NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1980s - DEFENSE

General Published on : 1/22/2010

The National Football League's All-Decade Teams have been determined by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.

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When asked to review the 1980s, it does not take long to determine that the decade was dominated by a relatively few number of teams.  In fact, eight of the decade’s Super Bowls were won by just three clubs – the San Francisco 49ers (4), Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (2), and the Washington Redskins (2).  The Chicago Bears and New York Giants rounded out the decade with one win each. Stating that, it is not surprising to see players from these teams all over the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s roster. 

The NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s included 57 members, and close to 40 percent of the team (22) were members of a club that won a Super Bowl during the decade.  Leading the way was the San Francisco 49ers with six members on the squad followed by the Redskins with five members, the Raiders with four players, and the Bears and Giants with three each.

Three players – Anthony Muñoz, Jerry Rice, and Lawrence Taylor – were unanimous selections to the All-Decade Team.





(First Team)

College: Tennessee
Pro Career: 1985-1992 Philadelphia Eagles;1993-98 Green Bay Packers; 2000 Carolina Panthers. HOF: 2006
White, the fourth overall pick in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft, recorded more sacks (124) than games played (121) in eight seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.  He moved on to Green Bay as the NFL’s first big name free agent to switch teams and continued his dominant play.  A three-time winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, White finished his career with a then-NFL record 198 sacks.

College: Villanova
Pro Career: 1981-1993 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. HOF: 2000
Long, at 6-5, 268 pounds, was an athletic specimen who was big enough to bull rush through an offensive line, but fast enough to turn around the corner and tackle the quarterback or ball carrier.  An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Long was tabbed as the Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1986.

(Second Team)

College: Oklahoma
Pro Career: 1976-1984 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. HOF: 1995
Selmon, the winner of the Outland and Lombardi Trophies while in college, was the Buccaneers first-ever draft pick in 1976.  He immediately became the leader of the team’s defensive unit and was vital in the team capturing division titles in 1979 and 1981.  Selmon was a three-time All-Pro selection and a six-time pick for the Pro Bowl.

College: Virginia Tech
Pro Career: 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills; 2000-03 Washington Redskins. HOF: 2009
Smith, the first overall selection in the 1985 NFL Draft, took the league by storm when he earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.  He continued to improve from that point and is now considered to be one of the greatest defensive players of all time.  A first- or second team All-Pro choice 11 times, Smith finished his career with a record 200 sacks.


(First Team)

College: Maryland
Pro Career: 1975-1988 Dallas Cowboys. HOF: 1994
It wasn’t until White moved from linebacker to defensive tackle in this third season that he began to emerge as a NFL superstar.  By his fourth year, White was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and began a string of eight consecutive seasons of first-team All-Pro selections.  Named the co-MVP in Super Bowl XII, he was a Pro Bowl pick in nine consecutive seasons.

College: Arkansas
Pro Career: 1979-1990 Chicago Bears. HOF: 2002
Hampton, a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 1979, was an outstanding and versatile defensive lineman who earned honors at both defensive end and defensive tackle. In all, he was named first- or second-team All-Pro six times and was selected to four Pro Bowls.

(Second Team)

College: Washington State
Pro Career: 1985-1991 Minnesota Vikings; 1992 Seattle Seahawks; 1992 Green Bay Packers; 1993 Philadelphia Eagles
Millard, who was drafted in the first round of the 1984 draft, played two seasons in the USFL before joining the Vikings in 1985.  He easily transitioned into the NFL and led his team in sacks (11) in his first season.  He continued to excel as he logged 18 sacks and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1989.  In all he was a first- or second team All-Pro selection four times.

College: Purdue
Pro Career: 1973-74 St. Louis Cardinals; 1975-1988 Washington Redskins
At 6-7, 291 pounds, Butz was one of the largest players of his era.  A first round selection in the 1973 NFL Draft, his durability allowed him to play 216 games over his 16-season career. His finest season may have been in 1983 when he had 11.5 sacks, forced five fumbles, recovered a fumble and logged 69 tackles. For his efforts he was declared the NFL’s Defensive Lineman of the Year.


(First Team)

College: Baylor
Pro Career: 1981-1992 Chicago Bears. HOF: 1998
Singletary was the cornerstone of the Chicago Bears defense for 12 seasons.  In 1985 he was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year as he helped lead the Bears, using its innovative “46 Defense,” to a 15-1 record and a run through the postseason capped by a victory in Super Bowl XX. He earned Player of the Year honors again in 1988.  In all he was selected to eight All-Pro teams and ten consecutive Pro Bowls.

College: North Carolina
Pro Career: 1981-1993 New York Giants. HOF: 1999
Lawrence Taylor redefined the position of outside linebacker.  During his career he caused so much disruption to opposing offenses that teams heading into games against the Giants would spend an exorbitant amount of time focusing strictly on him.  A ten-time Pro Bowl selection, Taylor finished his career in second place on the all-time sack list with 132.5.

College: Miami
Pro Career: 1969-1973 Baltimore Colts, 1974 Green Bay Packers, 1975-1983 Oakland Raiders. HOF: 1990
Nicknamed “The Mad Stork” due to his tall, lanky features, Hendricks was exceptionally strong, fast and a devastating tackler.  During his career he intercepted 26 passes, recovered 16 opponent’s fumbles, registered four safeties and blocked 25 field goals or PATs.

