There is no doubt that Chicago Bears fans are passionate about their team. "Da" Bears and all that. Naturally, when you have that level of enthusiasm, you are going to also find players who have been overrated.
Admit it, Bears fans: Some players we put on a pedestal even though their stats didn't match up to the hype. Or, perhaps, they were part of a great team and got more than their fair share of accolades.
But regardless of why, even a staunch, die-hard Bears supporter such as myself has a difficult time being totally objective when talking about my favorite Chicago sports teams.
Now, there is little doubt that when you talk about the Chicago Bears, you are talking about one of the most storied franchises in all of sports.
Sometimes players are known for having been on television a lot, or having been associated with winning teams. Alternatively, they were tough and played the game the way many fans like their Bears to play.
So, as a result, we tend to overvalue those players. Heck, even the so-called experts can be fooled. One of the players on this list is in the Hall of Fame.
Recognizing that, I am asking you to leave your fandom at the door, and enter my world of the most overrated Bears of all time. Be sure to let me know what you think.
No, not Ditka the tight end—Ditka DA COACH!
Yes, I realize that he is the only head coach in Bears history to win a Super Bowl, and his leadership, discipline and style were certainly right for the Bears that season.
But as an x's and o's coach, he was lacking. And, after the Super Bowl success, he joined some of his players as being guilty of doing too many endorsements and getting too large of an ego.
Don't get me wrong—I love me some Coach—but you must admit that he was overrated as a head coach in the NFL.
He inherited a team that had some great drafts and had so much talent I feel that almost anyone could have won with that collection of players. But the fact that they never won again has to say something for Ditka.
After leaving Chicago, he guided the Saints to a 15-33 record, and he traded his entire draft for one player. In his career, he was 6-6 in the playoffs.
Former Bears defensive coordinator liked the way Plank played so much he named his "46" defense after the jersey number Plank wore.
Yet, in truth, he was not a great player. But was he ever a hard hitter! He inflicted so much damage on opponents, it's a wonder he isn't concussed for life.
But even his legendary status as a typical "black and bruise" Chicago Bear is a bit tainted. I loved the way he played but I have to admit it was dirty at times.
Plank was the guy coming in at the end of the play and sticking his helmet into someone's ribs after the play was over.
In fact, if he played today, he would get so many penalties he would be playing for nothing. He could focus on smashing the opponent because Ryan's scheme used five defensive backs.
Plank was a safety who was not especially gifted as a cover man either. But damn, those hits made you know you had played the Bearseven though they lost a lot of games when he played.
If you notice, there are quite a few players from that great 1985 Super Bowl team on this list. That's because that team was hyped to the high heavens, and even the not-so-great players became legends in this town.
Enter speedy Willie Gault. He may be world class, but all that speed never materialized into a 1,000-yard season. Actually, he averaged 30 receptions for 603 yards and four touchdowns a season (hat tip to my colleague Timothy Hockemeyer).
Yet in this town, people talk about Gault as if he was a great wide receiver. Hardly. But as the deep threat on a Super Bowl champion, his legend seems to grow every year.
"The Fridge" was certainly a lot of fun, and part of one of the greatest teams of all time. But in truth, he was not a very good player on defense.
Oh, he had his moments and though he was big, people forget what a tremendous athlete he was for his size before his weight ballooned out of proportion.
Still, it was his goofy gap-toothed grin, pleasant nature and oh yes—those times he ran the ball, caught a TD and tried to carry Walter Payton over the endzone—which made him such a cult figure.
It's alright to love what Perry did for the Bears, and as an advertising icon for the league. Just don't call him a very good football player over his career.
I hate to put Cutler on this list and I hope I end up eating my words. But so far, he hasn't lived up to his potential as a franchise QB, though much of it isn't his fault.
When Jerry Angelo made the shocking trade to acquire Cutler, he believed that he didn't need to surround him with better receivers because Cutler would be so good that he would elevate the WRs to become better.
Cutler has spent a lot of his time in Chicago on his back, and without weapons to throw to. Still, he is said to be a franchise QB and unless he lives up to that, he will forever be known as overrated.
Again, I like Cutler and truly feel that with better talent around him he would put up great numbers. But is he a winner? Time will tell.
Last year, he seemed to mature and become more of a leader. We need to see more of that.
We also need him to stay healthy. It would sure help if the Bears improved the offensive line and wide receivers this offseason.
But a lot of the reason that people say he is so good is not only that strong arm, but also the fact that the Bears have had only one truly great QB in this long history (Sid Luckman). So, compared to others, he is the best.
But he is not in the elite category yet. Again, not his own fault necessarily, though he has had to learn not to throw into coverage, but it is what it is.
