The readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team
September 19, 2009: TIGHT END
TIGHT END-Desmond Clark
In contention: Desmond Clark…and then…Fred Baxter, Marv Cook, Chris Gedney, John Gilmore, Keith Jennings, Dustin Lyman, Alonzo Mayes, Greg Olsen, Kaseem Sinceno, Ryan Wetnight
In 1961, rookie Mike Ditka led the Bears in receptions, receiving yards, overall touchdowns, and was named to his first of five Pro Bowls, all in Chicago. His first standout performance came in Week 2, when he caught five passes for 130 yards and a score in a 21-17 Bears win over Los Angeles. It was the beginning of a powerful career, one that launched Ditka into the Hall of Fame in 1988, the first man honored from his position.
Perhaps not coincidentally, 1988 was also the final season for Bears tight end Emery Moorehead. Following Ditka’s exit from the team after the ’66 season, the Bears shuffled through a gajillion tight ends. They were: Austin Denney, Rich Coady, Bob Wallace, Earl Thomas, Craig Cotton, Fred Pagac, Bob Parsons, Greg Latta, Mike Cobb, and Robin Earl. Latta was the best of that group, starting 48 games from ’75 to ’79, and catching 90 passes for 1081 yards and seven touchdowns. (Ditka’s rookie numbers in 14 games: 56, 1076, 12.)
Following the 1981 season, Papa Bear pegged Ditka to replace Neill Armstrong as coach, and Ditka then pegged Moorehead (who played nine, catchless games with the Bears in ’81 after three seasons with the Giants and one in Denver) to replace Earl as the team’s starting tight end. Moorehead started all nine games in the ’82 strike year, and the ETHS grad would go on to start 79 games, grabbing 200 balls for 2730 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Then he retired in ’88, and the Bears began chewing through tight ends once more, ESPECIALLY following the end of the Ditka era in ’92. Between the end of Moorehead and the end of Ditka was the reasonably productive Jim ‘Robocop’ Thornton, as well as Cap ‘This is my real name’ Boso. And in the PD era, everyone blurs together, some a bit more in focus (Jennings, Olsen) than others (Wetnight, Allred).
Which is why the “in contention” grouping above is so clumped up following the completely separated Desmond Clark. For the readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Committee, the only discussion at tight end concerned Clark’s backup. Big Number 88 was never a question.
Since joining the team as a free agent in 2003, the Wake Forest alum has played in 94 of a possible 96 games (missing one each in ’03 and ’04), and has started 92 of those 94 games. He has caught 222 passes (2nd to Ditka among TE in Bears franchise history) for 2482 yards (3rd, Ditka, Moorhead) and 16 touchdowns (2nd, Ditka). He was the first Bears tight end to have three consecutive 40+ catch seasons since Ditka ’61-’64, and was the team’s leading receiver in Super Bowl XLI with six catches for 64 yards.