Monday, September 29, 2014

Golden Chicago Bears Who Could Play Today

There have been some recent discussions on former Chicago Bears from the past who could play in today's bigger, faster game.  Certainly several of the "Golden" Bears pop out at you when you read about their playing careers.  I'd define these Golden Bears as those who played 50 years ago and beyond (Sayers and Butkus are just a little too young for this discussion). 

Speed and Size 

Most people look at speed and size as two traits that separate modern players from players of the past.  Here are some Golden Bears who would probably be able to play today.

Red Grange

When Red Grange played in his early pro career, he was a superstar running back.  He could play any sport that came his way in his youth and he was fast and allusive on the football field.  He was a not a big back, but he was not a small man either for a running back--about 5-foot-11--an inch taller than Walter Payton.   

If you watch the old grainy dark film on Grange, you can see how fast he was--seemingly moving at a different speed than everyone else.  He could also change direction very fast and with a minimum amount of effort was able to throw off tacklers.  Here's George Halas thoughts on Red Grange.  

 Bronko Nagurski

Bronko and His Wife Eileen in 1936, Hennepin Cty. Library
Back when players lined up on defense and offense, there was Bronko Nagurski.  Nagurski was a one-of-a-kind fullback and linebacker who played in the 1930s.  “Bronk” had the size, strength, and speed of modern fullbacks coupled with the toughness of a freight train.  When he felt like he wasn't making enough money playing football, he quit and became a professional wrestler--he could travel and wrestle several night a week.  For a while, he wrestled and played football. 

The great poetic sports writer Grantland Rice thought Nagurski could play any position and there was no question that when the Bears needed something extra and Bronk put his mind to it, there was no man on earth who could stop him--it's that simple.  Not only would Nagurski make the team, he'd be a star today.

 Sid Luckman

Sid Luckman was a football genius who was able to run the complex modified T Formation that the Bears used in the 1940s.  Luckman had two seasons in which he threw for over 2,000 yards and two more in which he threw for over 1,500.  He was the number one quarterback in passing yards and touchdowns in three seasons.  He was 6-foot and 200 pounds--a good size in his time and big enough now although not today's prototype.  I think the Hall of Famer would have found a good spot in today's NFL. 

"Jumbo" Joe Stydahar 

Joe Stydahar would not be challenged so much by size in today's game although he might move down one position on the line from tackle to guard.  The Pro Football Hall of Famer played from 1935 to 1946, but served in the war in 1943-1944.  The 6-foot-4, 233 pound tackle was powerful and fast.  The Bears won several championships during his time with them.  Halas selected Joe Stydahar in the first college draft in 1936.  Playing for West Virgina, not many people had heard of him at the time, but once he suited up for the Bears it didn't take long for everyone to recognize his value. 

George Connor

George Connor
Hall of Famer George Connor played tackle and linebacker on the Bears from 1948-1955.  The Adonis-like muscleman starred on both offense and defense--he played several positions on the line and linebacker.  According to Coach Halas: “He parlayed leadership and intelligence and fine ability into one of the great careers of our time!" When the Bears had to stop a powerful Philadelphia Eagles running attack in 1949, Connor, who was an agile and fast 6-foot-3 and 240 pound tackle, was moved to linebacker by Halas and staff.  His success there helped establish a larger prototype for that position.

George McAfee

 Hall of Famer George McAfee was an all-around great back who could run as well as receive; pass when called upon; and return kickoffs and punts.  As a defensive back, he had 25 interceptions.  He was always a threat to score whenever and wherever he got his hands on the ball.  No one will know how good McAfee would have been because he served in the military during his prime playing years, age 24-26. When he wasn't off to war, he played during the 1940-1950 Era. McAfee was a 6-foot 180 pound halfback, kick returner, and a defensive back.  McAfee was a break-away threat who scared the opposition every time he touched the ball.  Halas called him “one of the best players to every wear a Bear uniform.”

