The most popular name who should be the next Bears Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee is Jay Hilgenberg. He’s been argued for years. A seven-time Pro Bowler and member of the 1985 team. He did everything a great player must do to get in and yet keeps getting shafted. Well it turns out there is somebody else in Chicago football history who might have an even bigger beef with the voters in Canton.
Most young Bears fans today won’t know the name Richie Petitbon. That’s understandable. The last snap of football he played was in 1972. By that point he hadn’t played for Chicago in four years. So it’s easy to forget somebody after such a length of time, and that’s a crying shame because he was the greatest safety in franchise history.
That’s not trying to hype the man up either. The stats bear that out quite clearly. Gary Fencik holds the record for most interceptions in team history with 38. Petitbon is right behind him with 37. The key being that Fencik needed 12 seasons to get his. Petitbon only needed 10. This also isn’t counting the 11 additional picks he had after leaving Chicago.
So why isn’t he another Bears Pro Football Hall of Fame entrant?
It’s difficult to find an answer to that. Gale Sayers is in and he only played 68 games and didn’t win a championship. Petitbon played 136 games just in Chicago and did something else Sayers never did. He won a championship. The guy was part of the 1963 Bears teams that won the title. Petitbon even delivered a key interception in the title game against the Giants.
What makes his absence even more maddening? After he retired, Petitbon would go on to have a highly successful run as a coach. He was arguably one of the best defensive coordinators of the 1980s. With his help the Washington Redskins went to four Super Bowls from 1982 to 1991 and won three Lombardi trophies.
So let’s review
Petitbon has a ring as a player and three rings as a coach. He’s tied for 42nd all-time in interceptions with 48. Two men who have the same amount are Herb Adderly and Willie Wood, both of whom are already in the Hall of Fame. In fact Petitbon and the Bears beat those two men and their Packers team twice in 1963 to win the championship.
The point is all the great things a man is required to do in order to secure a gold jacket in this league? Richie Petitbon has done it. How he’s not even been a finalist for the honor is one of the greatest crimes in the leagues’ long history. It’s just further proof that more than ever the Hall of Fame has become a voting system riddled with politics where the most hyped names get in, not the most deserving ones.
Maybe someday the man will get the closeup he so richly deserves. For right now though, Bears fans need to know about this man. They must be reminded of what he meant to the franchise and to the sport they cheer for every Sunday.