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The WCG All-Bears Post-Ditka Team: Wide Receiver

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The Bears are the place “where receivers go to die,” huh? Our best WRs of the post-Ditka era might have something to say about that.

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The WCG All-Bears Post-Ditka wide receiver (click here for the series introduction)

Players in contention: Bernard Berrian (2004-2007), Marty Booker (1999-2003, 2008), Curtis Conway (1993-1999), Alshon Jeffery (2012-2016), Brandon Marshall (2012-2014), Muhsin Muhammad (2005-2007), Marcus Robinson (1998-2002)

Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a Chicago Bears wide receiver.

Growing up, I had no speed and no hops but I had good hands, heart, and toughness. Playground kids started calling me "Tom Waddle." From 1992 through probably 1994, I signed my name on all school documents "Jack M. Silverstein #87." In 4th grade, I bet Jordan Hinderyckx $20,000 that I would make the Bears as a backup wideout.

That same year I got my first Bears jersey: a Waddle that my parents had custom-made.

My next Bears jersey wasn't until freshman year of college, when my parents sent me an authentic, navy Marcus Robinson for my birthday. (I still wear it in sadness and happiness.)

If I'd been born 10 years later, I think I absolutely would have gotten a Brandon Marshall jersey after 2012.

When I wrote the 2009 version of the All-Bears Post-Ditka team, the starting wideouts were Curtis Conway and Marty Booker, via the committee, who out-voted my selections of Booker and Robinson.

Since then, the Bears saw their receiving record books rewritten by Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

I also have to give love to two ideal slot receivers who bloomed between 2009 and 2011 — Devin Hester and Johnny Knox.

Forget Moose Muhammad's "Chicago is where receivers go to die" declaration. I love our post-Ditka receivers, and while I cannot include my guy Tommy Waddle (his two post-Ditka seasons were under par compared to the rest of his career), we’ve got plenty of guys to honor in this article.

That said, in Moose’s defense, we are historically deficient at receiver. Consider:

The Bears are one of only six franchises whose career leader in receptions is not a wide receiver. Four of the other six have leaders who are HOF or future HOF tight ends: Antonio Gates with the Chargers, Tony Gonzalez with the Chiefs, Ozzie Newsome with the Browns, Jason Witten with the Cowboys. Our leader in receptions is Walter Payton. (The other is Tampa Bay with running back James Wilder.)

Our franchise leader in receiving yards is Johnny Morris, a man whose last season was 1967. Morris is the oldest franchise leader in receiving yards, and one of only three who retired before 1990. Philly’s Harold Carmichael ended his career after the 1984 season, and Seattle’s Steve Largent hung ‘em up after 1989.

There is a lot riding on our selections. We have to show the NFL world that we’re not a wideout wasteland. Before we pick our three receivers (and yes, we’re picking three), here are the questions that we answered:

1. Who are the best three receivers in the post-Ditka era?

2. If you had to build a perfect four-receiver set picking a #1 receiver, a deep threat, a “hands” receiver, and a speed guy for the slot, who would you pick?

3. What were your favorite single-season wide receiver seasons (no more than one per player)

I took this one to the WCG staff. Here are my answers, followed by theirs.

Best three receivers in the post-Ditka era?

1. Brandon Marshall — I don’t care that he was only here three seasons. I don’t care that he burned bridges on his way out of town. If I am constructing a perfect Bears team, I want the best receiver I’ve ever seen in a Bears uniform.

Before Brandon Marshall arrived, these were the franchise’s single-season receiving records:

  • Receptions: 100 — Marty Booker, 2001
  • Receptions per game: 6.6 — Johnny Morris, 1964
  • Receiving yards: 1400 — Marcus Robinson, 1999
  • Receiving TDs: 13 — Dick Gordon, 1970, and Ken Kavanaugh, 1947
  • Receiving yards per game: 94.0 — Harlon Hill, 1956

Here are those records now:

  • Receptions: 118 — Brandon Marshall, 2012
  • Receptions per game: 7.4 — Brandon Marshall, 2012
  • Receiving yards: 1508 — Brandon Marshall, 2012
  • Receiving TDs: 13 — Gordon and Kavanaugh (Marshall’s 12 in 2013 is tied for 3rd, and his 11 in 2012 is tied for 7th)
  • Receiving yards per game: 94.3 — Brandon Marshall, 2012

In 45 games over three seasons, Marshall left his mark on the Bears record book:

  • Receptions: 279 (9th)
  • Receptions per game: 6.2 (1st — Alshon Jeffery is 2nd at 4.8)
  • Receiving yards: 3,524 (12th)
  • Receiving TDs: 31 (t-5th)
  • Receiving yards per game: 78.3 (1st — Alshon Jeffery is 2nd at 72.2)

2. Alshon Jeffery — When I sent my list to the WCG team, my top 3 for this question was actually Marshall, Marty Booker, and Curtis Conway. But that is a double standard, judging BMarsh for his peak and Booker/Conway for their longevity. We’ve got to have Alshon here. His 2013 would have set a franchise record for receiving yards (1,421) if not for Marshall’s 2012.

