Our position-by-position look at the best eligible players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame continues with a position that includes both players who served as the quarterback of the defense and others that disrupted offenses with their prowess rushing the passer.
Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, many top middle linebackers became familiar figures as the defensive quarterback on the field. Players like Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, Tommy Nobis, Willie Lanier, Bill Bergey, Lee Roy Jordan, Jack Lambert, Harry Carson, Nick Buoniconti and Mike Singletary were recognized as the defensive leader for their team and every team looked to find their own stuffer in the middle.
Until players like Lawrence Taylor changed the game and made outside linebackers regular pass rushers, the outside backers were generally more involved in pass coverage and stopping the run than in putting constant pressure on the quarterback.
There are 18 modern era linebackers in the Hall of Fame, but when you look at the list of those not in the Hall of Fame, there seems to be an equal number of deserving linebackers still waiting for induction.
Only five linebackers have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in the last decade and 10 have been enshrined since 1989.
Ranking the top 10 linebackers not in the Hall of Fame was a challenge partly because of such a disparity in statistics. Sacks were not kept as an official stat until 1982 and most tackle numbers are unofficial and inconsistent.
For that reason, I weighed heavily such factors as Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition. I also looked at how defensive units ranked in points and yardage allowed.
So, here is my list of the top 10 eligible linebackers not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I look forward to your comments, discussion, and disagreements.