The readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team
September 15, 2009: FULL BACK
FULL BACK-Jason McKie
In contention: Tony Carter, Bryan Johnson, Jason McKie, Daimon Shelton
Unheralded. That’s the full back. Also referred to as the blocking back, lead back, or lead blocker, the full back has his origins in bigger running backs like the Bears’ Bronko Nagurski and Cleveland’s Marion Motley. While the league has had its share of big backs in recent years—Jerome Bettis, Bam Morris, Mike Alstott, and Brandon Jacobs come to mind—today’s full back is predominantly used as a lead blocker, short distance runner, and safety valve pass catcher.
And now, a brief yet detailed history of the full back position in the Post-Ditka era…
Following the pseudo-trade of Brad Muster for Ironhead Heyward, the Bears employed a variety of full backs with varied success. Heyward did the job in ’93 and Merril Hoge played some in ’94 until he was knocked from the game (and The Game) with one too many concussions. The ‘Ultraback’ Raymont Harris filled in for the injured Hoge, starting 11 games in the playoff season. Tony Carter held the job for three seasons starting in 1995, and someone named Ty Hallock blocked for Packers castaway Edgar Bennett in the disastrous 1998 season before the team flipped his number from 49 to 94 and turned him into a linebacker. Hallock fell out of favor in ’99 with the arrival of offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and Crowton’s abolishment of a lead blocker in favor of three wide receiver sets and bubble screens during his 3-QB Monte tenure.
The Bears returned to a more traditional offense the following year, signing Jacksonville standout Daimon Shelton before the 2001 season. The big bowling ball of a back proved extremely valuable, paving running lanes for Anthony Thomas and helping the Bears to their 13-3 record. But Shelton was suspended for the conclusion of the 2001 season, and backup Stanley Pritchett started the playoff game in his stead. Shelton started eight games in 2002, with the Bears often going three wide, followed by Pritchett starting 11 in 2003.
Bryan Johnson signed with the team in 2004, and was productive blocking for both Thomas Jones and the A-Train while also scoring twice on short pass patterns. The Bears often employed tight end Dustin Lyman as an “h-back” in 2004, limiting Johnson’s starts. Johnson entered the 2005 season as the starter, but injuries brought Marc Edwards into the rotation, with Edwards eventually yielding to Jason McKie, who played in only 30 games during his first four years. McKie became the full-time starter in 2006, and has retained the job since then.
In the words of Rob Gordon: “That pretty much brings us up to date. Who needs a drink?”
So who was seriously considered for the starting spot? Shelton was great in 2001, but his suspensions for steroid use and short tenure with the team hurt his chances on the RJ-AB-PD squad. Johnson was also excellent when he played, but that time was limited by injuries.
Thus, the choice came down to Carter and McKie, with the Committee initially selecting Carter. The Golden Gopher notched 106 receptions in his four Bears seasons for 738 yards, making him easily the biggest receiving threat among all full backs. But following more thought, McKie was given the job. 2009 begins McKie’s seventh season on the team, and during his first three seasons he was a back up—quite an impressive feat and a real show of his value, because how many full backs stay on a roster for three years as a backup? Can’t be many. McKie has been a terrific lead blocker for Jones, Benson, Peterson, and Forte, and is handy as a receiver out of the backfield.
And, with the final words on the matter (at least for now), an impassioned plea from RJ-AB-PD Committee member Jake Bressler:
“I would start Jason McKie over Tony Carter at fullback, unless the Ultraback Raymont Harris is eligible at that position. JMACK was the lead blocker in the Super Bowl season and Forte’s great rookie campaign, and is a clubhouse leader.”
And, because you deserve it…
“But Ironhead, what’s with this thingy?”