburger (26): 15.8Sam Huff (33): 8.3Jim Carroll (24): 2.6
80PHI19658.9Maxie Baughan (27): 14.8Dave Lloyd (29): 8Mike Morgan (23): 3.9
81RAM19668.9Maxie Baughan (28): 14.7Jack Pardee (30): 10.4Bill George (37): 1.6
82SDG19968.9Junior Seau (27): 15.4Lewis Bush (27): 6.2Kurt Gouveia (32): 5
83HOU19698.9George Webster (24): 9.9Garland Boyette (29): 8.7Olen Underwood (27): 8
84WAS19928.9Wilber Marshall (30): 12.8Kurt Gouveia (28): 7.5Andre Collins (24): 6.3
85DET19648.8Wayne H. Walker (28): 11.7Dennis Gaubatz (24): 8.3Ernie Clark (27): 6.6
86MIA20028.8Zach Thomas (29): 15.7Derrick Rodgers (31): 5.6Morlon Greenwood (24): 5.2
87PIT19718.8Jack Ham (23): 10.6Andy Russell (30): 10.6Chuck Allen (32): 5.2
88TAM19988.8Derrick Brooks (25): 16.7Hardy Nickerson (33): 7.2Jeff Gooch (24): 2.4
89SEA20078.8Julian Peterson (29): 10.7Lofa Tatupu (25): 9.1LeRoy Hill (25): 6.6
90PHI20048.8Jeremiah Trotter (27): 12.2Dhani Jones (26): 8.1Mark Simoneau (27): 6
91CHI19698.8Dick Butkus (27): 15.2Doug Buffone (25): 8.9Rudy Kuechenberg (26): 2.2
92KAN19768.8Willie Lanier (31): 12Jim Lynch (31): 9Billy Andrews (31): 5.3
93SDG19958.7Junior Seau (26): 15.2Lewis Bush (26): 6.1Dennis Gibson (31): 4.9
94DET19658.7Wayne H. Walker (29): 11.4Joe Schmidt (33): 8.3Ernie Clark (28): 6.5
95NYG19968.7Jessie Armstead (26): 12.7Corey Widmer (28): 6.7Corey Miller (28): 6.7
96KAN19758.7Willie Lanier (30): 13.3Jim Lynch (30): 9.9Bill Peterson (30): 2.9
97HOU19938.7Wilber Marshall (31): 11.6Al Smith (29): 9.1Eddie Robinson (23): 5.4
98DAL20028.7Kevin Hardy (29): 9.7Dexter Coakley (30): 8.9Dat Nguyen (27): 7.4
99TAM20048.7Derrick Brooks (31): 14Ian Gold (26): 7.3Shelton Quarles (33): 4.7
100PHI19948.7Bill Romanowski (28): 9.9William Thomas (26): 9.5Byron Evans (30): 6.6
101DEN19758.6Tom Jackson (24): 10.4Randy Gradishar (23): 9Ray May (30): 6.6
102SEA19988.6Chad Brown (28): 12.3Darrin Smith (28): 7.7Dean Wells (28): 5.9
103NYJ19688.6Larry Grantham (30): 9.3Ralph Baker (26): 8.4Al Atkinson (25): 8.2
104SFO19758.6Skip Vanderbundt (29): 9.3Dave Washington (27): 8.8Frank Nunley (30): 7.7
105SDG19948.6Junior Seau (25): 14David Griggs (27): 6.4Dennis Gibson (30): 5.4
106CHI19888.6Mike Singletary (30): 14.3Ron Rivera (26): 5.7Jim Morrissey (26): 5.7
107GNB19948.6Bryce Paup (26): 9.7George Koonce (26): 8.7Fred Strickland (28): 7.3
108WAS19888.6Wilber Marshall (26): 15Neal Olkewicz (31): 6.4Monte Coleman (31): 4.3
109DEN20028.6Al Wilson (25): 10.4John Mobley (29): 9.3Ian Gold (24): 6
110NYJ19968.5Mo Lewis (27): 11.8Bobby Houston (29): 7.2Marvin Jones (24): 6.6
111TEN20028.5Keith Bulluck (25): 10.6Randall Godfrey (29): 10.3Peter Sirmon (25): 4.7
112NYJ20118.5David Harris (27): 10.8Bart Scott (31): 7.9Calvin Pace (31): 6.8
113DAL19908.5Ken Norton (24): 8.7Jack Del Rio (27): 8.6Eugene Lockhart (29): 8.1
114RAM19618.5Jack Pardee (25): 11.3Les Richter (31): 8.7Bill Jobko (26): 5.5
115DAL19998.5Dexter Coakley (27): 10.6Randall Godfrey (26): 10.5Darren Hambrick (24): 4.4
116KAN19928.5Derrick Thomas (25): 13.1Tracy Simien (25): 7.3Chris Martin (32): 5
117PHI19638.5Maxie Baughan (25): 13.5Dave Lloyd (27): 8.2Lee Roy Caffey (22): 3.7
118MIN19718.4Wally Hilgenberg (29): 12.4Roy Winston (31): 9.6Carl Gersbach (24): 3.2
119CHI20098.4Lance Briggs (29): 13.8Hunter Hillenmeyer (29): 6.6Nick Roach (24): 4.9
