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.
For most of my lifetime Chicago has been the place “where wide receivers go to die”, as former Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad so aptly named it. There is still some lingering disappointment over the Muhammad era, but he was right on money with that statement. The fact that the Bears leading receiver of all-time, Johnny Morris, retired 47 years ago pretty much says it all. Morris owned the Bears records for receptions in a season (93) and yardage in a season (1,200) for 37 and 31 years respectively. Needless to say the Bears had a very long drought when it comes to difference-making receivers, but it’s finally over.
I was giddy when the Bears traded for Jay Cutler back in 2009 because the Bears QB drought had been about as pathetic as the one at wide receiver, but the Bears GM at the time (Jerry Angelo) thought just a good QB was enough to fix the offense. Angelo didn’t realize that QBs need talent at the receiver position (and an O-line). In 2012 after three years of offensive struggles with Cutler, one of new GM Phil Emery’s first moves was trading two 3rd round picks for a legitimate threat at wide receiver, Brandon Marshall.
Despite the fact that the Bears hadn’t had a 1,000 yard receiver in ten years (Booker, 2002), not every one was on board with the Marshall trade at first. Some actually compared it to the Muhammad signing back in 2005 and thought the Bears were paying a high price for another receiver past his prime. Marshall had only scored 9 TDs total over his last two years in Miami, his reception and yardage numbers were down from his time in Denver, and he had a reputation as a problem in the locker room and an off-field risk. It didn’t take long for those rumors to be put to rest as Marshall has become a leader in the locker room and has done some important off-field work to increase awareness of mental illnesses, specifically borderline personality disorder (BPD) which Marshall was diagnosed with in 2011. The trade of two 3rd round picks for Marshall may go down as one of the best Bears trades of all time.
In Marshall’s first year with the Bears he broke both the single-season reception record with 118 and single-season yardage record with 1,508 and also scored 11 TDs. In year two with the Bears Marshall wasn’t quite as dominant due to the emergence of fellow wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, but still had 100 receptions for 1,295 yards and 12 TDs. Marshall became the first player in Bears history to record two 100 reception seasons. With 2,803 receiving yards in two years with the Bears he is already over halfway to breaking Johnny Morris’ all-time receiving yards record (5,059). Chicago may have been a graveyard for receivers in the past but with the addition of Marshall and the emergence of Jeffrey, it is now the home of the best WR combo in the NFL.
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.