Chicago Bears HOF'ers vs. Brian Urlacher: Who Is Right in This Dispute?

Bob Warja@@bobwarjaSenior Writer IMay 21, 2010

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 04: Injured linebacker Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears watches as his teammates take on the Detroit Lions on October 4, 2009 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 48-24. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


This “family” squabble, if you will, started rather innocently on May 4, with former Bears great Gale Sayers criticizing Jay Cutler’s performance, questioning the future of Lovie Smith, and wondering if Urlacher can be the same player when he returns from wrist surgery. 

Urlacher took exception to Sayer’s comments, and escalated the war of words by suggesting that Sayers knows nothing about how to win. 

Since then, Dick Butkus and even Da Coach, Mike Ditka, have joined the fracas. 

So who is right, who is wrong and is this just nonsense or is it really news? 

On one level, it is pure nonsense, since it won’t have any affect on the Bears performance in 2010. But it raises an interesting question for Bears fans: that is, how can a team with such great players fail to win a title? 

But before we get to that question, let’s address the issue of who jumped the gun and who is overreacting. 

Brian Urlacher should know better than to question the right for any fan to criticize the team, especially when they haven’t made the playoffs for three consecutive seasons. 

But this wasn’t just a fan, this was a Hall of Fame player who may not know the taste of victory, but knows what effort it takes to achieve greatness. 

Is Sayers off-base a bit too here? Sure, he seems always too willing to point out how great he was and how today’s players seem to pale in comparison with those of his time. 

But we all fall into that trap at times. We think the music from our generation is better than any other, and we often glorify the sports stars we idolized in our youth. 

Facts are facts, folks, and the criticism leveled by Sayers is understandable. It’s not easy to come back from injury at 32 like Urlacher is attempting to do, so it is a valid concern, especially for such a key to the defense. 

And Sayers certainly isn’t the first one to point out Lovie Smith’s tenuous tenure with the Bears. It’s frustration talking. All Bears fans experience this feeling. They want their team to win and when they do not, it creates disappointment and sometimes even anger. 

Meanwhile, Butkus is right to point out that Urlacher wasn’t there and can’t possibly know why the team never won. Likewise, Ditka’s suggestion that the Bears should only be concerned about winning is spot on. 

So back to the question that was raised: How can teams, in any sport, have great players and still fail to ever win? 

Cubs fans can certainly relate to this question, right? The 1969 team that infamously collapsed to the Mets had three Hall of Famers and many think Ron Santo should be a fourth. 

Well, here, I think Ditka once again hits the nail on the head with his statement that "Super Bowls are won by great teams, not necessarily by great individual players." 

While this may be rather obvious, it points out that it’s the sum of the parts, and not the individual pieces that make for a winning combination. 

A perfect example can be found with Michael Jordan and the Bulls.  

While many consider MJ to be the best basketball player in the history of the sport, it wasn’t until his sixth season with the team that the Bulls won a title. 

Simply put, there are a lot more “average” players than anything else on most any team.  The ability to improve those individuals and turn them into assets is what separates the average team from the great team.  

And not all positions on a team are created equally. You can’t win the Stanley Cup with a lousy goalie, no matter what else you have. 

You can win baseball games with great hitting and bad pitching, but you won’t win the World Series. 

And, with specific regard to the Bears team of Sayers era, they never had a good QB. And that position is so critical in football. 

Building a winning team is hard work and requires some luck, whether in sports or in the business world. 

It takes a lot to bring together a group of people, make them stick together and motivate them towards a common goal. There will be differences in opinion, clashes of ego, and conflict of interests. 

And sometimes you need to taste bitter defeat before you can enjoy the splendid flavors of victory. 

Consider this quote from Michael Jordan: “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So while the war of words may not mean much in the long run, it does provide some food for thought on what it takes to be a winner. It takes more than a Sayers, a Butkus...and yes, even an Urlacher.


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