Ladainian Tomlinson Chicago Bear

That’s what we could have been saying on April 21, 2001.? Or my argument is, what’s what we should have been saying.

I’m no revisionist, believe me.? The Chicago Bears with General Manager Jerry Angelo have hit on many players in his tenure, and missed on a few.? Like any other team.? And as I write this, keep in mind that Angelo’s entrance was a few months off.? Former VP of Player Personnel Mark Hatley ran the 2001 draft as a lame duck, and came up with players in the first two rounds that contributed immediately but had no long-term impact (fellow Wolverines David Terrell and Anthony Thomas).

I’ll explain the could have next; as far as the should have: Tomlinson is often referred to as the next Walter Payton, or someone that will turn out to eventually be regarded as…gulp…better than Walter Payton.? People say this because not only has he won numerous rushing titles, MVP’s, NFL Man of the Year awards (the Walter Payton Award), he seems to be a great person, as Payton was.

Can you imagine the storyline as a Bear fan?? Payton is drafted from a small school in 1975, takes Chicago by storm and becomes a Chicago Bears legend.? Tomlinson, drafted by the Bears from a small school, Chicago takes a risk, becomes an NFL legend as a Chicago Bear.? It should have happened.

Tomlinson even told the media he wanted to be a Bear.? Granted, college players will tell the local media of every team they want to be an [anything] as long as it’s with a top pick.

The drafting of Tomlinson by the late GM of San Diego, John Butler, was brilliant.? Let’s not forget, “L.T.” was far from a sure thing.? Here’s the 2001 Sporting News Draft Guide’s take on him:

Bottom Line:? One of the most difficult players to evaluate.? Was productive in college and had good Senior Bowl showing against some of the top defenders in the nation, yet he has bust written all over him.? (WHAT!?!?)? Has great speed and has shown decent hands but never has had to be [a] productive inside runner, which scares scouts.? Has first-round skills but could slide to the second round because he’s somewhat unproven.

There is no doubt the Bears would not have let him slip past their eighth pick were he still on the board that year.? But the Chargers brilliantly snapped him up at #5, snaring a legend.

I searched for an hour to find a reference to the article online, but couldn’t.? Sometime in the recent past, beat writer John Mullin of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bears had serious internal talks prior to the 2001 draft to trade up and get L.T.? Hatley apparently wanted him, but the organization (you all know who that means) decided not to invest the huge signing bonus that would have gone to the fourth or fifth overall pick of the draft.? Having drafted Curtis Enis in 1998 at 5, watched him hold out and become a bust, one must try to understand that thinking, especially with the unknowns about Tomlinson.

In hindsight, I believe anyone would have traded the Bears’ 2001 and 2002 first and second-round picks for Tomlinson (Terrell, Thomas, Marc Colombo, Rooesevelt Williams, Terrence Metcalf).? But it didn’t happen.

And imagine being the Cleveland Browns, who used the third overall pick on bust Gerard Warren.? Ah, they’re used to it.

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