We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off. Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 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 selected Dennis Gentry in the 4th round of 1982 draft. He made an immediate impact taking over punt return duties from defensive back Jeff Fisher (now HC of the Rams) and by the end of his rookie season was returning kicks as well. Gentry actually lost both jobs his 2nd year to undrafted rookie Dennis McKinnon (punt returns) and 1st round pick Willie Gault (kick returns) and didn’t reclaim the kick returner job until 1985, his 4th year with the Bears. In 1985 things seems to click for Gentry as a kick returner and he averaged 25.9 yards per return (4th in the NFL) and had his first TD return. In 1986 Gentry was even better, leading the NFL with a 28.8 average and running another one back for a TD. The combination of Gentry and Gault returning kicks was the best in the NFL from 84-86 in both yards per return and TDs.
In 1985 the Bears started using Gentry on offense as a change-of-pace running back. In the Bears Super Bowl ’85 season, Gentry had 30 carries for 160 yards (4.8 ypc) and 2 TDs. Over the next few seasons Gentry was used on draw plays, reverses, and screen passes to get him the ball in space so he could use his speed to make plays. Later in the decade (88-90) the Bears stopped using Gentry as a running back and transitioned him to a slot receiver role. Over the course of three years, Gentry averaged 32 receptions, 423 yards, and 2 TDs per season all while still excelling as the Bears primary kick returner. He was a multi-purpose weapon who seemed to make things happen whenever he got the ball.
In the early 90s it looked like Gentry lost a step or two as his kick return numbers declined and he was barely used in the offensive scheme. Gentry still returned kicks, but both Johnny Bailey and Darren Lewis had more success and Gentry was slowly phased out. He retired after the 1992 season after 11 years with the Bears. Gentry holds the record for the most kick returns (192) and 3rd most kick return yards (4,353) in Bears history.
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.