25 Most Overrated Chicago Bears in Franchise History
As fans of a franchise so storied, the tendency to elevate average to good players to the level of "great" is a prominent one, especially when one considers the stretches of mediocrity that have defined this team since George Halas last coached.
The bears have the most Hall of Fame players in the league and there are several that have been snubbed who belong as well. Jay Hilgenberg comes to mind immediately.
But there are a ton of players that Bears fans look at, especially during the drought stretches, and place a higher grade on than is deserved.
This article is dedicated to those players.
Now, being overrated does not make a player a bad player. In fact, some of these players are extremely good players. And one in particular does qualify as great, but still overrated.
So, with that said, on with the slideshow!
The Bears line in the 80's featured three outstanding offensive linemen, and two who are remembered as great by Bears' fans by proximity.
Jay Hilgenberg is a victim, along with several other truly great centers throughout the league, of the Hall of Fame selection committee's bias against linemen in general and centers in particular. The position has seen two centers elect to the hall that were drafted after the modern 16-game era began.
Mark Bortz and Jimbo Covert were also fantastic offensive linemen.
Tom Thayer, on the other hand, was a serviceable linemen who is remembered as much better than he was because of the men around him.
Keith Van Horne
See Tom Thayer's slide.
Van Horne was a serviceable starter who is remembered as great due to his proximity to three great linemen.
Was Otis Wilson a good linebacker? Definitely.
However, Wilson was not in the same league as his defense corps-mates Mike Singletary and Wilbur Marshall. To listen to Bears fans tell it, the Bears had three Hall of Fame worthy linebackers on the '85 team.
Which brings us to.....
Yes, Chico was a member of the '85 Bears.
But remember how in the previous slide I noted that, if you were to believe Bears fans, the '85 team had three Hall of Fame caliber linebackers? Well, some of the less educated ones will try and throw Rivera into that mix, as well.
Rivera was a decent linebacker...and a second-year backup who sparingly saw the field in 1985. He did contribute. But he was by no means stellar.
Let's set the record straight.
Ol' Neckbeard was a serviceable game manager who was never going to win games for you. Not in Chicago, and not in Denver.
That doesn't make him a bad player.
But he's not the underrated martyr that he's made out to be by Bears fans.
This one is a bit two-face. I placed Jones in the "underrated" column of an article I did a few months ago—he's one of two players who will see that trend in this article—and I stand by that.
But he is also overrated by an equally large segment of the fanbase.
Why? Because of misinformation.
Ced Benson was drafted in 2005 to be the future for Chicago at running back. At the time, Jones had never rushed for 1,000 yards in his career and was considered by most to be a stop-gap and a first-round bust.
Then, he posted his first 1,000 yard season in 2005 and created a controversy.
He was a good back. but he wasn't a great back, and the failure of Benson after the much maligned trade of Jones—to be fair, a trade that Jones asked for at the beginning of 2006 and that Angelo talked him out of, promising to trade him after the season was over—led many to over-rate Jones and his skills.
Holdman is another example of a player who is overrated by virtue of general fan hate levied at Jerry Angelo.
Holdman was an average player, at best, who the Bears GM made a mistake with when he forgot to check the "compensation" box on his restricted free agent form. Thus, Holdman left without the Bears receiving any compensation for the young linebacker.
And this immediately made Holdman a better player than he was among Angelo's biggest detractors. Their loud voice eventually elevated the player among more casual fans.
Bears fans panicked when Bernard of the circus catch was allowed to walk via free agency.
Angelo felt he wanted too much money, and for once, it turned out Angelo was right.
Berrian never reached the 1,000-yard plateau and continues to underperform for the Vikings.
Ogunleye wasn't a bad player. He just wasn't worth the gold and treasure given up for his services.
He rarely outplayed his lesser known counterpart, DE Alex Brown, while being paid a significant amount more than Brown.
Meanwhile the Bears gave up their last true No. 1 receiver—Marty Booker—to get their hands on Ogunleye, who never lived up to his billing.
