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.
Next up in our top 100 countdown is perhaps the greatest 8th round pick of all-time, Richard Dent. Not much was expected out of an 8th round pick from Tennessee St, but Dent contributed right away with 3 sacks in 3 starts his rookie season. Dent still wasn’t the starter going into his second year, but earned the job by week 7 and dominated from that point on. Dent finished his second season with 17.5 sacks including 4.5 sacks in one game, a feat he would repeat a few years later (’87). Dent’s 17.5 sacks led the NFC and he made his first Pro Bowl and was voted 2nd team All-Pro. He proved it wasn’t a fluke the following year (’85) by leading the NFL in sacks with 17. Dent saved his best work for the playoffs with 9 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, one of which was returned for a TD by Wilbur Marshall, and 4.5 sacks in the two games leading up to the Super Bowl. He dominated the Super Bowl as well with 3 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles which earned Dent the Super Bowl MVP award. After the ’85 season Dent was also voted 1st team All-Pro and made his second consecutive Pro Bowl.
Dent would go on to post double-digit sack totals in 6 of the next 8 years (’86-’93) and make two more Pro Bowls. Even the two years that Dent failed to record at least ten sacks, he was still productive with 9 and 8.5 sacks. Dent was one of the best DEs in the NFL for 10 of his first 11 years on the Bears. He averaged just over 12 sacks per season during that 10-year stretch as the starting right end and also was a stout run defender with an average of 64 tackles and 3 forced fumbles per season. Dent was the most dangerous pass-rusher on the best defense of that decade. Unfortunately, Dent was unhappy with the firing of head coach Mike Ditka after the ’93 season and he left the Bears to sign with the 49ers. Dent struggled in San Fran but did win his 2nd Super Bowl ring before coming back to the Bears for the ’95 season. Injuries started to pile up for Dent and he had a hard time staying on the field. He only played in 3 games for the Bears in ’95 and left again after the season, playing a season each in Indy (6.5 sacks) and Philly (4.5 sacks) before retiring after the ’97 season.
During Dent’s 15 year career he had 137.5 sacks which at the time was the 3rd highest total in NFL history behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith. 124.5 of those sacks came during his 12 years with the Bears and he also racked up 641 tackles, 34 forced fumbles and 8 interceptions in Chicago. Dent made 4 Pro Bowls with the Bears, two all-pro teams and was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2011. He was the best pure pass rusher I’ve ever seen and the standard by which DE are judged in Chicago.
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.