Top 10 Chicago Bears in NFL Hostory
They are one of the original NFL franchises. Today, I rank the top 10 Chicago Bears of all time. For this list, I take into account career success, their importance to the franchise, and Hall of Fame status.
10. Brian Urlacher
He continued to the legacy of great Chicago middle linebackers into the new millennium.
A first round pick in 2000, Brian Urlacher perfectly fit the Bears defense and was named the defensive rookie of the year. he proved himself as a playmaker shutting down some of the leagues most dynamic offensive players. On 2002, he broke the Bears single season tackle record with 153. In 2005, Urlacher won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year after playing for a defensive team that allowed the fewest points per game and created the most turnovers in the NFC. Urlacher himself recorded at least 10 tackles in six consecutive games while finishing the season with a team high 121 tackles and helped the team to a 11-5 record. He retired as the Bears all time leading tackler with 1,353 while also adding 41.5 sacks and 22 interceptions.
In his 13 seasons in Chicago, Urlacher was eight time pro bowler, five time All-Pro, and a member of the 2000s all decade team.
9. Doug Atkins
He was one of the league's first great pass rushers.
After spending two seasons in Cleveland, Doug Atkins was traded to the Bears in 1955. In Chicago, Atkins quickly became the leader of a devastating defensive unit. Playing at 6'8" in height, he was a unstoppable force for offensive lineman in the 50's and 60's. Atkins would often bat passes down at the line of scrimmage and would use his skills as a college high jump champion to leapfrog blockers and get to the quarterback.
Atkins was traded to New Orleans in 1967 after 12 seasons with the team. He retired in 1969 as an eight time pro bowler, 10 time All-Pro, and two NFL Champion. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
8. Bronko Nagurski
He was the ideal power back in the early years of the league.
Bronko Nagurski signed with Chicago in 1930 and his body frame was seen to be ideal for any era of football. He was probably the largest running back of his time, bigger than most linemen of the day and a forerunner to large fullbacks like Marion Motley, John Henry Johnson, Jim Brown, often dragging multiple tacklers with him. In a time when players were expected to play on both sides of the ball, Nagurski was a standout defensive lineman as well playing ranging tackle. He's the only player in NFL history to be named All-Pro at three non-kicking positions. Nagurski left football in 1937 to build start a wrestling career. In 1943, Bronko Nagurski returned to the Bears for one season and scored a touchdown in the Bears' championship victory against the Redskins.
In his nine year career, he was a four time All-Pro and three time NFL champion. Nagurski was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963.
7. Mike Singletary
"Samurai Mike" was the heart and soul of the Chicago defense in the 80's.
A second round pick in 1981, Mike Singletary was quickly recognized for his focus and intensity he displayed on the field. He finished as the Bears' first or second leading tackler each of his last 11 seasons. He amassed an incredible 1,488 career tackles and only missed two games in his career. In 1985, Singletary led the Bears to a 15-1 and was named the league's defensive player of the year for leading what is seen as one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. He helped the team cap off their near perfect season by shutting down New England running back Craig James and recovering two fumbles.
Singletary retired in 1992 as a 10 time pro bowler, nine time All-Pro, and two time NFL defensive player of the year. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
6. Red Grange
The elusive "Galloping Ghost" helped make professional football legitimate in his time.
After being considered the most dominant college football player of all time, Red Grange signed with Chicago. The contract earned Grange a salary and share of gate receipts that amounted to $100,000. That's insane when you consider he played during an era when typical league salaries were less than $100/game. The tour he marched across America is credited with legitimizing professional football and the NFL in the United States. In 1925, somewhere between 65,000 and 73,000 people showed up at the Polo Grounds to watch Grange play the Giants. The two big highlights of Grange's NFL years came in consecutive championship games. In the 1932 championship, he caught the game winning touchdown pass from Bronko Nagurski and in the 1933 championship he made a touchdown saving tackle that saved the game and the title for the Bears.