George Musso

George Musso, Hall of Fame lineman, played from 1933 to 1944.  At 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds, Musso was one of the most intimidating linemen on the Bears and served as team captain for nine years.  Musso was mammoth for his time and would fit right in today on the line.  

Clyde Bulldog Turner

The Bears won championships in 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946.  One man who was an essential part of these championship wins was Clyde” Bulldog” Turner.  Turner was 6-foot-2 and 232 pounds.  He was the Bears center during the heyday of their modified T Formation with the gifted and intelligent Sid Luckman at quarterback.  Turner was an excellent blocker and versatile enough to fill in for other lineman at guard or tackle if needed.  On defense, Turner was known as a tough fast linebacker who had a nose for the ball.  Turner could play center today, his is tall enough, but he'd have to bulk up another 40 lbs.  

Rick Casares

Rick Casares was a very interesting and tough player.  He was 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds and had been a golden gloves boxing champion. Needless to say, he was one very tough guy.  Casares played with the Bears from 1955-1964.  He lit up the league in 1956 as the top rusher with 1,126 yards, the most touchdowns with 14, and the most rushing touchdowns with 12.  He would hold many rushing records for the Bears until the arrival of Walter Payton.

Doug Atkins

Doug Atkins
Atkins is one of the greatest Chicago Bears in the long franchise history. In today's parlance, Atkins would be called a "freak"--his extreme physical size was coupled with superb athletic skills that are rarely associated with someone of his physical type. Atkins went to the University of Tennessee to play basketball, but he was so strong and so superb an athlete that he was recruited for football. Even at 6-8, he was limber enough to be a high jumper.  Atkins size and athletic skills served him well on the Tennessee football field and he was named All-America in 1952. The Tennessee Volunteers went 29-3-1 and were crowned national champions in 1951 with Atkins at defensive end.  

After wreaking havoc on Tennessee opponents, Atkins went on to play professionally. Pro Football Hall of Famer Doug Atkins played in the NFL for 17 seasons. He is one of those athletes from the 50s-60s era who at 6-8, 257+ lbs. could play defensive end today. His play combined allusiveness, power, speed, and determination.

Bill George

Bill George
Bill George came from Lebanese stock and was 6-foot-2 and a very solid 237 pounds.  He played his college ball at Wake Forest University as a defensive tackle.  George competed in the Southern Conference Wrestling Championships as a heavyweight and won the league title three consecutive years even though the school had no wrestling program. He was drafted in 1951 and played middle guard for the Bears in 1952, which morphed under his ingenuity into the middle linebacker position. George was a ferocious competitor and feared throughout the league and was the first of the great Bears middle linebackers. George was known for his tenacity and strength. He played for the Bears from 1952 to 1965.  Those who remember George have no doubt that he could be in the lineup today. 

Roosevelt Taylor

Rosey Taylor was a defensive back from Grambling who played for the Bears over 8 seasons and never missed a game.  He snagged 9 interceptions in the 1963 championship year.  He was 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds.  He was fast and returned kickoffs in his first season.  A fast durable safety who would fit in today. The Bears could use Rosey Taylor today.

George Blanda

Young George Blanda
 George Blanda is the Hall of Fame quarterback/kicker who had long "careers" with the different pro football teams. George Blanda spent 10 seasons with the Bears from 1949-1958.  He played quarterback, kicker, and occasionally linebacker for the Bears.  Halas believed Blanda’s strength was in kicking,b ut Blanda liked to play quarterback as well.  Blanda retired and then restarted his career, playing seven seasons with the newly formed AFC Houston Oilers and an incredible nine more seasons with the Oakland Raiders. With Houston, Blanda was the top rated quarterback in yards (1961, 1963)  and completions (1963-1965) during his stay there.  There is not much of an argument that Blanda could play in the modern era because essentially his career began over 50 years ago and lasted to the mid-70s.  Although 43 years in 1970, Blanda filled in nicely as the Raiders' quarterback and led them into the post-season.