120MIA20038.4Zach Thomas (30): 13.6Morlon Greenwood (25): 5.8Junior Seau (34): 5.7
121PHI19958.4Bill Romanowski (29): 9.7William Thomas (27): 9.6Kurt Gouveia (31): 5.8
122DAL19988.3Dexter Coakley (26): 10.5Randall Godfrey (25): 9.6Fred Strickland (32): 4.9
123PIT19698.3Andy Russell (28): 12.5Ray May (24): 6.3Jerry Hillebrand (29): 6.2
124TAM20038.3Derrick Brooks (30): 15.5Shelton Quarles (32): 5.8Ryan Nece (24): 3.7
125BAL19748.3Mike Curtis (31): 10.9Stan White (25): 10Tom MacLeod (23): 4
126SDG20028.3Donnie Edwards (29): 11.1Junior Seau (33): 8.2Ben Leber (24): 5.7
127WAS19648.3Sam Huff (30): 13.1Rod Breedlove (26): 6.1John Reger (33): 5.6
128BAL19658.3Dennis Gaubatz (25): 9.3Don Shinnick (30): 8.7Steve Stonebreaker (27): 6.8
129MIA19758.3Doug Swift (27): 9.8Mike Kolen (27): 9.2Bob Matheson (31): 5.8
130DAL19918.2Ken Norton (25): 9.8Jack Del Rio (28): 8.5Vinson Smith (26): 6.3
131CIN19798.2Jim LeClair (29): 8.9Reggie Williams (25): 8.4Bo Harris (26): 7.3
132RAM19638.2Jack Pardee (27): 12.4Marlin McKeever (23): 6.2Mike Henry (27): 6
133MIA19738.2Doug Swift (25): 8.9Mike Kolen (25): 8.4Nick Buoniconti (33): 7.3
134DET19678.2Mike Lucci (28): 10.1Wayne H. Walker (31): 9Ernie Clark (30): 5.5
135HOU19718.2George Webster (26): 12.1Garland Boyette (31): 6.8Ron Pritchard (24): 5.7
136STL19978.2Mike Jones (28): 8.3Roman Phifer (29): 8.1Robert Jones (28): 8.1
137NYJ19988.2Mo Lewis (29): 11.4Bryan Cox (30): 8.9Pepper Johnson (34): 4.1
138DEN20068.1Al Wilson (29): 11.1Ian Gold (28): 7.3D.J. Williams (24): 6
139RAM19798.1Jim Youngblood (29): 9.9Jack Reynolds (32): 7.5Bob Brudzinski (24): 6.8
140CLE19768.1Gerald Irons (29): 9.5Charlie Hall (28): 7.7Bob Babich (29): 7
141BOS19658.1Nick Buoniconti (25): 12.6Tom Addison (29): 7.1Jack Rudolph (27): 4.5
142WAS19918Wilber Marshall (29): 14.7Andre Collins (23): 4.8Matt Millen (33): 4.6
143KAN20068Kendrell Bell (28): 8.5Derrick O. Johnson (24): 8.1Kawika Mitchell (27): 7.4
144CLE19618Vince Costello (29): 8.3Walt Michaels (32): 8.2Dave Lloyd (25): 7.5
145WAS19718Chris Hanburger (30): 13.4Myron Pottios (32): 7.7Jack Pardee (35): 2.9
146TEN20008Randall Godfrey (27): 10.6Eddie Robinson (30): 7.4Greg Favors (26): 5.9
147OAK19718Dan Conners (30): 10.9Gus Otto (28): 8.9Phil Villapiano (22): 4.1
148MIN19737.9Wally Hilgenberg (31): 9.7Jeff Siemon (23): 7.4Roy Winston (33): 6.7
149DET19687.9Mike Lucci (29): 9.9Wayne H. Walker (32): 7.8Paul Naumoff (23): 6.1
150WAS19757.9Brad Dusek (25): 8.9Harold McLinton (28): 8.9Chris Hanburger (34): 5.9
151WAS20057.9LaVar Arrington (27): 9.4Marcus Washington (28): 8.9Lemar Marshall (29): 5.4
152WAS19847.9Neal Olkewicz (27): 8.4Mel Kaufman (26): 7.7Rich Milot (27): 7.6
153SFO20037.9Julian Peterson (25): 10Derek Smith (28): 7.9Jeff Ulbrich (26): 5.7
154WAS20047.9Antonio Pierce (26): 9.1Marcus Washington (27): 9Lemar Marshall (28): 5.5
155RAM19727.9Isiah Robertson (23): 10.4Marlin McKeever (32): 6.7Jim Purnell (31): 6.5
156TEN20067.9Keith Bulluck (29): 11.3David Thornton (28): 7.3Peter Sirmon (29): 5
157PIT19707.9Andy Russell (29): 12.2Chuck Allen (31): 6Jerry Hillebrand (30): 5.4
158BAL19607.9Don Shinnick (25): 9.5Dick Szymanski (28): 9.1Bill Pellington (33): 5
159MIA19937.8Bryan Cox (25): 9.6John Offerdahl (29): 8.7John Grimsley (31): 5.2
