Bears

Chicago Football Madness: Brian Urlacher earns top seed in 2006 region

Chicago Football Madness: Brian Urlacher earns top seed in 2006 region

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.

 

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

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Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

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NBC Sports Chicago

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

The news that came out Thursday, that Chet Coppock had died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident earlier this month in Florida, was sad on so many levels. That you didn’t have a chance to say “good-bye,” that you didn’t have a chance to say “thank you,” that you won’t have more of “those” kinds of Chet moments.

But one of my favorite movie moments is at the end of “The Last Samurai” when Tom Cruise, the wounded ex-U.S. soldier who’d fought with the Samurai, is asked by the young Japanese emperor about the death of Ken Watanabe’s Samurai character Katsumoto, “Tell me how he died.” To which Cruise says, “I will tell you, how he lived.”

Somehow that’s the feeling thinking about Chet – little fun snapshots of how he lived.

Snapshots like listening to Coppock on Sports, and appreciating that Chet deserves a spot in the pantheon of those who created a genre.

Like how we in the media laughed imitating Chet’s questions, which routinely went on long enough for you to run out for a sandwich and be back before he was finished. But the chuckle was how Chet wouldn’t directly ask a guest, “So why did you make THAT idiotic play?” No, Chester had this tack of, “So, what would you say to those who would say, ‘You’re an idiot?’” Of course, it would take a minimum of two minutes for him to wend his way through the question, but the results were always worth waiting for.

Like “Your dime, your dance floor.” 

Like grabbing lunches with Chet while I was working on the ’85 Bears book, but in particular while I was writing “100 Greatest Chicago Sports Arguments.” The specific in the latter told me a lot about Chet, far beyond just the information he was sharing.

The “argument” was over who was the greatest Chicago play-by-play broadcaster. Now, Chet of course suggested tongue-in-cheek that he belonged in the discussion; after all, as he pointed out, a high school kid at New Trier games, sitting by himself in the stands, doing play-by-play into a “microphone” that was one of those cardboard rollers from bathroom tissue, oughta be worth something.

Chet’s nomination for the actual No. 1 was Jack Brickhouse, the WGN legend who Chet noted had done play-by for every conceivable sport.

But the reason for Chet’s vote for Brickhouse wasn’t about any of that. It was, Chet said, because Brickhouse beginning back in the mid-‘50s, when the Cubs were integrating with Gene Baker and Ernie Banks, had very intentionally made it clear with his broadcasting and behavior that Baker and Banks were “Cubs,” not “black Cubs.” Brickhouse’s principles had left an impression on a then-young Chet.

I hadn’t known any of that. But Chet did, and that he had taken a lasting impression from what he’d heard growing up said something about Chet as well as Jack. That impressed me, and frankly has always been my favorite Chet story.

So losing an institution like Chet is sad; Chet did say that, no, he wasn’t an institution, but rather that he belonged IN one. But at least he came our way.

Behind Enemy Lines: Looking at where the Bears fall in their opponents’ schedules

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USA TODAY

Behind Enemy Lines: Looking at where the Bears fall in their opponents’ schedules

Week 1: Packers at Bears (TNF / NFL Season Opener)

It’s NFL Opening Night. Really not much else to say here. The Packers do host the Vikings in Week 2, so there’s that.

**10 days off**

Week 2: Bears at Broncos

No shortage of juice for the Broncos here. On top of Vic Fangio getting the opportunity to take down his former team, it’s the Broncos home opener. There’s also some ridiculous stat out there about the Broncos being something like 75-2 in Week 2 at home or something (*Not the actual stat, it’s buried in TweetDeck somewhere), so this one will be tough.

Week 3: Bears at Washington (MNF)

 

Washington’s schedule

Week 1 at Eagles

Week 2 vs Cowboys

Week 3 vs Bears MNF

Week 4 vs Giants

Week 5 vs Patriots

So Washington hosts the Bears in the midst of facing all three of their divisional opponents in the first four weeks of the season. I don’t know what it means, I just know I found it interesting. Worst case scenario for the Bears is that Washington is (more than likely) 0-2 and needs to throw the kitchen sink at the Bears to “save” their season on Monday Night Football. But then there’s this: Washington is 2-14 on Monday Night Football since November of 2008.

Week 4 Vikings vs Bears

 

Vikings Schedule

Week 3 vs Raiders

Week 4 at Bears

Week 5 at Giants

Week 6 vs Eagles

Divisional games aren’t typically let down or look ahead spots and that certainly holds true for both teams here. I’d watch out for that Giants game in New York sandwiched between the Bears and Eagles if I were a Vikings fan though.

Week 5 vs Raiders in London

 

Raiders Schedule

Week 2 vs Chiefs

Week 3 at Vikings

Week 4 at Colts

Week 5 vs Bears in London

Week 6 BYE

All bets are off for these London games. The Khalil Mack trade revenge game certainly should be a Bears win, and after facing a murderers row of the Chiefs, Vikings and Colts, the Raiders could be limping across the pond.

Week 6  BYE

Week 7  Saints vs Bears

 

Saints Schedule

Week 6 at Jaguars

Week 7 at Bears

Week 8 vs Cardinals

As JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and I talked about on the Under Center podcast I actually think it’s a good thing the Bears are facing a likely Super Bowl contender coming out of the bye week. Last season, they faced the Dolphins and Giants coming out of the Bye, and the extended post-Thanksgiving break respectively and they lost against bad teams. No excuse for not getting up for this game. And as you can see, there’s nothing to distract the Saints from the defending NFC North champs.

