Ranking the top 10 Kansas City Chiefs linebackers of all time

Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Bell (Photo by James Flores/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Bell (Photo by James Flores/Getty Images) /
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Derrick Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs
Linebacker Derrick Thomas #58 of the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Joseph Poellot/Getty Images) /

2. Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas wasn’t just an all-time player in the Kansas City Chiefs franchise history; he was and is an all-time fan favorite. The speed, power, and grace with which Thomas abused offensive lineman in the 1990s was nearly unmatched. For a fan base whose team’s success for that era was largely predicated on the success of the defensive side of the ball, Derrick Thomas was the cornerstone.

Thomas was an expensive draft pick for the Chiefs, who selected him fourth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. He immediately made even that pick look like a discount, garnering both a Pro Bowl nomination and Defensive Rookie of the Year for his 1989 campaign.

Throughout his career, Thomas was known for two things: his skill as a pass rusher and his unique ability of stripping the ball. During the 1990s he was simply the decade’s best, leading the NFL in both categories with an impressive 116.5 sacks and 38 forced fumbles.

His best season came in 1990 when he broke the Chiefs all-time single season record with 20 sacks, a record that stood for a quarter century, and led the NFL with six forced fumbles. In his best performance that season he broke the NFL’s all-time record for sacks in a game with seven, coming within inches of an eighth to end the game. Ironically, as successful as he was at his craft, Thomas often said it was the sacks he missed that he remembered the most.

Though he was never the member of a championship team with the Chiefs, Thomas’ tenure with the franchise brought with it a return to winning. During the ’90s, the Chiefs made the playoffs seven times, in large part due to their great defense, after only making them once in almost 20 seasons before. Aside from being a key part to re-invigorating a culture of winning, Thomas was also a highly decorated player.

Twenty-one seasons after his final snap, Thomas is still the Chiefs all-time leader in sacks at 126.5, outpacing the player in second place by 37 sacks. He is also the team’s all-time leader in forced fumbles at 41, a number that puts him in the top 10 in the history of the NFL. The nine-time Pro Bowler, three-time All Pro, and Hall of Famer is firmly solidified as the franchise’s second best linebacker of all time.