Grange retired only playing seven NFL seasons, but he was a two time All-Pro and two NFL Champion. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963.
5. Sid Luckman
He was the first modern T-formation quarterback.
A first round pick in 1939, Sid Luckman is considered the greatest long range passer of his time. During his second season with the Bears, Luckman took over the offense and led the Bears to the title game against Washington. The Redskins had beaten the Bears 7–3 during the regular season. The Bears destroyed the Redskins 73–0 in the most one sided game in league history. Perfecting head coach George Halas' complex offensive scheme of fakes, men in motion, and quick hitting runs, Luckman added the dimension of accurate downfield throwing. During his career, he completed 51.8% of his passes for 14,686 yards and 137 touchdowns. His 8.4 yards per attempt, second all-time only to Otto Graham.
Luckman retired in 1950 as a six time All-Pro, four time NFL Champion, and led the NFL in touchdown passes three times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965.
4. Mike Ditka
He was the first great tight end in league history.
A first round pick in 1961, Mike Ditka made an immediate impact on the offense. In his first season, he recorded 58 catches for over 1,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns introducing a new dimension to a tight end position that had previously been dedicated to blocking and won the rookie of the year award. In 1963, he helped Chicago win the NFL Championship game. In six seasons in Chicago, Ditka had 316 receptions for 4,503 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Ditka spent his final seasons in Philadelphia and Dallas. He also spent 11 seasons as head coach of the Bears leading them to their Super Bowl victory in 1985. He is one of two people to win a Super Bowl as a player, assistant, and head coach. In his 12 seasons as a player, Ditka was a five time pro bowler and All-Pro. He was the first tight end inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.
3. Gale Sayers
"The Kansas Comet" was one of the most elusive running backs in league history.
A first round pick in 1965, Gale Sayers instantly became the Chicago offense's most important weapon. In his rookie year, he scored an NFL record 22 touchdowns and gained 1,374 yards from scrimmage and had 2,272 all-purpose yards. Sayers tied Ernie Nevers and Dub Jones record for touchdowns in a single game with six and won the Rookie of the year award. In 1968, Sayers tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. He came back the next season to lead the league in rushing. It was an incredible feat at the time considering the fact medical technology isn't what it was back then. He retired in 1971 after a failed second comeback with over 9,000 all purpose yards and 56 total touchdowns.
In Sayers seven seasons, he was four time pro bowler, five time All-Pro, and led the league in rushing twice. He was the youngest player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.
2. Dick Butkus
He is considered to be the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history.
A first round pick in 1965, Dick Butkus had an instant impact on the defense. In his rookie season, Butkus led the Bears in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries and regularly led the team in these categories throughout his career. He recovered a then NFL record 27 fumbles in his career. One of Butkus' greatest strengths was his ability to force fumbles. He is considered one of the most feared defensive players in league history. Despite his excellent play, the Bears only had two winning seasons in his nine years with the team. He was forced to retire in 1973 after multiple knee injuries.
In his nine seasons, Butkus was a eight time pro bowler and All-Pro, a two time defensive player of the year, and a member of the all decade teams of the 60's and 70's. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.
1. Walter Payton
"Sweetness" by all accounts is the greatest running back in league history.
A first round pick in 1975, Walter Payton's work ethic drove the Bears for 13 seasons. His motto of never die easy meant he refused to deliberately run out of bounds and always delivered some punishment to his tacklers before being forced off the field or forced down. Payton perfected the art of the high step to finish off touchdown runs. By 1984, he surpassed Jim Brown as the NFL's all time rushing leader. He was a member of the Super Bowl winning team in 1985 but was a non factor in the game. Payton set several team records, including most career rushing yards, receptions, touchdowns, and touchdown passes by a running back.
Payton retired after 1987 as the league's all time leading rusher and held every major rushing record. He was a nine time pro bowler and All-Pro, the 1977 NFL MVP, and a member of the 70's and 80's all decade teams. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.