Who would be the one player picked out of the Chicago Bears' stellar history of middle linebackers? Sayers, Grange or Payton? Did Cutler beat out Luckman?
This article is about choosing one player for each position on a football team so that player can be anointed all-time starter for the Chicago Bears.
It is a tough task to do a list this way because so many great names must be excluded due to the parameters.
So have fun reading about all these great Bears and please, let me know who would be on your team. Remember, this is NOT a list of the all-time best Chicago Bears. It is just by position.
When creating this article, my knee-jerk decision for best Chicago Bears center of all time was Jay Hilgenberg.
Hilgenberg was a seven-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.
He anchored one of the great offensive lines in NFL history. He blocked for Walter Payton. From 1984-1991, he played every game for the Bears. In such a tough position, that is an accomplishment nothing short of amazing. He wears a Superbowl ring.
You can't deny Hilgenberg's greatness.
Then there was Clyde "Bulldog" Turner.
He was a six-time selection for All-Pro, and he played both ways. Since his linebacker efforts don't really count here, I'll just mention it because it is so cool.
What he did at center was help the Bears to Championships in 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946. He was a beast of a man, and he rarely missed a snap. He played a total of 13 seasons for the Bears and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1966.
So, while Jay Hilgenberg is the Bear of my youth and an incredible player, the nod for starting ALL-TIME center goes to the "Bulldog." I'd like to have Jay on as a back-up though. Can we do that? I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention the center for the all-2000 NFL team and four time Pro-Bowler, Olin Kruetz.
Believe me, this was a tough decision.
Stan Jones was nicknamed Superman because of his strength. He was one of the very first football players to add weightlifting to his workouts. At the time, it was commonly thought that weightlifting would slow a player down and bulk him up too much. Jones proved that was not the case at all.
Stan Jones played under George Halas after being drafted out of the University of Maryland where, as a Terrapin, he was phenomenal on both sides of the ball. While at Maryland, his teams went a total of 27-3 and one year went undefeated.
While he ended his career as a top notch defensive lineman, he was named to seven consecutive All-Pro teams as a guard for the Bears. Four times, he was named to the first team, All-NFL squad.
I know. I haven't started one member of the 1985 Chicago Bears offensive line yet.
But you have to think about this the way I am. I am choosing individual achievement to create an All-Time team and while the 1985 Bears offensive line was amazing and would definitely be on my all-team 53-man roster, I have to give the nod for the other starting offensive guard to Revie Sorey.
Revie Sorey was taken in the draft the same year as another pretty good Bears player. His name was Walter Payton (more on this fella later).
While his years on the line did not amount to many Bears wins, Sorey's play was outstanding. He was highly regarded for his toughness and tenacity by his fellow players and most importantly, his opponents.
Guards who would make the All-Time Bears 53-Man Roster: Tom Thayer, Mark Bortz
The moment that sticks in my head from Super Bowl XX is not the Fridge scoring or even the defensive clinic the Bears put on. No, it was when Keith Van Horne jumped in front of Jim McMahon after the punky QB was pushed in the back after a touchdown. Out of nowhere, the screen just filled with this 6'6" behemoth of a man wearing No. 78 on his jersey.
Keith Van Horne protected his QB in and out of the line of scrimmage.
He played for Chicago from 1981 to 1993 and during those years, he racked up a Super Bowl win and a lot of great years. Curiously, he was never named to a Pro Bowl, but his dedication to his craft was unparalleled and his commitment to team is nearly forgotten in these days of free agency and the desire to get a paycheck.
For these reason, this writer is starting him at tackle on the All-Time Bears starting lineup.
A top sportswriter of his time, Grantland Rice once said that George Connor was, "the closest thing to a Greek god since Apollo."
Connor was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975, and it was well deserved.
Also a linebacker, Connor earned All-NFL honors in both 1951 and 1952 for his work as a linebacker AND for his work as a top notch Offensive tackle.
After his retirement in 1956, Bears' founder and head coach had this to say about George Connor:
"We set high standards for Connor as a player and he exceeded them. He parlayed leadership and intelligence and fine ability into one of the great careers of our time!"
He was hand picked by George Halas our of a tiny teachers' college in Alabama. Nobody in the NFL had even heard of Harlan Hill when he was drafted by Halas in the 15th round of the 1954 draft.
To start his career, Hill had a rookie campaign most can only dream about. That year he caught 45 passes for a grand total of 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns.
