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 signed safety Marty Carter in 1995 to a 4-yr, $5.2M deal to replace Shaun Gayle, the last member of the legendary 1985 Bears still with the organization. I remember being sad to see Gayle go, but it was clear at the time that he was on his last legs. Carter was bigger, younger, and faster and the Bears had just resigned Mark Carrier to a 4-yr deal as well, so the Bears were set at safety for the foreseeable future. Carter came over from the Tampa Bay Bucs where he started almost every game over 4 years since being drafted as an 8th round pick in 1991.
It didn’t take long for me to get over the loss of Shaun Gayle. Carter quickly become the leader of the Bears secondary and arguably the best player on the Bears defense. NFL.com doesn’t post tackle statistics before 2001, but the Chicago Tribune gave Carter credit for 158 tackles in his first year with the Bears (’95) and 180 tackles in his second year (’96) which are both Bear records. Pro Football-Reference isn’t quite as generous giving Carter credit for 95 tackles in 1995 and 103 in 1996 but still has him as the team leader in both years. 1996 was Carter’s best year as a Bear with the aforementioned 180 tackles and also 3 INTs and a forced fumble. He had a four game stretch that season with 11 tackles against the Saints, 15 at the Vikings, 13 vs. Tampa Bay and 17 against the Lions¹. Carter missed 1 game due to injury in ’97 which cost him the team lead in tackles by 5 to Bryan Cox, but Carter again led the team in 1998 which was the last year of his contract with the Bears. In his four years with the Bears Carter had 6 INTs, 3 FFs and averaged 160 tackles per season². Carter was a big (6’1, 209) physical presence in the Bears secondary and though he never made a Pro Bowl with the Bears, the Tribune considered him a major snub in both 1996 & 1998 and blamed Carter’s lack of national recognition on the Bears poor records during his time with the team (24-40). The Dave Wannstedt era!
In Carter’s first 8 years in the league, he only played on 1 winning team (95 Bears, 9-7) and after his Bears contract expired before the 1999 season he was ready to join a winning organization. Unlike Tony Parrish who I covered Wed (#95), the Bears did make an offer to bring Carter back but he was fed up with the Bears losing ways and probably Wannstedt’s incompetence. Here is a quote from Carter about why he left the Bears,
“When I looked at my team, I didn’t see the talent or the commitment to get better. Year after year they let go of key guys that you have to have. How can you win with a situation like that. I had to leave.”
Hard to argue with that, those were dark years for the Bears. Carter ended up signing a 5-yr, $15M deal with the Atlanta Falcons who were coming off a division winning 14-2 season. Carter started 32 games with the Falcons over two & a half years before being traded to the Lions early in the 2001 season. Unfortunately for Carter the Falcons went 11-26 in his time there, so he never got to play for a playoff team. Carter retired in 2002 after his brief four game stint with the Lions.
There are multiple articles in the Tribune archives about Carter being a leader on and off the field and being the heart of the Bears defense. I was a teenager at the time, so my memory of Carter is probably exaggerated, but I remember him as a violent hitter, one of the toughest run stoppers on the team, and one of the my favorite Bears of the late 90s era. There wasn’t much talent to choose from on those teams, but Carter was one of the best and deserves a spot on our top 100 list.
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.
¹Per Savanna Morning News
²Per USA Today