Saturday, September 13, 2014

Missing Urlacher

It seems unbelievable that  Brian Urlacher has been out of football for two seasons now.  He played his rookie season in 2000 and he fit in so well with the Chicago Bears that it is still hard to think of the Bears without him.  His time went so fast.  Unfortunately, the Bears did not capture the national championship during his time.  

Urlacher's had been hurt in 2009 and played well when he came back. But in 2012, it just looked like he had lost a step or two.  His combined tackles dropped to 68 in his final year and it was a good time to end a career before the great Urlacher fell into mediocrity.  Of course, Urlacher expressed incredulity that the Bears were not prepared to pay him superstar pay if he stayed on, but it was time to look towards a new career.  It's almost impossible for an aging athlete to end his career well. 

How good was Urlacher?  He honored the great tradition of Chicago Bears football and exemplified the play of the middle linebacker.  He was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and the heart and soul of the Bears defense while he was here. Urlacher impressed fans with his power and speed--and he became an excellent defensive "quarterback" as well. Commentators often talked about how Urlacher could cover receivers who were considered too fast for linebackers. Urlacher’s best on the 40-YD Dash was said to be 4.5 or even lower by some accounts. Mismatch was not a term used to describe Urlacher covering an opposing receiver. 

For Bear fans, Urlacher was the new Dick Butkus, about the same size and a game changer.   Some would think of him as the new Mike Singletary, but Urlacher was much bigger.  He was his own man.

Urlacher did not seem to sport Singletary's intensity or Butkus's anger.  He always seemed in control and he seemed to be motivated solely to win and to compete.  He was a solid tackler, but he was not vindictive. I don't remember Urlacher ever look like he wanted to hurt someone.  He was a tough defender, but an excellent sport. I long for the days when teams had to deal with Urlacher and Julius Pepper, Lance Briggs, and Peanut Tillman all at their best. How good could the Bears have been with Urlacher in his prime and today's Bears' offense? Unlike Singletary, who played on a championship team, Brian Urlacher and Dick Butkus played their hearts out, but never got the ring.   

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of the popular new book, Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Won Three or More Championships.