Devin Hester is, without a doubt, the greatest return man to ever grace the field.
But as a receiver, the Bears themselves have overrated Hester's ability. He has yet to make an impact worthy of even a mid-level slot receiver. Yet the team continues to try to push him as a true No. 1 type instead of going out and acquiring one.
Making matters worse, Devin could have been a solid corner for the Bears—the position he played his first season and the one he prefers—who have been looking for one since Nathan Vasher fell to injury in 2007. They had Deion Sanders' protegee and chose to ignore the best skills he had outside of special teams, in favor of a pipe dream of converting him to a star wide-out.
And yet after all this time, some fans still think he's going to explode each year as a receiver.
I recently read an article calling Dave Duerson over-rated and claiming that if Todd Bell hadn't held out, nobody would know Duerson's name.
It was Bell who managed to squirrel one Pro bowl out of a system designed to show off his best and hide his worst. Duerson replaced him when he held out, and he couldn't take the job back after Duerson's outstanding play.
Best point? Bell did nothing in Philly after he left Chicago. Duerson, who wasn't liked by Ditka on a personal level, won another Super Bowl with the Giants and is considered a good player by their fans as well, even though he was hobbled by injuries by that point. He continued to be a good situational player for Phoenix even after that.
Who was overrated again?
The Bears brought Moose in to be a No. 1 receiver.
What he provided was some decent play from the No. 2 spot and a lot of excuses for dropped passes.
Moose never met dropped a ball by his own failings. Just ask him. I guess Rex Grossman putting some odd spin on the ball just to make him look bad.
See the arms in that picture? That was the best thing about James "Robocop" Thornton.
Not a special receiver or blocker, Thornton was noticed for his guns. You'd think a tough looking guy like that would have Ditka style toughness. Not so much. Thornton shied away from contact and appeared to be afraid of bruising his workout-warrior frame.
The A-Train was fun to watch for Bears fans. He had a take no prisoners running style.
And he was a decent back. But those of you who remember when Thomas Jones was brought on board might also remember the anger from Bears fans when Jones took A-Train's starting job.
Of course, the 3.3 yards per carry he was gaining might have had something to do with the situation. And even Anthony's poor performance in Buffalo never quieted some fans' ramblings about A-Train getting screwed.
We've seen Willie listed as one of the Top 25 elusive backs ever. We've seen him listed as one of the 50 greatest Bears ever.
Don't get me wrong, Willie was a good rusher. But he wasn't even the best on his team. Hell, he arguably wasn't the second best.
His tragic fate contributes to the elevation of his skill level. Had he not passed away before his time, he would be remembered as a decent back who played in a backfield loaded with good backs.
Being the team's all-time points leader offers a guy some perks. Like being better than you actually were.
Consider this. In his 13-year career, Butler averaged 73.4 percent on field goal tries, and he missed an average of one extra point a year, to boot.
Compare that to Robbie Gould, who has average 86.2 percent on field goal tries, and missed all of one extra point in his career in his first active season.
To be fair to "Butt-head," he never shied away from a special teams tackle and was as tough as they come. But he missed far too many important field goals to be as revered as he is.
Here's another example of a good player being elevated to cult greatness due to a long mediocre stretch in Bears history. This stretch would be at the quarterback position.
Kramer was decent for the Bears and set several records, but considering the last truly great quarterback in Chicago was Sid Luckman, who ran the T-formation into the record books, the bar wasn't exactly set high.
Damn, that man was fast. But was he as good a receiver as Bears fans would have you believe?
Hardly. The fastest 50-something in history never crossed 1,000 yards in a season, nor did he ever catch more than 50 passes. In truth, he averaged 30 receptions for 603 yards and four touchdowns a season.
Yet I've seen writers and fans make a straight faced argument for Gault entering the Hall of Fame.
Another player who was good over a long period of time, but never great. He played alongside player who made him better, especially Dick Butkus.
I've seen fans recently argue that now that Dent has made the Hall of Fame the next player to push is Buffone. Honestly, if the Hall lets Doug in, they are opening the floodgates for tons and tons of decent linebackers by virtue of being as good as Doug was.
