2021 HOF Inductee Charles Woodson Has a Legitimate Argument for Being the Best DB of All Time

No DB was a better all-around player than Charles Woodson.

Taking a short break from the Hello Wisconsin series here at the start of the offseason, and I felt there was no better topic to take on this week than one of my top three favorite players to ever wear the green and gold, Charles Woodson.

Woodson was elected into the Hall of Fame this past week in his first time appearing on the ballot, cementing him as one of the greatest to ever play the game. 

I’d like to make the case today that Woodson may very well be *the* greatest all-around defensive back to ever play the game.

And, of even greater interest to readers of this website, Woodson would never have been able to create such a legacy without coming to Green Bay, where he went from being an all-star to an all-timer.

So names like Dick “Night Train” Lane, Deion Sanders, Ronnie Lott, Ed Reed, Rod Woodson and others can step aside, because it’s Woodson who has the strongest argument to sit at the top of the mountain.

Accomplishments and statistics

The accolades for Woodson are undeniable.

1997 Heisman Trophy winner.

Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Defensive Player of the Year.

9x Pro Bowl.

4x first team all pro. 4x second team all pro.

2x NFL interceptions leader.

2000s all-decade team.

College football national champion.

Super Bowl champion.

There is nothing Woodson hasn’t accomplished as a defensive player in the NFL. He was the cream of the crop at both the college and NFL levels. And winning the Heisman as a defensive player is a feat almost unheard of (yes, he contributed in other parts of the game as well, but still). 

And then you look at the statistics.

65 interceptions for 966 yards. 33 forced fumbles with 18 recoveries. 13 total defensive touchdowns. 20 sacks. 1220 tackles.

The man played all over the field. On the outside, he was a shutdown cornerback. On the inside, he could match up with anyone in the slot. He could play deep safety, or he could play right up on the line and blitz. On one play he’d blow up a bubble screen, on the next he’d cover half the field to break up a pass. 

I don’t think there’s ever been a more gifted, well-rounded player in the defensive backfield, and he’s legitimately one of the greatest defenders at any position of all time, even among Hall of Famers.

What’s crazy is what Woodson did in seven years in Green Bay. He turned 30 his first year there, an age at which many cornerbacks (and NFL players in general) begin to decline. 

Instead, over the course of the next seven years, Woodson played the best football of his career. In 100 games with the Packers, Woodson intercepted 38 passes, scored 10 of his 13 defensive touchdowns, broke up 99 passes (versus 84 in 11 years in Oakland), had more than half of his total career sacks, and had 18 of his 21 total quarterback hits. 

Woodson remains the most important free agent or trade acquisition the Packers have made in the 21st century, and is only exceeded by Reggie White (free agent) and Brett Favre (trade) in terms of the most important such acquisitions in franchise history.

He is an all-time great Packer, football player, leader of men and human being, and I cannot wait to watch his induction.

Congrats to Charles Woodson!

 

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (11)

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NickPerry's picture

February 11, 2021 at 06:26 am

Charles Woodson will always be one of my all-time favorite Packers. People don't mention this much but SB 45 was a 21-3 game until late in the 2nd quarter. The Steelers didn't do S##T on offense the entire 1st half until Wood broke his collarbone and Sam Shields was in and out of the lineup. The Steelers were SHUT DOWN!

Woodson was a great, great leader and player. I was super bummed when he was allowed to leave GB for his 2nd stint with the Raiders. I never doubted Woodson would become the excellent Saftey he was for Oakland. I still get chills everytime I hear his speech after the NFCCG in Chicago. You damn right Charles, you DID go to the White House to see Obama!

IMO the Packers should retire Woodsons number and put him in the Ring of Honor. Other than drafting Rodgers, this has to be the best move EVER by Ted Thompson...And he made plenty great moves.

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Archie's picture

February 11, 2021 at 08:28 am

Amen to all that!

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Since'61's picture

February 11, 2021 at 02:45 pm

Woodson was the type of player we rarely see in the NFL any longer. Not only could he play any position in the defensive backfield, he was willing to move around and he played each position effectively. He was a football player, not a 1or 2 down specialist.

After the 2010 SB the Packers defense lost Cullen Jenkins to FA, Desmond Bishop, Nick Barnett and Nick Collins to injuries, and in 2012 Woodson to FA. Also, T’Will suffered a nerve injury to his shoulder from which he never fully recovered.
Quite frankly, the defense has yet to recover that level of talent, except for K. Clark and J. Alexander. We can place blame on Capers and Pettine all day long but Capers defense was pretty solid before those players were chipped away thanks to attrition in the NFL. Put Collins and Woodson on the field for the 2014 NFCCG and we are in the SB that season at least. Thanks, Since ‘61

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NickPerry's picture

February 12, 2021 at 05:54 am

"Put Collins and Woodson on the field for the 2014 NFCCG and we are in the SB that season at least."

Tell em Since '61! I've often wondered what might have been had Collins stayed healthy and played out his career in GB. I have no doubt at least another SB or two and a HOF career for sure.

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splitpea1's picture

February 11, 2021 at 11:32 am

Charles, Rod, and Ronnie Lott are at the top of the list. If I had to pick one, though, it would be Rod because of the kick returns.

Congratulation to Charles--we couldn't have gotten back on a winning track and eventually win the Super Bowl without him.

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ricky's picture

February 11, 2021 at 12:53 pm

Woodson was a great DB. But better than Deion Sanders? Stats are nice, but when the other team is literally not throwing your way (ala Alexander with the Packers now), it can cause a lack of chances to pad stats. This takes nothing away from Woodson; but looking at things through the lens of being a Packer can also skew one's view.

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Since'61's picture

February 11, 2021 at 02:51 pm

Deion was a great cover CB. But he never played safety or slot CB. More importantly there were numerous plays where Deion literally ran away from making a tackle.

If football was only about covering receivers then yes he was great but football is also about tackling and giving up your body to turn an RB to the inside and quite frankly Deion sucked at making those plays. Therefore, IMO he was a great dancer but a poor football player.

I would take Adderly, Woodson, Lem Barney, Willie Brown, just to name a few, over him any day. Thanks, Since ‘61

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DragonSilk's picture

February 16, 2021 at 06:08 am

Dion never saw a tackle he didn't want to avoid. To quote him "That's what they pay linebackers for."

Props for the Lem Barney mention. As a kid mostly all the games I got to watch were Lions games. Barney is still one of my favorite all time players.

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Jaylee's picture

February 11, 2021 at 04:33 pm

Yeah I think pretty solidly better than Sanders, he could do just about everything Sanders could do, plus far more.

I think a better question is if he's better than Lott, who was All-Pro 8 times at 3 different positions, he could absolutely play most anywhere on the field as well. That's a better debate.

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Stroh's picture

February 11, 2021 at 01:59 pm

Woodson is certainly one of the greatest all around DBs in NFL history. Herb Adderley would also be in that discussion. However when considering purely coverage ability, that distinction goes t Dieon. Its important to clarify what the discussion actually is.

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Turophile's picture

February 11, 2021 at 03:43 pm

Charles was the poster boy for knowing how to do things the right way. He even butted heads with McCarthy for a bit, until MM realised he could trust Charles to do it right, whatever the 'it' was that caused the argument. Over time, I think MM realised just what a brilliant football brain CW had.

He was not only an excellent player, he was the poster boy for showing others how to play better......see the emergence of Nick Collins after Woodson (among other things), showed him how to watch tape properly.

Thoroughly deserves a first ballot entry to the HOF.

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