NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s - DEFENSE

History Published on : 1/25/2010

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

1920s1930s | 1940s  | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s  | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s

Once again, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee was asked to come up with a Team of the Decade. This time around, it was clearly stated in the criteria that only a player’s performance during the 1990s could be taken into consideration. The team was announced in late July of 2000 as the NFL prepared for its upcoming 81st season.

Five players received unanimous selection with a vote from each of the Committee’s selectors. They were: guard Bruce Matthews, wide receiver Jerry Rice, running back Barry Sanders, and defensive ends Bruce Smith and Reggie White.

Two players were placed on the team at two different positions. Deion Sanders was named to the first-team at both cornerback and punt returner. Return specialist Mel Gray was voted to the second team at both punt returner and kickoff returner.

A total of eight players on the 1990s team were also selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s. The group included Rice, Smith, White, along with kickers Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson, punter Sean Landeta, tackle Gary Zimmerman, and safety Ronnie Lott.





(First Team)

College: Virginia Tech
Pro Career: 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills; 2000-03 Washington Redskins. HOF: 2009
Smith recorded 113.5 of his NFL record 200 sacks during the 1990s. No other defensive lineman had more sacks than Smith in the decade. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 1996 and was a huge part of why the Buffalo Bills earned four straight Super Bowl berths to start the decade.

College: Tennessee
Pro Career: 1985-1992 Philadelphia Eagles;1993-98 Green Bay Packers; 2000 Carolina Panthers. HOF: 2006
Reggie White had seven 10-plus sack seasons during the 1990s and amassed 111.5 sacks during the decade. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Most Valuable Player during his final season with Green Bay in 1998 when he recorded 16 sacks. In all, White was named to 13 Pro Bowls during his career with nine of those selections coming in the ‘90s.

(Second Team)

Pro Career: 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings; 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons; 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers
Five of Doleman’s eight Pro Bowl nods came during the 1990s as he finished the decade ranked third in sacks among defensive linemen with 107 sacks. Six times during the ‘90s, he had 10 or more sacks in a season.

College: Nebraska
Pro Career: 1988-1996 Kansas City Chiefs; 1997-99 Denver Broncos; 2000 San Diego Chargers
Smith was voted to the Pro Bowl six times over a seven-season span in the 1990s. He recorded double-digit sack totals in four straight seasons from 1992 to 1995. Smith was an integral part of the Chiefs’ two division titles and the Broncos Super Bowl victories in the decade.


(First Team)

College: Northwest Mississippi Community College; Miami (FL)
Pro Career: 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
Kennedy was voted to the Pro Bowl eight times during the 1990s. In all, he record 57.0 sacks during the decade including a remarkable total of 14 in 1992, the most by an interior lineman that year. He was named first-team All-Pro three straight seasons, 1992-94 and All-AFC four times during the ‘90s.

College: Trinity Valley Community College (TX); Texas A&I. HOF: 2010
Pro Career: 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
Signed as an undrafted free agent, Randle developed into one of the NFL’s most punishing defensive linemen. In all, he recorded 137.5 sacks that included 106 during the 1990s. He registered 10 or more sacks in eight straight seasons from 1992 to 1999.

(Second Team)

College: Miami (FL)
Pro Career: 1995-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2004-07 Oakland Raiders
Sapp earned Pro Bowl honors after each of the final three seasons in the ‘90s during which time he recorded 30 sacks. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1999 after he amassed 12.5 sacks in leading the Buccaneers to a NFC Central Division title.

College: Notre Dame
Pro Career: 1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers
Young made a mark immediately in the NFL as he was named the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was voted to the Pro Bowl following the 1996 and 1999 seasons and registered 48 sacks during six seasons in the 1990s.


(First Team)

College: Auburn
Pro Career: 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams; 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers; 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers; 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Greene played on four division title teams with three different NFL clubs during the decade. He twice led the NFL in sacks and was tied with DE Bruce Smith for second in total sacks during the 1990s (113.5). He was named All-Pro twice and voted to five Pro Bowls during the 1990s.

College: Southern California
Pro Career: 1990-2002 San Diego Chargers; 2003-05 Miami Dolphins; 2006-09 New England Patriots
The heart and soul of the Chargers defense, Seau was named to a Pro Bowl nine straight times during the 1990s. He helped lead the Chargers to an AFC championship and an appearance in Super Bowl XXIX. He also was named first-team All-Pro eight times in his career including seven seasons in the ‘90s.

