ProFootball Talk has been unveiling their Mt Rushmores for each NFL team and the Chicago Bears’ top four was named. Unlike a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars or Houston Texans, there is a TON of history with the Bears. The Bears, as we know, have more Hall of Famers than any other team, so it’s a long list to try to whittle down.
In my humble opinion Mike Florio got it wrong. Watch a clip including his top four Bears and defending his position during the big reveal below (refresh your browser if you don’t see the video box below):
The fans seemed to hit closer to the mark by voting in Payton, Halas, Butkus and Ditka. Those were my initial reaction when I started pondering the list, but I’ve reconsidered. Here are my choices:
1. Walter Payton
2. George Halas
3. Mike Ditka
4. Brian Urlacher
Let me defend my selections. First, let me set the criteria for my selections to be on the Mount Rushmore. I don’t necessarily think the Rushmores need to be the four greatest Chicago Bears. Instead, I think Mt Rushmore should include players that are most strongly associated with the team. If you stopped someone on the street in another city or even another country with only a rudimentary knowledge of the Chicago Bears, which names would come up?
The first two spots, in whichever order you’d like are reserved for Walter Payton and George “Papa Bear” Halas. Payton is arguably the greatest Chicago Bears player of all time. Papa Bear would be on the NFL’s Mt Rushmore as one of the founding fathers of the league. He served as a player, coach and owner for decades.
In my mind, there are four other people vying for the final two spots. I had Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka and Brian Urlacher as the next on the list. It was a difficult process and I certainly understand the PFT voters selecting Butkus over Urlacher.
There are two factors that pushed me to Urlacher over Butkus. While Butkus was a tough and intimidating linebacker, he was doing it, along with many others, in an era that allowed those types of vicious hits. If Butkus played today, he would be suspended every week or fined into bankruptcy. For all that Butkus and those Bears teams were, they never sniffed the playoffs.
Say what you want about Urlacher, but he changed the position. He revolutionized the way linebackers play. His unique blend of size and speed allowed the Bears to play the type of defense they did for the last decade. He adapted his style of play from the 700 pound of ass in front of him that Dick Jauron used to Lovie Smith’s Cover-2. He led the team to multiple playoff appearances and a Super Bowl appearance. Urlacher also gets the nod for the post-Super Bowl XX era of Chicago Bears football. Until the Bears win another Super Bowl, the team will be chasing the ghosts of ’85. Urlacher best represents this era.
By selecting Urlacher, I pulled Butkus from the list. I didn’t want to have two linebackers on the Bears Mt Rushmore. The last spot came down to Ditka and Sayers. Sayers was knocked down a peg because I already had Payton on the list and just like I didn’t want two linebackers make it, I didn’t necessarily want two running backs. But the most important factor for Ditka’s selection was his impact on the Bears outside of football.
Thank Saturday Night Live or the endless commercials and endorsements, but if you think about Chicago Bears football, you don’t have to think too long before Mike Ditka’s name comes up. Ditka was legendary as a tight end for the Beloved and won an NFL Championship in 1963 as a player and then came back to coach the team to their lone Super Bowl following the 1985 season. That rare feat earns him extra points. While it might be true that the Bears won one Super Bowl rather than three because of Mike Ditka, as Richard Dent said, they might not have won the one they did had it not been for Ditka. He was the right coach at the right time to coach the right group of players. His legacy with the Bears and his impact on Chicago cannot be dismissed. For pure impact and recognizability, Ditka makes my list.
So there you have it. Payton, Halas, Ditka, Urlacher.
Who is on your Chicago Bears Mt. Rushmore. Besides the Chicago Blackhawks and a couple more minicamp practices, there’s no better time to debate who makes the list.
And since the Bears traded Gabe Carimi and there’s talk of another Chicago Bears bust, I’ve decided to start working on the Chicago Bears Mt. Bustmore. We’ll set up some voting in the next couple of weeks and pick the worst of the worst. Stay tuned for more details.