Mike Ditka

Mike Ditka, Hall of Fame tight end, had size, power, skill, and desire.  The 6-foot-3, 228 pound Ditka impressed football opponents with excellent receiving skills, the strength of an interior lineman, and the running ability of a halfback.  He played for the Bears from 1961-1966 and returned as head coach in 1982 to lead the Bears to their Super Bowl XX championship. There is little doubt that Ditka would make the grade today. 

Others Who Fit or Don't Fit 

There are several other Golden Bears who could have found a roster spot in modern times.  There are a few others who are Hall of Famers, but whose size might have made it very difficult today. 

Danny Fortmann is a Hall of Fame player who may have not made today in the modern game because of his size, but he was undersized when he played as well.  He would likely be a player today who would move to another position, but that's a different argument for another post.  Fortmann was a 6-foot 210 pound guard and linebacker in the late 1930s and early 1940s.   

John Paddy Driscoll was a contemporary of George Halas who was an excellent quarterback, halfback, drop-kicker, and punter. Driscoll, later went on to a tremendous coaching career.  Driscoll was 5-foot-11 and only 160 pounds.  So to play today, he would either have to gain some weight or focus on kicking and punting.  Driscoll played in the days when drop kicks were used rather than placekicks, but he had a 50 yard drop kick field goal. 

Ed Healey was a 6-foot-1 guard who weighed in at 207 pounds.  While playing for Rock Island against George Halas's Bears in 1921, Halas man could not handle Healey and Halas arranged to acquire his services.  Not nearly heavy enough for a lineman today.  Again, like Fortmann, Healey was skilled and may have found a place somewhere else.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher or Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Won Three or More Championships

Bears Are Just Fine, Thanks

There were many highs and lows in the Bears-Packers game, but one thing that seemed obvious this morning after the emotions have calmed down, is that the Bears are a very good team.  I think they will just get better.  Let me just note a few positives.  

1. Despite some heavy criticism of Cutler, let's keep in mind that one of his interceptions was a deflection to Clay Matthews and the other look like a bad route. 

2. Rookies who have moved into starting roles will only get better as the soon moves on.

3. The Bears can run the ball.  The Bears ran for 235 yards on 41 carries with Forte  running for 122 yards on 23 carries--averaging over 5 yards a carry.  Ka'Deem Carey ran 14 times for 71 yards. (Like a lot of other teams, the Bears don't have a fullback who can get the short yards in the red zone.)

4. The Bears offensive line is getting stronger--able to pass block and making improvements as well for the running game.

5. Bears are looking better on special teams.  Willie Young blocked a field goal and I like the onside kick attempt--It was a near perfect kick by Gould that I think the Bears could have recovered had they been looking for the ball a little earlier.  When it bounced past 10 yards, there were four Bears around it looking ahead.  

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sherrick McManus from Peoria to Evanston to Houston to Chicago

Peoria Richwoods is an excellent school in central Illinois.  It shows up in Illinois football sports news as having won three state championships and 24 conference championships.  Many Richwoods  players go on to Division 1 football.  Sherrick McManis is one of those. At Richwoods, McManus played many positions and he wanted to play every minute. 

McManus attended Northwestern University and played cornerback for the Wildcats.  He was known to be "all in" at Northwestern, playing hard every down and cheering his teammates on when he wasn't playing.  Soft spoken and an excellent student, McManus was highly valued by his college coach.  When he was a senior, Coach Pat Fitzgerald said,  "I have six more weekends with him guaranteed and I'd love to have 12 more. He is a coach's dream."

McManus was a 2010 draft choice of the Houston Texans.  In Houston, he saw service as a kick returner, where he did pretty well before he came over to the Bears in 2012.  He is a defensive back, but continues to be thought of mostly as a key special teams player--an area where the Bears have struggled at least early on.  McManus has a had a quad injury that has kept him of action for two, going on three games now. 

