UPDATE: Bears' chairman of the board, George McCaskey, has since said the team does not intend to retire any more numbers after Mike Ditka's 89 this season: "We thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89. Mike Ditka embodies the spirit of everything the Bears are about. He’s an icon. The last time we won the championship Mike Ditka was our coach, and the last time we won before that Mike Ditka was a player. The organization knew it was the right thing to do."
A couple weeks ago, I called Brian Urlacher Chicago’s third-best draft selection of all-time, ranking him ahead of Mike Singletary and Dick Butkus, and unofficially naming him the best linebacker in Bears’ history. I stand by that.
Today, Urlacher announced his retirement from the NFL on Twitter, saying, “After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire. Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that is up to my standards. When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after a 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear.”
Urlacher said he felt it was an honor to play his entire career for the Chicago Bears and that, while he’ll miss the game, he leaves it behind with no regrets. “I want to thank all the people in my life that have helped me along the way,” Urlacher said. “I will miss my teammates, my coaches and the great Bears fans. I’m proud to say that I gave all of you everything that I had every time I took the field.”
You guys know how I feel about Urlacher as a player. And, yes, I suppose I might be a little biased. I’m 30 years-old. I didn’t grow up watching Dick Butkus or Mike Singletary. I grew up watching No. 54. But based on what I saw, and what I’ve since seen, I stand by my statement that Brian Urlacher is the best LB in Bears’ history.
And I never want to see jersey No. 54 on another football player in this town.
The Bears currently have the most retired numbers in the National Football League and are only two behind the New York Yankees among all of professional sports. Although it’s not pertinent to this post, the NBA’s Boston Celtics have the most retired jersey numbers in any sport with 21.
Here are the Bears’:
- 28 Willie Galimore, RB (1957-63)
- 3 Bronko Nagurski, RB-T (1930-37; 43)
- 34 Walter Payton, RB (1975-87)
- 40 Gale Sayers, RB (1965-71)
- 41 Brian Piccolo, RB (1966-69)
- 42 Sid Luckman, QB (1939-50)
- 5 George McAfee, RB-DB (1940-41; 45-50)
- 51 Dick Butkus, LB (1965-73)
- 56 Bill Hewitt, E (1932-36)
- 61 Bill George, LB (1952-65)
- 66 Clyde "Bulldog" Turner, C-LB (1940-52)
- 7 George Halas, E (1920-29)
- 77 Harold "Red" Grange, RB-DB (1925; 29-34)
The only linebackers on that list are, rightfully, Butkus, Bill George and Bulldog. But as far as I’m concerned, Brian Uralcher should join the fraternity. Here’s a snapshot of why:
- 13 seasons
- Eight Pro Bowl selections
- Five All Pro selections
- Brian Piccolo Award winner
- Ed Block Courage Award winner
- AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year
- Football Digest Defensive Player of the Year
- NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
- NFL 2000s All-Decade Team
- Sure-fire first-ballot Fall of Famer (IMO)
- Owns Bears’ single-season tackles record (153 in 2002)
- Owns Bears’ career tackles record (1,779)
- Fourth most defensive touchdowns in franchise history
- Most sacks by a linebacker in franchise history
- Second most interceptions by a linebacker in franchise history
- Third most opponent fumble recoveries in franchise history
- Is one of just four NFL players with at least 20 interceptions and 40 sacks in their career
So that’s my argument. What do you think? Should the Bears retire No. 54?
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