I sent the email to the staff in February. With this being the 100th Bears season, it would seem fitting that we rank the 100 best Bears players of all time.
Soon a team of volunteers for this was formed: myself, Jeff Berckes, who was as enthusiastic as me about the idea, historian Jack Silverstein, top boss Lester A. Wiltfong Jr., Optimist Prime Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter and film expert Jacob Infante.
Then it came time to work up a methodology. We decided a vote would be good, but I had to turn to Jeff, our analytics man, to concoct a weighted system that would fairly balance out our personal bias and allow for a more complete list.
Creating a list of the Top 100 players in Chicago Bears history is at best an imperfect science. The top of any list will feature the game’s best, players that transformed the game or defined their position, playing at peak levels for long periods of time. After that wave of transcendence, voters may go in different directions, balancing shorter careers with high peaks against long and solid careers with no discernible peaks. Post season honors, team success or lack thereof, games and years played, championships won, and statistical accumulation are just some of the factors that can weigh into an evaluation. Only one grading principle was agreed upon at the start – players should be compared to how they performed in their era against other players from their era. In other words, a more modern player may be athletically superior to a historic player but he should only be judged at his level of competition.
Development of the list was an iterative process involving ten rounds of voting. A list of eligible players was collected and added to a player pool from a variety of sources. In the first round, the WCG contributors ranked the top 15 players in the history of the Chicago Bears using their own individual evaluation metrics. The votes were scored (1st place vote = 15 points, 15th place vote = 1 point) and added together to create a raw score. A weighted average was calculated by taking the total score multiplied by the number of ballots the player appeared on, divided by the number of possible ballots. This weighted score was used in situations to help “break ties” where scores were approximately equal. The top ten vote-getters from the first round were recorded in their respective ranks and cleared from the player pool. The voters repeated this process for a total of 10 rounds until a top 100 list was created.
After allowing the dust to settle on the list, the group deliberated on any glaring issues including whether a player was ranked too high or too low or whether or not a snubbed player deserved inclusion. After reaching consensus, mostly minor alterations were made and the list was finalized. An important note - while it was not a written rule, there were enough contributors that considered the impact of players with fewer than 3 years of service to not be eligible for this list. That means current players like Eddie Jackson and Khalil Mack will not be on the list despite the likelihood of their inclusion in a list like this down the road.
We also agreed that a players’ contributions mattered to their Bears playing career only. That means that there could be no inserting of “what ifs” for players such as Greg Olsen, Thomas Jones and Orlando Pace. Each a great player, but their contributions in Chicago were short and in the case the former two, great, while the latter was great elsewhere first but disappointing here.
That also means that the coaching career of Mike Ditka was not to be weighed and George Halas’ importance as owner, coach and founder were also set aside in favor of only his playing days.
This means that ours differs from the Bears’ own list, which includes both Mack and Jackson and could very well have Ditka and Halas higher than we do (that’s a teaser, not a spoiler). Other than that, there will be some similarities and differences. It’s not meant to be gospel. This is meant to be, as all lists are, the writers’ rankings, but we’re damn proud of this list, a LOT of emails, a lot of good debate, a lot of consensus, a lot of dissent and plenty of stats and more went into this.
We wanted this list to not just represent the six of us, but the site, the fans and most importantly, the deep and rich history of the greatest and oldest professional football franchise in the National Football League.
Stay tuned for tomorrow and each week after, as we reveal the list 10 at a time. There will also be more articles surrounding the list, regarding snubs, honorable mentions, players that an individual writer thought should have been ranked higher or lower, etc. It’s going to be a fun thing to fill the gap until training camp.
You can check out our countdown to number one by clicking right here.