Dobre Shunka Awards 1943-2017

Meaning Good Ham, and named in honor of the tight end erasing phenom Jack Ham, the Dobre Shunka Award is reserved for the league’s top outside linebacker in a given season. Outside linebacker is an especially tricky position to evaluate for an award, because of the huge difference in responsibilities for off-ball linebackers and those who play at the line of scrimmage. When major publications hand out postseason awards, and when fans vote for the Pro Bowl, they seem to overwhelmingly favor 3-4 pass rushers to 4-3 guys who excel in space. I grew up rushing quarterbacks, so I have a bit of a bias to overcome, but I believe I have done a fair job recognizing the achievements of pass rushers, run stoppers, coverage specialists, steady hands, and playmakers. I tend to give credit to versatility over one trick ponies, but I’ll award the pony if that one trick is good enough. The same belabored explanation of stats and tape that I reword for every article applies here as well, so let’s avoid it and move on to the winners.

Dobre Shunka Award Winners

The table below lists every Dobre Shunka Award winner since 1943. Read it thus: In 1943, playing in the NFL, John Grigas of the Cardinals won his first Dobre Shunka Award.

1943NFLJohn GrigasChicago Cardinals1
1944NFLTed FritschGreen Bay Packers1
1945NFLChuck DeShaneDetroit Lions1
1946NFLSteve FilipowiczNew York Giants1
1946AAFCLou SabanCleveland Browns1
1947NFLCharlie SeabrightPittsburgh Steelers1
1947AAFCLou SabanCleveland Browns2
1948NFLGeorge ConnorChicago Bears1
1948AAFCLou SabanCleveland Browns3
1949NFLGeorge ConnorChicago Bears2
1949AAFCLou SabanCleveland Browns4
1950NFLGeorge ConnorChicago Bears3
1951NFLChuck BednarikPhiladelphia Eagles1
1952NFLChuck BednarikPhiladelphia Eagles2
1953NFLChuck BednarikPhiladelphia Eagles3
1954NFLChuck BednarikPhiladelphia Eagles4
1955NFLGeorge ConnorChicago Bears4
1956NFLLeo SanfordChicago Cardinals1
1957NFLMarv MatuszakSan Francisco 49ers1
1958NFLWalt MichaelsCleveland Browns1
1959NFLDon ShinnickBaltimore Colts1
1960NFLDan CurrieGreen Bay Packers1
1960AFLLarry GranthamNew York Jets1
1961NFLBill ForesterGreen Bay Packers1
1961AFLLarry GranthamNew York Jets2
1962NFLBill ForesterGreen Bay Packers2
1962AFLE.J. HolubKansas City Chiefs1
1963NFLJoe FortunatoChicago Bears1
1963AFLLarry GranthamNew York Jets3
1964NFLJoe FortunatoChicago Bears2
1964AFLLarry GranthamNew York Jets4
1965NFLWayne WalkerDetroit Lions1
1965AFLBobby BellKansas City Chiefs1
1966NFLChuck HowleyDallas Cowboys1
1966AFLMike StrattonBuffalo Bills1
1967NFLDave RobinsonGreen Bay Packers1
1967AFLBobby BellKansas City Chiefs2
1968NFLChuck HowleyDallas Cowboys2
1968AFLBobby BellKansas City Chiefs3
1969NFLChuck HowleyDallas Cowboys3
1969AFLBobby BellKansas City Chiefs4
1970NFLBobby BellKansas City Chiefs5
1971NFLTed HendricksBaltimore Colts1
1972NFLDave WilcoxSan Francisco 49ers1
1973NFLDave WilcoxSan Francisco 49ers2
1974NFLJack HamPittsburgh Steelers1
1975NFLJack HamPittsburgh Steelers2
1976NFLJack HamPittsburgh Steelers3
1977NFLJack HamPittsburgh Steelers4
1978NFLRobert BrazileHouston Oilers1
1979NFLRobert BrazileHouston Oilers2
1980NFLTed HendricksOakland Raiders2
1981NFLLawrence TaylorNew York Giants1
1982NFLLawrence TaylorNew York Giants2
1983NFLHugh GreenTampa Bay Buccaneers1
1984NFLLawrence TaylorNew York Giants3
1985NFLLawrence TaylorNew York Giants4
1986NFLLawrence TaylorNew York Giants5
1987NFLCarl BanksNew York Giants1
1988NFLLawrence TaylorNew York Giants6
1989NFLTim HarrisGreen Bay Packers1
1990NFLDerrick ThomasKansas City Chiefs1
1991NFLSeth JoynerPhiladelphia Eagles1
1992NFLBryan CoxMiami Dolphins1
1993NFLRenaldo TurnbullNew Orleans Saints1
1994NFLGreg LloydPittsburgh Steelers1
1995NFLBryce PaupBuffalo Bills1
1996NFLChad BrownPittsburgh Steelers1
1997NFLJunior SeauSan Diego Chargers1
1998NFLChad BrownSeattle Seahawks2
1999NFLDerrick BrooksTampa Bay Buccaneers1
2000NFLDerrick BrooksTampa Bay Buccaneers2
2001NFLDerrick BrooksTampa Bay Buccaneers3
2002NFLDerrick BrooksTampa Bay Buccaneers4
2003NFLJulian PetersonSan Francisco 49ers1
2004NFLKeith BulluckTennessee Titans1
2005NFLLance BriggsChicago Bears1
2006NFLAdalius ThomasBaltimore Ravens1
2007NFLDeMarcus WareDallas Cowboys1
2008NFLJames HarrisonPittsburgh Steelers1
2009NFLDeMarcus WareDallas Cowboys2
2010NFLClay MatthewsGreen Bay Packers1
2011NFLVon MillerDenver Broncos1
2012NFLVon MillerDenver Broncos2
2013NFLLavonte DavidTampa Bay Buccaneers1
2014NFLVon MillerDenver Broncos3
2015NFLKhalil MackOakland Raiders1
2016NFLVon MillerDenver Broncos4
2017NFLVon MillerDenver Broncos5

Notes and such.

Lawrence Taylor leads all players with six awards. He terrorized offensive linemen and quarterbacks, gave coordinators fevered dreams of crazed dogs devouring their offenses, and forced coaching staffs to innovate or die – perhaps literally. LT may be the very best defender in the history of the game.

Bobby Bell and Von Miller have five awards each. Bell was a versatile player and an athletic freak who could play on the defensive line, drop into coverage, and star on special teams. He is arguably the best defensive player to come out of the AFL. Miller is the closest thing his generation has to LT. His first step is among the most beautiful things in the sport, and he combines his preternatural quickness with surprising power. He doesn’t sacrifice his assignment to get to the passer, often rating among the best linebackers at stopping the run. When coaches have him drop into coverage, he does that well too. It’s only a matter of time before he gets a gold jacket and a bronze bust.

The four award group consists of three pairs of similar players. Chuck Bednarik was usually listed as a middle linebacker, but his alignment and responsibilities had him outside enough for me to give him the award four times. Basically the same exact thing can be said of George Connor. Jack Ham and Derrick Brooks are two of the finest coverage linebackers in history, and both excelled in similar defensive schemes. Lou Saban and Larry Grantham stood out as big fish in small ponds, playing well but doing so in inferior leagues.