160WAS19897.8Wilber Marshall (27): 15.2Neal Olkewicz (32): 5.5Ravin Caldwell (26): 2.8
161SEA19997.8Chad Brown (29): 12Darrin Smith (29): 7.6Anthony Simmons (23): 3.9
162CIN19787.8Jim LeClair (28): 9.1Reggie Williams (24): 7.5Glenn Cameron (25): 6.9
163NWE20017.8Tedy Bruschi (28): 10.1Mike Vrabel (26): 8.9Roman Phifer (33): 4.5
164PHI20057.8Jeremiah Trotter (28): 12.1Dhani Jones (27): 8.2Keith Adams (26): 3.2
165SFO19987.8Lee Woodall (29): 8.1Winfred Tubbs (28): 8.1Ken Norton (32): 7.1
166OAK19967.8Greg Biekert (27): 8.4Mike Jones (27): 8.4Rob Fredrickson (25): 6.6
167MIN19657.8Roy Winston (25): 11.5Rip Hawkins (26): 7.1Bill Jobko (30): 4.7
168SEA19977.8Chad Brown (27): 12.4Dean Wells (27): 6Winston Moss (32): 4.9
169NOR20087.8Jonathan Vilma (26): 9.7Scott Shanle (29): 7Scott Fujita (29): 6.6
170NYJ19937.8Mo Lewis (24): 9.6Bobby Houston (26): 7.3Kyle Clifton (31): 6.4
171STL19967.7Roman Phifer (28): 8.3Robert Jones (27): 8.2Carlos Jenkins (28): 6.7
172SFO19747.7Frank Nunley (29): 8.9Dave Wilcox (32): 8.3Willie Harper (24): 6
173NYG19627.7Sam Huff (28): 15.4Tom Scott (32): 6.5Bill Winter (22): 1.3
174DET19757.7Charlie Weaver (26): 9.3Paul Naumoff (30): 8.4Jim Laslavic (24): 5.5
175SEA20017.7Chad Brown (31): 9.4Levon Kirkland (32): 7.9Anthony Simmons (25): 5.8
176WAS19697.7Chris Hanburger (28): 15.8Tom Roussel (24): 3.7Sam Huff (35): 3.6
177OAK19687.7Dan Conners (27): 13Gus Otto (25): 8.2Chip Oliver (24): 1.9
178GNB19957.7George Koonce (27): 8.8Fred Strickland (29): 7.2Wayne Simmons (26): 7.1
179CHI20017.7Brian Urlacher (23): 10.7Warrick Holdman (26): 6.5Rosevelt Colvin (24): 5.8
180IND20027.7Mike Peterson (26): 9.9Marcus Washington (25): 8.2Rob Morris (27): 5
181WAS19957.7Marvcus Patton (28): 8.9Ken Harvey (30): 7.9Rod Stephens (29): 6.2
182ARI20077.6Calvin Pace (27): 9Karlos Dansby (26): 8.5Gerald Hayes (27): 5.4
183PHI19897.6Seth Joyner (25): 11.5Byron Evans (25): 7.1Al Harris (33): 4.3
184CIN20017.6Takeo Spikes (25): 9.8Brian Simmons (26): 7.1Steve Foley (26): 5.9
185STL20017.6London Fletcher (26): 11.1Mark Fields (29): 7.8Tommy Polley (23): 4
186SDG19977.6Junior Seau (28): 15.2Lewis Bush (28): 6.1Patrick Sapp (24): 1.5
187JAX19997.6Kevin Hardy (26): 9.9Bryce Paup (31): 7.4Lonnie Marts (31): 5.5
188CIN19697.6Bill Bergey (24): 11.5Al Beauchamp (25): 8.6Bill Peterson (24): 2.8
189PHI19917.6Seth Joyner (27): 12.6Byron Evans (27): 7.8Jessie Small (25): 2.4
190HOU19917.6Al Smith (27): 9.4Lamar Lathon (24): 7.8Johnny Meads (30): 5.5
191WAS19777.6Brad Dusek (27): 9.8Harold McLinton (30): 7.6Mike Curtis (34): 5.3
192ATL19717.6Greg Brezina (25): 9.3Don Hansen (27): 8.8Ron Acks (27): 4.6
193MIN20077.5E.J. Henderson (27): 8.2Chad Greenway (24): 7.6Ben Leber (29): 6.8
194HOU19957.5Eddie Robinson (25): 8Micheal Barrow (25): 7.6Joe Bowden (25): 6.9
195GNB19757.5Fred Carr (29): 10.7Jim Carter (27): 8.4Tom Toner (25): 3.5
196GNB19987.5Bernardo Harris (27): 8.6George Koonce (30): 7.4Brian M. Williams (26): 6.5
197JAX20037.5Mike Peterson (27): 10Danny Clark (26): 6.3Akin Ayodele (24): 6.2
198RAM19817.5Carl Ekern (27): 8.6Jim Youngblood (31): 7.8George Andrews (26): 6.1
199JAX20057.5Mike Peterson (29): 9.7Akin Ayodele (26): 7.5Daryl Smith (23): 5.2
200BAL19757.5Stan White (26): 10.9Jim Cheyunski (30): 6.2Tom MacLeod (24): 5.3

