And not just at middle linebacker. Or just among all linebackers. Or just on defense. Nope, just, period.
Ray Lewis is the greatest football player ever. With apologies to the players who have also received consideration for that label or whom I have never seen play. This is no slight. Don't think if it as your shortcoming. Maybe, in the right light, you can tie him.
This has more to do with what one can observe about a person than it does the absence of empirical evidence for all others. I cannot imagine that a human being did or does it better than Lewis has. Such a person would sound like the main character of a fairy tale. Except that Lewis is already a real-life folk hero.
Prior to watching NFL Network's "A Football Life" on Lewis last night, I felt strongly that he had a rock-solid case. I don't pretend that I'm the first. Fans, analysts, FO people, coaches and other players - quite a few of them certainly must consider him a contender for the title "Greatest of All Time."
It's such a loaded designation, however. The criteria, the interpretations of the evidence, it's all so subjective. It'd always seemed impossible for anyone to come to an agreement about who that player is.
No. 52 never does
Technically, it's a matter of opinion. And I'm pretty open-minded. I'm willing to let someone convince me that Lewis isn't this person, for instance. But intuitively, I cannot fathom the argument that would change my mind. For me, this is the dogmatic viewpoint that can most closely resemble fact. It's either true, or it's false. I don't think I can see shades of grey any longer.
Episode 2 of this television program eliminated any doubts. It reinforced or confirmed just about every notion I had about Lewis. And then, it enhanced them. (I feel like a dopey, mindless reality-TV nut just for typing that.) I'm going to assume - confidently - that the parts they left out don't involve Megan's Law or something like that.
Ray Ray has excelled or still excels at every tangible aspect of his position, the most important on his side of the ball. More impressively, his abilities in any and all intangible areas of football are unmatched. He's the closest thing to a superhero that football has ever seen, and, thankfully, he uses his powers for the forces of good.
This would still be true if the Baltimore Ravens went 0-16 in every one of the seasons in which Lewis played. Those words will read like madness to people who haven't yet grasped the concept of process-oriented goals. Those folks also won't understand that 0-16 in any season just isn't possible for a squad if Lewis is a member of it.
I'm going to be honest: I haven't conducted a study or developed a proof. I don't know the exact number of wins Lewis is worth. But when the lotto bucket spits out the balls, Lewis' number is always greatest. The Detroit Lions go at least 4-12, maybe 5-11 - maybe better - in 2008 if Lewis wears Honolulu Blue and Silver that year.
Some people believe that Jerry Rice is the GOAT, regardless of position. He looks like an outstanding candidate. The margin by which he outclasses all other wide receivers is so great that the argument for him cannot help but be strong.
Lewis may get within shouting distance of Rice in terms of individual accomplishments. At best, Lewis matches Rice regarding physical preparation. In the matter of mental preparedness, let's call them equals.
But concerning the abstract, unquantifiable facets of the interweaving of growth and gridiron, Lewis defeats Rice across the board. It's not even close.
Lewis has been, in effect, twice the player that Rice was. Twice. Rice. To those who consider Rice the GOAT: At least one player is approximately double yours.
Have you watched him? Can't you feel that? I might be more willing to let myself down than I would be able to let Lewis down. (Actually, at this instant of my life, I'd say that it's a virtual certainty.) And I just can't let myself believe that anyone else has ever done football better than Ray Ray.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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