Next season Brian Urlacher will be eligible for the pro football hall of fame. Will Canton come calling in his first year eligible?
For 13 NFL seasons, Brian Urlacher led the Chicago Bears defense and consistently made them one of the top squads in the league. Over that time, he tallied 1353 tackles, netted 41.5 sacks, picked off 22 passes and scored 5 touchdowns.
After a bumpy final season with Chicago, it appeared that Urlacher’s days in Chicago were finished so rather than pursue playing for another team, Urlacher chose to retire a Chicago Bear in 2012.
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Five years have passed, and 11 months from now, Brian Urlacher will be one of 15 finalists discussed the Saturday before the Super Bowl for entrance into the pro football hall of fame.
There is little doubt that Urlacher will get his day in Canton at some point, but will he be enshrined in his first opportunity? That’s not an easy task in the NFL. Many great players are told to wait. Currently, Terrell Owens is 0 for 2 in his opportunities to be enshrined.
Obviously, Owens’ issues are due to his attitude, a problem Urlacher won’t have, however, Urlacher will be on a crowded ballot with two other great first ballot candidates in Randy Moss and Ray Lewis. Offensive Lineman Steve Hutchinson is also potentially a first ballot hall of famer and will be on the ballot. Hines Ward and Ronde Barber are also going to be on the ballot, and they aren’t slouches either.
As great as Urlacher was, his resume doesn’t compare to Moss or Lewis. Both of them should almost certainly be enshrined in their first opportunity. In theory, the NFL writers may make them wait (like Owens) because of their off-the-field issues, but for some bizarre reason, the pro football hall of fame ignores off-the-field issues, and only cares about on-the-field issues, thus, Owens has to wait, and Lewis and Moss won’t.
But will Moss and Lewis be enough to force the writers to ignore a third strong candidate? There is plenty to ignore. Urlacher was the 2000 Defensive rookie of the year, he earned 8 Pro Bowl berths and was named first team All Pro four times. He was also the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. He was also named a part of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team.
While it’s clear that Urlacher is an eventual hall of famer, his crowded class will make it a challenge to get in next year. Had Urlacher been eligible this year, he almost certainly would have made it. Other than LaDainian Tomlinson, there were no strong first-year candidates and overall, the 2017 class is very weak.
Most seasons, it would be fair to say Urlacher would make the hall of fame in his first attempt, but with a crowded first class, it may come down to Steve Hutchinson or Brian Urlacher. The hall of fame likes to balance their class, so putting two middle linebackers in the same class may not happen. That may seem like a dumb reason, but unfortunately, it’s one the writers consider.
It looks unlikely that Urlacher makes the hall of fame in his first attempt, but one would think it’s a near certainty that Urlacher makes it in his second-year of eligibility in 2019. Bears fans will have to wait to see Urlacher’s day in Canton, but not too long.