The 1962 Packers had one of the greatest defenses of all time, and their slightly younger predecessor comes in at #2. Jack Ham and Jack Lambert are joined by a third linebacker at the 3rd, 9th, 10th, and 22nd spots on the list. In 1975, Ham, Lambert and Andy Russell all made the Pro Bowl, although that trio rates higher in ’76 as Lambert moved closer to his estimated peak.

Urlacher and Lance Briggs check in at #6, in between the Mike Singletary/Wilber Marshall/Otis Wilson Bears from the mid-’80s and the Bill George/Joe Fortunato/Larry Morris team that led Chicago to a title in 1963. Butkus’ Bears also show up in the top 20 when he was teamed with Lee Roy Caffey. But that’s not even the highest grade of Caffey’s career, as he teamed with two Hall of Fame linebackers on the ’67 Packers.

We can do the same with 3-4 linebackers. As always, both tables are fully searchable and sortable. And Lewis makes a couple of high showings on this list, too.

RankTeamYearAvg. AVLinebacker 1Linebacker 2Linebacker 3Linebacker 4
1NOR198812.6Sam Mills (29): 14.9Pat Swilling (24): 13.1Rickey Jackson (30): 11.8Vaughan Johnson (26): 10.7
2BAL200311.6Ray Lewis (28): 20Adalius Thomas (26): 10.9Peter Boulware (29): 10.1Ed Hartwell (25): 5.5
3BAL200711.1Ray Lewis (32): 13.3Terrell Suggs (25): 12.6Bart Scott (27): 10.4Jarret Johnson (26): 8.1
4DEN197911.1Randy Gradishar (27): 14.8Tom Jackson (28): 12.7Bob Swenson (26): 9.9Joe Rizzo (29): 7
5PIT199411Greg Lloyd (29): 14.2Levon Kirkland (25): 10.9Chad Brown (24): 10Kevin Greene (32): 8.8
6PIT200310.8Joey Porter (26): 13.3James Farrior (28): 12.5Jason Gildon (31): 9.6Kendrell Bell (25): 7.8
7OAK197610.4Ted Hendricks (29): 15.7Phil Villapiano (27): 12.4Monte Johnson (25): 7.5Willie Hall (27): 6.2
8BAL200410.3Ray Lewis (29): 19.6Adalius Thomas (27): 11Ed Hartwell (26): 5.9Terrell Suggs (22): 4.6
9PIT200410.2Joey Porter (27): 13.4James Farrior (29): 12.2Clark Haggans (27): 7.6Larry Foote (24): 7.5
10DEN198110.1Randy Gradishar (29): 14.4Tom Jackson (30): 10.8Bob Swenson (28): 9.9Larry Evans (28): 5.3
11PIT199710.1Levon Kirkland (28): 11.9Jason Gildon (25): 11.5Greg Lloyd (32): 9.6Earl Holmes (24): 7.3
12PIT199810Jason Gildon (26): 12.5Levon Kirkland (29): 11.6Earl Holmes (25): 8.2Carlos Emmons (25): 7.6
13PIT19919.9Greg Lloyd (26): 14.5Hardy Nickerson (26): 13.5David Little (32): 6.1Bryan Hinkle (32): 5.8
14OAK19799.9Ted Hendricks (32): 10.7Phil Villapiano (30): 10.4Rod Martin (25): 10.4Monte Johnson (28): 8.1
15NYG19919.7Lawrence Taylor (32): 11.5Pepper Johnson (27): 11.2Carl Banks (29): 9.3Gary Reasons (29): 7
16DET19939.7Pat Swilling (29): 15.7Chris Spielman (28): 11.1Dennis Gibson (29): 6.2George Jamison (31): 5.8
17PIT20009.7Jason Gildon (28): 12.5Levon Kirkland (31): 9.1Earl Holmes (27): 9Joey Porter (23): 8.2
