So we’ve nibbled around the positions with punter, guard, center and defensive tackle covered to this point.? Not much controversy yet.? But safety is getting to one of those positions for which Bear fans have a lot of passion, and I’m sure we’ll spark some disagreement with at least one of these choices.
Candidates:? Todd Bell (1981-1984, 1986-1987); Mike Brown (2000-2007); Dave Duerson (1983-1989); Doug Plank (1975-1982); Tony Parrish (1998-2001); Len Walterscheid (1977-1982)
Len Waltersheid drops off the list first as our seventh-best safety.? He was acquired as a free agent in 1977 and a solid backup.? The Buddy Ryan favorite started in 1982 following the departure of Plank, and Dave Duerson ended up forever in Ryan’s doghouse after Ryan was instructed to cut Waltershied, after the arrival of Duerson.
We have a tie at number 6.? It’s between Tony Parrish and Todd Bell.? Though separated by 17 years of draft classes, the two played the position remarkably similar.? Both were huge hitters, but Bell probably had more range.? Bell may have turned into the best on this list, but infamously sat out the 1985 season in a contract dispute, after having a career year in 1984.? He returned in ’86 and ’87, but just wasn’t the same.? Bell died in 2005, and Parrish left the Bears as a free agent prior to the 2002 season.
Doug Plank is our fifth best Bears safety.? Plank will always be a Bear legend for his ferocious hits and fever for the game.? His career was cut short by injury, ending in 1982.
Dave Duerson comes in at fourth.? The strong safety made the Pro Bowl in four straight seasons from 1985-1988, then tailed off and was cut prior to the 1990 season.
At number three is Shaun Gayle.? Gayle didn’t have the statistics or as many Pro Bowl appearances as Duerson, but his longevity (1984-1994) for an eleventh-round draft pick was phenomenal.? In the last two seasons of Mike Ditka’s reign, Gayle was on the sidelines in Chicago’s first two games of the year, and his presence became very noticable when he returned.? He made the Pro Bowl himself in 1991.
Finally, the legendary Gary Fencik edges out current Bear Mike Brown for top billing at the position.? Brown’s impact to the Bear defense since his arrival in 2000 is remarkable.? Chicago’s defense clearly has not been the same when he has been forced from the lineup due to injury from 2004-2006.? He owns the Bears’ record for touchdowns by a defender with seven.
But Fencik remains one of our choices for best Bear to not be in the Hall of Fame.? He is still Chicago’s all-time interceptor and leads the franchise for interception return yards.? And he didn’t just pick off passes, he packed a whollop of his own, often blitzing in Ryan’s 46 defense with devastating results for opposing offenses.
www.BearsHistory.com’s best Bears safety of the last 30 years is Gary Fencik.