Chicago Football Madness: Brian Urlacher earns top seed in 2006 region originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com
Excitement for the Bears are at an all-time high, so while March Madness and the NCAA Tournament begin, we still have Bears on the mind. So we've created Chicago Bears Football Madness, pitting players from the three best Bears teams and legends head-to-head. This is the 2006region.
1 Brian Urlacher
16 Urlacher with hair
Bald Urlacher: As strong a case as any in the field for the number one overall seed. The 2018 Hall of Fame inductee revolutionized the game at middle linebacker and did it playing for a franchise with the richest defensive identity. The eight-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro, 2000 Defensive Rookie of the Year, 2005 AP Defensive Player of the Year and Bears all-time leading tackler is the odds on favorite to be the last man standing at the end of this madness.
Urlacher with hair: You know how this current generation of Boston sports fans has pretty much never experienced a year without a championship? We're in range of this entire current generation of young Bears fans knowing Urlacher only as the man with the hair billboards every other block and not being able to recognize Brian Urlacher as he was when he played. I think we get a little bit of a sweat on the voting on this one, but since the man himself chose to go into Canton with a bald bust, he prevails here as well.
By Paul Aspan
8 Thomas Jones
9 Tommie Harris
Jones: One of the most underrated Bears players of the modern era, Thomas Jones can simply be described with one word: production. So underappreciated, in fact, that the Bears wasted the fourth overall pick drafting Cedric Benson. Ouch. With over 3,400 yards on the ground in three seasons with Chicago, Jones also racked up 22 touchdowns and caught 158 passes, too. As the "A-Train" Anthony Thomas began to fizzle away with the Bears, Jones stepped in as a low-key free agent addition that paid off in a big way.
Harris: You know how Jerry Angelo was just awful at drafting first round picks? Tommie Harris is the one he actually hit on...and kept (see Olsen, Greg). The Bears took Harris with the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft, and by the 2006 season, he was one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL. In seven seasons with the Bears, Harris amassed 28.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl on three occasions. While other players might get more recognition on that dominant defense, Harris was an integral player on the interior of that defensive line.
By Slavko Bekovic
4 Charles Tillman
13 Muhsin Muhammad
Tillman: Peanut! Tillman's 12-year career with the Bears should probably put him in the Hall of Fame. Even if he ultimately doesn't get in, the Peanut Punch ain't exactly a terrible legacy to leave on the league. Even without the Peanut Punch, 36 interceptions, *42* forced fumbles and eight touchdowns is a hell of a career. Ironically enough, 2006 was one of Tillman's quieter years, but Peanut's numbers speak for themselves. Just to be even MORE badass, Tillman joined the FBI after retiring and is now an active agent. An FBI Agent!
Muhammad: He started all 47 of the games he played in Chicago, catching 164 balls for 2,183 yards. It probably would have been way, way more if, you know, he hadn't had Rex Grossman throwing those passes. Ultimately, Moose's time with the Bears might be most known for that time he said that "Chicago is where wide receivers go to die." Muhammad was productive for the Bears, but considering he scored 16 touchdowns the season before he signed, never scoring more than five in Chicago felt like a bit of a let down.
By Cam Ellis
5 Lovie Smith
12 Ron Rivera
Lovie: The steady hand of Smith produced the Bears' most successful season since 1985, with his defense ranking among the best in the league and his team averaging the second-most points per game in 2006. While "Rex is our quarterback" may have become a telling refrain the Bears' lack of offensive success, a team based on having an elite defense and a Hall of Fame returner wound up in the Super Bowl. How can you vote against the guy who was the coach for all that?
Rivera: While Smith's preferred strategy was more passive than Riverboat Ron's aggressive styme, the two were able to blend their approaches together to form one of the better defenses in Bears history. Rivera, of course, was fired only a few weeks after the Super Bowl, setting him on a path that ultimately landed him as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. His departure from Chicago was controversial: "Ronnie was beloved, by the organization, by anybody that played for him," Hall of Famer Dan Hampton said . So consider this a grudge match of sorts.
