Every team has those few players that people love to see. Sometimes they help fulfill the goal of winning, sometimes they don't. Regardless, these players get fans excited about the team, they sell jerseys and most importantly, they sell tickets. In a 32 part series, I list these players for each team. Sometimes there are many, sometimes (Bengals) there are few. Over the next few days, I will make the rounds for every team. Sit back and enjoy as we start this series with the Chicago Bears.
As a Steeler fan, I don't come in much contact with the Bears. Honestly, I must say I don't give the Bears and Lovie Smith enough credit. I didn't expect much from the Bears last year, coming off a 7-9 record and a playoff drought dating back to their Super Bowl loss against the Colts.
Last year, the Bears quietly came in and did their work. Some argue the Bears had an easy road to the NFC Championship Game, but I don't believe it can ever be easy in the NFL. The Bears did what they had to do and had a successful season.
I've always been a fan of the style of football the Chicago Bears play. They don't seem to be too flashy. They've always been a defense-first, physical football team. Most of the team's stars seem to be on the defensive side of the ball.
There are four players who made this list. These are the players whose jersey I would purchase. These are the players that I would be excited to see.
There are a few players that are close to this list but just aren't there. Johnny Knox is a player I like. I would enjoy seeing him, but he will need to continue to do more. He's been a surprising third round pick, and it appears that he will have a great career.
Greg Olsen is another player that is well known in Chicago. It seems every time I'm watching the Bears, he's making plays in the end zone. He's surprisingly athletic, and I think rather positively of him. He's close to this list, but I don't feel he has enough to make me want to buy his jersey or pay to see him.
Charles Tillman is another great player for the Bears. He helps make the defense what it is. I feel he's on the verge but just not on the level of the four that I picked.
Jay Cutler is an interesting case. The quarterback always has to be considered on this list. I, along with many others, feel Jay Cutler is a very good quarterback. However, my perception of him isn't great. When I think of quarterbacks, I think of leaders, faces of the franchises. I don't feel Jay Cutler has true leadership. Cutler has always felt like a talented child to me.
Last year during the NFC Championship, he drew a lot of criticism for the way he left the game. I'm not going to discount his injury or the fact that he couldn't play. But his apathy towards the game and his team bothered me. There are too many examples of his lack of leadership or his attitude problems. I don't respect Cutler, I don't view him as the face of the franchise, and he isn't someone who I'd care to see, to put it bluntly.
I went with four players who I feel are very deserving of this list.
Electric is Devin Hester. Few plays are more exciting than kickoff and punt returns. Nobody, in the history of the NFL, is or was a better return man than Devin Hester. During his tenure as return man, he was the team's best chance at offense. I've often considered why, for each offensive play, they didn't just line him up 15 yards back, toss it to him and watch him go.
This record setting player is well worth seeing. When a juiced up Barry Bonds was for hitting home runs, Devin Hester was returning the football. Teams eventually took the walk against Barry Bonds. Why teams ever kicked or punted to this man, I will never know.
It seemed every week I would turn on Sportscenter and watch another ridiculous highlight of his.
I was sad when Hester was relieved of his kickoff duties to become a full-time receiver. Although he struggled at first, he somehow has made the almost impossible transition quite well. He is definitely a player whom I'd love to see play.
Lance Briggs is a dirty, nasty football player. As it should be in the NFL, especially for a linebacker; that's a great compliment. Briggs is a Pro Bowler, a star and a big name amongst a long list of great Chicago linebackers.
Briggs epitomizes the city of Chicago and the Bears organization. Lance Briggs puts pressure on the quarterback (when asked), he defends passes and makes interceptions. But mostly he hits, hard. Offenses have to know where this man is at all times. Not bad for a third round draft pick.
If I was a Bears fan, I would be proud to have him on my team. If I was a player on the opposing offense, I'd be scared that he wasn't.
Julius Peppers is a freak. After a long and fantastic career for Carolina, the Bears defense became even scarier with the addition of Julius Peppers.
Some wondered if Peppers was past him prime. Those opinions disappeared rather quickly. How a man his size and strength is as fast and explosive as he is, is simply unfair. The man is just a pure athlete. (Quick fact, by the way, how many people know that during his time at UNC he was a key reserve on the basketball team that made it to the final four?)
Peppers is a once in a lifetime player. Expectations have always been high ever since he entered the league. He's always gone above expectations.
In his first year in Chicago, Julius Peppers made an immediate impact (especially to Matthew Stafford, shown above.) He came in and put pressure on quarterbacks and was a major impact on opposing running games. Peppers was a big reason why the Bears had such a great season. For the next five years, the Bears are a dangerous team simply because they have this man under contract.
If I hated the Bears, I'd still pay to see him and probably still buy his jersey.
Number one on this list was a clear choice. If this was a list of the best current Bears players, he probably isn't first, but when you think of the Chicago Bears, the first name that comes to mind is Brian Urlacher.
Brian Urlacher has given everything and more to his franchise and his city. If a Mount Rushmore of Chicago athletes were constructed, he'd have to be on it. The man has won Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, took his team to a Super Bowl, the list goes on and on.
Brian Urlacher is simply a football player. His consistency, toughness, strength, leadership, consistency and longevity are admired by all fans of the game. He's like Derek Jeter of the Yankees. Even if you hate the Bears, you like and respect Brian Urlacher and all he's done for the game.
I've always considered him one of the best tacklers of the game. He's a very polished and technically sound player, except when Jerome Bettis ran him over in that game in '05 ( sorry had to get that in there.)
Personally one of my favorite players. I hope he owns a Super Bowl ring before he retires. Anybody with a son in Chicago needs to take him out to see this man play. When it's all said in done, he will be in Canton, his number will be retired and it will be a sad day in the NFL.
Hope you enjoyed, and look out for the next 31 in the series.