Packers: LeRoy Butler belongs in the Hall of Fame

Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport /

Former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Of the 11 legends who earned a spot on the defense of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s, only two have been slighted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Steve Atwater and another safety, the Packer who pioneered the Lambeau Leap, the dynamic LeRoy Butler.

While it’s up to Broncos fans to take up Atwater’s cause, in Packers News, we’ve got LeRoy’s back, and we want Number 36 to get the recognition he deserves.

Other premier safeties of the decade (such as Carnell Lake, Tim McDonald, and Darren Woodson) have likewise fallen short of the ultimate honor in pro football, which suggests that H.O.F. voters are inclined to believe that a defender who often plays far off the line of scrimmage has a limited impact on the game. In the case of Butler, that simply wasn’t true.

A four-time All-Pro, Butler had the unique ability to cause havoc for opposing quarterbacks on both sides of the line of scrimmage. In an era rich with talent in the back end of defenses, Butler transcended his peers as a dual threat who could pick off passes downfield as well as he could pressure the QB.

In his 12-year career, Butler totaled 38 interceptions and 20.5 sacks. For perspective on those numbers, consider the career marks of another great safety who totaled 12 years in the NFL: 32 INT, 12 sacks. Those stats were posted by Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu.

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It would come as no surprise to see Polamalu inducted in his first eligible year in 2020, so why are Hall voters so reluctant to acknowledge Butler? Having retired in 2001, the game-changing defensive back has been eligible for over a decade, and even though he was named a semi-finalist for the 2018 class, somehow his number wasn’t dialed again in early February.

Surely, the 13 fumbles he forced, the 10 loose balls he recovered, the Super Bowl ring on his finger, and his knack for tackling (721 total) bolster the case for Butler.

And get a load of his production in one of his All-Pro seasons, in ’96: five interceptions (one for a touchdown), 6.5 sacks, 87 tackles, 14 passes defended. The Packers’ D allowed the fewest points in the league that season, which culminated in bringing home a third Lombardi Trophy.

While Reggie White was no doubt deserving of induction into Canton in his first year of eligibility, Butler too was a vital part of a Green Bay defense that helped to establish the Packers as among the top four or five teams of the ’90s. If Reggie was the Michael Jordan of that defense, LeRoy was the Scottie Pippen. And it’s not so crazy to claim that both sets of teammates needed each other in order to rise to the top.

LeRoy Butler gets overlooked as a superlative NFL safety. He’s almost unparalleled as a d-back who thrived at making big plays anywhere on the field. In addition to outperforming Polamalu by the numbers, he retired with more interceptions than Joey Browner and over twice as many sacks as Ronnie Lott.

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For baffling reasons, we might not behold a bronze bust of Butler anytime soon, but it should happen eventually. Let’s just hope he won’t have to wait as long as Jerry Kramer did.