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.
Steve “Mongo” McMichael wasn’t actually drafted by the Bears. The New England Patriots selected McMichael, an All-American from Texas, in the 3rd round of the 1980 draft. The 1980 draft was a good one for Bears, not only did they eventually end up with McMichael, but their two first picks were also on our top 100 list, Otis Wilson and Matt Suhey. The Patriots released McMichael after only 1 season (thanks!) and the Bears happened to need some depth at DT due to a Brad Shearer injury so they signed him. Expectations were low and McMichael only appeared in 19 games with no starts during his first two years with the Bears.
During his 3rd year with the team (’83), McMichael finally earned a starting position and dominated with 8.5 sacks in just 10 starts. As a full-time starter in ’84, McMichael had 10 sacks and 42 tackles. He became a key fixture next to Dan Hampton on the Bears dominant defensive line and his outspoken personality made him a fan and media favorite. McMichael got attention for his crazy antics and sometimes controversial comments, but his play on the field deserved attention as well.
During the Bears championship ’85 season, McMichael was named 1st team All-Pro due to his solid run defense and 8 sacks. McMichael made two consecutive Pro Bowls the next two seasons (86-87). He averaged 7.5 sacks over those two years, but his best statistical seasons were still to come. In ’88 McMichael led the Bears with 11.5 sacks and in ’89 he had 108 tackles which is a ridiculous number for a defensive tackle.
McMichael was an extremely durable player; He started every game from 1984 to 1990 when his playing time was reduced. McMichael bounced back from only starting 7 games in 1990 to start every game from 91-93. In ’91 at 34 years old, Mongo had 9 sacks and 94 tackles. In ’92 it was more of the same with 10.5 sacks and 89 tackles. At 36 years old in ’93 McMichael’s play started to slip a little with just 6 sacks and 78 tackles.
Despite still racking up sacks totals among the league leaders for his DT position the last few seasons, McMichael was released before the ’94 season for salary cap reasons. McMichael spent the ’94 season starting 14 games for the rival Green Bay Packers before retiring in ’95. At the time of his release he had played 191 consecutive game with the Bears which was a record until Patrick Mannelly broke it in 2010.
McMichael was a Bear for 13 years, holding down the left DT position for 157 starts. In that time Mongo had 92.5 sacks and 814 tackles. He was outspoken and brash off the field, but a two-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro on the field. McMichael was a warrior who anchored the middle of the some of the best Bears defenses of all time. His head coach for most of his Bears career, Mike Ditka, summed up McMichael’s career best, calling him the toughest player that he ever coached.
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.