The Sports Illustrated All-Time NFL draft led by columnist Peter King was an entertaining and informative feature. It breaks down like this. King wanted to see what would happen when an NFL draft-like scenario was played out where every single player who has come and gone in the game of pro football would be up for grabs. This of course includes the many Chicago Bears greats stretching back to the 1920s.
The rules were broken down as follows:
- Each team would select 25 players and one coach. Twenty-five rounds, plus a round (in reverse draft order) for the coaches.
- Each team would field 11 players on offense and 11 on defense, plus a placekicker and a punter. In addition, (at least) one wild-card player would be selected.
- Each team must draft one QB, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, two tackles, two guards and a center.
- The defense could be either a 4-3 or a 3-4, plus two cornerbacks and two safeties.
- If a GM selected a player who played two positions (for instance, center and linebacker, or kicker and punter), the GM could deploy that player at both spots, allowing for another wild-card pick.
- Conceptually, the process would be era-neutral. The assumption was that players who excelled in one era would be equally good in any other.
The best part is they enlisted the help of 12 football personalities to run the draft, many of whom are actual Hall of Fame GMs including Ron Wolf and Bill Polian. Not to mention the man who got Ryan Pace hired, Ernie Accorsi. All of them, via conference call, would execute the building of their own all-time teams. Suffice to say there were plenty of surprises.
Chicago Bears greats represented well save for one
For starters the first overall pick wasn’t a quarterback. Nope that honor went to New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The first QB didn’t go until the third pick. Was it Tom Brady? Was it Joe Montana. No sir. It was Johnny Unitas who stole that spot, the originator of the two-minute drill himself.
The Bears had three notable names go in the top 27 picks. Walter Payton was of course the first to go at #18, followed quickly by Gale Sayers at #21 and Dick Butkus at #27. After that not a single Bear went all the way until pick #82 when Mike Ditka came off the board. In total 19 players who wore navy blue were selected out of a possible 300. Not too bad. It wasn’t until the final round, when the GMs got to select their coaches that the biggest travesty occurred for Chicago.
Naturally there are some no brainer names on the list like Lombardi, Belichick, Shula, Brown and Walsh. However, upon closer inspection isn’t there a name missing? No it’s not Ditka. Where the hell is George Halas? You know the guy. One of the founding fathers of pro football? A six-time NFL champion and two-time Coach of the Year? How is he not on this list?
Meanwhile guys like Marv Levy, Tony Dungy and Don Coryell make it. Sure they were successful and/or pioneers in some fashion but their accomplishments wouldn’t even shine the shoes of Halas’. Then there’s Curly Lambeau. The Green Bay Packers founder also had a legendary career, quite similar to Halas in fact. Problem is Halas absolutely owned him in head-to-head matchups. The Bears were 35-21-5 against the Packers during their run against each other.
Then again personal bias always creeps into decisions like this. It’s a real shame because Halas deserved to be one of those selections. Further proof, if nothing else, that he remains woefully underappreciated to this day.