18PIT19969.7Chad Brown (26): 12.3Levon Kirkland (27): 12Jason Gildon (24): 10.2Jerry Olsavsky (29): 4.3
19PIT20079.7James Harrison (29): 14.7Larry Foote (27): 9.2James Farrior (32): 8.3Clark Haggans (30): 6.4
20NYG19889.6Lawrence Taylor (29): 16.9Carl Banks (26): 9.5Pepper Johnson (24): 9.1Harry Carson (35): 2.9
21DEN19809.5Randy Gradishar (28): 14.7Tom Jackson (29): 12.4Larry Evans (27): 5.4Rob Nairne (26): 5.3
22NYG19869.4Lawrence Taylor (27): 17.4Carl Banks (24): 7.8Harry Carson (33): 6.8Gary Reasons (24): 5.8
23CLE19859.4Clay Matthews (29): 11.8Chip Banks (26): 11.1Tom Cousineau (28): 7.7Eddie Johnson (26): 7.1
24PIT19929.4Greg Lloyd (27): 14.6Hardy Nickerson (27): 13.6David Little (33): 4.9Jerrol Williams (25): 4.4
25NYG19909.3Lawrence Taylor (31): 13.2Pepper Johnson (26): 11.1Carl Banks (28): 9.5Steve DeOssie (28): 3.6
26NYG19829.3Harry Carson (29): 12.4Lawrence Taylor (23): 10.6Brad Van Pelt (31): 7.4Brian Kelley (31): 6.8
27PIT20019.3Jason Gildon (29): 12.2Joey Porter (24): 10.9Earl Holmes (28): 8.9Kendrell Bell (23): 5.2
28PIT20089.3James Harrison (30): 12.8Larry Foote (28): 9.1LaMarr Woodley (24): 8.6James Farrior (33): 6.7
29DEN19899.2Karl Mecklenburg (29): 14.4Michael Brooks (25): 9.1Simon Fletcher (27): 8.8Rick Dennison (31): 4.6
30NYG19899.1Lawrence Taylor (30): 14.6Carl Banks (27): 9.6Gary Reasons (27): 7.2Johnie Cooks (31): 4.9
31BUF19919Cornelius Bennett (26): 11.7Shane Conlan (27): 9.4Carlton Bailey (27): 7.8Darryl Talley (31): 7.3
32NWE20008.9Tedy Bruschi (27): 10.2Willie McGinest (29): 9.7Chris Slade (29): 8.7Ted Johnson (28): 7.1
33PIT19868.9Mike Merriweather (26): 10.9David Little (27): 9.2Bryan Hinkle (27): 8.8Robin Cole (31): 6.7
34NYJ20098.8Bart Scott (29): 10.1David Harris (25): 9.8Calvin Pace (29): 8.7Bryan Thomas (30): 6.7
35CLE19868.8Chip Banks (27): 11.2Clay Matthews (30): 10.2Eddie Johnson (27): 7.2Anthony Griggs (26): 6.5
36TAM19808.8Richard Wood (27): 10Dave R. Lewis (26): 8.7Dewey Selmon (27): 8.2Cecil Johnson (25): 8.2
37MIN19818.8Jeff Siemon (31): 9.3Scott Studwell (27): 9Matt Blair (31): 8.7Fred McNeill (29): 8.1
38SFO19888.8Charles Haley (24): 11.2Riki Ellison (28): 8.1Keena Turner (30): 8.1Mike Walter (28): 7.7
39PIT19828.7Jack Lambert (30): 14.6Robin Cole (27): 8.8Jack Ham (34): 6.4Loren Toews (31): 5
40HOU19778.7Robert Brazile (24): 10.4Gregg Bingham (26): 9.5Ted Washington (29): 8Steve Kiner (30): 6.9
41OAK19778.6Ted Hendricks (30): 13.6Monte Johnson (26): 8.1Floyd Rice (28): 6.3Willie Hall (28): 6.1
42KAN19978.5Derrick Thomas (30): 12.1Donnie Edwards (24): 9.2Terry Wooden (30): 6.9Anthony Davis (28): 5.9
43DEN19828.5Randy Gradishar (30): 12.4Tom Jackson (31): 9.7Jim Ryan (25): 6.7Larry Evans (29): 5.2
44KAN19988.5Derrick Thomas (31): 10.9Donnie Edwards (25): 10.4Wayne Simmons (29): 7Anthony Davis (29): 5.8
45DEN19888.5Karl Mecklenburg (28): 14.7Simon Fletcher (26): 8.7Jim Ryan (31): 5.6Rick Dennison (30): 5
