Pro Football Talk, which is affiliated with NBC Sports, has been running down the "Mt. Rushmore's" for each NFL team this off season. They are naming the top four franchise greats, be it, "players, coaches, administrators, owners, whoever", and they asked their readers for the nominations.
Mike Florio, who is the Editor at PFT, even though in their "About" section it states, "We don’t have editors, we don’t have agendas, we don’t owe anyone anything and we don’t care.", named the official PFT Chicago Bears Mt. Rushmore, and his top four differed from what was voted on by his readers. He had Walter Payton, George Halas, Dick Butkus, and Gale Sayers, even though the PFT faithful had Mike Ditka over Sayers.
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The series appears to be the brainchild of Florio, so it's his prerogative to change it up, but when his original Mt. Rushmore post presents its self like this:
The talking heads on Pro Football Talk will have our own opinions on the four stone heads, and we'll also unveil the four persons per franchise on which you have voted.
That makes it sound as though the official PFT Chicago Bears Mt. Rushmore will be unveiled based on the votes.
That would be like me telling the WCG members that took the time to nominate and vote in our Mt. Lunchpail series to get lost. Not cool. I may not agree with the three Bears voted into Mt. Lunchpail so far, but the people have spoken.
There's a large contingent of Bears fans that are sick and tired of Mike Ditka, and I get that. He's become a larger than life caricature of himself over the years, he seemed to be more concerned with the 'Ditka brand', and some fans hold him responsible for not winning more than one Super Bowl title. Many fans are just sick of the whole 1985 Bears thing entirely, and Da Coach is on top of their sick list.
But Mike Ditka is also a Chicago Icon whether you like it or not.
As a player he revolutionized his position, he was part of the 1963 Championship team, and he was the first tight end to ever be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His Chicago playing career was only six seasons, but they were spectacular seasons. His numbers only tell part of the story, as his punishing blocks were just as noteworthy as his 316 receptions.
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As a coach he did guide the Bears to their only Super Bowl title, and he had a .631 winning percentage in Chicago from 1982-92, including seven playoff appearances. Should they have won more, probably, but you can't discount the success they had, nor can you disregard the greatness of the coaches and teams that knocked him out of the playoffs.
Four times his teams were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual Super Bowl champs. The coaches he lost to were Bill Walsh (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1993),(Hall of Fame Class of 1996), Bill Parcells (Hall of Fame Class of 2013), and Jimmy Johnson (College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012). Ditka was a good head coach, that was beat by some greats.
And speaking of greats, there's no denying the talent that Sayers had. Few players in the history of the league had his type of electricity with the ball in his hands, and had he not blown out his knee, his numbers could have been on par with Walter Payton. Unfortunately his career was shortened by injury, and he doesn't have the other stuff to bring to the table like Ditka does. Unless, like Florio, you want to include his friendship with Brian Piccolo.
Sayers also was at the center of one of the great off-field tragedies in NFL history, supporting Brian Piccolo through his battle with cancer. The story became a legendary sports film (Brian's Song), helping cement Sayers as one of the Bears' all-time greats.
While that movie is awesome, If you're going to use a sports film to cement a legacy, then you should include Ditka's place in pop culture as well.
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Sayers has come off through the years as kind of bitter towards the franchise, famously taking shots at players like Walter Payton, Brian Urlacher, Jay Cutler, and claiming that he's a better returner than Devin Hester. Which he probably was, but did it need to be said?
Ditka has always come off like a guy that was proud to have worn the Navy and Orange, always trumpeting the franchise, and even comically picking the Bears to win in 99% of his ESPN pregame shows. I'm sure a lot of it is just him focused on the 'Ditka brand', but he's still an ambassador for the Bears that has transcended sports.
You hold up a picture of Sayers in his #40 running the ball, and you hold up a picture of a sweater vested Ditka patrolling the sidelines, and I'll bet the majority of casual fans will identify Da Coach while struggling with recalling Sayers.
Both players were iconic in the city of Chicago, and both of their bodies of work are similar, but it's what Ditka did outside the lines that should have pushed him over Sayers and garnered him a spot on the PFT Mt. Rushmore.
Well that, and the fact that the votes were on his side...
What do you think Bears fans, sound off in the comment section?