NFL.com reporter Adam Rank lists his 11-best Bears players of all-time and the organization's top coach.
NFL.com writer Adam Rank (fittingly) ranks the top 11 players in Bears history.
It's a list that begins and ends with Hall of Famers, with running back Walter Payton first and quarterback Sid Luckman 11th. Running back Gale Sayers is second, followed by middle linebackers Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary and return specialist Devin Hester.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is sixth, followed by running backs Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski, middle linebacker Bill George and defensive end Richard Dent.
"Here is what Chicago does better than anybody else: deep-dish pizza, keeping ketchup off hot dogs and creating Hall of Fame running backs and linebackers," Rank wrote. "There is no shortage of Bears Hall of Famers at the positions, much in the same way that your Hollywood Starbucks has no shortage of budding producers looking to get their screenplay greenlit."
Here are some of my comments on Rank's rankings:
1) I agree that Payton should be No. 1 and also agree with Rank's assertion that Sweetness is the best football player in NFL history. He retired following the 1987 season as the NFL's all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards, having gained many of those yards on Bears teams that had no other weapons against defenses that knew he was getting the ball. In addition, Payton was much more than a ballcarrier. He was an unselfish blocker, still leads the Bears in career receptions, threw eight touchdown passes and led the NFL in kickoff returns as a rookie.
2) Although, it's close, I would put Butkus ahead of Sayers as the second greatest player in Bears history. Remarkably, the two were selected with back-to-back picks in the 1965 NFL Draft—Butkus at No. 3 and Sayers at No. 4—and will be forever linked. Butkus gets my nod, though, because I believe he remains the most ferocious defensive player in NFL history. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons, named first-team All-Pro six times, won two NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards and was selected to the NFL Team of the Decade for both the 1960s and 1970s.
3) I like that Rank includes Hester because I believe he's the best return specialist in NFL history and deserves to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. But I wouldn't put him ahead of his longtime teammate, Brian Urlacher. Nothing against Hester, who remains the most electrifying player I've ever seen. But the star middle linebacker was the face of the franchise for more than a decade, leading the Bears to four division championships and one NFC title. He was voted to eight Pro Bowls, was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
4) I'm glad that Rank included Luckman. I think it's safe to say that most Bears fans who are alive today never saw Luckman play. But he helped revolutionize the NFL with the "T" formation and more importantly helped lead the Bears to four league championships in the 1940s. His numbers pale in comparison to today's top passers, but it was a different game during Luckman's era and he certainly was the best player at his position for a long time.