'Brian Urlacher had better be great. I keep getting a feeling that he might be 80 percent player, 20 percent shoot-up-the-chart myth.’ Quote by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King after the 2000 NFL draft in which the Chicago Bears selected Brian Urlacher with the number nine overall pick.
Well, Peter, Urlacher is great.
With the off season upon us, and we Bears fans having nothing to look forward to except Brett Favre’s downfall in the playoffs, let’s take a look back on the Bears picks on draft day this decade; obviously starting with the year that was supposed to bring computer failure and utter chaos, Y2K.
After a tremendous NFL scouting combine, Brian Urlacher would shoot up the Bears draft wish list. He would not disappoint. Urlacher played the first two games of his pro football career at outside linebacker. His athleticism would force the Bears coaching staff to move him to the middle, where he would start the final 14 games of his rookie season. #54 would go on to lead the team in tackles with 165, have eight sacks, make the Pro Bowl team and earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
I could go on and on about Brian Urlacher.
However, the Bears 2000 draft also featured another player that would live forever in Bears lore.
With the 39th overall pick, the Bears would select free safety Mike Brown from the University of Nebraska. If it wasn’t for Urlacher’s outstanding rookie campaign, Brown may have had some rookie of the year considerations. The only Bears rookie to start on opening day, Brown would continue that trend and start every game that year. His lone interception that season would lead to a 35 yard touchdown. He is currently first in Bears franchise history with seven defensive touchdowns.
Brown would follow his rookie year with an excellent sophomore season. Helping lead the Bears to a 13-3 record and the last ever Central Division title, Brown lead the team with five interceptions. Two of those interceptions are still talked about to this day.
In back to back weeks, Brown had an interception in overtime which he would return to the end zone. Winning the games in dramatic fashion.
The next two seasons would see Brown start all 16 games in each season. With Urlacher and Brown, the Bears seemed to have their upper middle of the defense sured up for years to come.
What a shame, the Football Gods would come crashing down on Brown’s promising career.
2004 would begin the decline of Brown’s career as a Chicago Bear. In week two of that season, the heart and soul of the defense would be placed on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon. The next three years wouldn’t be much better.
’05 would bring a calf injury that would force him to miss the last four games of the season and the playoffs; in 2006, after a dramatic win in week 6 at Arizona, in which Brown would take a fumble recovery to the house, he would have a lisfranc fracture (fracture and dislocation of the bones in the midfoot) that would cause him to miss the rest of the season and the Bears lone Super Bowl appearance in 20 years. The 2007 season would only feature one game with Brown. Continuing his ball hawking ways, Brown would have an interception in the first game only to be horse collared tackled, the illegal tackle would lead to a knee injury, and Brown was the lost for the year.
2008 would see Brown start the first 15 games only to be lost for the final game with another injury. Though hard for the Bears to do, Brown’s contract would not be renewed for the ‘09 season. The Kansas City Chiefs would reap the benefits of the Bears’ decision. Signed as a free agent by K.C, Brown started every game in ’09 and would come in second on the team in tackles and interceptions.
The next couple of rounds of the draft would produce some solid contributors to the Bears team, but nothing of the caliber as the first two rounds.
The Bears would look to the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference for their next three picks. Out of Georgia Tech, wide receiver Dez White was selected with the 69th overall pick; picks 87 and 125 overall would both come from Wake Forest University; with linebacker Dustin Lyman and corner back Reggie Austin, respectively.
White would be a solid receiver for the Bears for four years, until finishing out the last two years of his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons. His best year as a Bear was 2002 where he started 14 games, and finished the season with 51 receptions for 656 yards and four touchdowns.
Lyman was a linebacker in college, but was converted to a tight end in the NFL. The big 6’5 254 lb. Colorado native was a very serviceable blocking tight end for the Bears. His NFL career would last five seasons, though his second year was cut short by injury, all with the Bears.
The other Demon Deacon, Austin, would only play in 18 games for the Bears in three years, none in his rookie year. He would finish his NFL days only starting four games for the Bears, with two interceptions and a forced fumble.
With no picks in the fifth round, the Bears would have two selections in each of the sixth and seventh rounds. These four picks were spent on two players who never wore a Bears game jersey and two players who are familiar to Bears fans till this day.
With pick 170, 6th round, the Bears nabbed half back Frank Murphy; with pick 223 in the 7th round, James Cotton’s name was added to the Bears draft picks of 2000. Neither of these players made in out of the preseason with a roster spot.
Murphy would catch on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and later with the Houston Texans, playing in a total of 20 NFL games. He would spend three years up north playing in the Canadian Football League and is currently a part of the Florida Tuskers, a founding team in the newly formed United Football League.
Cotton would not make an NFL roster until 2003, in which he did not play in a game for the Atlanta Falcons. He would bounce around leagues between Canada and the WWE of football, the XFL.
Though Cotton and Murphy never panned out, picks 174 and 254 would somewhat make up for the two failed picks.
With the 174th pick in the sixth round, Michigan St. alum Paul Edinger would join the Bears. A kicker with a very unique ‘cork screw’ style approach to the ball would last five years with the Monsters of the Midday. Maybe his most memorable moment in the NFL came in week 16 of his rookie season. With nothing to play for, the Bears had a chance to beat the Detroit Lions and keep them out of the playoffs. Edinger would step up with two seconds left in the game and nail a 54 yard field goal to win the game.
Edinger never missed an extra point attempt in college or the NFL, his pro football career field goal percentage stands at 75 percent. After playing five years with the Bears, he would play one final NFL year with the Minnesota Vikings and then returned to play for Chicago. The Chicago Rush that is, of the Arena Football League (AFL). He played only one year for the Rush and is currently on the roster for the newly formed Jacksonville Sharks who are set to begin play this year for the new Arena Football 1 league.
And last, but not least, but really last; as in the very last pick of the 2000 draft, and labeled Mr. Irrelevant, is safety Mike Green. Green would play sparingly in his first two NFL seasons until becoming a 16 game starter in ’02. He would finish second on the team in tackles that year behind only Urlacher. 2003 would be an injury plagued year for the Northwestern St. alum, but he would come back strong ’04; again starting all 16 games and again finishing second on the team in tackles, this time behind Lance Briggs. One final year in Chicago also marred by injury, Green would complete his final three years with the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins.
Looking back, the 2000 Bears draft was a success. Only Brian Urlacher remains on the team, but players like Mike Brown and Paul Edinger will forever give Bears fans reason to reminisce.
This is the first of a weekly series looking back on the Chicago Bears drafts this decade. Hope you enjoyed this one, because the next couple of years are rough…....