Brian Urlacher believes that Ray Lewis is the best middle linebacker in NFL history. (USATSI)
Brian Urlacher believes that Ray Lewis is the best middle linebacker in NFL history. (USATSI)

If you ever find yourself in a debate with someone about who the better middle linebacker was between Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis, pick Ray Lewis. That's who Urlacher would pick. Urlacher, who announced his retirement on Wednesday, thinks Lewis is not only better than him but better than every middle linebacker who has ever played the game. 

As long as neither player comes out of retirement, both men would become eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2018, "If I'm lucky enough to go in with Ray, I'll say this about Ray: I think I'm pretty good; Ray's the best of all time," Urlacher said on the NFL Network's Total Access show. "His numbers, guys who played with him, you watch him, he did it the right way, he played hard. He's the best middle linebacker of all time."

Those are strong comments, especially coming from Urlacher, whose Bears have produced some of the best middle linebackers in NFL history, including Mike Singletary and Dick Butkus. "He was great," Urlacher said of Lewis. "I'm up there, I think, but not quite. The longevity he had was crazy, 17 years."

Urlacher played 13 seasons in the NFL, a number that might have been 14 if the Bears hadn't fired Lovie Smith. Urlacher thinks he would have played at least one more season if Smith was still coaching in Chicago. 

"I do believe that. Yes," Urlacher said. "And I think my desire would be a lot more, as well. Nothing against the new coaching staff. When you start playing for a guy like Lovie, you want to keep playing."

Urlacher finished his career with eight Pro Bowls along with a Defensive Rookie of the Year award (2000) and a Defensive Player of the Year award (2005). Lewis trumped that output with 13 Pro Bowl appearances, two Defensive Player of the Year awards (2000, 2003), two Super Bowl wins and a Super Bowl MVP award in 2000.