Comparing two all-time greats is extremely tough, and choosing between them is damn near impossible. But we here at GameDaySportsBlog.com are up to the unenviable task of stating a case for each player to be deemed better than their counterpart. This edition of “OR” focuses on arguably the two best defensive linemen to ever play in the National Football League, as we focus on Reggie White OR Bruce Smith?
The “Minister of Defense”, Reggie White, is arguably the best defensive player of all-time. Easily the best defensive lineman to ever play in the NFL, and his only competition on the entire defensive side of the ball is a man known as LT. Other than that there is no comparison on D, including the man only Bills fans claim is better, Bruce Smith.
And while the great people of Buffalo, New York may claim that Bruce Smith is ahead of White and every other player in history in terms of career sacks, it took Smith an extra 4 years to pass White on the list. So although Smith may be #1 when it comes taking down the quarterback, it is hardly the accomplishment that it may seem like when you realize that in Smith’s 19 year career he ended with only 2 more sacks than Reggie did in his 15 seasons.
Still let’s look at the stats, but in a more efficient manner. On a per-season basis, White not only had more sacks, but he had higher numbers per season in tackles, fumble recoveries, tackles for losses, and even interceptions. Still there is a bigger side to this argument than just the solo stats.
Reggie White was a bigger part of a better defense than the Bills star. White played 15 seasons on a defense that between his years in Philadelphia, Green Bay, and even the year in Carolina had an average NFL ranking in the top 10 of points allowed. That is quite unlike Smith whose average defense he lined up on during his career didn’t even break the top 1/3 of the league.
Still there are those that claim Bruce Smith is the greatest defensive end of all-time. I guess that just shows there are some who don’t like facts. But it’s ok Bruce, there is one thing you did that Reggie could never, lose 4 straight Super Bowls. But maybe Reggie’s family will let you borrow his ring.
There is no doubt that the “Minister of Defense” is one of the greatest players ever, but he takes a backseat to the best defensive end in the history of the NFL, Bruce Smith.
I could claim that Smith is the greatest defensive lineman of all-time by simply stating that he has done what linemen are supposed to do, better than anybody else in history. Nobody who has ever played in the NFL, not Michael Strahan, not Lawrence Taylor, and not even the great Reggie White, has sacked the quarterback as much as Bruce Smith. Still there are questions. Well let me put them to rest.
The argument that Reggie White was on better defenses than Bruce Smith throughout his career is completely false. In truth, the defenses that were “led” by the great Reggie White were actually worse than those guided by Smith. Although as mentioned earlier Smith’s defenses have had a worse average ranking than White’s, the Bills’ and Redskins’ D while #78 was lining up for them actually gave up less points than White’s career defenses did.
But it’s not just that Bruce Smith was on a better defense during his career, it’s that he was what made the defense great. Unlike Reggie White, who spent 8 seasons in Philadelphia where he was flanked by All-Pro D-Linemen Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons, as well as Pro Bowl rush linebacker Seth Joyner, Bruce Smith spent the majority of his career in Buffalo, where void of any defensive talent other than Cornelius Bennett, he was double teamed on nearly every play. Still, despite being the focal point of the defense and the sole attention getter of every opposing offense, Bruce Smith was more disruptive, forcing more forced fumbles per season than White.
Take even further into account, that Smith played in a 3-4 defense that is notorious for space eating defensive linemen who sacrifice personal production for team gain, and it is incredible what Smith would have been able to produce had he been in White’s situation playing in a statistically friendly 4-3 scheme surrounded by the talent to stop the constant double teaming he Smith faced seemingly every down of every game.
And despite all these advantages, there is something that Reggie was never able to accomplish, sack the quarterback more than Bruce Smith. Maybe that is why Smith, not White is the greatest defensive lineman to ever play the game.