Debuting in 2000, Brian Urlacher spent 13 seasons in a Chicago uniform before retiring. In a great lineage of Bears players, we can finally start the debate of where Urlacher ranks in franchise history.
Who makes the Mount Rushmore of Bears players? You immediately have Walter Payton, Dick Butkus and George Halas making the list. You could debate the fourth member being either Mike Singletary, Mike Ditka, Gale Sayers or now Urlacher.
Urlacher has to be among the top five greatest players in franchise history, although he's not getting past Payton or Butkas. You can start an argument for him at the third spot, but most likely slide him in at No. 4 right after Halas and before Singletary.
Now, here is where the great debate begins. Singletary had two more Pro Bowl appearances and three more selections as a First Team All-Pro than Urlacher. Keep in mind that Urlacher missed all but one game in the 2009-10 season to a wrist injury. Singletary also had that elusive Super Bowl ring that Urlacher was never able to bring home.
What makes Urlacher better is how dominant he was during his prime. Singletary was great and as consistent as it gets, but he could never change a game the same way Urlacher could.
Urlacher had 22 interceptions, including two for touchdowns. He forced 11 fumbles and recovered 15. Most impressive was that Urlacher had 41.5 sacks while Singletary had 19.
You never saw a middle linebacker with the combination of size and speed as Urlacher before he arrived in the NFL. He truly revolutionized the position in that regard.
Urlacher could cover a tight end, chase down a running back or contain a quarterback like Michael Vick in the pocket.
Remember Urlacher's 85-yard interception return for a touchdown on Brett Favre in 2007? How about his game against Atlanta in that magical 2001-02 season where he sacked Vick and forced a fumble recovered by Atlanta. Two plays later, Vick was sacked again and Urlacher picked up the loose ball and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown.
Urlacher's speed and hustle were on display when he was the lead blocker for Nathan Vasher on his memorable 108-yard return of a missed field goal attempt for a touchdown against the 49ers in Week 10 of the 2005-06 season.
Last season, Urlacher had dazzled the Tennessee Titans, picking off Matt Hasslebeck, jumping over a couple of defenders and scoring the Bears' seventh pick-six in the team's first eight games.
Urlacher was one of the top three linebackers the league has seen in the past 25 years. Only Ray Lewis and Junior Seau could match his level of play during that time.
He was an amazing talent as well as an inspiring leader and an honest man who loved the Bears and fought hard for Chicago. Urlacher will undeniably go down as one of the greatest linebackers in league history and will have a spot for him in Canton one day.