46SFO19898.5Charles Haley (25): 12.6Mike Walter (29): 7.6Keena Turner (31): 7.3Matt Millen (31): 6.5
47NYG19858.4Lawrence Taylor (26): 17.2Harry Carson (32): 8.4Gary Reasons (23): 4.4Byron Hunt (27): 3.6
48DAL20078.4DeMarcus Ware (25): 12.6Bradie James (26): 7.7Akin Ayodele (28): 7.5Greg Ellis (32): 5.8
49NOR19868.4Sam Mills (27): 15.4Rickey Jackson (28): 13.9James Haynes (26): 3Alvin Toles (23): 1.3
50PHI19848.4Jerry Robinson (28): 10.7Joel Williams (28): 9.1Reggie Wilkes (28): 8.3Anthony Griggs (24): 5.3
51NYG19798.4Harry Carson (26): 12.7Brad Van Pelt (28): 9.7Brian Kelley (28): 8.9Dan Lloyd (26): 2.2
52BUF19818.3Isiah Robertson (32): 11.2Jim Haslett (26): 8.1Lucius Sanford (25): 7.1Shane Nelson (26): 6.9
53IND19908.3Duane Bickett (28): 9.7Fredd Young (29): 9.3Chip Banks (31): 8.5Jeff Herrod (24): 5.8
54NOR19848.3Rickey Jackson (26): 13.9Dirt Winston (29): 7.6Whitney Paul (31): 6.1Jim Kovach (28): 5.5
55DEN19908.3Karl Mecklenburg (30): 12.4Michael Brooks (26): 9.9Simon Fletcher (28): 8.7Marc Munford (25): 2
56PIT19838.3Jack Lambert (31): 13.2Robin Cole (28): 8.7Mike Merriweather (23): 6.7Loren Toews (32): 4.4
57PHI19828.2Jerry Robinson (26): 10.7Frank LeMaster (30): 8.6Reggie Wilkes (26): 8.3John Bunting (32): 5.4
58NWE19848.2Andre Tippett (25): 12.7Don Blackmon (26): 7.9Larry McGrew (27): 7.2Steve Nelson (33): 5.1
59SDG19878.2Chip Banks (28): 11.1Gary Plummer (27): 7.6Billy Ray Smith (26): 7.5Thomas Benson (26): 6.7
60SFO19918.2Charles Haley (27): 13.8Bill Romanowski (25): 9.1Mike Walter (31): 5.9Keith DeLong (24): 4.1
61MIA19818.2Larry Gordon (28): 8.9A.J. Duhe (26): 8.5Bob Brudzinski (26): 8.3Earnest Rhone (28): 6.9
62DEN19878.1Karl Mecklenburg (27): 14.8Simon Fletcher (25): 8Jim Ryan (30): 6.2Ricky Hunley (26): 3.6
63NYJ19998.1Mo Lewis (30): 9.9Marvin Jones (27): 8.2Bryan Cox (31): 8.1Roman Phifer (31): 6.4
64BUF19908Cornelius Bennett (25): 10.7Shane Conlan (26): 9.3Darryl Talley (30): 8.1Ray Bentley (30): 4
65SFO20118Patrick Willis (26): 15.8Parys Haralson (27): 6.6Ahmad Brooks (27): 5.4Navorro Bowman (23): 4.3
66DEN19918Karl Mecklenburg (31): 11.2Michael Brooks (27): 10Simon Fletcher (29): 8.5Mike Croel (22): 2.2
67SFO20108Patrick Willis (25): 14.6Manny Lawson (26): 6.9Parys Haralson (26): 6.5Takeo Spikes (34): 4
68NWE19758George Webster (30): 10.2Steve Nelson (24): 7.8Steve Zabel (27): 7.6Sam Hunt (24): 6.3
69DEN19838Randy Gradishar (31): 11.2Tom Jackson (32): 8.4Jim Ryan (26): 7.3Steve Busick (25): 4.9
70NYJ20087.9Calvin Pace (28): 8.9David Harris (24): 8.7Bryan Thomas (29): 7.8Eric Barton (31): 6.2
71DAL20097.9DeMarcus Ware (27): 13.8Bradie James (28): 7.7Anthony Spencer (25): 6.2Keith Brooking (34): 3.9
72RAM19897.9Kevin Greene (27): 13.4Mike Wilcher (29): 7.8Mel Owens (31): 5.9Fred Strickland (23): 4.5
