Thursday, November 17, 2016

Chicago Bears All Career-Year Team

OPINION
By John Turney
At Pro Football Journal we are trying to pick the best individual seasons in the history of each franchise, which we will continue today with the Bears. By "Career-year" we mean the best performances at each position, with the following rule: Only one season per player per position. For example, here, we cannot pick Walter Payton’s best two seasons and use all running back slots.

Here is the team, First-teams on left, Second-teams on right:

Doug Atkins, 1963 (All-Pro, 12 sacks), and Richard Dent, 1985 (All-Pro, 38 tackles, 17 sacks, 7 FF, 6 stuffs, 8 PD, 2 INT, 2 FR), take the top spots. Those choices were easy. For the Second-team it was more difficult. Julius Peppers, 2010 (All-Pro, 54 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 picks), is solid but Ed Sprinkle was just a Second-team choice. In a historic franchise like this, one would think there were more First-team All-Pros to sort through.

The top honorable mention is Willie Holman, 1970 (credited by team with 12 sacks)  Ed Meadows, 1956, Adewale Ogunleye, 2010 (40 tackles, 10 sacks), Fred Williams, 1958, Mike Hartenstine, 1983 (71 tackles, 12 sacks, 3 FF), Bob Kilcullen, 1963, and Ed O'Bradovich (1970, 9½ sacks).
Dan Hampton, 1982 (71 tackles, 9 sacks, 9 stuffs), and Wally Chambers, 1975 (108 tackles, 11 for losses and 14 sacks) are the top tackles. Each had more than one season that qualified. Hampton was the NFLPA NFC Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1984 when he was also All-Pro and had 11.5 sacks and 10.5 stuffs, but in 1982 he had 9 sacks and 9 stuffs in 9 games and was Pro Football Weekly's Defensive Player of the Year. We chose 1984 even though his numbers in 1982 were excellent for a 16-game season. Chambers was the UPI Defensive Player of the Year in 1976, but we felt he made more big plays in 1975, but either season fits.

Jim Osborne, 1976 (79 tackles, 7 for losses, 15 sacks), and Steve McMichael, 1986 (All-Pro, 61 tackles, 8 sacks) are the Second-team picks.

Jim Flanigan, 1995 (49 tackles, 11 sacks), Alan Page, 1980 (All-NFC, 68 tackles, 9½ sacks, 4 blocked kicks), Tommie Harris, 2007 (Pro Bowl, 36 tackles, 8 sacks), Ted Washington, 2001 (All-Pro), and Henry Melton, 2012 (Pro Bowl, 43 tackles, 6 sacks).

Dick Butkus, 1968 (All-Pro, 182 tackles, 3 picks), takes the top MLB spot. He was the NEA NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1969 and 1970 but after talking to people who studied Butkus they feel 1968 was his best season overall. Mike Singletary, 1985 (DPOY, All-Pro, 113 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 FR), is the Second-team pick, he was the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and 1988 but we went with the former. 

Bill George, 1961 (All-Pro, 11½ sacks and 3 INTs) is one honorable mention. He often would put his hand on the ground and rush as a middle guard, moreso than his contemporaries and in 1961 he 'got there' a lot, with a double-digit season in sacks.

Brian Urlacher, 2007 (123 tackles, 6 sacks, 5 INTs, 12 PD), is the other honorable mention. He was the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 (121 tackles, 6 sacks, 5 PD)  but we liked 2007 better, he had 6 sacks and also 5 interceptions, both excellent numbers for a middle linebacker, in 2005 he didn't have any picks. However, in 2005 he had 11 stuffs as opposed to 3.5 in 2007, and an FYI his top season for run/pass stuffs is 16.5 in 2002.

Joe Fortunato, 1963 (All-Pro), Wilbur Marshall, 1986 (All-Pro, 79 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 5 picks, 4 FF, 3 FR). Marshall's season was a stunning display of all-around linebacker play, coverage, rushing and stopping the run.
Lance Briggs, 2005 (All-Pro, 107 tackles, 11 PD, 2 sacks, 2 INT), George Conner, 1952 (All-Pro). Conner could have had a slot on the squad as a tackle, a defensive tackle as well. Our research showed his prowess was best shown as a linebacker in a 6-1 or 5-2 defense and we place him here edging out Otis Wilson's 1985 (69 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 3 INT) season.