College: Alabama
Pro Career: 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs. HOF: 2009
No player in the NFL had more sacks in the 1990s than Derrick Thomas who toattled 116.5 sacks during the 10-season span. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection during the decade, he had his best season in 1990 when he had a league-high and club record 20 sacks. His seven sacks in one game against the Seahawks that year remains an NFL record.

(Second Team)

College: Alabama
Pro Career: 1987-1995 Buffalo Bills; 1996-98 Atlanta Falcons; 1999-2000 Indianapolis Colts
Bennett played in five Super Bowls during the 1990s beginning with four straight as a member of the Buffalo Bills. He added a fifth while with Falcons. He earned Pro Bowl honors four consecutive years during the Bills’ unprecedented run of AFC championships.

College: California
Pro Career: 1987-1992 Pittsburgh Steelers; 1993-99 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2000-01 Jacksonville Jaguars; 2002 Green Bay Packers
Nickerson was named to five Pro Bowls during the decade including the last four of the ‘90s. He was an integral part of the Buccaneers defense and helped the team to an 11-5 mark in 1999 and its first division title since 1979.

Pro Career: 1992-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers; 2001 Seattle Seahawks; 2002 Philadelphia Eagles
Kirkland started 96 straight games from 1995 to the end of the decade and was a key player in leading the Steelers to Super Bowl XXX. He was twice named to the Pro Bowl, following the 1996 and 1997 seasons.


(First Team)

College: Florida State
Pro Career: 1989-1993 Atlanta Falcons; 1994 San Francisco 49ers; 1995-99 Dallas Cowboys; 2000 Washington Redskins; 2004-05 Baltimore Ravens
Sanders picked off 39 of his 53 career interceptions during the decade and returned eight of them for scores. He had a career-high 7 picks in 1993; and then earned Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 after totaling 303 yards on six interceptions during his one season in San Francisco.

College: Purdue
Pro Career: 1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers; 1997 San Francisco 49ers; 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens; 2002-03 Oakland Raiders. HOF: 2009
Woodson led the NFL with 46 interceptions during the 1990s that included eight that he returned for touchdowns. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. Seven of his 11 career Pro Bowl nods came during the ‘90s.

(Second Team)

College: Texas A&I
Pro Career: 1983-2002 Washington Redskins. HOF: 2008
Known for his outstanding speed, Green had 27 of his 54 career interceptions during the 1990s. He was voted to the Pro Bowl four times during the decade and was integral in leading the Redskins to a victory in Super Bowl XXVI.

College: Southern University
Pro Career: 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
Williams earned first-team All-Pro honors four times in his career with three of those selections coming in 1995, 1996, and 1997. He was voted to the Pro Bowl six straight times in the ‘90s and his 41 interceptions during the decade ranked second among cornerbacks.


(First Team)

College: Arkansas
Pro Career: 1989-1999 Denver Broncos
A punishing tackler, Atwater also had 21 picks during the 1990s. He played in 151 of a possible 160 games during the decade. A six-time All-AFC choice, he brought veteran leadership to the Broncos to help the team capture back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998.

College: Florida State
Pro Career: 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers
A well-rounded player, Butler had 17.5 sacks and 36 interceptions during this decade. His interception total for the 10-season span was second most among all safeties. He was voted to four Pro Bowls (1994, 1997-99).

(Second Team)

Pro Career: 1989-1998 Pittsburgh Steelers; 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars; 2001 Baltimore Ravens
Lake played on six AFC Central Division champions in the decade (five with Pittsburgh, one with Jacksonville). He was a big reason for the Steelers run to Super Bowl XXX during the 1995 season. He earned All-Pro honors twice and voted to five Pro Bowls in the ‘90s.

College: Southern California
Pro Career: 1981-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991-92 Los Angeles Raiders, 1993-94 New York Jets. HOF: 2000
After making his mark with the Super Bowl champion 49ers, Lott moved on to play with the Raiders and Jets. Showing age wasn’t slowing him down, Lott led the NFL in interceptions during his first season in L.A. He also was voted to the final two of his career 10 Pro Bowls at the start of this decade.