Lance Briggs recently said that he will end his career and retire as a Chicago Bear. He called himself “a true Bear.” Entering his 12th season with the team, no arguments can be made on that fact. What can be argued is his legacy. Where will Briggs go down in the all-time best linebackers conversation? Is he already a Hall of Famer?
My answers to those questions: right up there with the best outside linebackers to ever lace them up, and absolutely.
Briggs has enjoyed a decade as arguably the best outside linebacker in the NFL highlighted by seven straight Pro Bowls earlier in his career (2005-11).
People who say Briggs doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame often point to the fact that he was a “system player” and Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 defense made him seem better than he was. I think that’s garbage. Just because a guy was drafted to a team that he fit in great with does not take away from his excellent career.
Briggs performed at an elite level for a decade in which time he was one of the best coverage linebackers in the league. That said, he isn’t a one trick pony. He’s good in pass defense, but he’s been the best against the run. Since coming into the NFL, no player has more run stuffs than Briggs. His instincts are incredible and his ability to roll off blocks is almost unmatched. He has an absolutely ideal match of tangibles and intangibles on the football field.
While most of his stats are not jaw-dropping, his 15 career interceptions, five of which were returned for touchdowns, are impressive. His biggest contribution to the vaunted Bears “Monsters of the Midway” defense is completely invisible to statisticians, especially since the retirement of Brian Urlacher. Since No. 54’s departure, Briggs has been the main play caller and leader of the defense. While Urlacher was still around, Briggs played the best Robin to Urlacher’s Batman. It wasn’t even a Batman/Robin. It was more so a Batman/Batman 2.0. When it comes time for Briggs’ Hall of Fame ballot, voters must not let Batman’s achievements overshadow the dominance of Batman 2.0.
Chicago has an 85-68 record in the Briggs era and the Bears’ defense has been ranked top five for almost half of his career. Though he has never won the Super Bowl, the Bears did make it to the 2007 Super Bowl where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts. Briggs led the team in tackles that season with 109 and had 13 total tackles in the Super Bowl loss.
Briggs has remained productive in his veteran state. Unfortunately, father time is catching up to him and his reliability is not what it once was. He has played 15+ games in nine of his 11 seasons, but last year he was only able to play in nine games. In those nine games Briggs had 51 tackles and eight pass defenses along with two forced fumbles.
While I think he should already have a ticket to Canton, Briggs probably needs a few more healthy, productive seasons to become a no doubt Hall of Famer. In the 3-4 defense era, old-school 4-3 outside linebackers like Briggs are quickly looked over. The good news for Bears fans is that the first part of his career was played in a very watered down era for linebackers. Outside of Ray Lewis and Urlacher, Briggs may be the best from the early-mid 2000s.
The duo of Briggs and Urlacher was one of the most feared linebacking tandems in the history of the sport and both belong in Canton.