This one hurts me to write, since McMahon was my favorite player during the "golden years" of the Mike Ditka-led Chicago Bears.
But for all his brashness, anti-authoritative attitude and success with the 1985 team, injuries kept him from living up to his vast potential.
McMahon could read defenses as well as any QB I've ever witnessed. But he just couldn't stay healthy. I truly believe he would have been a Hall of Fame QB had he remained upright.
Sure, he never had a strong arm but he was a leader and was great at calling the audible, much to the chagrin of Ditka. The fact that "Da Coach" now has a lot of respect for McMahon says a lot.
Still, he didn't do it, expect for that one season, and that's a damn shame. The Bears should have won a couple more titles with that team and one of the main reasons they didn't is this guy.
Charles Martin, you have the IQ of a grapefruit.
"Moose" once famously said that Chicago is "where wide receivers go to die." But face it, big man, you had a lot to do with it as you never lived up to the hype.
Sure, he didn't always have a competent QB throwing his the ball, but Muhammad ran his mouth more than he ran a good route.
This is a guy who acted like a Prima Dona—as if he was a true No. 1 wideout when, in fact, he was the beneficiary of having played alongside Steve Smith in Carolina.
Prior to coming to Chicago and signing a six-year contract, he had three seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving as teams preferred to cover Smith. In fact, he caught 93 passes for 1,405 yards before signing a deal with the Bears.
In three seasons with Chicago, he averaged just over half that yardage, and 54 receptions per season. He also went from scoring 16 touchdowns in his free agency season to a total of 12 in his three years with the Bears.
Now, don't get me wrong, Hester is the greatest return man in the history of the game. The man is RIDICULOUS!
But as a wide receiver, he is one of the most overrated Bears of all time. This was a guy who Lovie Smith thought would become a true No. 1 WR.
But instead, he is still no damn good at running routes, getting open and catching the ball. Despite his speed, he simply should not be used as a starting wideout.
Yet the Bears continued to cling to the notion that he would develop. Not content with paying him lots of money to return kicks and punts, former GM Jerry Angelo and Smith decided he would have to earn his money by doing double duty.
That not only has been a huge failure, it led, in part, to a period where Hester wasn't even having any success in the return game.
As a return man, he is great. As a receiver, he's a great disappointment.
Cox came to the Bears with the reputation of a disruptive pass rusher...someone who could get to QBs and put them on their backsides.
In fact, the Bears believed that hype so much that in 1996, Dave Wannstedt made Cox the highest paid Bear in history (four years, $13.2 million).
Cox was so full of himself that at his introductory news conference he said he would wear jersey number 52, as he was sure he'd be the next in line of great Bears linebackers (Mike Singletary (50), Dick Butkus (51), Bryan Cox (52)).
But the only thing disruptive about the man was his big mouth, which was running all the time. Cox complained about the fans, the media, his coach...but took no accountability for his poor play.
That season, Cox unleashed a tirade against his teammates, saying "We've got to get some damned heart! Some of our guys need to go see the wizard because we don't have a lot of heart."
Cox also was fined for abusing a referee that season.
Cox played in just nine games that season and had just three sacks. The following year, he recorded just five sacks and made only 68 tackles after making more than 120 tackles twice with Miami.
The Bears should have known he was trouble. In 1993, he waved both middle fingers at fans.
I guess all the pieces weren't in place, Wanny.
Alright, Bears fans...before you rake me over the coals on this one, at least hear me out. For I have an argument to make.
That argument is not that Singletary wasn't a very good player. He was. But in my opinion, his greatness was more of a product of the TV cameras and the historic success of the defense around him, rather than anything he did.
Meanwhile, it was those eyes—those cold, piercing eyes staring at the camera during Bears games on prime time. And the announcers never missed an opportunity to show them.
Along with that came the inevitable stories of how many helmets he cracked with his devastating hits.
But you know what? He wasn't even the best player on his own defense. Nor was he the second best...or the third best. Yes, I believe that Singletary was more hype than substance.
Dan Hampton was clearly the best defensive player on the Super Bowl Bears team, a team that has been lauded for being one of the best ever. And with good reason.
With Hampton always double-teamed, along with his sidekick, and extremely underrated defenseman Steve "Mongo" McMichael, generating that inside rush, it was easier for Singletary to focus on making tackles.
Yes, I know the mike linebacker makes the reads, and Singletary was a studious player who was like another coach on the field.
But do you think that guys like Richard Dent, Hampton and McMichael needed a coach on the field? I don't think so.
Chicago football is known primarily for one thing—hard hitting defense. And great middle linebackers. So, naturally, Singletary was lumped into that category. And for that, along with his Hall of Fame induction, he is the most overrated Bears player of all time.