Prior to last week’s NFL Draft, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put together a list of the 50 worst draft choices in St. Louis Rams history.
Someone suggested that perhaps we should do the same for the Chicago Bears.
Sure, except we’re talking about a team that has existed for 93 years. The draft has only been around for 77 years, but that’s still a lot of ground to cover. And this is a franchise that has had more than its share of dubious picks, especially in the first round.
We need to narrow this down a little to say, maybe the 10 worst first-round picks of the past 50 years.
The Bears, perhaps more than any other team, have a feast-or-famine history in the first round. In 1965, they took Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus with back-to-back picks. From 1975-87, they may have had the best sustained run of first-rounders of any team ever.
But they also have taken more than their share of injury-prone offensive linemen, underachieving running backs, under-talented quarterbacks and under-motivated defensive linemen.
Our top 10 Bears busts:
• Dave Behrman, C, Michigan State (1963): He was the 11th player chosen, but he never even played for the Bears, signing with Buffalo of the rival AFL. He only lasted three years there.
• George Rice, DT, LSU (1966): Like Behrman, he was lured away by AFL money, which might have been a blessing. He played four uneventful seasons with Houston.
• Loyd Phillips, DE, Arkansas (1967): He was the 10th player chosen and he never became a starter although he did play in 32 games in three years in the NFL.
• Mike Hull, RB, USC (1968): The Bears made him the 16th overall pick and he managed to hang around the NFL for seven years without ever starting a game. Career total: 207 yards rushing, an average of 2.3 per game.
• Joe Moore, RB, Missouri (1971): He seemingly never was healthy after the Bears made him the 11th pick. He rushed for 281 yards and never scored a touchdown in two NFL seasons.
• Lionel Antoine, OT, Southern Illinois (1972): He was a sleeper pick at No. 3 overall and he never really woke up to what it took to play in the NFL. He started just nine games in six years.
• Stan Thomas, OT, Texas (1991): He showed early promise, starting seven games as a rookie. He never started another one in four seasons with the Bears and Oilers.
• Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State (1998): Chosen fifth overall, he did rush for 916 yards and catch 45 passes in his second pro season. But by the end of his third season he was finished.
• Cade McNown, QB, UCLA (1999): He was the 12th overall pick (and the fifth quarterback selected) that year. When the Bears cut him two years later, no one picked him up. It’s small consolation that one of the four QBs taken ahead of him (Akili Smith) was a bigger bust than he was.
• Michael Haynes, DE, Penn State (2003): The Bears took him with the 14th overall pick (two picks before the Steelers drafted Troy Polamalu). He hung around for three years, started four games, then was done.
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Hopefully, the Bears’ No. 1 pick Thursday, offensive lineman Kyle Long of Oregon, won’t end up on that list down the road. But he’s got a shot at it.
He has great bloodlines – he’s the son of former Oakland icon Howie Long – but he started just five games at Oregon. He’s obviously an exceptional athlete for a guy who is 6-foot-6, 313 pounds, but he constitutes a giant roll of the dice.
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We mentioned that the Bears did really well with first-round picks from 1975-87. The 14 players they took No. 1 in that stretch each started 74 or more games in the NFL. Ten of the 14 played 10 or more years in the league. Nine played in at least one Pro Bowl. And nine of them started on arguably the best team in NFL history.
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It might have happened, but we can’t recall another school that named its football press box after its sports information director while the guy was still on the job.
Then again, there can’t have been too many SIDs who served their school more loyally and effectively than Dave Wrath has at Augustana College.
Augie’s announcement last week that its new press facility will be named for Wrath was altogether fitting and richly deserved.
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Long-time Drake University SID Mike Mahon recalled that 19 years ago this weekend, Olympic legend Carl Lewis made his first appearance at the Drake Relays in Des Moines.
Lewis actually was nearing the end of his career at that point, but he marveled at the crowds he encountered at Drake, indicating they were among the most attentive and enthusiastic he’d ever come across.
Mahon wrote that after Lewis won the 100 meters, he took a victory lap that lasted nearly 10 minutes, encircling the stadium giving high fives to everyone he encountered.
“If I had the time and ability, I’d like to have slapped everyone’s hands,’’ Lewis said.