Chicago Bears Top 100: #95 Tony Parrish

We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off.  Thanks to contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 1oo list of the all time Chicago Bears.  It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.

The Bears used their second round pick in 1998 to draft Tony Parrish, a safety out of Washington. Parrish had good size for a safety (6’0, 210), ran a 4.43 at the combine, was known as a hard hitter. He was coming off back-to-back first team all Pac 10 nominations and a 81 tackle, 6 interception, 2 TD return senior season. Parrish didn’t waste any time making an impact with the Bears, he started at free safety on week 1 his rookie year and had 13 tackles and two forced fumbles in the game. I remember thinking that the Bears had drafted the next Ronnie Lott. Parrish went on to start every game at free safety his rookie year and led the team with 4 forced fumbles, racked up 78 total tackles, and also added a sack and an interception. Not a bad rookie season!

In 1999 the Bears moved Parrish to strong safety and he continued to play well. Parrish totaled 100 tackles in his second year and again started all 16 games. In his four years with the Bears Parrish started every game and got better every season. In 2000 & 2001 he had 3 interceptions in each year while continuing to provide solid run support and fierce hits on receivers over the middle. When Parrish came to the Bears he was a big hitter who played out of control at times, but by the end of his fourth year with the Bears he had improved his technique in coverage, was a good blitzer (4 sacks), and an enforcer in the middle of the field. The Mike Brown (FS) & Tony Parrish (SS) combo was a key part of a Bears defense in 2001 that gave up the fewest points in the NFL and led them to a 13-3 season. Of course the Bears let Parrish go in free agency that off-season.

When Parrish hit free agency in 2002, coming off his best all around season with the Bears, new Bears GM Jerry Angelo didn’t even make Parrish a contract offer. Angelo’s reasoning was that safety isn’t a premium position. Apparently the Bears new regime feels the same way (sigh). Parrish signed a reasonable 5-yr, $12M dollar deal with the 49ers that off-season. Then went on to intercept 16 passes over the next two seasons, make the Pro Bowl in 2003, and be voted 2nd team All-NFL the same year.

In Parrish’s 4th year with the Niners (2005), he broke his ankle and leg (against the Bears) which was the first injury of his pro career. He was released by San Fran the next year and caught on with the Cowboys for a one game stint before retiring in 2006. For his career, Parrish had 631 tackles, 30 interceptions, 9 forced fumbles, and 5 sacks.

What do you think of the ranking?  Too high?  Too low?  I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself.  We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.

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