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.
Despite being a two-time All-American at Baylor, middle linebacker Mike Singletary wasn’t selected in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft. His lack of height (6’0) must have been the reason because it certainly wasn’t a lack of production at Baylor. Singletary broke the school record with a 232 tackle season, reportedly cracked 16 helmets during his Baylor career, and had a 33 tackle game against Arkansas. Once he slipped out of the 1st round the Bears moved quickly and traded up with the 49ers to select Singletary 38th overall.
It didn’t take Singletary long to make an impact with the Bears. He earned the starting MLB role by the 7th game of his rookie season and just three weeks later had 10 tackles and a forced fumble against the Chiefs. Singletary would end up starting 172 games for the Bears, second only to the great Walter Payton. He finished his first season with the Bears as a near unanimous all-rookie team pick. That wasn’t enough for defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan who pushed Singletary relentlessly, refusing to call him by anything other than #50 and taking him off the field on 3rd downs. Singletary continued to work hard and by the end of his 2nd year was an every-down MLB for the Bears.
Before the 83 season, Singletary was named defensive captain and even his once-nemesis Buddy Ryan was calling him the “best linebacker in pro football”. The rest of the league apparently agreed as Singletary was named 1st-team All-NFL and made his first of an amazing 10 consecutive Pro Bowls. Singletary had become the heart and brains of one of the best defenses of all-time. Over the next 10 years Singletary finished either first or second on the Bears in tackles every season.
In the Bears championship ’85 season, “Samurai Mike” led a Bears defense that gave up less than 11 points per game on average. Singletary led the Bears with 113 tackles and was named NFL Defensive Player of Year. In the Bears two playoff wins leading up to the Super Bowl, he had 13 tackles and a sack. In the Super Bowl, Singletary played great, like most of the Bears D, recovering two fumbles and leading the defensive attack that held the Patriots to a paltry 7 yards rushing for the game.
Singletary was amazingly consistent only missing two games due to injury in his 12 year career with the Bears and didn’t have a down year. If anything he improved every season; Singletary won the Defensive Player of the Year award again in 1988 and had his best statistical season in 1990 which included a 20 tackle game verse the Broncos. Singletary made 8 All-NFL teams and 10 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1983 to 1992 which is a Bears record. He probably would have made a few more if he didn’t decide to retire after the 92 season.
As a young fan during Singletary’s prime, his intensity (and wide-eyed stare) always stood out to me as well as the fact that he was the hardest hitter on the field despite being one of the smallest players out there. His on-field ferocity was legendary, but he also studied as much film as anyone off the field, even installing a video system in his home to better prepare for opponents. The combination of intensity, preparation, and obviously talent made Singletary the best MLB of the 80’s and a first ballot Hall-of-Famer in 1998.
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.