This is another guy I that pains me to include on this list.
It used to be the other way around. You used to never hear his name mentioned when discussing the contributors to the '85 Super Bowl run.
But as time has wore on, the tide shifted and now you hear how Mongo was great. Hall of Fame worthy, even.
Well, the truth lies in the middle. He was a good player made better by the surrounding talent, much like Izzy Idonije is made better by Julius Peppers' presence.
This one hurts me more than even Mongo did to include. But it has to be said.
Olin is one of my personal all-time favorite Bears. And he's highly overrated.
I've heard his career described as Hall of Fame worthy.
Now, earlier in his career, up until 2006 or so, Olin was one of the best centers in football and arguably one fo the most athletic centers to play the game in the modern era.
But his play has declined horribly in the past four-plus years, and his earlier years are not Hall material.
Consider this: If Jay Hilgenberg—arguably the best center of his generation—hasn't even sniffed the Hall yet, what makes Olin a candidate?
The only thing not overstated about Perry is his raw athleticism. The man was a freak of nature who, at 340 pounds, was even recruited by his college diving coach. That's the amazing and elite athleticism that made Perry famous.
Unfortunately, it never showed up on the defensive side of the ball. Buddy Ryan hated the guy, and Perry did nothing to change his mind.
But because Ditka used the Fridge to humiliate opponents, and screw Walter Payton out of a Super Bowl touchdown, Perry is remembered as something he wasn't: a great player.
Suhey is another guy who gained cult status by virtue of being one of the easiest jobs in league history. He was Walter Payton's lead blocker.
Now, Suhey wasn't bad. In fact, he was pretty good.
But he wasn't great. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In a time when fullbacks were expected to be able to run the ball, Suhey was mediocre at best. He was a decent receiver, but nothing special there, either.
Matt was a good player, elevated by myth and by Walter Payton and the '85 Bears mystique.
McMahon was brash, gutsy and talented. But many Bears fans remember him as being better than he was.
Yes, he had a fantastic win-loss record. And he had that miracle game against Minnesota in 1985.
But the reality of the situation was that McMahon threw nearly as many picks as touchdowns, was injury prone to a fault and didn't have the good sense to try to avoid further injury instead of running headlong into trouble.
He bounced from team to team as a backup because he just wasn't accurate enough or durable enough to be a starter.
I personally love Jimmy Mac, but let's be real. He wasn't great. He was good.
Grab your torches and pitchforks, folks. Cause I'm about to say it.
Gale Sayers might be the most overrated Bear in history.
I know, I know. You're going to say I have no sense of history. Or that I just have no idea what I'm talking about.
But hear me out.
I'm not saying Sayers wasn't great. He was. You'll get no argument from me on that.
But the recent trend of articles, water cooler conversations and such that center around Sayers being arguably the best running back ever is where I draw the line.
He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for what he accomplished. But GOAT material?
Forget Walter Payton or Jim Brown or Franco Harris or Jerome Bettis or Emmitt Smith or Red Grange. Forget Earl Campbell or Tony Dorsett or LeRoy Kelly or Eric Dickerson or Adrian Peterson or Ladainian Tomlinson. Forget John Riggins or Joe Perry or Barry Sanders or Marcus Allen or Marshall Faulk or OJ Simpson.
Let's talk about one guy: Billy Simms.
Simms accomplished similar feats, and arguably more, in fewer games than Gale Sayers did. He suffered the same kind of injury that ended his career. But Simms played fewer games and earned more rushing and receiving yards, as well as just one fewer touchdown. And Simms hasn't even sniffed the Hall of Fame.
Now, if you want to add in special teams play, then I'm fine with that, and Sayers is one of the greatest ever. but strictly as running back, the idea that Sayers deserves mention with the best of all time, I think is a bit overrated.
He was great, but not the greatest.
And now it's your turn, ladies and gentlemen. Step right up to the soapbox below and let your voice be heard.