It has been a long time since a Bears wide receiver has put up those kind of numbers on a regular basis, and Hill did it often. After a lackluster second year, Hill nearly mirrored his rookie campaign, catching 47 passes for 1,128 yards and 11 touchdowns.
During his career, Hill earned many honors such as including Rookie of the Year. He had 19 100-yard games in his Bear career.
I know it seems like I am stuck in the past in this article. The thing is, it's hard to find a decent wide receiver compared to the rest of the NFL.
I saw a comparison on one web site that put Morris up against Green Bay's Donald Driver. Driver had much better numbers than Morris and Morris ranks as the Bears' all-time receiving leader. Even Curtis Conway couldn't beat him.
Johnny Morris had great numbers, don't get me wrong. In 10 years as a Chicago Bears receiver, Morris had 356 receptions for 5,059 yards. He scored 31 touchdowns.
Chicago has always been more of a running town. Too bad I don't have more than one halfback spot open.
Iron Mike would later in his career coach the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl championship in 1985. However, for this article, he is the starting tight end.
He was picked fifth overall in the 1961 draft. He brought an added dimension to a position that was typically thought of as a blocking position as he had 58 receptions in his rookie season. He scored 34 touchdowns as a Bear and also received Rookie of the Tear honors.
He caught for a total of 4,777 total yards as a Bear tight end. He was also instrumental in the 1963 NFL Championship.
No other Bears tight end has had quite Ditka's numbers.
Bronko Nagurski just had a name for football.
It just sounded tough.
And Bronko Nagurski lived up to his name.
In fact, the NFL Network picked Nagurski as No. 19 in the top 100 players of all time. Let alone the Bears fullbacks. While Chicago has been blessed with great fullbacks, Nagurski stands alone as maybe one of the best Bears ever, no matter the position.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963, Nagurski was a hard nosed fullback who often sought out contact just to bruise up the defense.
There could be no other Bear in this position as far as an all-time starting lineup goes.
Even though the Bears had runners like Sayers, this was really a no-brainer.
We're talking about Walter Payton.
Eleven touchdown passes. Yes..I said that.
110 rushing touchdowns.
16,726 total yards rushing. Second all time and for a long time first.
Why am I giving you Walter Payton's resume? If you don't agree with the other choices in this lineup, I agree that many players could be discussed, except this position.
If you disagree with Walter Payton as the Bears all time half back starter, then you are wrong.
I would be remiss if I also didn't at least mention that Red Grange was in my head.
I like Jay Cutler. I think he is the Bears future and his numbers thus far (apart from the interceptions that first Bear year) will put him on this list sooner rather than later.
I wanted to put im McMahon or Harbaugh or even Kramer on this page.
I am trying to not look like a dinosaur, but the numbers don't lie.
Sid Luckman is the best quarterback ever for the Bears, and his numbers demand that he be placed in the company included in this article.
He threw for 14,686 yards during an era in which the run was the first and sometimes only option. He played in three Pro Bowls. When was the last time a Bear quarterback was even mentioned with the words all and pro in the same sentence?
He was named to the All-Pro first team five times.
Sid Luckman is the starting quarterback in the all time Bears team. But look out because Jay Cutler is coming on fast.
Buthead is the man.
Kevin Butler scored 1,116 points as a Bears kicker. Nobody has come close to that. Maybe George Blanda at just over 1,000 points.
He head butted linemen.
He cut his sleeves off.
Oh,and he kicked to some amazing numbers throughout his career. He played in 171 games which also ranks first among Bears kickers.
This was one choice that was thankfully easy.
He also brought home a Super Bowl in his rookie season. Not bad.
When you have the opportunity to add a guy to a list like this who not only leads the Bears in kick off and punt returns for touchdowns, he also is the all time NFL leader in the category, what could possibly be the problem?
Devin Hester has done it 14 times.
Nobody in history has done it more. And just think, Hester is still relatively young.
This was a no-brainer.
Brad Maynard played a lot of good years for the Chicago Bears, and he did so quietly, while all the time being dependable and dead on accurate.
I know punters aren't sexy to talk about, but Brad Maynard has done the job good enough to be on the list.
Richard Dent was voted into the hall of fame just weeks ago but Chicago Bears fans have known the impact "The Sackman" Dent made during his time with the Bears for quite some time.
Richard Dent was a four-time Pro Bowler and was also picked as a first team all NFL once. He played 12 seasons with the Bears. During that time, he racked up 124.5 sacks, along with a Super Bowl Victory where he was chosen as Most Valuable Player for Super Bowl XX.
He also managed to intercept eight passes along the way.
