The All-NYC Football Starting Defense

Jason Keidel
June 05, 2020 - 6:26 pm

We recently gave you a list of the best Big Apple football players, all-time, on offense. Today we finish the roster with defense, picking a player at each position, from those who wore a Jets or Giants uniform. As with all lists, this one is subjective, and could leave you cackling for substitutions. We'll go with a 3-4 look in honor of Bill Belichick, who coached defense for both squads.

Defensive End

1. Michael Strahan
The loquacious Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowler, and was named first-team All-Pro four times. He finished with 141.5 sacks, led the league twice, including a record-breaking 22.5 sacks in 2001 (with an assist from Brett Favre). Strahan entered the Hall of Fame in 2014.

2. Andy Robustelli
A pillar of those old-school Big Blue teams, Robustelli won an NFL title in his rookie year, 1956, and would reach the title game five more times. Over those six seasons, Robustelli was a first-team All-Pro. He started in 174 games, and missed just one. Incidentally, he retired with the most fumble recoveries, with 22. Robustelli entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

Nose Tackle

1. Joe Klecko
If you want to see the blood rush to a Jets fan's face, ask why Klecko isn't in the Hall of Fame. That's because he belongs. Klecko is the only player to reach the Pro Bowl at three different positions, was the most feared member of the New York Sack Exchange of the 1980s. He retired with 24.5 sacks, but as USA Today noted, they didn't record sacks until six years into Klecko's career, and likely would have finished with closer to 75 sacks had they counted every one.


1. Lawrence Taylor
This is the easiest pick at any position on defense. Lawrence Taylor - the original LT - is clearly the best linebacker ever to play football, and perhaps the best player ever to suit-up on defense. He was a ten-time Pro Bowler, and was named first-team All-Pro eight times. He was so great, so singularly dominant, it's almost an insult to thumb through his stats. He finished with an astonishing 132.5 sacks back when linebackers weren't built for pass-rushing. He led the league in 1986, with 20.5 sacks, and finished the season with a Super Bowl ring and was the only defensive player voted NFL MVP. He's still the only one, the only LT, the linebacker nonpareil.

2. Mo Lewis
You have the right to demand Brad Van Pelt or Carl Banks in this quartet. But the Jets should get at least one player on this fictional roster. And, for better or worse, Mo Lewis was likely the best linebacker in Jets history. In his 13-year career - all with Gang Green - Lewis was a three-time Pro Bowler and was named first-team All Pro in 1998, the closest the Jets have been to the Super Bowl since 1969. Lewis is also as infamous as he is famous, for blasting Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe so hard he collapsed the QB's lung. Then walked in Bledsoe's replacement...Tom Brady.


1. Harry Carson
A nine-time Pro Bowler, Carson became a bit of a sad caricature because of his stated struggles over the Hall of Fame. He belonged, of course, but waited years and years - 18 years, to be exact - before he finally got the call from Canton. Carson was a spoke in that Giants defensive machine in 1986,

2. Sam Huff
Like his teammate Robustelli, Huff won an NFL title in his rookie year, 1956. Huff was a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time, first-team All-Pro. As if Huff's career weren't good enough - he entered the Hall of Fame in 1982 - he came out of retirement in 1969 to play one season for Vince Lombardi, the last before the greatest coach in NFL history died from cancer.


1. Jamal Adams
If he remains a Jet, Adams will join Joe Namath, Weeb Ewbank, Don Maynard, Curtis Martin and (eventually) Darrelle Revis in the Hall of Fame. He was a Pro Bowler in his second year, first-team All-Pro in his third year, and enters his fourth year as the best safety in the NFL. There are a few variables, such as injury and longevity. But Adams reminds a few of us of Ronnie Lott.

2. Emlen Tunnell
Tunnell was a Pro Bowler for seven straight seasons (1950-1957), and was named first-team All-Pro in four of them. He won an NFL title in 1956, lost the "Greatest Game Ever Played" in 1958, then won one more league title with the Packers and Vince Lombardi, in his final season, 1961. Any self-respecting list of the greatest Giants has Tunnell in the top-ten, if not the top-five. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.


1. Darrelle Revis
There are very few no-look, no-pause picks. Revis is one of them. Productive cornerbacks are kind of counterintuitive when it comes to stats, because opposing quarterbacks don't throw the ball their way. He carved out his own island adjacent to Manhattan.  Revis Island was a very exclusive slice of gridiron real estate, and the man holding the deed was the best cover corner since Deion Sanders. He was dismissed by football purists as something of a me-first mercenary  who always played for the highest bidder. Indeed, he was as good at getting paid as he was covering wide receivers. He's also going to the Hall of Fame.

2. Jason Sehorn
Both teams are a bit thin at this position. But Sehorn was a serious player and among the best cornerbacks in the league until his fifth season (1998) when he tore his ACL and MCL in his right knee and never really recovered to his former form. The USC alum was also solid at kick returns. Sehorn left the sport with 19 interceptions, for of which were returned for touchdowns. He would not be in the Hall of Fame if not for the injury. But he would be known for far more than being Angie Harmon's ex-husband.

Twitter: @JasonKeidel