And while I think of him as a guy with just “two good years,” he clocked in 800+ receiving yards in 2015 and 2016, and finished his Bears career with these ranks:

  • Receptions: 304 (7th)
  • Receptions per game: 4.8 (2nd)
  • Receiving yards: 4,549 (3rd)
  • Receiving TDs: 26 (9th)
  • Receiving yards per game: 72.2 (2nd)

Additionally, as much as I am ostensibly a Marcus Robinson homer, I have to give it up to Alshon for a 2013 that knocked off Robinson’s 1999 as the best deep ball season in Bears history. Please forgive me Marcus. You’re still my favorite.

3. Marty Booker — When Marty Booker made the Pro Bowl in 2002, he was the first Bears receiver in 32 years to receive the honor. The season before, in 2001, Booker shattered Johnny Morris’s 37-year-old franchise record for receptions in a season, notching 100 to pass Morris’s 93. In 2001 and 2002, Booker became the 2nd Bear to notch multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons, after Harlon Hill, and the first two do it in consecutive seasons, which Marshall and Jeffery both later did. Props to Marty:

  • Receptions: 329 (t-4th)
  • Receptions per game: 4.0 (t-7th)
  • Receiving yards: 3,895 (8th)
  • Receiving TDs: 25 (t-10th)
  • Receiving yards per game: 47.5 (15th)

Perfect four-receiver set?

Overall #1: Brandon Marshall

Deep threat: Marcus Robinson — My extreme homerism won’t let me change up. Not very journalistic of me, I know. But that’s what polls and comment sections are for.

For your viewing pleasure, here is Robinson hauling in an 80-yard touchdown in 1999 against the Eagles, the first NFL touchdown pass for Cade McNown:

Hands man: Marty Booker... although BMarsh is really our hands man. This is one of those somewhat bogus distinctions where a player less talented overall is lauded for superiority in a single category, even if said more talented player is also more talented in that category.

Slot speed: Devin Hester. Let me take this as an opportunity to tell people once and for all: Devin Hester was NOT a bad receiver! He was merely a bad #1 receiver. Totally different and not his fault. I would like to remind everyone of two facts to support this selection:

  1. Devin was a unique threat. When the Bears turned Hester into a receiver in 2007, one of our best offensive plays was what I liked to call “Devin go deep.” It was an automatic pass interference, because Devin proved himself an adept pass catcher, like his 81-yard TD against Minnesota, or his 55-yarder against New Orleans.
  2. Devin had good hands! Exhibit A: this nifty TD against Dallas in 2010.

Exhibit B: Hester grabbed two clutch catches in the epic 97-yard game-winning drive in 2007 in Philadelphia, catching both passes thrown his way, a 9-yard gain on 3rd and 1, and a 21-yard gain on 2nd and 10 that set up the game-winning touchdown to Moose.

Exhibit C: As a Bear, Hester’s catch percentage (the percentage of passes thrown to him that he caught) was 55.6%. That’s not the best in the world (Jeff Graham has the highest percentage of full-time WRs at 63.0%, for instance), but it’s better than several guys thought of as being more “traditional” receivers, such as Ricky Proehl (55.2%), Conway (54.2%), Robinson (53.3%), Berrian (50.2%), Rashied Davis (50.0%), and Muhammad (49.1%).

Favorite single-season wide receiver seasons?

1. Marcus Robinson 1999

2. Brandon Marshall 2012

3. Alshon Jeffery 2013

4. Marty Booker 2001

5. Bernard Berrian 2006

6. Curtis Conway 1995

7. Jeff Graham 1996

8. Ricky Proehl 1997

9. Devin Hester 2007

10. Muhsin Muhammad 2005

Honorable mention: Da Gawd Tom Waddle, 1993

(s/o Johnny Knox 2010)

So... what did the WCG crew have to say?

Jeff Berckes: Jack — I, too, have a Tom Waddle jersey. I bought it with money I made shoveling neighbors’ driveways throughout the winter. I bought it a couple sizes too big because I wanted to be able to wear it as I grew. I can still fit into it.