Richard Dent is certainly one of the all-time Chicago Bears starters!
I wanted to pick Doug Atkins for this. I wanted to pick Gayle Sayers for running back. But the thing about writing this article is that I limited myself to the starters. While I think Atkins is awesome, I had to go "Danimal" Dan Hampton.
Hampton played in four Pro Bowls and was chosen to the first team All-NFL once. He also has a Super Bowl ring.
His style of play was vicious, He attacked offensive lineman with a tenacity unequaled by many of his contemporaries.
No other defensive tackle in Chicago Bears history went to as many Pro Bowls as did Fred Williams. Four times he was given the honor. Having come out of the draft in the fifth round of 1952, That very year, as a rookie, he attended his first Pro Bowl.He was also named all-NFL in 1958.
Fred Williams is widely considered the greatest defensive tackle of all time for the Chicago Bears. He played in 168 games. While they did not record sacks in his day, he is noted to be a superior pass rusher and run stopper.
Mongo made the list. He was a beast of a player. A two-time Pro Bowler and a two-time NFL First Team pick, he dominated offensive linemen in his 13 seasons in Chicago. In that time, he recorded 92.5 sacks. He played in 157 games as a Bear and forced 12 fumbles.
Never known for keeping his mouth shut, McMichael was always in the news for something or another. But what he was best known for was his brand of no-holds-barred football.
Joe Fortunato played for the Chicago Bears for 12 seasons at outside linebacker. He even came back after his playing days to be a linebackers coach for Dick Butkus and then a defensive coordinator under George Halas.
He was picked to five Pro Bowl teams. He also helped win the NFL Championship in 1963.
He is not in the Hall of Fame for some reason, but he is on the list of all-time starters for the Bears.
A Chicago Bear from 1980-1987, Otis Wilson was a part of one of the best line backing corps in history. He had 36 sacks, 10 interceptions and tons of tackles.
While choosing the outside linebackers for the all time Bears starters was not too hard a task, choosing the middle linebacker is a heartbreaking case.
Otis Wilson deserves to be on this lineup.
This one and the running back pick were the hardest to choose. Not really the hardest, per say, just the ones that made me feel the worst.
I wish I could include Samurai Mike Singletary, arguably one of the greatest middle linebackers of all time. I wish I could include Bria Urlacher, who has made a case during his long career. I wish I could include Bill George, who is arguably the first ever middle linebacker.
But this list is for the all time starters and while any of those guys are on my all time 53-man roster, only one can start.
That one is clearly Dick Butkus. He went to the Pro Bowl eight times. He was chosen first team All-NFL five times. Twenty-two interceptions, and they didn't even record sacks during his time but that would be huge as well.
Butkus was a mean,lean football machine and he took no prisoners. A Bear to the core, his number is retired by the Bears.
In his eight years with the Bears thus far, he has 27 interceptions.
Charles Tillman is one of the few current players to make this list, but his longevity has brought him here.
I feel I have been very stingy about bringing current players onto the list. I couldn't ignore Hester as he is the NFL's all-time punt return for TD leader, and I couldn't ignore Tillman's contributions on defense.
He has been to a Super Bowl and just returned to the NFC Championship.
Bennie McRae was one of those players who were sought out by both the AFL and the NFL. He was drafted by the Bears and The Boston Patriots but thankfully for Chicago fans, he chose the Bears. He intercepted 27 passes in his nine-year Chicago Bear career.
He was a shut down player and changed offensive plans simply by his presence.
During his 10 years as a Chicago Bear, Richie Pettibon racked up 48 interceptions and was picked to four Pro Bowls. He was a brutal tackler and helped to bring the championship to Chicago in 1963.
He rarely missed any playing time and was dependable to the last.
I tell this to all my friends:
Gary Fencik should be in the Hall of Fame in my humble opinion.
The funny thing is, the Miami Dolphins didn't even think he was good enough to keep on their team. So when the Bears picked up the IVY League educated Fencik, they must have seen something most other teams missed.
How right they were.
He was picked to two Pro Bowls. He was a punishing hitter, often taking down players much bigger than he was at 6'1"and only 190 pounds. He amassed 38 interceptions and even managed a couple sacks during his 12-year Bear career.
He was one of the founders of the NFL.
He founded the Chicago Bears.
He is the Bears.
His initials are on every jersey.
'Nuff said. George Halas is the man.
This was a fun list, although quite time consuming. Hopefully, it will act as a jumping off for discussion. Let me know what you think. Who would be on your list?