Brian Urlacher: Did his ego drive him out of Chicago?
For decades the position of middle linebacker has defined the image of the Chicago Bears defense. Larger than life players and personalities such as Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and most recently, Brian Urlacher, have anchored the Monsters of the Midway with poise and perfection. Recently it was announced that Urlacher and the Bears will part ways after 13 seasons. This not only signifies the end of an era in Chicago, but it also breaks a tradition for Chicago Bears middle linebackers.
During his 13 seasons with Chicago, Urlacher amassed impressive numbers. Playing in 182 games, he totaled 1052 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries. His numbers make him the most prolific middle linebacker in Chicago’s Bears history. Unfortunately, teams can’t rely on numbers alone.
Over the past few seasons Urlacher’s performance has declined. In 2009 he missed 15 games with a wrist injury and has only had four sacks since returning. Urlacher also missed the last four games of the 2012 season. Declining performance is a fate that all professional athletes who are fortunate enough to have sustained careers will eventually face; human nature makes it inevitable. A problem with aging athletes arises when ego interferes with common sense. Unfortunately, this is the case with Brian Urlacher.
According to ESPN.com Urlacher’s camp initially asked the Bears for a two-year deal worth $11.5 million. The Bears then made a one year, $2 million dollar offer. Urlacher countered asking for $3.5 million with incentives and it was at that point that the Bears according to Urlacher, told him to take it or leave it.
“And then they said, ‘No, you take this offer or leave it. Take it or leave it,’” Urlacher said. “It was kind of an ultimatum. Either sign this or leave. That’s the way it was. They never moved off their initial offer.”
Here’s what’s wrong with this situation. Urlacher, 34, has previously stated that he wanted to finish his career as a Bear. The Bears, who are trying to build a championship caliber team, offered Urlacher what they felt he is worth at this point in his career… at this point, not five seasons ago, not over the past 13 seasons, but at this point. The truth is that Brian Urlacher has made plenty of money over the course of his career and if he truly wanted to remain with the Bears, he should have accepted the $2 million offer rather than label it a “slap in the face.” A true slap in the face would have been for the Bears to offer him nothing.
Urlacher says he still wants to play football and it’s likely that some desperate team will be more than willing to pay him the contract he’s looking for, or more. Heck, his hall of fame image alone would probably generate more revenue than what some team ultimately spends on him. That still doesn’t justify overpaying a declining middle linebacker if you’re trying to build a championship roster. Urlacher can no longer make a defense great. He can help, but not significantly enough to get a team over the hump.
As mentioned earlier Urlacher’s imminent departure from Chicago breaks a tradition for Chicago Bears middle linebackers. Both Butkus and Singletary started as Bears and finished as Bears. It’s sad that Urlacher’s ego is bigger than his pride as a Chicago Bear and that he’s choosing not to finish his career in the Windy City.
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