Week 8   Chargers vs Bears

 

Chargers Schedule

Week 6 vs Steelers

Week 7 at Titans

Week 8 at Bears

Week 9 vs Packers

So the Chargers were 7-1 on the road last season, but I think their road success and their 12-4 record come back to earth in 2019. Last season was their first season winning 10+ games since 2009. And we saw the real Chargers (not) show up against the Patriots when it mattered most in the AFC Divisional Round. Give me a healthy dose of Philip Rivers throwing a temper tantrum after Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks combine for the Bears fourth sack of the day.

Week 9 at Eagles

 

Eagles Schedule

Week 7 at Cowboys (SNF)

Week 8  at Bills

Week 9 vs Bears

Week 10 BYE

Week 11 vs Patriots

The already tall task of avenging last season’s double doink playoff heartbreak gets even tougher with the way the schedule falls for Jordan Howard’s new team. Having the Patriots looming could have been advantageous for the Bears, but this being the Eagles’ last game before the bye nixes any chance Doug Pederson’s team will be looking past the Bears and ahead to a Super Bowl LII rematch. Big game at a big point of the season for both teams.

Week 10 vs Lions

 

Lions Schedule

Week 9 at Raiders

Week 10 at Bears

Week 11 vs Cowboys

Week 12 at Washington

Week 13 vs Bears  (Thanksgiving)

Nothing jumps out from the Lions perspective here. Should be a ‘get right game’ for the Bears coming off IMO their toughest stretch of the season. There is some letdown potential with the lowly Lions dropped into this otherwise murderer’s row 5 game stretch.

Week 11 at Rams (SNF)

 

Rams schedule

Week 10 at Steelers

Week 11 vs Bears  (SNF)

Week 12 vs Ravens (MNF)

Super Bowl hangover anyone?? The Bears laid the defensive blueprint for how to beat the Rams – and the thing I can’t still get over: it’s great that a mic’d up Sean McVay realized the Patriots were using the Bears scheme early in the Super Bowl. But how did he not have a counter for it at that point? A team beat you this exact way? The Bears finish what they started a season ago by sending the Rams into a tailspin while Mitch cements himself as a household name.

Week 12 vs Giants

 

Giants Schedule

Week 11  BYE

Week 12  at Bears

Week 13 vs Packers

We’re doing this again are we? Huge letdown spot for the Bears against what should be a really bad team coming off their bye week and the Bears have a short Thanksgiving week looming. I don’t like it. Not even a little bit.

Week 13 at Lions (Thanksgiving)

 

Lions Schedule

Week 12 at Washington

Week 13 vs Bears  (Thanksgiving)

Week 14 at Vikings

We saw the Bears handle a brutal 85-hour turnaround from Sunday Night Football to Thanksgiving last season – so they’ve been here. Last year’s Thanksgiving game did actually come down to Kyle Fuller making a game-saving INT in the end zone at the end of the game. Definitely edge Bears but anything can happen on Turkey day.

**update! I found the Broncos stat!  51-8-2 in weeks 1-2 at home.  Carry on.****

Week 14 vs Cowboys (TNF)

 

Cowboys schedule

Week 12 at Patriots

Week 13 vs Bills

Week 14 at Bears (TNF)

Week 15 vs Rams

Getting funky with back to back Thursdays. The Bears did do this in 2014, losing against the Lions and Cowboys in that order as the Trestman era was coming to its Real Football Coaches of Chicago (in)glorious ending. For my money, I have this as the most pivotal game of the season. With 10 days off afterward, a win could propel the Bears into their crucial home stretch (and the playoffs) in the driver’s seat.

**10 days off**

Week 15  at Packers

 

Packers Schedule

Week 13 at Giants

Week 14 vs Washington

Week 15 vs Bears

Week 16 at Vikings

Week 17 at Lions

Well here’s some fun with schedules. The Packers finish with three straight against the NFC North. And they get to warm up for it with back to back games against the NFC East’s least. Does the Matt Nagy era come full circle from Lambeau heartbreak in the 2018 opener to cementing his second straight divisional crown in enemy territory?

Week 16 vs Chiefs (SNF)

 

Chiefs Schedule

Week 14 at Patriots

Week 15 vs Broncos

Week 16 at Bears (SNF)

Week 17 vs Chargers

Definitely a roll of the dice by the schedule makers to have the Andy Reid – Matt Nagy, mentor vs pupil, reigning MVP vs reigning top defense this late in the season. This game very well could mean nothing to either or both teams. But for everyone’s sake, let’s hope we all get the primetime early Christmas present of watching Patrick Mahomes vs the Bears defense with everything on the line.

Week 17 at Vikings

 

Vikings Schedule

Week 14 vs Lions

Week 15 at Chargers (SNF)

Week 16 vs Packers (MNF)

Week 17 vs Bears

Another fun schedule wrinkle where another NFC North opponents close with a division heavy final stretch. Normally I would have a problem with the Vikings getting to end the season with all three of their NFC North home games in the final month. But we saw what the Vikings did at home with their season on the line against the Bears in the final week last season, so I have my doubts as to whether they’ll even still be alive at this point.

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