Sep 15, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Lance Briggs (55) reacts during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

What Would the Chicago Bears All-Time NFL Roster Look Like?

The NFL off-season is often a time to look back and examine the best a team ever had to offer.  If given the chance, what sort of all-time roster could the Chicago Bears assemble?

Quarterback – Sid Luckman, Jim McMahon, Jay Cutler

Like it or not, the inescapable fact is that Sid Luckman remains the only quarterback in Chicago Bears history in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  His backup would be Jim McMahon, who piloted the iconic 1985 team to a Super Bowl while the highly talented but as yet underachieving Jay Cutler would ride the bench behind them.

Running Back – Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Matt Forte

There is probably no richer history in Chicago sports lore than the running back position.  Walter Payton of course is the gold standard, having held the all-time rushing record for a number of years and leading the team to its only Super Bowl.  Gale Sayers revolutized the game with his amazing speed, agility and open field running.  The hard part is finding that third pair of legs with so many good choices like the Galloping Ghost Red Grange, George McAfee or even the often overlooked Neal Anderson.  In the end though, the many abilities of current star Matt Forte would be too hard to pass up.

Fullback – Bronco Nagurski

Is this really any surprise?  Nobody terrorized defenses in his heyday quite like Bronco Nagurski.  He was big, physical, surprisingly fast and never went down on first contact.  Nobody epitomized smash mouth football better than him.

Wide Receiver – Brandon Marshall, Harlon Hill, Curtis Conway, Marty Booker, Johnny Morris, Willie Gault

Not until recently did the wide receiver position get the attention it deserves for the Chicago Bears.  Already Brandon Marshall is carving a niche in team history as one of the best.  He’s joined by a collection of solid contributors like speedsters Willie Gault and Harlon Hill along with sure-handed gamers like Curtis Conway, Marty Booker and Johnny Morris.  It’s not as star-studded as other teams, but it doesn’t lack for skill.

Tight End – Mike Ditka, Emery Moorehead

It’s so easy to forget that before he became Da Coach, Mike Ditka had slugged his way to a Hall of Fame career as a tight end.  He changed the way the position was played with his ability to both block and receive.  Ironically a player he coached joins him in the lineup in Emery Moorehead.  While not as prolific as Ditka was on the stat sheet, Moorehead was a vital piece of the Bears offense in the 1980s both as a blocker and pass catcher.

Offensive Tackle – Jimbo Covert, Ed Healey, George Connor, James “Big Cat” Williams

A perfect blend encompasses the offensive tackle history for Chicago from blind side stonewall Jimbo Covert who dominated in the ’80s to old school stars like Ed Healey and George Connor who showcased the grit and toughness of Bears football.  The same can be said for James “Big Cat” Williams who went from a no-name defensive lineman to becoming a Pro Bowl right tackle.

Offensive Guard – George Musso, Dan Fortmann, Mark Bortz, Stan Jones

It’s no different at the guard position either.  Guys like George Musso, Dan Fortmann, Mark Bortz and Stan Jones all have the same thing in common.  They had great success paving the way for Bears running backs and winning games and establishing an identity that hasn’t died for almost a century.

Center – Bulldog Turner, Olin Kreutz

How appropriate it would be if Olin Kreutz and Bulldog Turner ended up on the same team.  They were probably two of the meanest, nastiest centers of their respective eras and were also among the best leaders.

Defensive End – Doug Atkins, Richard Dent, Julius Peppers, Alex Brown, Trace Armstrong

Here is where it gets scary.  No tradition in the NFL can probably match the tradition of defense in Chicago.  Can one imagine having to face a three-man rotation of Doug Atkins (Hall of Fame), Richard Dent (Hall of Fame) and Julius Peppers (soon-to-be Hall of Fame)?  If that didn’t make quarterbacks quake enough, adding Pro Bowlers like Alex Brown and Trace Armstrong only make it worse.

Defensive Tackle – Dan Hampton, Tommie Harris, Wally Chambers, Steve McMichael, William Perry

Dominating on the edges wouldn’t be enough of course.  The Chicago Bears were every bit as good on the interior.  Dan Hampton reached the Hall of Fame as a defensive tackle.  Tommie Harris was unblockable for a three-year period in the mid-2000s while Wally Chambers and Steve McMichael made a living hurting quarterbacks.  Add in the massive bodied and massive personality of William “Refridgerator” Perry to help stop the run and that front can win games by itself.

Outside Linebacker – Otis Wilson, Wilbur Marshall, Lance Briggs, Joe Fortunato

If that weren’t impressive enough, the linebacker tradition gets even deeper.  Otis Wilson and Wilbur Marshall terrorized quarterbacks from the outside.  Joe Fortunato is a forgetten gem who helped the Bears win a championship in 1963 during an 11-year career.  Lance Briggs has reached seven Pro Bowls and been a model of consistent excellence since entering the league in 2003.

