October 23, 2009: The Whole Sha-bay-uh-bang
LAST MEN IN-Bobby Engram, Raymont Harris, Ted Washington
LAST MEN OUT-Danieal Manning, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Wetnight
BIGGEST SURPRISE-Only two quarterbacks, only two tight ends
In contention: Everybody
The Definites (starters in CAPS)
QUARTERBACK: ERIK KRAMER, Jim Miller
RUNNING BACK: THOMAS JONES, Anthony Thomas
FULL BACK: JASON McKIE
WIDE RECEIVER: MARTY BOOKER, CURTIS CONWAY, Marcus Robinson
TIGHT END: DESMOND CLARK
OFFENSIVE TACKLE: ANDY HECK, John Tait, BIG CAT WILLIAMS
OFFENSIVE GUARD: RUBEN BROWN, Roberto Garza, Todd Perry, CHRIS VILLARRIAL
CENTER: OLIN KREUTZ
DEFENSIVE END: ALEX BROWN, ADEWALE OGUNLEYE, Bryan Robinson
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: JIM FLANIGAN, TOMMIE HARRIS, Keith Traylor, Chris Zorich
LINEBACKER: LANCE BRIGGS, Rosevelt Colvin, BARRY MINTER, BRIAN URLACHER
CORNERBACK: WALT HARRIS, CHARLES TILLMAN, Nathan Vasher, Donnell Woolford
SAFETY: MIKE BROWN, Mark Carrier, TONY PARRISH
SPECIALISTS: Brendan Ayabadejo, Robbie Gould, Devin Hester, Patrick Mannelly, Brad Maynard
QUARTERBACK: Rex Grossman, Shane Matthews, Kyle Orton
RUNNING BACK: James Allen, Raymont Harris
FULL BACK: Tony Carter
WIDE RECEIVER: Bernard Berrian, Bobby Engram, Jeff Graham, Muhsin Muhammad
TIGHT END: Keith Jennings, Greg Olsen, Ryan Wetnight
OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Blake Brockermeyer, Fred Miller
OFFENSIVE GUARD: Jay Leeuwenberg, Rex Tucker
CENTER: Jerry Fontenot, Casey Wiegmann
DEFENSIVE END: Mark Anderson, Trace Armstrong, Philip Daniels, Alonzo Spellman
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Alfonso Boone, Ian Scott, Ted Washington, Mike Wells
LINEBACKER: Joe Cain, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Warrick Holdman, Dante Jones, Vinson Smith
CORNERBACK: Jerry Azumah, Jeremy Lincoln, R.W. McQuarters
SAFETY: Marty Carter, Maurice Douglass, Michael Green, Chris Harris, Danieal Manning
SPECIALISTS: Rashied Davis, Israel Idonije, Glyn Milburn, Adrian Peterson
- Mark Anderson
- Rex Grossman
- Hunter Hillenmeyer
- Danieal Manning
- Kyle Orton
- Adrian Peterson
- Rex Tucker
- Ryan Wetnight
Final cuts, and it wasn’t easy.
But we’ve got our 53 men, and we’ve got our reasoning.
Along with our 22 starters, there were certain guys who were definitely making the team. Some were too close in talent to the starters, (Marcus Robinson, Tait, Garza and Perry, Traylor, Colvin, Carrier), and some were too far ahead of the other backups (Miller, Thomas, Woolford and Vasher). Ayanbadejo, Hester, and Mannelly all make the team for special teams contributions alone. (As do, obviously, the two kickers.)
Chris Zorich was a no-brainer for a few reasons. He played all 48 games from ’93 to ’95, missing only one start. He is one of only three Bears d-linemen in the PD era to notch 200+ tackles, and in about half the games (51) than Brown (111) and Flanigan (108). And there was no way an All-Bears Post-Ditka Team was taking the field without Chris Zorich. He gets to the top of the list by his play on the field, and the fan-favoritism puts him over the top.
Same goes for Bryan Robinson. Third behind Brown and Flanigan in both games (90) and starts (82). Four seasons in which he started every game, and from 1999 to 2003 he only missed one due to injury. He can play either end or tackle. And he made The Walter Payton Block.
That took care of 40 spots, leaving us with 13 to fill.
