Payton headlines all-time Bears offensive team

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In addition to ranking the top 100 players in Bears history, Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson have also chosen the franchise’s all-time team by position in the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook. The following is a look at the offense:

The all-time Bears offense features eight Hall of Famers, led by arguably the greatest player in franchise history in legendary running back Walter Payton.

“Sweetness” spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Bears from 1975-87, missing only one game and retiring as the league’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 in his first year of eligibility.

Payton was voted to nine Pro Bowls, set 27 Bears records and had his No. 34 retired. He also threw eight touchdown passes and led the NFL in kickoff returns as a rookie in 1975 with a 31.7-yard average. In 1999, the NFL renamed its Man of the Year award after Payton as a tribute to his greatness both on and off the field. The Bears legend passed away on Nov. 1, 1999 at the age of 45 due to bile duct cancer.

The other running back on the all-time team is Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski. A bruising ballcarrier who was also a threat to pass, Nagurski helped lead the Bears to three NFL championships in eight seasons. He was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1930s.

The quarterback on the all-time team is Sid Luckman. The Hall of Famer not only led the Bears to four NFL titles during 12 seasons with the team from 1939-50, but he played an instrumental role in revolutionizing pro football by helping to introduce the "T" formation.

Luckman was voted All-NFL five times, led the NFL in touchdown passes three times and was named league MVP in 1943. He was selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1940s and threw a league-record seven TD passes in a 1943 win over the Giants.

The tight end on the all-time team is Mike Ditka. Before he became "Da Coach" in the 1980s, Ditka was one of the NFL's greatest tight ends. Ditka was voted to five Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Bears from 1961-66, catching 316 passes for 4,503 yards and 34 touchdowns. He remains the Bears' all-time leader in all three of those categories among tight ends and was the first tight end inducted into the Hall of Fame in1988.

“There’s nobody else,” Pierson wrote of Ditka. “He was one of the first tight ends to split wide and become a receiving threat … Sometimes overlooked was his blocking. Fullback Rick Casares said nobody blocked middle linebackers like Mike Ditka.”

The offensive line on the all-time team consists of tackles Joe Stydahar and Jimbo Covert, guards Danny Fortmann and Stan Jones and center Bulldog Turner.

Stydahar and Fortmann were selected by the Bears in the first NFL draft in 1936 in the first and ninth rounds, respectively. Both men won three league championships as part of a Bears dynasty in the 1940s, served in the military during World War II and were later inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Jones and Turner also are Hall of Famers, while Covert was a two-time Pro Bowler who anchored some of the best offensive lines in NFL history during eight seasons with the Bears from 1983-90.

In selecting Turner over George Trafton, Jay Hilgenberg and Olin Kreutz, Pierson wrote that center was the ‘hardest position to pick on the whole team.”

“Those are four great players, each of whom could have been the all-time center on a lot of teams,” Pompei wrote. “But there has to be a place in the starting lineup for Turner, who was named first-team All-Pro in seven of his 12 years. [George] Halas once said Turner was perhaps the smartest player he had in 40 years as coach.”

The two receivers on the all-time team are Ken Kavanaugh and Harlon Hill.

Kavanaugh played eight seasons with the Bears in the 1940s and remains the franchise’s all-time leader with 50 touchdown receptions. He helped the Monsters of the Midway win NFL titles in 1940 and ’41 before leaving to serve as a fighter pilot in World War II. Kavanaugh returned to the Bears in 1945 and won another championship in 1946. He was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1940s.

Hill spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Bears from 1954-61. He was voted NFL Rookie of the Year in 1954, became the first winner of the Jim Thorpe Trophy as the league's most valuable player in 1955, and was a three-time All Pro selection.

The Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook will be available at the Bears100 Celebration Weekend this Friday through Sunday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. It also can be purchased by visiting store.chicagobears.com.

We’d like to know what your biggest takeaway is from the Bears’ all-time team, whether it’s the offense, defense or specialists. Who most deserves the honor? Who should have been included who wasn’t?

Here’s a list of the all-time team:

Offense
Quarterback: Sid Luckman
Running back: Walter Payton
Running back: Bronko Nagurski
Tight end: Mike Ditka
Tackle: Joe Stydahar
Tackle: Jimbo Covert
Guard: Danny Fortmann
Guard: Stan Jones
Center: Bulldog Turner
Receiver: Ken Kavanaugh
Receiver: Harlon Hill

Defense
End: Doug Atkins
End: Richard Dent
Tackle: Dan Hampton
Tackle: Steve McMichael
Middle linebacker: Dick Butkus
Outside linebacker: Joe Fortunato
Outside linebacker: George Connor
Defensive back: Charles Tillman
Defensive back: George McAfee
Safety: Gary Fencik
Safety: Richie Petitbon

Specialists
Punt returner: Devin Hester
Kickoff returner: Gale Sayers
Kicker: Robbie Gould
Punter: Bobby Joe Green

Take a look at which players were selected by writers Don Pierson and Dan Pompei for the Bears all-time offensive team in the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook.

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