I "customized" it, which at the time was adding these white letters, and they creased where they pressed against the front collar. Jerseys are way better these days. We went up to Platteville that summer and stood on the fence line. Tom signed the jersey for me, on the 7 on the front of the jersey. I wore that thing all the time, to the point where the sharpie ink faded. I then retraced the signature at least once, maybe twice over the years.

Fast forward. I’m a senior in high school and Tom is on a speaking circuit and gives a talk to my high school. I, of course, wear the jersey. I go up to him afterwards and he says something to the effect of “I thought I saw my number out there — was hoping that wasn't a D'Wayne Bates jersey.”

I said, “You were my favorite player growing up. I idolized you.” He said, "Man, you need to pick better idols."

He told a story about how Deion Sanders told him after a game that he was the best white receiver in the league. He was pretty proud of that until someone pointed out to him that there were only a handful in the league. Really funny guy, very approachable.

I have purchased a Hester jersey, an Alshon jersey (ugh) and a Berrian jersey (double ugh) so I have some affliction for WRs too. I played OL/DL, so it’s a fat kid dream I guess.

Answer to your questions:

Best receivers:

Marshall

Booker

Alshon

For the second one, I’m going in a different direction. I thought B-Twice was an amazing deep threat for us and he fizzled out after he left. Marshall is the ultimate hands man, better than Booker. He's a #1 in that he's so good at being a possession receiver that he's the top target.

But at their peak, I would take the game-changing ability of Alshon. This is complete bias on my part but I was at the game in Minneapolis where he just took over. He was absolutely dominant.

I think Knox is a tragic story. He was establishing himself as a fantastic slot guy and could be a credible burner. I loved him, wanted his jersey but they never put one up for sale (that I could remember).

Overall #1: Alshon

Deep threat: Berrian

Hands man: Marshall

Slot speed: Knox

As for my favorite season, I’d say Waddle ‘93 because I was a kid and thought he was the greatest thing ever. Alshon ‘13, as I saw that dominant game and was wowed by him even before that game. Then B-Twice '06, as it prompted a jersey purchase too. Way too many jerseys... Those are my favorites.

Lester Wiltfong: Best three is tough. Jeffery is probably a better football player than Conway, but Conway did it longer as a Bear. And speaking of doing it longer, Jeffery had more yards and catches than Marshall, but Marshall was such a good player, it seems weird not having him on this list.

For the top 4, Marshall was the most talented, but I’d have Jeffery for the deep threat. He was a similar player to Robinson (a long striding, go up and get it WR), but he was a better football player.

Booker had better hands than Marshall, who suffered from lapses of concentration, which led to him having a lot of drops.

For the speed "slot" guy, I’d take Knox over Hester, just because from a “send him straight down the seam” standpoint, I’d trust him to make the catch more than I’d trust Hester.

For one best season, that one Robinson season was really, really good. Marshall and Jeffery had some good years in Chicago. I did a WCG series a few years back spotlighting Greatest Bears Seasons, and I looked at Booker’s from 2001.

Jeff: Lester — that's a good point about Booker over Marshall for hands. Plus I think Booker’s hands were ginormous. Marshall had a lot of drops. Maybe “hands guy” isn’t the right term but “chains mover.” Marshall could post up and out-muscle you, move the chains.

Jack: I like that — "chains mover." Also, shoutout to BMarsh, who was a killer blocker.

Bottom line: who is your specialist for a big 3rd down? Even if Hester was your 3rd receiver, he wasn't necessarily the best chains mover, even if I think he took more flack than he deserved.

Ken Mitchell: I’m going like this:

Overall #1: Marshall

Deep threat: Jeffery

Hands man: Mariani (He was CLUTCH)

Slot speed: Knox

Best WR’s?

Marshall

Booker

Jeffery

Most overrated: Jefferies. That guy got a lot of press but I never once saw him on the field.

Jack: Especially when you consider his hype, that Jefferies guy never showed up when we needed him. Huge letdown.

Josh Sunderbruch: I agree on Knox over Hester for the slot.

Robert Zeglinski:

Three best Post-Ditka receivers:

Brandon Marshall

Alshon Jeffery — inconsistent but incredibly talented

Marty Booker

Perfect four WR set:

No. 1: Brandon Marshall. Most complete receiver the Bears have ever had, let alone post-Ditka.

Deep threat: Johnny Knox. If not for his unfortunate back injury, he’d still be playing and lighting up defensive backs with his top speed.

Hands: Marshall. Again, he was the most complete Bears receiver for a reason even f he had occasional issues. A guy you could consistently feed the rock to.

Slot WR: Controversial pick possibly, but Earl Bennett. The man just knew how to get open and was a key contributor on those early Cutler era teams.

