Will have to find the time to write a proper BearsHistory.com tribute to Brian Urlacher, who retired on Wednesday after an illustrious career as a Chicago Bear. Despite his resorting to frequent insults of the fans in defense of Lovie Smith late in his career, and calling the Bears’ final offer of $2.5 million for one season “insulting,” Urlacher has gone out in style and grace.
In short, if I could say one thing about Urlacher’s career (when so many dozens of compliments can be made), it would be that Urlacher was the first player to give the Bears true hope for the future in a decade or more. Let us not forget that after 1993, Dave Wannstedt’s Bears had no Pro Bowl players from 1994-1998. None. Zero. The situation looked hopeless in 1997 and 1998. After being a dominant team from 1984-1991, the Bears became one of the worst teams in the league and laughingstocks. Doormats. It was bad.
Despite personnel boss Mark Hatley unsuccessfully trying to trade up to draft receiver Plaxico Burress in the 2000 draft, the Bears stayed with the ninth pick and drafted Urlacher. Given that the Bears’ quarterback, running back, defensive secondary and line positions were below average at the time, linebacker wasn’t at the top of the need list. But Urlacher’s athleticism was off the charts, and it was a best-player-available pick.
Urlacher gave hope to Bears fans starting with his NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year season in 2000, through his Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005, his game for the ages against Arizona in 2006, and his resurgence in 2010. It was great to see our Bears team again have one of the best teams in the NFL.
Thank you, Brian. See you in the Hall of Fame.