The face of the Chicago Bears franchise for over a decade has been Brian Urlacher. He should know better than any of the 53 men on the roster what it takes to win in this city. He has accomplished a lot in his tenure here, but has only led his team to one Super Bowl appearance in his 12 years with the Bears.
Urlacher was the Defensive MVP in 2005 and eight-time Pro-Bowler, but still hasn’t brought a ring back to the city. With his contract up at the end of the year, no one is certain whether or not he’ll return, and at what cost? Certainly, Coach Lovie Smith being fired will play a factor in if he would even want to be back next year, but if he does leave, Urlacher would look to find a contending team that would be willing to pay for a 34-year old veteran. For the sake of this argument, let’s say he doesn’t come back, and let’s compare his career with one of the top 50 players in NBA history.
After Charles Tillman called Calvin Johnson the LeBron James of the NFL, it got me thinking of who Urlacher compares to in the NBA. Right off the bat I came up with Karl Malone.
Malone played 18 years with the Utah Jazz and one season with the Los Angeles Lakers; went to three NBA Finals and lost each of them; second all-time in scoring; and second in games played as a member of the Jazz. He earned the nickname “The Mailman” for his consistent play on the court and ability to contribute each game. He had a number of accomplishments in his career but one thing alluded his Hall of Fame resume – winning the big one. In 2003, Malone left Utah for the Lakers, which was supposed to be a team of destiny. They were stacked with future Hall of Famers such as Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Gary Payton, but could not get it done against the “team-oriented” Detroit Pistons.
So is Brian Urlacher on the same career-path as Karl Malone?
Urlacher is the second-longest tenured player on the team today behind Patrick Mannelly, who, by the way, just signed a contract extension. He holds the Bears’ record for career tackles (1,691); is only the fifth player in NFL history to win both Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive MVP award in their career; and holds the record for most sacks by a linebacker in Chicago Bears history. Urlacher doesn’t have a fancy nickname like “The Mailman” but he certainly has delivered in his time with the team. Yet again, the problem is delivering a championship to Chicago, which he hasn’t done. After starting this season 7-1 and being considered a Super Bowl favorite, the Bears are one game away from not even making the playoffs.
After his controversial comments about the fans and media, you have to think that with Lovie being out as head coach, Urlacher will follow suit. At 34, the question then becomes does he call it quits or does he find himself a championship-caliber team? Not every player can have a story book ending like Jerome Bettis or John Elway. Urlacher may not be that lucky.