As training camp approaches and CSNChicago.com looks ahead to competitions and other situations, Bears Insider Moon Mullin ranks the top three in franchise history at each to position.
1. Dan Hampton
The difficult issue with Hampton is whether he rates a franchise-best at tackle or end, since he made two Pro Bowls at both. He goes to tackle for a couple reasons:
He was the NFL defensive player of the year in 1982 as a tackle, six-time first first or second team All-Pro, and on the All-Decade Team for the 80s.
But what tips him to tackle is the fact that while the 46 defense of Buddy Ryan carries the number of safety Doug Plank, more than one former 85er told CSNChicago.com that the key was when Hampton dropped down into a nose tackle spot. Hampton was virtually unblockable one-on-one, and he was at tackle in 84 with 11.5 sacks when the Bears totaled 72.
The Bears got him with a No. 1 draft choice obtained from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in trade for Wally Chambers, who probably wouldve been in the Bests discussion himself but for injuries.
Besides, Hampton was part of creating the Gatorade Shower tradition (the proof is on YouTube). That has to count for something.
2. Steve McMichael
Mings biggest problem was that he was playing among too many luminaries, beginning with Hampton to his immediate left, Richard Dent to his far right and Fridge next to him inside. But McMichael was an every down tackle in the tradition of John Randle and interior impact guys who were far more effective at 280 pounds than jumbo models who couldnt move in a game built on movement.
McMichael was still getting six sacks at age 37 and he had no fewer than seven in nine of 10 years from 1983-92.
Mike Ditka called McMichael the toughest player hed ever coached. But its the performances that make him elite.
3. Tommie Harris
What makes Harris hard to grade is the odd combination of injury, maddening inconsistency and brilliance. The Tommie Harris of 2005 (when he was All-Pro) was a force despite only three sacks and he never had more than eight sacks in a season.
But Harris was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, which may be a popularity contest to be sure, but it reflects player and coach voting, so thats a statement of what peers thought of him.
This was a close call between Harris and George Musso, whos in the Hall of Fame after playing guard, tackle and defensive tackle. Musso also rates consideration because he was able to squeeze 5 of expense money out of George Halas, which means he understood pressure.
Harris was 295 pounds, however, a very good player with his injuries and sometimes a great player, when he wanted to be. The merits outweigh the demerits here.