The dog days of the offseason are finally behind us now that training camp is underway, just in time for our countdown of the Top 100 Chicago Bears of all time to really heat up. As we get closer to the season opener, we get closer to naming the #1 Chicago Bear of all time.
The Bears selected LB Lance Briggs out of Arizona in the 3rd round of the 2003 draft. It only took Briggs three games in his rookie season to earn a spot in the starting lineup as the weak side OLB and he has held it ever since. As a rookie Briggs had just 78 tackles, but he showed a lot of potential and ran an interception back for a TD.
Briggs had a breakout season in his second year with the Bears. He led the team with 126 total tackles and had another pick-6. Briggs was snubbed for the Pro Bowl despite clearly deserving it, but it would be the last time Briggs wasn’t selected until 2012. In 2005, under 2nd-year DC Ron Rivera, the Bears defense finished 1st in the NFL in points allowed and Briggs was a big factor. Briggs had over 100 tackles again (105), 2 sacks and 2 INTs one of which he ran back for a pick-6 for the 3rd season in a row. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl and was also 1st team all-Pro for the 1st and only time in his career.
Briggs continued to be an ultra productive linebacker for the Bears with over 100 tackles in 5 of the next 6 seasons and made the Pro Bowl for 7 consecutive years (’05-’11). He became a defensive captain and teamed with MLB Brian Urlacher to give the Bears one of the best LB duos in the NFL. In 2013 Briggs suffered the first significant injury of his career with a shoulder fracture that caused him to miss 7 games. When he returned Briggs looked slower than I’d ever seen him, but hopefully it was related to time missed due to injury because he is still a key part of the current Bears defense and they will need a healthy and productive Briggs if the Bears are going to get the defense back to the level Bears fan are used to.
Briggs has been a Bear for all 11 years of his career so far. He has been a vocal leader on and off the field; There has been some contract disputes and occasional complaints about management, but it’s a small price to pay for the production and leadership Briggs has brought to the Bears defense. In 11 years, Briggs has 1,139 total tackles, 15 sacks, 15 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles and 6 defensive touchdowns. The Bears have a storied history of dominant linebackers and Briggs’ name belongs up there with the best of them.
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.