It was, of course, difficult to parse through 89 seasons of Chicago Bears History to come up with a narrow list of players not recognized by the Bears or the NFL Hall of Fame, but who I thought were worthy of recognition. Of course we may be wrong on some, and even hear it from people as opinions will vary. The following are some Bears legends that were worthy players but we just couldn’t fit them in.
Older players Beattie Feathers, Ken Kavanaugh and Johnny Lujack. Each of these guys was worthy. Feathers became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in 1934, but he didn’t play for the Bears for long and is not high on the list of all-time rushers. Kavanaugh was a great receiver, top-notch person and a decorated World War II veteran, but didn’t have the numbers with the Bears to make this list. Lujack may have been the second greatest Bears quarterback of all time after Sid Luckman, but again didn’t have the overall numbers. If Lujack is added, then why not Ed Brown, Bill Wade and others. One of the hardest parts of building this list was dealing with “if you include him, you have to include him and him,” etc.
Brian Piccolo is included in this list, despite not being a great football player. We included him because of Brian’s character and determination in battling cancer, and the attention his fight brought to the Bears and the effort to fight his disease. Some might think that if Piccolo is added because he died, then why not add Willie Galimore and John Farrington, who both died young as players. But Piccolo’s story stands alone.
More members of the late 1950′s/early 1960′s Bears defense. The Bears had many more great players particularly on defense during this era, but we couldn’t add all of guys like Larry Morris, Richie Pettibon, Roosevelt Taylor, Dave Whitsell, etc.
Doug Plank. This one could be controversial, as Plank is revered in these parts. Plank came close to making the list, but it would be hard to include whole position groups (both safeties) from a particular era. Gary Fencik bests Plank as he played 12 years for the Bears (to Plank’s 8 ) and is Chicago’s all-time interception leader.
Mike Hartenstine. Played for the Bears for 12 seasons and was vastly underrated. But here we’re guilty of underrating him again because his contemporaries were just so darn great.
Tom Thayer, Mark Bortz and Keith Van Horne. These guys were warriors and made up without question the best offensive line in football from 1984-1986. (Thayer didn’t play in 1984, Kurt Becker did, but you get the idea). It was tough to cut Thayer, Bortz and VanHorne and leave Covert and Hilgenberg, but both of those men are mentioned as potential Hall of Famers.
Otis Wilson and Wilber Marshall. Wilson, Singletary and Marshall were a linebacking corps for the ages. We had intended to list them all. But it would be unfair to include both of them without a guy like Larry Morris. If one looks at Wilson and Marshall’s stats over their careers, actually surprisingly they don’t really jump off the page. But their play far surpassed their stats. But we still couldn’t include everyone.
Neal Anderson. Anderson is still the Bears’ second all-time leading rusher behind Walter Payton, and the Bears had an incredible run from 1975-1992 with Anderson and Payton running the ball for them. The Anderson years are still very fond memories for us, but he just flamed out too soon. He had only three very strong years (1988-1990) and tailed off quickly after that. Two more and he’d be here for sure.
George “Mugs” Halas Jr. For sure “Mugs” was a large part of the Bears’ organization for many years, and his untimely death shook and changed the organization forever, because it eliminated the Halas name from ever again having a part in the organization’s operations. But we just couldn’t open it up to one non-player.