Wilson heads the hnorables and is followed by Larry Morris, 1963, Doug Buffone, 1975 (99 tackles, 7 for losses, 5 FF, 7 PD and a pick), Ross Brupbacher, 1976 (7 interceptions), and Rosevelt Colvin, 2001 (69 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 8 PD, 2 INT). Colvin was a linebacker in the base and played defensive end in nickel.

Peanut Tillman, 2012 (All-Pro, 86 tackles, 3 pick 6s, 10 FF), and J.C. Caroline, 1956 (All-Pro by NY Daily News, Pro Bowl, 6 picks), are the top corners. Coach T.J. Troup has studied more film on this era than anyone living and he feels that Caroline's coverage was spectacular and that Tillman was very underrated in his career. Those two are our First-team corners.

Bennie McRae, 1967, and  Donnell Woolford, 1994 (All-NFC, 57 tackles, 5 INTs), back them up.

The list of honorables is Nathan Vasher, 2005 (All-Pro, 46 tackles, 8 picks), Tim Jennings, 2012 (Second-team All-Pro, 60 tackles, 9 picks), Dave Whitsell, 1963, and Allan Ellis, 1977 (Pro Bowl).

Richie Petitbon, 1963 (All-Pro, 8 picks) is the top strong-side safety. He's backed by Dave Duerson, 1986 (87 tackles, 7 sacks, 6 INTs, 12 PD). It was a close decision due to how rare Duerson's season was, having that many sacks and interceptions in the same season.

Gary Fencik, 1981 (All-Pro, 135 tackles, 17 PD, 6 INTs), Todd Bell, 1984 (All-Pro, 77 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and  Don Kindt, 1953 (Pro Bowl) are the honorables.
Rosey Taylor, 1963 (All-pro, 9 picks), is the top free safety and he's backed by Gary Fencik, 1985 (Second-team All-Pro). Taylor and Petitbon were a top tandem for the 1963 Champion Bears. Fencik moved to free safety in 1983 after being a strong safety from 1976-82.

Mark Carrier, 1990 (10 picks) and  Mike Brown, 2001 (All-Pro, 67 tackles, 2 pick 6s) are the honorable mentions at free safety.

Corey Graham, 2011 (3 picks in no starts and also a great special teamer) and D.J. Moore, 2010 (42 tackles, 4 picks one for a score) are the First- and Second-team nickel backs.

Lorenzo Lynch, 1989, Maurice Douglass, 1994, Len Walterscheid, 1980 (53 tackles, 4 picks, one for a score), and David Tate, 1988 (45 tackles, 4 picks) are the honorable mentions for the sub defense.

Mark Anderson, 2006 (27 tackles, 12 sacks, 4 FF), is the First-team designated pass rusher. The Second-teamer is Clyde Simmons, 1999. The honorable mention is Alonzo Spellman, 1992.

Robbie Gould, 2011, is the top kicking season, we chose it over his All-pro season due to his 6/6 in 50+ field goals. The Second-team kicker is Paul Edinger, 2001.

The honorable mentions are Kevin Butler, 1985, George Blanda, 1955, and Bob Thomas, 1984 .

Bobby Joe Green, 1964, take top punter position and he's backed by Brad Maynard, 2004 (38.7 net punting average).

The honorable mentions are Pat O'Donnell, 2015 (39.7) and Todd Sauerbrun, 1996 (Second-team All-NFC).  

Devin Hester, 2010, is the First-team punt returner. The Second-team choice is George McAfee, 1948. Hester's season may be the best-ever by a punt returner. 

The long list of honorable mentions is headed by Gale Sayers, 1965 (16-238-14.9-1 TD, 85 long) and followed by Dennis McKinnon, 1987 (2 TDs), Jeff Fisher, 1981 (43-509-11.8- 1 TD and a long of  88), and R.W. McQuarters, 2003.

Gale Sayers, 1967, narrowly edges Cecil Turner, 1970 for the kick returner position. Sayers averaged over 37 yards per kick and had 3 scores while Turner returned an amzing 4 kicks for touchdowns.

