(Photo courtesy of Carolina Panthers)
By Ron Borges
TALK OF FAME NETWORK
In the opinion of Talk of Fame Network listeners, you can't beat sacks. That's true even if you are a Hall-of-Fame pass protector or a Hall-of-Fame pass defender.
In this week's poll to select your choice as the greatest fifth-round draft pick in NFL history, TOF listeners overwhelmingly supported four-time Hall-of-Fame finalist Kevin Greene over the likes of Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster and Hall-of-Fame cornerback Dick LeBeau, as well as former Miami Dolphins' linebacker Zach Thomas and Indianapolis Colts' defensive end Robert Mathis.
Greene, whose 160 sacks rank third all-time and first among linebackers, finished with a whopping 72.5% of the vote, far outdistancing second-place finisher Webster's 15% of the vote.
LeBeau was a distant third, with 7.5% with Thomas and Mathis tied with 2.5% each of the remaining tally. But that wide gulf didn't alter the opinion of our Clark Judge, who staunchly backed the Steelers' center.
"Mike Webster,'' Judge said. "Forget that he might have been the best center in NFL history; he was part of four Super Bowl champions, too. That's an exacta that's hard to beat.''
True enough, but not enough to convince Dr. Data, the number-crunching Rick Gosselin, who backed Greene despite the fact Webster was chosen as the best center on the NFL's 75th anniversary team. Gosselin admits that was difficult to ignore, but Dr. Data found a way to do it.
"This is a tough one,'' Gosselin admitted. "Mike Webster was chosen by the Hall-of-Fame selection committee as the best center in the NFL's first 75 years. But Kevin Greene had more sacks than any linebacker in NFL history. And only three defensive ends -- Hall of Famers Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Deacon Jones -- had more career sacks (although all of Jones' came before it was an official NFL statistic, and so is not listed in the record books).
"Look at the draft every year -- pass rushers always go higher than centers. For that reason, I'll go Greene because he played a more impactful position."
Perhaps he did, but as an old center myself I back Webster too. There have been only six fifth-round draft choices who made it to Canton. One day soon Greene may be the seventh after being a finalist every year since 2012, and then we can re-open the debate. But until that happens, I'll side with the best center who ever lived.