73GNB20097.8Nick Barnett (28): 9.3Aaron Kampman (30): 8.4A.J. Hawk (25): 7.6Clay Matthews (23): 6
74KAN19917.8Derrick Thomas (24): 11.7Dino Hackett (27): 7.4Tracy Simien (24): 6.5Chris Martin (31): 5.8
75BAL20107.8Terrell Suggs (28): 13.7Jarret Johnson (29): 8Jameel McClain (25): 4.9Ray Lewis (35): 4.6
76PIT20097.8James Harrison (31): 11.6LaMarr Woodley (25): 9.6Lawrence Timmons (23): 5.2James Farrior (34): 4.7
77KAN19937.8Derrick Thomas (26): 14.3Tracy Simien (26): 7.9Lonnie Marts (25): 6.6Tracy Rogers (26): 2.4
78CLE19877.8Clay Matthews (31): 9.3Mike Johnson (25): 8.7Eddie Johnson (28): 7.1Lucius Sanford (31): 5.9
79NWE19887.8Andre Tippett (29): 13.6Johnny Rembert (27): 7.6Larry McGrew (31): 5.5Ed Reynolds (27): 4.4
80CIN19817.8Reggie Williams (27): 9.2Glenn Cameron (28): 7.5Bo Harris (28): 7.3Jim LeClair (31): 7
81MIA19807.7Larry Gordon (27): 9Kim Bokamper (26): 8.5A.J. Duhe (25): 7.8Rusty Chambers (27): 5.6
82BAL20097.7Terrell Suggs (27): 13.8Jarret Johnson (28): 8.1Ray Lewis (34): 7.5Tavares Gooden (25): 1.5
83DET19947.7Chris Spielman (29): 10.9Broderick Thomas (27): 7.6Mike Johnson (32): 6.3Tracy Scroggins (25): 6
84HOU19797.7Robert Brazile (26): 12.7Gregg Bingham (28): 9.5Ted Washington (31): 6.2Art Stringer (25): 2.4
85PIT20127.7LaMarr Woodley (28): 10.5Lawrence Timmons (26): 8.5Larry Foote (32): 6.1James Harrison (34): 5.6
86GNB19937.7Bryce Paup (25): 8.9George Koonce (25): 8Johnny Holland (28): 7.9Wayne Simmons (24): 5.8
87SEA19857.7Bruce Scholtz (27): 8.6Fredd Young (24): 7.8Keith Butler (29): 7.6Michael Jackson (28): 6.7
88NWE19777.7Steve Nelson (26): 9.5Sam Hunt (26): 7.7Steve Zabel (29): 7.4Pete Barnes (32): 6.1
89SFO19907.6Charles Haley (26): 13.7Bill Romanowski (24): 8.1Matt Millen (32): 5.7Keith DeLong (23): 3.1
90SFO19927.6Tim Harris (28): 10.9Bill Romanowski (26): 9.9Mike Walter (32): 5.1Keith DeLong (25): 4.6
91NWE19787.5Steve Nelson (27): 9.6Sam Hunt (27): 7.8Steve Zabel (30): 6.4Rod Shoate (25): 6.4
92CLE19837.5Clay Matthews (27): 12.2Chip Banks (24): 9.1Tom Cousineau (26): 7.7Scott Nicolas (23): 1.1
93NOR19827.5Rickey Jackson (24): 11.3Dirt Winston (27): 7.8Jim Kovach (26): 5.5Rob Nairne (28): 5.3
94NYG19937.5Michael Brooks (29): 9.7Carlton Bailey (29): 7.6Lawrence Taylor (34): 6.4Corey Miller (25): 6.2
95GNB19907.5Tim Harris (26): 10.9Brian Noble (28): 7.3Johnny Holland (25): 7.3Scott Stephen (26): 4.4
96DAL20087.5DeMarcus Ware (26): 13.7Bradie James (27): 7.8Greg Ellis (33): 4.7Zach Thomas (35): 3.7
97RAM19857.5Jim Collins (27): 8.2Mel Owens (27): 7.8Mike Wilcher (25): 7.3Carl Ekern (31): 6.5
98BUF19967.4Bryce Paup (28): 9.7Chris Spielman (31): 8.5Sam Rogers (26): 7.3Mark Maddox (28): 4.2
99NYG19807.4Harry Carson (27): 12.8Brad Van Pelt (29): 9.5John Skorupan (29): 5.4Frank Marion (29): 1.9
100BUF19897.4Cornelius Bennett (24): 9.6Darryl Talley (29): 9.3Scott Radecic (27): 6Ray Bentley (29): 4.7