The HMs at kick returners are Jerry Azumah, 2003, Glyn Milburn, 1998, Ron Smith, 1972 (Pro Bowl, 30.8 average and a score), and Devin Hester, 2007. All but Smith had 2 kick returns for touchdowns in their respective seasons.

Our core special teams selection is Brendan Ayanbadejo, 2006. The Second-team pick is  Corey Graham, 2011. Both were highy honored in their seasons.

The honorables are Mike Green, 2001 (Sports Illustrated All-Pro),  Larry Whigham, 2002 (Pro Bowl Alternate), Neal Anderson, 1986 (All-NFC), Israel Idonije, 2007 ( Pro Bowl Alternate), and Tim Shaw, 2009.
   
Bulldog Turner, 1941, a fine two-way player is the choice at center. The Second-team center is George Trafton, 1925.



The fine list of HMs are Olin Kreutz, 2006, Jay Hilgenberg, 1988, Ookie Miller, 1933, Larry Strickland, 1956 . To even make this list a player had to be a First-team All-Pro.

The First-team guards are Stan Jones, 1956, and  George Musso, 1937. The Second-teamers are 
Dan Fortmann, 1942, and  Dick Barwegen, 1950. All four players were All-Pros.

Revie Sorey, 1977 (All-NFC), Mark Bortz, 1990 (All-Pro), Zuck Carlson, 1932  (All-Pro), Noah Jackson, 1980 (Second-team All-NFC) and a pair of Pro Bowlers:  Kyle Long, 2013, and Rueben Brown, 2006.

Jimbo Covert, 1985, and Ed Healey, 1925, are our selections for First-team tackles. The next in line players are Joe Stydahar, 1939, and Link Lyman, 1934. Like the guards, all four of these players were First-team All-Pros. 

The HM tackles are Hugh Blacklock, 1920 (All-Pro), Bill Wightkin, 1955 (All-Pro), and Keith Van Horne, 1985. Van Horne had a fine 1985 season, though he didn't have any post-season honors.

Mike Ditka, 1961 is the top player at tight end. He's backed by Greg Olsen, 2009, the by Martellus Bennett, 2014, Desmond Clark, 2006.

Sid Luckman, 1943, is the quarterback. His backup is Jim McMahon, 1985. The top HMs are Billy Wade, 1963, Rudy Bukich, 1965, Erik Kramer, 1995, and Jay Cutler, 2010. This list is not exactly the quality of the Packers or 49ers, is it?

The fullback specialist is Tony Carter, 1995 on the First-team and Jason McKie, 2008, on the Second-team. The lone honorable mention is Daimon Shelton, 2001.
What the Bears lack in quarterback the more than make up for at running back. Walter Payton, 1977, and Gale Sayers, 1965, are our choices for ball carrier.

We back them up with Bronko Nagurski, 1934, and Beattie Feathers, 1934. Feathers was the first player in NFL history with a confirmed 1000-yard season.

Red Grange, 1931, Rick Casaras, 1956, Neal Anderson, 1989, Matt Forte, 2013, and Roland Harper, 1978 are the honorable mentions.

The 3rd down specialist back is Adrian Peterson, 2007. We chose Robert Green, 1994, to back him up. The HMs are Jeremy Langford, 2015, and Glyn Milburn, 1999.

Harlon Hill, 1954 (All-Pro, 45 rec, 1124 yds, 25.0 ypc, 12 TDs), and Brandon Marshall, 2012 (All-Pro, 118-1508-12.8 -11), are our picks for top outside receivers. 

Dick Gordon, 1970 (All-Pro, 71-1026-14.5-13), and Marcus Robinson, 1999 (84-1400-16.7-9), back them up.
Bill Hewitt, 1936, Johnny Morris, 1964 (94 receptions), George Halas, 1920, Ken Kavanaugh, 1947, Alshon Jeffrey, 2014, Curtis Conway, 1995, and Willie Gault, 1983.
Bobby Engram, 1996 is the 3rd receiver. He's backup by Johnny Knox, 2009.

The long list of special mentions is headed by Earl Bennett, 2010, Ken Margerum, 1981, Chris Penn, 1997, Ron Morris, 1988, Dennis McKinnon, 1987 and Dennis Gentry, 1989.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

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