Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Smack Dab Sports Report: The Middle Men of the NFL

I'll probably get sued
for using this.
     Almost everyone is familiar with the exploits of the NFL’s most famous Middle Child, Peyton Manning. In fact, in the NFL it’s the quarterback that usually gets all the attention: Brady, Luck, Rodgers, Brees, the “other” Manning. Even not-so-great QB’s get to bask in the limelight. (Did someone say Tim Tebow?) But often lost in the shuffle is, what some believe, the 2nd most important position on the team. The NFL’s true Middle Men. No, not the center -- even though you could make the argument that they are literally at the center of it all as they touch the ball more than anyone during a game. With direct snaps and what not, they could theoretically touch the ball more than even the oh so precious quarterback! Even more central to the game than the center is the Inside Linebacker. A.K.A the Mike, the Mac --the Middle Linebacker. Or as I prefer to call them, the Middle Child of the defense. None of the glitz and glamor of a shutdown corner, or the glory of a blitz-happy outside linebacker. Yet in true Middle Child fashion, always demanding attention. They are the quarterbacks of the defense, shouting out adjustments, calling the scheme and aligning players.

          Over the years, some of the greatest to ever play the game have been Middle Linebackers. According to “Bleacher Report,” the Top 10 Middle Linebackers in NFL history are: 10) Sam Mills, 9) Willie Lanier, 8) Chuck Bednarik, 7) Junior Seau, 6) Sam Huff, 5) Ray Nitschke, 4) Jack Lambert, 3) Mike Singeltary, 2) Dick Butkus, and 1) Ray Lewis. (For a list of the best current Middle Linebackers, see “Top 60 Inside Linebackers,” “The NFL's Best Inside Linebackers,”or “Inside Linebacker Rankings.”)
          I would love to be able to tell you that many of these Middle Linebackers are also Middle Children, but from what I’ve been able to determine, that’s not the case. In fact, of  the B/R All-Time Top 10 Middle Linebackers, only two are Middle Children -- four are the youngest, one the oldest, one is an only child (which makes him the oldest AND youngest), and two are unknown. So it seems the best Middle Linebackers of all time are mostly the babies of the family. Yes, I said it. Most of the best Middle Linebackers of all time are babies. Really BIG babies.
Brother-in-lawly Love: The best
Middle Child defensive duo ever!
I am glad to report, however, that Zach Thomas -- one of my favorite players of all time -- IS a Middle Child Middle Linebacker! (And as an added bonus, his younger sister is married to one of my other favorite players of all time, and fellow Middle Child, Jason Taylor.) So there you have it, football fans. A look at the NFL from a Middle Child’s eye view. Enjoy the game!

CLICK HERE to read an interview with Chuck Bednarik.

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Middle Children need to be heard!