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Who's next? Four Bears worthy of Hall of Fame consideration

Get to know members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Classes of 2020, 2021

The election of Steve McMichael and Devin Hester to the Pro Football Hall of Fame will give the Bears 32 individuals enshrined in Canton, the most of any NFL franchise.

But, in my humble opinion, there are others who belong there as well. Here's my ranking of the four former Bears most deserving of Hall of Fame consideration:

Rank
1
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Jay Hilgenberg
Center

Why he's worthy

Hilgenberg not only played in but started seven straight Pro Bowls from 1985-91, a sure sign that he dominated at his position for a substantial period. The undrafted free agent from Iowa anchored one of the best offensive lines in NFL history for a decade. He helped the Bears win six division championships, one conference title and one Super Bowl during his 11 seasons with the team from 1981-91. The line helped the Bears lead the NFL in rushing for four straight seasons from 1983-86.

Argument against and counter

The great Bears teams of the 1980s won only one championship, yet McMichael will become the sixth player from that era in the Hall of Fame, joining Covert, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Walter Payton and Mike Singletary. Voters may be reluctant to select a seventh player from those teams. Plus, there are only seven centers from the Super Bowl era in the Hall of Fame.

But Hilgenberg certainly seems to possess the necessary credentials. The seven straight Pro Bowl starts show that he was the NFC's best center during a sizeable chunk of his playing career, and while he was not named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1980s—Mike Webster and Dwight Stephenson were selected and are both in the Hall of Fame—Hilgenberg was a five-time All-Pro.

Rank
2
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Charles Tillman
Cornerback

Why he's worthy

Tillman was a takeaway machine during 12 seasons with the Bears from 2003-14. He turned forcing fumbles into an art form by smacking the ball away from opponents, a technique dubbed the "Peanut Punch" that is practiced by teams on all levels of football. His 42 forced fumbles with the Bears were the most in the NFL during that span by a non-pass rusher. He also ranks third in franchise history with 36 interceptions.

Argument against and counter

Tillman was selected to only two Pro Bowls and was voted All-Pro once.

But playing in coach Lovie Smith's cover-two defense, Tillman was a game-changer who routinely produced impact plays for a unit that always seemed to rank near the top of the NFL in takeaways. He set Bears records that still stand with nine defensive touchdowns, eight interception return TDs and 675 interception return yards, and his 36 interceptions are the most by a cornerback in team history.

Rank
3
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Olin Kreutz
Center

Why he's worthy

Kreutz was voted to six straight Pro Bowls from 2001-06 and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s, evidence that he dominated his position for a lengthy period.

Argument against and counter

Kreutz was voted first-team All-Pro only one time and—like Hilgenberg—he played a position on the interior offensive line that has garnered little Hall of Fame consideration.

But Kreutz was a dominant player and highly-respected team leader who helped the Bears win four division championships and one conference title during his 13 seasons in Chicago from 1998-2010. Talented and durable, he started 183 games for the Bears, the second most in franchise history behind only Payton (184).

Rank
4
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Lance Briggs
Linebacker

Why he's worthy

Briggs was selected to seven Pro Bowls in 12 seasons with the Bears from 2003-14. He appeared in 173 games with 170 starts, recording 1,566 tackles, 15 sacks, 16 interceptions and 18 forced fumbles.

Argument against and counter

Briggs was always considered "Robin" to the Bears' "Batman," Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

But Briggs consistently excelled, whether he was playing alongside Urlacher or not. When Urlacher suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the first game of the 2009 season, Briggs went on to lead the Bears with 118 tackles and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl. His six career defensive touchdowns are the third most in Bears history and his five interception return TDs are tied for the second most. Briggs was also the first linebacker in NFL history to return an interception for a touchdown in each of his first three seasons.

Take a look at each of the 32 players in franchise history to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the most of any team in the NFL.

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