The 1985 Chicago Bears team will forever be known as one of the greatest teams ever assembled in NFL history. With a dynamic offense and a brutal, legendary defense, they cruised their way to a 15-1 regular season and a Super Bowl victory.
Two of the key components to their defense were defensive end Richard Dent and linebacker Otis Wilson. Dent, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011, lead the ‘85 Bears in sacks with 17. His performance that year earned him both a Pro Bowl roster spot and an All-Pro nomination. He was also named the MVP of Super Bowl XX after ended up with 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a deflected pass. Wilson, who also made both the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team that year, finished the season with 10.5 sacks and three interceptions. Along with Mike Singletary and Wilber Marshall, he was a part of one of the most talented linebacker groups of that era.
Both Wilson and Dent spoke with reporters at the Brookfield Zoo at the Built Ford Tough Toughest Tailgate about a hodgepodge of topics, ranking from the Bears’ current quarterback situation to a few of their teammates being nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
At the time of this interview, the Bears had yet to name Mitch Trubisky as their starting quarterback. Mike Glennon still being the starter was a cause of outrage among several fans. When asked about this, Wilson was in favor of taking a more conservative route.
“Number one, I don’t think Mitch is ready yet,” he said. “Some rookies can do well. After watching the preseason - I only saw three of the games, I missed one - he needs some time. He’s a good quarterback; he’ll have a great career, he’ll have a long career if he keeps working hard. But to throw him to the wolves...I don’t think is the right thing to do.”
“Glennon, on the other hand, in my personal opinion, I wasn’t a fan of taking a second-string quarterback.” the former linebacker added. “If I’m going to draft someone No. 1 and then sign a No. 2 guy and make him the [starter], it didn’t make sense to me. But I don’t pick and I don’t pay, I’m just a fan on the sidelines now, but I’ve played this game before. If I’m going to take someone [to start], I’m going to take a No. 1 quarterback, not a No. 2 quarterback.”
Dent mentioned the lack of weapons on offense. “We’re short on talent, and some guys got hurt. With and all that, you’ve got somewhat of a mediocre team.” In all, though, he believes that the Bears should go with whoever they feel they can win games under. “You got to do whatever’s necessary, play whoever’s necessary to play.”
He also added that, from personal experience, teammates know who should be starting and who shouldn’t be. “One thing about team: in the locker room, we know who should be playing, and who may not. When those people come about, there’s something about the team [that] will say: ‘Okay, these people put us in an opportunity to make us win’. Everybody picks their paces up. [Mitch’s] a kid who’s only played 12, 13 times in four or five years, [but] he had a hell of a first game. Is it luck, whatever? I don’t know. His accuracy was good, but I think that the locker room thinks, from what I can tell, that we know something that we don’t know.”
Both of the legends were pleased with how their team stood talent-wise at their respective positions.
“From what I see and what I’ve seen over the last few years, [they’re] rough around the edges. They have to make people respect their space, and not just run up to your space straight up.” Dent said while talking about the Bears’ current group of pass rushers. “That’s why the way that they practice, you can’t practice leverage, then it’s not going to come in the game...if they play with lower pads, then they’re going to get a good rush.”
Wilson, who is arguably one of the greatest linebackers in a Bears history full of legendary players at the position, is a fan of what the team has done there. “They’re good linebackers,” he said. “I think that the system we played and the system they played are totally different. You compare [them to] Wilber Marshall and Mike Singletary, it’s really not fair. We played a different system, you got different guys, Hall of Famers. These guys are good athletes, but let’s see how it turns out in the end. I wouldn’t compare them yet.”
The Bears have been undergoing a rebuilding process for what seems like an eternity. Ryan Pace inherited a roster with little to no positive outlook for the future. While his progress hasn’t reflected in the team’s record, the roster is definitely in better shape than it was when he first took over as general manager in 2015.
“You know, I was surprised when they moved up in the draft one [pick] and gave away players,” Dent stated. “You can’t afford to give away no players! You don’t have any players. I think they might’ve gotten tricked. San Francisco went defense, defense, back-to-back. If [Mitch’s] the guy you wanted, then you could’ve still gotten him.”
He added, “Now the part of it is, the guys who drafted him, will they be around to see it?”
Wilson sees a light at the end of the tunnel for the Bears. “I see the defense - you wouldn’t think so - but they held up pretty going against Atlanta. They made some good plays. I thought they secondary could’ve been a little more solid, but the first game, you’re always going to have a little rust.”
Two of their fellow ‘85 Bears teammates - linebacker Wilber Marshall and center Jay Hilgenberg - were recently put up for nomination to enter the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame. Both Wilson and Dent had good things to say about both of them.
“They’ve got my vote,” Wilson said. “You’ve got guys in our defense that put the numbers up...they did their job. They did their part. Now it’s up to these folks who vote to vote on it, but damn sure, [Marshall and Hilgenberg] got the numbers, they’re athletes, and they certainly belong in there, so we’ll see. A lot of guys should be going. I think the Bears have the most - 27 - in Hall of Fame history, so maybe they’re kind of toning it down a bit.”
“I think I played with some Hall of Famers.” Dent said. “When people played us, there were three people people focused on stopping: I was one, Otis Wilson and Wilber Marshall were two and three. We had that tenacity about trying to get in there and doing what we do best. I must saw that I played with at least six, seven different Hall of Famers between offense and defense.”
Coincidentally enough, both Wilson and Dent stated that offensive tackle Jimbo Covert should be in the Hall. “I would think that Jimbo would’ve been up before Jay Hilgenberg,” Wilson mentioned, “but Jay Hilgenberg, I’m happy for him. Wilber, that’s my road dog, my partner in crime, so he’s got all of my votes. This is Chicago: if I can vote three or four times, I’ll vote.”
Dent and Wilson were both a huge part of a 1985 Bears team that swept a feeling of euphoria all across the city of Chicago. If the team’s current group of players is lucky enough, then they could be doing that some time in the near future.