An ode to London Fletcher, a better linebacker than Ray Lewis

With Ray Lewis’ recent decision to retire, many believe he's the greatest linebacker ever, but he might not even be the greatest today. Photo: Redskins' London Fletcher takes down Seahawks' Russell Wilson AP

CHICAGO, January 23, 2013 – Ray Lewis has had a spectacular career. He spearheaded a defense that claimed one Super Bowl title and is a single game away from repeating that feat in his 17th season. He is an inspiration to everyone on his team and deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

However, any claim that he’s the “Best Linebacker Ever” is more than misleading; he isn’t even the best linebacker of his own time.

If you want to find a linebacker whose career rivals if it doesn’t exceed Lewis’s, look no further than Washington Redskins’ own London Fletcher.

Fletcher doesn’t have the profile of Ray Lewis, but that could reasonably attributed to any number of things. For example, it might be because he doesn’t ask to dance around before every home game in a flashy “LOOK AT ME!” ceremony for the ages or hog the camera for after-game interviews or it might be because Fletcher never had to rebuild his reputation after lying to authorities investigating a homicide. We’ll never know.

What we do know is that on the field, Fletcher outshines Lewis. On paper, they seem almost identical. Though tackles aren’t exactly a perfect stat, the two of them are nearly equal, even with Lewis having two more seasons under his belt. Lewis has a few more interceptions, they have forced the same number of fumbles. But remember, Lewis is in his 17th season; Fletcher is only in his 15th.

Fletcher seems to pull ahead in the comparison when you look at numbers that are a little less conventional, though perfectly valid. Fletcher has not missed a single game in his career. Not one. That’s incredible for a man who makes a living chasing down and slamming into several-hundred pound men all year.

Oh, and how many games has the “warrior” Ray Lewis missed in his career? 44. Lewis has never played more than three full seasons in a row, while Fletcher just finished his fifteenth.

In addition to this durability, it’s important to remember where each of these players came from. Ray Lewis was drafted in the first round by a team that had every intention of making him the leader of their defense. It’s fair to say that the Ravens knew what they were doing in that sense.

Now let’s look at where London Fletcher was drafted: he wasn’t! This is a player who had to scratch and claw his way into a lineup the summer before his rookie season as an undrafted player, one no team thought was better than the 241 players drafted in 1998.

After all that adversity, after seeing fellow members of his draft class like Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Randy Moss miss game after game in recent years, Fletcher continues to grit his teeth, skip the dance routine and contribute excellent play to a defense that would be lost without him.

Ray Lewis deserves immense respect for the repairing his image and his on-the-field contributions but to anoint him the greatest of all-time is a stretch.

Let’s hope London Fletcher gets the hero’s salute he deserves as well when it’s his turn to ride off into the sunset.

To contact Nick Goralka, see above to send him an e-mail containing a question, comment, or scathing insult. His work appears in Alley-oops for Touchdowns! and That Liberal Pinko in the Communities at the Washington Times Online.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Nicholas Goralka

Nick Goralka is a sports enthusiast with eclectic interests. In addition to cheering on and suffering along with his Chicago teams, Nick is a competitively-ranked tennis player, enjoys debating real versus imaginary numbers in mathematical functions, and is a trumpet soloist in his Jazz ensemble which has performed throughout Chicago and for Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Vice President Joe Biden at a recent charity fundraiser.  

Nick is still in high school, steadily working his way through his Statistics class, and learning more and more every day about analyzing the sports that he loves.

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