Chomping at the bit to see McManus back in action no doubt, Bears Special Team Coach Joe DeCamillis described his special teams player this way:  "He's very explosive," he's a great kid. He knows this [special teams] is his ticket. This is how he's going to get to the next step for him." The kid who wanted to play every down at Peoria Richwoods, must be anxious to return to the field for the Bears.

McManus did not practice this week and has been ruled out to play against the Packers this week.  We look forward to his return. 

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of this years must-have football book, Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Looking for a Good Speaker on Sports?

 Authors at  Sporting Chance Press
J. D. Thorne
 J. D. Thorne is a consummate community event speaker and he speaks with an enthusiasm that is contagious.  J. D. can reach out to an audience like few others.  He is the author of The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life).  J. D. is a life-long baseball fan and he has been involved in the game at all amateur levels of play including  the College,  High School, and American Legion.  J. D. presents on Joe McCarthy and baseball principles. He talks about his personal baseball  experiences peppered with stories of the greats.  Stories of Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays, Wagner, Cobb and dozens of others are in his repertoire.  Although he grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and has a good first hand understanding Chicago Cub history, for many years he has lived in Milwaukee and followed the Brewers.  He writes for On Wisconsin Sports. 

Patrick McCaskey
Patrick McCaskey has been working for the Chicago Bears now for over 40 years. He is a powerful speaker who mixes his own brand of humor with an engaging presentation.  As a Senior Director of the Chicago Bears and the grandson of  Bears' founder, George Halas, Patrick has much to offer football fans and history buffs.  Patrick McCaskey is the author of our newest book, Pilllars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships--our comprehensive story of the ten greatest coaches in NFL history.  Patrick is also the author of Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout.  In addition to general audiences of all kinds, he is asked by many Christian groups to speak on sports and faith, one of his favorite subjects and an essential element of his day to day existence.  Patrick currently runs on the Senior Track Circuit and was a high school athlete of some note. 

Mike Cameron
Mike Cameron is an exceptionally interesting journalist and sports marketing man who like J. D. Thorne is a baseball devote.  Mike played high school, college ball and then semi-pro ball, but has always kept his eye on the pro game as a Cubs season ticket holder and life-long fan.  I have no doubt that Mike can hold his own with anyone in baseball in his knowledge of the Cubs.   

For many years Mike was also an umpire in various youth baseball groups.  His children share his love of sports and his son is a former Marine and Chicago area boxer.  Mike's very specific passion the past several years is sports greatest scapegoat and the subject of Mike's book: Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle.  Mike was impressed by what he had heard about the courageous Fred Merkle and he set out to present his life in the context of the Progressive Era and it's many historical images (Wright Brothers, Ford's Model T, Teddy Roosevelt, etc). Baseball was more than America's game in 1908, it was America's passion in the time before radio and television.  When Merkle fell victim to an umpire's call and the reaction of the press, baseball was in the midst of  perhaps the most exciting season of all time--certainly one that has not been forgotten.  Mike clearly states his case for Fred Merkle and provides a concise baseball history lesson with his presentation.  

Nicolette House

Nicolette House is the author of our middle grade novel, Maddie Takes the Ice.  Nicolette is a recent graduate of DePaul University and a professional ice dancing competitor.  Counted among the best ice dancers in the world, Nicolette competed internationally, but her experience as a young competitive figure skater is what she fell back on to write her engaging novel.  Her heroine Maddie faces many tough challenges as she prepares and engages in a regional competition.  Young readers get an inside look at one of the most demanding sports and share Maddie's experiences as they read along to her trials and victories.  Nicolette can talk to young athletes about her experiences in the sport and the rigors and wonders of taking part in such an artful yet physically demanding field.  Maddie has been mainstay in America's Battle of the Books Literacy program. 

If you have an interest in booking a Sporting Chance Press author for an event, please let me know and I will pass on your information to our authors who will contact your directly.  You can reach me at and by sending me your information directly be email, I can pass it on quickly to the author.