One of the more loaded positions in the best Bears positional analysis of the past 30 years is defensive tackle.
Candidates: Jim Flanigan (1994-2000); Tommie Harris (2004-2007); Steve McMichael (1981-1993); Alan Page (1978-1981); William Perry (1985-1993); Keith Traylor (2001-2003); Ted Washington (2001-2002); Mike Wells (1998-2000); Chris Zorich (1991-1996)
Even during the awful late Ditka/Wannstedt/Jauron years, the Chicago Bears still had notable defensive tackles, and here, by process of elimination, is www.BearsHistory.com’s best defensive tackle of the last 30 years.
First up for elimination are the late-1990′s tandem of Mike Wells and Jim Flanigan.? First Flanigan, then Wells, brought respectability back to the interior of the Bears’ defensive line for Wannstedt and Jauron.? Both signed manageable five-year deals prior to the 1998 season, then both were released following 2000.
Another tandem falls next, this time it’s the tandem that completely replaced Wells and Flanigan in 2001: Keith Traylor and Ted Washington.? Some called this new tandem “700 pounds of ass,” as Traylor weighed easily over 330 and Washington must have hit 370 at times.? Washington became the first Bear DT to make the Pro Bowl since McMichael in 2001, but was injured in ’02 and traded to New England in ’04.? In 2007, Washington starts his 17th season in Cleveland.? Traylor made it with the Bears through 2003, and is also entering his 17th season in the NFL.
At number 5 on the list of defensive tackles of the last 30 years is Alan Page.? Page was a feared member of Minnesota’s “Purple People Eater” defense in the 1970′s, and came to the Bears in 1978 with former Viking coaches Neill Armstrong and Buddy Ryan.? The Hall of Famer still put in quality time with Chicago, but was at the end of his career.
Chris Zorich ranks #4.? Mike Ditka wanted to draft Zorich in the first round of the 1991 draft instead of worthless tackle Stan Thomas, but was overruled.? Zorich lasted until Chicago’s pick at the end of the second round, and the lifelong Bear fan became a Bear.? A classic overachiever, Zorich broke out in 1993 and played for the Bears until Mark Hatley cut him in training camp 1997.? Was best when someone dominant was next to him.
William “Refrigerator” Perry comes in at the third position.? Of course Fridge made his name and his legacy by being a clown with the ball, but when he was in shape was dominant against the run.? Not much of a factor as a pass rusher past his rookie season.? Wannstedt cut Perry in 1993, only his ninth season when the aforementioned Traylor and Washington are in their 16th.
Our top candidates for best Bears DT of the last 30 years are Tommie Harris and Steve McMichael.? This one isn’t close now, but we have a feeling it will be in a couple years.
Tommie Harris is now regarded as in the top handful of defensive tackles in the entire NFL.? He’s the perfect fit for Lovie Smith’s three-technique defensive line, and is as disruptive equally against the run and pass as any player at his position.? He’s made the Pro Bowl two years straight, and should continue visiting Hawaii into the future if his torn hamstring is sufficiently healed in 2007.
But for now, Steve McMichael and his 191 consecutive games played, 92.5 sacks, and three safeties top our list.? McMichael was cut by the New England Patriots in 1981, and came to the Bears as a late-season replacement for the injured Brad Shearer.? With McMichael, the rest is dominant history.