In honor of Brian Urlacher heading into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we’re sharing some our of past Urlacher articles to our front page for you guys to reminisce on.
The Chicago Bears have the most jersey numbers retired in the NFL. For them to give another player that honor, he truly has to be special, because otherwise you’re not leaving yourself much room for error in issuing out uniforms. In that respect, a ring of honor at Soldier Field is likely the next eventual step for this franchise to make it simpler on everyone.
But if the Bears did retire just one more number, I wouldn’t hesitate to give Brian Urlacher and his No. 54 that hallowed honor.
In keeping in line with the Bears’ linebacker tradition, Urlacher was truly one of the best next to Mike Singletary and Dick Butkus. When taking into account his athletic gifts only, he certainly separated himself from his Chicago counterparts. After all, how many linebackers could run like a safety (after making the position transition) and roam the field from sideline to sideline?
The man in the middle in Urlacher did it across two separate defensive schemes too, and particularly flourished in former head coach Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 as who I would pick to perfect that specific defensive playbook every time.
All of this isn’t even taking into account his general leadership in spearheading the Bears’ defensive unit for 13 seasons. Urlacher was a generational talent and genuine face of the franchise, who of course you’ll now see plastered on billboards all over Chicago for different “hair” reasons.
Given Chicago’s lack of success since his retirement in 2012, I’d argue Urlacher is still the first player people think of in the modern era five years later when name associating with the Bears. That’s not an easy task and speaks to his impact on the team and city. Urlacher’s skill set captivated the Bears for a decade and still to this day, he is easily the most talented and dynamic Bear I’ve watched.
Urlacher is the Bears’ all-time leader in tackles with a combined 1,353, which if you think about it, makes his accomplishments all the more impressive when made in comparison to previous linebacking greats. His versatility allowed him to jump off the page with 90 tackles for loss, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, and 12 interceptions as well. There wasn’t one area he couldn’t excel in if the Bears asked him to.
And think of all the iconic moments you can point to as Urlacher gears up for a Hall of Fame candidacy this year for the first time alongside other NFL greats such as Ray Lewis and Randy Moss. From his 26-tackle game in the famous Monday night comeback against the Cardinals to chasing and humbling around Michael Vick in his prime, these were “Urlacher” moments.
The accolades for Urlacher as an eight-time Pro Bowler, four-time First-team All-Pro, a Defensive Player of The Year in 2005, a Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000, and being named to the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade team are mere sprinkles on top. Everyone else recognized his notable greatness.
What was perhaps most impressive was his durability in the longevity of his career. Aside from two freak injuries in 2004 and 2009 that robbed him of 22 of 32 games total, as well as a less than ideal finish in his final season in 2012, Urlacher played in 16 games in all the other 10 seasons of his career. When the Bears needed his availability, he was almost always ready as a defensive captain should be.
Urlacher is without a doubt the best player the Bears have had post-Mike Ditka and he’s logically the only man I can think of that fits the honor of having his legendary No. 54 retired and joining other Bears greats.
Now it’s your turn, if the Bears retired one more jersey number, who should it be?
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.