(Second Team)

College: Kent State
Pro Career: 1974-1984 Pittsburgh Steelers. HOF: 1990
Lambert, a second round pick of the Steelers in the 1974, was also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1970s. He continued to shine in this decade and was named to four of his nine career Pro Bowl berths in the ‘80s. In all, he was named first-team All-Pro seven times and was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year recipient.

College: Iowa; Ellsworth (IA) Junior College
Pro Career: 1982-1993 New England Patriots. HOF: 2008
Tippett, the Patriots second round pick in the 1982 NFL draft, didn’t earn a starting position on his team until his second season.  From that point on, he led the Patriots defense for the next 11 seasons.  In 1985 he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year as he helped lead New England to the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance.  Tippett, who logged 100 sacks in his career, was selected to five Pro Bowls.

College: Michigan
Pro Career: 1978-1989 Green Bay Packers
Anderson, an Academic All-America at the University of Michigan, was the Packers first round pick in the 1978 draft.  Named to the All-Rookie team after recording 5 interceptions and 102 total tackles, he went on to serve as one of the team’s steadiest performers for the next 12 seasons.  He was voted the Packers Most Valuable Defensive Player three consecutive seasons.

College: Michigan State
Pro Career: 1984-1992 New York Giants; 1993 Washington Redskins; 1994-95 Cleveland Browns
Banks, a first round pick of the Giants in 1984, was the heart and soul of his team’s defenses during his career.  He started quickly in the NFL by earning All-Rookie honors.  He also earned NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1989.  Banks was a vital contributor on two Super Bowl-winning teams with the New York Giants.


(First Team)

College: Arizona State
Pro Career: 1976-1982 New England Patriots, 1983-89 Los Angeles Raiders. HOF: 1997
Haynes, a first round pick in 1976, had an easy transition into the NFL when he intercepted eight passes to earn All-Rookie honors.  His speed, quickness, vision, and field sense made him one of the elite cornerbacks for the next 14 seasons.  He registered 46 interceptions during his career and was selected to nine Pro Bowls.

College: Southern University
Pro Career: 1970-1983 Pittsburgh Steelers. HOF: 1989
Blount was the prototype cornerback of his era as he possessed superior speed, strength, and intelligence. Although he did not become a regular at corner until his third season, he finished his 14-season, 200-game career with 57 interceptions which he returned for 736 yards. He was an All-Pro selection four times.

(Second Team)

College: Louisville
Pro Career: 1984-1992 Cleveland Browns
Minnified, who signed with the Browns as a free agent out of the USFL, earned All-Rookie honors in 1984.  From there he continued to improve and won first-team All-Pro honors from 1987-89 and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.  A tremendously hard worker, Minnifield utilized computer technology to study his opposing receiver’s tendencies. 

College: Texas A&M
Pro Career: 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Lester Hayes, an All-America linebacker in college, converted to cornerback in the pros, and quickly evolved into one of the most feared defensive backs in the league. A bump-and-run specialist who had a nose for the ball, Hayes recorded 39 interceptions for 572 yards and four touchdowns during his career. He was a first- or second-team All-Pro choice five times.


(First Team)

College: Southern California
Pro Career: 1981-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991-92 Los Angeles Raiders, 1993-94 New York Jets. HOF: 2000
Lott earned All-Decade honors at safety even though he played almost half of the seasons in the ‘80s as an All-Pro cornerback. Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry once described Lott as a “linebacker playing safety.”  Known for his bone-jarring hits, Lott racked up 63 interceptions in his career and twice led the NFL in the category.

College: UCLA
Pro Career: 1981-87 Seattle Seahawks
Easley, the Seahawks first round selection in the 1981 draft, may have been considered the most dominant safety of all time had his career not been cut short by injuries.  He took the league by storm when he earned AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors in 1981.  He followed that as the AFC Defensive Player of the Year pick in 1983 and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1984.  In just seven seasons, this five-time Pro Bowler picked off 32 passes for 538 yards and 3 TDs.

(Second Team)

College: Rutgers
Pro Career: 1981-1991 Kansas City Chiefs
Cherry, who signed as a rookie free agent with the Chiefs in 1981, was regarded as one of the finest free safeties of his era.  During his career he was selected to six straight Pro Bowls and was voted for a total of five All-Pro teams.  During his 11-year career he compiled 50 interceptions for 688 yards, one TD and nearly 1,000 tackles.

College: Southern California
Pro Career: 1983-1991 Minnesota Vikings; 1992 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Browner, a first round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, served as one of the leaders of the Vikings defense for nine seasons.   A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Browner also served as an excellent special teams player.  His play seemed to improve every year of his career.  Browner’s four All-Pro selections, three of which were consensus choices, occurred in 1987-1990.

College: Kansas 
Pro Career: 1977-1987 Los Angeles Rams
Cromwell, the Los Angeles Rams’ second round selection in the 1977 NFL Draft, would go on to be a mainstay in the team’s defensive backfield for the next 11 seasons.  A four-time Pro Bowl selection, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Kansas City Committee of 101 in 1980.  He accumulated 37 interceptions for 671 yards and 4 TDs during his career.