Chicago Bears: Brian Urlacher is criminally underrated on the Top-100 Bears list

Even with the rich history of 100 seasons of Chicago Bears football, Brian Urlacher is more than deserving of being recognized as one of their top ten players

In Honor of the 100th season of Chicago Bears football, Hall Of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson put out a top-100 Bears list. Making lists of the best players ever always creates heated debates, nonetheless a list of the 100 greatest Bears. Their 28 Hall of Famers is the most of any NFL team. So I know this isn’t some simple task. With that said, my number one complaint about the list is not including Brian Urlacher in the Top-10. Listing him at 14 seemed borderline disrespectful in my eyes. Understandably, comparing players from different decades is extremely difficult. That said, Urlacher was a generational talent the second he stepped on the field as a rookie in 2000. He’d eventually turn into one of the best middle linebackers the league has ever seen.

Brian Urlacher’s NFL Rookie of the Year campaign

Going into the 2000 NFL draft, the Bears had three main targets they liked with their 9th overall pick.  Virginia running back Thomas Jones, Michigan State wide receiver Plaxico Burress, and Urlacher from New Mexico.

2000 – Round 1
SEL # TEAM PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 Cleveland Browns Courtney Brown DE Penn State
2 Washington Redskins LaVar Arrington OLB Penn State
3 Washington Redskins Chris Samuels T Alabama
4 Cincinnati Bengals Peter Warrick WR Florida State
5 Baltimore Ravens Jamal Lewis RB Tennessee
6 Philadelphia Eagles Corey Simon DT Florida State
7 Arizona Cardinals Thomas Jones RB Virginia
8 Pittsburgh Steelers Plaxico Burress WR Michigan State
9 Chicago Bears Brian Urlacher MLB New Mexico

 

The Bears ended up hitting the jackpot with Urlacher falling to them at ninth overall. Drafted as an All-American safety, coaches wanted him at linebacker but mistakenly positioned him at strong-side backer at first. In spite of getting the starting position after being drafted, Rosevelt Colvin outplayed him early in the preseason pushing Urlacher to the middle linebacker position. Consequently, the rest is history.

Urlacher went on to fill in for an injured Barry Minter and immediately impressed. Once he got the job, he never looked back. In fact, in his first five starts, he racked up five sacks, gaining league-wide attention. Exploding on to the NFL scene, he ended up with 101 tackles, eight sacks, and two interceptions, thus earning his first of eight Pro Bowls. On top of that, the Associated Press named Urlacher NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

No sophomore slump for Urlacher

In his second season, Urlacher led the Bears to an astonishing turnaround. From the 20th-ranked scoring defense in 2000 to the 1st overall defense in 2001. With the defensive dominance, the Bears went 13-3, as opponents could only score an average of 12.7 points per game against them. Furthermore, Urlacher’s 2001 season, as measured by Pro Football Reference’s approximate value stat, is the third-most-valuable linebacker performance of the last 20 years. His 116 tackles, nine tackles for loss, six sacks, and three interceptions earned him another trip to the Pro Bowl and a first-team All-Pro nomination.

2005 Defensive Player of the Year

Looking back at boxscores, you may not have thought 2005 was his best year. However, if you remember back in 2005 every time Urlacher stepped on the field, he was arguably the best player on it. With the rare combination of size and speed, Urlacher quickly became one of the most feared players in the NFL. Behind Urlacher’s dominant year, the Bears went on to win the NFC North division title with an 11-5 record. Once again owning the number one defense giving up 12.6 ppg. With his dominating season came his third 1st Team All-Pro selection and his 5th Pro Bowl in his first six NFL seasons.

2006 Super Bowl run

After his fourth 1st Team All-Pro year, the Urlacher led Bears reaches the Super Bowl in his 7th season. Chicago finally added some offense after all the years of having the defense carry the team. The 2006 Bears outscored their opponents by an average of 10.8 points per game, which led to a 13-3 season and being crowned NFC champions. Ultimately, Peyton Manning and the Colts were too much for the Bears in the Super Bowl.

Conclusion

When you think of middle linebackers since the year 2000 you instantly think of two guys; Ray Lewis and Urlacher. The two transformed the position into what we know today. Urlacher started 180 of 182 games, recording a franchise-record 1,354 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries, and 11 forced fumbles. He was named the 2000 NFL Rookie of the Year and awarded the 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was voted 1st-Team All-Pro four times and selected to eight Pro Bowls.

Urlacher helped the Bears win four division championships and one NFC title, leading the franchise to the Super Bowl in 2006 for the first time since 1985. Urlacher’s resume speaks for itself, but if you don’t believe the resume, ask anyone who has ever played against him. Everyone has the utmost respect for him and mentions him as one of the most feared players they’ve gone up against.

The Chicago Bears are a storied franchise, blessed with the kind of talent the last 100 years that makes creating a list like this that much harder. I believe leaving Urlacher outside the Top-10 best Bears ever an absolute crime.

For what it’s worth, if I were to make a list, here would be my Top 5:

1) Walter Payton

2) Dick Butkus

3) Sid Luckman

4) Gale Sayers

5) Brian Urlacher

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