By JJ Stankevitz
6 Olin Kreutz
11 Rex Grossman
Kreutz: The heart and soul of the soul of the Bears' offense, Kreutz had his best season with the Bears in 2006, earning first-team All-Pro honors on a team that made the Super Bowl. Folks in Chicago know how good and important Kreutz was; he played all but 10 of the Bears' offensive snaps that year. The Bears don't have their most successful season since 1985 without Kreutz, literally, in the middle of it.
Grossman: He's the only one of two quarterbacks in franchise history to start a Super Bowl, even if his 2006 season was at times unimpressive and at others wildly frustrating. He completed 54.6 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, and an ill-advised throw in the Super Bowl led to Kelvin Hayden's game-sealing pick-six. Still, if you're a believer in quarterback records, Grossman went 13-3 in 2006.
By JJ Stankevitz
3 Devin Hester
14 Adewale Ogunleye
Hester: A true game-changer. LITERALLY. Devin Hester was such a good return man that some teams around the NFL chose to just give the Bears the ball at the 40-yard line by kicking it out of bounds rather than give the "Windy City Flyer" an opportunity to take one to the house. And he took it to the house a lot, breaking Deion Sanders' record for return touchdowns with 20 in his illustrious career. In eight years with the Bears, Hester scored on 13 punt returns, five kick returns and a memorable 108-yard missed field goal return in the Meadowlands.
His career never took off as a defensive back or as a wide receiver, but it didn't matter, as Hester undoubtedly goes down as the greatest return man in NFL history. Devin Hester...you are ridiculous!
Ogunleye: If I told you that Adewale Ogunleye ranks sixth all-time in Bears franchise history in sacks, would you believe me? Because he does. Similar to Thomas Jones, one of the most underappreciated Bears of all-time. Since 2000, only eight players have had a 10+ sack season for the Bears, and Ogunleye is one of them, racking up 10 in 2005. He's worth a vote for the simple fact that when Alex Brown (who has only 1.5 more sacks than Ogunleye in 40 more games as a Bear) threw shade at him on live TV, Ogunleye clapped back.
What he failed to mention in that clip was that the Right Tackle always had Tight End Help and the left End is always seen by the QB... right Ends are always coming from the blind side😑
— Adewale Ogunleye, MBA (@aotheprince93) October 29, 2018
By Slavko Bekovic
7 Alex Brown
10 Robbie Gould
Brown: On top of being a star analyst on our Football Aftershow, did you know that this SEC loving ‘Florida boy' received a Defensive Player of the Year vote in 2005, the same year that none other than Brian Urlacher won the award? Has the talent to back up the constant and entertaining chatter between the lines. AB has made it known to the selection committee that he's not thrilled with his draw, but he still sees the original "9-6" making it to the Sweet 16.
Gould: Look I'm not saying Robbie was actively campaigning for a return to Chicago - but he was. As a non-native-Chicagoan, I admittedly don't have the attachment to the Goulden era. He's the best kicker in franchise history and making 82-85 field goals speaks for itself, but doing a free agent media circuit to hit everyone over the head with the "once a Bear, always a Bear" mantra when the last Bears kicker pissed off the entire building by running to a national TV camera after a gut-punch playoff loss was a curious choice. But I'm pulling for Robbie! AB will hear the end of it from our crew if he loses to a kicker.
By Paul Aspan
2 Lance Briggs
15 Nathan Vasher
Lance Briggs: The numbers speak for themselves with Briggs: 1,176 total tackles, 32 forced turnovers and a key member for several great Bears defenses including an NFC Champion in 12 seasons with the Bears. The Robin to Brian Urlacher's Batman, Briggs could be Hall of Fame bound one day and no doubt will always be a Bears legend. Oh, what could have been with those defenses.
Nathan Vasher: He had the career of a shooting star. He burst onto the scene combining for 16 interceptions and two touchdowns in his first three seasons, combining with Peanut Tillman for one of the top cornerback tandems in the NFL. Who could forget the field goal return for a touchdown on a windy Soldier Field Sunday vs. the 49ers? But after the 2006 season, Vasher's productivity plummeted, recording just four interceptions in his last four NFL seasons (three with the Bears, one with the Lions) before retiring in 2010.
By Matt Rooney