Bears Hall of Fame Nominees

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

This Fanpost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.

Chicago Bears is the legacy franchise on the NFL. Subsequently, the league holds them to high regards when they considering their players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Bears is far and above every other franchise in this category, as we can list 30 enshrined primary members, six with minor portion of their career with the Bears, and three more that aren’t listed in the franchise HOF Records (George Allen, Dick Stanfel and Sid Gillman). It's also important to note that the franchise has at least one Hall of Fame player in every position, except Wide receiver and Safety (excluding specialty positions).

The fact that the Bears has so many players can act as a double edge sword, as many selectors feel more obliged to vote for players from other franchises, while the team representatives can only usually put only one name for vote per year (that especially true for the 80's stars, but more on that later).

Two Bears will be enshrine in the 2020 class - Offensive tackle Jim Covert and defensive end Ed Sprinkle – but the list of deserving players goes on and on. I divided the list to eight categories, for a better feel about their chances.

Side note: The NFL weren't the only ones giving an "All-Decade" recognitions, and this list will include all of the "major" publications. Pro Football Journal also recognize a "Mid-Decade Team" from 1925 onwards.

Legend: NFL – NFL/HOF, SI - Sports Illustrated, SN - Sporting News, FD - Football Digest, USA – USA Today, PFRA - Professional Football Researchers Association, PFR -, PFJ - Pro Football Journal.

Next in line

1. Devin Hester, KR/PR, 2006–2013
* NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
* NFL 2000s & 2010s All-Decade Team
* 4× Pro Bowl (2006, 2007, 2010, 2014)
* 3× First-team All-Pro (2006, 2007, 2010)
* Second-team All-Pro (2011)

A sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer. The best returner in the history of the game, and one of the few players that were selected to NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team before they got to Canton. We can see the Bears come back to the HOF game by 2023.

What are you waiting for?

1. Jay Hilgenberg, C/LS, 1981–1991
* PFJ's 1985-1995 Mid-Decade Team
* Super Bowl champion (XX)
* 7× Pro Bowl (1985–1991)
* 5× All-Pro (1986–1990)
* 2× All-NFC (1985, 1991)

Has all the accolades to be selected, but somehow never even got to be a semi-finalist. He's no longer eligible for the regular voting, but he'll be a stronger candidate in the Senior Committee. Hilgenberg is the first player in the Top 100 greatest Bears of all-time list whiteout a HOF recognition, and the team representor in the committee, Dan Pompei, and CEO George McCaskey both mention several times that he's on the short list.

2. Joe Fortunato, OLB, 1955–1966
* NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
* 1960s All-Decade 2nd. Team (PFR, PFJ)
* PFJ's 1955-1965 Mid-Decade Team
* PFRA's Hall of Very Good (2017)
* 5× Pro Bowl (1958, 1962–1965)
* 3× First-team All-Pro (1963–1965)
* 3× Second-team All-Pro (1958, 1962, 1966)
* NFL Champion (1963)

Another player that can get in only through the Senior Committee. One of the greats in his era, but played second fiddle to the great Bill George and was forgotten by many. Fortunato got the recognition in real time, but never in the HOF ballot.

* Clark Shaughnessy, Coach, 1951–1962
* 4 times finalist: 1969, 1970, 1975, 1976
* the "father of the T formation" and the one that cause the increasing use of the forward pass.
* Bears first Defensive Coordinator
* Help inventing the 5-3-3 and 4-3 Defenses

I can't understand why he wasn't a nominee for the Centennial Class of 2020. One of the greatest inventors of the game that keep getting kicked aside by more recognizable (i.e modern) players and coaches (coaches never moving to the Senior Committee), but even on a league of "what have you done for me lately" he should be an exception.

Maybe the Pro Football Hall of Fame should change his status to a "Contributor", and he'll get a better chance of getting in.

Should get in

1. Charles Tillman, CB, 2003–2014
* PFJ's 2005-2015 All Mid-Decade Team (HM)
* 2× Pro Bowl (2011, 2012)
* First-team All-Pro (2012)
* Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (2013)
* 3× Brian Piccolo Award (2003, 2008, 2013)
* 44 Career Forced Fumbles
* Was known for his cover skills as well as his ability to force fumbles by stripping or "punching" the ball away from players ("the Peanut Punch")

Go watch the 2012 game against the Titans. I'm not talking about his greatest performance, I'm talking about the broadcast. The entire game was a "mea culpa" about his career, and how much he was disrespected. Tillman is also the rare breed of players that strengthening his case in retirement, when players keep preforming the "Peanut Punch". It going to take a while, but he will get in, this chart is all that he needs.

2. Lance Briggs, OLB, 2003–2014
* 2000s All-Decade 2nd. Team (USA)
* PFJ's 2005-2015 All Mid-Decade Team (HM)
* 7× Pro Bowl (2005–2011)
* First-team All-Pro (2005)
* 2× Second-team All-Pro (2006, 2009)

Like Fortunato, Briggs played in the shadow of a first ballot Hall of Famer. Unlike Fortunato he got a modern media that can back his case. We should see how he fares by the national voters in the coming years.

3. Steve McMichael, DT, 1981–1993
* 1980s All-Decade 2nd. Team (PFR)
* PFJ's 1985-1995 Mid-Decade Team
* 2× Pro Bowl (1986, 1987)
* 2× First-team All-Pro (1985, 1987)
* 3× Second-team All-Pro (1986, 1988, 1991)
* Super Bowl champion (XX)

The McMichael case is interesting one. Like Jerry Kramer he's last in line of a long list of Hall of Famers on the same team. But unlike Kramer, McMichael has the benefit of having his spiritual clone - Warren Sapp – getting in already.

