If you haven’t heard the news, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has been voted as a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What was his career like with the Bears? What are his Hall of Fame qualifications?
(Photo Courtesy of NBC Sports)
Most anyone reading this will remember the great Brian Urlacher. Urlacher is a modern era player who retired just five years ago and is still a part of our recent Bears’ memory. He represented one of the greatest traditions the Bears have had on their long history, and that’s turning out great players at the middle linebacker position. From Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary and finally to Urlacher, the Bears have prided themselves on having stars at middle linebacker. And, like Butkus and Singletary, Urlacher is poised to be immortalized within the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Urlacher was named a semi-finalist for football’s highest honor just the other day and, with one more round of voting, can make it into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
What did Urlacher do in his career to warrant such a high honor? What was his career with the Bears like? Let’s take a quick look at the career of Brian Urlacher, former Chicago Bears middle linebacker.
Urlacher came to the Bears as a first-round draft pick (9th overall) in the 2000 NFL Draft. He played at the University of New Mexico where he was a star. When he got to Chicago, then head coach Dick Jauron decided to play him at outside linebacker in the Bears’ 4-3 defense. After one game, Urlacher was replaced by Roosevelt Colvin. But due to an injury to starting middle linebacker Barry Minter, the coaching staff put him in the middle and there he stayed.
During his first season in the league, Urlacher earned several honors. He was named the 2000 Defensive Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News and Associated Press. His eight sacks and 124 tackles helped him to earn a Pro Bowl berth as well. It was a great first season with the Bears, and many more would come.
In 2001, Urlacher once again had a big year doing several exciting things on defense and even on special teams. That big moment on special teams came when he caught a Brad Maynard touchdown pass on a fake field goal attempt. Urlacher ended the year with six sacks, three interceptions, and 118 total tackles. After a year full of highlight-reel defensive plays, Urlacher was named the Football Digest Defensive Player of the Year and was up for the 2001 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award (Michael Strahan won it).
In the 2002 season, Urlacher collected 153 total tackles, four and a half sacks and one interception. In 2003, he had 116 tackles with two and a half sacks and no interceptions. For the 2004 season, Urlacher played in just nine games totaling 72 tackles, five and a half sacks and one interception.
During the 2005 season, Urlacher started to gain some momentum again, along with the rest of the team. In addition to his statistics for that year, 122 tackles with six sacks, he was given the highest defensive honor in the league in being named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the year. He was selected to the Pro Bowl.
The next season would be a magical one for Urlacher and the Bears. No one will be able ever to forget the game that Urlacher had against the Arizona Cardinals that season. He helped lead the team to come back victory down 20 points. He played inspired football by forcing a fumble and registering a whopping 19 tackles. It seemed his inspiration inspired the rest of the team and they did the impossible. That game is one of the most memorable in Chicago Bears’ history.
When it was all said and done, Urlacher had compiled 93 tackles but more importantly, he helped lead the Bears to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, they lost to the Indianapolis Colts 29-17.
Pro Bowl honors were bestowed on Urlacher that season as well.
The star middle linebacker turned in a strong effort in the 2007 season. He finished the year with 123 tackles, five sacks, and one interception. Urlacher did have some issues that would require surgery on his neck the following offseason.
In addition to the surgery, he earned a contract extension which gave him a raise and some additional cash. This meant that Urlacher would likely be a Bear for life.
The 2009 season started out very rough for Urlacher. He dislocated his wrist in the Bears’ first game of the season and had surgery. The surgery meant that he would miss the rest of that season. The team did not do well without him in the lineup.
In the 2010 season, Urlacher and the Bears made the playoffs but lost to the Green Bay Packers in the famous “Cutler’s knee” game. He was spectacular once again racking up 125 total tackles with four sacks and one interception. He won Defensive Player of the Month Honors for December and January and was voted to the Pro Bowl.
In the 2011 season, Urlacher recorded 102 tackles and was voted to the Pro Bowl again. To close out the 2011 season, Urlacher went out with a knee injury and that hampered him going into the 2012 season. He missed a lot of training camp time. In the 2012 season, he played in 12 games and recorded 68 tackles and one interception.
Urlacher’s contract ran out at the end of the 2011 season and the two sides failed to reach an agreement. He told the world that he was going to retire on May 22nd, 2013. Urlacher ended his NFL career with a Bears’ record 1779 tackles, 22 interceptions, 41.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and 16 fumble recoveries.
That was a very productive career for one of the best linebackers in NFL history.
Urlacher is in his first year of eligibility. While it’s sometimes difficult for a player to make it into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, it’s certainly not impossible. Urlacher’s career and achievements are good enough that he should be easily voted in on the first ballot. If he isn’t, he will make it into the Hall sooner rather than later.
Eventually, he will be the Bears’ 35th member (27 directly related to the Bears and seven who spent part of their careers with the Bears) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Bears have the most members in the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame class for 2018 will be announced right before the Super Bowl on February 4th, 2018. Bears fans will be eagerly waiting to see if one of their favorite Chicago Bears’ players of all time makes the cut. Hopefully, he does and sends a reminder to the NFL that the Bears continue to historically have some of the best players in the league.