Top 10 Chicago Bears of All Time: Walter Payton Is Not No. 1
It would be simple to assemble a Top 50 or 100 list of greatest Bears, but narrowing a list down to 10 proves very difficult and leaves much room for debate. Here is my list of the
Top 10 Players in Bears history for the purpose of comment and discussion, and no, Walter Payton is not No. 1.
10. Brian Urlacher
During 12 years as a Chicago Bear, Brian Urlacher has recorded 41.5 sacks, 20 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.
Compare that to Mike Singletary’s 19 sacks, seven interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries, and it’s clear that Urlacher will be joining Singletary in the Hall of Fame as soon as his career ends.
Pair with that his 2000 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year title, 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year title and seven trips to the Pro Bowl.
Urlacher edges out Singletary for the No. 10 spot on the list.
9. Red Grange
When Red Grange played football for the University of Illinois in 1924, the NFL was only 4 years old. Star college players had lucrative endorsements and careers awaiting them in the business sector. They never entered the world of professional football—a world filled with lairs, cheats and conmen.
That was until Red Grange.
Knowing the legitimacy that a star of Grange’s magnitude would add to his fledgling professional football league, George Halas made Grange an offer he couldn’t refuse. In exchange for playing for the Chicago Bears, Grange was given 50 percent of ticket sales.
Halas’ gamble paid off.
Red Grange became the wealthiest football player of his era, and George Halas’s NFL became a legitimate professional sports league. Grange won two championships as a Bear in 1932 and 1933. He was one of the 17 charter members of the Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
8. Devin Hester
Devin Hester is the greatest return man ever to play the game of football.
On December 21, 2010 he returned a 64-yard punt for his 14th return for a touchdown, breaking Brian Mitchell’s record of 13.
Holding the record for most returns for a touchdown would be impressive enough on its own, but Devin Hester accomplished this in 150 less games than Mitchell. It took Mitchell 14 seasons and Hester only five.
7. Mike Ditka
Before George Halas’ utilization of Mike Ditka, tight ends were mainly blockers, used as a sixth offensive lineman. Halas revolutionized the position in the 1960’s by using Ditka as a receiver.
During his 12 year career, Ditka caught 427 passes for 5,800 yards and 43 touchdowns. Winning an NFL Championship in 1963 as a player and Super Bowl XX in 1985 as a head coach, Ditka is only one of five players on this list to win in multiple titles as a Bear.
6. Dick Butkus
Butkus graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1970 with the caption, “The Most Feared Man in the game.”
During his nine year career, he was elected to eight Pro Bowls, winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors twice.
He accumulated 22 interceptions and 27 fumble recoveries during his NFL career. Butkus played before the forced fumbles statistic was kept, though it has been noted that he would have been one of the NFL’s all-time leaders in this category.
5. Gale Sayers
There is no telling how many more records Gale Sayers could still have if his knees had held up.
In his NFL Rookie of the Year season of 1965, Sayers scored an NFL record 22 touchdowns, gained 1,374 yards from scrimmage and gained 2,272 all-purpose yards. He still holds the records for touchdowns scored in a rookie season (22), most touchdowns in a game (6, shared) and highest kickoff return average (30.5 yards).
In 1977 Sayers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame where he is still the youngest inductee ever to be admitted.
4. Bronko Nagurski
Bronko Nagurski was one of the hardest hitting players in the history of the NFL.
The legend says that during a scoring drive against the Washington Redskins, Nagurski carried the ball through two linebackers, a defensive halfback, a safety, the goal post and then rammed his head into the brick at the end of the shallow Wrigley Field end zone.
A crack in the brick from where Nagurski’s helmet struck is there to this day.
Upon returning to the sideline, Halas reported Nagurski saying, “That last guy really gave me a good lick, Coach.” He was one of the 17 charter members of the Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
3. Sid Luckman
Sid Luckman is easily the greatest Quarterback in Bears history.
He still holds the Bears record for all-time passing yards (14,686), the NFL record for most passing touchdowns in a single game (7) and highest percentage of pass attempts that resulted in touchdowns (7.9 percent).
Luckman led the Monsters of the Midway to four NFL Championships in 1940, 1941, 1943, and 1946. He accomplished all of this while enlisting for World War II from 1943-46 as a US Merchant Marine.
Stationed stateside, he was not allowed to practice with the Bears during this time, and was only released for game days.
2. Walter Payton
Walter Payton was the greatest running back in the history of the NFL.
During his 13 years as a Chicago Bear, Sweetness recorded 16,726 rushing yards, 110 rushing touchdowns and 21,264 yards from scrimmage—all of which were NFL records at the time of his retirement.
He was selected to nine Pro Bowls, won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1977, and was the engine behind the Bears' only Super Bowl win in 1985. Payton was elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
1. George Halas
Halas was the father of the National Football League.
He won eight NFL Championships over five decades, one as a player and seven as a head coach and owner. He single-handedly saved the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals franchises from bankruptcy.
Halas innovated the game on the field through use of his T-Formation and later the Tight End position. Off the field he was the first to film games and study footage. He oversaw the merger of the NFL and the AFL and negotiated the first of many lucrative contracts for the rights to televise NFL games.
In the end, he succeeded in his lifelong goal of making his NFL the most successful professional sports league in the world, grossing more per year than Major League Baseball.
He was one of the 17 charter members of the Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
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