Let’s focus on something kind of fun for once. In the long line of great Chicago Bears linebackers, one recordholder may surprise you. In 1993, Dante Jones went on a heater. Named the fulltime starter at middle linebacker after Mike Singletary’s retirement, Jones played out of his mind. He recorded 189 tackles, snared 4 interceptions, and recorded a sack. His performance earned him a Defensive Player of the Year vote. The 189 tackles stands as the franchise record in team history.
We should mention that tackles are a tricky stat. Our friends at Pro Football Reference refer to tackles before 1994 as “unofficial and inconsistently recorded from team to team” and that they are “for amusement only.” In fact, they don’t even show tackle numbers for Singletary or Dick Butkus because their careers didn’t extend to the ‘94 season where the stat became official. However, Wilber Marshall’s tackle numbers are available for his career because he played until 1995.
To further muddy the waters, starting in 1994, tackles are broken out by “solo,” “assist,” and “combined” tackles. The “combined” tackles being, naturally, the addition of solo and assist. Do we care about solo tackles or the combined number? If we focus on solo, Brian Urlacher’s 117 from 2002 appears to be the top mark in franchise history. Roquan Smith recorded 163 combined tackles in 2021 (95 solo, 68 assists) for the Bears. He actually topped that mark last season with 169 combined tackles but it was split between the Bears and the Ravens.
So, are we dealing with an odd statistical quirk? Is the 189 official or just officially there for our amusement?
I personally like the Jones record being on the books to discuss because it’s cool to remember a great performance from a player who served as understudy for five seasons before popping off a monster season when given the chance. Further investigation may be warranted on the unofficial statistics of other great linebackers to see where they topped out.
Unofficial, for our amusement: Dante Jones 189 combined tackles
Official: Brian Urlacher, 117 solo tackles
Roquan Smith 163 combined tackles
Let’s bring it up to 2023 and a potential fun storyline to track for the Bears. TJ Edwards is a certified tackling machine. He recorded 159 combined tackles for the Philadelphia Eagles last season and is picking up right where he left off for the Navy & Orange. Edwards recorded 43 combined tackles in September, putting him on a scorching pace for 244. The solo tackles (17, on pace for 96) are not quite a challenge Urlacher’s 117 at this point, but something to keep track of as well.
Can Edwards do it? With a healthy 17 games, I can’t see why not.
Where do you stand on the tackle record? Is it Jones’s unofficial 189, Roquan’s 163 combined, or Urlacher’s 117 solo?