Brian Urlacher dealt with no shortage of difficult decisions in his distinguished 13-year Bears career. Not many caused him as much difficulty as the one that would confront him if he is voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
The “crisis” call: Who would present Urlacher for induction into the Hall of Fame?
Maybe it’s bad luck to think that far ahead, but maybe it’s also natural. In any case, Urlacher is torn between three possibilities (“I only get to have one?” he said, laughing, but not completely):
Lovie Smith — Bears coach from 2004-2012
Bob Babich — Linebackers coach under Smith as well as — at times — defensive coordinator and assistant head coach from 2004-2012
Greg Blache — Dick Jauron’s defensive coordinator from 1999-2003, who moved Urlacher to middle linebacker.
“Those three are the ones who had the biggest impact on my career,” Urlacher said.
And no sooner had he mentioned those three favorites than another — Rod Marinelli, Bears defensive coordinator for Urlacher’s final three seasons — came to mind as Urlacher recalled those who helped him become what he became.
“I thought I could do anything for him,” Urlacher said, then reflected. “We had a lot of players who overshot their abilities because of those coaches.”
Smith was the architect of the Tampa-2 defensive scheme that changed/”downsized” the protective four-man wall in front of Urlacher but also expanded his areas of responsibility and his opportunities for impact. Urlacher had six interceptions and 19 passes defensed in his first four seasons. From 2004-08, with seven games missed in ’04 with hamstring injuries, he grabbed 11 interceptions and broke up 43 passes.
“Lovie let me be an athlete,” Urlacher said, “let me play football.”
Blache brought Urlacher through the early years, while Babich — “Bullet Bob” to his players — combined with Smith to unleash Urlacher to another level.
“Bob is like my dad,” Urlacher said. “I talk to him all the time. Playing football for him, I could do anything — well, almost anything — I wanted to, and he wasn’t going to get mad at me. And he’d listen to me. So would Lovie. And I appreciated that. Same with Rod Marinelli.”
Bears coaches have been scarce among HOF presenters for recent Bears inductees:
HOF inductee Presented by
Dan Hampton Ed O’Bradovich, former Bear
Richard Dent Joe Gilliam, Dent’s Tennessee State coach
Mike Singletary Kim Singletary (wife)
Jim Finks Ed McCaskey
Walter Payton Jarrett Payton (son)
Stan Jones Bob Kilculen, former Bear
Mike Ditka Ed O’Bradovich, former Bears teammate