Which linebacking corps is tops in NFL history? The trio of Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson and Lee Roy Caffey of Vince Lombardi's Packers ranked sixth, according to the NFL Network series NFL's Top 10, which aired on Wednesday evening.
The 60-minute show analyzed the best linebacker groupings and featured fresh interviews with former coaches including Mike Ditka and Jim Mora.
The show counted down the Top 10 linebacking corps in league history, and the oldest of the bunch was the Packers' trio from the 1960s that includes one Hall of Famer in Nitschke and two other members of the Packers Hall of Fame in Robinson and Caffey.
The three were Green Bay's primary starters at linebacker from 1964 to 1969, helping lead the Packers to three straight league championships, including Super Bowls I and II. In those two Super Bowl victories, the Packers' linebackers combined for 38 tackles, and during that six-year span each of the three was named All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl at least once.
Here are the other linebacking corps in the NFL Network's Top 10, listed in reverse ranking order:
10. 2000 Ravens - Led by linebackers Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper, Baltimore allowed only 165 points and 970 rushing yards - both the fewest ever in a 16-game season. The Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV with Lewis earning Super Bowl MVP honors.
9. "Orange Crush" Broncos - Broncos' Ring of Famers Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson anchored a quartet which also included Bob Swenson and Joe Rizzo. Denver won consecutive division titles in 1977-78 with a combined 22-8 (.733) record and earned a berth in Super Bowl XII.
8. Early 1980s Raiders - Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks joined with Rod Martin and Matt Millen to lead the Raiders to five playoff berths and a pair of Super Bowl victories in six seasons from 1980-85. In Super Bowl XV, Martin had a record three interceptions to secure victory for the AFC Wild Card Raiders.
7. Mid-1990s Steelers - Chad Brown, Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland and Greg Lloyd helped the Steelers to three AFC Central titles and one AFC Wild Card in the four seasons from 1993-96. Pittsburgh advanced to a pair of AFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl in that span. The Steelers set a club record with 55 sacks in 1994.
6. Lombardi's Packers
5. 1985 Bears - Featuring Hall of Famer Mike Singletary between Wilber Marshall and Otis Wilson, this group led a defense which allowed the fewest yards, rushing yards and points per game in the NFL in 1985. The Bears posted two playoff shutouts and allowed only 10 points in three postseason games as they rolled to victory in Super Bowl XX.
4. Hank Stram's Chiefs - Hall of Famer Willie Lanier lined up between fellow enshrinee Bobby Bell, Sr. and Jim Lynch for a Kansas City team which posted a 60-20-4 record (.738) from 1966-71. During that span, the Chiefs earned five playoff berths, captured two AFL/AFC crowns and won one Super Bowl. Lanier had a fourth-quarter interception in the Chiefs' Super Bowl IV victory.
3. Bill Parcells' Giants - Pro Football Hall of Famers Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor anchored a group which included Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson and Gary Reasons. The Giants earned five playoff berths and won two Super Bowls in the seven seasons from 1984-90. In 1986, Taylor had an NFL-high 20.5 sacks, earned AP NFL MVP honors and led the Giants to a Super Bowl XXI victory.
2. 1970s Steelers - Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert led a corps which included Andy Russell and Loren Toews on one of the most dominant defenses of the 1970s. The Steelers won four Super Bowls in six seasons and allowed the fewest points in the AFC in four of the five seasons from 1974-78.
1. Jim Mora's Saints - Led by Rickey Jackson, Vaughan Johnson, Sam Mills and Pat Swilling, the Saints had six consecutive .500-or-better campaigns from 1987-92. In 1992, the Saints won 12 games and allowed the fewest points and passing yards in the NFL. All four linebackers were selected to the Pro Bowl following that campaign.
Following are future episodes of NFL's Top 10:
Wednesday, July 11 - Top 10 Most Versatile
Wednesday, July 18 - Top 10 Pass Rushers
Wednesday, July 25 - Top 10 Passing Combinations
Wednesday, August 1 - Top 10 Foul-Ups
Putting a fresh twist on the countdown genre, NFL's Top 10 is a fast-paced weekly series providing an irreverent look at some of the most intriguing subjects in the NFL and creating and debating a top ten list for each category.
Each 60-minute episode of NFL's Top 10 counts down from No. 10 to the top ranking in each category. The rankings are determined by a panel of NFL Network and NFL Films staffers.
NFL's Top 10 delves deeper into the subject matter than previous "list" shows, using interviews and imagery to put them in context and answer the "why" of the order.