Chicago Bears Top 100: #23 Otis Wilson

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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 Otis Wilson, a LB out of Louisville, with the 19th pick in the 1980 NFL draft. Wilson finished his college career as a 1st team All-American and the 2nd leading tackler in Louisville history with 484. Wilson didn’t play much as a rookie only starting 1 game for the Bears, but he showed sings of becoming a play-maker with 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery and earned a starting OLB job during his second season. The NFL didn’t keep track of individual tackles or sacks in the early 80s, so there is no statistical record of Wilson’s early impact.

Wilson continued to start and improve every year, showing signs of a breakout season in 1984 with 6.5 sacks. He had his best statistical season in 1985 with 10.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, a safety, a defensive touchdown and then two more sacks in the Super Bowl. It was the best season of Wilson’s career statistically, he made his first and only Pro Bowl, and was a key player on the most dominant defense I have ever seen. Along with fellow OLB Wilbur Marshall, Wilson was a feared blitzer off the edge and one of the most intimidating hitters on a team full of them.

Wilson played two more very solid seasons with the Bears; He had 8 sacks and 2 interceptions in ’86 and then had 6.5 sacks in just 7 games in ’87 before tearing his ACL. The ACL injury kept Wilson on the sidelines for the ’88 season. He was ready to return in ’89 when the Bears surprisingly released him and told him that he wouldn’t be welcomed back in Chicago. There may have been tears in the Flannery household that day (I was 9) because “Mama’s Boy” was one of my favorite Bears.

One of the more popular rumors is that the Bears released Wilson due to his relationship with former DC and Ditka rival Buddy Ryan. Allegedly Wilson met with Buddy Ryan at a hotel in Chicago two nights before the Bears played Ryan’s Eagles in the ’88 playoffs which didn’t sit well with Ditka. Or knowing Michael McCaskey it could have been an effort to save money by not paying Wilson’s $550,000 salary, which was above average at the time. Whatever the reasoning behind the move, Wilson signed with the Raiders before the ’89 season but only played 1 game and retired shortly after the season. Wilson finished his 8-year Bears career with 514 tackles, 40.5 sacks, 10 interceptions and 2 defensive TDs.

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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