Brian Urlacher played an iconic position for one of the legendary teams in the NFL, and he did so at an incredibly high level. He was never a media darling, but his #54 was always the most purchased Chicago Bears jersey. He parlayed his on field success into a number of endorsement deals, and he became the face of the franchise since being named rookie of the year in 2000.
With Urlacher retired, the Bears need a new face, but who will it be? Let's look at a few possibilities.
1 - Jay Cutler is the obvious choice, since he is the quarterback in a quarterback driven league, and the Bears are now set to be more offensively minded. But Jay has a tendency to be as short with the media as Urlacher was. Even though some members of the mainstream media has softened their hardline stance on Cutler, and he's not seen as the aloof, misunderstood, prima-donna like he was early in his Bears career, there are still some that will take a shot at him when ever they can.
Unless Jay Cutler plays at an All Pro level, I don't think he'll ever get the benefit of the doubt from some NFL experts. Then you add in that Cutler shies away from endorsement deals, and he still seems uncomfortable in front of a podium at times, so having him catapulted to long term face of the franchise status ala Urlacher seems unlikely.
I think Cutler, as the QB in a big market like Chicago, is the de facto face for the time being, but things can change.
2 - Brandon Marshall had a lot of baggage accompany his trade to the Bears, but he's been a model citizen in Chicago. His willingness to talk openly about his diagnosed borderline personality disorder has shed a new light on him. Add in the fact that he plays wide out with the physical nature of a linebacker, and you can see why his popularity has grown in Chicago.
He's honest and candid in front of the media, he comes off as likeable, and he's one of the best wide outs in the game.
3 - Lance Briggs has the personality to attract media attention, and with Urlacher gone, he may get more face time. Plus he is a linebacker, and Chicago Bears + good linebacker + rabble rabble and all that jazz could lead to Briggs being the new face of the Bears.
4 - Shea McClellin looks the part, and he's often mentioned, albeit incorrectly, as an Urlacher replacement. He's a clean cut, small town, former #1 draft pick, and if he can put together a few good games to open the season, I can see the media gravitating towards McClellin.
5 - The 2013 face is obviously on the current roster, but maybe the future long term face of the franchise is still enrolled in college, or finishing out his contract with another NFL team. Free agency has drastically altered the association of players with one team, so maybe Phil Emery will make a deal in the 2014 off season to find the next guy.
Even though Jay Cutler has put up middle of the road numbers so far in Chicago, the Bears win more games with him under center than without. From Caleb Hanie to Jason Campbell, back up QBs the last few years have looked almost scared trying to run the Bears offense. If Cutler and the Bears win games, or (cross your fingers) win championships, Cutler can ride the anti-face of the franchise vibe into being the actual face of the franchise.
Then again, this is the last year he has under contract, so unless he has a Joe Flacco like run this could be the last we see of Jay.
Now it's your turn, who do you think will be the new face of the Chicago Bears franchise?
More from Windy City Gridiron:
Who is the Face of every franchise in the NFL?
Ten Thoughts on Chicago Sports: Chicago Bears and beyond
Urlacher: "I don't want to play."