The first decision we made was to carry only two quarterbacks on the active roster. Yes, chances are strong that both Kramer and Miller will go down. (Perhaps Kramer will be channeling his 1995 version?) If they both get hurt in the same game, we’ve got Marty Booker as our emergency quarterback. We can even run the single-wing with Jones or Hester if need be. And one or both of Orton and Grossman can be elevated from the practice squad. So that’s covered.
The next space-saving decision came at tight end. After Dez Clark, our original tight end depth chart was Jennings, Wetnight, Olsen. The Committee just could not believe that Olsen (in only two seasons) was more deserving than those other guys. After re-evaluating the numbers, our order actually flipped. Take a look:
Keith Jennings, 1993-1997: 45 starts in 56 games, 70 receptions for 662 yards, a 9.5 ypc and 9 TD
Ryan Wetnight, 1993-1999: 18 in 91, 172 for 1522, 8.8 and 9 TD
Greg Olsen, 2007-2008: 11 in 30, 93 for 965, 10.4 and 7 TD
Jennings ’95: 16 starts, 25 for 217, 8.7 and 6 TD
Wetnight ’97: 3 starts in 16 games, 46 for 464, 10.1 and 1 TD
Olsen ’08: 7 starts in 16 games, 54 for 574, 10.6 and 5 TD
So yes: Greg Olsen, in only two seasons, gets the nod over the veterans Jennings and Wetnight. He was initially elevated over Wetnight, and then we looked again at Jennings and realized that Olsen’s numbers were easily ahead of big number 85. Olsen also gets a bump because of physical skills: taller, stronger, better hops, better hands. Carrying only two tight ends meant we would probably have to take one more receiver than originally planned (more on that in a moment), but where do you lose out in having only two tight ends, especially when one of them is as durable as Clark? Only in your goal line package, but we can always use Tait in a tackle eligible spot if we want another big blocker, or Booker or Robinson if we want another pass-catcher.
At receiver, the plan was always to carry five, and the next men up were Berrian and Graham. Berrian gained more yards and scored more touchdowns on fewer catches than teammate Moose Muhammad, and is our fastest receiving option other than Hester (who probably won’t take any snaps on offense).
And Graham’s 70.2 receiving yards per game is easily tops among our receiving corps. (Robinson is second at 52.8). Since Moose arrived as a flashy free agent starter while Graham—definitely a starter when he showed up in ’94, but without the Muhammad pedigree—always seemed like more of a “ready to work for the team” guy, we figured Graham would be better as a backup.
We were fine with only one full back, and we knew that Jones and Train would be getting the reps in the backfield. The o-line gave us nine definites, not including Mannelly, and since the most offensive linemen we would carry would be ten, we decided to move on to defense with nine spots open.
The first dude in was Trace Armstrong. 19 sacks in two seasons, pretty well split with a high of 11.5 in ’93, the third highest total among PD Bears linemen. (Dent, 12.5, ’93, and Anderson, 12, ’06). But since we can line Rosy Colvin up at end on passing downs, there was little urgency to add another pass rusher. Armstrong, however, gets the nod not just for his pass rushing, but for his durability (played/started 31 of 32 games), skills stuffing the run (66.5 tackles per season first among Bears PD linemen), veteran leadership and locker room presence.
We then slid over to linebacker, where Holdman and Cain were jostling for position on the outsides. We were also looking at Dante Jones, our best option backing up Urlacher.
We were set at corner, and were weighing out Chris Harris, Marty Carter, and Danieal Manning at safety.
Ted Washington was still in the mix at tackle, but it was looking as if he would be edged out in a numbers game, especially since Israel Idonije had value all over the defensive line and all over our special teams unit.
Jerry Azumah was also up against it. We didn’t really need a fifth corner, though his corner-high 6.5 sacks from the nickel back position were appealing. And of course Azumah could spell Hester on kick returns. Manning could as well, so there was a question as to value between Zoom and Danieal.
With over 5500 return yards under his built, 4500 on kickoffs, and a total of three touchdowns, Glyn Milburn was a possibility as an additional returner.
But Hester locks down the punts, and the Azumah/Manning combo can return kicks AND play a defensive position, meaning poor Milburn missed the cut, since he doesn’t really give you another level beyond the return game.
And then there was Adrian Peterson’s skills at covering kicks. Peterson then engaged in a side-battle with Raymont for the third running back spot, Peterson’s bonus being his special teams skills, Harris’ bonus coming as insurance at full back for McKie. There’s no way a fourth running back is going to do anything offensively, so what is more valuable? Another special teamer or a second full back?
