My colleague Josh Sunderbruch took some heat earlier this month on his favorite running back column. In that 30-in-30, Josh explained why Matt Forte was his favorite running back (and not the great Walter Payton). Really, there can be no wrong answer to this question. It’s like the SNL parody of Celebrity Jeopardy, where Will Ferrell asks to write a number, any number and you’ll win. There are no wrong answers (except Cedric Benson...that’s an incorrect response).
I want to answer one of the Hall of Fame players the Bears have in their hallowed history; George Trafton, Bulldog Turner, George Musso, or Stan Jones to name a few. And if you pushed me to pick a favorite historical player, my answer would be Trafton, but considering my grandfather was born around the time Trafton was playing, that’s a hard sell.
What about someone from the ’85 team? An underrated unit with some great players - Jim Covert, Mark Bortz, Jay Hilgenberg, Tom Thayer, and Keith Van Horne. I can even make a good argument as a University of Iowa fan for Bortz and Hilgenberg as both played their college ball for Hayden Fry and the Hawkeyes. (It’s a shame that the HOF committee didn’t put Hilgenberg in – 7-time pro bowl, 5-time all pro).
But I really didn’t appreciate offensive line play until all of those players had retired. That’s probably the biggest factor in who my favorite offensive lineman is – the time I’ve spent watching their work in real time as games and seasons progress.
My all-time favorite offensive lineman is OIin Kreutz. If there is one player that embodies the throwback style of some of the most compelling stories of the early brawler days of Trafton, it is Kreutz. The Hawaiian played with a fire and nastiness that made him a team leader and even a fan favorite for those paying attention.
Smart and powerful, Kreutz was equally adept at calling pass protection for the line and leading the way as the pivot in the run game. He was not completely overlooked either, earning 6 pro bowls and a first team all-pro nod in 2006. What may be even more impressive was that Kreutz was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-2000’s team as a second teamer, backing up Kevin Mawae. All of this recognition on Bears squads with less than stellar offensive production is very impressive.
The other offensive linemen on that all-decade team include Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace, Willie Roaf, Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson, Larry Allen, and Will Shields. Ogden, Roaf, Jones, Shields, Allen, and Pace are in the Hall while Faneca and Mawae were finalists last year and Hutchinson’s first year of eligibility is this season. In other words, Kreutz may not get there himself, but he’s as close as you can be to HOF production without getting in.
Kreutz was never afraid to mix it up on the field, break the jaw of a teammate, or chase his college QB for making a comment about his mom. I think that had to be a comfort to any of the 17 quarterbacks that Kreutz snapped the ball to over his 13 years wearing the navy and orange #57. The guy giving you the ball also had your back through thick and thin…just don’t say anything about his mom.
Who is your all-time favorite offensive lineman?