Of course, the top of the list is reserved for the Dome Patrol, arguably the best quartet of linebackers in NFL history. In 1992, all four starters made the Pro Bowl while the offense set a modern record for slowest tempo. Mostly, this list is dominated by Steelers teams from the last two decades. The Orange Crush Broncos crack the top five, with Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Bob Swenson and Joe Rizzo — the same group that took the team to the Super Bowl in 1977 — peaking two years later. The ’76 Raiders that went 13-1 and won the Super Bowl also crack the top ten, and a couple of Dr. Doom groups make the list. The ’91 Bills defense may have been anchored by Bruce Smith, but the linebackers behind him also show up relatively high on the list.

1. One other note: I applied an AFL qualifier for players in the earlier days of the AFL. []
2. If you used the actual AV score, you would essentially be compiling a list of the best defenses of all time and little more. []
• If I’ve got your method correct, SF’s average was 9.4 in 2012, which would be in the top 25 of 3-4 LB groups. With Smith (signed through 2014) and Bowman (through 2018) both under 25, Brooks (through 2017) getting dinged for not starting his first 4 years, and Willis (through 2017) still having a few more peak years left, I think this group is an odds-on favorite to crack the 3-4 top 10 in the next couple of seasons.

• Bob

Speaking of 49ers’ LBs, 2012 was the first year (that I can find) in which three or more LBs from the same team were named first team AP All-Pro: Bowman, Willis, and Aldon Smith.

• Chase Stuart

Not quite. I did include 2012 data (the Steelers made it) but younger players are at a serious disadvantage.

For Bowman, he has played 3 years and has a total of 35 points of AV. That gets divided by 5 so he is given a peak AV of 7.

For Aldon Smith — whom admittedly AV does not work well since he was not a “starter” in 2011 — he has only 18 points of AV in 2 years. So he is given a peak AV of 2.6.

No doubt, though, that in a few years, that crew could wind up in the top five of this list.

• Ah, OK. Yeah. I was just averaging Smith’s 2 years and Bowman’s 3 years, not incorporating zeroes for the other 3 and 2 years, respectively. So looks like, assuming SF extends Smith (which they do almost 100% for their young talent), and nothing catastrophic happens injury-wise, we’re looking at 2015 or 2016 as the year they leap up near the top of this list.

Thanks for the clarification.

• Danish

THAT Rick Dennison was a linebacker? Isn’t it strange for a defensive player to become an offensive coordinator, or does his happen more often than I think?

This could be a fun thing to investigate…

• Chase Stuart

Agreed. That would be a good idea to investigate.

• Chase Stuart

Ray Rhodes came into the NFL as a wide receiver. He’s probably the most famous guy on the other side.

As a long time Bronco fan, I can offer the following: Dennison was an extremely intelligent player who later earned a master’s degree in engineering, I believe. I think he ended up coaching linebackers for the Broncos, but then became the special teams coach. When Alex Gibbs needed to take some time off from coaching the Broncos O line, with it’s zone blocking scheme, Dennison took over that job, with Gibbs flying in now and then to assist. Eventually Dennisontook over as O coordinator when Kubiak left for Houston (I think Dennison was the O coordinator for awhile, or maybe he first became an O coordinator when Kubiak hired him in Houston.)

• Shattenjager

Dennison joined the Broncos as an Offensive Assistant (Apparently, his title was not any more specific than that.) in 1995, moved to special teams 1997-2000, then moved to the offensive line through 2005, then got promoted to offensive coordinator with Kubiak heading off to Houston. He remained the offensive coordinator until he left for Houston.

• Shattenjager

[Insert joke here about how intelligent a CSU grad can be here. :)]

I wrote that before, but inside greater than and less than signs, which I now realize would have made it look like HTML. Hopefully it just disappeared and didn’t actually do something strange (sorry if it did, Chase).

• Shattenjager

He was a tight end in college before moving to linebacker in the NFL, so he was a bit of an odd case already, but it’s still pretty rare, I believe.

• Richie

I guess it’s probably more common before about 1960, when the players were playing both sides and I don’t think coordinators were always used.

But Tom Landry was mostly a defensive player and then a defensive coordinator. Didn’t he also run the Cowboys offense while he was head coach, particularly in the early days?

And then wasn’t Bill Belichick the offensive coordinator (and head coach) in 2009-2010 after being the DC for Parcells for many years? Heck, PFR doesn’t list a coordinator for either side in 2010. Was he actually coordinating both?

• Shattenjager

The Patriots technically did not have an offensive coordinator in ’05, ’09, and ’10 or a defensive coordinator in ’10 and ’11. In ’05, Belichick described the offensive play calling as being shared amongst himself, QB coach Josh McDaniels (who would become offensive coordinator the next year), and Tom Brady. In ’09 and ’10, I would guess that there was a similar arrangement with QB coach Bill O’Brien (who would become offensive coordinator in ’11), but it’s purely a guess based on the earlier situation and O’Brien’s promotion in ’11. In ’10, the story that was floating around was that Belichick did not want to choose between DL coach Pepper Johnson and LB coach Matt Patricia to take the DC job when Dean Pees left, preferring to have them share the responsibility with him. Patricia did take the job in 2012 while Johnson moved to LB coach.

It’s not easy to answer whether Belichick has been the offensive and/or defensive coordinator of the Patriots in those years, really.

• David

What sticks out to me is Derrick Brooks. He shows up 8 times in the 4-3 and 7 times in the top 100 of the 4-3. Impressive.

• Just one note on those great Saints’ LBs: They really peaked a little later when Swilling peaked. Rickey Jackson and Sam Mills both were unusually productive in their 30s. Jackson just had a long prime and Mills peaked in his 30s (98 of his 126 career points of AV come from age 30 on) after being undrafted. Mills’ NFL career only started at age 27 (age 24-26 in USFL).

In ’91, Swilling had 17 sacks and AV of 23. Jackson had 11.5 sacks and AV of 12. Mills had 102 tackles and AV of 18. Wow.

• Chase Stuart

Yeah, ’92 was the year they all made the Pro Bowl. I always wanted to check if their later peaks was tied to having better teammates around them then than a few years earlier, but never got around to it.