Chicago Bears All-Decade Team: 2000s
Olin Kreutz, C
When picking the best of the Bears players in this decade there were some positions that required a closer look to really see who was deserving of that status, but in other cases there was no debate. Middle linebacker, for example, comes to mind. Olin Kruetz, the choice for all-decade center on this list or any other reasonable one, was another one of those no-brainers.
One of the things I always got a kick out of with Kreutz was his pre-snap routine. Picture this: the o-line gets set and they start making their calls while the QB (choose your own adventure there) settles in, identifies the mike and goes into his cadence. The Fox TV camera zooms in and there’s Kreutz, his right hand ready to snap the ball and the fingers on his left hand twitching like a crazy person.
Kruetz set the tone for the Bears o-line for the entire decade, starting 150 of 160 possible regular season games and providing a healthy dose of nasty every time. He was the proverbial “guy you want on your side in a street fight”. He is one of the best Bears centers of all time.
James “Big Cat” Williams, RT
This mountain of a man lines up on the right edge of the all-decade offensive line. Standing at 6’7″ and weighing in at about 330, James Williams started his career as a defensive player for the Bears in 1991 but eventually was switched to offense and became the starting RT.
From 1995 thru 2002 Big Cat started every game for the Bears at the position and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in the 13-3 2001 season. His hulking frame also served him well as a special teams contributor where he blocked or deflected several FG or XP attempts. Williams didn’t see much of the decade but his strong play over three years from 2000-2002 earns him this spot.
John Tait, LT
Signed as a free agent in 2004 after playing his first five seasons in Kansas City, John Tait initially lined up at RT for the Bears while world-beater Qasim Mitchell held down the LT spot. Tait moved to LT the following season and that’s where he stayed from 2005-2007 before moving back to RT in 2008, his final NFL go-round.
While not quite the size of Big Cat, Tait was big in his own right — measuring in at 6’6″ and weighing 312 pounds. Tait, who I affectionately referred to as “Tater Nuts“, protected Grossman’s blind side in the 2006 near-championship season and will do so again on this all-decade team.
Ruben Brown, LG
Lining up at left guard is Ruben Brown, who before joining the Bears in 2004 went to eight straight Pro Bowls from 1996-2003 with the Buffalo Bills. Along with Tait and Kreutz, Brown is the third member of this all-decade o-line to have been a part of the 2006 group that went to the Super Bowl.
His impressive streak of Pro Bowls ended upon joining Chicago, but he went one last time after that ’06 season as a member of the Bears. Brown’s last year with the Bears was in 2007, which also was his last in the NFL.
Chris Villarrial, RG
Drafted by Wanny in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft, Villarrial became one of the Bears best interior lineman in both the 1990s and the 2000s. For the purposes of qualifying for a spot on this roster, Villarrial played RG from 2000-2003 and started 59 of 64 possible games.
Lining up next to Big Cat Williams on the right side of the o-line, Villarrial and he formed a formidable run-blocking duo thru the 2002 season. With those two clearing the way, James Allen (1,120 yards) in 2000 and A-Train (1,183 yards) in his rookie campaign of 2001 both eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau. The Bears were the least sacked team in 2001.
Next: All-2000s Special Teams