4. Olin Kreutz, C, 1998–2010
* NFL 2000s All-Decade Team (2nd.)
* 6× Pro Bowl (2001–2006)
* First-team All-Pro (2006)
* Second-team All-Pro (2005)

Kreutz is stuck behind a backlog of great OL's that trying to get in. It's not going to be easy for him, but the vast majority of modern (i.e post-merger) NFL All-Decaders get in eventually.

Has a puncher's chance

1. Harlon Hill, WR, 1954–1961
* NFL MVP (1955)
* PFRA's Hall of Very Good (2014)
* 1950s All-Decade Team (FD, SI)
* 3× Pro Bowl (1954–1956)
* 3× All-Pro (1954–1956)
* 2× NFL receiving touchdowns leader (1954, 1955)

In the NBA, a MVP award is pretty much grantees that you get to the HOF, unfortunately not in football. He was GREAT in his prime, but Injuries began to take their toll on Hill's NFL career and it was essentially over when he completely severed his Achilles tendon in 1958. He was Derrick Rose before Derrick Rose, and both of them will need the stars to align perfectly to get in (Rose will probably get in, Hill not).

2. Wilber Marshall, LB, 1984–1987
* PFJ's 1985-1995 Mid-Decade Team
* NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1992)
* 3× Pro Bowl (1986, 1987, 1992)
* 3× All-Pro (1986, 1991, 1992)
* NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year (1993)
* 2× NFLPA NFC Linebacker of the Year (1992, 1993)
* 2× Super Bowl champion (XX, XXVI)

One of the favorite players during the Superbowl era, which was allowed to leave for Washington. That's actually a good thing for his chances, as both team consider him one of their own, and are willing to hype him up on minute notice.

3. Richie Petitbon, S, 1959–1968
* 1960s All-Decade Team (SI)
* PFJ's 1955-1965 Mid-Decade Team
* 4× Pro Bowl (1962, 1963, 1966, 1967)
* First-team All-Pro (1963)
* NFL champion (1963)

I'm cheating here a little, because his name is keep popping up as a coach. He's arguably the best Safety in Bears history, and that's telling, but was overshadows by other greats in his era. Petitbon chances getting in are probably tying to his coaching career.

(Fun fact: he's the last one of Halas's direct coaching tree to receive a head coaching job)

Long shots

1. Rick Casares, FB, 1955–1964

2. Ken Kavanaugh, WR, 1940–1941, 1945–1950

3. Bill Osmanski, FB, 1939–1947

4. Larry Morris, LB, 1959–1965

5. Jim McMillen, OG, 1924–1928

Casares should probably be in the earlier list, but his lack of high credentials will probably kill most serious attempts. Although he was a beast in the 50's and probably one of the best (old-time) Fullbacks ever, he's probably not getting in.

The other three all been on a NFL All-Decade Team, but probably belongs to the "very good but not great" category. McMillen is a different monster, he had a very short but amazing career (5 times First-team All-Pro) in an era without any film, so the voters can't really measure his career against other greats.

Should be in, has no shot

1. Joey Sternaman, QB/HB/K, 1922-25, 1927-30

2. Patrick Mannelly, LS, 1998–2013

3. "Automatic" Jack Manders, HB/K, 1933–1940

4. Joe Kopcha, OG, 1929–1935

Three name on the list are pre-WWII era players that became forgettable through time. Sternaman, my personal favorite, was probably in Halas's dog house when the HOF committee selected the 1920's all decade team in retrospect (while the undeserving "Hunk" Anderson, Halas assistant, got in). He was chosen by others outlets, and was probably top ten player in the league first decade. Just look him up, he was AMAZING.

Manders was the inventor of the Kicker position, one of the most recognized figures outside the league, and the best for a long time. He was the second NFL player on the Wheaties box (after Benny Friedman), and can be considered as the Bears MVP of the 1933 (champions) and 1934 (undefended regular season & 1st. "Sneakers Game") seasons - although he played with six (!) Hall of Famers.

Kopcha was great by his own right and got selected to the Pro Football Illustrated All-Time Team (1947), while both he and Manders got selected to the 1930's All-Decade Team by non-NFL selectors.

Mannelly is another story altogether. He's the best player in his position, but at one that wasn't exist 20 years ago. By the time they'll select a Long Snapper to the HOF, he we'll be long forgotten (no pun intended).

Minor portion of career with Bears (must have's only)

1. Julius Peppers, Edge

2. Ruben Brown, OG

3. Chuck Howley, LB

4. Dick Barwegen, LB

5. Jim Benton, WR

Peppers is a shoo-in Hall of Famer, and I don't think I can add to that. On the other end, Brown is somehow keep getting left out from the yearly list of nominees, although his credentials are top notch and should be at least a finalist in one of those years. Someone in Buffalo needs to wake up and hype the dude.

The other three are long overdue, and should hear their name from the Senior Committee. In my book Howley had to be on the Centennial Class nominees, but he'll probably get his chance on the regular route (don't forget Dallas hype machine can do wonders). Barwegen played for so many teams, therefore nobody willing to really "vouch" for him. Benton was great, but he played during the war years, and people hold it against him.

Out of the picture completely

1. Beattie Feathers, HB, 1934–37 – 1970 Finalist

2. Willie Galimore, HB, 1957–1963 – 1992 Finalist

Both were electric players in their time, and both are Senior Committee finalists that got rejected in the final committee (rarest of the rare). Their names will never be mention again, and that's the correct decision, as both belongs to the Hall of Very Good.


All in all, I think there's five former Bears (including Peppers) that are deserving to be in the Hall of Fame as I'm writing it. Four more are on the brink of getting in, and the others are essentially on the outside looking in.

This Fanpost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.