I had a moment of nostalgic thinking as I was reading the news about the progress Kyle Long, Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, and Jordan Mills are making…I just had a flashback moment when I could see so many of the young players that the Bears selected in the early 80’s that made the championship runs and dominated the division for so many years. It is early, but I can not remember the last time the Bears were threatening to start so many rookies…not all because of injury, but rather because they earned it.
Let me reminisce if I may…in 1981, the Bears selected many notables; Todd Bell (4), Mike Singletary (2) and Keith Van Horne in the first round. The Bears did not do much else that draft, but here was a Hall of Fame MLB and two other Pro Bowl caliber players too.
The 1982 draft brought Kurt Becker (6), Dennis Gentry (4), and none other than the punky QB himself Jim McMahon in the first round. You can say what you will about McMahon, but as a Bear fan, I loved him! All the Packer fans I knew at the time (and there weren’t many at that time) despised him and the team…chuckle, chuckle.
It is my journalistic and professional opinion that it was the 1983 draft class where the Bears struck gold and paved the way for football excellence for years to come. I say that because the team added Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame talent in very late rounds and their top picks also translated to immediate productivity. The Bears snatched both Mark Bortz and Richard Dent in the 8th round! Tom Thayer (4), Dave Duerson (3), Mike Richardson (2), and two first round picks that became Willie Gault and Jim Covert. Now those are some building blocks for sure!
For an encore, the 1984 draft class included Shaun Gayle (10), Ron Rivera (2) and Wilber Marshall in the first round. Those were some exceptional players, and the Bears used both a 1 and 2 to select LB’s in that draft. The 1984 Bears made the playoffs that year and were defeated in the NFC Championship game, but the pieces were in place for future domination. I sometimes wonder how many championships the Bears would have won if McMahon had stayed healthy through his career.
And that was pretty much the last time the Bears struck gold in rounds 6 and lower. The ’85 Bears were built through the draft….something Jerry Angelo was unable to replicate or even approach for that matter in his nine attempts.
Now Emery has added such names as Shea McClellin, Alshon Jeffery, Isaiah Frey, Marquess Wilson, Michael Ford, Jordan Mills, Khaseem Greene, Jon Bostic and Kyle Long….all of whom have distinguished themselves this off-season in a positive way!
There is no way to tell how these draft classes will ultimately play out, but I can assure all readers that this is how fabulous draft classes sound in the beginning. My money is on three rookies starting for Game 1 at this juncture, and I think there would be a 4th (Greene) who has shown the ability to contribute at a high enough level to start if needed. I can still hear Buddy Ryan’s voice vowing not to start/play rookies! I know that really good players “flash” their talent early and often. Seeing Kyle Long take defenders to the ground without drawing penalties is a good example. Seeing Bostic’s interception and bone crushing hit are the kinds of plays talented players make early.
There is plenty of optimism at the beginning of every camp, but this one feels strangely different to me. It is the curing of old ailments, the focus on scoring points while not backsliding on defense and special teams. So far, I am still on the Emery bandwagon. I am not worried about the offensive production during these past two games. The offense is where I thought they would be…learning, making mistakes and improving. The defense looks to be solid once again and special teams is primed and ready to go.
Many Bear fans worry at times about the age of the defense and I do at times as well….but not this year! Bear Down!
So Bear fans, are you truly excited about the young up-and-comers or do you think all of the excitement is just a bunch of pre-season adrenaline?