Middle Linebacker – Dick Butkus, Brian Urlacher

Here of course is where it gets tough.  The true sense of great in Chicago Bears defensive lore rests at middle linebacker.  No other team has more names in the Hall of Fame at the position.  The arguments about who would make the all-time team would be endless.  Looking at it as objectively as possible, it would have to include Dick Butkus.  Not only was he the most feared player in league history, he was also so good too, reaching eight Pro Bowls in nine seasons.  The hard part was finding his backup.  Right at the top would have to be fellow Hall of Famers Mike Singletary and Bill George, but this argument must be made in the context of era-breaching ability.  Could those two play in the 21st center.  Yes, but at their customary levels?  Perhaps not.  Meanwhile Brian Urlacher showcased a speed, athleticism and strength combination that teams really hadn’t seen before.  He has that ability to play in any decade and with eight Pro Bowls is bound to reach the Hall of Fame eventually.  That is why he earned the second spot behind Butkus.

Cornerback – Charles Tillman, Donnell Woolford, Bennie McRae, Dave Whitsell, Tim Jennings

Another area of the Bears roster replete with talent but not very much star power.  Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings shattered the only mold recently by reaching four combined Pro Bowls in a three-year span.  Donnell Woolford was a staple during the rather quiet ’90s era, reaching a Pro Bowl and snagging 36 interceptions.  Bennie McRae was one of the critical pieces to the 1963 championship team and snagged 27 interceptions.  Dave Whitsell was the man who played across from him, ending his career with 46 interceptions.

Safety – Mark Carrier, Gary Fencik, Mike Brown, Richie Petitbon, Dave Duerson

Before recently the safety position was greatly respected among Bears fandom, well represented by Pro Bowlers like Mark Carrier and Mike Brown and brought to a peak in the 1980s by Gary Fencik and Dave Duerson.  Richie Petitbon, before he became a great coach, was an All-Pro who commanded the back end of the ’63 team and snared 48 career interceptions.

Punter – Bobby Joe Green

There are a few names who deserve consideration on this list but the fact is Bobby Joe Green remains the only punter in Chicago Bears history to reach a Pro Bowl.

Kicker – Kevin Butler

He set an NFL record for points as a rookie while helping the Bears to their only Super Bowl title in 1985 and is the all-time leading scorer in team history.

Long Snapper – Patrick Mannelly

At the age of 39 he is the longest-tenured player in team history at 239 games played.  Patrick Mannelly couldn’t have accomplished that without being a good player.

Tags: Charles Tillman Chicago Bears Jay Cutler Julius Peppers Lance Briggs Matt Forte Mike Ditka Tim Jennings

  • Johnathan Wood

    I’d go Gould over Butler. Will have the volume stats beat by the end of his current contract and is a more accurate kicker.

    • Erik Lambert

      True but Butler has the record and the ring. Until one of those two change, I’m sticking with Butthead.

  • DiscountPCRepair SATX

    Where is KR/PR? I mean, where is Hester?

    • Erik Lambert

      I would’ve liked to include him but would’ve sacrificed a more productive player on offense or defense to do so. Willie Gault has kick return ability and was a better receiver.

      • DiscountPCRepair SATX

        I loved Willie Gault, but he wasn’t even the best receiver. Wasn’t that Dennis McKinnon?
        Please … Gault cannot even be mentioned in the same breath as Hester when discussing the return game.

        • Erik Lambert

          True, but Gault gives them added firepower on offense, which I would bet teams would take even over a guy like Hester. Also keep in mind Gault played in older, less creative special teams days than they do now. I imagine he would’ve had better success these day. Also, no, Gault has McKinnon beat on the stat sheet.

          • Guest

            i know its still early.. but i would put Jeffery in before McKinnon. but there is a 42 man roster.. and this list has room. btw.. where is the special team list?

          • Erik Lambert

            Actually this list is a complete roster by number of players. The special teams are at the bottom.

          • M Guerra

            i’d put Jeffery in before conway or mckinnon.. if were going all time team.

          • Erik Lambert

            I didn’t put McKinnon in anyway but I’m not ready to crown Jeffery just yet. He’s had what amounts to one really good season. If he does one or two more times, then we’ll talk.

  • DiscountPCRepair SATX

    I would have thought you would have included Reuben Brown for OG.

    I wish we had a spot for Vince Evans, a QB that also returned Kickoffs.

    • Erik Lambert

      Reuben only played for the team for a couple years. His best seasons were spent in Buffalo so I don’t think he qualifies for the Bears all-time list.

      • DiscountPCRepair SATX

        He was still very good and I think he played as long as Tommie Harris.

        • Erik Lambert

          Ruben was with the team for four seasons. Tommie was with them for seven.

    • M Guerra

      wow man..Vince Evans? … how old are you? lol I forgot all about that fella..

  • M Guerra

    I gotta say, I think you list is right on target! BUT… I think Cutler should be ahead of McMahon. several reasons; first, Jim had a solid offense and the best defense in NFL history playing behind him most of his career. he was a mess too, injured often and made mistakes. Cutler has already broke many long standing Bear

    • Erik Lambert

      It won’t be long before Cutler overtakes McMahon on the depth chart. McMahon doesn’t have the stats but he was an outstanding leader and it showed in how much that team won with him on the field. That ring is also a big factor. I’d say one more productive year for Cutler and a deep playoff run might clinch it for him.