Defensive Player of the Year, 1980s All-Decade Team, member of the 100 sack club, and Hall of Fame. When you think of the greatest linebackers throughout history, does Andre Tippett even enter your mind?
Andre Tippett was drafted with the second overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. In his first season, Tippett didn’t record a single sack. He would go on to lead the Patriots in sacks six times and finish no worse than second in team sacks for the rest of his career.
1984 is when Tippett really broke out. He recorded 18.5 sacks which is the third-highest mark ever by a linebacker in a single season. In 1985, he recorded 16.5 sacks which is the sixth-highest total by a linebacker. Tippett’s 35 sacks over the course of 1984 and 1985 are the highest sack marks ever by a linebacker over a two-season span.
From 1985 to 1987, Tippett was named the linebacker of the year by the NFL Players Association. Tippett retired after the 1993 season as the Patriots’ all-time sack leader with 100. At the time of his retirement, he ranked seventh on the all-time sack list and had the third-most sacks by a linebacker.
Pass Rushing Ability
Andre Tippett had an ability that very few people in NFL history have had. Offenses had to game plan around Tippett. During his entire career, he only played with two other Pro Bowl players. Opposing teams knew Tippett was the only threat the Patriots had yet they still could not stop him. Over his career, he had an average of .662 sacks per game which is the fourth most all-time by a linebacker.
He was an unstoppable force in 1985. he had 16.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, and one touchdown. On his way to being named Defensive Player of the Year, he led the Patriots to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Accolades of a Forgotten Legend
During his NFL tenure Tippett earned numerous accolades:
- Five straight Pro Bowls
- Four straight All Pro
- 1985 Defensive Player of the Year
- 1985 AFC Player of the Year
- 1980s All Decade Team
- Patriots Team of the Century
- Pro Football Weekly’s All Time 3-4 Defensive Team
- Patriots Hall of Fame
- NFL Hall of Fame
Why is Andre Tippett forgotten? The biggest reason is he happened to play in the same era as the greatest linebacker of all time; Lawrence Taylor. For as good as Tippett was, the spotlight was always on Taylor. Former players have said that Taylor is at the top but Tippett is on the notch right below him. Had Tippett played just five years later he likely would’ve gotten more attention and therefore remembered more.
Another big factor working against Andre Tippett is that the Patriots were an awful team during the 1980s. Tippett didn’t get national attention because no one wanted to watch the Patriots perform. Tippett played with two Pro Bowlers in his entire career and that sums up how bad the Patriots were during his tenure. In the 1985 season, when the Patriots were a top-two team and actually had people watching them, Tippet won Defensive Player of the Year.
The mixture of playing at the same time as Lawrence Taylor and being on one of the worst teams has helped hide Tippett’s career to the average NFL fan. A player that was putting up the same stats as Lawrence Taylor, despite not being surrounded by the amount of talent Taylor was surrounded with, should be more widely known and thought of in the all-time best discussions. Andre Tippett was a ferocious pass rusher that should not be lost in the annals of time.
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