Favorite Bears WR seasons:

Alshon Jeffery 2013. To me, this was bar none the best a Bears WR has ever played and it’s magnified because it was Jeffery’s breakout year. From his first 200-yard plus game against the Saints to ridiculous catch after ridiculous catch against the Vikings and Cowboys, Jeffery was a human highlight reel unlike anyone I’ve ever seen at the position in Chicago. Just immensely gifted and breathtaking.

Everyone else.

Sam Householder: No one mentions Bobby Engram? He caught around 60 percent of his passes with the Bears and was a good “chains mover,” though his best years were post-Bears.

Three best Post-Ditka: Marshall, Jeffery and Booker

My four set would be: Marshall (#1), Jeffery (deep), Booker (hands), Knox (speed).

My favorite seasons:

Marshall 2012

Jeffery 2013

Booker '02

Knox '10

Conway '95

In my role as impartial arbiter, based on the above debate, here are the WCG All-Bears Post-Ditka receivers:

WIDE RECEIVER #1 (Z) — Brandon Marshall

WIDE RECEIVER #2 (X) — Alshon Jeffery

WIDE RECEIVER #3 (slot) — Marty Booker

When we put together our 53-man roster, we’ll decide how many wideouts to take, and how the depth chart will look. Sit tight Marcus. Your time will come.

For now, I want to hear from readers. Who are the best Bears receivers in the post-Ditka era, considering our breakdowns? Remember, we are only judging the player’s time in Chicago, and only from 1993 to 2016.

Drop your explanation in the comments.

NEXT WEDNESDAY: the last line of defense... the safety...

All statistics from pro-football-reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

AND NOW...

YOU BE THE JUDGE

Poll

Who is the BEST Bears wide receiver in the post-Ditka era? (1993-2016)

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Bernard Berrian
    (0 votes)
  • 3%
    Marty Booker
    (9 votes)
  • 2%
    Curtis Conway
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    Alshon Jeffery
    (16 votes)
  • 83%
    Brandon Marshall
    (211 votes)
  • 1%
    Muhsin Muhammad
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Marcus Robinson
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (2 votes)
253 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the best Bears DEEP BALL wide receiver in the post-Ditka era?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Bernard Berrian
    (34 votes)
  • 4%
    Curtis Conway
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Jeff Graham
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    Devin Hester
    (9 votes)
  • 48%
    Alshon Jeffery
    (105 votes)
  • 13%
    Johnny Knox
    (29 votes)
  • 2%
    Brandon Marshall
    (6 votes)
  • 10%
    Marcus Robinson
    (22 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (1 vote)
217 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the best Bears SHORT YARDAGE CHAINS MOVER wide receiver in the post-Ditka era?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Earl Bennett
    (44 votes)
  • 13%
    Marty Booker
    (29 votes)
  • 2%
    Rashied Davis
    (6 votes)
  • 6%
    Bobby Engram
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    Alshon Jeffery
    (8 votes)
  • 31%
    Brandon Marshall
    (66 votes)
  • 2%
    Muhsin Muhammad
    (5 votes)
  • 17%
    Tom Waddle
    (38 votes)
  • 1%
    Other
    (3 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the best PURE SPEED Bears receiver in the post-Ditka era?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Bernard Berrian
    (18 votes)
  • 7%
    Curtis Conway
    (17 votes)
  • 30%
    Devin Hester
    (65 votes)
  • 53%
    Johnny Knox
    (115 votes)
  • 0%
    Alshon Jeffery
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (1 vote)
216 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What was your FAVORITE SINGLE SEASON for a Bears receiver in the post-Ditka era? (Limit one season per player — rec., yards, TD)

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Bernard Berrian, 2006 (51, 775, 6)
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Marty Booker, 2001 (100, 1071, 8)
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    Curtis Conway, 1995 (62, 1037, 12)
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Bobby Engram, 1999 (88, 947, 4)
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Jeff Graham, 1995 (82, 1301, 4)
    (1 vote)
  • 23%
    Alshon Jeffery, 2013 (89, 1421, 7)
    (49 votes)
  • 2%
    Johnny Knox, 2010 (51, 960, 5)
    (5 votes)
  • 52%
    Brandon Marshall, 2012 (118, 1508, 11)
    (108 votes)
  • 0%
    Muhsin Muhammad, 2005 (40, 570, 3)
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Ricky Proehl, 1997 (58, 753, 7)
    (1 vote)
  • 10%
    Marcus Robinson, 1999 (84, 1400, 9)
    (21 votes)
  • 1%
    Other
    (4 votes)
206 votes total Vote Now