Dan Hampton on Doug Buffone: 'He was bigger than life'


Dan Hampton on Doug Buffone: 'He was bigger than life'

Dan Hampton was a rookie in 1979, coming to the Bears in what would be Doug Buffone’s last year in the NFL. By that time, Buffone was no longer a starting linebacker and Hampton wasn’t seeing Buffone in anything near the latter’s prime.

But Hampton, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, saw the essential Doug Buffone, in more ways than one.

“When I got here in 1979, Doug was ‘The Dos Equis Man,’ Hampton said, laughing. “You know: ‘Stay thirsty, my friend.’ He had the nightclubs, all the stuff, and he was bigger than life.

[MORE: Mike Ditka on Doug Buffone: 'I loved him']

“He was so great to play with. In the [1979] game against the New England Patriots, he was thrust into the starting middle linebacker position because of the illness to Tom Hicks.

“Doug’d been up night, and there he was in the locker room before the game, chain-smoking. He was in his 14th year and you don’t expect to be dropped into the middle-linebacker position all of a sudden.

“And New England had that running back, Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham, who was a 300-pound running back. Not only did Doug play great – he ran a fake punt as captain of the punt team in that game, and he intercepted two passes, which broke Butkus’ all-time record for linebacker.

[MORE: Moon - There was no one more fun to talk with than Doug Buffone]

“He was the man. He was bigger than life.”

Hampton knew Buffone was dealing with some health concerns over the past couple years and his strongest feelings on Monday centered on those left behind.

“I feel just horrible for [Buffone’s wife] Dana and the kids,” Hampton said. “Doug was a big part of the world of the Chicago Bears.”

[MORE: Doug Buffone a character with character]

Hampton shares the passion that Buffone, Ed O’Bradovich and others feel about their former team. “But with Doug, as much as he loved the Bears, you always knew it wasn’t a condemnation of the Bears,” Hampton said. “It was a desperate plea for them to find a way as a football team. It was never ill will.

“He was a fine, fine human being, and it was a joy to have been able to play even one year with Doug. He will sorely be missed. He was just a fine, fine man. He’s a Chicago icon. We’re all the richer for having known him.”

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

The Bears have completely flipped the narrative of their 2019 season over the last three weeks, thanks in large part to Matt Nagy's offense finally resembling the 202-level that was promised last summer.

It may have taken quarterback Mitch Trubisky a little longer than expected to arrive this year, but if his last two games are an indication of his development in his second season under Nagy's tutelage, the Bears have a bonafide quarterback. And it's been a while since that could be said.

"Mitchell Trubisky is hot, there's no doubt about it," NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said Thursday. "He seems so much more comfortable. Decisive. He's accurate with the football. Running around at the proper time. I don't think it was all Mitchell Trubisky's fault with the struggles of the offense, either."

Those struggles spanned the first half of 2019 when Chicago seemed incapable of sustaining drives or scoring points. It began with Week 1's three-point output against the Packers and continued through Thanksgiving Day when Trubisky finally got his mojo back, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions.

With Trubisky clicking, and the running game receiving a jolt from rookie David Montgomery's productive back-to-back weeks (in which he's averaged more than four yards per carry in successive games for the first time all year), the Bears appear capable of beating just about anyone. 

They'll need to. If Chicago wants to keep their weak playoff pulse going, they have to win out. And that includes games against the Packers, Chiefs and Vikings. 

The odds seem stacked against them, and it's their own fault. It took way too long to get the offense going, but it's better late than never. 

According to Simms, the Bears are that team no one wants to play.

"They're a dangerous team right now. They really are."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Just when it appeared like Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was entering his final half-season as the team's unquestioned starting quarterback, the last month happened.

Trubisky's play has steadily improved over the last five games and reached what may have been his watermark moment in Week 14 against the Cowboys. He completed 74% of his passes for 244 yards and three passing touchdowns while adding a season-high 63 rushing yards and a score on the ground. It marked the second week in a row that Trubisky's completed over 74% of his passes; he connected on 76% of his throws a week earlier against the Lions.

Trubisky's recent success is a far cry from the mentally broken player he was after the first month of the season. He has his confidence back. In fact, he's playing with more confidence than he's ever shown as a pro. His recent success is a direct and obvious result of his evolution between the ears.

The Bears were circled as a team that was likely to be in the quarterback market this offseason because of how terrible Trubisky looked early in 2019. And there's still a chance that GM Ryan Pace will look to add some healthy competition to the roster, but if Trubisky continues to play well, that competition will be for the backup job. 

It's also worth noting that one of the more appealing quarterback targets this offseason probably won't make it to the open market. Titans starter Ryan Tannehill continues to enjoy a remarkable comeback season and appears destined to sign a long-term extension with Tennessee sooner than later. After Tannehill, the discount quarterback rack includes names like Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota, players who a month ago would've been viewed as marked upgrades over Trubisky.

It doesn't feel like that's the case anymore.

Barring a massive regression from Trubisky over the next three games, it's starting to feel like he's winning back Chicago's confidence one game at a time. 

With all that in mind, here's the updated Bears QB Big Board entering Week 15:

Bears QB Big Board (Dec. 12, 2019)

1. Mitch Trubisky (Bears)
previous: 2 (Dec. 3)

2. Andy Dalton (Bengals)
previous: 1 (Dec. 3)

3. Ryan Tannehill (Titans)
previous: 3  (Dec. 3)

4. Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma)
previous: 4 (Dec. 3)

5. Marcus Mariota (Titans)
previous: 5 (Dec. 3)

6. Teddy Bridgewater (Saints)
previous: 6 (Dec. 3)

Outside looking in (list cut down to three)...

-Jake Fromm (Georgia)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

-Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

- Cam Newton (Panthers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.