We started with the linebackers, since we knew we were taking two more regardless. Give us the two outside backers Cain and Holdman, who trailed only our three starters in tackles from the linebacker position.
We then nabbed Azumah, for a similar reason as Zorich: the numbers get him there, the memories get him over. Azumah challenges Vasher as the team’s best performer out of the nickel. He can relieve Peanut on punt returns at the jammer spot, and can line up on punts at the gunner spot. But mostly, we love having Zoom “back deep to start the game,” pumping up the crowd as he waits for the opening kick. Throw Hester back there with him for a pair of 23s returning kicks…what more could you want?
Chris Harris was next at safety, and here’s why: he just felt like the best choice. The big snub here goes to Marty Carter, who was actually one of only two PD Bears defensive backs to collect at least five tackles a game. (Shaun Gayle was the other.) Carter had his hand in on more fumbles than Harris (6 to 2), picked off one more pass, while each had one sack.
But Harris was a two-year starter on a pair of playoff teams, while Carter was a four-year starter on four Bears teams that went nowhere. That group devolved severely: 9-7, 7-9, 4-12, 4-12. Harris’ insertion into the starting lineup in ’05 over veteran Michael Green gave that D a huge boost, and it is arguable that he should have never lost that job to Manning the following year, and certainly should not have been the odd man out in ’07 to Manning and Brandon McGowan. (He started 31 games over his two PD seasons in Carolina, forcing ten fumbles and making 135 tackles.)
FIVE SPOTS LEFT, between: Raymont Harris, Engram, Wetnight, Brockermeyer, Miller, Washington, Dante Jones, Manning, Idonije, Peterson.
We looked again at receiver and tight end. The original plan was to trade Moose and to place Engram on the practice squad. Engram’s numbers and skills were highly respected, but we didn’t need another slot/hands guy because of Booker, and Engram lost out to Berrian and Graham based on speed and size.
But then Olsen got the bump up to the number two tight end, Wetnight and Jennings landed off the active roster, and Engram made the team because we valued him higher than Wetnight.
We looked again at tackle, and felt good about Big Cat, Heck, and Tait, and thus had no need for Brockermeyer or Miller.
Now it was a question of special teams play, and we love Israel Idonije. He can block field goals, (giving us a monster FG front four of Alex Brown, Big Cat, B-Rob, and Idonije) and he can cover kicks. He can also play either spot on the d-line. Lots to love.
And we decided that Dante Jones was great as insurance for Urlacher. Jones also gets a bump for high memory value, as his 1994 season (16 starts, 189 tackles, three forced fumbles, four interceptions, and the playoffs) was one of the great single season performances in the PD era.
Big Ted Washington only played two seasons in Chicago, and only played two games in 2002. But he was an impenetrable wall in 2001 and was named a Pro Bowler and first team All Pro.
Admittedly, this is probably our only wasteful pick, choosing a fifth defensive tackle (sixth if you count Idonije) over a fourth offensive tackle. But we do it to honor a highly memorable Bear, and a HIGHLY memorable Bears tandem: the Traylor-Washington wall.
And our final spot goes to the Ultraback, Raymont Harris. With some combination of Ayanbadejo, Chris Harris, Tillman, Azumah, Colvin, Holdman, Dante Jones, and Idonije covering kicks, and Mannelly on punts, our boy A.P. just got (like D’Angelo Barksdale before him) squeezed between the sides. We’ll take Raymont: he can spell McKie, and he has high memory value, scoring a touchdown in the playoff win over Minnesota, and serving as the only bright spot during an absolutely abysmal 1997 season.
Peterson actually has a higher yards per carry average than Raymont, and we are excited to have him aboard the practice squad, along with fellow special teamer Danieal Manning. The big problem is still offensive tackle, where the regulations of the practice squad (it’s not a place for veterans) prevents us from including either Brockermeyer or Miller. But we’ve got Rex Tucker, and we’ve got Mark Anderson, Wetnight, and Hillenmeyer to go along with our two quarterbacks.
So there we are. The readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team. We’re a little nervous about the Vikings (they get to add The Other Adrian Peterson to their ’98 team) and about the Packers (the Super Bowl squad + Ahman Green, Donald Driver, and Javon Walker.) But overall, we feel good about what we’re packing. Superior fire power, and superior intelligence.
And that’s all she wrote.