Who is the best offensive guard to have played for the Bears since 1977?
Candidates: Kurt Becker (1982-1988, 1990); Mark Bortz (1983-1994); Ruben Brown (2004-2007); Noah Jackson (1975-1983); Jay Leeuwenburg (1992-1995); Todd Perry (1993-1999); Revie Sorey (1975-1982); Tom Thayer (1985-1993); Chris Villarrial (1996-2003)
Please keep in mind, all the men mentioned here made my list of the best Chicago Bears guards over the last 30 years.? But we have to start paring the list down somewhere, and I start with Sorey and Jackson.? Walter Payton would talk fondly of his line, which was hodgepodge much of the time due to injuries to tackles Dennis Lick and Ted Albrecht.? But all I can remember from 1977-1982 was Payton often changing direction when he didn’t find holes.? And I certainly remember a lot of holds and false starts called on Jackson.
Next to go are Leeuwenburg and Perry.? Leeuwenburg was a 1992 free agent pickup, first saw the field that year and by 1993 was counted on to be a cornerstone of Dave Wannstedt’s offense for years.? During that year, Leeuwenburg even started at right tackle, before settling in at right guard.? Chicago couldn’t afford him past 1995, but he was strangely quiet after signing with Indianapolis.? Perry was named a Pro Bowl alternate several times, but was deemed expendable when Wannstedt brought him to Miami in 2000.? He also disappeared following that year.
Ruben Brown is a borderline Hall of Famer, but being in his waning years and only with the Bears for four seasons, I can’t consider him for the best.
Kurt Becker drops off the list at this point.? Becker helped anchor the resurgence of the line from 1982-1985, but was injured that season and surpassed by Thayer.
Chris Villarrial was a scrappy fifth-round pick in one of Dave Wannstedt’s terrible drafts, and definitely a gem of the Wanny years.? He played eight years as a Bear, was a top-notch person, and showed versatility at center and guard.? In 2004, he signed for more money with Buffalo, and it was sad to see him go.
The final two candidates are a tossup: Mark Bortz and Tom Thayer.? Bortz may have been the bigger surprise, being selected in the eighth round of the 1983 draft as a defensive lineman, along with Richard Dent.? Chicago immediately converted him to guard, where he started 155 games over his twelve-yer career.? Thayer’s only surprise was when the Bears selected him in the fourth round in 1982, several hours after he had signed with the Chicago Blitz of the USFL.? Thayer joined the Bears in 1985, and went on to start 120 games in his career, which ended in 1993.
This is a complete toss-up between the equally gritty Thayer and Bortz, but I give it to Bortz based on his two Pro Bowl appearances in 1988 and 1991.
www.BearsHistory.com’s greatest Chicago Bears guard from 1977-2007 is Mark Bortz.