Chicago fans are a special breed. They'll welcome players with open arms, cheer them when they perform, and turn on them in an instant when things go sour. Fans in the Windy City won't hesitate to tell, and show, their players exactly how they really feel.
There are a few select players, however, who become fan favorites and never lose that status despite underachieving on the field. These players were able to do something in their careers that stick with Chicago fans as an everlasting memory, regardless of what followed.
One such player is Mike Brown. Brown officially became an ex-Chicago Bear this week when he signed a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. A second-round pick in 2000, Brown played his first nine seasons in the league with the Bears.
In those nine years, his stats aren't overwhelming. He recorded 513 tackles, five sacks, eight forced fumbles, and 17 interceptions. But Brown was an integral part of the 2001 team that went 13-3 and made a miraculous run to the playoffs.
No Bears fan will ever forget Weeks Seven and Eight of that season, which are now known simply as the "Mike Brown Games."
In back-to-back weeks, against San Francisco and Cleveland, the Bears made furious second half comebacks to force overtime, and in both games Brown caught deflected passes and returned them for touchdowns (see image above).
It's hard to put into words what those games meant to the Bears' faithful. The team was coming off a 5-11 season and hadn't made the playoffs since a 9-7 season in 1994. Nobody had any expectations for them in 2001. The Bears won four of their first five games, though, and had fans believing this could be a special year.
Then two miracles happened in back-to-back weeks, and football was alive and well in Chicago. I was lucky enough to be at the Week Seven game against San Francisco, and it turned me into the football fan I am today. I have Brown to thank for that.
From that point on, along with linebacker Brian Urlacher, Brown became a leader on the team—both with his play and his on-field coaching ability.
Brown would play his last full season for the Bears in 2003, because in 2004 he suffered a season-ending injury in a Week Two game against the Green Bay Packers (earlier in the game he had scored the game-winning touchdown).
From there on out, Brown was never the same, suffering a season-ending calf injury after 12 games in 2005, the much-dreaded Lisfranc injury in 2006, and a torn ACL in Week One of the 2007 campaign. Although Brown came back to play 15 games in 2008, it was clear he wasn't the Brown of old.
Despite all the injuries, Bears fans always loved Brown, cheering him when he made his return to the sideline in crutches and vocally pulling for the team to re-sign him each of the last two offseasons.
Despite having a weak crop at the safety position this year, the Bears opted to let a fan favorite go. I wish Brown only the best in his time with Kansas City, and I hope the NFL schedules one more game in his career in Chicago so the fans can show their appreciation one final time.
This article originally posted at CubicleGM.